Thursday, June 20, 2024

Did Mr. Armstrong Shift the Focus of His Work Before He Died?

A few years before Mr. Armstrong died he had a life-threatening heart attack.  But God revived him.

After that, did Mr. Armstrong change the main focus of his work from preaching the gospel to the world to getting the Church back on track - to getting the bride ready as stated in Revelation (Revelation 19:7)?

Yes, apparently he did.

This is something I recently learned from a sermon I heard.  I did not realize this before.  I find it interesting.  I think I heard or read this before, perhaps many times, but it never registered much in my mind.  Now it has.

Of course, Mr. Armstrong never stopped preaching the gospel, and the gospel work increased greatly during those years between Mr. Armstrong's heart attack and his eventual death in 1986.

But Mr. Armstrong felt God had revived him from his heart attack specifically so he could get the Church back on track.  And that became the primary focus of his attention and effort for the remaining years of his life - not the gospel.  For Mr. Armstrong at that time, getting the Church ready for the return of Christ was priority number one, the preaching of the gospel was priority two. I could be wrong, but that is my estimate.

I think Mr. Armstrong was right to make that his priority, and I think Christ led him to that priority at that time.

Should that continue to be our priority today?  Should getting the Church ready be our number one priority over preaching the gospel and getting the Ezekiel warning out to the public, to Israel and to the world?


Let me explain why.

Mr. Armstrong did shift his priorities.  Actually, this did not hurt or diminish the preaching of the gospel at that time because the work was expanding and continued to expand to the day of Mr. Armstrong's death.  He had a staff in place, and God continued to bless the work with income, and the work moved forward, like a machine on autopilot.  Mr. Armstrong had already set up a winning program for preaching the gospel, and it continued to work even while Mr. Armstrong focused more of his mental energy, concern, sermons, and prayers on getting the Church back on track.  Actually, getting the Church on track helped the gospel work anyway.  And the Church did get back on track, at least outwardly.  Not every individual.  Mr. Armstrong could not convert a tare into a real Christian.  Only God can call, only God can grant repentance.  And perhaps even most Christians had become lukewarm.  But both the work of getting the Church ready and preaching the gospel went on together.

What was the purpose of the preaching of the gospel during Mr. Armstrong's lifetime?  Was it only as a witness?  No, it was to build the numbers of the Church of God.  It was to bring in new members, as God would and did call.  It was also to develop character in the members who would sacrifice for the gospel in tithes, offerings, prayers, and volunteer effort.  And it was to establish a tradition and pattern in the Church for preaching the gospel and the ways of doing it, a pattern that continues today though to a lesser degree (because the Church is Laodicean predominantly).

But it was not Christ's primary purpose to use the gospel-preaching at that time to warn the world.  Why?  Because the tribulation did not come in that time.

The Church of God began to jump the rails about 40 years ago, and the gospel soon stopped (though it was later revived to a smaller degree).  The people who heard the teachings of Mr. Armstrong while he was alive are mostly gone today.

Today, few people in our nations remember Mr. Armstrong and his warnings, and their number decreases year by year.  A whole new generation has arisen, and they need to be warned.

It is our generation that really will go through the tribulation, and they need the gospel as a witness and a warning in a way that the generations in Mr. Armstrong's day never did.  

What about getting the Church ready?  That is happening through the trial and testing of being scattered.  True Philadelphians today are already ready.  Laodiceans, perhaps the majority of converted Church members, are not ready but will become ready during the trials of the tribulation, if not sooner.

Church leaders and members should focus on warning the nations of Israel about the coming tribulation that will come upon them if they do not repent.  They need to be told what they need to repent of.  Most do not know.

It is through that work and the sacrifices that are needed that the Church, those who become Philadelphians, will become ready. We won't get ready for Christ by focusing inwardly, on ourselves and our own organizations.

Why is a warning necessary?  It is necessary for the good and salvation of Israelites, for the people of America, Canada, Great Britain, France, etc. who will go through the tribulation.  It is necessary for the glory of God.

The Bible shows that it is God's way to warn before punishing.  From Genesis to Revelation, God, in His mercy, gives warnings.  He warned Cain before Cain murdered Able.  He gives a warning in Revelation to those who add or take from God's words (Revelation 22:18-19).  He warned Adam about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Are God's warnings always in vain?  No.  God forced Jonah to warn Nineveh. And guess what?  Nineveh, though unconverted and uncalled, repented.  No doubt they did not repent with the kind and depth of repentance required for conversion - they were probably just afraid of the punishment - but their repentance was sufficient to escape the punishment.  God spared them.  Jonah's work bore fruit.

Our peoples need a warning because many of them, the religious people who keep Sunday, Christmas, Easter, and use images in worship, do not know they are doing wrong!  They really need a warning to be able to make a choice.  They need to be told to believe the Bible and they need to be told where the answers are in the Bible.

Why does that matter with people who are mostly not called?  Unless they are called, they can't repent anyway, right?

But they still need a warning to know that God was fair to warn them.  They will think about that in the tribulation.  And what will they think?  Will they think, God is not fair, no one told me it was wrong to observe Christmas, or will they think, God warned me, I heard it through the Church of God, but I ignored the warning, so this is my own fault - I have to accept responsibility - God is fair?

Which response will increase their chances of true repentance and trust in God?

It is up to us to get the warning message out to about 500 million people who need to hear it before the tribulation begins.

I talk about this in my book, Preaching the Gospel, which you can access with the link in the upper right of this blog.  In fact, it was this very point that was the motivation and the start for that book and this blog.

I read a book called, The Faith and Doubt of Holocaust Survivors, and I document what I found in that book in Preaching the Gospel.

There is a saying, there is no atheist in a foxhole.  That is not always true.  In times of stress, suffering, and fear, some people can turn away from God. That is what the book showed.  Many Jews who suffered in the Nazi concentration camps became atheists.  That was the finding of research in that book.  Jews who believed and trusted God often lost whatever faith they had.  They never had a warning.  They thought they were right with God.

We must not let that happen to our peoples. We must not let God's reputation for fairness to warn fall to the ground because we fail to do our part.  We pray that God's name be hallowed.  This is how we do it.  If we love God we should glorify His name by giving a warning as God commands.  If we love our neighbors we should warn them for their good so they know God was fair to send us and empower us to warn them.  And  to do that we have to practice what we preach - we have to believe God more than man and believe the Bible - and not make an idol out of Mr. Armstrong and Mystery of the Ages as the religious people of the world make idols of their churches and wrong traditions.

Mr. Armstrong did indeed shift his personal focus and attention towards getting the Church ready - he thought the gospel warning might be near completion.  He didn't know that almost 40 years would pass after his death without the return of Christ.  The generation of Mr. Armstrong's time is mostly gone, and they never faced the tribulation.  The warning was not really for them, and Christ knew that, though Mr. Armstrong did not. But it is today's generation that really needs that warning because they WILL go through the tribulation, and we better deliver that warning if we hope to escape the tribulation ourselves.

The Church must not be like a social club.  We have a tremendous work to do, and we better have a sense of urgency to do it.


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