(Editor’s Note: This editorial is written in response to questions and comments we have received in recent weeks. We feel this information is vital and timely and are providing our answer in this week’s Editorial Section of the Update).
Sometimes, we are asked whether we believe that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was an apostle and the “Elijah to come,” who “restored all things.”
We clearly believe that Mr. Armstrong was an apostle. We also believe that Mr. Armstrong was the late leader of the Church of God, to which God gave the commission to fulfill the role of the end-time Elijah. We therefore continue in the preaching and teaching of the doctrines, which we all learned under Mr. Armstrong.
We differ, however, from those who state that nothing can be changed since the death of Mr. Armstrong in 1986, as God revealed all of His knowledge to Mr. Armstrong and the Church at that time, and everything had been restored by the time of Mr. Armstrong’s death.
Our Statement of Beliefs addresses this question in the following way:
“The major doctrines of the Church are those, which were taught by Herbert W. Armstrong, derived from the biblical teachings as followed by God’s faithful servants, and originally established by Jesus Christ through the founding of His Church in the time of His chosen early apostles. Since we are to increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we are committed to review and alter any of our teachings, if and when proven to be wrong by the Bible.”
Our position is exactly the same, as taught by Mr. Armstrong. He admonished us to follow him, as he followed Jesus Christ. He said time and time again, “Don’t believe me. Believe the Bible.” He also admonished us to change, when proven wrong by the bible.
Please note the following excerpts from a member letter, written by Mr. Armstrong on August 24, 1982 (emphasis in the original and added):
“What about the prophet Elijah? The original Scriptures, prior to Christ’s first coming, close with these words: ‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come [second coming] and smite the earth with a curse [total destruction]’ (Mal.4:5-6).
“Was John the Baptist the Elijah that was to come? When asked that question he said, ‘No.’ Jesus explained that John had come ‘in the power and spirit of Elijah’ – a different man, but carrying out the mission preparing for Jesus’ first coming…
“Now why, then, was Elijah YET, in the future, to come – just before the ‘day of the Lord?’ Verse 11 [of Matthew 17], Jesus said ‘to restore all things.’ John the Baptist DID NOT do that! Even Jesus did not come the first time to ‘restore all things.’ He came over 1,900 years ago to announce the KINGDOM OF GOD, which will restore all things. He came to set up his CHURCH – but not then to set up the KINGDOM. The Church was merely the embryo that shall BECOME the Kingdom of God WHEN RESURRECTED – when changed to immortal SPIRIT – at Christ’s second coming.
“Now notice where Jesus is NOW! He (God) ‘shall send Jesus Christ…’ back to earth, ‘whom the heaven must receive UNTIL THE TIMES OF RESTITUTION [RESTORATION] OF ALL THINGS…’ (Acts 3:20-21).
“Jesus shall come, SOON NOW, to RESTORE ALL THINGS. He did NOT restore all things when he first came. John the Baptist did not ‘restore all things.’ But the one who was to ‘restore all things’ just before the ‘day of the Lord’ and preparing the way for Christ’s second coming, was YET to come, in the future, as Jesus said.
“Now what are the ‘all things’ to be RESTORED? ‘Restitution’ means restore to a former state or condition…
“Jesus QUALIFIED to restore God’s government – to set up the KINGDOM OF GOD, ruling over the earth, administered by the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. Jesus’ Gospel Message was the GOOD NEWS that he would (at his second coming) RESTORE the government of God through the KINGDOM OF GOD…
“Have WE, through this Work, RESTORED anything? Indeed we have! We have RESTORED the TRUE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRST! Through us, JESUS CHRIST has already begun RESTORING the KNOWLEDGE of what had been taken away the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. Through us the living Christ has been preparing for his SECOND COMING for the PURPOSE of RESTORING ALL THINGS!
“NONE OTHER has RESTORED the knowledge of the fact GOD’S GOVERNMENT was established on earth, and then DESTROYED and taken away by the Cherub Lucifer (Satan) and his demons….
“[Christ has been] OUR HIGH PRIEST, preparing us to RULE in his KINGDOM when he comes to RESTORE ALL THINGS!
“It is the living JESUS CHRIST who had been ACTUALLY DOING the Work. He has used YOU and me as his INSTRUMENTS!
“Do we realize HOW NEAR we now are to Christ’s coming and the final restoration of all things…?”
Mr. Armstrong emphasized time and time again that Christ gave His Church (of which Mr. Armstrong was the human leader until his death in 1986) the end-time Elijah commission of preparing the world for Christ’s Second Coming, and of turning the heart of the fathers to their children, and vice versa. This commission did not stop when Mr. Armstrong died. It has to continue, and it is the purpose of the Church of the Eternal God to do so.
We read in Isaiah 49:8 that it is Jesus Christ who will restore the earth. But the Church (as the Kingdom of God in embryo) has the commission to prepare for, and announce that restoration, and (as born-again members in the Kingdom or Family of God) to rule and serve with and under Christ to bring about the restoration of all things.
Please note, too, that Jesus said, in Matthew 17:11, that Elijah “is coming.” This correct translation indicates the continuing coming of Elijah – i.e., of the end-time Church, which is in the process of helping to restore all things. Mr. Armstrong certainly BEGAN this process. But, the task of the Church, under Christ, did not stop, when Mr. Armstrong died.
Please consider that even the original Elijah did not personally carry out and finish all of the aspects of the commission given to him by God. He was commissioned to anoint Jehu as king over Israel (1 Kings 19:16), but he did not do that. Rather, Elisha did carry out that aspect of Elijah’s commission, through one of the prophets, after Elijah had been taken away by God (2 Kings 9:1-10). We see, then, the continuing commission of the original Elijah, which did not stop, when God took him away. The same is true today.