Was Herbert Armstrong aProphet?
Most dictionaries define a prophet as one who says divinely inspired things, often foretelling the future. A person who uses human knowledge to foretell the future is predicting the future.
As far as this writer knows, Herbert Armstrong never personally claimed that he was a prophet—he never claimed direct revelation from the Eternal or His angels either in person or by dream or vision. Yet he never claimed to predict the future by merely human understanding of the Bible. He frequently claimed to have divine understanding—and even used the accuracy of his prophetic understanding as authority for his work. He cited people, countries, dates, and events not directly found in the Bible, and foretold what would happen. He did not hesitate to call other Bible teachers "false prophets"—even though these teachers did not call themselves prophets.
But Herbert Armstrong taught much truth from the Bible that few others taught. This compelled many to listen and trust his prophetic understanding. Also, Mr. Armstrong claimed to be the head of God’s Church on earth. He signed his letters "in Jesus’ Name" and claimed the authority of God behind his teaching. Some of what he said actually came to pass—he certainly had some understanding of Bible prophecy. It is also possible that other things he said will come to pass in the future.
Unfortunately, many of the prophetic interpretations he gave simply did not come to pass. Others, if they do happen, will be at least 10 to 20 years later than he ever anticipated—time for much of a generation to die and a new one to arise. This would not be a disaster if he gave his prophetic understanding in terms of: "This is how I understand the Bible" or "This is my speculation". To the contrary, he was dogmatic. Those who challenged his prophetic understanding or taught other understanding were often thrust out of his organization, which was the Body of Christ according to Armstrong.
While he did not claim to be a prophet, the closest English word describing what he did is "prophesy". Below, we can see some of the claims made for his accuracy in his own publications:
Plain Truth,December 1956, p. 3 (author uncertain): "This is how you can know who is preaching the truth today—when what he says comes to pass…. 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 spoken the prophecies truly… But what we have been warning you about is happening!—precisely as we have stated… This is how you can know that our work is not of men but of God!"
Plain Truth, August, 1957 (Roderick Meredith): WHERE ARE God’s true prophets today?… Listen! This work has been warning America of definite and tremendous events to come for many years! The popular, denominationally-supported evangelists often… use the words ‘may,’ ‘could,’ or ‘might.’ They are afraid to be definite and specific! The truth of the matter is that they DARE NOT be specific about the future because they just DO NOT KNOW what the Bible says is going to happen! But on the World Tomorrow broadcast and in this magazine we have dared to unlock the Bible prophecies and apply them to specific nations and events that are NOW being affected."
"Just What Do You Mean… KINGDOM OF GOD?" (1962): "If the deceived religionists who think the CHURCH is the Kingdom of God were right, and there is not going to be any supernatural and all-powerful WORLD GOVERNMENT which is the Kingdom of God, then humanity is utterly without HOPE—there will not remain a living human in 20 more years!… It’s about time you come to know who are the false prophets, and WHO is speaking the true word of God faithfully."
Feb 1967 Plain Truth, page 47. "The ‘Day of the Eternal"...is going to strike between five and 10 years from now!... I am not writing foolishly, but very soberly, on the authority of the living Christ."
The "Day of the Eternal" has not arrived yet, after over 30 years from the time that Mr. Armstrong wrote the above. We must conclude that either something was wrong with Christ, or that Herbert Armstrong did not have His authority to make that statement.
Poor Predictions From the Start
Many people remember Herbert Armstrong’s 1975 in Prophecy teaching which placed the Tribulation beginning in 1972 and the return of Christ in 1975. They have assumed (as I did at one time) that his main error was that he was "off" on this one date, but that he properly understood the flow of events. This is not the case. By reading his old letters, we can see that he gave several different dates for the return of Christ, and foretold numerous events that proved to be wrong.
The first regular issue of the Plain Truth, February 1934, page 3:…we may be absolutely certain that we are in, and for about three years have been passing through, this great world-wide tribulation…. We have seen that the "day of His wrath" is the "Day of the Lord," which is a day of DESTRUCTION. WHO will be able to stand it? Will YOU, brother, sister? You can’t escape it. It is just as CERTAIN as are all these other events which have happened right on schedule.
