(This originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2002 edition of the MCOI Journal)
In 1956, CBS launched the television game show To Tell the Truth. It ran weekly until 1968, at which time it went into syndication. The popular program has been revived from time to time-the latest incarnation was hosted by John O’Hurley (of Seinfeld fame). For those who are unfamiliar with the program, the To Tell the Truth web site gives the following description:
“To Tell the Truth is the classic game show that features three contestants all claiming to be the same person. Following the host’s introduction of the contestants, an affidavit is read describing the life, activities and/or unique experiences of the individual who all three contestants are claiming to be. The featured celebrity panel then asks the three contestants questions, in hopes of trying to determine which one is telling the truth and which two are lying. Following the question session, each panelist has to vote for the contestant he thinks really is the person described in the affidavit.”1http://www.totellthetruuth.tv/history.html
After all the votes are in, the host finally asks the contestant identified in the affidavit to “please stand up,” thus the panelists and audience find out who was telling the truth and who was lying.
It may be entertaining to try to figure out who is telling the truth and who is lying on a television show where the stakes are pretty low. What’s the harm, after all, if you are fooled into thinking Peter the plumber is the King of Spain? But in real life, it’s not always a benign experience to be fooled by false claims-it can, in fact, be dangerous to your health, or wealth, or perhaps, even your life. Real people get hurt in real life scams. This is as true in the Church as in society. Religious con men and women have all of us in their sights, and we ever will be easy prey unless we seriously heed the warnings given to us in Scripture.
The Apostle Paul was very concerned about this issue. As he met with a group of elders for the last time, he pleaded with them to protect the flock from savage wolves who would worm their way into the Church or arise within the Church to draw away unsuspecting sheep with their benign appearance:
“Be on guard for yourselves and for 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. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”2Acts 20:28-31,NASB
The True Remnant?
Throughout the Christian era, there have always been religious charlatans rising up to challenge the Church; but the last few centuries have been a virtual hotbed of false-prophet activity. Many men (and women!) have risen up claiming true Christianity was “lost” at some point in the past, and the modern church has become so corrupt that God has abandoned her and raised up their group as the only “true remnant” of God’s people on Earth. Currently on stage are the two newest contestants for the “true remnant” role. Our first “player” is Harold Camping of Family Radio, and the second is Gwen Shamblin of Weigh Down Workshop fame. They are making their cases and promoting their groups as the “true remnant” of Scripture. Innumerable groups have claimed this title throughout the years, but we don’t believe any can hold a candle to these two as far as having their prominence and influence within the church community today. We wish it was as easy as asking the true remnant to “please stand up,” but ferreting out the false in real life is never that easy.
Like so many before them, Shamblin and Camping see a great many problems in the Church; which, they believe, has led God to abandon her. To be sure, there are a multitude of problems in the Church, but that has been the case since the first century. Many seem to be unaware that the majority of the New Testament was written to correct errors in the first-century Church. As we can see, things really haven’t improved with age. Nevertheless, God loves the Church “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). As exasperated as one might get with the problems in the Church, it is still God’s Church.
Pastors, elders, and deacons are called to protect the Church from predators, but sadly, in too many cases, they have shirked that responsibility rather than take a stand against popular false teachers who are ravaging the flock. Today, discernment is needed more than ever, because the wolves are busier than ever in our day. Let’s examine the grandiose claims of these two newest contestants and determine if either one of them is, in fact, the true remnant of God. Should we pack our bags and flee to one of their camps? We’ll examine the teachings of Harold Camping first and then those of Gwen Shamblin.
Harold is on a Camping Trip
Harold Camping heads up the radio ministry of Family Radio which has been around for approximately 42 years. In recent years, he seems to have wandered off the beam-his ego seems to have trumped his common sense. In 1992, he wrote the book 1994?, which contains his own particular view of end-time events and prognostications. The gist of this book was that the rapture of the Church would occur in 1994, and if anyone differed with his view, he or she would be left behind with the infidels. In this work he stated unequivocally:
“When September 6, 1994 arrives, no one else can become saved. The end has come.”3Harold Camping, 1994? (New York: Vantage Press,1992), p. 533
As far as we are aware, Camping has never renounced this false prophecy; yet, here we are in 2002 (almost 8 years since the world ended) and Camping (left behind with the infidels) is still preaching the Gospel to poor lost souls who cannot possibly be saved! In his own words:
“… we have no other excuse for existence except that we might faithfully declare the Gospel to the world.”4“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audio cassette
Talk about an exercise in futility! If the end has come and gone, one wonders why Camping’s ministry (Family Radio) hasn’t closed their doors and turned off the lights. If the end did not come as Camping thought it would, what business does he have making further bold pronouncements now? Embarrassment alone should make him leery of repeating his past mistakes. But Camping seemingly has no qualms about it. Do you remember what happened in 1994? We don’t either. There was surely some presidential scandal or other-but what didn’t happen was the end of the world! And praise the LORD, lots of people have been saved since then. Not being easily deterred, Camping has decided he now really knows what the Bible is teaching on this subject and is ready for another go-round. He now knows the plan of God regarding what is soon to become of the churches-and it’s not good news!
Flee for Your Lives from the Church!
