Exit and Support Network

Mystery of the Ages
(a 2nd critical review)

By William Hohmann

 

Chapter Two - Mystery of Angels and Evil Spirits

One might wonder what could possibly be the mystery surrounding angels and evil spirits. The answer found between the lines is that there are evil spirits, and it is necessary to motivate you to fear falling into their clutches by embracing the "true church." In and of itself, there is no mystery about these beings in the Bible.

In Ephesians 6 it is stated that our contentions and strivings are in fact not with other human people, but against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [evil spirits] in high places." (p. 59)

This claim is rather weak. Men can be "spiritually wicked" just as one can be "spiritually upright." That men can be influenced by evil spirits is not a biblical mystery though. Strife is between people, whether influenced by evil spirits or not.

The Bible explains: "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (II Cor. 4:3-4). Satan is the god of this world.
The time of UNDERSTANDING has come. (p. 59)

The true "mystery" that is never explained in this book that claims to reveal mysteries is just what the gospel truly is. Armstrong taught a gospel of the kingdom of God being the government of God, and his church being the government of God on earth "in embryo" with him the human head of that government "from the top down." Jesus Christ in Herbert Armstrong's theology was "merely the messenger" of the gospel, and that gospel was not about Christ. He could not have been more wrong. He was blinded to the true gospel in his quest for self-gratification and self-glorification. He who accused the world of being spiritually blind was the most blind himself.

On either side of God's throne was a super archangel, a cherub, whose wings stretched out covering the very throne of God. This signifies that these superior angels were involved in the very administration of the government of God over all of God's creation. They were aides, ministers, servants, assisting God. (p. 61)

Why does this have to signify that these archangels were involved in any administration of a government of God? It is pure conjecture, but suits the author's needs precisely in order to maintain the myth of "government within the church" as he saw fit.

In chapter 2, Jesus is described as being superior to the angels, having a better name than they, and a few other descriptions of Jesus are made. The author though falls far short of just who and what Jesus is.
And in chapter 3 we will show humans may be actually begotten as sons of God, as yet unborn. (p. 62)

Scripture claims "now we are the sons of God." (I John 3:1,2) It is not some future event; it is now. But in order to keep people constantly off balance — always unsure regarding their standing "before God" and salvation, the author never addresses this concept; this "mystery" regarding true Christians.

It is stated in both Genesis 1 and 2 that the earth was created at the same time as the entire physical universe. (p. 62)

The author was fond of pointing out that the Bible is not a science book. Yet here again the author makes a declarative statement based upon taking a statement from the Bible in a hyper-literal way. Does Scripture say they were made at the same time, or "in the beginning?" Science has proven that the earth was made long after the universe came into being. Certain elements found on earth cannot exist unless and until produced through nuclear fusion and fission within a star.

In the narrative of Chapter 2, describing the function of angels as ministering spirits, Armstrong makes the claim (p. 62) that his wife was warned by an angel to move their daughter Beverly when she was an infant moments before a picture frame fell where she was lying. Further on, he claims angelic intervention on his behalf on other occasions. This brings up some questions that need to be answered here.

Would false "prophets" make such claims that cannot be verified? Yes. As a matter of fact, they often do in order to gain a following. If the reader insists on taking the claims of Armstrong at face value, then no doubt the reader believes Joseph Smith received gold plates from an angel1, and that the revelations given to Ellen G. White2 are also valid.

Would a true minister of Christ make a claim that could not be proven or verified? They might, but their credibility would be injured as a result. One could always ask that person why more miracles are not being done with others present, why they are not able to wholesale heal people. To word this all another way, a true minister or Christian would think twice before making such an announcement, knowing that there is no way to verify the claim. It is interesting to note that many times when Jesus healed someone, He told them to stay quiet about it. False teachers can be counted on to trumpet any such miracles they can attest to that they were a part of.

On page 65, Armstrong makes the case that healings have two conditions:

1) we must keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight ( I John 3:22); and 2) we must really BELIEVE (Matt. 9:29).

He then goes on to qualify this, by claiming one may well be healed without having kept the commandments, yet once they understand they are to do so, then there is no more excuse not to. The fall here is that, once a person is keeping the commandments, but does not receive healing, that person is now deemed to be lacking in faith; their belief is not deep enough. It would seem they need to "really, really, really believe."

The interesting question here then is, which is more important when it comes to healing, belief or obedience to a covenant law you and I were never a party to, and a covenant law that ended?

Armstrong then makes the statement that the WCG was famous for:

... and that SIN is the transgression of God's LAW. (p. 65)

What he refused to acknowledge is that "God's law" and the law of Moses, wherein we find the Ten Commandments, are treated as two different things, brought out by Paul in Romans chapter 7.

