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Since the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, there has been some "confusion" on who the "synagogue of Satan" is, or was.  Hopefully this brief article will bring some things back into remembrance on this topic.

The Synagogue of Satan

By Daniel E. Cohran


Mr. Armstrong often said that it was harder for him (and us) to UNLEARN false beliefs, than it was for us to learn the truth itself. This certainly is the case today during this Laodicean time period. Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, many strange ideas and beliefs have crept into the "churches" of God. And just as important is the fact that many truths and doctrines once taught and observed in God’s Church under the leadership of Mr. Armstrong, have been either forgotton or ignored by many today.

When in doubt on these topics or any topic, one would be safe to always go to the Word of God, AND to the teachings of God’s apostles. All of the apostles, from the first century A.D. to the twentieth century A.D., so yes this most certainly includes Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.

There has been an erroneous idea floating around in some of the offshoots of the former WCG since the early 1990’s, and one group in particular which I was once a part of, is a primary source of this thinking. But I am not here to point out any particular group or "bash" anyone. However it is my purpose, and has been since the establishment of this website, to always go back to what God’s apostle taught, and to The Word of God. This ALWAYS clears things up when we bring into "remembrance" what God initially revealed to us through His apostle and end-time Elijah.

This "idea" or teaching is concerning the belief that the Worldwide Church of God (soon to be called by another name), is the "Synagogue of Satan", and also that Mr. Joseph Tkach Sr. was the prophesied "Man of Sin". Both of these subjects will be addressed in this brief article.

Let me just address the "answer" to this out right, THEN we will look at the PROOF of the truth made plain.

First of all, God NEVER EVER calls, or has called, His people "The Synagogue of Satan"! That is the plain and simple truth. Now YES, the WCG has gone astray from God’s truth, but then again- ACCORDING to God’s Word, so have ALL of His people in this Laodicean era. You can read that in Matt. 25:5 where it says that we ALL fell asleep!

Again, God NEVER calls His own people (or Church) the Synagogue of Satan. Even though we sin, and get off track spiritually, and fall asleep spiritually, and commit all types of spiritual sins, NEVERTHELESS, we are STILL called by God’s name, NOT Satan’s!

HOWEVER, recent history has shown that the WCG has gone further and furthrer INTO this world's ways and has willfully adopted beliefs of that Babylonish system, or the synagogue of Satan. Therefore they ARE BECOMING or HAVE BECOME a part OF it!  But this does NOT mean they they are THE synagogue of Satan, but indeed a part of that system. But the synagogue of Satan was already on this earth and IN PLACE long before the WCG came along. 

The WCG is indeed in MORTAL DANGER!  But so are ALL of God's people today! Every single one of us! So is there a point when the people of God or some of those people can no longer be called God's people? Of course there is, and the scripture makes this clear (Heb. 6:4-6 & II Peter 2:20-21 are examples).  And it refers to those who WILLFULLY turn away from all of God's truth and again adopt the ways or belief system of this world.

We should be able to clearly SEE that this has happened to the WCG, but what may not be so "clearly" seen, is that it is happening also to the rest of God's people to some degree or another, by the subtle yet equally devastating and dangerous watering down of God's truth and doctrine within ALL of the so called churches of God!

Mr. Armstrong VERY CLEARLY taught that the Synagogue of Satan was the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and it’s "offspring" or those who departed it in "protest" or PROTESTANT CHURCHES. In other words the "churches" of THIS WORLD are the SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN! And the vast majority of those churches are tied in directly or indirectly to that old system of BABYLON THE GREAT, or the FALSE Church that Satan himself set up at the outset of the first century A.D., when the TRUE CHURCH was being persecuted and was forced "underground". So that false religious system or Church is Satan’s Church or "Synagogue".

Below are two brief excerpts that explain what God’s Church taught for many years concerning the Synagogue of Satan.

Excerpt from: A TRUE HISTORY OF THE TRUE CHURCH by Hermon L. Hoeh, 1959 edition.

The "Synagogue of Satan" -- What Is It?

Now read Revelation 2:9. "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." Notice, this is a SYNAGOGUE of Satan. A synagogue is merely the Hebrew word for church. Then Jesus is not speaking of a RACE, but of a CHURCH that belongs to the devil!


PHOTO CAPTION: The ruins of the city of Ephesus. This view is of the Theatre and of the Esplanade which extends toward the Aegean Sea.