In September of 2001, Mr. Camping declared the Church is dead and all true believers need to leave their churches or come under the judgement she receives.
“This plan shows that a time will come when God will no longer use the churches and congregations to bring the Gospel to the world. They instead will come under the wrath of God … No longer are you to be under the spiritual rulership of the church. This command is given because God is finished with the era of churches being used of God to evangelize … The message should be clear. We must remove ourself [sic] from the church.”5“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audio cassette
How did he come to these startling conclusions? In our opinion, this is a continuation of the dogmatic and egocentric thinking evident in Camping’s 1994? Camping cannot seem to conceive of the possibility he might just be mistaken in his biblical interpretations. G. Richard Fisher, researcher and writer for Personal Freedom Outreach Journal, wrote the following in 1993 concerning Camping’s cocksure pronouncements in that book:
“This book presents all of the strange views of Camping, who is orthodox in the essentials but dogmatizes on many peripheral and prophetic themes.”6G. Richard Fisher, “Will Jesus Return in 1994?: The Prognostications of Harold Camping,” Personal Freedom Outreach Quarterly Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January-March 1993), p. 1
Camping’s prodigious use of typology, symbolism, and numerology has driven him to abandon much of the plain sense of the Scriptures (and to nullify selected Scriptures as we shall see) as he calls his remnant of followers to flee their churches and worship around the Family Radio.
“In many areas there might be somebody in a church who decides, okay, I wanna be obedient and I see this. I can’t be part of a church. And they may have to fellowship around the radio.”7Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette
There is a certain amount of typology and symbolism in Scripture, but if one employs these interpretive methods excessively (as Camping does), the Bible can be made to say most anything. In studying the Bible (or any literature for that matter), there are certain interpretive rules called hermeneutical principles that must be followed to arrive at the true meaning of any given passage. Such questions as who is the author, who was he writing to, when was this written, and why was it written must be taken into consideration to achieve the correct historical and grammatical understanding of the Scripture in question. Camping has abandoned proper hermeneutics and has resorted to a mystical interpretation which strangely points to the end of the Church-and the rise of Family Radio to replace it.
How does Camping convince people his astounding prognosis is correct? He begins with an undeniable truism and then wanders off the pier into Haroldism. Camping points out “No one can honestly say that all is well in today’s congregations.”8Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 4 While this is true, it certainly doesn’t prove his wild and weird subsequent claims, such as:
“… Satan has occupied the churches and has become victorious over the saints.”9Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 14
It is a monumental desertion of both sound biblical teaching and logic to go from “the Church has problems” to “Satan is running the Church.” But Camping undeniably has the ability to make this unsound reasoning ring true to those who have great faith in him as a Bible teacher. Step one: There are problems in the Church. Step two: Satan causes problems. Camping’s conclusion: Satan is running the Church. Two true premises, but one very flawed conclusion!
The Paganized Church
What biblical evidence does Camping offer to support this declaration? Well, he first talks about God’s warnings of judgment on Israel in Leviticus 26:30 and Ezekiel 6:3-4 for building “high places.” The high places were altars which were erected in order to worship and offer sacrifices to false gods. Camping, to support his view of God’s abandonment of the Church, accuses the Church of erecting “high places” of its own. One of these “high places” is divorce, even, by the way, divorce for the reason of immorality, which he equates in importance with Israel’s worshipping and sacrificing to false gods.
“The high places of the church are the doctrines held by the church which are not true to the Bible. Some of these are embedded in the Confessions but additional wrong doctrines are also taught. Divorce for fornication is an example of such perversion of the law of God.”10Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 15
To be sure, the Churches’ teaching on divorce is an important topic, but it is not an issue upon which one’s salvation hinges. Does taking a position contrary to Camping’s “sanctified one” qualify as a “high place”? If so, then Moses and Jesus have a serious problem. The question was posed to Jesus in Matthew 19:7 as to why Moses allowed divorce. Jesus replied in verse 8, “Because of the hardness of your heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” In other words, God’s direct will was one man married to one woman for life. His permissive will allowed for divorce due to the hardness of men’s hearts. However, God never allowed idol worship due to the hardness of men’s hearts. Obviously, God did not place divorce on the same level of importance as He did the worship of false deities. Here again, Camping creates a false criterion in an attempt to support a very false teaching. Why is the “high places” teaching important? Because, according to Camping, Israel is a type of the Church!
“To see this plan we must carefully examine Old Testament Israel. They, without question, typify the New Testament church which the Bible speaks about.”11Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p.7
In order for this to work, one must buy into Camping’s false presuppositions. His first false presupposition is that Israel is a type of the Church. Next is his assertion Israel was judged for erecting high places, and the “high places” were the reason God ultimately set Israel aside. This is likewise false. Israel was judged for false worship, but Israel was set aside due to their rejection of the Messiah. Next, he claims doctrinal disputes within the Church are equivalent, in God’s sight, to worshipping and sacrificing to false deities. This is completely untrue. False teachings are wrong, and disputing false teachings is one of the primary obligations of the Church! The only way to avoid doctrinal disputes is to set someone up as the final authority on all matters of doctrine and practice. Who could be trusted with such a responsibility? The Pope? We don’t think so, and that is one good reason we “dispute” with the Catholics! Harold Camping, of course, is appointing himself to this position; but he will no more “get it right” than the Pope does. Finally, Camping asserts that, due to the Church’s refusal to abandon its “high places,” God has set aside the Church just as He did Israel; hence, the churches are now all under Satan’s control. Although Camping claims to be biblical and although he cites passages of Scripture, they are twisted beyond recognition as he interprets them through his grid of mysticism and predetermined conclusion. He says it was when he was teaching a Bible study on the Book of Hebrews, that he began looking at Hezekiah and started seeing these things concerning the Church in the Scriptures. Later, he found confirming “evidence” of his developing view of the demise of the Church while studying Acts, Ezekiel, and John.
