Did Herbert Armstrong Set Dates?
In reading HWA's literature we see that he gave constant reference to the "next 5-10-15-20 years." While authoritarian splinter groups of the Worldwide Church of God, such as Philadelphia Church of God, may be more careful today in setting dates, they still tell members that the "time is short," "the end is near," "we're in the gun lap," or even "we may have only 2 to 3 years left" (which is repeated every few years by Gerald Flurry).
After January 7, 1972 arrived--when WCG members were supposed to flee and when the Great Tribulation was to begin--many were surprised that they were still there. But ministers excused it all away by saying "the church was not ready; the spots are not all out." (the excuses by HWA are listed below the prophecy quotes) Later on members were told Herbert Armstrong "never set dates" and that "members took things in their own hands" (to sell their homes, purchase passports, etc.) and they should destroy the original 1975 in Prophecy booklet. This type of programming effectively covers over what HWA actually said. Also read: Memories About Petra which shows HWA would resort to justifying his prophecies whenever they didn't come to pass.
Does God ever give His truth to a false prophet?
"And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: ..." ~Deuteronomy 18:22
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." ~I John 4:1
Read: If One Writes as a Prophet He Cannot Back Off From That (2010 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.)
Many deceived followers of certain controlling WCG offshoots, such as Philadelphia Church of God, Restored Church of God, and Living Church of God are walking down the same pathway today.
Below are only a few quotes regarding HWA's date-setting. [All bolding is ESN's.]
"...the year 1936 will see the end of the Times of the Gentiles.... we may expect the present worldwide depression, time of trouble and fear of war to continue until the year 1936!... quickly after that time, we may expect to see the heavenly signs of the sun and moon becoming dark, the stars falling.... which shall be followed by the 'Day of the Lord." (The Plain Truth, June-July 1934, Herbert Armstrong, p. 5)
"...Armageddon, we believe, must be at least three or four years away..." ("Democracy Doomed!" The Plain Truth, April-May 1940, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"...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...it will strike DURING THIS PRESENT GENERATION—it cannot now be more than A FEW YEARS... (Herbert W. Armstrong, Co-Worker Letter, December 8, 1947)
"Now HERE IS SOMETHING STARTLING! Herman Hoeh, in his eye-opening article you will read in the June number of The PLAIN TRUTH on the Times of the Gentiles shows that the Times of the Gentiles—if chronologies are correct—will come to their final end in the year 1982." .............
"Now if this chronology is correct, that means Christ shall return some very few years PRIOR to1982! NO MAN KNOWS THE DAY, HOUR, OR YEAR OF CHRIST'S RETURN. But we CAN know exact dates of one or two other events." ...........
"IF THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES END IN 1982, in October, as Mr. Hoeh has it figured, THE INVASION OF AMERICA AND THE GREAT TRIBULATION MUST BEGIN NOT LATER THAT MARCH-APRIL, 1972!" (Herbert W. Armstrong, Co-Worker Letter, May 22, 1953)
"Indications of prophecy are that this drought ... will strike sooner than 1975— probably between 1965 and 1972!" ... "Yes, millions of lukewarm inactive professing Christians will suffer MARTYRDOM—and that before the anticipated push-button leisure-year of 1975 dawns upon us!" (1975 in Prophecy, 1956, pp. 10, 20, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"You're going to be shocked to read what goes on undercover in the United States. Five major vices threaten the total collapse of our country inside of 20 years. The handwriting is on the wall of America, now!" ("U.S.A. Riding to Total Collapse in 20 Short Years!" [subtitled: "Here are the naked FACTS that ought to astonish and shock you into immediate action.] (The Plain Truth, February 1956, Herbert W. Armstrong)
[After fostering many scare tactics in the article concerning how many in the U.S.A. are going to die of famine, pestilence and war "in less than 20 years," he goes on to say:]
"I've shown you from the very word of God what is next coming in prophesied events...It's prophesied for 15 to 20 years or less." ("U.S.A. Riding to Total Collapse in 20 Short Years!" (Ibid.)
