God’s Peculiar Treasure Pt. XXVI: A Synopsis of the Life and Work of H.W.A, Pt. XV

February 2019

 

Dear Brethren:


           Many of you are aware that we are in the process of final editing for a major book release coming this year. A Peculiar Treasure: The Enduring Legacy of Herbert & Loma Armstrong hopefully will be in print by early summer. Those of you receiving our Announcement Letter
each month are receiving more details on this project along the way. The material included here
for you this month is taken from what will become Chapter Fourteen of the new book. The title
of that chapter will be The Prophecy Debacle, and seeks to provide perspective on the history
of prophecy speculation within our parent organization. We hope that this material will be of
help to you and many more who will read it in the future.




Chapter Fourteen—The Prophecy Debacle

           If it is possible that Herbert Armstrong was indeed used by God to reveal biblical Truths concerning the real meaning of salvation for mankind,
how then do we explain the failures that occurred with his prophetic speculations?


           As already shown, the “hook” of connecting biblical prophecies to current events was
a huge factor in attracting people to the Radio Church of God. Many were strongly affected by
prognostications that we were living “in the last days,” and that many of the Bible’s long-range
prophecies would be fulfilled “in our time.” But the failure of apocalyptic events to climax as
expected in the 1970s led to the “1972 Syndrome,” as many members became discouraged and
restless, clamoring for changes. Many simply gave up their belief altogether and walked away.
If then God was truly involved, how do we account for these realities? How is it possible that
Herbert Armstrong was not a false prophet?




Herbert Armstrong Not a Prophet

           For all of Mr. Armstrong’s focus upon and expounding of Bible prophecies, he never
actually claimed to be a “prophet.” Is that surprising? And what exactly would that mean
anyhow? Let him define it himself:


           Thousands know that I, personally, have been called and chosen for a very definite
commission in God’s service. But I have definitely NOT been called to be a PROPHET —
except as that word, Biblically used, does sometimes refer to a minister or speaker — one who
proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Emphatically I am NOT a prophet, in the sense of one to whom God
speaks specially and directly, revealing personally a future event to happen or
new truth, or new and special instruction direct from God — separate from, and
apart from what is contained in the Bible. And I never have claimed to be.

There is no such human prophet living today! (Tomorrow’s World,
February 1972, Personal, p. 1)


           This statement had to be written to the whole church in 1972 because, in spite of never
having claimed to be one given divine insight into future details, the church had indeed come
to attribute such powers to Mr. Armstrong. If it seems that this is merely a legalistic parsing of
words, that is exactly how many in the church may well have viewed it also. Regardless, the
reality was that expectations of church members had been elevated to anticipate the return of
Jesus Christ by the mid-1970s. When it became clear in 1972 that this would not happen, a lot
of backpedaling had to be done. But unlike other churches that have leaders claiming to have
received divine insight through dreams or visions to declare the who, what, where, and when
of events that will take place in the future, Herbert Armstrong never did that. His statement to
the church was accurate. But he also acknowledged why he was being forced to make such a
clarification in early 1972:


It has never been our intention to SET DATES! Time after time, I have
said — Garner Ted Armstrong has said — our literature has stated — “WE DO
NOT SET DATES!”

Yet, in our human zeal and enthusiasm for getting this greatest mission on
earth done, we have a few times come close to it or appeared to — and that we
deeply regret (Tomorrow’s World, February 1972, Personal, p. 30).


           Here is an example of one such zealous speculation concerning future events:


While I EMPHASIZE, we cannot set dates, yet I am prepared to say now, for the
first time, the second coming of Christ COULD happen during this coming
decade, which we enter later this very week. Don’t under any circumstances take
that as setting a date — but we are now far closer to the END OF THIS WORLD
— and the beginning of the happy and peaceful WORLD TOMORROW than
people realize! TIME IS SHORT! (Co-Worker Letter, December 29, 1969)


           This is not the kind of wording that would be used by a cult leader claiming to have
received inspiration from on high about specific dates for future events. It admits to being a
speculation. But that does not change the fact that such wording caused members to get their
hopes up nonetheless. It is no different than a daddy promising to “try” to take his child to the
zoo on the morrow. It is not an absolute commitment, but the child’s disappointment is no less
severe if that outing fails to materialize.