“When we came to Acts 21 we found that it was guiding us down the same path, exactly the same path … That there is going to come a time that the church age has come to an end. Well, I’ll tell ya, I can testify that in many class times as I was teaching that I said very candidly, ya know, I’m scared. I’m frightened at where this was going because I saw where it was going. That at some point it looks like we’re going to come to a point where the Bible is teaching the church is dead.”12“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audiocassette
He can only arrive at this scary conclusion by reading the Church into passages where it is not found by any normal reading. Since Camping asserts Israel is just a type of the Church, everything that ever happened historically to Israel must also befall the Church. And he teaches Jerusalem is also a type of the Church, so the same holds for all the Scriptures which refer to Jerusalem. Oh, and if that’s not enough, the two witnesses of Revelation are the Church, and King Hezekiah is the Church, and by tomorrow, Queen Jezebel or your Aunt Betty might be the Church, too! It seems everything from Genesis to Revelation is not really about God and His Plan of Salvation; it is actually about the collapse of the Church and the raising up of Family Radio to replace it.
“I began to see that the Bible is very clear as we read in Revelation 11, there comes a time when the work of the church is finished. But God’s work to present the Gospel is not finished. It’s gonna go right up until the end because Christ said occupy until I come. But his methodology was going to change. And because it is such a drastic change after more than nineteen-hundred years, God has written about it all the way from Genesis, and He’s written about it in Jeremiah, in Daniel, in Revelation, in Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and Second Thessalonians, and there’s information about this sprinkled all through the Bible.”13“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audiocassette
How do we know it is true God is finished with the Church and has turned to Family Radio as a more worthy alternative? Camping believes this scenario is “plainly in evidence.”14Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 4 Now that the Church is “plainly” kaput, we must read the Bible a little differently as well. When someone raised a question about 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Camping responded by saying:
“That chapter no longer applies because that applied for 1900 years to the church. That was God’s divine organism to get the Gospel out. But if the church age has come to an end-if their work is finished, that does not apply.”15Harold Camping,Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September2001, audio cassette
Oh dear. That seems like a problem-a big problem! How are we to know exactly which chapters and verses “no longer apply.” Not to worry-it’s very likely Camping will tell us.
What about Israel’s redemption? Will the Church rise again?
Here is a nagging question: What about all the Scriptures that teach of Israel’s ultimate redemption? Do these apply to the Church as well? The Apostle Paul makes very clear in Romans 11:25-32 that, in His time, God’s favor will return to Israel and “all Israel will be saved.” Although set aside for a time for unbelief, “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” God LOVES Israel, so even if the Church is a type of Israel (which she is not), she is in good hands.
Actually, Camping has a similar problem with the “two witnesses” of Revelation. They supposedly represent the Church and they died-which Camping construes to depict the death of the Church-but what about the fact that they were resurrected three days later?
Where should we go?
Camping insists the safest place to be is outside the Church. (Incidentally and very conveniently, Camping claims Family Radio has always been outside the Church.16“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audio cassette) So, if the safest place to be is outside the Church, what replaces the Church in the life of the believer? After all, gathering around the family radio can be rather isolating and pretty lonely. Camping claims Christians are now to be part of a “fellowship.” This is really a difference without a distinction. Church (Gr. ekklesia) only means “a called out assembly.” The word doesn’t even apply exclusively to Christians, to worship, or even to religious gatherings. It applies to any group which “comes out” or “gathers together” for any purpose. It “was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens ‘gathered’ to discuss affairs of state, Acts 19:39.”17W.E. Vine, Merrill F.Unger. William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville/Camden/NewYork: Thomas-Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 42 It was used of Israel (Acts 7:38), of a mob which was rioting (Acts 19:32, 41), as well as Christian gatherings (Matt. 16:18, Eph. 1:22, and other places).18W.E. Vine, Merrill F.Unger. William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville/Camden/NewYork: Thomas-Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 42
Okay, let’s follow the pea here. Camping asserts the Church (ekklesia) is dead and Satan-ruled. So, Camping is starting a fellowship (ekklesia) to replace the Church (ekklesia). What will be the purpose of the fellowship? It will be corporate prayer, Bible study and worship. Sounds a lot like … a church! Except, of course, these fellowships will be handicapped by their belief that much of the New Testament does not apply to them, but to the now-dead church. Who will determine what parts of the Bible apply to these “fellowships?” After all, most of the New Testament was written to churches! So, how will they study the Word of God?
