Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)
By Kelly Marshall
"If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting [giving excessive attention] about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself." (I Timothy 6:3-5).
HWA introduces his final "unsolved mystery"—the Kingdom of God—and predictably, the "world's churches, theologians and Bible scholars" can't solve it. (p. 293) To understand HWA's contrived "Kingdom of God" is to understand what a man envisions Utopia to be: No more illness, death, poverty, violence, suffering—only peace and prosperity. These have been the eternal cravings of mankind, and HWA capitalizes on it. HWA will substitute the glory of Heaven for the glory of this "new world order." This World of Tomorrow, according to HWA, will be racially pure and separate, completely rebuilt from being wasted by war. There will be "total literacy," perfect weather, a sound economic structure and it will be ruled by top down Government. This "government of God" will enforce all the ordinances kept by the followers of HWA. Men will be "forced to live in peace." Following the Millennium, HWA will complete his grandiose vision with three resurrections, culminating into the finale—the Headquarters Church of the Universe coming down from heaven and permanently establishing itself on the new earth. The great majority of mankind who has been converted into spirit beings (gods, actually) will be free to create life on all the dead planets throughout the universe for all eternity, while Earth will be the central Universe Headquarters.
REDEFINING THE TRUE GOSPEL
HWA begins this chapter with the falsehood that there was a violent controversy in the early church as to what is "the gospel of Jesus Christ." He informs us that all church history was destroyed during the first 100 years of the church and then a counterfeit church arose shortly afterward, which has espoused a false gospel since. Not to worry—HWA assures his readers that the "true gospel" has now been fully restored, 1900 years later (by him, of course), and is now being preached all over the world today. Let's examine what that "gospel" is that HWA is calling the "True Gospel" or "the gospel OF Christ."
This Kingdom of God, HWA insists, is the "good news" or "gospel" about the Kingdom and not about Christ. HWA claims that Christ came as a Messenger of that gospel:
Jesus was a Messenger sent from God with a message, and that message was THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (p. 294)
Christ supposedly brought down from God the good news about the future, soon-coming, literal Kingdom of God on earth. This Kingdom will rule the world. Is this true? Was Jesus the Messenger, and was that message the Kingdom of God? Let's see who Matthew 11:7,10 says the messenger is:
And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?...For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare they way before thee.
Jesus says the messenger is John the Baptist fulfilling Malachi 3:1. Jesus isn't the messenger of the Kingdom, but the "messenger of the covenant" which we will see him fulfill under the section entitled "The New Covenant" later in this article. We can easily see that Malachi 3:1 is speaking about John and Jesus:
Behold, I will send my messenger, [John] and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, [Christ] whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
So right off the bat, HWA is already lying. He even usurps John the Baptist's position by declaring himself to be this very Messenger, 1900 years later! How conceited and delusional.
What exactly was Jesus' main purpose for coming to this earth? Was it merely to bring mankind the "Kingdom of God" message? Let's let the Bible interpret itself:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; (I Timothy 1:15)
You mean Biblical Christianity has been right all along? Jesus came to save us from our sins. Through Him we have forgiveness of sins and can be given eternal life. Not only is HWA guilty of stealing the limelight away from John the Baptist, but he's also guilty of hiding the true gospel message. We need to ask ourselves why would God's very own "apostle" ignore the importance of the true mission of His Only Begotten Son? Why would he intentionally divert attention away from Jesus as Savior and relegate Him to a position of a mere messenger? Shouldn't this tell us something?