           It is also true that Mr. Armstrong’s underlings were often less constrained in their
prognostic assertions than was he. Evangelist Roderick Meredith is a good example. Notice
some of his quotes from the 1950s and 60s:


After 1965, we are destined to run into increasing trouble with the Gentile
nations. America and Britain will begin to suffer from trade embargoes imposed
by the brown and oriental races. . . . We will begin to experience the pangs of
starvation and the scarcity of goods! (The Plain Truth, August 1957, p. 6)


You might as well wake up and FACE FACTS! The world you live in won’t be
here 15 years from now! (The Plain Truth, December 1963, p. 7)


Frankly, literally dozens of prophesied events indicate that this final revival of the
Roman Empire in Europe—and its bestial PERSECUTION of multitudes of
Bible-believing Christians—will take place within the next seven to ten years of
YOUR LIFE! (The Plain Truth, February 1965, p. 48.)


           Many—not just a few—of Mr. Armstrong’s helpers made such unreserved statements
over the years, in writings and in sermons, and 1972 is when those ill-advised chickens came
home to roost.


           Interestingly, Mr. Armstrong previously had already identified these expectations as a
problem within the church. He was not happy with the prospect of people being members for
the wrong reason:


Reports indicate that many have “come in” to God’s Church in this manner: They have come to really SEE and KNOW that this is, truly, GOD’S Church. They
know there is terrible WORLD TROUBLE just ahead. They have heard how
God’s Church is to be taken to a PLACE OF SAFETY. . . . So these people come
in, selfishly, for a sort of spiritual and physical SECURITY — to assure
PROTECTION when the Great Tribulation bursts upon the world! But they are
NOT themselves “on fire for GOD!” They are spiritual DRONES! And God will
not give them protection! (Co-Worker Letter, March 2, 1967, pp. 6–7)


           If Herbert Armstrong did not claim to possess special divine insight into times, places,
and dates for future fulfillment, it confirms that in that sense he was not claiming to be a
prophet. And if he was not a prophet, the fact that he disappointed the church with failed
personal speculations likewise would not constitute being a false prophet. But again, that is not
how it felt to many of his disappointed followers.




The Original Purpose of Prophecy Emphasis

           What was the real purpose—the intent—of Mr. Armstrong in seeking to be specific about Bible prophecy in light of current world events? Why was he doing it? Was it to make people think he was a prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah? If not, then why did he focus so much upon
those long-range prophecies in the Scriptures? The answer is found in his own writings, for
those who desire to understand.


           1. He sought to confirm that the promises of God from antiquity have indeed come true. He leveraged evidence of past fulfillment of God’s prophetic promises to substantiate the very validity of the Bible. Key in this was proving that God indeed fulfilled His promises to the
physical descendants of Abraham:


This promise never has been fulfilled in the Jews. It cannot be
“spiritualized” away by interpreting it as being inherited only through Christ. It
could not pertain to the Church, for there is but ONE true Church acknowledged
in the Bible, and it is not a nation, or a group of nations, but ONE Church of
called-out individuals scattered through ALL nations. Yet this amazing promise
MUST stand fulfilled, unless we are to deny the Bible and God’s sacred Word!

Here is the enigma of the ages! Is this a divine promise unkept? Thomas
Paine and Robert Ingersoll [a nineteenth-century agnostic orator] lost faith in God
and rejected the Bible because they believed these tremendous national promises
were never fulfilled.

