The Wonderful World Tomorrow:
What it WON'T Be Like
Herbert W. Armstrong hated heaven. He made fun of it, calling it "eternal retirement," while depicting the saved as "sitting around, idly doing nothing" for all eternity. He wanted us to detest heaven. One only needs to look at Lesson 3 of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course to see what he thought about heaven. There's a photo of an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman playing cards in a retirement home. He belittled heaven, stating that we would be doing nothing in this paradise, just like this little old lady. (Did any of us question how he would know?) He didn't want us to desire to be with Jesus, so he gave us the "Wonderful World Tomorrow" as a substitute.
HWA painted this future, glorious Millennial paradise on earth1 as the answer to all the world's problems (instead of Jesus being the answer today). There would be "no pain, no diseases, no crime, no wars"--it was the "utter utopia" that mankind had been longing for. "God's Government" (The Worldwide Church of God) would be established, and we Worldwiders would be changed into spirit beings (gods) and help run this new society and teach the remaining post-war survivors "God's true Way of Life" for a thousand years. It sounded so wonderful. Not only would we benefit, but all of sinful mankind would be eventually resurrected to partake of this utopian world. Almost everyone would be saved (except ones like Hitler, of course).
Herbert Armstrong sold us a dream. And we would have to work hard to "qualify" to be a part of this glorious dream. We had to make sure we paid all tithes, kept all the Holy Days, the Sabbath, and most of all, we had to make sure that we never, ever, ever rebelled against "God's Church." It seemed easy enough.
I bought into the idea so much that I failed to question very deeply about the details of this millennial paradise. For instance, why did we, the special "called out ones," handpicked by God in this present time, the "firstfruits," (and any other term we used to exalt our "elite status"), have to do all the work to rebuild this new world after the awful destruction of Armageddon, only to have it inhabited by sinners? The "qualified" Worldwide members would completely refurbish the earth during the "thousand years of peace," and return it to an Eden-like existence. Then the sinners, who had never repented in their lifetime, would come up in the "Second Resurrection," and would be given a chance to live in this paradise--which brings up an interesting point.
Why is it, if we messed up in this life, God would deal with us--His chosen--so harshly, but be so easy on sinners who hated Him and wouldn't repent? Think about it. Here we are, in this present life, serving God to the best of our ability, giving up whatever sinful pleasures there are, and if we mess up just once (by asking too many questions and by being disfellowshipped), God is going to throw us into the Lake of Fire.
Let's continue with this thought. Let's say across the street from you lives "Joe Sinner." He parties every weekend, indulges in sexual immorality, and whenever anyone tries to tell him about Jesus, he defiantly replies, "I don't need Him. I'm my own god." So, according to Armstrong's theology, in the "Second Resurrection," you will both be resurrected, and you are tossed into the Lake of Fire, while "Joe Sinner" gets a second chance!! He is escorted to paradise earth, the "Wonderful World Tomorrow," where he will enjoy all the fruits of your labor, while you are ashes under his feet. God lavishly rewards sinners, but punishes believers who had spent their lives serving Him. Doesn't sound "fair," does it?
Now let's look at this "Wonderful World Tomorrow" even closer. We were told that pretty much everything would be destroyed by a nuclear holocaust (except those of us hanging out at Petra), but God would intervene on our behalf and spare the world from total destruction. So this Brave New World begins grimly with billions of dead bodies lying about (Don't forget that your unconverted loved ones are buried in those bone piles. Those that didn't "flee" with us). Now remember, there are 6-1/2 billion people on earth today, and we in WCG were only 144,000. That's a lot of bodies to wait for all the birds, beasts, and worms to pick clean. After that begins the mass burials (we can't have them lying around in our paradise--that would be too disgusting). But there's a problem!
Since this is no longer Satan's world, then there are no more factories to pollute the environment. Of course, without factories, we can't manufacture bulldozers, and since all the bulldozers (and other kinds of heavy construction equipment) were destroyed during the worldwide nuclear war, the bodies can't be pushed into the burial pits (depicted in all those Basil Wolverton drawings2). Now the skeletons will have to be buried manually--yep, by shovel--if you can find one. So yes, Armstrong may have saved us from "eternal Retirement in heaven," but he failed to describe the backbreaking labor we would be performing to clean up this annihilated earth. (But don't tell Armstrong that the Jehovah's Witnesses will be right there beside us, because they believe the same thing.) And the bodies are just the beginning. Think of all the destroyed buildings, the piles of rubble that have to be removed, before the cities can be rebuilt--which leads to another problem.
