Christian Churches of God
(Edition 2.5 19971220-20080203-20200725)
This paper examines the proposition that has been put by some churches that Herbert W. Armstrong was Elijah and that his son, Garner Ted Armstrong, or later his successor, Joseph W. Tkach, typified Elisha.
One could not help but notice the letter in The Journal: News of the Churches of God, Vol. I No. 10 (21 Nov. 1997), clinging to the fiction somewhat cynically taught by the Worldwide Church of God ministry that Herbert Armstrong was Elijah. The brethren were also taught that Garner Ted Armstrong was Elisha and the mantle was to be given to him. Then the brethren were taught that the mantle had dropped on Joe Tkach, who was Elisha. The ministry that said this would often embarrassingly clear their throat when they said it, as it was so obviously absurd.
It is time to apply some clear thinking to this fiction and put it to rest, hopefully once and for all, in the minds of the thinking people left in the Church and prevent us from any more embarrassment over the claims emanating from the brainwashed minority of the churches.
Promise of God
1. Elijah was to come and he was to restore all things (Mal. 4:5-6).
2. Christ said that Elijah would truly come and restore all things. He also said that he had come already, and referred to John the Baptist. Thus the Elijah to come was preceded by an ante-type.
Test: If Herbert Armstrong were Elijah, he would have restored all things. He is dead and so his works are complete. He himself can do nothing more until the First or Second Resurrection, whichever one he finds himself in.
If we can find one thing he did not restore then he could not by definition be the Elijah to come, as he could not, by admission, have restored all things.
It is now dishonestly claimed that he set in train the restoration of all things. That argument can be applied to any person in the Church from Christ and the first-century Apostles onwards.
Test example 1: The Jubilee system
The correct application of the biblical system of both tithing and the Law is dependent upon the Jubilee. Nowhere was it ever claimed by Herbert Armstrong or his ministry that he restored the Jubilee system. Some of his ministers knew and admitted that they knew where the Jubilee system could be identified and restored, yet none did identify the Jubilee system to the brethren nor did they restore it (see the paper The Meaning of Ezekiel’s Vision (No. 108)).
On this system depended the correct reading of the Law and also the tithe system (see the paper Tithing (No. 161)). What was instituted in place of the Jubilee was a fictitious cycle of three years from individual baptism, and each person was instructed to tithe on a basis of every three years. This was clearly contrary to Scripture, which requires the ‘tithe of the third year’ only in the third year of the seven-year cycle. Moreover, the seventh year was not a tithe year according to Law. Thus Herbert Armstrong not only did not restore the Jubilee cycle, but he also taught against it and instructed his ministry to teach against it. On this ground alone he could not have been Elijah.
Test example 2: The Reading of the Law
According to the Law itself, the entire Law must be read at the Feast every seven years in the seventh year of the Jubilee cycle. This commenced from the Feast of Trumpets with Ezra/Nehemiah, and at Tabernacles. This was clearly done by Ezra and Nehemiah in accordance with the Law during their restoration (Neh. 8:1-18; see also the paper Reading the Law with Ezra and Nehemiah (No. 250)). The Law is found in Deuteronomy 31:9-12 (see the papers on the Law series, Nos. 252-263). This was not done in the ministry of Herbert Armstrong. Hence, he did not restore this aspect of the Law, and on this ground also he could not have been Elijah.
Test examples 3 and 4: The New Moons and the Calendar
Isaiah 66:23 is clear that the New Moons are restored in the final restoration (see the various papers on the New Moons and also God’s Calendar (No. 156)). Thus, the understanding must be part of the final restoration. The New Moons were not restored by Herbert Armstrong. He kept some New Moon-evening Bible studies in the early days, but gave it up. In fact, those Bible studies took place on the day prescribed by the Hillel calendar, which we know was not in use at the time of Christ and was not the calendar used by Christ or John the Baptist during the Temple period.
Thus on these two grounds also he cannot be the Elijah to come, as he did not restore the New Moons nor the correct calendar used by Christ and the Elijah ante-type, John the Baptist. It follows that Elijah must follow the same calendar and system as his predecessors and Messiah.
Test example 5: The Offerings
Elijah must restore the correct offering system. There are three offerings a year: at Passover, at Pentecost and at Ingathering on the Feast of Tabernacles. These must be taken up at the beginning of the Feast and must not be left to remain until the morning (Ex. 23:14-19). See also the paper Offering (No. 275).
