Copyright 1994 - 2023 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
April 4, 1998
Last Updated :
January 22, 2023
Endtime Elijah Theory, Herbert W. Armstrong And Worldwide Church Of God, British-Israelism Doctrine, The Hard Work Of Being A Christian Writer, A Work Of Faith, Monopolizing The Truth, Humility In Our Understanding, Glorify The Lord In All Things, Don't Be Motivated By A Desire For Filthy Lucre, Don't Boast Beyond Your Measure, Puffed Up With Knowledge, Don't Try To Take Center Stage, Mark John Allen's Deception, Excerpts From "The Work of Elijah", One Unyielded Area In Our Lives Can Lead To Our Defeat, Satan Is Father Of Lies
Within certain Christian circles, there exists the belief that in the years preceding the Second Coming of Christ, a mighty Prophet of the Lord will arise in the United States of America. According to this particular school of thought, this Prophet will follow in the footsteps of the Prophet Elijah of old by exposing the sins of the religious and the political leadership of America, and of the American people in general. Similar to John the Baptist who preached in the wilderness areas of the Jordan River Valley, it is said that this Endtime Prophet will inspire the American population to repent of their sins in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
To support their misguided doctrine, the adherents of this particular belief point to certain Old Testament Scriptures which are found in the writings of the Prophet Malachi, as well as to certain verses that are found in the Gospels. Some of these verses include the following, which we will examine more closely later on in this series:
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
Malachi 4:5-6, KJV
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things."
Matthew 17:11, KJV
Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of this belief in an Endtime Elijah can be found in the life of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, who is the deceased founder of the Worldwide Church of God. Due to my own personal interest in anything that is related to Endtime prophecy, when I originally wrote this series, I took the time to read a considerable amount of material which had been written by Armstrong; including his final life's work entitled "Mystery of the Ages". I also visited a few websites which are dedicated to his life and ministry. I will candidly admit that I agree with some of the views which were espoused by Mr. Armstrong, although not with all of them. If one believes everything that has been written in support of this man, it would seem that he was destined for greatness within the Christian world; at least from a human perspective.
Herbert W. Armstrong was born into a staunch Quaker family in or near Des Moines, Iowa on July 31, 1892. Without going into a great amount of detail, once Armstrong reached early adulthood, he entered the advertising business where he became quite successful. However, due to several serious setbacks -- such as the Great Depression of 1929 -- all of his hard work eventually came to nought. Some people view these events as God's Hand working in his life to prepare him for the ministry ahead. That ministry began in earnest in the year 1934, following his conversion and several years of theological training. During those years, Mr. Armstrong embraced certain doctrines which would later form a part of the British-Israelism doctrine. Lord willing, I may discuss this doctrine in another article at a future date.
While Mr. Armstrong's ministry found its humble beginnings in the state of Oregon, U.S.A., by the time of his death fifty-two years later, the various outreach branches of his ministry had reached millions of people the world over with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Herbert W. Armstrong's life and ministry came to a peaceful end on January 16, 1986 when he died in his sleep at the age of ninety-three.
As you will learn when I publish the aforementioned article concerning British-Israelism, Mr. Armstrong firmly believed that the United States of America is the modern-day parallel to Israel -- that is, the land between the two seas -- and that many of the physical blessings which were promised to Abraham, have found their completion in America, as well as in other nations which form a part of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic world.
It is upon this foundation that he then launched into his belief concerning a great American Prophet named Elijah. Tragically, prior to his death, with the encouragement of some of his followers, it appears that Mr. Armstrong was actually led to believe that he was this Endtime Elijah. In my view, it seems that similar to other men of God who have gone astray, Mr. Armstrong was simply tricked by Satan into yielding to his own pride and vanity. Exactly where and when this began to occur, I honestly do not know. However, the following quote taken from a letter dated August 23, 1984, clearly shows the spirit of exclusivity which had already taken hold in his heart:
----- Begin Quote -----
"Brethren and Co-Workers, God wants that world to hear the message -- if only as a witness. We have delivered that message -- and we only! . . . We have served God faithfully -- and are the only voice in a lost and doomed world shouting out God's message."
----- End of Quote -----
While I can truly appreciate and respect Mr. Armstrong's fervent dedication to the cause of Christ, when one begins to make such claims of being the only person with the right message -- that is, to be God's only Endtime voice -- then I believe that it is wise to examine their belief system with a great deal of caution, prayer and consultation with the Word of God. Just over a year later, on September 12, 1985, and only a few short months before his decease, Armstrong also wrote the following remarks in a letter to a co-worker which further reveals the self-aggrandizement to which he had sadly succumbed:
----- Begin Quote -----
"Since last December I have been working diligently on the largest and most important book of my life. In fact, I feel I myself did not write it. Rather, I believe God used me in writing it. I candidly feel it may be the most important book since the Bible . . . The Bible itself is a mystery to nearly all people. God and the nature of God -- what God is like -- God's purpose -- have been a mystery. No religion on earth has ever truly understood just who and what God really is . . . This new book, Mystery of the Ages, unveils all these mysteries. It puts the many different parts of the 'jigsaw puzzle' together."