This church claims that they are spiritually Jews. Why? Because Jesus said, "Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). "To the Jew first, then also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16).

"He is a Jew," says Paul, "which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Rom. 2:29).

In Romans 11:16-27 Paul explains that Israel and the Jews, to whom salvation belonged, were broken off because of unbelief.

Gentiles were grafted in their place. But once grafted in, they were no longer Gentiles -- "BEING IN TIME PAST Gentiles in the flesh" (Eph. 2:11). Now they were all one in Christ Jesus, "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints" (Eph. 2:19).

So here was a church made up of Gentiles, claiming salvation, claiming to be Jews inwardly, masquerading as a "Christian" church, yet the very tool of Satan himself!

This synagogue of Satan is the great apostate church which developed after 70 A.D. and ultimately became recognized as the State Religion of the Roman Empire. That Church has had many Protestant daughters which are also Satan's churches (Rev. 17). (end of excerpt)


Excerpt from LESSON 49 of the Ambassador College Correspondance Course (1967)

The name Smyrna means BITTER. And BITTER, indeed, was the era of the Church that it symbolizes! In the words of the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

"The steady progress of the heretical movement in spite of all opposition was a cause of deep sorrow to Polycarp, so that in the last years of his life the words were constantly on his lips, 'Oh good God, to what times hast thou spared me, that I must suffer (tolerate) such things!"'

Such things as Anicetus -- who claimed he was human head of the Catholic Church of God -- and pagan Easter, being observed all over in churches claiming to be "Christian." These Polycarp HAD to allow. For, indeed, there was nothing he could do to stop it. Perhaps even he did not see CLEARLY that this apostacy was never part of the True Church -- but was a conspiracy that wormed its way into the local congregations to gain a following after itself.

The struggle -- over observing Satan's days instead of God's -- yet dragged on though Polycarp was dead. Now, it was Polycrates of Ephesus resisting pagan presences of Victor at Rome (190-198). But to no avail. Victor not only pretended his vast Easter-keeping organization was Christ's Church but arrogated to himself authority to "excommunicate" those who in Asia still kept the Passover.

With this generation the True Church in the Greek-speaking world had virtually DISAPPEARED. With Polycrates, its last candle flickered out. The Synagogue of Satan was now triumphant in the world.

1. Few understand the real origin of the Synagogue of Satan. Is salvation OF (beginning with and proceeding FROM) the Jews? John 4:22. Was there a people (and religion) which from Old Testament times had claimed to be Jews and were not? Verse 12.

COMMENT: Josephus, the Jewish historian, reports the Samaritans always pretended to be Jews when it favored them. Read the origin of the Babylonian Samaritans and their hybrid pagan religion in II Kings 17:18-33. They brought the worship of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar or Easter (Succoth-benoth) with them.

From these Samaritans, under Simon Magus' leadership -- HE was the false Peter of Rome -- sprang the false church or Synagogue of Satan that triumphed in the world (Acts 8:9-11, 21-23). For fuller information, write for our free reprint, "What is the Synagogue of Satan?" (end of excerpt)

These are only two brief examples, but they should suffice to show that God’s Church had CORRECTLY taught, under the leadership of Mr. Armstrong, that the Synagogue of Satan is (or are) the churches of this world that have sprung forth from the Roman Catholic Church and it includes that church.



Now as for the "man of sin" being Mr. Joseph Tkach, Sr.. Let’s look first at a scripture specifically concerning this man of sin. Notice II Thes. 2:3 which states:

" Let no one decieve you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition."

I would like to point out two specific things in this verse. The first being that the "day" of (Christ’s return mentioned in verse 1) will not occur until a "falling away" occurs FIRST. So that is what has to happen first. That does not necessarily mean or say that the "man of sin" will be revealed at that same time. It says the falling away occurs FIRST. So the second thing to point out is the next word which is "AND" (the man of sin is revealed). So it shows that something has to occur FIRST, which was the falling away from TRUTH (verses 10 & 12), then at some point AFTER that, the revealing of the "man of sin".

Could Joseph Tkach Sr. have been the "man of sin"? I think not, it would not be scriptural, and I’ll show why shortly. Indeed he was instrumental in leading the WCG into apostacy and most definitely a falling away from the truth. And we now have the HISTORY behind us to SEE that indeed a falling away DID take place. But is he the "man of sin"?