"God prophecies that finally, within the next fifteen years, fully ONE THIRD of our whole population will die of disease and famine." (The Plain Truth, December 1957, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"We are just coming now to the grand smash climax of this whole age when there are far more prophecies--far more world shaking events--to happen in the next 15 or 20 years than ever happened before in the history of the world!" (The Proof of the Bible, 1958, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"I say to YOU, now, that your money—your home—every material thing you have—will be taken from you SOON—probably in 12 to 13 years, certainly in 15 or less!" (Herbert W. Armstrong, August 13, 1959 Co-Worker letter)
"In 12 years or less the U.S.A. will suffer the worst depression ever suffered by any nation." (Herbert W. Armstrong, December 1960 Co-Worker letter)
"We may now have only eight or nine more years to FINISH His Work!" (Herbert W. Armstrong, October 27, 1963 Co-Worker letter)
"In eight years all of our ministers will be silenced!" (November 23, 1963 sermon, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"Somewhere along about seven to ten years from now the REVOLUTION IN THE WEATHER will become a national and international calamity. Drought, epidemic of disease, will reap a mountain harvest of death across North America--and in Britain." (The Plain Truth, January 1963, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"We may have an occasional good year in the weather, but the trend in general will continue until--probably by 1971-1972--it will become an acute disaster, especially to the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia." (The Plain Truth, January 1964, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"We are in the grand smash climax--only six more years left." (Co-Worker letter, December 13, 1965, Herbert W. Armstrong)
WE MAY HAVE ONLY ONE OR TWO MORE YEARS LEFT TO FINISH THE WORK THE LIVING CHRIST IS DOING THROUGH HIS CHURCH! Time is running out on us! It is now FAR later than you think! (Co-worker Letter, June 27, 1966, Herbert W. Armstrong)1967
"The God who is REAL says of OUR PEOPLES: 'Prophecy against the prophets of Israel . . . O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes of the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up a hedge for the House of Israel TO STAND in the BATTLE IN THE DAY OF THE ETERNAL (Ezek. 13:1-5).' That is NOT a message to ancient Israel—but to OUR NATIONS TODAY. The 'DAY OF THE ETERNAL'—a time foretold in more than thirty prophecies—is going to strike between 5 and 10 years from now! You will know, then, how REAL it is. You will wish, then, you had heeded. I am not writing foolishly, but very soberly, ON AUTHORITY of the living CHRIST!" ("HOW the U.S. Can END the Vietnam WAR . . . NOW!" (The Plain Truth, Feb. 1967, p. 47, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"A STAGGERING TURN in world events is due to erupt in the next four to seven years. It will involve violently the United States, Britain, Western Europe, the Middle East." (The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, Introduction, 1967, p. IX, Herbert W. Armstrong)3
"Now, other prophecies reveal, we are to have soon (probably in about four years) such drought, and famine, that disease epidemics will follow taking millions of lives ... Well, we have been getting foretastes of that! That condition is coming! And I do not mean in 400 years—nor in 40 years—but in the very next FOUR or FIVE!" (Ibid., p.184)
"You need to look at the prophecies of Jesus of Jeremiah, of Isaiah, and others, describing how much more INTENSE is to be the punishment God is going to lay on the British and American people in five to seven more years!" (Ibid., p. 185)
"The 'Day of the Eternal'--a time foretold in more than thirty prophecies--is going to strike between 5 and 10 years from now!" (The Plain Truth, February 1967, Herbert W. Armstrong)
"If that unseen Hand does not exist, humanity will not survive on earth another 25 years, or less! I know whereof I speak, for no organization on earth has a more knowledgeable grasp and understanding of world conditions, trends, and causes, than ours. ..." (The Ambassador College Correspondence Course, Lesson 5, 1969, p. 15)
"There is very little time remaining. You now know only a minority of humanity will remain alive just a few years from now." (Ibid., Lesson 44, 1969, p. 16)
