How Should Herbert W. Armstrong Be Viewed?

Below is a photograph of Herbert Armstrong in Japan taken when he was granted an award from the Emperor of Japan:

Order of the Sacred Treasure

By COGwriter

Last month I received a couple of emails from one who had been affiliated with  the Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs).  He was concerned that the SDAs put too much emphasis on Ellen White–so much so that it exceeded what the Bible revealed.

So he asked me how Herbert W. Armstrong should be viewed.

Here are parts of two emails I received from him:

I don’t really know about Armstrong and shy away from a lot of additional writings( White, Armstrong, etc). I am seeking and will study more. I find your writings helpful– A UCG and a LCG guy called me- they both were nice- both said to stay away from the Philadelphia COG breakaway group. All I could really see a difference in was in the way they are governed- I find that one person as Armstrong and White, or any others that ENHANCE the bible, and followed are a little off track, BUT I am an open minded seeker and an independent researcher. All I could really see a difference in was in the way they are governed- I find that one person as Armstrong and White, or any others that ENHANCE the bible, and followed are a little off track, BUT I am an open minded seeker and an independent researcher. I also don’t know much about the armstrong Israel thing or the triple tithe thing. The feast days, I know very little about. I do believe that it is clear in the bible about no sunday rising or Wed crucifixion- that doesn’t take much to figure- I also know that the trinity thing as most Christendom accepts is pagan and of Rome. If there are any clear teachings that are salvational that armstrong taught, let me know. …

I appreciate all your writing, your research and knowledge. I was an independent SDA(non-conference) for several years after I dropped my conference membership and the ones I associated with promoted that White was a messenger, inspired of God–I gather, BUT may be wrong in that I see that many COG’s that broke away from the WWCG may see Armstrong in the same way- Am I wrong? and if so please inform me where I may really study him out by an unbiased writer. I guess one question would help me in this matter- can a person be a baptized member of the LCG or UCG if they leave Armstrong out of their beliefs and studies and just go by the bible only- As an example I learned of the Wed crucif by the bible only, not from anyone else. I know that conference SDA’s have to accept the writings of White. Respectfully, GH

The PCG and RCG and some others, do wrongly hold Herbert W. Armstrong in a similar light as SDAs do Ellen White.

We in LCG (and most of the other COGs) do not.

Those in charge at LCG all knew Herbert W. Armstrong (two knew him since the 1950s) and hold no illusions to him being perfect or close to it. We in LCG (UCG, etc.) tend to consider that God sent Herbert W. Armstrong (hence the “apostle” title, as apostle means “one sent”) to raise up the Philadelphia portion of the COG.

But even as Paul chastised the Apostle Peter for error (Galatians 2:14-21), we do not feel that Herbert W. Armstrong was perfect, nor that he intended his writings to be on par with scripture. Herbert W. Armstrong himself often publicly stated not to believe him but believe what it is written in the Bible. So, though we in the COGs that came from the old Worldwide Church of God do believe that God used Herbert W. Armstrong to restore a lot of truth to the COG, we do not believe that he was without error or that he intended his writings to be considered nearly sacred.

We in the Living Church of God recognize that it is only the name of Jesus that is necessary for salvation (see Acts 4:9-12). As far as baptism goes, one does not even need to have ever heard the name Herbert W. Armstrong for baptism in LCG or UCG (this differs from PCG and some others). Though, most groups (like LCG) would expect that you agree with our official doctrines (which we believe we have documented from the Bible).

It may also be of interest to note that Herbert W. Armstrong’s ministerial license does state that he was ordained to be an apostle. And although that was commonly on the old CG7 licenses, I believe that the fruits of Herbert Armstrong’s ministry show that he, and he alone, of the CG7 ordained ministers, fulfilled that office.

If you read my article on the SDAs, you will see that we in the COGs DO NOT treat Herbert W. Armstrong’s writings like the SDAs treat Ellen White’s (please see the article SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666).

An another email the same reader stated,

“Also why did the wwcg (in your opinion) not grow past 100-120 thousand in over 50 years with their prophet Armstrong, when the SDA with their prophet White amazingly grew?”

Herbert W. Armstrong said that he was not a prophet (see previous section). We in the COGs do not consider him to have been a prophet.

As far as growth, the SDAs sadly normally have a false message as that is based upon Ellen White’s interpretation of why Jesus did not return in 1844 (please see the article SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666). Furthermore, because of various changes, SDAs the do not really understand the Godhead and nor do they properly teach Christ’s gospel of the kingdom, even though they do keep the ten commandments and the Sabbath. The Bible shows that Jesus taught that the true COG would be a “little flock”. While there MAY be some in the SDA groups (perhaps in smaller fringe groups) that are part of the COG, I do not consider that SDAs in general are part of the COG.

Two articles of related interest may include SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666 and the History of Early Christianity.

Speaking of false messages, it should be understood that Herbert W. Armstrong intentionally did NOT appoint nor anoint anyone to hold the office or title of apostle after him, and we in the COGs do not believe that our top leader needs to have that title (the top leader in the Living Church of God was ordained as an evangelist by Herbert W. Armstrong in the 1950s, and retains that title today). The one or two people who claim COG affiliation yet also claim to be apostles now (David Pack of RCG comes to mind) are NOT considered to be valid apostles by any except their few followers.

I, and others, believe that God used Herbert W. Armstrong to raise up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God. In the book of Revelation, chapters 1-3, seven overlapping but essentially consecutive churches are shown (more information is in the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3).

Herbert Armstrong was the most effective Church of God leader in centuries. He essentially had three major accomplishments in that role in the opinion of many:

  1. God used him to raise up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God. People who surrendered to God and repented were converted.
  2. God used him to restore at least 18 truths that the previous church era (Sardis) no longer had.
  3. God used him to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness through electronic media (radio and television), print media (booklets, magazines, and books), and personal contact–Herbert Armstrong met personally with many world leaders to share some of the good news of the Kingdom of God (the photo of him after being honored by the Emperor of Japan is in the article titled Japan, Its Biblical Past and Future, Part 1: Any Witness?).

Approximately 20 million people per month read the old WCG magazine The Plain Truth (which now has no COG affiliation and no longer teaches the same doctrines that it once did). For a short while after Herbert W. Armstrong’s death, the World Tomorrow telecast was the number one rated religious telecast in the whole United States of America–a major accomplishment for a relatively small church.

In addition, to the 18 restored truths, I believe that much of Herbert Armstrong’s doctrinal and prophetic teachings have helped the COGs better understand the Bible and world events.

I also personally and specifically believe that God used Herbert W. Armstrong to help establish a firm foundation for Philadelphia portion of the Church of God so that its remnant (which is essentially represented by the Living Church of God) will be able to continue to fulfill Matthew 24:14 to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness so that the end of this age will come, the two witnesses will arise from our midst, and the kingdom of God will be established.

Unlike Joseph Smith (Five Dissimilarities Between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of God) or Ellen White (SDA/COG Differences: Two Horned Beast of Revelation and 666), Herbert W. Armstrong did not claim to have massive amounts of biblical truth instantly revealed to him by God or an angel.

Herbert W. Armstrong himself personally taught to listen and believe the Bible and not him. Herbert W. Armstrong frequently taught:


Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth magazine, Sept. 1963, Personal pg.1

That is fabulous advice. And I would tell Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, LDS, and everyone else the same thing.

The above information and more (including autobiographical information from the 1973 edition of HWA’s Autobiography), is in the relatively new article  Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today?

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