Before he explains his contrived gospel HWA must again plant suspicion against other sources. Let's look at the negative messages bombarding the reader at the beginning pages of this chapter:
Why do churches disagree on what actually is "the gospel of Christ"? (p. 293)
It seems today that all churches have lost the gospel of Jesus Christ. (p. 294)
Yet few preach about the kingdom of God today, for they have lost all knowledge of what it is! (p. 294)
Not one is right! Could anything seem more incredible? (p. 295) What is the one and only gospel of Jesus Christ? THE WORLD DOES NOT KNOW! (p. 295)
If all churches have lost this gospel, then that leaves only one that hasn't. Again, the set up is complete. The subtitles on pages 294 and 295 read, "Not One is Right!" and "CHRIST'S Gospel." HWA will now introduce his rendition of the gospel. (Carefully observe how the simplicity of the gospel will evolve into a very complicated gospel). Jesus, he claims, did not come as a personal savior, but as a messenger, bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God, which he claims is "the only true gospel" (pg. 298). Here is an obvious shift away from the Savior. Just in case one doesn't believe his version, he will spell out the seriousness of the situation:
It is necessary to believe that GOSPEL to be saved! And how can you believe it, unless you know what it is? (p. 295)
And God Almighty, through Paul, pronounced a double curse on man or angel that would DARE preach any other gospel! (p. 296)
Why, then, do so many DARE to preach so many other gospels? The good news of THE KINGDOM OF GOD is something you must understand, and BELIEVE, in order to be saved! Jesus Christ said so! YOU had better be finding out what it is! (p. 296)
The set up here is plain. The assumption HWA wants the reader to make is that he isn't guilty of preaching the wrong gospel. If the reader doesn't have a solid understanding of the gospel, he cannot refute what he doesn't know. HWA speaks boldly, confident that he, only, has the true gospel. At this point, the reader knows he knows so little, and HWA seems to know so much. The reader will convince himself that HWA must certainly be from God and he doesn't want to miss the boat to salvation. Along with this, HWA will resort to intimidation tactics.
Why, then do so many DARE to preach so many other gospels? The good news of THE KINGDOM OF GOD is something you must understand, and BELIEVE, in order to be saved! (p. 296)
A severe pronouncement of a "double curse" is given by HWA toward to those that preach the gospel about Jesus. In other words, HWA openly insists that the "world's churches" preach a false gospel about Christ, and to believe in that gospel spells disaster for the reader. With options like that, what choice is the reader likely to make? An expert salesman will always make the customer think he is making a deliberate choice, but in reality, he isn't.
Again, HWA cleverly guides the reader toward his organization:
...But does any, except God's true church, proclaim the true gospel of the kingdom of God today? (p. 294)
On page 296, HWA states, "The apostle Paul preached THE KINGDOM OF GOD (Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31)." HWA gives a string of Scriptures that contain the phrase "Kingdom of God" to validate his point. What the unsuspecting reader doesn't know is that HWA omitted two Scriptures containing the key phrase "kingdom of God" because they clearly contradict his teaching that the gospel isn't about Jesus. Let's look these missing Scriptures below:
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12)
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:21-23)
Earlier, HWA challenged the reader, stating that he "better be finding out what gospel is!" and insisted "The good news of THE KINGDOM OF GOD is something you must understand, and BELIEVE, in order to be saved! Jesus Christ said so!" If HWA was truly sent from God and personally trained by Jesus Christ, then he would have wanted to show—from Scripture—what Jesus said concerning what one should "believe," right? Would a good Bible teacher challenge the reader to find out what he needs to believe yet fail to supply him with the Scriptures using the word "believe" so he can know exactly what it is that the Bible says he needs to believe? The reader will not see HWA quote Scriptures like these in the MOA:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life...(John 3:36)
Jesus answered and said unto them, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:29)
Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. (John 14:1)
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31)
And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. (I John 3:23)
Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
Be it known unto you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom God raised up from the dead... Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:10, 12)
Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus...And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he [the eunuch] answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:35, 37)
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16:31)
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved...For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:9, 13)
The Bible clearly states that belief in the name of Jesus Christ is how one gains eternal life, not belief in HWA's "Kingdom of God" (and all that it entails) gospel. Predictably, the Scripture Index at the end of the MOA does not contain any of these crucial Scriptures. This is outright deceit when one omits the very words of Jesus and the direct instructions of the apostles as to how one can gain eternal life. This is the simplicity of the gospel. We can believe what these Scriptures say, or we can slog through 70 pages of confusing text written by HWA about this coming "Kingdom."
HWA harangued his followers to "keep the Commandments," but here we see him contradict Scripture. In 1 John 3:23 quoted above, we see that the commandment given is that "we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ..."—the very thing that Biblical Christianity has said all along—the very thing that HWA said wasn't the gospel. In addition, members are taught that "The Work" is financially supporting HWA so he can get the gospel preached so the "end" will come. But the above Scripture says "the work of God" is for one to believe on Jesus Christ, the One He has sent.
