Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why 1975?

It is well known that Herbert W. Armstrong declared that Jesus Christ would return to the earth in 1975, with the Great Tribulation starting in early 1972. Now some people dispute whether he actually did set a date for Christ's return. They typically point out that in the booklet 1975 in Prophecy HWA never specifically said 'He will return in 1975', though he gave the reader 'hints' as large as a bulldozer, and furthermore he did not explain in that booklet why he thought that Christ would return in 1975. Instead he made declarations like the following, 'the indications of prophecy are that this drought will be even more devastating than [the US Assistant Weather Chief] foresees, and that it will strike sooner than 1975-probably between 1965 and 1972!' (Heading 'Drastic WEATHER Changes'.) Or this: 'millions of lukewarm inactive professing Christians will suffer MARTYRDOM-and that before the anticipated push-button leisure-year of 1975 dawns upon us!' (Heading 'Americans-Britons-Made SLAVES'.) Now these declarations alone show that he did expect the Second Coming to occur before 1975, and I believe most readers of that booklet will see that HWA did anticipate 1975 to be the year of the Second Coming.

But for some this is still not enough. They, somehow, do not believe that such statements prove anything. They note that HWA never explains why he thinks it will be 1975 in that booklet. They cannot believe that HWA would actually be foolish enough to set a date for Christ's return, even though Christ clearly said 'But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.' (Matthew 24:36)

But he was foolish enough.

He, and all the Radio Church of God, did believe that Jesus Christ would return in 1975. To attempt to help them see that he did indeed set His return for 1975 perhaps it would help if one should clearly set forth the reasoning that made HWA and Co. produce and accept this manifestly failed interpretation of prophecy. The explanation, for whatever reason, is never explained in '1975 in Prophecy', one must look at other writings to understand how HWA came to this conclusion.

This interpretation of prophecy was first unveiled to the Church in HWA's Co-worker letter of May 22, 1953. (I am indebted to Pam Dewey for bringing this letter to my attention. You may view this Co-Worker Latter at this PDF file of all of HWA's Co-Worker Letters, pp. 422-8.) It was further expounded by Herman Hoeh in the article 'What are the Times of the Gentiles' (Plain Truth, June 1953, pp. 5-6 & 13). Here he says 'it seems that God is allowing us another 19 year cycle to COMPLETE THE CARRYING OF HIS GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM TO THIS...WORLD.' (p. 13). How did he reach this conclusion? This is how.

There are four concepts that need to be understood.

1) Times of the Gentiles (539 BC-AD 1982):

As can be seen in the article Hoeh took the fall of Babylon in 539 BC to be the start of the Times of the Gentiles, a divine punishment upon the Gentiles in which they would act like animals and devour each other in wars, and this was to end after 'seven prophetic years' (2520 years), which means 1982. In this article Hoeh claims that Babylon, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, stopped making war and was given the heart of a man, that is they stopped fighting 'but because Babylon continued to sin and live contrary to God's ways it was punished for seven prophetic years or 2520 literal years' (p.6) by being given the heart of an animal for 2520 years until 1982. Meaning that throughout the Times of the Gentiles the 'Babylonish system' will act like wild animals, blindly fighting and killing each other. This will not stop until 1982 when 'a man's heart [will be] given to it' (Daniel 7:4) and once again the Gentiles will stop killing each other.

(Actually this 2520 idea was plagiarized, ultimately, from the work of John Aquila Brown, who developed this idea in the 1820s. See heading 'History of the prophecy'. I am indebted to Kelly Marshall for bringing this detail to my attention. See heading '2520 years punishment'.)

Now one would think that this means that Christ will return in 1982. Not so. HWA and Co. interpreted the end of the Times of the Gentiles to be when Jesus Christ establishes total world domination, when the Gentiles will be given the heart of a man and they assumed that this had to happen some years after the Second Coming. For instance the prophecy of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 37 and 38, in Armstrongite eschatology, takes place after the Second Coming. It is only in 1982 that Christ will have solidified total world domination and all the peoples of the earth will turn to him and accept his rule. So now we have established that Christ must return some years before 1982. So how does Hoeh come to determine just how much time needs to be cut to get Christ's return? This is where the other concepts come into play.

2) Hebrew Calendar:

Now unlike our Gregorian calendar which simply has twelve months the Hebrew calendar contains an irregular month. The 30 day months are lunar, starting and ending with the new moon. The year is solar, corresponding with the rotation of the earth around the sun. However, because the moon rotates around the earth in less than 30 days and the earth rotates around the sun in 365 days, it is necessary to correct the calendar by having some months only last 29 days and by adding an intercalary month, Adar II. HWA and Co. noted that this extra intercalary month was added in each seven out of nineteen years. This nineteen year period was named a 'time cycle'. They assumed that there was a special prophetic significance to the Hebrew Calendar. But how can this be linked with the end times heading up to the end of the Times of the Gentiles in 1982? ('God's Sacred Calendar' that had been suppressed by the Pope.)