Forget about looking to pastors or elders to teach the Word-Camping claims there is no longer any spiritual leadership or authority (no pastors, elders, deacons, membership, etc.) and no biblical teaching on how this structure should operate. A Jehovah’s Witness, then, who might stumble into one of these “fellowships” would be on an equal footing with everyone else, and there would be no one in authority to keep him from teaching heretical doctrine to the others. Camping supposes he guards against such a situation by saying if such an event occurred, the board of directors could make some rules about this.19Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassetteBut doesn’t that mean the “board of directors” would be serving the same function as pastors, elders, and deacons? The churches are dead, so we now have to come out of the churches and start or join a “fellowship” so we can pray, worship, and study with other believers. The pastor/elder role has been done away with, so we’ll have to depend upon a “board of directors” to fill that role, but without biblical teaching on how this structure should operate. This is going to be a mess folks! How will the “board” make the “rules?” Won’t they be severely handicapped by their inability to use the New Testament as their guide, since most of the Scriptures therein “applied to the Church?” And there goes the egalitarian aspect of Camping’s fellowships right out the window-after all, they who “make the rules” are the rulers! So, what happens if the “laypeople” (non-board members) disagree with the rules laid down by the rulers? How will they challenge the power of these ruling board members if they cannot appeal to the “Church’s” Scriptures?
The Buck Stops Where?
And what or who will be the ultimate authority for Camping’s remnant? For example, what happens if the board of directors of the Los Angeles fellowship disagrees with the board of directors of the Chicago fellowship about “the rules” or about doctrine? Or even more seriously, what if they decide to reject some of Camping’s teachings? We think it wouldn’t be long before this fellowship is kicked out of the true remnant altogether and falls under the same condemnation as the Satan-ruled churches! Do Camping’s “fellowships” comprise the true remnant of Scripture? We hope people will be very careful when evaluating his claims. Be even more skeptical when it comes to evaluating the claims of Gwen Shamlin, contestant number two.
Enter Contestant #2
“… evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
If you have never heard of Gwen Shamblin or do not know anything about her claims, you must be new to the MCO Journal. We wrote several articles about Shamblin in the past two years-two for this Journal and one that was published in the Christian Research Institute Journal.
“Many of our readers will remember that in August of 2000 we had a number of queries concerning Shamblin’s view of the nature of God. After reviewing her web site, and seeing for ourselves that she denied the Trinity and the Deity of Christ, we called Shamblin personally to ascertain if she really meant to write what appeared there. To our dismay, she vehemently denied the Trinity and the Deity of Christ on the phone and was unmovable in her heretical position. We then issued a press release documenting her view in this area and warned that she was starting her own religious movement and fully intended to take her devotees out of the churches and into her group, the Remnant Fellowship. Gwen seemed unconcerned about the controversy-brazenly saying that women don’t care about doctrine. ‘They don’t care about the Trinity. This is going to pass. What women want is weight loss.’”20John W.Kennedy (with additional reporting by Todd Starnes), “Gwen in the Balance,” Christianity Today.com (http://www.christianityonline.com/ct/2000/136/51.0.html), p. 3
Since that time, Shamblin has become even more resolute in her denial of the Trinity, and madly careens “from bad to worse” in other areas of doctrine as well. She promotes egregious errors in the area of grace and forgiveness, and she has no clue about the true Gospel of Christ. Jesus, according to Shamblin, took on human form for the purpose of showing us how to be obedient and to die for our past sins only.21Gwen Shamblin, Rebuilding the Wall. Live presentation re-corded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 2 June 2001, Audiocassette 3 of 3 In her article “New Jerusalem” on her Remnant Fellowship web site, she writes:
“The grace of God and the Blood of Christ is [sic] to wash us of our past sins (rejection of God as authority), and this blood allows us to once more come back under the authority of the One Sovereign Father.”22http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 14
She claims our eternal destiny is in our own hands, literally:
“And in the New Covenant, by the way, one of the major themes is that each person will be responsible for his own sins.”23Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.5
But how can this be? Are we really capable on our own? Shamblin, who is referred to as the “global authority” by her followers, certainly thinks so. But then, according to her, human beings do not have a sin nature to contend with.
“God did not weave rebellion to Him (sin) into the fabric of His babies.”24http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 14
The Jesus whom Shamblin portrays came to provide a way for us to make ourselves acceptable in God’s sight; and by sheer force of will, we can do it.
The Holy Family
Evidently, Shamblin has managed to convince her flock she has gotten her own righteousness well in hand. David Martin, cofounder of Remnant Fellowship, gushes:
“This past weekend, we-the Martins, had the honor and incredible privilege to travel with the most righteous family any of us know-the Shamblins-to New York, NY, to spend a weekend with Remnant Manhattan. … What a blessing from God! First of all, hearing this generation’s prophetic messenger Gwen Shamblin deliver the message of the Gospel and the warning to flee FALSE TEACHERS is always a humbling experience … God has indeed spared New York City because of the righteous Remnant Manhattan. … We all owe Gwen and the Shamblins eternal thanks for being TOTALLY obedient.”25David Martin, e-mail to Remnant Fellowship e-mail list, 15 January 2002, p. 1
Her holiness is now teaching 9/11 was a judgment from God. I wonder how many of our readers are aware New York City was “spared” because of the righteous Manhattan branch of Remnant Fellowship and the total obedience of the new “holy family?” Wow-what delusion-and what arrogance!
