Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How Did the First Elijah Do God's Work?

In understanding Mr. Armstrong's probable role as the Elijah to come and restore all things, would it not make sense to examine the role of the first Elijah and how he did his work?

"Jesus answered and said to them, 'Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things' " (Matthew 17:11).  See also Mark 9:12.

I am convinced that Mr. Armstrong was that Elijah to come and restore all things.  I won't say I have proved it with 100% certainty in my mind, but the evidence of that seems very strong, even overwhelming.  It would be hard for me to imagine anyone restoring more lost knowledge than he did.

But what does that mean, in detail?  Does it mean everything Mr. Armstrong taught was infallibly correct?  No, because we know from Church history that Mr. Armstrong made mistakes, and he himself said he made mistakes.  He admitted error and corrected his own errors.  He sometimes changed his own teaching, such as with Pentecost being on a Monday.

And for those who think that he never made a mistake in his teaching that he did not later correct before he died, consider his statement to the Church shortly before naming Mr. Tkach as his successor that we should follow the next pastor general if we want to be in the kingdom of God and we needed to stay united.  He did not qualify that statement with, "as he follows Christ", or "as he follows the Bible".  Mr. Armstrong did not make that qualification.  He just said, follow him - period.  But that was a mistake, for we could not follow Mr. Tkach without falling away from the truth.  And Mr. Armstrong never corrected that error in the short time before he died.

If God allowed Mr. Armstrong to make mistakes in his teaching, not all of which he corrected in his lifetime, then his teachings cannot be regarded as infallible.  That does not negate the good work he did in restoring lost knowledge, and it does not negate his role as the Elijah to come.  The first Elijah himself no doubt made mistakes, but not in God's word that became part of the Bible, since the Bible is God's word and is infallible.  Mr. Armstrong never claimed his writings were on the same level as the Bible.

How was Mr. Armstrong to fulfill his role as the Elijah to restore all things?  Did he work alone or did he use a team of like-minded people to help him?  And does that team continue Mr. Armstrong's work of restoring all things even after Mr. Armstrong himself is gone?

To know the answer, we can look at the first Elijah.  We can look at events God has recorded in the Bible probably for the very purpose of answering our questions about Mr. Armstrong's role.  God put things in the Bible for a purpose.  The Bible does not record every detail of every event - it would be a much longer book if it did.  God selected which details of which events to give us for our learning.  He knew what questions we would be asking today, and He gave us the lessons in scripture we need in order to get the answers we need today.

The work of the first Elijah was not exactly the same as the work of the Elijah to restore all things.  But God gave Elijah work to do.  He gave him various tasks and assignments, and those tasks were God's work in Elijah's day same as restoring lost truth and preaching the gospel to the public was God's work in Mr. Armstrong's day.

One of those tasks was to anoint Jehu king over Israel.  God wanted Jehu to destroy Baal worship in Israel.  Notice this passage that describes how God gave Elijah this assignment.  

"So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?' And he said, 'I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.' Then the Lord said to him: 'Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place' " (1 Kings 19:13-16).

Now, here is the important part.  Elijah did not anoint Jehu as king over Israel personally.  In fact, this anointing did not even occur when Elijah was fulfilling his office.  This same passage said that Elisha would be prophet in place of Elijah.  Elisha would be given Elijah's office when Elijah was removed from the scene.  This occurred before Jehu was anointed as prophet.

"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?' Elisha said, 'Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.' So he said, 'You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.' Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, 'My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!' So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces" (2 Kings 2:9-12).  

Then, "Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, 'The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.' And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him" (2 Kings 2:14-15).

Notice, "the sons of the prophets" are mentioned.

This event happened before Jehu was anointed king over Israel.  Yet, God gave that job to Elijah.  So how was Elijah to anoint Jehu king over Israel after he was taken away by a whirlwind and Elisha received his office?

The answer is, Elijah did not work alone, and those who worked with him continued his work after him.  Elijah did anoint Jehu as king, but not directly.  He did God's work, the work and assignments and tasks God has given him including the anointing of Jehu, through the work of others he supervised, and they continued that work after Elijah was gone.

This is the example God gives us in the life of Elijah that helps us understand the role of Mr. Armstrong.  It makes sense to look at the lessons and examples God gives us about the first Elijah to best understand the role of the Elijah to come in our day.

Here is the account of how Elijah, through the work of those who followed him after he was gone, fulfilled God's commission of anointing Jehu king over Israel.

