Herbert W. Armstrong A False Prophet

By Frank Jamerson

The word of God commands us: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”(1 Jn. 4:1). Moses said, “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 come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shaft not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:21, 22). God, through Jeremiah, said; “The prophet that bath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully …. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord” (Jer. 23:28, 32).

Many who read and hear Mr. Armstrong’s prophecies of imminent doom are not aware that he has rewritten his major work The United States and Britain in Prophecy and changed the time of his predictions. A careful consideration of his writings will force one to the plain truth that he is a presumptuous prophet who has spoken his “dreams” instead of the truth.

In order to understand the presumptuousness of his writings, we must understand that Mr. Armstrong claims that his “revelations” are “by God’s direction and authority” (The United States and Britain in Propecy, 1980 edition, p.184; we will abbreviate this “USBP”). He believes that biblical prophecies were “closed and sealed. . . until now. And even now they can be understood only by those who possess the master key to unlock them” (USBP, p. 5). In his Plain Truth of January, 1959, he claimed that 90% of all prophecies in the Bible began to be fulfilled in 1934, with the commencement of his work. Alan E. Highers gave a brief summary of his pretentious claims. “(1) Jesus began his teaching and training of the disciples for their world-wide mission in 27 A.D. Exactly one hundred time cycles later, in 1927 A.D., God began the intensive training of Herbert W. Armstrong to carry that same gospel. (He believes that he is the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10.) (2) Jesus began his earthly ministry at age 30. (3) The apostles were endued with power on the day of Pentecost in 31 A.D., and Herbert W. Armstrong was ordained to preach on or near the day of Pentecost in 1931 A.D., just one hundred time cycles later. A time cycle, according to Armstrong, is nineteen years. (4) The apostles began preaching in 31 A.D., says Armstrong, and for one time cycle (nineteen years) their preaching was confined to one continent, but in 50 A.D. Paul carried the gospel to Europe. Likewise Armstrong began to preach on radio in January 1934 and one time cycle later (nineteen years), in January, 1953, he began broadcasting to Europe. (5) From the time Paul carried the gospel to Europe in 50 A.D. it was another time cycle to 69 A.D. when the disciples fled Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. So, Armstrong began broadcasting in Europe in January of 1953, therefore he opines that in one time cycle (he wrote this prediction in 1959) the termination of opportunity to preach the gospel would likely come. That would have been 1972 which has come and gone” (Via The Spiritual Sword, January 1978, p.18).

Remember these “time cycles” when we quote from his original edition of USBP. The nineteen years “time cycle” is a product of his fertile imagination, not Bible teaching, and it has now been demonstrated to be false, though his followers are impressed with his comparisons of himself to Jesus and the apostles.

In The Inside Story of the World Tomorrow Broadcast, Mr. Armstrong said, “For two 19-year time cycles the original apostles did proclaim this Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom fo God, but in A.D. 69 they fled…. For eighteen and one-half centuries that gospel was not preached. The world was deceived into accepting a false gospel. Today Christ has raised up His work and once again allotted two 19-year time cycles for proclaiming His same Gospel, preparatory to His Second Coming”(via The Plain Truth About Armstrongism, Roger R. Chambers, p.15).

The plain truth is that Mr. Armstrong’s “two 19-year time cycles” ended in 1972 and the second coming of Christ did not take place, so he is a false prophet! Not only is this true, but he knows that he is a false prophet! In 1972 he revised his 1967 edition of USBP, and changed the dates of his predictions, but still makes the same predictions! Here are the six places that he changed his predictions:

1967 Edition 1972 Revision
“Events of the next five years may prove this to be the most significant book of this century. 

People of the Western World would be STUNNED! – DUMBFOUNDED! – if they knew! . . .” (Foreword of book)

“People of the Western world would be stunned – dumbfounded – if they knew! . . .” (Foreword of book)
“A STAGGERING TURN in world events in due to erupt in the next four to seven years” (p. ix) “A STAGGERING TURN in world events is due to erupt in the next few years” (p. ix)
“The great world Powers are formulating their policies – laying their plans. But the next five to seven years will see astounding events explode in a manner very different than the nations plan! WHY?” (pg. x, xi) “The great world powers are formulating their policies – laying their plans. But the next few years will see astounding events explode in a manner very different than the nation plan! Why?” (pg. x, xi)
“The events prophesied to strike the American and British peoples in the next four to seven years are SURE!” (p. xii) “The events prophesied to strike the American and British peoples in the next few years are SURE!” (p. xii)
“It bears repeating! Events of the next five years may prove this to be the most significant book of this century!” (p. 10) (This space is blank! It did not “bear repeating”!)
“You need to look at 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” (p. 185) “You need to look at 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” (p. 163, quotes from 1980 printing)

When his predictions did not come true, he simply changed the time for their fulfillment and reprinted his book! Did the Bible change between 1967 and 1972? All Bible believers know the answer to that! The plain truth is that Mr. Armstrong is a false prophet and he knows it!