The very fate of the Bible as the revealed Word of God — the evidence of
the existence of God — hangs on the answer to this momentous question. The
Jewish people did not fulfill these promises. They do not refer to the Church.
The world with its great church leaders does not know of any such fulfillment.
Did God fail? Or has He made good this colossal promise unknown to the world?
(The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, 1967, p. 32)


           2. He sought to prove that the Bible, though ancient, is a living book, speaking of events
transpiring in our very time, not just about things that are past:


Prophecy is the proof of divine revelation! If One, in the Bible, speaking
and claiming to be God, can make prophecies and tell what is going to happen in
the future to nations, to cities, to empires, then if it actually happens in every case,
and without a miss, you’ll know that was a real God speaking.

But, if it were some person writing this, some human mortal writing in
ignorance, groping in superstition, making great boasts, and claiming that he
could foretell what was going to happen to proud cities, to nations, to great
empires, and then it never happens, you know that that man was merely writing
make-believe out of his own imagination.

Yes, prophecy is the proof of God, the proof of the divine revelation of the
Bible. Prophecy is a taunting challenge that the skeptic dares not accept! (The
Proof of the Bible
; HWA, 1958, p. 5)


           So this confirms the second significant reason that Bible prophecy was a major part of
his emphasis. It offered hope that there really are solutions for man’s troubles, no matter how
ominous are the events transpiring on the world stage. It was a key aspect of preaching the
Gospel of the Kingdom of God.


           3. He sought to convince people that time was short, that a sense of urgency was
imperative, and that they needed to act immediately to prepare their own lives for the end.


Conclusion: Mussolini is the head of the Beast of Revelation 17, raising up the
modern Roman empire. Last admonition: “Stop and think! WHY should Hitler,
Mussolini, Stalin, the rulers of Japan, wish to plunge the world into war? WHY?
You cannot answer. They do not know. They are YIELDING to impulses and
suggestions. God help us to pray! We need His protection” (The Plain Truth,
February 1938, “How Demons Are Plunging The World Into War,” p. 3).


           This was an assertion that man has an invisible enemy who is seeking to destroy. Hitler
and Mussolini were not final pieces of the puzzle, but it certainly holds true that they were
motived by the very same enemy who has been influencing many world events since the Garden
of Eden. The manifestation of these same wicked devices on the world scene in 1938 was just
as relevant to people of that day as similar manifestations might be to us today. The rise of
dictators in the 1930s was not a proof that the end of the age was imminent (even if that is what
was anticipated), but the admonition for God’s people to take these forces seriously and to
become spiritually converted in heart and mind
was not a vain exercise.


           4. To teach that Christ told us to watch. Mr. Armstrong taught that we must care about
current events in light of Bible prophecy because God said so, and also to avoid becoming
deceived.


Jesus Christ thunders to those of us living in the end time, “Watch ye therefore,
and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that
shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).
(Tomorrow’s World, September 1971, “Are You Watching?”)


           5. To offer the means to “save our skins” from terrible tribulation to come upon the
earth.


2550 years from the year of the fall of Babylon ends in 1982. Seven years before
that encompass 3 ½ years of tribulation, plus the final trumpet period before
Christ takes over. Admonition: Get urgent so you can be spared from tribulation!
(The Plain Truth, June 1953, by Herman Hoeh, “What Are the Times of the
Gentiles?”)


           So based upon these very specific reasons given for emphasizing long-range biblical
prophecy, we have documentation for why and how it originally became so important within
the church. It was never about trying to prove that Herbert Armstrong had some special gift as
a soothsayer, but a tool to help God’s people establish and preserve a foundation of personal
faith in the midst of difficult times.




Milk Doctrines vs. Strong Meat

           In hindsight, how much should this Bible prophecy emphasis have captivated the more
experienced, committed members of the Radio Church of God? Sadly, the original purposes
for studying prophecy (listed above) seem to have been forgotten quickly by minister and
laymember alike. Think about it. Once someone responded to Mr. Armstrong’s radio broadcast,
had “proved” that the things he was preaching were absolutely supported in the Bible, and also
had proved by those prophecies that the Bible was truly relevant for people today, should that
novice-level understanding have continued to be the dominant focus? Put another way, if much
of the stated purpose of studying prophecy is to confirm that the Bible is true, that God fulfills
His promises
, and that we live in the end times, once those truths were proven by them, should
they have continued to be such a fixation?