The fifth issue of the Plain Truth, June/July 1934, page 1: Most Bible students know, too, that the seventeenth chapter of Revelation tells us the ancient Roman Empire will once more be revived, this time by a federation of ten nations—and it will be the aggressor in war. But WHEN? How Soon? Before or after Russia precipitates war? What is the time when the two witnesses of Revelation 11 appear?
This chart from the June/July 1934 issue clearly shows that Herbert Armstrong believed that 1936 was the "END OF THE AGE" to be immediately followed by the heavenly signs and then the "Day of the Lord". Should we give Mr. Armstrong credit for understanding the interpretation of symbols and the order of events, even though his dates were wrong? As you can see in the above quote, Armstrong acknowledges that "most Bible students" understand the Roman Empire is portrayed in Revelation 17. Actually, Adam Clark identified the Roman Empire in Revelation and numerous other prophecies—finishing his writing in 1825. About 100 years later, numerous popular religious teachers taught prophetic doctrines similar to Mr. Armstrong. You can read about them in books such as Armageddon Now! The Premillenarian Response to Russia and Israel Since 1917 by Dwight Wilson, ©1977 Baker Book House, Grand Rapids Michigan. Their teachings would have been available as Herbert Armstrong was doing his famous six-month study in the fall of 1926. The revival of the Roman Empire, Mussolini’s resurrection of it, 2520-year "times of the Gentiles" and other typical "Armstrong" doctrines can all be found in this book—taught before Mr. Armstrong taught them.
The greatest difference between the popular teachers of that time and Mr. Armstrong was that they acknowledged their speculation, but Armstrong tended to be dogmatic—said that he was right. As early as 1927, some of the writers realized that Mussolini might only be a precursor to "the Antichrist", but Mr. Armstrong kept on prophesying:
Plain Truth, March 1938, page 8:Mussolini and the Pope will hatch up an idea between [them] of setting up a world headquarters at Jerusalem—and so Mussolini’s armies will enter Palestine (Dan. 11:41), and eventually will capture just half of the city of Jerusalem! (Zech 14:2)
Plain Truth, January 1939, page 4: Mussolini will fight Christ!
Plain Truth, August 1939, page 6: Once war is resumed, it must continue on thru the great Tribulation, the heavenly signs, the plagues of the Day of the Lord, and to the second coming of Christ, at the last battle, at Armageddon!… But this you may know! This war will be ended by Christ’s return! And war may start within six weeks! We are just that near Christ’s coming!
Plain Truth, November/December 1940: Title on page 1: WAR Events Hurl On Toward Prophesied CLIMAX.... Page 2: It is part of God’s prophesied plan that Britain shall be invaded and conquered…It is in the prophesied course of the War that the main fighting, eventually, shall be in the Mediterranean and in the near East. Both Palestine and Egypt are to fall.
Plain Truth, May/June 1941, page 2: [Article: Hitler’s 1000-year Reich Plan:] There are to be three classes. The German’s will be the ruling, executive, wealthy class, in every nation. The Germans also will be the only military class. Next under them will be a middle class, granted more privileges than the slave class. This middle class is to be made up of those nations whom Hitler accepts as the "Junior Partners" of the Reich. Already he is taking in a number of the junior partners. Probably Spain and Portugal soon will join. Probably Hitler himself does not know, now, how many of these junior partners he will accept, but BIBLE PROPHECY reveals it—and the number will be exactly TEN!...Hitler will be permitted to continue on—just so far, and no farther! He shall be permitted to tear down—for this present order of paganized civilization men love and fight and die for is not worth saving! It is DOOMED, and it is now toppling in its own self-imposed destruction! But these horrible events must soon reach their climax at ARMAGEDDON!
While it was good that Herbert Armstrong preached the need for individuals and nations to repent of their sin and turn to the Eternal, one can hardly say that his prophecies were from the Eternal. So many never came to pass! The above quote as well as much of his September/October 1941 issue said that the United States would be invaded and conquered unless there was massive public repentance. There was little public repentance, and God did not destroy this country or the "paganized civilization".