"During this generation--within 60 to 90 years or less-from 1927--Christ will come again..." (Herbert W. Armstrong, Co-worker letter, January 20, 1977)
"The actual movement of world events as prophesied WARNS US that all this MAY now occur in the decade we entered day before yesterday--and, if delayed past 1990, most certainly during the decade of the 90s." (Herbert W. Armstrong, Co-worker Letter, January 3, 1980)
"The Plain Truth brings you UNDERSTANDING of the very Word of God, the SOURCE of TRUTH--and of the PROPHECIES of events soon to occur, in the next two, five or 10 years!" (The Plain Truth, September 1984, Personal from Herbert W. Armstrong)1985:
Right up to the end of his life Herbert Armstrong continued to make false predictions. Here is just one quote from his Mystery of the Ages:
"And, secondly, to reveal—preserved in writing for us TODAY—what is to happen "in the latter days"—actually within the next two decades—THIS LAST HALF OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY! (Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong, p. 298)
How many times did members sit on the edge of their seat while reading these numerous letters and articles? The end was always "right around the corner" and members needed to give more and more offerings before time ran out! Herbert Armstrong was proved wrong time and time again, but leaders who follow his prophetic teachings today have learned that this kind of continual date-setting (laced with fear) works well and will bring in the money from the trusting flock.
Yet, towards the end of 1971 it was several other high-ranking ministers in the Worldwide Church of God (not Herbert Armstrong) that saw 1972 was going to dawn without anything disastrous happening. (Read: Hanky-Panky and Revolt in the Worldwide Church of God)
HWA Had Figured it Out (Letter to ESN in 2000 telling the ridiculous reason one WCG minister gave his congregation as to why 1972 "came and went.")
By February 1972 HWA had come up with an original excuse as to why members didn't flee to Petra (the "place of safety") in January 1972 as they were made to believe they would and also because HWA told how the second 19 year cycle was to be completed at that time:
"It DID take a second 19 years to get the message into all nations -- but, as of January 7th, 1972, we had reached many of them ONLY SUPERFICIALLY -- not intensively!"
("The 19-Year Time Cycles -- What HAPPENED January 7 -- What My Commission IS!" Good News, February 1972)
Then Herbert Armstrong went on in this article to tell what actually did happen on January 7, 1972:
"On that very day, the MOST POWERFUL DOOR" had opened up." [Ibid]
What was it? To purchase advertising space in the "entire United States edition of Reader's Digest."
The next thing that he says happened on that date was how they received financing from their bankers for "80% of the superb new auditorium [Ambassador Auditorium], NOW ACTUALLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION on the Pasadena campus."
"Yes, THINGS DID HAPPEN January 7th!" [Ibid]
He then drags his future prophecies out a little longer by saying:
"...it seems God assures us of a few more years at least to go, since it will take two years to complete it." [Ibid]
In 1981 he pulled out Revelation 10:11, applying it to himself and telling how God had "held up world events" so he (HWA) could complete this "special commission." But this was not without first putting the blame on the members about the 1972 date: [emp. ours]
"Yet some members totally misconstrued what I did say, and took it to mean definite date settings for end of this world and coming of Christ for the new World Tomorrow...I never did, and do not now set dates--even as to the year." (Pastor General's Report, LOOKING INTO THE NEXT FOUR YEARS AND NINE YEARS OF DECADE OF EIGHTIES, by Herbert W. Armstrong, January 23, 1981)
The book, When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger shows how, in spite of failed prophecies, members in apocalyptic groups will usually make some other excuse and go right on believing.
Fun With Prophecy (shows how WCG later tried to make members believe they were the ones at fault for believing in the prophecies of HWA; comments cover what members were taught about the Place of Safety.)
Gerald Flurry decides to remove some of HWA's words
The following words by HWA were removed by Gerald Flurry when he re-printed Mystery of the Ages (it is posted on his website). He changed the sub-heading to say, "Prophecy is a PROOF of God," and also removed other words from the original booklet and added words of his own.