           Recall that in Mr. Armstrong’s own early quest to prove the Bible (when he was still an
infant in his own understanding), he studied evolution vs. Creationism, concluding eventually
that evolution is bogus. Was that study an end in itself, or merely a stepping stone to more
important truths? What if he had stopped there, focusing forevermore upon the technicalities
of Creation science vs. evolutionary theories, hashing and rehashing that very basic aspect? But
he did not do that. Proving that God is real and that the Bible is true is only a baseline for going
further to learn the more important aspects of who and what God really is, what man really is,
and what is the true purpose of all of this existence. Once he proved the basics, he built upon
it from there. It is even as the Apostle Paul explained:


For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you
again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as
have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is
unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat
belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their
senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:12–14).


           Proving that God is real and that the Bible is true are examples of “milk doctrines.” It
is merely the basic foundation needed before going on to learn what God really requires of us
for salvation.


           What does that have to do with studying prophecy? Most of the stated reasons for
pointing World Tomorrow radio listeners to long-range prophecy was to help them come to have
confidence that God is real, that the Bible is true, and that the Scripture is meaningful for people
today. It is the very most basic, rudimentary, foundational instruction! It is all part of the “milk
doctrines.”




Prophecy Becomes a Drug

           Yet, ministers and members of the church became captivated by those long-range Bible
prophecies well beyond just proving belief in God and the Bible. Why? They became
convinced that long-range prophecies which were not yet fulfilled could be “figured out” in
advance, like a puzzle to be deciphered. Recall that this was one of those legitimized reasons
previously listed (Point #5 above) for studying prophecy—to allow them to be in the right place
at the right time when bad things happened, presuming that they could “save their skins” by
having advanced knowledge of what was coming.


           Many ministers spent their time trying to come up with clever theories that would link
Bible prophecies to modern-day nations and individuals on the world scene, not to bolster their
own faith in God, but in the hope of becoming known in the church as a “discoverer of new
truth.” The favorite sermons for many members became those speculating upon the who, what,
when, and where of the future, rather than those sermons explaining how to become a better
Christian. The word prophecy itself became synonymous with speculation on who in the news
today might do what in the future. Many members who had been encouraged by Mr. Armstrong
to study the Bible in order to grow closer to God, instead used their “study time” as “puzzle
solving time.” Rather than to use the Bible as a two-edged sword of introspection—to help
show where personal faults lay (Hebrews 4:12) and thereafter doing the hard work to break bad
habits—it was much more attractive to study prophecy. After all, it was private time used to
read the Bible, right? So God must be pleased.




Understandable but Dangerous

           It is very understandable that people discovering value in God’s Master Plan for salvation
would become fascinated by what He says in the Bible is coming next. Jesus Christ’s disciples
were excited and intrigued by His prophecies, and His words made them eager to gain even
greater enlightenment.


And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately,
saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy
coming, and of the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3)


           The prophet Daniel likewise had a keen desire to understand more specifics about those
final days which God had shown to him in part. “And I heard, but I understood not: then said
I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” (Daniel 12:8)


           Curiosity about last-day prophetic fulfillment is common to all peoples whom God has
called. And is it any wonder? After all, once one is called to understand the glorious plan by
which God is bringing salvation to the world, once one becomes convinced that Jesus Christ is
returning to become King over this earth, and once one comes to love and cherish the hope of
that Kingdom, how could one not take an interest in the details of how God will bring these
awesome events to pass? It is very natural that God’s children should long to know more about
when and how these monumental events will unfold, especially those who believe they are
living in the very era of their eventual reality.