Not Better After World War II
After these prophecies failed to come to pass, did Mr. Armstrong apologize? No! His son, Garner Ted, later claimed that these prophecies were right: "It doesn’t take an understanding of certain ‘Bible doctrine,’ or necessary agreement with it, to admit to yourself candidly that what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was faithfully proclaiming back before, during, and right at the close of World War II, and what he and others who have since come to join him in this great work of God have been proclaiming day in and day out ever since—is actually happening before your very eyes!" (Plain Truth, November 1962, page 21.) Since Armstrong’s ministry was growing faster than 30% per year during the 1950’s and 1960’s, most of the people joining it did not have access to the old Plain Truth magazines to find out if those old prophecies were true. Even after World War II ended, Mr. Armstrong kept prophesying a quick "end of the world", and used it as a reason why his listeners should send in ever-increasing amounts of money:
Co-worker Letter, December 8, 1947:The destruction of the United States of America is foretold in YOUR BIBLE. It is foretold by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Micah, and others. It was foretold by Jesus Christ Himself! But the worldly churches and their ministers, all divided into sects and denominations, bound by sectarian creeds and blinded by world-wide spiritual deception, deceived, by a devil who poses as GOD and has deceived the WHOLE WORLD—they do not understand the Bible, and do not perceive what is so clearly prophesied!
Yet this catastrophe is sweeping on toward an unsuspecting America with increasing momentum—and in a few years it will STRIKE—suddenly, unexpectedly! "AS A SNARE," said Jesus, will this SUDDEN DESTRUCTION come. Then it will be too late!
Listen, dear Co-Worker! To set your heart, your mind and interest now in the pursuits of THIS WORLD, or THIS LIFE,—to ignore this appeal, and this PRIVILEGE, to HELP TO YOUR VERY UTMOST in the closing work of God—to figure that you can’t afford to spare anything now for God’s cause because of OTHER worldly interests—is to enjoy a fool’s paradise, and find yourself suddenly, when least expected, in just a few years, caught in the snare of this on-coming DESTRUCTION!
I tell you, ON THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS CHRIST, IT IS COMING! Many of you NOW, are in financial condition to DO A LOT MORE than you are doing for GOD’S CAUSE—to help me get out this Message over the air, and in print—to help me train and prepare talented, able, consecrated young men and women for THEIR part in soon carrying this vital message to THE ENTIRE WORLD—into EVERY NATION!
One consecrated co-worker and his wife are mortgaging their home in order to place a few more thousand dollars in this mighty work that more millions may be warned! At first I shrank from accepting money under such conditions—but when we remember that in a few years NONE OF US will be living in our present homes—EVERYTHING material we possess now will be swept away from us, and we shall then be either in that haven of safety under God’s divine protection, or else dead or in slavery worse than death—and when we consider further that this brother and his wife are not deprived of their home, but merely PUTTING IT TO WORK FOR GOD’S GREAT CAUSE, while they enjoy it and live in it, too—then it appeared in a different light, and we could do nothing but accept it, to use it for God’s honor and glory. WHO KNOWS? perhaps this one sacrifice on the part of this one man and wife may be the means to bringing MANY precious souls not only under God’s divine protection in the TIME OF TROUBLE TO COME, but also into ETERNAL LIFE in God’s Kingdom FOREVER!
The people who read the above letter did not witness the destruction of America in a few years. Most of them died at a good old age. If any eighteen-year-olds read that letter and are still alive now, they are 70 years old! The family that mortgaged their house may have died still in debt, but Herbert Armstrong died in 1986 with nearly half a billion dollars of paid-for assets in the Worldwide Church of God. Yet he made the above claim "ON THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS CHRIST". What a disgrace to our Savior!
Armstrong and Herman Hoeh continued to make obviously un-inspired claims, some resembling tabloid newspapers or the worst of "conspiracy theorist" publications:
Plain Truth, August 1952, page 14 (Hoeh):One of the purposes of our trip to the Continent is to investigate the report that Hitler still directs the underground. Should this prove true, the pope, in order to secure world peace, would bring forth a "purged" Hitler—one now free of racial prejudice and one willing to submit to the Catholic Church—by uniting his "soul" with his body. The next Pope will be a professed miracle worker, a supposed proof that God is using him to order and pacify the world!
Plain Truth, August, 1952, page 1: HITLER Did Not Die; Adolph Hitler’s fake suicide in his Berlin Bunker now is exposed as History’s greatest hoax! Positive evidence comes to light Hitler did not die—here’s new evidence that Hitler is alive, directing Nazi underground, today!