The Harry Potter of Heaven
Heresy begets heresy. Shamblin not only has concocted a little Jesus-whom she asserts is not God, but she has created a very puny God as well. In her book Rise Above, she portrays God as sort of the Mel Gibson of Heaven. He was so handsome, so good looking, and so athletic that he had to make himself invisible so we wouldn’t immediately fall in love with him. But even with all Shamblin’s God has going for him, he is very much a limited physical being. Her WD Advanced video series advances her finite-god theology. It offers a very silly allegory of God’s relationship to the Devil that really gives one an idea of how small her god really is. This portrayal is of a little god who uses magic to increase his power and has no idea of what goes on behind his back.
The Parable of the “Magic Chair”
“This particular employee [Satan] found that he had his own idea of how the office should run. He implemented some of these ideas or plans for the business since the great CEO was not always around. He tried just making decisions without getting permission by the CEO. He seemed to get away with it. He did it again, and then again; and he liked not submitting to anyone, and he loved the praise of man when things went well.”26WD Advanced, 2001, The Weigh Down Workshop Inc., Week One, “Sovereign Lord,” video cassette
“The CEO was out of the office a lot. He [Satan] found it really a trip to just sit in the boss’s chair behind His desk. The chair was magic. You could do what you wanted to do, when you wanted to do it, with no one to stop you. There were many perks being in the magic chair behind the desk…27WD Advanced, 2001, The Weigh Down Workshop Inc., Week One, “Sovereign Lord,” video cassette
“This employee [Satan] was always careful to give praise to His face and in front of others; but behind His back, he was putting down authority which is absolutely essential if you’re going to get to the top. Now one day the boss returned and caught him sitting in His very own chair. This was shocking. Such defiance. He confronted this employee; and yet, the great CEO was so kind, that He accepted a ‘sorry’ and let him return to work.”28WD Advanced, 2001, The Weigh Down Workshop Inc., Week One, “Sovereign Lord,” video cassette
Shamblin views God as a limited physical being-somewhat bigger and more powerful than the average man but just barely so. Far from omnipresent, sometimes God is “out of the office.” And, when He is “out of the office,” He has no idea of what is going on in there, so He is obviously not omniscient either. We already know from her earlier teachings that Shamblin does not view God as omnipotent, since He actually might have reason to fear us-we might stage a coup, kill the great CEO, and take over Heaven! (We know what you are thinking, but we’re not making this up!!)
But let’s get back to Shamblin’s “magic chair” narrative. While God was “out of the office,” Satan could do pretty much what he wanted to do as long as God didn’t find out. God thought things were going pretty well until one day, when He walked in unannounced and was shocked to find Satan sitting in God’s very own “magic chair.” Not only is Shamblin’s god limited, but he seems to be a blithering idiot! He had no idea Satan’s “sorry” was feigned (How would he know?), and “let him return to work.” Is the true God such a fool? The Bible teaches otherwise! God knows everything, even before it happens-He is never taken by surprise-not “shocked” by the actions of men or angelic beings (Isaiah 46:10, Matthew 12:25)! There is nothing Satan has ever done that God doesn’t know about. Neither is He taken in by flattery or deceived by anyone’s righteous demeanor, but He reads the heart (Psalm139:1-12, John 6:64). Shamblin herself may be able to conceal her sinful nature from the likes of David Martin, but God knows her a lot better than Martin does.
Shamblin’s god is much closer to the finite gods of the Greco-Roman Pantheon than the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture. The true God of Scripture is spirit (John 4:24, 2 Corinthians 3:17). He is everywhere present (omnipresent-Jeremiah 23:24, Matthew 18:20), all knowing (omniscient-Isaiah 44:7-8, Colossians 2:3), and all powerful (omnipotent-Jeremiah 32:17, Hebrews 1:3). He has no need of a “magic chair” to give him a power boost now and then.
The “Counterfeit Church”
Unlike Harold Camping who is teaching the Church Age is officially over, Shamblin insists the Church (which has enriched her in excess of one-hundred-million dollars) is a counterfeit. Until recently, she had insisted it became apostate five-hundred years ago with Luther and the Reformers and their false gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We and others asked, “Why doesn’t Shamblin just go back to Rome?” After all, if the false gospel came in with the Reformation-why not rejoin the Church from which the Reformers broke away? It is still there, and it no more believes in free grace than she does! But Shamblin is not really interested in joining any established church; instead, she seems intent upon building her own church in her image. Recently, Shamblin has revealed the Catholic Church is merely “the firstborn counterfeit church.” Concerning God’s imminent judgment on the Roman Catholic Church, she writes:
“This destroyer has been deployed; this death angel is now at the door of the firstborn counterfeit church-the Catholic Church. It is older and ripe for destruction.”29Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3
After that, however, Shamblin assures us “The destroyer will proceed through all of the churches.”30Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3 Similar to Harold Camping seeing everywhere proof of the Churches’ demise, Shamblin sees everything as being the “counterfeit church.” Egypt was the counterfeit church, America is the counterfeit church; in fact, Egypt, America, and church are synonyms for counterfeit church. (Dust off Aunt Betty-she might be next!)
Recently, Shamblin has reinstituted the Old Testament feasts, and she equates Israel’s deliverance from Egypt as a symbol of the Remnant’s exodus from the “counterfeit church” that had enslaved them.
