Herbert W. Armstrong on When the Work Was to End

Order of the Sacred Treasure


Last month, a new anti-gospel small COG group sent me an email and a link to its website.  It, like many small groups, claims to be highly faithful but insists that Hebert W. Armstrong fulfilled Matthew 24:14 and that the top priority for the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God should NOT be public proclamation of the gospel.  While various small groups like to point out that Herbert Armstrong claimed to fulfill Matthew 24:14 in Mystery of the Ages (MOA), they fail to realize that he never taught that it was “completely fulfilled” as one group just claimed or that no one after him should try to fulfill it.

If this particular MOA quote (which was published mid-1985, but written before the June 24, 1985 quote above) meant that Herbert Armstrong felt the preaching work was finished, one would expect that he would have gone off all television and radio stations then. Instead, he remained on them until he died in 1986.  In his last letter, all arguments about the work being over were rebutted:

It may be that the Work that God has given me to do is complete, but not the Work of God’s Church, which will be faithfully doing God’s Work till Christ, the True Head of this Church, returns…Remember brethren, this is not the work of Herbert W. Armstrong…The greatest work lies ahead…Never before in the history of the Church has it been possible to reap so great a harvest. It has only been made possible through modern technology, beginning with the printing press, radio, television...Each of you must commit yourself to support God’s Work…God’s work must push ahead as never before. God is opening up new doors in television (Letter, 1/10/86).

And to be sure that this portion of the work would continue after he died, Herbert Armstrong insured that there were other men designated to continue to make television programs after his death. One of those men was evangelist Richard Ames, who remains faithful to this mission to this day, as he is still making television programs to proclaim the Gospel! Another evangelist who was preaching the Gospel in the French language over radio while Herbert Armstrong was alive, Dibar Apartian, continues to preach it until he died in December 2010. When I once asked him if Hebert  Armstrong told him to stop doing this in the event of his death, Dibar Apartian responded, “To the contrary, he told me he wanted me to go on more stations”.

This concept is confirmed by Herbert Armstrong in his third to last letter,

I thank God that he has organized this present work of his so thoroughly that regardless of the outcome of my present illness, the work will continue right on to the Second Coming of Christ (Letter dated 12/23/85).

Thus it seems clear that Herbert Armstrong felt that he was the leader of the Philadelphia era, but that if he died prior to the time of the end, that he considered that the Church should continue to preach the gospel to the world!

Yet, not only do many groups overlook some of HWA’s other writings on gospel proclamation, they simply do not understand Matthew 24:14:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Since the end has not come, the above verse has NOT be COMPLETELY fulfilled, as it is tied into the abomination that happens in Matthew 24:15, etc.

The end spoken of above seems to be 75 days prior to the start of the Great Tribulation based what Jesus discusses in the verses that follow (15-21) as well as upon HWA’s other writings related to his understanding of what Daniel 11 & 12 seem to teach.  Here is what Herbert Armstrong taught about that:

And the abomination that maketh desolate set up.” What is this abomination? This refers to Daniel 11:31 and Matthew 24:15…From this time (Daniel 12:11) to Christ’s coming will be 1290 days. Now, verse 12, “Blessed is he that waiteth, and comes to the 1335 days.” Never before have we understood these periods of 1260, 1290. and 1335 days. But it seems evident, now, a blessing is pronounced on us–GOD”S CHURCH–who wait and endure until the 1335 days–approximately 1335 days prior to Christ’s coming. But since no one can know the day or hour of His coming, we probably shall not be able to know the exact day this 1335 days begins. But apparently that is the time when OUR WORK SHALL END. That will be a time when the UNITED Europe shall appear–the revival of the medieval “Holy Roman Empire.” (Armstrong HW. Personal. Good News magazine January 1980).

(See also Who is the King of the North?).  And since we are not there yet, and we certainly were not there in June of 1985, the gospel still needs to be proclaimed.

Another problem with some who have taken some of Herbert Armstrong’s quotes out of context, is that while it is true Herbert Armstrong seemed to feel that he personally succeeded in preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all the world as a witness, it is not true that he felt the true Church should stop placing its top priority on proclaiming. For example, in what appears to be the second to the last letter from Herbert Armstrong, he wrote,

It is now true that this Gospel has been proclaimed within every nation on earth by the Worldwide Church of God (Letter 1/86).

He then listed that 90 million booklets, magazines, articles, and correspondence course lessons had been sent out in 1985 (and never mentioned the Worldwide News which was for members only). Instead of suggesting that the publishing portion of the work was over, he wrote (in the same letter),

Now let’s keep it up in 1986! (Letter 1/86).

Therefore, all of the last three letters sent out by Herbert Armstrong stated that the work of publicly proclaiming the Gospel was to continue even though it had been proclaimed within every nation. Why would God have all of them preserved if He did not want those who were faithful to keep up the work?

Under Herbert W. Armstrong, It Was Always Taught that the Door Was Opened Until the Philadelphians Go to a Place of Safety!