The next pope was Pope John XXIII. He never claimed to be a miracle worker and never tried to organize or pacify the world. The Hitler article showed that there was no reliable documentation of Hitler’s death, but it utterly failed to offer one piece of evidence that Hitler was alive—no claims that people saw him, no documents by his hand, etc. The only reason a person would believe it is because they had faith in Herbert Armstrong. As you know, Hitler was never heard from again.
1975 in Prophecy
About 1953, Herbert Armstrong’s and Herman Hoeh’s prophetic studies led them to believe that the tribulation would begin in 1972 and that Christ would return in 1975. While many writings did not set specific dates, some certainly did. Other Plain Truth writers tended to set dates more than Armstrong, but he approved the content of his magazines, and never retracted or corrected these statements:
Plain Truth, January 1955, page 1 (Hoeh):We face a national catastrophe by 1975...we will be totally consumed and carried away captive to other nations as slaves within twenty years.
Same article, page 15: Only remember that if you do not square yourself with the Almighty Ruler of the universe, that He will collect from you all your past obligations by casting you out of your very own home. These are strong words, but they are true. God Almighty has spoken through His servants the prophets that He will punish our people for their sins. He will let our own lust cause such droughts, floods, pestilences and famines that we will be totally consumed and carried away captive to other nations as slaves within 20 years… Tithing is God’s challenge! Are YOU going to practice what He commands you? It is your only protection from the coming disaster that faces our nation.
Plain Truth, November 1956, page 3 (Hoeh):…millions of Christians in the United States and Britain will be MARTYRED—and that within the next 16 years!
Co-worker letter, July 5, 1960: Up to now, western Europe has relied on United States power to hold back the Red avalanche. NOW THE PRIDE OF OUR POWER IS BEING BROKEN. Other nations are fast losing faith in it.
Reds are now shouting, for the first time, "The United States is clearly defeated. It is already wobbly as a world power." As soon as western European nations begin to really believe that, they will UNITE. And when they do, says GOD in His prophecies, they will turn first on OUR PEOPLES! My job, now, is to WARN YOU, my dear friends—and to warn the whole world. THIS IS REAL. And this is by authority of Jesus Christ!
In reality, the USA remained the strongest military power for almost 40 years, and the communists (reds) collapsed of their own accord.
Co-worker letter, October 27, 1963:But IS GOD’S WORK keeping pace with world events? INDEED IT IS! God Almighty is moving this—HIS Work—forward at ever-increasing momentum. We may now have only eight or nine more years to FINISH His Work!
The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy, 1967 edition, page xii: The events prophesied to strike the British and American peoples in the next four to seven years are SURE! ... These colossal world events, shrinking the first two world wars into insignificance, WILL COME, on schedule.
Co-worker letter, April 17, 1967: Right now, just prior by not more than five to seven years, to the coming terrible Day of the Lord, the living Christ has moved swiftly to open the all-important door that has been closed since the days of the original apostles!… Almighty God has opened to the World Tomorrow [broadcast], exclusively, the gigantic door of superpower radio from Jerusalem!… We have signed with the Hashemite Government of Jordan, a five year binding contract… And when the time came, to whom did God open up these precious radio facilities? Not to Roman Catholics… nor to Protestants! Nor the Coptics… No, He has opened it exclusively, by binding contract with the government of Jordan, to His Work… If you ever had any doubts whatever about where the real Work of God is, you ought to be sure now!
If Mr. Armstrong was staking his proof of "where the real Work of God is" on a Mideast broadcast, then he was not the "Work of God." Less than two months later (June 5, 1967), the "Six-Day War" began and the Jordanian radio station was taken by the Israelis. His contract was not honored and he never did have a Mideast broadcast. Even more dramatic proof that Mr. Armstrong’s pronouncements were not inspired by the Eternal can be found here:
Co-worker Letter, December 13, 1965:But Jesus Christ is speeding this Work right along ON SCHEDULE!... If world events had reached their climax even five years ago—where humanity would have been erased from this earth except by the second coming of Christ—THERE WOULD NOT THEN HAVE BEEN ENOUGH OF THE "ELECT" TO HAVE SAVED HUMANITY—according to Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24.