Does Scripture teach a coming Kingdom of God? Absolutely. But just because Scripture is inerrant doesn't mean HWA is inerrant. Contrary to what HWA has told his readers, there are Christian churches that do believe in the future return of Jesus Christ and His coming kingdom. But they do not outline minute details that aren't in Scripture (see The 14 Executives later in this article), nor do they omit Scriptures in order to blind people to the simple process of salvation. To intentionally divert attention away from what Jesus accomplished on the Cross and deny people salvation is reprehensible. Belief in a coming kingdom of God1 and belief in Jesus Christ as Savior isn't contradictory, as HWA wants his readers to believe.
A FALSE PROPHET AT WORK—WHEN WILL THIS KINGDOM BE ESTABLISHED?
This seventh chapter of the MOA will clearly identify HWA as a false prophet. When is this great Kingdom of God supposed to be ushered in? [bolding mine]
...News before it happens—of the most colossal event of all earth's history certain to occur in your lifetime—during the very next few years! (p. 298)
So mark carefully the time element! In the days of these kings"—in the days of these ten nations or groups of nations that shall, IN OUR TIME, resurrect briefly the Roman Empire...(p. 301)
Yes, in OUR TIME! (subtitle, p. 301)
Therefore, we are CLOSE to the coming of Christ! We are now very near the END of this world! (p. 303)
The MOA was written in 1985, over 20 years ago. When HWA emphasized the words "our time" he meant it for the time that he was living. He gave his followers the impression that he fully intended to be alive at the Second Coming. He was supposed to be a dual type of Moses (applying the duality principle), and would lead his followers into the Promised Land (The Wonderful World Tomorrow). But this did not come to pass.
Now let's look at another false claim by HWA:
Well, there is the Strong Hand from somewhere. 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.
Now let's look at another false claim by HWA:
Well, there is the Strong Hand from somewhere. 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. We know where the world is heading... (The Ambassador College Correspondence Course, 1969, Lesson 5, p. 15). [bolding mine]
Speaking with arrogant confidence, HWA, back in 1969, stated that he knew the earth wouldn't survive another 25 years. Yet the world has, but HWA hasn't. Notice carefully how he gives his "organization" credit for having this knowledge—more than any on earth. Clearly we see HWA make a prophecy that did not materialize within the time period he pronounced with great certainty. The last issue of the 1969 Ambassador College Correspondence Course had these final words:
There is very little time remaining. You now know only a minority of humanity will remain alive just a few years from now. You have been warned of the terrible physical suffering and mental agony the immediate future will bring...A place of safety is promised...YOU can be one of those who step into eternity. The way is plain. Draw near to God and His Church!
Only by drawing near to Christ who is the Head of the "Philadelphia" Church—and having continuing contact with God's Headquarters Work—will you make the spiritual growth required. And having a share in the Work of God's Church you can share in her place of safety.
Very soon, world events will prevent many from being able to have contact with this Church. Don't wait to go through the terrible Tribulation with the sleepy, lukewarm "Laodicean" Church. Act now!!" (The Ambassador College Correspondence Course, 1969, Lesson 44, p. 16)
After completing the AC Correspondence Course, these sentences leave little doubt that HWA uttered false prophecies. Notice that HWA says to draw near to God and His Church, equating involvement with his organization to developing a direct relationship with Christ. He offers the promise of divine protection—the place of safety—but only if one becomes a part of his church and shares in its "Work." The recruit hardly notices that he must no longer trust in Christ for eternal life, but he must now be dependent upon the organization for protection. HWA ridiculed the traditional church for "coercing people into accepting Christ," but using coercion to scare people into his church didn't seem to bother his conscience in the least.
Bible-based cult leaders are also known for their duplicity and deceit, which they intentionally use to cause cognitive dissonance in their recruits. A prime example of this is shown on the previous page of this very same lesson in which HWA states:
COMMENT: Some have foolishly set dates, sold their houses, closed their businesses and quit work. Others locked themselves in their homes or waited in caves for the end of the world! Of course, Christ did not come! (The Ambassador College Correspondence Course, 1969, Lesson 44, p. 15) [emp. mine]
HWA foolishly set dates while bashing others who have done the same. HWA also promised divine protection in the caves of Petra, while discounting the whole notion altogether. He was very clever at covering all his bases. When 1975 rolled around, and members did these very things, he could scold them and say, "I never said to do that" and declare his innocence. Never mind the members were fed a steady diet of fear and date-setting up to that point. When my family began attending in 1983, we had heard rumors about the "1975 in Prophecy" fiasco. We asked our minister about this event. His response? "Well, Mr. Armstrong saw that world events were transpiring in a direction that could have been the beginning of Christ's imminent return. He never said that Christ would definitely return, but members went out and sold their homes and businesses because they thought Christ was returning at that time." In other words, it was the dumb members' fault for believing HWA in the first place!