----- End of Quote -----
Being a Christian writer myself, I honestly understand the degree of hard work and devotion that Armstrong applied to his writing ministry. It requires a great deal of patience, perseverance, inspiration and vision to sit at the keyboard day after day in what is for many Christian writers a rather lonely and thankless job. Sometimes we never even meet the people to whom we are ministering. We have absolutely no idea exactly how far and how wide our words are traveling; or how much of an effect we may be having upon the lives of other people. It is really a work of faith in large part.
However, this job is not without its rewards; not only in the next life, but in this life as well. It gives us great joy and personal satisfaction to know that we are faithfully feeding God's sheep day after day. Not only that, but it is in feeding others that we ourselves are likewise nourished and fed by the Lord. Personally, I am always getting excited and thrilled by the things which are revealed to me through God's Word. There is nothing like it. I have no doubt that this is the Lord's calling for my life at this present time. Whether it will be in the future, I honestly do not know; for as the Apostle James wrote:
"Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that."
James 4:13-15, KJV
The main point is this: None of us has the right to claim a monopoly on the truth of the Word of God, as Mr. Armstrong did. For a person, organization or church to boast that this is the very first time that a particular Biblical truth is being properly understood and explained -- as so many modern Internet-based writers foolishly do -- seems quite ludicrous to me. As I explain in the article entitled "Humility in Our Understanding of God's Word", we all need to remain humble before the Lord. As I have already said, to become excited by what the Lord reveals to us is acceptable. However, for anyone to make such inflated claims is not wise. Regardless of what type of ministry the Lord has chosen to give to each of us, we are not to do it for the sake of personal gain, or for self-aggrandizement. Rather, we should do it to glorify God alone, to enrich the lives of others by bringing them closer to Jesus Christ, and to lift up -- or to exalt -- His wonderful Word. Consider the following verses which clarify these points:
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31, KJV
"For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ: Not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
2 Corinthians 10:12-17, KJV
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;"
1 Peter 5:2, KJV
"Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;"
1 Timothy 3:8, KJV
"For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;"
Titus 1:7, KJV
"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."
Philippians 2:3, KJV
"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."
Psalm 138:2, KJV
In the previous verses, the term "filthy lucre" is actually referring to being greedy for material gain; that is, for money. It is derived from the Greek word "aischrokerdes". I discuss the commercialization of modern Christianity more fully in such articles as "MP3's, Commercialized Christianity and Christian Hypocrisy" and "Money-Making Bible Hucksters and Mammon". I hope that you will take the time to read them.
To reiterate, in my view, Mr. Armstrong's remarks regarding the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God being the only voice of truth in the world were clearly exaggerated. If he had added a tone of humility to his remarks and stated that, like a number of other dedicated and hard-working Christian evangelists, his church was also involved in an important outreach for the Lord, this would have been more acceptable. Likewise, to candidly state that his last book, "Mystery of the Ages", may be the most important book ever written since the Bible, clearly reflects a serious problem in the area of pride and humility. If Armstrong had stated that he believed that his book was an important contribution to the Christian body, this would have been much more appropriate. Lastly, to believe that he was the Elijah of the Endtime is the height of vanity. In the words of the Apostle Paul -- which I quoted earlier -- Mr. Armstrong was clearly, and unwisely, boasting beyond his measure.
Let me emphasize that I don't question Herbert W. Armstrong's in-depth knowledge of the Word of God. Neither do I doubt his sincerity in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ; nor his love and deep concern for lost souls. However, the manner in which he elevated his work and himself in his final years, is a cause for concern. Some people may argue, "Well, what does it matter now? Armstrong is dead; so why not just leave him alone?" The reader needs to understand that this series is not a personal attack against Mr. Armstrong, or against any other individual. Rather, it is an exposé of the misguided, false doctrines, and the deceptive spiritual forces that can take hold of such men, if they are not extremely careful.
As I explain in the aforementioned article, some people do not realize that obtaining a lot of Biblical knowledge is a two-edged sword. Such knowledge can affect us in one of two ways. It will either humble us by showing us how little we really know, and how small and helpless we really are, or else it will make us proud, boastful and self-righteous. I am reminded of the following verses which are found in two of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul:
"Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know."
1 Corinthians 8:1-2, KJV
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing . . . Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."
1 Corinthians 13:2, 8, KJV
"From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."
1 Timothy 1:6-7, KJV
This is one of the primary dangers for those people who are enlightened through many years of following the Lord and studying His Word. It is a very serious danger for all of us, myself included. Instead of continuing to give the Lord all of the glory, which is His alone to receive, some of the Lord's servants begin to desire a little bit of the credit for themselves. They begin to elevate themselves in their own eyes, and then in the eyes of their followers as well. Even though the Lord -- who is the one True Source of Light -- desires to remain center stage, which is obviously His right to do, sometimes His servants want to push the Lord to the side, so that they can also bathe in the limelight, and thus receive a little bit of praise from their followers. If you see a Christian leader doing this, watch out! Run the other way as fast as you can!
In other words, such leaders may continue to praise the Lord outwardly with their mouths, but in their hearts, the sins of pride and vanity have already set in. These were precisely the sins of the Scribes and the Pharisees, as I point out in a number of other articles. By the time Jesus arrived, they were so spiritually off-center, that they did not even feel that they needed a Savior; at least not one who would attack and expose their whole false religious system. The importance of remaining humble and submissive before the Lord, as well as before our fellow brethren, is revealed in such verses as the following. As you read them, please notice that it is the Lord who exalts us, and not we ourselves, or our followers:
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"
1 Peter 5:5-6, KJV
"He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree."
Luke 1:51-52, KJV
"Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:"
James 1:9, KJV
So again we see that exaltation, when it comes, is a work of the Lord, and not of man. While I truly wish that this were the end of this sad story concerning the Worldwide Church of God, sadly, this is not the case by any means. During the time when I last updated this series, I visited the website of a former acquaintance in order to obtain some information regarding Herbert Armstrong. My friend's name was Mark John Allen. He was a former member of the Worldwide Church of God, as well as a member of the Reformation Church of God. It was through reading an article that John authored that I first became aware of the Endtime Elijah theory. This was a number of years ago.
In fact, the original version of the series that you are now reading was written in response to some of John's erroneous claims. While he did not fully accept my conclusions, John did admit that I had presented a strong case and a convincing argument which was based on the Scriptures. Even if I had not fully persuaded him of his error, I was happy to know that at least I had managed to motivate John to question his personal beliefs, and to look directly to the Bible for his answers. I would now like to share with you a few excerpts from John's article called "The Work of Elijah". Please read them slowly and carefully, as they relate directly to what I will be sharing afterwards:
----- Begin Quotes -----
"Many people down through time have claimed to be the Prophet Elijah. In our present day, individuals from time to time do this as well. Some say they have seen God either personally in a vision, or an angel, and that this Being told them they were Elijah and had a special mission."
"Did Herbert Armstrong fulfill this role?"
"The purpose of this article, then, is to discover the purpose for Elijah and to understand his astounding role in this end time, which will also let us know, hopefully, just who he is when he finally appears."
"Many misguided people have thought that they were Elijah from time to time."
"For the last few years of his life, Herbert Armstrong and those around him claimed that he was doing the Elijah Work, and that he therefore was the Elijah to come. I suppose at the time it made a strange kind of sense. We were under the influence of the doctrine of exclusivity . . . which says that God is only working in one place at one time, and primarily through one individual."
"Sadly, there are many today within the churches of God who are returning to the old habits of exclusivity. This is really sad because most of us have just been through a prolonged and traumatic experience that should have shown us just the opposite, that God can work and does work in more than one place at a time and that we should love and treasure our brothers and sisters no matter what human organization they belong to and call them brothers and sisters in the Lord as long as they are obeying the commandments of God to the best of their abilities."
"Even more tragic is one group that claims that it, the church, is the Elijah Work now, and says dogmatically that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come. If one doesn't accept these doctrines, they cannot be a part of that fellowship. In fact, what they have done, unwittingly, is to turn Mr. Armstrong into an idol for virtual worship and admiration, and they have set up their ministry on the same egomaniacal pedestal. Even angels will not allow themselves to be treated in this way, so why do mere men? As will soon be evident, the Elijah of God is yet future. He may not be recognizable at first, but he will be finally to those who are being guided by the Spirit of God."
"Soon, our people and the world in general will become so evil and wicked that they will not be able to stand God's Word any longer. At that time, in response to their arrogance and sin, God will send another Elijah. This Elijah will come into a spiritual wilderness proclaiming God's Truth and warning in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in spiritual power to rule the world with a rod of iron!"
"Well, my friends, I don't know who this end time Elijah is going to be, but he will be used to proclaim God's Word in no uncertain terms to a sin sick world and a sin sick church, and they won't like it one bit."