           But herein lies the problem. We easily become obsessed with finding out details of
future events, not just out of innocent curiosity, but as part of a plan to protect ourselves from
the terrible persecutions which are certain to accompany these culminating days. If we truly
believe there will be tribulation upon this earth on a scale never before experienced by
humankind (Matthew 24:21), which of us would not have an interest in knowing enough of the
specifics so that we can maneuver ourselves out of harm’s way? Can any of us honestly say that
possessing such knowledge is not very appealing? If Daniel and the Twelve Apostles had a
keen desire to know these things, who among us can honestly claim to be indifferent to those
same tantalizing details?


           Why is it a problem to have a strong desire to know the specifics of future prophetic
fulfillment? It is because such desires easily lead to obsession and work counter to the faith
God requires each one of us to manifest. God said plainly, “the just shall live by faith”
(Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). Faith is the evidence of things
not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It means that we believe and act upon the promises of God, even
when those promises are not yet confirmed for us to see. It means that we are willing to trust
God implicitly for our protection, not demanding to be “tipped-off” in advance in order to have
confidence.


           Yet nearly a third of the Bible is prophecy, and the Bible was recorded for the Church.
Does that not imply God wants His people to spend a lot of time reading and examining
prophecy? That was exactly the rationale of many in the WCG who became obsessed with
analyzing long-range prophecies for the purpose of ferreting out new tidbits of enlightenment.
But such justification totally misses the point of why God put those long-range prophecies in
the Bible to begin with. Most assume automatically they were recorded as a puzzle for us to
“figure out.” This is justified by pointing out that God said these secrets would be made known
at the time of the end: “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and
sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9). Well, many reason, this is now the time of the
end, so that means God is now making it possible for the true church to solve the great mysteries
which the patriarchs never understood, including who, what, where, when, and how all these
final events will take place. All we have to do is keep digging and theorizing enough, and we
will eventually put all the pieces together. And that is exactly what many of the ministers under
Mr. Armstrong believed was true.




The True Purpose of Long-range Prophecy

           But is that really true? The true purpose for those long-range prophecies in the Bible is
not what most have ever considered, and in part, because of those mistakes made in the WCG,
a much better understanding has since emerged for us, if we will learn from that past.


           Here is the secret: God did not intend even for the last-day Church—His peculiar
treasure
—to figure out the specific details of events to come. As already shown, God said the
just shall live by faith, not by having the answers to the tests in advance. Why then were those
prophecies recorded? First, they were given so that we would have a general idea of the events
that would occur before the return of Christ. This is why Christ gave a synoptic blueprint in
Matthew 24. The events leading to the return of Christ are said to be so intense, so alarming,
so provocative, and so overwhelming, that without some forewarning, many of God’s people
would give up and believe it impossible for this whole story to have any happy ending. Notice
how Christ reveals His true intent and purpose by the admonitions He makes to the hearers:


And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you
(Matthew 24:4).


And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for
all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet (v. 6) [emphasis mine].


But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (v. 13).


           The backdrop for all of His statements about last-day events is the admonition not to
allow anything we might experience to shake our confidence. Why did He give the details that
He did about the terrifying events to come? To comfort the elect and to prepare them in mind
for the fact that horrendous things necessarily will befall them, so that when they actually
transpire
, they will be steeled to endure and not to faint! It was the same reason Christ told His
disciples ahead of time that one of them would betray Him. Why did He speak that prophecy
at that particular moment? Was He putting a puzzle before them to challenge them to figure out
the traitor’s identity in advance, so that the one who guessed that it was Judas could be
recognized as being something special? Of course not! Christ clarified His purpose very
distinctly:


I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may
be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now
I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am
he
(John 13:18–19) [emphasis mine].


           Why was this prophecy recorded in advance? So that His followers would not lose faith
in Jesus as being the Christ once they found out He had picked a traitor to be one of His
disciples! If someone claimed to be the Son of God but then picked a confidant who manifested
defective character, would that not make a normal person question His judgment? If He is truly
the Son of God, why did He not know the real heart of Judas? Jesus headed off that potential
doubt by telling them in advance that the betrayal would take place, so that when it occurred,
they would still believe and not doubt Him.