Another fact that is ignored in Armstrong's theology is that Christians are dead to the Law and dead to sin. Neither has control over a true Christian. (See: Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:19 along with Romans 6:2)

Toward the end of page 65, Armstrong relates a story about a man crippled with a bad spine and his wife who were Pentecostal. Armstrong was going to (so the story goes) pray for them and the man's healing, but concluded he could not do so, seeing as they were unwilling to "obey God and comply with God's written conditions for healing."

What an incredible attitude! "I won't pray for your healing because you don't "obey" God. You are not worthy of God's healing. Any faith you might have is insufficient if you do not obey."

What if God had this attitude toward us? And is this the example we see in Scripture? Why was Naaman the Syrian healed? Did he "obey" God; keep the commandments? At the end of the narrative regarding Naaman, it is obvious that he did not, and was not going to, seeing as he would continue to go into a pagan temple with his king, and bow before a false god, contrary to the commandment.

Jesus the Christ says Naaman was healed as a matter of faith, and that there were many lepers in Israel at the time; Israelites who kept the Law. (Luke 4:27) So is healing truly dependent upon keeping the commandments, such as the Sabbath? Were all those who were healed by Jesus keeping the commandments, such as Gentiles He healed? Or are we going to insist on reading into Scripture what isn't there?

Along with this same thought of Armstrong's, he continues and says, "God does not compromise with SIN." (p. 66)

Then why did Jesus not condemn the woman caught in adultery? Why did he not condone her stoning, in accordance with the Law? If Jesus and those there were so in touch with the Law and keeping it, why didn't they "keep" it? What we see here is the typical black and white thinking Armstrong and other religious cult leaders are so famous for.

On page 66, Armstrong writes the following:

"At the next intersection, the steering wheel of the car automatically turned to the right. I felt the wheel turning. I resisted it. It kept turning right. Instantly I applied all my strength to counteract it, and keep steering straight ahead. My strength was of no avail. Some unseen force was turning that steering wheel against all my strength. The car had turned to the right into the street one block east of the home of the cripple."

Are we to believe this event actually happened or is it likely this is a fabrication? As mentioned earlier, there is no way we can verify the account. We either take his word for it, or reject it due to skepticism.

What makes the story even less convincing is that an examination of a map of Foster Rd. that he refers to, where the car made a right hand turn one block after passing the intersection where the crippled man lived, then going a long block which only turned right with no left turn, does not exist the entire length of Foster where Foster heads in an easterly direction. If this section of Foster did exist at all, it would have to be where the 205 now cuts through Foster where Foster is southeast in its orientation. This is highly unlikely. There are no "long blocks" associated with this area off of Foster.

On page 69, under the heading, "The Supreme Creative Accomplishment" Armstrong makes the case for God being unable by "fiat" to create perfect, holy, righteous character as is inherent in God. This character "must be developed." Yet he also makes the claim that this perfect character comes from God. (p. 70). More Orwellian doublespeak. More confusion fostered in the mind of those who would wish to understand God and His ways.

"It comes by yielding to God to instill HIS LAW (God's right way of life) within the entity who decides and wills." (p. 70)

This claim does not square well with Scripture. If we are talking about God placing the Holy Spirit within a man, it is a matter of faith that this happens and not choosing to live by the law of commandments, given to Israel through Moses. The law God instills in those that believe is a law of love, written on the heart, and not a law that was written in stone. (See Hebrews 8) In Armstrong's theology, keeping the letter of the Law is seen as the process for developing this character.3

It is also curious as to why he brings up this subject regarding man's character development in relation to God in a chapter that is supposed to be devoted to explaining the "mystery" of Angels and evil spirits.

"What was God's ultimate objective for the angels? Beyond question it is that which, now, because of angelic rebellion, has become the transcendent potential of humans!" (p. 70)

This is "beyond question?" What then of those angels who did not rebel? They are penalized because of the actions of the angels that did rebel?

Again we see an example of the author being emphatic when there is no basis for being emphatic.

"Angels were created with power of thought, of decision and of choice, else they have no individuality of character. Since sin is the transgression of God's law, these angels rebelled against God's law, the basis of God's government." (p. 72)

The author resorts to assumptions here, never truly defining "God's law" and continues with the assumption God is dealing with both angels and mankind through the mode of government. One must understand that Satan rebelled against God; not God's government; not God's law.

The author then goes on to claim that "universal sin brings about universal destruction to the physical earth." It is a conclusion drawn from inference. He then goes on to claim the whole earth was destroyed with the flood of Noah's time. Was it truly destroyed? No, the narrative says the earth was covered over with water, resulting in the death of the rest of mankind and animal life. This hardly qualifies as the whole earth being "destroyed."

Armstrong uses the example of Sodom and Gomorrah to back his claim in this regard, yet Jesus mentioned that those of Sodom and Gomorrah would be those who would condemn those religious leaders who held to the Law and who were to kill Jesus. Jerusalem was destroyed later in 70 A.D. and this put a final end to the religious system of the old covenant. You could hardly claim, though, that it came about as a result of breaking the Law of that old covenant.