Does this mean that Bible prophecy isn't true? Will Jesus return and will there be a Millennium? Positively, yes. The Bible clearly states these things will happen. But how do we put this in proper perspective? Here is an interesting insight:
THE TIME OF CHRIST SECOND COMING
No One Knows the Day Nor the Hour (Matt. 24:36-42; Mark 13:32; cf. Acts 1:7)
The Scriptures tell us enough regarding the time of Christ's coming to satisfy our faith, but not our curiosity. These statements of the Master should be sufficient to silence that fanaticism which is so anxious to tell us the exact year, month, and even the day when Christ will come. This day is hidden in the counsels of God. Jesus Himself, by a voluntary unwillingness to know, while in His state of humiliation, showed no curiosity to peer into the chronology of this event. We should not nor ought we to want to know more than Christ did on this point... (The Great Doctrines of the Bible, 1949, pp. 241) [emp. mine]
Isn't it interesting that a "deceived scholar" would listen to the words of Jesus and teach others to not make end time prophecies concerning Christ's return? Why does HWA have such a hard time believing and obeying Jesus in this matter?
Now let's look at HWA update his end time predictions in the MOA:
The whole purpose of the DREAM [speaking of Daniel the prophet's dream] was to reveal GOD'S GOVERNMENT—the fact that God RULES—the truth of THE KINGDOM OF GOD—the very thing that is the one and only true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST! 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! (p. 298) [bolding mine]
So here we have another date set—twenty more years from 1985 or "the last half of the 20th century," whichever comes first. Both of these dates have past. Was HWA predicting the end, or was he forecasting the length of his lifespan, setting himself up financially until the end of his days?
What does the Bible say about all this? "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak...even that prophet shall die" and "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." (Deuteronomy 18:20, 22)
HWA's prophecy did not come to pass "during the next few years," nor "this last half of the twentieth century." Decades have passed. The Great Tribulation did not occur in the time frame given by HWA, nor did the United States of Europe invade the United States and Britain and take them captive. World War III never happened. We must no longer believe the words of this false prophet, nor the words of those who try to carry forward his burned out torch of falsehoods.
LIES AGAINST BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY CONCERNING LUKE 1:31-33
Again, we see the same methods used by HWA before he introduces a new topic. He must discredit, misrepresent, and malign traditional churches. Once feelings of mistrust are in place, the reader will open his mind to "other alternatives." Ceaseless in his tirades against Biblical Christianity, HWA makes the following sensational claims:
How amazing—what a tragedy—that in church services and gospel preaching today, one seldom, if ever, hears of Christ as coming king and world ruler. (p. 303)
Why do the professing Christian churches omit all these scriptures about Christ coming and of his ruling the earth? (p. 305)
In reference to Luke 1:31-33, HWA states:
Why do the churches of this world never mention any of these scriptures? Millions have attended churches all their lives and never heard any of these scriptures about Christ becoming a king or about the coming kingdom of God. (p. 304)
HWA claims that:
The churches of this world never mention these Scriptures in Luke 1. (p. 304)
Millions have attended churches all their lives and never heard any of these Scriptures. (Ibid. 304)
Although HWA claims that these Scriptures aren't read in church services today, he completely disregards the fact that these very Scriptures are read in Christian churches everywhere around the world—during Christmas! HWA knows this, but he wants to stir up feelings of righteous indignation against traditional Christian churches even if he has to lie to do it! Luke 1:31-33 are core Scriptures of the gospel:
And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Christian churches celebrate the birth of Christ and His coming as the Son of God, the Savior. The traditional Christmas story begins with the angel announcing to Mary that she has found favor with God, and has been chosen to give birth to the Savior. From there, the story progresses to Jesus being born and placed in a manger, and the shepherds visiting the stable to witness "a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) Look again at the two claims against Biblical Christianity that HWA makes concerning these Scriptures. Can one really believe that these Scriptures are "never mentioned?" Can one really have "attended church all their life" and "never heard any of these Scriptures"? Contrary to HWA's claims, these very Scriptures are even memorized by children and recited during Christmas plays. Can you imagine a Christmas pageant that would skip over them? It would certainly leave out crucial details such as the virgin birth, and who Jesus is. The Bible wouldn't make sense without them. The Christian church clearly understands that Jesus Christ is King NOW and forever.