Herbert Armstrong did not do this. He instituted seven offerings a year instead of three, and on this ground he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 6: Atonement
Herbert Armstrong taught and instructed that an offering be taken up on Atonement, when it is expressly forbidden to do so. From Exodus 30:15, the Atonement tax is a levy and no man can give more or less than another. It is the Law. This tax was paid for us by Christ (see the paper Atonement (No. 138)). On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 7: The Wave-Sheaf Offering
The Wave-Sheaf Offering is a commanded assembly of the Church. Leviticus 23:11 commands this offering among the other assemblies (see the paper Wave Sheaf Offering (No. 106b)). Herbert Armstrong did not restore the Wave-Sheaf Offering service, and on this ground he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 8: The Sanctification of the Simple and the Erroneous
The Bible commands that on the Seventh day of the First month the simple and the erroneous are to be sanctified (Ezek. 45:20; see also the paper Sanctification of the Simple and Erroneous (No. 291)). This was not done in the ministry of Herbert Armstrong. On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 9: The New Moon of the First Month
The sanctification of the House of God is set aside for this day (Ezek. 45:18). The First day of the First month is a solemn assembly (Ps. 81:3) (see the papers Sanctification of the Temple of God (No. 241) and The Moon and the New Year (No. 213)). This was not kept by the Worldwide Church of God at any time. It was never taught or advocated by Herbert Armstrong. On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 10: The Prince’s levy
Ezekiel 45:9-17 details the responsibility for the Prince’s levy (this is examined in the paper Tithing (No. 161)). This was not done or dealt with during the ministry of Herbert Armstrong. On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 11: The Passover period
Deuteronomy 16:6-7 states the process for keeping the Passover. The early Church kept this period (see the paper The Passover (No. 098)). The entire seven day period of the Passover is to be kept outside of our dwellings (cf. Lev. 23:5-8; see also the paper Seven days of the Feasts (No. 049)). Herbert Armstrong did not teach this. On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 12: False prophecy
If they speak not according to the Law and the Testimony there is no light in them (Isa. 8:20). Herbert Armstrong knowingly taught against these Laws of God. He also uttered countless false prophecies. (See the paper False Prophecy (No. 269).) On these grounds also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 13. The hearts of the fathers and the sons
Elijah comes to turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the sons to the fathers. Herbert Armstrong failed in this regard within his own family. On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
Test example 14: Restoration of the Song of Moses
Another test of the elect is that they sing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb (Rev. 15:3). Whilst it might be argued that the Song of the Lamb has not been given yet, if indeed it is not the Song of Songs (see the paper Song of Songs (No. 145)), there is no doubt that the Song of Moses has been given, and the original music can and should be restored – this was done at the Reading of the Law in 1998 (see the paper The Song of Moses in Exodus 15 (No. 179)). Herbert Armstrong did not do this nor did he restore any other of the original biblical music. On this ground also he cannot have been Elijah.
One does not have to resort to scandalous condemnation and railing accusation which are justified, often from the pages of the publications of the Church itself, in blatant respect of persons and in breach of biblical and civil law. These grounds alone satisfy the requirements. It is, however, a matter of undying shame that the Church condoned the offences they knew to have been committed by Herbert Armstrong and his ministry as not only of the Church but also as ministers of the Faith.
There were not simply 40,000 people who went home, as one reader mentioned on page 4 of The Journal: News of the Churches of God. There were hundreds of thousands of people who went home, demoralised, and many of them were ministers who to their credit would not tolerate what they knew and saw at Pasadena.
To assert that Herbert Armstrong was Elijah is an insult to the intelligence of every person who has read the Bible and tried to repent and follow Christ. The Worldwide Church of God did not only not restore all things when compared to other earlier eras of the Church – such as the Seventh-Day Baptist Mill Yard Church in London, or the Eastern Waldensians of the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries – it was also far short of the understanding and purity of doctrine and teaching of previous centuries.
The claim that Herbert Armstrong was Elijah is a weak attempt at evading a fundamental issue. That issue is the obligation to prove all things, hold fast to that which is true, and to work out one's own salvation with fear and trembling. The person who hides behind such a claim is in effect saying: "I am happy in my comfort zone of ignorance and I will rely on the efforts of others to get me into the Kingdom of God". The Bible shows that this is impossible. It is no kindness to anyone to leave them in that self-deluded position.