He could NOT be that man! Why? Because he is DEAD! And scripture clearly shows that Christ Himself will consume this man of sin with the brightness of His coming! (See verse 8 of II Thes. 2 !).

So whoever this man of sin is, has to be ALIVE when Christ returns, simple as that! And Christ Himself will destroy this man! So this could NOT be Joseph Tkach, because he is dead and buried.

There is a "possibility" that a type of the "man of sin" could come from among God's own Church or people. But keep in mind that this "concept" or idea began around 1990 and was NOT taught by Mr. Armstrong.  Mr. Armstrong felt or indicated this prophecy would be fulfilled by the Pope.  I also believe this.  However, the scriptures do at least "indicate" that there could be a dual fulfillment of this. But when in doubt, I always lean to what God's apostle taught.

Scripture indicates here in II Thes. and other places (Ezekiel 28:2-10 for example), that this "man of sin" could come from within the Church or people of God. He is obviously a minister or religious leader who has set himself up as if he were God Himself. Instead of a government based on LOVE, he has a "dictatorship" type of government, yet under the guise of "love" and he will make himself look like he is under the authority of  Jesus Christ and also following "Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong". Why do I state this? Because if we fully realize who Mr. Armstrong was and what God DID through that man, then we realize the importance of the role he fulfilled, and HOW he (Mr. Armstrong) ties in with the "two witnesses" testimony!

So this "man of sin" will be very DECEITFUL and may very well deceive many of God’s own people into believing that HE is God’s representative on this earth! But BEWARE! Although he may "appear" as God’s representative, and use some very convincing words, such as: he may even appear to SUPPORT what Mr. Armstrong taught and state that HE is continuing on with Mr. Armstrong’s legacy. But God says in verse 4 of II Thes. 2 that this man actually OPPOSES all that is CALLED God and exhalts himself above it. Well what is "called" God? The answer is simple. GOD’S PEOPLE are called by His NAME! So this man exhalts himself above all of God’s people by saying that ONLY HE represents God. Can we begin to SEE how this can or may deceive many of God’s people and how dangerous this is?

However this man will have a "problem" and a controversy will arise. The TWO WITNESSES will be on the scene! They also will be alive and on the scene during this same time period! And they WILL BE God’s TRUE representatives on this earth! And guess what? This "man of sin" will NOT like it! Surely at some point Satan will empower this man to even do miracles. But God’s true representatives will also be empowered to do great miracles and signs and wonders. And NO HARM will come to them UNTIL their testimony is finished!

So this explains the "concept" or idea of the man of sin coming from among God's people. And it is just that, ONLY a concept or idea but does fit in with scripture. HOWEVER I emphasize again, when in doubt on something (and this concept does leave room for doubt), then lean to what God's apostle taught and has stood the test of time and CAN clearly be proven from the Word of God.

The DUALITY of prophecy and scripture

As Mr. Armstrong taught God’s people for many years, most prophecy has a duality in fullfillment, a former and latter. Also the Bible shows many "types" and "anti-types". For example the term "woman" in God’s Word often refers to a "church". It can mean God’s Church, OR it can mean the great "false church", or the "woman" that rides the BEAST.

So is there a DUALITY of fulfillment concerning the prophesied "man of sin"? There is a "possibility".  If there are two types of the "woman" mentioned in scripture for the end time, God’s Church and the false church, then wouldn’t the scriptures pertaining to the "false prophet" and the "man of sin" also have a duality and perhaps apply to BOTH of these Churches?

It should be noted here that at one time, Mr. Armstrong taught that the "Pope" of the Roman Catholic religion would be the prophesied "man of sin". Although Mr. Armstrong did not specifically say "the pope", he certainly did imply it. I will be posting below an excerpt from Mr. Armstrong’s booklet entitled "Who or What is the Prophetic Beast", in which Mr. Armstrong implies clearly that the leader of the Catholic Church or MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS will fulfill the prophesies concerning the "man of sin".

It’s important to note two important things first though. First in II Thes. 2:4 that this man literally sits IN the Temple of God, in other words IN the Church of God. Think of what this means! Could God’s people, who have received the truth, be deceived by a Catholic Pope? Of course NOT! However they COULD be deceived by someone from among their midst, who KNOWS the truth and uses it to his advantage!