Prophecy is the proof of divine revelation! If One, in the Bible, speaking and claiming to be God, can make prophecies and tell what is going to happen in the future to nations, to cities, to empires, then if it actually happens in every case, and without a miss, you'll know that was a real God speaking.
But, if it were some person writing this, some human mortal writing in ignorance, groping in superstition, making great boasts, and claiming that he could foretell what was going to happen to proud cities, to nations, to great empires, and then it never happens, you know that that man was merely writing make- believe out of his own imagination. (The Proof of the Bible, "Prophecy is the PROOF of God," by Herbert W. Armstrong, 1958)
The following are quotes from Herbert W. Armstrong stating that there is no prophet today (notice this was written after his 1972 prophecy failure):
"There is no such human prophet living today!"
"The Bible is the written Word of God—and, for our time now, it is COMPLETE! Never have I believed or claimed that God reveals to me new truths not contained in the Bible—in addition to, or apart from the Bible…
"Let's take a look at the Church of God of the first century, as we find it revealed in the Book of Acts, beginning from the day of Pentecost, 31 A.D. The Bible was not fully written—only the Old Testament—in 31 A.D. God then was still communicating new truth, instruction and knowledge directly and personally to prophets. As the Church progressed, it was the function of a prophet to communicate TO THE APOSTLES special messages which God had personally revealed to them. Others were inspired in the writing of the books of the New Testament.
"So we read, in Acts 11:28 and 21:10-11, of the prophet Agabus. But today we have the COMPLETE Word of God, for our time, in the Bible. There are no such prophets—EXCEPT FALSE ONES." (Herbert W. Armstrong Personal from the Editor, "The 19-Year Time Cycles -- What HAPPENED January 7--What My Commission IS! The Good News of Tomorrow's World, 2/72)
HWA says he is not a prophet
But I definitely have NOT been called to be a PROPHET...Emphatically I am NOT a prophet, in the sense of one to whom God speaks specially and directly, revealing personally a future event to happen or new truth, or new and special instruction direct from God--separate from, and apart from what is contained in the Bible." (Herbert Armstrong, "Personal from Herbert W. Armstrong," Tomorrow's World, Feb. 1972, p. 1)
In response to this last quote, Paul N. Benware writes:
Mr. Armstrong emphatically states that he is not a prophet, like those of old who received new revelation from God. However, in spite of his denials, the fact still remains that he does claim that new truth, embedded in the Bible, has been revealed in him. (Ambassadors of Armstrongism, 1984, p. 25, 26.) [emp. ours]
"For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD." ~Jeremiah 29:9
So we can see by the above quotes how Herbert Armstrong backpedaled and even lied, because he is saying here that there are no human prophets living today, and (in a clever twist of words) declares that he is not a prophet. Yet we know that he gave prophecies2 by telling such and such was going to happen "in 5 years," "in 20 years," "in your lifetime," "in a few more years," and especially with his book, 1975 in Prophecy (later withdrawn), making members think he was "speaking for God" (the definition of a prophet). HWA is saying that he doesn't have truths, yet he later told members he did have new truth; i.e., on makeup, divorce and remarriage, the spirit in man, observance of Pentecost, etc. The Church of God 7th day, which HWA was associated with in his early years in Oregon, stated that HWA previously called himself a prophet and the congregation actually believed it! HWA incriminated himself by his own words.
"HWA tries hard to bail himself out of the January 7, 1972 date--his former terminal date--by planning more advertising, more buildings, and more radio propaganda--BUT his hundreds of blunders expose him as a continuing false prophet." (Armstrongism's 300 Errors Exposed by 3000 Bible Verses, S. E. Anderson, 1973, p. 195; referring to HWA's February 1972 World Tomorrow personal).
"When one claims that he has been ordained of God, baptized by Jesus Christ...and dares to tell in specific, point-by point, and in detailed order, the events that are to occur, the real meaning of the mysterious books of prophecy...he ought not to have made predictions which have never come to pass. ... And if he is God's true prophet for these times, he should never have made such predictions as have miserably failed." (Radio Church of God Vs. Church of God, 7th Day - John Kiez. Quoted from p. 211 of Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off? An Exposé of the Armstrong Modus Operandi) by Marion J. McNair.