“God commanded that in the month of Abib, we are to observe and celebrate the Passover of the Lord our God. This is the month of Abib, and Passover begins Wednesday night at twilight. This is the first month of the calendar year, for all of God’s children who were called out. You were to start the year off with this remembrance of this Exodus from a counterfeit church, from churches that enslaved the true children of God so that they could not worship God.”[31.Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3, p. 1]
“Three years ago this month, at the end of March, it just so happened that God coordinated our own Exodus from the counterfeit church-the Shamblins and the Martins were called out in the month of Abib. It’s very symbolic.”31Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3, p. 1
It’s All “Symbolic”
Most pseudo-Christian movements have this same arrogant tendency that Shamblin exhibits here-the propensity to “find” themselves or their perceived enemies (usually the Christian church) in every passage of Scripture, while losing the gospel of Christ along the way. Like Harold Camping, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), or any number of false religious movements, Shamblin handles the Bible as just so much symbolism that can be twisted to mean anything she wishes. Jehovah’s Witnesses view their organization as the 144,000 of Revelation. They are the locust army of Joel that is “tormenting” the Church with their stinging criticism. The seven trumpets of Revelation are seven Watchtower Society conventions held in the early 1900’s. (Puleeeease!) Shamblin misuses Scriptures in this same egotistical manner. Besides “finding” herself and her group in whatever Scriptures concern God’s favor, her hatred of historic Christianity causes her to find judgment for the Church throughout Scripture where no objective parallel exists. She sees the 9/11 event as evidence the Church is now beginning to suffer the plagues of Egypt.
“Destruction is going on during the Passover. We are not only just celebrating what happened in the past, but as I said 3½ years ago, the churches are going to come down and sin was going to become a high wall. I feel a stirring going on of proportions that parallel the plagues and destruction of Egypt. September 11th was Plague #1. The financial recession is Plague #2. Egypt is about to be struck. It has actually already begun.”3233.Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3
The attack and collapse of the World Trade Center couldn’t have come at a more convenient time for dear Shamblin. She is exploiting these tragedies for all they are worth. Inconveniently for Shamblin, plague number two isn’t going so well-the recession seems to be receding. We can sympathize with her; it can be so disheartening when God doesn’t do what you want. Of course, it is always possible God has slipped off the “magic chair” and/or is temporarily “out of the office.” If she is patient, another recession is sure to come along soon enough. In the meantime, we breathlessly await word on the next eight plagues. If our experience with false prophets is any indication, she will not announce the calamities in any great detail until after they have occurred, at which time, she will claim she saw them coming! Vague predictions of doom are a false prophet’s best friend.
It doesn’t seem to occur to Shamblin or her followers that even if 9/11 and the recession that resulted were judgments of God upon the Church, it would not indicate God was through with the Church or that the Church is a counterfeit. The Bible teaches God disciplines those He LOVES-those who are his CHILDREN (Hebrews 12:5-6)! But in her blazing hatred of those God loves, Shamblin hopes for the worst and seeks to make hay of the tragedies of others.
Meanwhile, like tossing a boulder to a drowning man, she offers to rescue people from the plagues to come by pulling them away from the “counterfeit church” with its infernal message of grace. Says Shamblin:
“I’m ready to pull you off of this sinking ship and get you safely into the lifeboats of DOING.”33Gwen Shamblin,e-mail to Remnant Fellowship, 14 February 2002. Emphasis in original
All Aboard the “Lifeboats of Doing”
How does the “global authority” (as Shamblin has been labeled) persuade people to abandon the biblical teaching of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and jump into the leaky “lifeboats of doing?” She abuses the Scriptures, of course, by ripping verses out of their context. We will look at just a few examples. Shamblin quotes Romans 2:5-6 from the NIV:
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what he has DONE.’”34http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 2. Emphasis in the original
Without considering the context, this verse would appear to back Shamblin’s emphasis on works for salvation. All good people, the text says, will be admitted into Heaven on the basis of their good deeds. Paul here clearly states that in the Day of Judgment, God will “render to every man according to his deeds.” Those who persevere in doing good will gain eternal life (v.7).
The Good News
This is the heart of Shamblin’s gospel, and it may superficially appear to be good news. All anyone has to do to gain eternal life is to persevere in doing good (Romans 2:6-7)! How hard could that be? Well, I guess we need to ask what it means to persevere? According to Webster, it means to “persist against obstacles, to continue steadfastly.” Steadfastly means “constantly,” constantly means “continuously,” and continuously means “ALWAYS.” Aye, there’s the rub. ” Do you know anyone who has ALWAYS done good? We tend, in our humanness, to think perseverance means “keep trying,” when, in reality, it means “not ever failing.” The standard is perfection. You must bat 1000 your whole life through from the moment you are born. One measly strikeout in your whole career will keep you from attaining that perfect average no matter how many home runs you subsequently hit. You can talk about being a “good person” all day long, but are you willing to reveal your stats?
The Bad News
Once perseverance has been factored into the mix, the GOOD NEWS doesn’t look so good anymore. But when you consider what Paul says next, the situation becomes downright alarming! Here’s the BAD NEWS … “To those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation” (v. 8). Now trust us, you don’t want wrath and indignation to happen to you! Paul goes on, “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil…” (v. 9).