           Notice the timing. When were those disciples going to understand the full prophecy
about Judas? When did it matter for them to understand? After it was fulfilled! Yes, Jesus did
tell John privately that the traitor would be the one to whom He gave the sop (John 13:25–26),
but this was not so that John could publish it to the others in advance. The final betrayal was
happening even as He was speaking. The real value of Jesus’ prophecy concerning Judas was
for the church in the time of the aftermath. John was selected by God to record this event in his
gospel account. It was not just a game of hide and seek. It all had purpose.


           Which brings us to the second major purpose for long-range prophecies: They were
recorded by God in advance, so that after they come to pass, God—and not any man—will
receive the credit for having known the end from the beginning. Why were all of those Old
Testament prophecies recorded concerning the Messiah who would be slaughtered as a
sacrificial Lamb? Was it a puzzle given to allow the Jews to figure out how to spot the true
Christ in advance? Of course not. No one in Israel ever figured out beforehand from Scripture
that the Messiah would first come to die, and only later come as a conquering King. They had
the Scripture in their possession for all those centuries—and knew them backwards and
forwards—and yet not one of them ever put the pieces together. The concept of a First and then
only later a Second Coming was anathema to them, in spite of the fact it had been clearly
recorded by Moses, Isaiah, and many other prophets of old for thousands of years. And no one
in those days leading to His first arrival was allowed to put those pieces together and proclaim
it to the world. No, God intentionally kept that nugget of Truth hidden. For how long? Until
Jesus Himself revealed the meaning to His disciples after it was already in the process of being
fulfilled
!


From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go
unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be killed, and be raised again the third day (Matthew 16:21).


           Even then, Peter and the other disciples still did not understand, because it was never in
their thinking that the Messiah would need to be killed (verse 22). Only after His actual death
and resurrection did all these things really sink in. And then, afterwards—only afterwards—did
all those prophecies of old make sense. Given that God allowed no man to “figure out” the truth
about the Messiah’s death before it came to pass, who received the glory when it actually
transpired—after Jesus had fulfilled dozens of long-range prophecies? Not a single man, but
God only. Long-range prophecies were recorded in the Bible and brought down through time
so that when they come to pass just as God said they would, mankind will know that a
purposeful God has truly been orchestrating a divine Master Plan through all the ages.


           Such a testament gives all honor and glory to God, and never allows any man to share
the stage with Him. What would happen if God allowed someone to ferret out one of these
secret meanings in detail in advance? Once it came to pass, that man would be jumping up and
down saying, “See, I told you that is how it was going to happen! I knew it all along. That
proves I was something special in God’s church!” But this God of the Bible is a jealous God,
and He does not intend to share His glory with any man. No, when all of these last-day
prophecies actually come to pass and match precisely what was foretold, God is going to make
sure that He alone receives the awesome recognition for that fulfillment. That is why no one
else will be allowed to have the details in advance. They were not recorded for that purpose.
By reading those prophecies, God’s church today—wherever it is—can be comforted by
understanding the general blueprint by which God is working; and when they literally see those
things begin to occur, rather than becoming fearful—having their faith destroyed—they can
instead be fortified, knowing that it is all happening according to a Master Designer’s plan.


           The leadership of the Radio Church of God did not understand this principle of the real
purpose
of long-range prophecy. Because of that, serious mistakes were made in allowing
church members to hope that Mr. Armstrong and others would tell them, “when shall these
things be? and what shall be the sign of [His] coming, and of the end of the world?” Well-meaning but ill-advised speculations destroyed the confidence of many, and it was a key reason
for the eventual fracturing and later implosion of that organized body.


           But is that fact proof that Herbert Armstrong was a “false prophet”? Or is it possible that
God was indeed working through and inspiring him concerning matters of real substance? Was
there a difference?


