Who was Herbert W. Armstrong?
Was Herbert W. Armstrong the Final Elijah?
Dear Teachers in Training:
There are still those who honor Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong today, yet who remain unconvinced he was the prophesied end-time Elijah. Clearly, the Bible says such a man is to come, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). But was Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong the final Elijah, or should we look for another? Verse 6 of Malachi 4 defines the commission of the end-time Elijah as follows: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” The word curse here can be translated utter destruction. Christ makes reference to such destruction in Matthew 24, and in so doing helps to explain the relationship between the fathers and children of Malachi 4. Please take note of Matthew 24:21-22, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” The “elect” here, of course, refers to the Christians whom God says He will protect throughout this terrible time because of their faithfulness (Rev. 3:10, Rev 17:14). The children of Malachi 4:6 include these elect Christians. The fathers are the righteous fathers of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but would also include those who have proved faithful to God in Old Testament times, such as Noah, David, and Daniel.
Since the fathers, in their time, repented and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, as will have end-time Christians, they will be united with the rest of the 144,000, mentioned in Revelation 14:1, 4, as the Firstfruits of God. Through resurrection and change to spirit, their hearts will be turned to each other. All must accept Christ as their personal Savior (Acts 4:12). Thus, all are united in Christ.
Now there was to be a type of Elijah, who was to precede the First Coming of Jesus. Christ declared that man to be John the Baptist. In Matthew 17, Christ's disciples wanted to know why the scribes said, “that Elias [Elijah] must come first.”
11And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist (Matt. 17:11-13).
Now, please take careful note of verse 11. This verse is not talking about John, but rather about the end-time Elijah, since the verse is in the future tense. Verse 12 makes it clear that John is already dead. Coming back to verse 11, we see that it is the end-time Elijah who is to restore “all things.” This in turn means that the truth which John and Jesus understood would in the future to be perverted, watered down, or partially lost, and thus would be in need of restoration:
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars . . . Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee (Rev: 3:1a, 2-3).
This was exactly the condition Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong found God's Church in during the early part of the twentieth century. He was, under God's inspiration, the Restorer of Lost Truths!
Now what is a key ingredient necessary for restoration? It is given in Revelation 3:3, but is also mentioned specifically in respect to the Elijah commission in Matthew 3:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Matt. 3:1-3). [see also Isa. 40:3].
Repentance for breaking God's law and His gracious pardon make it possible for humans to gain eternal life and to rule in that kingdom. Ongoing repentance makes it possible for the Christian to be prepared.
In connection with turning the heart of the fathers to the children, note what Christ says to the Jewish religious leadership which refused to repent.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Matt. 3:7-9).
The Pharisees and Sadducees regarded themselves as Abraham's children, and physically they were, but their refusal to repent nullified them from being spiritual children of faithful Abraham. That honor is reserved for faithful Christians.
Brethren, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, and Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong alone, restored from the Bible what was necessary to gain salvation. We are the beneficiaries of his faithfulness and hard work in the face of great opposition over many years.
Even though the great falling away of II Thessalonians 2 has happened, as prophesied, those who have held fast faithfully still retain those restored truths. We still have them, therefore we don't need another restorer to come. Elijah has come, and his name was Herbert W. Armstrong!
Clearly, without repentance we cannot please God. If we don't please God, He will not bless us with understanding. Without repentance we cannot even begin to make the changes that God requires. Without it as a first step, there is no hope of restoration. But, how can anyone repent of sin if they cannot define what sin is? Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong took the Bible and showed us that sin is the breaking of God's law. No Protestant television-evangelist was prepared to do that, since they teach that God's law is done away with. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong truly was a voice crying out in a religious wilderness.
We wouldn't be keeping the Sabbath, the holy days, the Passover, the law, or tithing if we had not come to realize that God wanted us to keep them, so He could bless us. Yet to keep them we had to turn 180° away from the ways of Satan's society; and that is what repentance means - to turn around and go in the opposite direction.
God grants repentance, but He also works through men. Although He opened our minds to see what He requires of us, He used Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to provide the information through sermons, Bible studies, booklets, and various articles, all based on God's word.
Some feel that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong could not be the final Elijah, since He has been dead now for over fifteen years, and Malachi 3:1 says once Elijah has prepared the way, the Lord will come “suddenly” to His temple. This verse in no way talks about a time-span, but rather the fact that Christ's coming will be sudden or unexpected. In Luke 21:35, Christ says, “For as a snare shall it [that day] come upon all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” He is referring to all humanity, including Laodicean Christians. Paul, in I Thessalonians 5:2, says that the day of the Lord will come upon most people as “a thief in the night,” sudden and unexpected!
Malachi 4:5 states that the end-time Elijah will come before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord,” but again, it doesn't say how long before. God commissioned Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to restore lost truths so that he could complete his assignment of taking the good news of the coming kingdom to the world as a witness. Once that was completed, God allowed Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to die, in order to test the Church.
Since January 16, 1986, we have entered the end times. In this final period, we have already experienced the Church of God falling away from the truth (except for a small Philadelphian remnant). This falling away from the truth has led to a famine of God's word and the rise of Laodiceanism. All of this has taken over fifteen years. The coming of the two witnesses and the tribulation begin to loom large in the near future.
Again, there are those who think that perhaps one of the two witnesses could be the end-time Elijah, but this is not true either. Although bringing fire down from heaven, as the two witnesses will do, is an Elijah-like act, it isn't consistent with the commission of the end-time Elijah to call for repentance and restoration of the truth, before the terrible time of God's wrath upon the earth and mankind. In that regard, the two witnesses are God's instruments during the three and one-half years of the tribulation.
The condition of the Church today should not surprise us. It was prophesied! Two groups of Christians exist today, defined in Revelation 3 as Philadelphians and Laodiceans. Philadelphians are promised protection during the tribulation, because they hold fast to the truths restored by the end-time Elijah. Laodicean Christians must endure the tribulation for two reasons:
1) Failing to recognize who Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was, and
2) Letting go of much that God used him to restore.
We still preserve and defend those restored truths brethren, and we know who Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was. As a result, we continue to grow in grace and knowledge because we hold fast the great and precious promises God has given us through His end-time Elijah, Herbert W. Armstrong.
In Christ's service,
Robert J. Elliott
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