But now this Work is gaining such momentum that, indeed, it does now appear that IF that fatal climax should be reached in, say, five, six or seven years, THERE WILL BE ENOUGH! Humanity WILL BE SAVED! The WORLD TOMORROW WILL DAWN—a world of PEACE, of happiness, of good health, of ABUNDANCE! Co-Workers, YOU AND I are privileged to HAVE A PART, with Christ, and under Christ, in SAVING THE WORLD!
Herbert Armstrong here places his "work" nearly on the same level as Christ. He is saying that his work was necessary for the salvation of the world. How did he "know" that some number of people were necessary in order for the Eternal to spare the world? The Bible does not say. Did the Eternal tell him? How does this fit with his prophecies of Christ’s return in the 1930s and 40s when he had far fewer followers? How does this fit with his work continuing for another 20 years?
But as you well know, the Tribulation did not begin in 1972, and Christ did not return in 1975. Did Herbert Armstrong apologize for his inaccurate prophecies, or speaking as if God inspired his every decision? He claimed not to set dates—and that might be true if we assumed that his readers could not add. But most of his readers could add, so when they read a 1956 article that said the Tribulation would come in 16 years, they knew he was saying 1972. When many thousands of people read the 1967 edition of the US & BC in prophecy, they could add "4 to 7" years to 1967 and calculate the prophecy to be for 1971 to 1974. But when a man is the head of an organization with members that regard it as the "one true Church", they tend to believe what he says, even if it denies his former statements:
Tomorrow’s World, February 1972, page 31:"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… if we… appear to set a date, I feel I do not need to apologize!"
How does one "appear to" set a date but actually not set a date? And if there is nothing wrong with "appearing to" set a date, why would one "regret" it? And if one does something that one "regrets", what is wrong with apologizing to the people offended? Many people in the WCG made personal and business decisions based on Mr. Armstrong’s prophetic time table—though they thought they were doing it based on the word of God.
Sometimes, Mr. Armstrong reversed his speculations in a very short time:
Co-worker letter, February 25, 1982:"I hope to arrange for the use of Petra as a possible refuge or place of safety during the Great Tribulation when I see King Hussein. Pray for this please."
Co-worker letter, July 16, 1982: Incidentally, I know many of you seem to have your hearts set on going very soon to Petra as "the place of safety" during the soon-coming Great Tribulation. Well, GET YOUR MINDS OFF PETRA. Brethren, I HAVE NEVER said that Petra definitely is the place of protection where God will take us. I HOPE IT IS NOT!
In the the first letter they were asked to pray for Petra as a place of safety that Mr. Armstrong "hoped to arrange". Five months later they were told to get their minds off it, and that he "hoped it is not" the place of safety.
Many, Many More
In our study of Herbert Armstrong’s writings, we found many other specific predictions that did not come to pass. We would fill this entire issue if we tried to list them all. We also found numerous predictions with an approximate fulfillment time: "next few years", "very soon", "your lifetime", etc. Yet the events have not happened 20, 40, or 60 years after such predictions were made.
There were a few, undated prophecies that did come to pass (reunification of Germany, etc.). However, they seemed greatly outnumbered by the ones that did not come to pass.
As time went on, Herbert Armstrong and the other writers clearly tried to "set dates" less. There were often long, graphic, dogmatic explanations of Bible prophecies followed by a statement such as "this might occur in three to five years and you need to be ready for it". It would take many hundreds of pages to reprint all of these "might or may" prophecies. It was clear that these writings were intended to stir the emotion of the reader as if they were sure that it would come to pass in specified time, without risking ridicule if they did not come to pass on time.
But is this an honest way to deal with prophecy? Is it a righteous thing to write a prophecy so that the reader can easily assume that the writer thinks that the dates are inspired of God even though they have a "might or may" escape clause buried somewhere at the end? Is it right to ask people to give their last dollar because the end "might" be near?
Prophecy to "Keep Us Diligent"?
Were Armstrong’s faulty prophecies allowed by the Eternal to keep believers diligent? Some say that the Eternal could have brought Armstrong’s prophecies to pass, but He decided not to do it so some people could have more time to repent. Others say that people needed to be continually told that the end would come in a few years so that they would be diligent. What does the Eternal say?