On the other hand we have to remember that DURING the great tribulation is when this beast power and man of sin are on the scene. During that time MANY of God's people will be caught in the tribulation and also taken captive. Well at that time this "man of sin" will certainly have the POWER to sit IN the temple (Church) of God! He will RULE over God's people and try to force upon them (and all others) the MARK OF THE BEAST (enforcement of Sunday worship). So yes in that respect he will not have to "deceive" but rather FORCE God's people to do "his" will, or face martyrdom. 

The second thing to point out has to do with something Mr. Armstrong said shortly before he died, and AFTER the booklet on the beast was published. And I will also post this statement further down in this article. So do I discount that the leader of the Catholic Church, or Pope, will be the "man of sin"? Absolutely not! I agree with it completely. But notice the wording carefully of the below excerpt as it clearly states "a" man of sin, and notice that the term "religious leader" is used RATHER than the word "Pope". And notice how this statement or excerpt can be applied to God’s Church or people today. Keeping in mind also that prophecy is DUAL and there are "types" and "anti-types". So below is the excerpt from the booklet: "Who or What is the Prophetic Beast?". Breaking into the middle of page 20 it states:

First, note Revelation 17. Here is pictured a woman. In II Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:22-27 and elsewhere, we learn that "woman" is a symbol for church. This woman is a fallen woman – an apostate church – pictured as ruling over many nations (Rev. 17:1, 15).

In verse 3, this false church is pictured sitting on a beast "having seven heads and ten horns." A woman riding a horse guides, controls, the horse. It does her bidding.

Notice, verse 18, she is "that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." Notice, verse 2, the inhabitants of the earth have been deceived by this counterfeit Christianity. Also, Revelation 18:3, she has deceived all nations.

Next, notice II Thessalonians 2:3-4. The day of Christ – and the coming of Christ – shall not come, until there be a falling away, and a "man of sin be revealed". He exalts himself above all that is called God. As God, he sits in a temple claimed to be the temple of God, showing himself to deceive people into accepting him as God. God is our holy Father. This final man, in a religious office, will claim the same title. This wicked man is to be destroyed at, and by, Christ’s coming (verse 8). Notice verses 9-10: "Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs (miracles) and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness".

Here is an important religious figure prophesied to perform miracles and lying wonders, with which he deceives people everywhere. " (end of excerpt)

So again the question here is: Is there a parallel or duality here for God’s Church today? We certainly SHOULD be able to see that there has been at least the FALLING AWAY taken place as mentioned in II Thes. 2. So if the first part of verse 3 applies to God’s Church, wouldn’t the second half concerning the "man of sin"? And STILL, this also applies to the Catholic Church as well, just as Mr. Armstrong taught!

Did Mr. Armstrong himself begin to see or understand this? That is the other excerpt that I mentioned earlier, that he made a statement shortly before he died concerning this. I realize that the statement can and will be intrepreted many different ways. It could just mean the same thing mentioned in the booklet I just quoted from. Or it may not. But if we want the most "up to date" statement in writing from Mr. Armstrong himself, we need to go to his LAST published work, his book…..MYSTERY OF THE AGES!

And concerning this "man of sin" as prophesied in Ezekiel 28, Mr. Armstrong simply says this concerning this prince of Tyrus, and it’s on page 82 of the hardback edition of Mystery of the Ages, found in brackets:

[actually referring to a powerful religious leader to arise SOON, in our time]

And that’s really all he has to say about this subject of the "man of sin" in the entire book of Mystery of the Ages. So the question of whether this prophecy is DUAL or not is left somewhat "hanging". But we do have recent Church HISTORY that shows that a FALLING AWAY most definitely has taken place. So it only makes sense that the rest of this prophecy will also be fulfilled soon! Only time will tell for sure how this will all play out. We have the outline of prophecy, the details will be revealed as we live into that prophecy.

My conclusion is that yes there most definately WILL be a MAN OF SIN to come on the scene soon. Will there be a dual fulfillment of this, in other words on a smaller scale a man of sin to arise up among (and from within) God's people? The scriptures could be interpreted that way. HOWEVER again, this is NOT what Mr. Armstrong, God's end-time apostle taught! I personally tend to (when in doubt) lean to what God revealed through him, NOT what other men are teaching or have taught. So all we can do is wait and see, if there will be a dual fulfillment of this. Only then will we know for sure.

So hopefully this brief article has cleared up what Christ once revealed to us through His apostle concerning the "Synagogue of Satan", and hopefully has cleared up and shows what the Word of God says concerning the prophesied soon coming "Man of Sin", who probably is already on the scene, but soon will be "revealed".




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