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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Herbert Armstrong WAS an ANTICHRIST!

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is NOT man's gospel ABOUT THE PERSON of Christ." What is the True Gospel? (1972) by Herbert W Armstrong

"It seems that today all churches have lost the gospel of Jesus Christ. They preach primarily their gospel ABOUT Jesus Christ." Mystery of the Ages (1985) by Herbert W Armstrong

Fun Fact: In the index to Mystery of the Ages "Jesus Christ" occupies the same space as the entry for "Humanity" (12 and 11 references, respectively)!!!!!!!!

Fun Fact: In the Herbert W. Armstrong Searchable Library "Combined Article Index" of Herbert's three main magazines, The Plain Truth, The Good News, and Tomorrow's World, there are more articles on "Christians" and the "Church" than there are on "Christ"!!!!!!!

Over the years, regular readers of my posts are aware that I have emphasized the fact that the message of the Christian Church should be centered on Jesus Christ and salvation through him. Indeed, many of those posts have criticized the leadership of the Armstrong Churches of God (ACOGs) for being focused on anything but Christ! The focus on current events, the modern identity of Israel, the Law, a message of warning, and even the Kingdom of God has absorbed so much of their attention and energy that Jesus is rarely mentioned! Moreover, as you can see from some of the quotations and fun facts from the era of Herbert Armstrong, this de-emphasis of Jesus and salvation through him was quite purposeful and had its origins in his teachings.

Often, when I write one of my posts critiquing the messaging of Armstrong and his successors, I am faced with the question: Who decides what can be said from the pulpit? OR Who are you to say that Herbert Armstrong was wrong about the message of God's Church? For myself, I believe that the definitive and last word on messaging goes to Christ and his apostles as revealed in the New Testament.

The New Testament canon is focused on Jesus Christ. Don't think so? In the King James Version, Jesus is mentioned 942 times! (See Jesus) Indeed, the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are devoted to telling Christ's story and talking about his teachings. In fact, from the perspective of the authors of the New Testament, the writings of the Hebrew Bible ALL pointed to Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Apostle Paul was very clear about what he preached to the Gentile churches which he founded.

In his first epistle to the saints at Corinth, we read: "Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.' Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1:17-25, ESV) So, we see that Paul's message was clearly about Jesus Christ and what his crucifixion has accomplished for those who have accepted him and his work on their behalf. 

Paul also wrote: "To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:2-9, ESV) He went on to say: "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified." (3:1, ESV) Paul continued: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." (5:1-6, ESV)

Paul clearly felt that the Galatians were abandoning his message about Jesus and salvation through him - that they were turning to a different message! Notice too that Paul pronounced a DOUBLE curse on anyone who would preach a different message! For Paul, the message was ALL about Jesus, and what HE had done for them! Indeed, he went on to suggest that anyone who was focused on keeping the Law to find favor with God had effectively cut him/herself off from Christ!

Finally, in his first general epistle, John wrote: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (4:1-6, ESV) In John's view, everyone who focused on Jesus and his ministry demonstrated that their message was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Moreover, he went on to say that any messaging which had any other focus reflected "the spirit of antichrist"!!!!!!! He said that this other messaging was based on a worldly perspective and would, consequently, be appealing to the folks of this world! For John, the message's focus (or lack of focus) on Jesus Christ was the measure of whether it reflected truth or error!

Herbert Armstrong clearly taught that the Christ-centric messaging of the traditional Christian Church was wrong. He believed that those "so-called" Christians had preached a message about the messenger instead of preaching his message. Armstrong was preoccupied with how current events related to Old Testament prophecies about a promised Messianic kingdom. His message appealed to a world focused on itself and its problems. As a consequence, unfortunately, there wasn't much room left for a message about a Savior and salvation. Hence, according to Scripture, Armstrong's messaging identified him as an ANTICHRIST (antichristos - an opponent of the Messiah)!!!!!!!