But wait a minute! Paul is talking about evil people here! Someone would have to do something pretty bad to be called evil, wouldn’t he? We could say, “Yes,” but we don’t like to lie. No, “evil people” are described right across the page in the first chapter of Romans, verses 29-32. What sins are these “evil people” committing? Pretty much the garden variety sins of all humanity, we would say. Please note “gossip” and being “disobedient to parents” are listed right up there with “malice” and “murder” without mentioning which sins are venial and which are mortal. The truth is ALL sins are mortal sins, and every single person throughout history-but One-is thereby condemned.
The Bad, Bad News!
But Paul doesn’t stop with the BAD NEWS of Romans 2. He wants us to get the picture-to see what a hopeless fix we’re in, so he spells it out for dense humanity who is under the delusion we can do it on our own. This is where context becomes the enemy of a false teacher every time. Paul delivers to us the BAD, BAD NEWS of Romans 3:10-18. “THERE IS NO ONE RIGHTEOUS”, he declares, “NOT EVEN ONE.” Uh oh. “THERE IS NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, NOT EVEN ONE.”
This presents a MAJOR problem for self-made saints-there has only been one good man in all of human history; and that man is Jesus Christ. God’s standard of goodness is Himself, and Jesus is God made flesh (contrary to Shamblin’s teaching). Remember the man who came to Jesus and called Him “good teacher” (Mark 10:17-18)? Like Shamblin, he wanted to approach Jesus as a peer, merely a “good man” among reasonably “good men.” Very significantly, Jesus did not deny that He was good. He would have been lying if He had! But by asking the man, “Why do you call me good?” He made the man rethink the issue. Only God is good, Jesus told him. The inference: If I am truly GOOD, then I am GOD in human form and not merely a “good teacher” in a relative human sense.
Very often, those caught up in the works-type salvation plans (like the man who approached Jesus) do not have God’s perfect standard in mind, but are, in effect, grading themselves on a curve. They believe they are good compared to some “less good” people around them.
Those who believe they can merit Heaven through a “70-year job interview” 35from WDW staff devotions tape don’t compare their performance to God’s perfection, but to someone they can match or beat. Conveniently, there are some very unsavory characters they can look at to feel better about themselves (murderers, rapists, thieves, politicians), and then, they rely on their consciences to tell them where they fit in the pack. They only need to make sure they are north of the demarcation line! After all, God has to let someone into Heaven, doesn’t He?
Back to Romans
Well, back to the BAD, BAD NEWS of the Book of Romans. Paul says in Romans 3:19-20 that, because we do not meet the righteous requirements of the law, all of us are accountable to God. We are all silenced-there is nothing we can say on our behalf. We cannot point to the greater misdeeds of others as any excuse, because it doesn’t make a dime’s worth of difference who is further from the mark. If God were to leave it at that-that the good will be blessed with Heaven while the bad are tormented in Hell-none of us would have any hope since none of us are good, all of us are bad, and we can neither earn Heaven nor avoid Hell by anything we have done or can do.
Jesus is not only fully God, but He is fully man as well. Jesus alone, out of all humanity, is truly good-sinlessly perfect. Think of the life He lived on earth in the context of the passage we’ve been looking at in Romans chapter 3. Jesus was perfectly righteous, He had understanding, and He persevered in doing good: steadfastly, constantly, continuously, and always. He deserves Heaven, and He is, in fact, the only person who does; yet, He left Heaven in order to rescue the helpless likes of you and me.
The good, good news!
That is why we call Romans 3:21-26 the GOOD, GOOD NEWS. Paul tells us there is “a righteousness from God” which we can receive by faith alone-without regard to our deeds. God is offering to give us, as a free gift, the very righteousness of His Son. In return, we give Him the only thing we have to offer Him-nothing. That’s a good trade, friends, so please do not neglect to receive God’s gift of righteousness. A gift offered can be a gift refused. What do we do with this righteousness once we receive it? We put it on, just like a beautiful garment, and “wear” it. When God looks at us from that day forward, He sees us “clothed” in the righteousness of His Son; and He credits that righteousness to our account as though we had earned it ourselves. God’s Son already has been voluntarily punished for our sins, so we can be released from captivity. And not only are we released from bondage, but we-who were enemies of God-are now at peace with Him.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:1).
What About James?
After sufficiently discouraging and scaring her followers into abandoning the context of Scripture and misusing the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Shamblin blithely skips along a few sentences later in her “New Jerusalem” piece, in an attempt to recruit James as support for her claims. She writes:
“America is under judgment. Salvation is the issue at hand and we must seek it. I have thousands of verses to show you — but let’s just look at one, NT verse: ‘You see that a person is justified by what he DOES and not by faith alone.’ (James 2:24)”36http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 4. Emphasis in original
But is it true James is making the case, as Shamblin is asserting, that we must earn our salvation? The answer is, “Absolutely NOT!!!” This is another one of those abused and misused passages which all cults use to subvert the Gospel of Grace. First of all, it must be understood these words are written to those who are already believers (1:2, 18; 2:1), not to those who are wondering how to merit acceptance by God.