Again, HWA resorts to repugnance against "traditional Christianity" by lumping them with the vilest of the vile:
But will humanity shout with joy, and welcome him in frenzied ecstasy and enthusiasm? Will even the churches of traditional Christianity? [emp. mine]
They will not! They will believe, because the false ministers of Satan (II Cor. 11:13-15) have deceived them, that he is the Antichrist. The churches and the nations will be angry. The churches and the nations will be angry at his coming (Rev. 11:15 with 11:18), and the military forces will actually attempt to fight him to destroy him (Rev. 17:14)! (p. 306-307) [emp. mine]
HWA gives a graphic description of the consequences of joining forces with them:
This rotting of their flesh off their bones will happen almost instantaneously— while they are still on their feet. (p. 308)
The setup again, is clear. Who in their right mind would want to fight against Jesus Christ and go through something this gross? Once again, HWA wins. The above is an example of how HWA implanted subconscious fear in the minds of his followers. Is there any wonder why church members are so rejecting and caustic toward the mainstream church? This is one of the main reasons why those who exit the various churches of God are unable to keep traditional holidays. HWA's literature continually reminds them that partaking of any holidays, outside of what the organization allows, is falling into the trap of "false Christian ministers." If members go along with anything that is approved by the traditional church or society, they are automatically in league with the Antichrist, and will suffer agonizing punishment. Members do not even realize the fear and phobia induction used by HWA to keep them in check. So successful is this method, that members who exit from the organization still cannot bring themselves to celebrate traditional holidays—even years after they have left.
TO THE MILLENNIUM... AND BEYOND!
Church members believe that the Feast of Tabernacles depicts the coming Millennium. When will the Millennium, the "Wonderful World Tomorrow" begin? According to HWA, after church members, who are "counted worthy to escape," flee to the place of safety, they will undergo their "final training" for 3-1/2 years in the fortified citadel of Petra. Petra is located in the Middle East in the country of Jordan. Members believe they will wait there, supernaturally protected, until the Second Coming of Christ. The rest of the world will go through the Great Tribulation. Just before the worldwide nuclear holocaust destroys the entire planet, Christ will return and stop mankind from complete annihilation. Then the First Resurrection will occur and church members will be transformed ("born again") from flesh and blood beings into spirit beings. This is the "salvation" they have long awaited. At that time Christ will usher in a thousand years of peace, also known as the Millennium, and members will rule with Him.
Members believe they will teach the survivors to conform to the rules of God's government during the Millennium. Of course, the problem is that many teachings of HWA have changed throughout the decades. Since HWA taught, "the dead know nothing" then faithful members who have died will come up in this First Resurrection with obsolete beliefs. These born-again spirit beings will not be unified, resulting in confusion for this new millennial government.
HUMAN NATURE DOESN'T DISAPPEAR DURING THE MILLENNIUM
In addition to resurrected church members, Bible saints, and the Great Multitude, the Millennium will consist of people who survived the Great Tribulation and the battle of Armageddon. Although Satan will be restrained during the Millennium, on page 311 HWA reveals that "complete utopia cannot be ushered in all at once" due to the "acquired satanic attitude" that man will retain. "Multiple millions will still hold to the attitude of rebellion—of vanity, lust, and greed." Then HWA promises that with the recruit's help, this can be overcome through re-education.
WORLD PROBLEMS SOLVED
From here, HWA assures us that the world's problems will be solved during this time.
The world's population explosion will be rectified by reclamation of land from fertile desserts and oceans, and provision of pure water sources. Weather patterns will be changed – even the nature of wild animals will be changed. Everyone will be completely literate, speaking the same language, and the economy sound. On page 324, HWA states, "Once each 50 years, all debts, public and private, will be canceled, completely." It is interesting to note that HWA never practiced this "Year of Jubilee" with his own church members, even though his church was in existence for over 50 years. He insisted that the tithing laws be upheld (obviously, he didn't want to wait for the Millennium to institute tithing), but swept the Year of Jubilee under the rug.