Mr. Armstrong’s interpretation of prophecy is based on his British-Israel theory. He claims that the meaning of prophecy was “closed and sealed till the time of the end – till the latter half of the twentieth century”(USBP, p. 6). The “Master Key” that he found is “the identity of the United States and British nations in these prophecies today” (USBP, p. 9). His amazing “discovery” “by God’s direction and authority” was that “our white, English-speaking peoples today – Britain and America – are actually and truly the birthright tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh” (USBP, p. 95). Another writer will discuss this false theory in detail, but we will simply point out that the theory was not “lost” until the “latter half of the twentieth century” as Mr. Armstrong claims. In 1902, Mr. J.H. Allen wrote Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright. Notice a few comparisons between that book and Mr. Armstrong’s writing.

Judah’s Scepter and Joseph’s Birthright United States and Britain in Prophecy
“But the great bulk of Israelites are not Jews, just as the great bulk of Americans are not Californians” (p. 71). “Jews are Israelites, just as Californians are Americans. But most Israelites are not Jews, just as most Americans are not Californians.” (p. 65).
“The very understanding of this difference is the KEY by which almost the entire Bible become intelligible, and I cannot state too strongly that the man who has not yet seen that Israel of the Scripture is totally distinct from the Jewish people, is yet in the very infancy, the mere alphabet, of Biblical study, and that to this day the meaning of seven-eights of the Bible is shut to his understanding” (p. 79). “We want to impress, here, that Israel and Judah are not two names for the same nation. They were, and still are, and shall be till the second coming of Christ, two separate nations . . . . This distinction is vital, if we are to understand prophecy . . . This is the KEY, and a master key, to Bible understanding!” (pp. 66, 68).
“We have brought you through this group of words to show that ‘ish,’ in the Hebrew means ‘a man.’ Now take the Hebrew word which is translated covenant, which in its original form has no vowel, but which in its Anglicized form retains the vowel ‘i’ to preserve the ‘y’ sound, and we have “Brith,’ which joined with ‘ish’ is Brith-ish, and means ‘a covenant man’ Today the British people, or men of the covenant, are called Britons, and are dwelling in the British Isles!!!” (p. 275). “The Hebrew for ‘man’ is ‘iysh,’ or ‘ish.’ In English the ending ‘ish’ means ‘of or belonging to (a specified nation or person).’ In the original Hebrew language vowels were never given in the spelling. So omitting the vowel ‘e’ from berith, but retaining the ‘i’ in its anglicized form to preserve the ‘y’ sound, we have the anglicized Hebrew word for covenant, brith . . . So the Hebrew word for ‘covenant’ would be pronounced, in its anglicized form as birth. 

And the word for ‘covenant man’ or ‘covenant people,’ would therefore be simply ‘BRIT-ISH'” (p. 95).

In a chapter entitled “Dan – The Serpent’s Trail,” He quotes Gen. 49:17; Joshua 19:47; Judges 18:11, 12 and 18:29 and says: “And just here we must keep in mind the fact that in the ancient Hebrew there are no written vowels, and that in the word Dan there are only two letters used which are equivalent to the English, D and N. Hence it makes no difference if the word is Dan, Don, Dun, Din or Den . . .” (pp. 259-262). In a chapter entitled” Dan a Serpent’s Trail,” he quotes Gen. 49:17; Joshua 18:11, 12 and 18:29 and says: “The, the word ‘Dan’ in its English equivalent could be spelled, simply, ‘Dn.’ It might be pronounced as ‘Dan,’ or ‘Den,’ or ‘Din,’ or ‘Don,’ or ‘Dun’ – and still could be the same original Hebrew name” (p. 96, 97). (This is how they both get Danites in Ireland!)

Other parallels could be given, but these are sufficient to show that the “master key” that Mr. Armstrong claims was “lost” until the “later half of the twentieth century” and then was written “by God’s direction ” was certainly known by Mr. Allen in 1902. A study of the two books leads me to believe that Mr. Armstrong found his “key” from Mr. Allen instead of God. It is a fanciful theory contrived by manipulating words and twisting Scripture. It certainly does not fit the truth!

In spite of the fact that Mr. Armstrong missed his prophecy on 1972, he continues to forecast doomsday in “this generation.” In a booklet Is This the End Time? (1971), he contends that “this generation” of Matthew 24:34 is our generation, because we have “the doomsday weapon.” He says, “the Bible reveals that Jesus Christ is likely to return to set up His world-ruling kingdom in your lifetime and mine! (That is, barring any unforeseen termination of your life or mine!) Christ’s return will likely occur in this very generation!” (pp. 29, 30).

Herbert W. Armstrong was born on July 31, 1892, so he has not had an “unforeseen termination” of his life! Will his followers admit that his is a false prophet if he dies before his prophecy is fulfilled? Probably, they will rewrite the same prophecies and change the date of fulfillment-just as Mr. Armstrong has done.

“This generation” of Matthew 24:34 did not refer to the one of 1914 (as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim), nor to 1948 (as Hal Lindsey and many other premillennialists teach), nor “our generation” (as Mr. Armstrong, Seventh-Day Adventists and perhaps others teach). The events of Matthew 24 took place in the generation of those who heard Jesus. (See Matt. 1:17; 11:16; 12:38-45; 16:4; 23:36 for use of the word “generation.”) The “signs” given by Jesus in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 all came to pass in the, destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., just as Jesus predicted.

When Mr. Armstrong’s predictions of “four to seven years” from 1967 did not come true, he rewrote his book and changed the time of his predictions. His “time cycles” are not true. His prediction of the second coming within his lifetime (“this generation”) is a perversion of what Jesus said. “Thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 11, pp. 322-324
June 2, 1983