----- End Quotes -----
From the previous statements, it is easy to see that while John did not believe that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was this purported modern Elijah, he still believed that this Endtime Prophet was yet to come. Furthermore, he acknowledged that a number of other misguided people had also been tricked by deceptive spirits into erroneously believing that they were this Elijah. I was also encouraged by John's willingness to admit that the Lord works in many ways through many people, and not just through one individual or organization at a time, such as through the Worldwide Church of God. John also recognized the dangers of man worship, as in the case of Mr. Armstrong.
Overall, except for the fact that he still clung to the idea of an Endtime Elijah, he seemed to have a healthy attitude. Tragically, that one small doctrine which he had not been willing to forsake, ultimately resulted in his own downfall. You cannot begin to imagine the shock, grief, discouragement, sadness and disappointment I experienced when I discovered John's so-called "revelations from God". Following are some excerpts from his commentary. Please keep in mind his former statements as you read these:
----- Begin Quotes -----
"And so, God has raised me up as a voice in the wilderness of spiritual confusion to proclaim the Good News of Christ's second coming. This is therefore an Elijah Work just before the terrible Tribulation to prepare the way for Christ's Second Coming when He will seize and actually sit on the throne He qualified for in His First Coming!"
"Yet, there are evil men -- many of whom have prayed for the very deliverance Christ is now giving them -- who scoff and sneer at God's end time Apostle. They doubt that the living Head of this Church, Jesus Christ, has raised me up to set God's church back on His track!"
"Let me ask you something. Did you think that Christ would violate His promise which He made to us in Mtt. 24 that He would inspire this Gospel to be proclaimed in all of the world as a witness before the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord? Do you disbelieve the plain prophecy we just read in Malachi that He would send this end time Elijah the Prophet to set His people back on His track, and to turn our hearts to each other in love? Do you think that God is not capable of doing it, and of doing it His way, rather than man's way?"
"Men's churches and religious organizations make their choices about who is to be a minister in that church. These men have to have worldly credentials to be accepted by man! But God chooses for His servants those whom He decides to draft into the job He has for them."
"In just such a way, God has selected me to become His end time apostle and to be the spiritual successor to Herbert W. Armstrong, whose work forms the very foundation for what Christ is now preparing to build."
----- End of Quotes -----
What a terrible tragedy! This man had a fair opportunity to receive the truth concerning the Elijah prophecies of the Old Testament. He read my article. Sadly, not only did he reject it, but he likewise succumbed to the very same delusion as his predecessor, Herbert W. Armstrong. After reading John's previous comments, I immediately sent him a message in which I wrote in part:
----- Begin Quote -----
". . . We have had some interesting discussions in the past. I know that we see eye-to-eye on a number of issues; but please tell me that you do not honestly believe that you are now the Endtime Elijah, which even you yourself agreed that Herbert W. Armstrong was not. You have read the original version of my article. Does this mean that you have since then totally rejected its contents and Scriptural basis, even though at the time you candidly admitted that I had presented some very convincing arguments?"
----- End Quote -----
After waiting for a few days to receive a reply from John, I began to suspect that perhaps he had simply decided not to respond to me because he knew that I would not agree with him regarding this issue. Finally, on April 1, 1998, just a few days before I released the previous version of this series, John sent me the following response in which he confirms the position he had taken in his previous comments above:
----- Begin Quote -----
"I did not fully agree with the first edition of your Elijah article, but will be happy to look at what you write in the revised edition. I have had numerous dreams that validate my claims. Naturally, a lot of people don't believe these dreams happened, but they did. I will be happy to discuss this further after I read your updated article. If I am wrong, I will admit it, and retract what I have written."
----- End Quote -----
This was a clear confirmation of what I wrote earlier. It was because John did not fully agree with my understanding regarding the prophecies that are found in the Old Testament Book of Malachi, that he succumbed to this erroneous belief concerning himself being the Endtime Elijah. If Satan can maintain control of one, small, unyielded area of our hearts and lives; if we compromise in just one small thing in our walk with the Lord, eventually, he will be able to defeat us. It is similar to a small crack in the dam. If left unchecked, it may eventually result in a deluge of major proportions. In the same manner, if we cling to one small lie, soon Satan will flood our minds and hearts with many more; for as Jesus clearly said to the unbelieving Jews of His own day, Satan is a liar, and the Father of Lies, as we see by this verse:
". . . He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:44b, KJV
If John was not willing to accept my conclusions in the original version of this series, then it was rather obvious that it would be even more difficult for him to accept what I have written in this updated version of the same; because in my view, he had already begun hardening his heart to the truth. However, our God is a God of miracles, and He may yet work in John's life to show him the subtle trap into which he had fallen. Perhaps the Lord has already straightened out John. I honestly don't know, because many years have passed since I last heard from John, and I have lost communication with him.
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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