Many once in WCG simply never understood what was taught about the open door:

Philadelphia has little strength to do this great work that God has given it to do. God has opened the door, and yet look how insignificant, how weak, how little strength we as a Church have to do that work…Revelation 3:7-13: “And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that OPENETH, and no man SHUTTETH; and SHUTTETH and no man openeth.” The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door and no MAN can shut it. God can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety. …The Laodicean Church is not going to he worthy to escape to a place of safety. When it is too late, they will find that the Church of Philadelphia has gone to safety (What Is the “LAODICEAN CHURCH”? Good News August 1959 Vol. VIII, Number 8).

Notice what Herbert Armstrong taught:

Our work in the hands of Christ is NOT YET FINISHED, and He will not allow the Work to stop until it is finished. And when will that be?

since no one can know the day or the hour of His coming, we probably shall not be able to know the exact day that this 1335 days begins. But apparently that is the time when OUR WORK SHALL END. That will be a time when the UNITED EUROPE shall appear –the revival of the medieval “Holy Roman Empire.” We shall then be warned, and readied to be taken to a place of refuge and safety from the Great Tribulation. Forty-five days later “the beast’s” armies will surround Jerusalem. Thirty days later the Great Tribulation will probably start with a nuclear attack on London and Britain–and possibly the same day or immediately after, on United States and Canadian cities (Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now. PASTOR GENERAL’S REPORT – VOL.1, NO.15 NOVEMBER 20, 1979).

Next, when our Great Commission is in God’s sight completed, we are to be taken–symbolically flown on the two wings of a great eagle–we shall be taken to a place of protection from the Great Tribulation (Armstrong HW. Looking…PASTOR GENERAL’S REPORT – VOL.3, NO.4 January 23, 1981).

Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong specifically taught about preaching the gospel, when that work ends, and preparing the church:

When this European empire is perfected, the great Work God is doing through this Church will be quickly completed–finished…

The sign He gave was that which He is doing through us–proclaiming for the first time in 1900 years to the world the Gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD (Matthew 24:14).

But next, after our work, is to come the GREAT TRIBULATION (verses 21-22. That shall be ended, verse 29, by supernatural, frightful signs in the sun, moon, and stars; signaling the “day of the Lord”–see also Joel 2:31). Then quickly; the coming of Christ. See also Daniel 12:1.

Events now occurring SWIFTLY in the world are SIGNS of the imminency of the Great Tribulation. No one will be allowed to proclaim Christ’s Gospel then. The “Philadelphia era” or succession of God’s Church will be taken on the “two wings of a great eagle”–whatever that symbolizes–to a place of protection where we are to be “fed”–provided for. We need now to begin to be ALERT, for this “flight” may happen suddenly. DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY THE NEGATIVE SNEERING OF EXCOMMUNICATED MINISTERS: Both Revelation 12:13 and 3:10 warn us.

We, ourselves, are a sign (Matt. 24:14) of the very imminency of these things!

I say again and again, it is later than we think.

Fellow Ministers, God has made it our job to PREPARE His Church–that we may be “without spot or wrinkle…holy and withouth blemish” WHEN Christ comes!

This means renewed dedication, more constant and intensive earnest prayer, “soul-searching,” and determined preparation. This is a serious responsibility for all of us! (Armstrong HW. Great Significance of Summit Conference. Pastor General’s Report, Vol. 2, No. 26, June 27, 1980).

Notice that although Herbert W. Armstrong felt that the ministry had to prepare the church, the gospel still needed to preached until the European empire was perfected, and we flee to a place of safety. The European empire has not been perfected yet, nor have the Philadelphians fled to a place of safety, therefore, the gospel still must be preached.

What many people who are against public proclamation to the world to fulfill Matthew 24:14 do not seem to understand is that Jesus did not condemn the work of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God (which HWA was used by God to begin), Jesus condemned the Laodiceans of Revelation 3 for having a different, less effective work.  And it is Jesus’ standard that we all need to follow.

Part of Herbert W. Armstrong’s legacy is that he took the Bible to be the word of God and taught:

…the Bible tells us to PROVE all things (Armstrong HW. The RESURRECTION was NOT on Sunday. 1952).

Which of course, it does as the Apostle Paul wrote:

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV).

There is no verse in the Holy Bible that hints that the Philadelphians are intentionally to stop proclaiming the gospel.  Since Herbert W. Armstrong’s death, only relatively few seemed to really understand his work and what he felt Christ expected of the church.

Herbert W. Armstrong clearly taught that the work of gospel proclamation to the world as a witness would not end until near the time the Philadelphia-portion of the Church had to flee.  And while this could happen in a few years in the future, it has not happened yet.  Those who claim to be faithful to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and the Bible would continue to put a high priority on public proclamation.

Those truly interested in learning more about Herbert W. Armstrong, should read the article Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today?.

And everyone should try to live by the following teaching of Herbert W. Armstrong:

Don’t believe me BELIEVE YOUR BIBLE BELIEVE GOD! I always say…check up! Listen without prejudice, with open mind, then check up–go to your BIBLE, and BELIEVE what you read there.

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

Several articles of possibly related interest include:

Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today? Includes quotes from the 1973 edition of The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong and explains how he is and should be viewed today.
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from evangelists?
Here are Some Quotes from Herbert W. Armstrong on Laodicea and Holding to Doctrine.
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.

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