Finally, on page 73, Armstrong qualifies part of the mystery of Angels and evil spirits; they inhabited the earth prior to man. There's an earth-shaking revelation.

Again, on page 77, Armstrong makes the case that God cannot create righteous character. Else, he argues, Lucifer would not have sinned. But another possibility arises. Maybe God can create a being with perfect character, but given time, that being can become corrupt instead. Wouldn't the argument for having the power of choice and decision allow for this possibility for one created "perfectly?" What do the Scriptures say about Satan in this regard?

Ezekiel 28:15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

On page 77, Armstrong now introduces the concept of duality from his theology. Everything, it would seem, has duality. The angels, according to him, were to finish the creation of the earth. They were to "put the icing on the cake" as it were. The reader is not given much further information on this "duality principle" but you can be sure it will come up later in his writings as an established fact, such as in the very next page.

A Scripture addressed to Israel (Isaiah 14) is given a duality in that it is to apply to "not necessarily or exclusively the Israelis or Judah—". (p. 78) Much of what Armstrong taught was based in the Old Testament and that which applied to Israel and Judah, through dualism, is to apply to Christians as well. No proof or rationale is forthcoming from Armstrong regarding the validity of this dualism. It is to be "self-evident."

Pages 84-5:

But continue: "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity [lawlessness] was found in thee" (Ezek. 28:15)...
He had turned to lawlessness. He had been trained in the administration of perfect law and order.

Armstrong insists that iniquity be defined as lawlessness only. Yet the Hebrew word here translated iniquity does not relate to lawlessness; the breaking of a law. In Armstrong's theology however, all sin must be lawlessness. Otherwise, a large portion of his theology falls flat on its face as a result.

On pages 85 and 86, Armstrong gives a scenario as to how the angels sinned. The parallel is obvious in that he is drawing a scenario as to how those who would oppose Armstrong would be perceived by those who remain blindly loyal to him. This scenario does not mesh with what Scripture says; it is conjecture. Scripture says Satan's heart was lifted up. He thought he was more than he really was. If we are willing to see it, this is exactly what Armstrong did. He lifted himself up. He exalted himself. He taught, and apparently ended up believing, he was God's only true representative on earth. He was "God's one true apostle." He demanded loyalty to him. Loyalty to him and "the church" was loyalty to the "Government of God"— and not God! One wonders if Satan might have used this same formula, claiming loyalty to him was loyalty to what God had ordained, what with Satan being the "ruler" of the world. The reader needs to observe that the theme is one of rebelling against God's government more so than rebelling against God.

In the concluding statements of Chapter 2, Armstrong makes his case for mankind having the potential to become members of the God family. He states this as an emphatic, which is a clue to the reader that it should not be taken emphatically. (p. 95) Christians are described in the Bible as being the sons of God. (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14; I John 3:1,2) This should not be confused with being like God as God is God.

Concluding comments on Chapter 2:

Armstrong hammers again on "God's law" and "God's government" being the central theme regarding angels and evil spirits. I am reminded of a man who was on a speech debate team, and regardless of the subject he was given to speak on, he always found a way to tie the subject in with water; the quality of water and the availability of water and the need for water. This is exactly the methodology used by Armstrong in his explanations of mysteries. It is the same tired old repetition of law and government and everything being defined and related to it.

Armstrong hammers again on "God's law" and "God's government" being the central theme regarding angels and evil spirits. I am reminded of a man who was on a speech debate team, and regardless of the subject he was given to speak on, he always found a way to tie the subject in with water; the quality of water and the availability of water and the need for water. This is exactly the methodology used by Armstrong in his explanations of mysteries. It is the same tired old repetition of law and government and everything being defined and related to it.

By William Hohmann
Exit & Support Network™
May 2004

Next to MOA Chapter Three 

Table of Contents & Intro | Chap. 1 | Chap. 2 | Chap. 3 | Chap. 4 | Chap. 5 | Chap. 6Chap 7  

Footnotes for Chapter Two:

1 Joseph Smith (1805-1844), founder of Mormons: The Latter-day Saints, claimed that an angel appeared to him in a vision and told him about a set of golden plates that contained the account of former inhabitants of North America and which were supposed to contain the "fullness of the everlasting gospel." (Richard Lee and Ed Hindson, Angels of Deceit: The Masterminds Behind Religious Deceptions (Harvest House Publishers, 1993) p. 230.

2 Ellen G. White (1827-1915), co-founder of the 7th-day Adventist Church (SDA), was said to have received approximately 2,000 visions and dreams. She was first a follower of William Miller.

3 "Developing character" or "building character" is a phrase HWA liked to use, but it is not one found in the Bible. Instead, the Scriptures speak about how Christians are to love one another (John 13:34); abide in Christ (John 15:4); grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18); walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), etc.


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