"And Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets, and said to him, 'Get yourself ready, take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth Gilead. Now when you arrive at that place, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, and go in and make him rise up from among his associates, and take him to an inner room. Then take the flask of oil, and pour it on his head, and say, "Thus says the Lord: 'I have anointed you king over Israel.' " Then open the door and flee, and do not delay.' So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth Gilead. And when he arrived, there were the captains of the army sitting; and he said, 'I have a message for you, Commander.' Jehu said, 'For which one of us?' And he said, 'For you, Commander.' Then he arose and went into the house. And he poured the oil on his head, and said to him, 'Thus says the Lord God of Israel: "I have anointed you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel" ' " (2 Kings 9:1-6).

Notice that, though the anointing of Jehu as king was Elijah's job and commission he received from God in 1 Kings 19:16, it was a group effort.  He didn't do it himself directly.  It was carried out by those who followed him in his place after he was gone.  Elisha continued in Elijah's office, and he gave the job to a young man, one of the sons of the prophets, to do the actual anointing.  And God does not even give us the name of this young man.  Yet, he did the actual anointing.

It was a team effort.

The "sons of the prophets" are mentioned in accounts regarding Elijah and Elisha.  Some have said that there were one or more schools of the prophets at that time.  These schools may have been established by Samuel, or by Elijah - the Bible does not say - but it is clear that Elijah and Elisha led the sons of the prophets and used them to do God's work, as needed.  At least in the case of the anointing of Jehu, Elisha used one of the sons of the prophets to do it.

The work of Elijah was a team effort.

Not only that, it was a team effort that continued after Elijah was gone.  It continued after him.

And it was the work of God, for though it was a son of the prophets who poured oil on Jehu's head, God said that it was He, God, who was anointing Jehu as king (2 Kings 9:6).

So, if you want to really understand Mr. Armstrong's role as the Elijah to come and restore all things, which is part of the work of God in our time, and if you want to understand how that work is to be done and whether or not it continues to the present time, look to the examples God gives us of how the first Elijah did the work God gave him.  He didn't do it alone.  And the work didn't stop after Elijah was gone.  Elijah started it and put it into motion, but it continued after him.  God uses these examples, I think, to teach us about Mr. Armstrong.

God anointed Jehu as king, as it says in 2 Kings 9:6.  But God did it through human instruments.  He gave the job to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:16.  Elijah must have passed on the instructions and the job to Elisha to be done after Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind, for Elisha ordered it done in 2 Kings 9:1-3.  Elisha delegated the job to an unnamed son of the prophets who did the actual pouring of oil on Jehu's head and passed on God's instructions to Jehu in 2 Kings 9:7-10.

In our time, God gave the job of restoring lost knowledge to Mr. Armstrong.  He also gave him other related jobs, including feeding the flock, preaching the gospel to the world, and giving God's warning message to Israel.  Mr. Armstrong did that work, and he built a team to help him.  He established a college with three campuses.  He raised up a Church of God fellowship with many congregations.  He trained and ordained evangelists and pastors who wrote articles, went on baptizing tours, and pastored congregations.

The work Mr. Armstrong did, with the help of the colleges and men educated in those colleges and with the help of the whole Church and its members who supported him with tithes, offerings, prayers, and service, was like the work God gave the first Elijah.  And as with the first Elijah, it was a team effort.

And Mr. Armstrong's work as the Elijah to come continues today.  As the work of the first Elijah was continued by the team Elijah had worked with, so the work of Mr. Armstrong continues today by the Church of God, the team Mr. Armstrong built and worked with.  We continue his work.

We continue his work of feeding the flock, do we not?  We continue his work of preaching the gospel to the world, do we not?  We continue his work of giving a warning message to Israel, do we not?  Do we also continue his work of restoring lost knowledge?

Yes, we do.

Just as Elisha and the sons of the prophets continued the work of Elijah after Elijah was gone, it is the Church of God's job today to continue the work of Herbert W. Armstrong, all of it.

It is the job of the Church of God today to continue the job of Mr. Armstrong of restoring truth.  Whether certain leaders of various fellowships in the scattered Church today accept new knowledge is a different matter.  They are responsible to God.  Mr. Armstrong started his work of restoration of knowledge while a lay member of the Church of God Seventh Day, and as part of that job he did research, discovered new truth, and offered that new knowledge to Church of God Seventh Day, but they never accepted it.  But he was doing his job, nevertheless.