3) Prophetic Duality:

Many prophecies are to be fulfilled twice according to Armstrongite thinking, once in ancient times and again today. Often the first is labeled physical and the second spiritual. Here is a ready made idea in which events in ancient times may be projected into the future. Now what ancient, biblical, event occurred that can be projected into the future, into a dual interpretation, to determine the time of the Second Coming?

4) Church Eras:

The answer to that lies in the doctrine of the seven church eras which HWA plagiarized from G. G. Rupert. HWA taught that Revelation 2 and 3 were actually prophecies foreseeing the state of the church within its various eras. The Apostolic era was Ephesus and HWA and his Radio Church of God was the Philadelphia era, the sixth era. (G. G. Rupert taught that the Millerites were the Philadelphia era.) HWA claimed to have discovered truths that had been suppressed since the Apostolic era. HWA even went so far as to proclaim himself an Apostle.

So now we have established that Christ must establish total world domination by 1982, there is a prophetic significance to the Hebrew Calendar used in the Bible, and that the Radio Church of God is more apostolic than any other church era. But how does Hoeh use time cycles to determine Christ's return?

How do these relate to 1975?

5) Two 19-year time cycles for both Ephesus and Philadelphia:

As can be seen in the letter HWA attaches importance to the first regular broadcast of the show which would later be named the World Tomorrow on January 7, 1934, and than exactly 'one 19 year time cycle' later he should start broadcasting on Radio Luxembourg on January 7, 1953. This seems to HWA to indicate a pattern. Can they find a precedent, from the Bible, that would confirm their suspicion about the importance of 19 year time cycles?

Hoeh would find the pattern in his very idiosyncratic interpretation of the history of the Apostolic church. It is shown in his 1959 booklet 'A True History of the True Church'. Here he finds supposed biblical precedent that establishes the importance of 19-year time cycles:

The Apostolic Age...
JESUS FOUNDED HIS CHURCH BY SENDING THE PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST, MONDAY, JUNE 18, 31 A.D. -- a date ABSOLUTELY established by the exact and INSPIRED mathematical and astronomical computations of God's Sacred Calendar. [Of course in 1974 'God's End Time Apostle' was forced to admit that he was wrong and that Pentecost was on Sunday. But that is another story.]...

THERE WERE TWO 19-YEAR CYCLES IN THE HISTORY OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH DURING WHICH THE GOSPEL WAS CARRIED TO THE OLD WORLD. It was exactly 19 years from A.D. 31, when the Church was founded, to the time Paul received the vision to go into Europe! In Acts 16:9 Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia (in Greece) who shouted, "Help us!" Paul described this even in II Cor. 2:12-13 where he wrote that "a DOOR was opened unto me of the Lord" by which he meant that a way was opened to preach the gospel in Europe. [It is here that he has found a supposedly Apostolic correspondence with HWA preaching on the World Tomorrow to USA (Israel-Manasseh) from January 7, 1934 to January 7, 1953, when a 'door' to preach into gentile Europe was 'opened.']

[In this paragraph Hoeh, in his typical style, cites some obscure evidence to support his conclusion.] Paul went into Europe about the time of Pentecost in the late spring of 50 A.D. After a few months of preaching, he arrived in Corinth in the fall of that year (Acts 18:1) where he remained for A YEAR AND SIX MONTHS (verse 11). It was now the beginning of 52 A.D. An insurrection broke out against Paul when Gallio was deputy or pro-consul of Achaia (verse 12). A recently discovered inscription in Greece states that Gallio held this position during 52 A.D., which proves that the gospel went to Europe in 50 A.D., just 19 years after the Church was founded!

[Now he gets into the second 19 year time cycle, A. D. 50-69. This will corresponde with the Radio Church of God 1953-1972.] From 50 A.D. it was another 19 years until the fleeing of the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem in 69 A.D. Here is what happened in 69 A.D. on the Feast of Pentecost -- exactly two 19-year cycles after the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost: "Moreover," records Josephus, the Jewish historian, "at that feast which we call PENTECOST, as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple ... they said that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a multitude, saying, LET US REMOVE HENCE (From "Wars of the Jews", bk. VI, ch. v, sec. 3).

God's people did REMOVE HENCE! The Christians in Jerusalem fled to Pella, beyond the River Jordan. From that time forward the UNITED power of the Church of God to spread the gospel of the Kingdom ceased. Christians throughout Judaea were scattered because of the Jewish wars. The headquarters church at Jerusalem, to whom all churches could look as the standard of TRUTH, was now moved to Pella. [Here he is making a clear link with the doctrine of the place of safety, believed to be Petra, which the Radio Church of God is prophesied to flee to in 1972 before the three and a half years of Great Tribulation.]
After setting the pattern in the Apostolic church he then applies this supposed pattern to the Radio Church of God now (in the 195os).

A DOOR Opens

The time had come for the gospel TO GO AROUND THE WORLD!

Having tested and proven that Mr. Armstrong would remain faithful and subject to His government, God opened before him and a few faithful brethren the marvelous DOOR of radio and the printing press to carry forth the gospel. From a minute beginning in Oregon, in 1934, the work of God spread to cover much of North America in 19 years. In 1953 it leaped to Europe and the world!