"I have NEVER SAID I expect to live until Christ comes." (Herbert W. Armstrong,
Co-Worker Letter, March 19, 1981)
To read more about specific HWA false prophecies see:
Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off by Marion J. McNair (available through ESN in PDF)
A comprehensive list of 209 of Herbert W. Armstrong's false prophecies [offsite link]. (Note that ESN does not endorse the atheistic views on this website.)
NOTE: In 2004 Gerald Flurry of Philadelphia Church of God deleted and changed portions of Herbert Armstrong's book Mystery of the Ages, removing the part where HWA said there were no prophets in the N.T. church and substituting his own words. (Read letters which show this.) One of the reasonings members in PCG have used in order to excuse away this editing is that MOA "wasn't Scripture" and it has merely been "updated for the times." But didn't HWA claim that God inspired him when he wrote MOA? Notice what HWA said:
"But I think, in a way, God inspired it. But not in the sense that it is the word of God. It's as God inspired Herbert Armstrong." (Video presentation, Sept 9, 1995, HWA speaking) [emp. ours]
HWA also stated:
"I candidly feel it may be the most important book since the Bible." (Dear Brethren & Co-Worker letter, September 1985, by HWA)
So, if God "inspired the words" in Mystery of the Ages, and HWA considered it "the most important book since the Bible," then how can someone decide to "update it for the times"?
PCG later came up with their own "justification" as to why they could do this. Read: How Did PCG Justify Deleting and Changing Words in Mystery of the Ages? (excerpts from their October 21, 2014 Pastor General's Report).
Info compiled by D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
February 26, 2003
Last updated January 27, 2014
NOTE: Philadelphia Church of God is today proclaiming that Herbert Armstrong "was right" and that he gave "decades of accuracy in global forecasting." (Booklet: "He Was Right"; 2010; 2012) We need to ask ourselves how giving over 200 false prophecies is being "right"?
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." ~Matthew 7:15-16
1 Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off? (An Exposé of the Armstrong Modus Operandi) by Marion J. McNair, p. xvii.
2 Certain WCG offshoots (i. e., Church of the Great God, founded in 1991 by John W. Ritenbaugh) have stated that these were not prophecies that HWA gave, but only "speculations" or "speculative predictions." This is a false assumption since Herbert Armstrong claimed he was "God's Apostle" (a. k. a. "Christ's Apostle"--read several statements by him) and that he had received "revelation from God." HWA was dogmatic about prophecy (read his articles and Co-Worker letters online. Plus see our article: The "Key to Unlocking Prophecy" Did Herbert Armstrong Say God Revealed it to Him Alone? The only exceptions to this were when he had to backpedal out of a failed prophecy, such as the 1975 one, in which thousands of people changed their entire lives because of it (refer to his booklet 1975 in Prophecy). This was not based on "speculations." A prophet is "one who speaks for God." HWA placed himself in this role. So for anyone to claim that "Herbert Armstrong never said he was a prophet or an apostle and, therefore, he didn't give prophecies," is merely skirting the facts. HWA was unofficially hailed as a prophet (See: Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off? p. xvii) and his over 200 false prophecies have been documented on the Internet. According to Scripture, doesn't it only take one failed prophecy to be qualified as a false prophet? Read our Q&A which shows how those in O.T. times knew whether someone qualified as a true prophet of God: Haven't HWA's prophecies just not come to pass yet? Interestingly, one of these "predictions" HWA continually emphasized was the "6,000 year plan." According to this belief, Christ was to return after the 6,000 years of mankind was up. HWA's "math" for this 6,000 years has been proven wrong. Read this part in ESN's review of Mystery of the Ages, Chapter Three to see this theory completely dismantled.
3 In the 1972 version of The United States and Britain in Prophecy, HWA substituted the word "several" (years) in place of "four to seven" (years) which was originally in the 1967 edition entitled, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy.
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