Herbert Armstrong and His Legacy

On January 16, 1986, Herbert W. Armstrong died.

Who was Herbert Armstrong? Many of you know that he was the late founder of the Worldwide Church of God and many other national and international organizations. But many may also know that he has been described and labeled in just about every way imaginable.

He has been viewed as a prophet, an apostle, the Elijah to come—a saint with almost superhuman insight who spoke and wrote under godly and unalterable inspiration. Some have actually given him a God-like status, just falling short of worshipping him.

Others have condemned him as a false prophet, a wrong teacher who perverted the gospel. They have accused him of the most gruesome personal sins and shortcomings.

Who was Herbert Armstrong?

When they received the news of his death, political leaders and dignitaries from around the world responded and called him “a giant man” who did “an important work,” and whose “good deeds were felt in many corners of the world.”  He was described as a “great spiritual leader” and a “great man of vision” who “led a life of benevolence, altruism and the drive for better understanding among peoples.” He was referred to as a man “truly dedicated to the cause of serving humanity” whose death constituted an “irreplaceable loss for the world at large.” He was especially called, among others, a friend of Israel, Thailand and China.

Some accused him of being “in it for the money” and of ulterior motives–of being a racist who advocated war, not peace.

Prior to his death, the King of Belgium gave him a special watch to honor him as one of four individuals who “had made the most significant contribution toward world peace.” He was called “an ambassador for world peace” and “a builder of bridges between the nations.” At one time, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

So who was Herbert Armstrong?

The answer is simple. He was a man with “a nature like ours” (compare James 5:17). He made mistakes. He sinned, repented and received forgiveness from God. However, he was not guilty of any of the accusations alluded to in this Editorial, which have been launched by ill-informed or malicious people who distort and lie about the truth. Yet, Herbert Armstrong was no superman and most certainly not a God-like being (he himself thundered against that notion in sermons, hitting the desk with his fist for emphasis)—but he was also not a false prophet or a wrong teacher.

Rather, he was an “apostle”—one who “was sent” to preach powerfully “this gospel of the kingdom” “in all the world as a witness to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14). He did not speak or write with godly infallibility, and he was willing to change when proven wrong, but he restored—as no other individual during his lifetime—fundamental truths and biblical values to the Church of God.

In a member letter, dated January 12, 2006, I wrote the following about Herbert Armstrong:

“Mr. Armstrong was a remarkable man. I remember how he encouraged all of us in one of his last sermons to continue learning and overcoming… Those who think and teach that the fullness of God’s truth was restored to the Church during Mr. Armstrong’s life refuse to follow one of Mr. Armstrong’s most fundamental instructions—that of CHANGE when one is found to be wrong…”

But I also wrote this:

“Mr. Armstrong would be the first to dismiss, with his thundering voice, the concept that the Church should ever refuse to continue to preach the gospel into all the world…”

Where does this leave us, today? The Work which God began in these end times through Herbert Armstrong must be continued by God’s true servants. But Mr. Armstrong warned the brethren before his death that a falling away from the truth would occur in the Church. It has occurred, as we all should know, but it’s not over yet.

I would like to close with these concluding words from the January 2006 member letter, and pray that those who mislabel Mr. Armstrong in any way might begin to uphold and follow what Christ led him to do:

“Mr. Armstrong is dead, but Christ is very much alive (compare Isaiah 63:16)… the truth that was revealed continues to be taught and grows among those who are faithful to the Head of the Body—Jesus Christ! It is the living Christ who cleanses His Church and prepares it for His Coming (Ephesians 5:25-27). Those who follow Christ (Revelation 14:4) will have made themselves ready, when He returns (Revelation 19:7).”

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