           Recall from Chapter Two that wherever you find God’s peculiar treasure, it will be a
body that first receives divinely revealed doctrine, but then departs from it en masse. That has
always been so! The only real question is, what factors would cause God’s true church to lose
faith and to abandon its foundation of Truth? God said it would happen. What would be the
cause?




Doctrine Is Not Prophecy!

           Another key that Worldwide Church of God members did not possess was understanding
the difference between doctrine and prophecy. Most yet today do not understand that
distinction! Yet it provides many of the answers we are seeking.


           Doctrine includes the definition of right vs. wrong, an understanding of facts concerning
the physical and the spiritual realms, and a general understanding of God’s plan in dealing with
humanity. Doctrine includes everything His called people need in order to know what pleases
Him and what displeases Him, how to worship Him properly, and what to eschew in order to
avoid His displeasure. It also includes an understanding of who and what God is, who and what
man is, and the general blueprint for understanding the Master Plan that God is using from
beginning to end. All of this is a succinct definition of doctrine.


           Separate and apart from this is prophecy. Members of the Worldwide Church of God
were never told there was a difference. To them, dabbling in prophecy was part of “the
doctrine” of the church. So when many speculations failed, they counted it as evidence of “false
doctrine.” But that is not true!


           Prophecy is about God recording advanced details of events to come, and for particular
reason. We have already discussed the purpose of long-range prophecy. It was recorded by
God so that His people will not be shaken when they experience severe tribulation, and also to
attest in advance that God is carrying out a very purposeful plan exactly as He has
predetermined
. When events transpire that exactly match what God prophesied in advance, it
is proof that a Master Architect is at work.


           Short-range prophecy is something we have not yet addressed. What is the difference?
Short-range prophecies are given to substantiate both God and the prophet representing Him.
Such prophecies are understood quickly, due to the limited time period which they involve.
Examples include Moses testifying in advance to Pharaoh what God was about to do (Exodus
12–13), Macaiah testifying to Ahab what God was about to do (1 Kings 22:14–38), and
Jeremiah facing off against Hananiah to prove which one of them was authorized to speak in
God’s name (Jeremiah 28:5–17). In these cases, God used prophecy to prove that a servant had
been given a special commission by God to achieve a particular purpose. That purpose is
always to communicate a vital message to a target audience, not to elevate the prophet for his
own vanity.


           Regardless, whether we are talking about short-range or long-range prophecy, we are
talking about God communicating/recording special messages for particular purposes at
particular times. But this is all totally separate from doctrine—the revealed knowledge of right
vs. wrong for all of humanity that applies at all times, in every age.


           Why is this distinction important? The proof that we are seeking in identifying God’s
peculiar treasure will be found in examining the doctrine, even as outlined in Chapter One.
That is our true yardstick. And as documented in Chapter Two, wherever that true church is
found, it will be a physical body prophesied to go astray in time. What would cause it to do
exactly what God said would occur? If the true church (physically) always holds fast to God’s
Truth, makes good decisions administratively, and avoids all errors in judgment (like in dealing
with prophetic speculation), then there would be no causation for disappointment and resultant
apostasy. Yet that apostasy was prophesied by God, so there likewise has to be a cause in the
form of mistakes made!


           Why is it not possible that the unwise handling of prophecy could have been one of those
causative factors that God foresaw? If that is perhaps true, then it would help to preserve the
possibility that Herbert Armstrong’s work was indeed inspired by God, doctrinally, in spite of
the errors prophetically and administratively.


           Is that just grasping at straws? Is it an attempt to justify the legitimacy of Mr.
Armstrong’s work at any cost? As always, you must be the judge. But for those of you who
continue to find value in the very unique doctrinal teachings of Herbert
Armstrong—explanations from the Bible that make more sense than any other religion out
there—then just maybe this clarification about prophecy (its history within the Worldwide
Church of God and its proper role in the greater scheme of things) will be of benefit.

Your servant in Christ,
Jon W. Brisby signature
Jon W. Brisby


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