The Bible teaches justification is to be declared legally righteous by God, as a gift, solely on the basis of our faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:24, Romans 5:6-9).
So what did James mean when he said a person is “justified” by works? Does it mean God accepts you on the basis of the works you do? It is very important to realize words may have more than one meaning in Scripture, and the meaning must then be determined by the context. Does the word justify (or justification) always have the meaning of being declared righteous in the legal sense before God? No. Biblically, the term justify can also mean “prove” or “vindicate,” as at Matt. 11:19 where it says, “Wisdom is justified by her children.” This verse means the results of a given action vindicates or proves the wisdom of that course of action.
Show And Tell
Additionally, notice in the context of this passage in James, he is speaking of men showing each other their faith-nobody is showing God anything here. God knows the heart. Just as love in the heart is invisible without outward expression of word or deed, so faith without works of righteousness is invisible (except to God) and useless toward helping a brother or sister in need.
Abraham’s justification is an excellent example of these two uses of the word justification: before God and before men. James 2:21 says Abraham was “justified” by his works when he offered up Isaac and refers back to Genesis 22:9. Yet, though it was here Abraham proved his inward faith by his outward actions, he had been justified in the legal sense, or declared righteous before God, for many years already at this point in his life. We find this legal justification recorded at Genesis 15:6, where God saw that Abraham believed God and counted this belief as righteousness. Abraham was-from that time on-righteous before God purely on the basis of his faith; his proof was offered 20-30 years later. Paul speaks of this in the fourth chapter of Romans, correcting the faulty view that Abraham was justified (declared legally righteous before God) by his works. This is very interesting. Paul says, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God …” (Rom. 4:2). Who, then, could Abraham boast before? Other men only-I’ll show you and you show me…
This showing and telling is what Shamblin’s religion is all about, but it is an unrighteous standard-not based upon God’s Word. David Martin and many others of Shamblin’s disciples are convinced of her great righteousness based upon what they believe they see in her. In that sense, she is certainly justified by her followers, but God-who knows her heart and motives-has yet to be heard on the issue of Shamblin’s holiness. One thing is absolutely certain according to God’s Word, and that is that NO ONE is righteous in their own right (Rom 3:10). There are NONE righteous-all of us fall short of God’s standard. Don’t jump out of God’s grace and into Shamblin’s leaky “lifeboats of doing,” friends. You won’t be able to bail fast enough to keep them from going down.
What’s your verdict, friends? Which of these two remnants is the true remnant of God? Neither-they are both imposters, but unfortunately, it is not a game they are playing. They are playing with the lives of those who are deceived by them. Jesus Himself gives these words of warning in Matthew 7:15:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
He wanted His followers to be discerning, alert, on the lookout for those who would claim to be speaking with the authority of God. What would these flim-flam people look like? Sheep! They would look, for all-the-world, like the true people of God. They may be carrying Bibles and operating apparently godly ministries, but they are savage wolves in disguise. They seek, for whatever hidden motivation, to drag away God’s people and take a following for themselves. There is no time like the present to be on the alert for the wolves who seek to ensnare the flock, whether they come to you on the radio, through a weight-loss program, or right to your door.Î©
All Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless other-wise noted.
© 2015, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
|↑3||Harold Camping, 1994? (New York: Vantage Press,1992), p. 533|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑16||“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audio cassette|
|↑6||G. Richard Fisher, “Will Jesus Return in 1994?: The Prognostications of Harold Camping,” Personal Freedom Outreach Quarterly Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January-March 1993), p. 1|
|↑7, ↑19||Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette|
|↑8, ↑14||Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 4|
|↑9||Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 14|
|↑10||Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p. 15|
|↑11||Harold Camping, Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September 2001, audio cassette. Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End? (Oakland, CA: Family Stations, Inc., n.d) p.7|
|↑12, ↑13||“Family Radio Staff Meeting,” 20 September 2001, audiocassette|
|↑15||Harold Camping,Alameda Reformed Bible Church Open Forum, 2 September2001, audio cassette|
|↑17, ↑18||W.E. Vine, Merrill F.Unger. William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville/Camden/NewYork: Thomas-Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 42|
|↑20||John W.Kennedy (with additional reporting by Todd Starnes), “Gwen in the Balance,” Christianity Today.com (http://www.christianityonline.com/ct/2000/136/51.0.html), p. 3|
|↑21||Gwen Shamblin, Rebuilding the Wall. Live presentation re-corded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 2 June 2001, Audiocassette 3 of 3|
|↑22, ↑24||http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 14|
|↑23||Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.5|
|↑25||David Martin, e-mail to Remnant Fellowship e-mail list, 15 January 2002, p. 1|
|↑26, ↑27, ↑28||WD Advanced, 2001, The Weigh Down Workshop Inc., Week One, “Sovereign Lord,” video cassette|
|↑29, ↑30||Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3|
|↑31||Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3, p. 1|
|↑32||33.Gwen Shamblin, The Passover, an e-mail to Remnant Fellowship churches, March 2002,p.3|
|↑33||Gwen Shamblin,e-mail to Remnant Fellowship, 14 February 2002. Emphasis in original|
|↑34||http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 2. Emphasis in the original|
|↑35||from WDW staff devotions tape|
|↑36||http://www.remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp, p. 4. Emphasis in original|