You cannot use as evidence that we are not to restore knowledge the fact that the scattered Church of God fellowships today do not accept new knowledge.  That would be like saying, the ten commandments are not in force because no one obeys them.

You cannot say, Mr. Armstrong was not the Elijah to restore all things because the Church of God Seventh Day never accepted new restored knowledge.  That was their choice, their wrong choice, and God rejected them from doing a powerful work of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning because of it.  But even before Mr. Armstrong started an independent work, which became the Worldwide Church of God, he was restoring knowledge for himself and his family and a few who would learn from him.

Mr. Armstrong practiced a way of life, and he taught that way of life to the Church of God by his writings, his speaking, and his example.  That way of life includes believing the Bible more than Church of God tradition, learning new knowledge from the Bible and teaching it to the Church, and correcting errors when those errors are found, even errors made by Mr. Armstrong himself.

Has the Church of God corrected any of Mr. Armstrong's teachings?  Have they changed anything?  Yes.  There is one mistake Mr. Armstrong made that he never corrected in his lifetime, but the whole Church of God has corrected it after his death.  Even Mr. Sheldon Monson has corrected it or participated in correcting it.

I already mentioned it early in this post.  Mr. Armstrong said we were to follow the next pastor general, who turned out to be Mr. Tkach, without qualification that he follow the Bible.  No one I know of in the true Church of God follows that mistake.  All have acknowledged that it would be error to follow the teachings of Mr. Tkach after Mr. Armstrong died.  I am sure Mr. Monson would acknowledge that.

Mr. Armstrong raised up a Church of God fellowship and taught the Church of God the way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.  That way of life includes learning new things and correcting error.  The Church of God should continue that way of life today - that is the example God teaches us in the Bible in the events concerning the first Elijah - a type of Mr. Armstrong.  We are to continue the work of Mr. Armstrong as Elisha and the sons of the prophets continued the work of the first Elijah.

The work of Mr. Armstrong includes correcting error.  Some of that work he completed while alive and some was not completed when he died.  As a Church we are to do what Mr. Armstrong himself did not complete.

Mr. Armstrong made a mistake about Pentecost.  He taught it was on a Monday.  Later, he corrected his own error, and correctly taught it was on a Sunday.  Correction of error is part of his work.  Near the end of his life, he taught we should follow Mr. Tkach.  He died before he could correct that error.  But the Church of God, continuing in his work, corrected that error as he himself would have done if he were alive to do so.  We corrected that error by leaving Mr. Tkach and establishing fellowships that could continue in the main body of doctrine Mr. Armstrong taught based on the truth of the Bible.  We did not follow Mr. Tkach.

I am sure Mr. Monson, Mr. Weston, and most other Church of God leaders and ministers would agree that we were right not to follow Mr. Tkach.

I am not saying that there is a lot of error in Mr. Armstrong's doctrines that needs to be corrected.  There is probably very little error, and if there is any error, it is probably minor.  There may be additional new knowledge God wants to teach us, however.

The online HWA library that Church of God Assembly (COGA) plans to use for preaching the gospel is generally sound, and I think it can be a useful tool for preaching the gospel.  It would certainly be a time saver until the time when COGA can build up its own inventory of literature, perhaps very slowly.  When I learned of that plan, my reaction was, "why didn't I think of that?".  I don't know if pieces of that literature can be printed, according to copyright law, but I am not an expert in copyright law.  In any case, printing may not be necessary.  So if this can be made to work, it is probably a good idea, at least for a while.

But the Church of God should not teach its members and ministers that no teaching of Mr. Armstrong should be changed, corrected, or added to.  That is contrary to the whole way of life Mr. Armstrong practiced.  It is contrary to the work the Church is to do in continuation of Mr. Armstrong's role of restoring lost knowledge.  We need to read and study the Bible as we would want our readers and listeners to do when we preach the gospel to them - with an open mind willing to believe what God says more than church tradition and willing to learn new things that God wants to teach us.
How did Elijah do God's work?  Did he do all the work God assigned to him personally?  Or did he establish or work with an organization, a fellowship, a community that carried on his work after him?

The lesson God teaches us through the examples in the life of Elijah is that Mr. Armstrong's work continues today in the Church, including his work of restoring all things.

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