...when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him (Deut 18:22).
It is very clear that the Eternal did not give Mr. Armstrong his false prophecies! If the Eternal would have spoken to him, his specific statements would have come to pass. Remember, Mr. Armstrong signed nearly every one of his letters and "personals" with the words "in Jesus’ Name".
Did Apostles Prophecy Falsely?
Yet some will claim that there is nothing wrong with incorrectly saying that Christ will come soon because the first century apostles did it, too. Some of the New Testament letters do indicate that the apostles thought that Christ could come in their lifetime, but there were some very distinct differences between their approach and Mr. Armstrong’s approach. The following are all the scriptures this writer could find where the apostles indicate Christ’s return could be very soon:
But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none. But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you (1Cor 7:29).
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1Cor 15:51-52).
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand (Phil 4:5).
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1Thes 4:15-17).
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.... "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry" (Heb 10:25,37).
You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8).
But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers (1Pet 4:7).
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour (1Jn 2:18).
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).
These statements differ from Armstrong’s statements in several significant ways.
1. No time elements were mentioned at all—no periods of months. years or decades. The references to "we who are alive" were not specific to any individual. While the apostles may not have known it, the Eternal was inspiring scripture to be written to a larger audience. He let the apostles write "we who are alive" so that each generation would think about being ready. John’s expression "last hour" means a general time, not implying an hour, day, or even year.
2. No specific people, events, or Old Testament prophecies are falsely identified. No person is identified as the "abomination of desolation", no years are added up from the book of Daniel, and they did not claim to explain Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24.
3. The apostles did not use the closeness of Christ’s coming to get people to send them more money—something Herbert Armstrong did over 100 times. Most of the things that the apostles suggested to do because "the end is near" are spiritual things that are good to do any time. The one physical matter suggested by Paul is that people not marry (1Cor 7:29). But, Paul was very careful to say that it was only his opinion ("But this I say"), and to make clear that marrying was not a sin. (This is a great contrast to Mr. Armstrong, who threatened people with the Great Tribulation or the Lake of Fire for not contributing enough—see pages 21 and 28-29 of this issue.)
4. Something really big did happen a few years after the apostles wrote the above statements. While the final "great tribulation" did not occur at that time, the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem by fighting Jewish gangs (and finally the Romans) did occur in the lifetime of most who read the Apostle’s writings. Some believers were certainly killed at this time—for them, Christ returned as their next waking moment will be with him (2Cor 5:8). For those in Israel who lived, it probably was the greatest tribulation of their lives.
5. Since the apostles had no prophecies of specific events, all of what they said about the Kindom being "at hand" or "coming quickly" can be understood in a personal sense—to those who die, it is coming for them.
Christ gave his disciples no hint of the year when He would return. They certainly might have "let down" if they knew it was 2000 years away. But even though they hoped His return would be soon, they did not make false predictions. Christ’s prophecies in Matthew 24 were dual—many being fulfilled to some degree in the first century and all to be fulfilled in the end. Christ did not explain this to them, and much of prophecy is still hidden to most people. Nevertheless, the apostles did not prophesy error in the name of Christ.
Many of the doctrines HWA taught were correct. This caused many to trust him in other areas—one of which was prophecy. But with his record available for all to see, can we expect anyone to believe any prophecy just because Mr. Armstrong taught it? Certainly not! Once we see that the Eternal did not inspire a substantial part of Mr. Armstrong’s work, can we expect anyone to believe a doctrine just because Herbert Armstrong taught it? The answers are obviously "No". Anyone who is going to teach prophecy in the future must do it from the Bible and from any revelation genuinely given to them by the Eternal.
The main reasons that so many people believed Armstrong’s prophetic interpretations for so many years was because it appeared to be possible, because he seemed to believe it, because so many others believed it, and because everyone in the WCG was forbidden to read or write about his prophetic mistakes.
We can be thankful for those things that we learned from Herbert Armstrong that were true. However, any prophecy or doctrine we teach now must be substantiated from the Bible. The Bible has a very good reputation. Herbert Armstrong died with a very muddy reputation—one that will not be cleared up until the resurrection and judgment.
—Norman S. Edwards