After hundreds of HWA’s predictions (or prophecies) failed (especially the 1972 one) he reminded members that he “wasn’t a prophet” and “never claimed to be one.” It is what he had to do to save face. It’s also what’s known as “backpedaling.” HWA was often contradictory in what he did and said and he was extremely clever in turning things around so that he never took the blame.
HWA would never have declared, “I am a prophet” because that would be vain and presumptuous, wouldn’t it? Yet, false teachers are known to be boastful, vain and proud in many ways. And when they are wrong, they never admit it, or acknowledge any kind of guilt. They just “got carried away.”
In the December 1956 Plain Truth, for example, there was an article entitled:
“Foretold 22 Years Ago! (Open revolt is ripping asunder the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe. The way for a United Europe is being prepared as foretold in the pages of The PLAIN TRUTH over 22 years ago!)”. Under the sub-heading, “How To Know This Is the Work of God!” the author says, “…God must somewhere have His work TODAY. How do you recognize it? Here is the test Jeremiah was inspired to give:” Jeremiah 28:9 is then quoted. Following the Jeremiah passage, the author states, “That is how you can know who is preaching the truth today–when what he says comes to pass. [bolding mine] The Old Testament prophets have already spoken–their words are written in the Bible. But who today understands what the prophets foretold? Why, only the ministers today whose word comes to pass!–those who are appointed and guided by God to preach the truth! Those whose utterances do NOT come to pass have not spoke the prophecies truly.”
Notice how words such as “prophet” and “prophecies” in regard to HWA are carefully omitted and instead words are used like “foretold,” “comes to pass,” and “utterances.” It is almost ironic that this article should state, “Scripture is full of warnings about false ministers and false prophets.”
In the same article under the sub-heading, “The Record for Over 22 Years,” the author says, “This prophecy is already happening.” [bolding mine] Was HWA’s timing off?
While the article doesn’t give an author’s name, HWA as Editor of the magazine, by giving consent to the publishing of said article, was granting his approval of it and that included anything in it that could be construed to cause readers come to the conclusion that he was indeed “God’s prophet.”
These catastrophic “soon-coming” events (prophecies) that HWA wrote about, and preached on, had the ability to stir up fear and exigency in his readers, and to compel them to sacrifice more monetarily out of a sense of guilt if they didn’t. The dire events he proclaimed (under the guise of “preaching the gospel”) didn’t cause people to come to Christ for salvation, and to learn more of His love, they caused many to want to escape through “obedience to the authority” (i. e., the directives of HWA, called “God’s Work”) and being a member of the “one and only true Church.”
We find that HWA wasn’t just relaying prophecies in the Bible that “God helped him to understand” (i. e., “revealed” to him alone). He went further and added his own words even to the point where he was predicting detailed, specific events (prophecies) of what would befall all of us soon.
Notice what HWA said in the Aug-Sept, 1954 Plain Truth:
“God’s time has come to reveal to the world the terrifying super-natural world-catastrophes, now about to hurl this world to oblivion! Cataclysmic happenings of a magnitude never before remotely resembled, or even imagined, are soon to strike an unsuspecting, heedless and sinning world, and bring it to its awful END!” [bolding mine]
Was it “God’s time” or HWA’s time to reveal these disasters? If it was “God’s time,” then why did God reveal to HWA that it was going to happen soon? Remember, this was written in 1954. Again, was this what God was revealing, or what HWA was predicting on his own? This was more than “being a little over-enthusiastic” about prophetic events in the Bible. This was methodically thought out in order to motivate people to fear enough to send their money to him. (Read Marion J. McNair’s book, Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off [available as PDF download] where he analyzes HWA’s co-worker letters, showing the propaganda methods he used; he also details many of HWA’s failed prophecies.)
According to HWA’s teaching, those in “God’s true Church” were to flee to Petra in January 1972. Since they would remain in this “Place of Safety” for 3 l/2 years (the duration of the Great Tribulation) the date for Christ’s return to this earth was calculated to be 1975. (However, in order to not know when Christ would actually return, members were told that there would be so much smoke and dark clouds over the sun that we would not be able to know the exact day.)
Read: Why 1975? This article clearly shows Herbert Armstrong predicted 1975 as the date of Christ’s Second Coming.
Just because HWA said (especially after the 1972 debacle) that he “wasn’t a prophet” doesn’t mean that he wasn’t speaking as a prophet. Neither does declaring, “I’m not a prophet” or “I never said I was a prophet” mean he was being humble. It means he was covering himself so he wouldn’t be held accountable for all the false prophecies (“predictions”) that he had given since 1938 and which people were waking up to. And one only has to go back and review the older Good Newsand Plain Truth magazines to see what he said was going to happen in such and such a time frame–even giving dates–and how much was “already” happening right then. This continued for decades.
Read: If One Writes as a Prophet He Cannot Back Off From That (letter to ESN which shows God holds those who claim to be his servants or teachers to a higher standard than the rest of us.)
So to use the reasoning that “HWA said he was never a prophet; therefore, we can’t say he was a false prophet,” just doesn’t hold up.
To cause people who look up to you, believe in you, and trust you, to become filled with fear and urgency so that they are willing to sell their homes and businesses, forgo personal necessities, etc., and send the money to the “Work” because they have been told “God’s Church will be fleeing soon” is not only wrong, it is unconscionable and wicked! If this wasn’t bad enough, there was never any apology when the time passed, and no reimbursing members for all the money they had sent in. Can such a person even be considered a true child of God? Or, are they instead, a child of the devil?
What did Jesus say about false prophets?
Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
In other words, they come appearing as sincere, truthful, and harmless–as the bearer of God’s truth as it were–but in actuality they are cunning, devious, and dangerous to one’s spiritual life.
Matthew 7:16 “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
And what have been the fruits of HWA and his “God revealed it to me” predictions? How many lives have been destroyed as a result of becoming ensnared in this kind of deception? People may have “learned the books of the Bible” or “began to read the Bible for the first time,” but they also later realized they had to unlearn all the false doctrines they received from HWA (scriptures taken out of context, added to, twisted, mingled up, etc.), and begin to use sound biblical hermeneutics.
Ephesians 5:9-11: “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
In all of this, we must be learn to be aware (discerning and perceiving) of the harmful methods and tactics that unscrupulous religious leaders use in order to deceive and financially exploit innocent others. The real question is not, “Didn’t Herbert Armstrong say he wasn’t a prophet?” but, “Did he boast that only he was being used by God, only he received truth from Christ, and that no one else was warning others except his Work?” Did he ever reject any criticism of these statements?
Over and over again we see how HWA was crafty enough to proclaim, “It is Christ doing the work; I’m only His instrument.” But then his boasting continued. Do we find the Apostle Paul conducting his ministry in such a manner?
Yes, we must honestly look at the real fruits, especially the bad fruits, and not give plausible sounding excuses in order to extol Herbert Armstrong as the “restorer of God’s Truth”–which was in reality no “truth” at all but a denial of the sufficiency of the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for all our sins–past, present and future. It is He that we are to look to and follow, not some man who comes along and claims to have received “special revelation” from God.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
November 21, 2013
Did Herbert Armstrong Set Dates? (also includes how HWA said he was not a prophet)
All or Nothing Statements (from those that have “the truth”) (includes statements from HWA)
“Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross” (Explains I John 1:9; includes MP3 download)