The "Wonderful World Tomorrow" depicted beautiful homes that would be built for people to inhabit. Remember, there will be some survivors. They will need food, shelter and clothing. Where will all these things come from? All stores, roads, farms, factories--society as we know it, this whole "satanic system"--will be destroyed. We were given a picture of a world that would "finally do things God's way" and reap unprecedented abundance, only we're not given much detail as to how all of this will come about. (One would think that God would have been revealing these important details to His "Apostle.") Think about all the pictures of the "Wonderful World Tomorrow" that filled the pages of The Plain Truth and Good News magazines. Beautiful homes located next to snow-capped mountains, and a crystal clear stream cascading by, pristine air to breath. People wearing high-quality clothing of their ethnic origin, smiling at each other while baskets filled with fresh, homegrown produce perched nearby. A smiling family gets ready to eat, sitting at a picnic table, with a large shading umbrella protecting them from the bright sun. (Hmmm, is that umbrella made out of polyurethane? Wonder where that came from?) They invite an elderly lady to sit with them and join them in their afternoon meal. Yes, these pictures were enticing. These pictures promised us that hunger, pollution, loneliness, pesticide-filled foods, etc., will no longer be a part of this world.
We were told that once Satan was bound, mankind would finally begin to choose "God's way." But--there would be a few who wouldn't submit to God's "Way of Life." These few would only live 100 years (a trial period), and then they would die and come up in the "Third Resurrection" (after a thousand-years of peace on the earth).
Wait a minute--did you catch that? You mean a person could sin in this period of time??3 You mean there is death in this picture-perfect paradise?? According to Armstrong, if a person doesn't submit to "God's Government," then they are rebelling against God. This is sin, and the penalty for sin is death (remember, Herbert said so)!! So if this person commits murder, then somebody is getting killed! Now a murdered person will need a funeral. But there aren't supposed to be any mortuaries in this paradise! What about the rebellious person that committed the murder? Will he have a fair trial? What if he's 20 when he commits this sin? Does he have to wait another 80 years before dying? Will he have to go to jail until then? But there aren't supposed to be any jails in this paradise! Once he's put to death at 100 years of age, where will he be buried? Now you need a cemetery. Who will put him to death? Now you need an executioner. So now this paradise is beginning to look like the old earth as far as problems go.
What about heaven? Is it as bad as Armstrong made it out to be? There's no sin in heaven, no dying, no sorrow, no pain. Get your Bible Concordance and look up all the Scriptures about heaven in the New Testament. You will be surprised what the reward of the saved truly is. Those who love the Lord will be with Him for all eternity. Why did we let HWA make us think that this was so awful?
After looking more carefully at the "Wonderful World Tomorrow," I now know that God had a better solution. Eternal life is a free gift--we need only to ask. I no longer fear death, the Tribulation, fleeing to the "Place of Safety," qualifying for the Kingdom, the United States of Europe, Armageddon, the ancient Assyrians and anything else that put such paralyzing fear in us. Perfect love casts out all fear. When we understand God's perfect love toward us, through His Son Jesus, we are no longer held in fear.
Exit & Support Network™
October 4, 2003
Footnotes by ESN:
1 Herbert Armstrong's "World Tomorrow" resembled a "one world government," or "united world" that many New Agers and globalists have long wanted to bring to fruition. "One world government" is just another term for new world order. At the WCG Feast of Tabernacles in1995, it was proclaimed: "At the resurrection, the saints will take their place in a new world order under Jesus Christ." (The Worldwide News, June 20, 1995) More info is in our OIU Newsletters. Also read: Did Herbert W. Armstrong Have God's Truth? (compares what WCG members were taught to look forward to and what many New Agers and occultists are looking forward to)
2 Basil Wolverton (a comic artist) was drawn to HWA's radio broadcast, "The World Tomorrow," in the 1930's. He was baptized in the WCG in 1941 and ordained an elder in 1943. After HWA moved to Pasadena, California in 1946, he let Basil Wolverton pastor a congregation in the Portland, Oregon area. Wolverton went from comics to artistic work in horror and sci-fi comics in 1952. From 1954 to 1955 he worked for Mad magazine and then retired from comics until the 1970's. During the 1950's HWA had Wolverton draw a series of horrifying and grotesque scenes which depicted the "end of the age." These drawings were first featured in The Plain Truth and then later placed in six volumes of The Bible Story (the early edition he also wrote; the installments of The Bible Story were published in The Plain Truth, beginning in November 1958). These soft bound volumes were published by Ambassador College from 1961-1968. These illustrations were later reprinted in two booklets, 1975 in Prophecy and The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last. All during the 60's and 70's he remained active in the local WCG ministry while he worked on The Bible Story (which covered the Old Testament only). He had a stroke in 1974 and died December 31, 1978. Read: Basil Wolverton and "The Bible Story" (letter to ESN). Monte Wolverton is son of Basil Wolverton. He was a local elder in Pasadena in 1988 and in 2005 was Managing Editor of Plain Truth Ministries (PTM). He also has a cartoon site of his own.
3 Many things that HWA taught contradicted themselves. On one hand he lifted verse 21 from Isaiah 30 to say that humans in the "World Tomorrow" would hear a voice ("from WCG members who are now spirit beings") behind them whenever they started to do something wrong, but then he turned around and taught that there would a hundred-year period--the "second resurrection" to take place after the thousand years--where there would be sinners who could live 100 years. HWA invented this 100-year period by lifting Isaiah 65:20 out of context and then combining it with John 7:37 to come up with "The Last Great Day" (i. e., the "eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles").