In the world of Armstrongism prophecy is mainly used to keep members fearful of the future in this manner. If Armstrongite prophecy is not a tool used to produce fear, then why are their interpretations of prophecy not unchangeable? Why is it that whenever one of their prophecies fail it is simply recycled and placed further into the future? Why are there prophetic flip-flops? Thus members can't ever breathe a sigh of relief, but must relive the fear and uncertainty all over again.
One example of this shameful prophetic revisionism was put on display with Mario Hernandez' sermon, Review of Prophecy. Mario Hernandez is in charge of LCG's recruitment drives in the Spanish speaking world. It was made around 2002. I watched this sermon around that time. Alas, it is no longer online. I know it was around that time because he mentioned September 11 in it. This sermon is mentioned near the end of Bob Thiel's article 'Why not the Philadelphia Church of God?'. Near the end of the article there is a letter written by one ex-member of PCG who had now joined LCG, and as the typical loyal member sings nothing but praises of it. She also praises this sermon in particular. She mentions this,
'Like, we know God is all powerful and is omnipresent in a certain sense, but is God all omniscient? The Bible says no. "Now I know you will not withhold anything from me," God said to Abraham, is just one verse showing this.'That was in this very sermon which I watched.
It also this sermon that allowed me to find the article What are the Times of the Gentiles? by Herman Hoeh. He mentioned it. He stated that the article by Hoeh stated that the Times of the Gentiles begin with the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, and is to end in 1982. Now what Hoeh taught was that 1982 would be when the Gentiles would stop acting like animals and be given the heart of a man, that is become converted and godly and stop waging war. Hoeh identified this as the moment when Jesus Christ establishes total world domination over the Gentiles, and this occurs several years after the Second Coming. He based this on assuming that there was a second, dual prophecy in Daniel 4 which would be fulfilled over the period 539 BC-AD 1982. This 'prophetic' addition to Daniel 4 was actually invented by one John Aquila Brown in the 1820s. More on this can be read in my previous blog 'Why 1975?'
However Mario Hernandez does not dwell on the fact that he is dealing with one of the causes for the 1972 fiasco, instead he uses this supposition of Hoeh's (which the late Hoeh himself had long ago renounced, along with the rest of Armstrongism) and asks, what happened in 1982?
He decided to change the answer. Instead of the Times of the Gentiles ending with the Gentiles submitting themselves to the returned and glorified Christ several years after his return, Mario Hernandez made it end with a speech made by Pope John Paul II. In 1982 he made a speech calling upon Europeans to 'discover your origins. Give life to your roots.' He interpreted this as the sign the Times of the Gentiles had ended. Instead of its end being the Gentiles submitting themselves to the returned Christ, instead he has changed it to mean that it is only after 1982 that it is possible for the European Holy Roman Empire to revive.
And so after the long suffering member discovers that Hoeh's predictions were dead wrong by 1982, he or she now discovers that 'actually' this is only the beginning of bad times approaching. What should have been the end of fear, now becomes the beginning of fear.
This is nonsense. How are we supposed to believe that 'Babylon' was suppressed for 2520 years and it is only after 1982 that it can begin to be revived? Are we supposed to think that during the time of Persia, Greece, the Roman Empire (which killed the Lord Jesus), the Holy Roman Empire, Mussolini and Hitler, somehow during all that time 'Babylon' was like a stump (Daniel 4:15) and it will grow again only after 1982, despite all these other successors of Babylon (Persia, Rome) rising up to such great glories within that time? That prophetic 'Babylon' could not get its act together during all that time and it can do so only now? Shouldn't we see much more dramatic changes immediately after 1982 than we do now? Not gradually at a snail's pace? If 'Babylon' can only be unleashed after 1982 then it must be a very pathetic beast! When the Roman Empire killed Jesus Christ it was hindered and powerless, and only after 1982 will things really start moving prophetically. What a joke!
His interpretation presented in that sermon later appeared in Douglas Winnail's column, 'A Beauty and the Beast':
In 1982 the Roman Catholic pontiff delivered a carefully crafted statement to promote European unity at the climax of his tour of Spain.
In an impassioned appeal to all Europeans, the Pope stated: "I John Paul, bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal church, from Santiago [de Compostella] issue to you, old Europe, a cry full of love; Find yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Give life to your roots" (International Herald Tribune, November 10, 1982). [We are supposed to believe that he 'really' meant, discover Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon.]
While the Pope’s words were primarily a call to Europeans to rediscover their Catholic Christian heritage, his statement rings with prophetic significance. [Here follows Mario Hernandez's revisionist interpretation:] Daniel records a prophecy about a tree (picturing the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar) that was to be chopped down, but its stump and roots were to remain—bound by a band of brass and iron until seven times had passed (Daniel 4:14–25). The king’s seven years of insanity partially fulfilled the prophecy. However, the Bible also reveals that a prophetic year of 360 days is the equivalent of 360 years (see Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:4–6). Seven prophetic years (of 360 days) amount to 2,520 years. Babylon fell in 539bc (see Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible, p. 432). Seven prophetic times from 539bc brings us to 1982—the date John Paul urged Europeans to "give life to their roots."
Since 1982 the modern Babylon emerging in central Europe from its ancient roots has seen dramatic growth. (Douglas Winnail, 'A Beauty and the Beast', Tomorrow's World, January-February 2003, p. 23. Emphasis in original.)
And so we see how one failed prophecy, which has long past its use by date has been revived to yet again cause Mario Hernandez's long fearful flock to fear again. 'Look brethren', he says, Babylon will be reviving after 1982. We are nearly there! The only way you can escape is to cling close to us, and then God will sneak you away off to Petra and there you will be safe.' The same way HWA said Christ would return in 1936, then 1975, then before the turn of the millenium, now 2017.
Poppycock! It is written, 'When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.' The Lord has commanded us not to fear such false prophets. We are not to be afraid of their fearful predictions. Their predictions have already failed over two hundred times. They are lies. Why would a true prophet of the Lord (which Mario Hernandez would like us to believe) need to resort to using old, failed prophecies if God is with him? It does not matter how many times they try to recycle these old, failed prophecies, their word will fail. We must not fear them. We are commanded not to fear them. The God of the Bible is not with them. Let us be free of them!