This is very significant.

God gave the Apostolic Church JUST TWO nineteen-year cycles to carry the gospel to the Old World. He opened a DOOR to the apostle Paul AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND NINETEEN-YEAR CYCLE by which the gospel went to Europe (Acts 16:9; 11 Cor. 2:12-13).

So now, just before the second coming of Jesus Christ, God has given His Church -- THIS CHURCH -- JUST TWO nineteen-year cycles in which to carry the gospel to the world!

The first cycle PASSED. Then God suddenly opened the door for the second cycle in January 1953, and the gospel is now going to all the world!
For the Philadelphia era the first 19 year time cycle began specifically on January 7, 1934 with the first regular broadcast of the Radio Church of God, later renamed the World Tomorrow. (HWA and Hoeh start their time cycle here yet ignore that HWA's first broadcast was on Monday, October 9, 1933. Why should the regularization of a radio program be the start of a time cycle and not the first broadcast? Because otherwise it would not fit the pattern.) One 19 year time cycle later, on January 7, 1953 HWA and the World Tomorrow began broadcasting to Europe. The next cycle will end January 7, 1972. Since the Apostolic Church had to flee to 'a place of safety' at the end of their two 19 year time cycles it naturally follows that the Radio Church of God will flee after their two 19 year time cycles end on January 7, 1972.

And so after using all those ideas we have arrived at the following timeline:

31-50: Church preaches to Jews.
50-69: Church preaches to Gentiles.
69: Church flees to 'place of safety' (Pella).
1934-1953: Church preach to USA.
1953-1972: Church preach to world.
1972-1975: Church flees to Petra and world endures Great Tribulation ending with the Second Coming.
1975 -1982: Christ solidifies total world domination. Gog and Magog defeated.
1982: Times of the Gentiles ends with Christ having total world domination.

And this is why thousands of people in the 1950s and 1960s became convinced that Jesus Christ would return in 1975.

Now that may have been a bit complicated so let us review again how this reasoning works:

  • The Times of the Gentiles end in 1982 when Jesus Christ solidifies total world domination.
  • Jesus Christ must therefore return before 1982.
  • There is a prophetic significance to the Hebrew Calendar 19 year time cycles.
  • The Apostolic Church was only able to preach the truth for two 19 year time cycles (AD 31-69) before fleeing to a place of safety.
  • The Radio Church of God will only have two 19 year time cycles (January 7, 1934-January 7, 1972) before fleeing to a place of safety, probably Petra.
  • The Great Tribulation lasts for tree and a half years till the return of Jesus Christ (1972-1975).
  • Jesus Christ gradually establishes total world domination (1975-1982).
  • Times of the Gentiles end (1982).
And so there you have it. Absolute proof that Christ shall return in 1975. Proof so convincing it was good enough for HWA and Hoeh! So we see that they clearly did believe in that they had done the impossible and discovered when Christ would return, that it would be 1975. Furthermore if one reads the liturature that the church produced back in the 1950s and 1960s you will see those writing soak through with this prediction. For example the first paragraph of HWA's 'The Proof of the Bible', in the 1958 edition reads 'Here is a book -- The Holy Bible -- that dares to write out the future history of this world in advance -- that dares to prophesy what is actually going to happen within 15 or 20 years [1973-1978.] to specific nations, including Russia, the British Commonwealth, China, the United States, Italy, Turkey, Ethiopia, and many others -- most of the major nations of this world.' Clearly he has this 1975 prophecy in mind making this statement. Also notice this statement from the article 'Geology Reveals Two Creations and Two World-wide Floods': 'Noah's Flood...occurred in 2370-2369 B.C.' (See heading 'Age of Pre-Adamic World NOT Revealed'.) Now HWA taught that God allowed humanity to go its own way without God for 6000 years than Christ will return. Now do some simple math and you will see that this statement is based on the 1975 prophecy, for Noah's flood is here dated so that 6000 years after creation will be 1975. (2370+1656 years before flood=4024. 4024+1975+1 to account for no year zero = 6000.)

Of course it goes without saying that all of this was completely false. Here we are in 2009. In fact HWA had earlier used this 2520 year Times of the Gentiles to predict, in a chart on page 3 of the June-July 1934 issue of The Plain Truth that Christ would return in 1936. That time he said the start of the Times of the Gentiles was the fall of Judah in 586 BC and therefore Christ must return 2520 years later in 1936. He also used the pyramidological prediction of David Davidson to reach this conclusion.

After the ignominious failure of the 1972 prophecy HWA tried to get out of this mess he had walked into and claimed that he never claimed to be a prophet and therefore the failure of this prophecy did not invalidate him. After this he was much more careful in setting dates for the Second Coming. However a prophet is one who claims to have acquired revealed knowledge from God that no one else is privileged to. Jeremiah had revealed to him that Judah would fall to Babylon. HWA claimed that God was not working through any other church. Any who kept Sunday were simply keeping the Mark of the Beast. He claimed that secret truths were being revealed to him and his church alone. He made prediction on what happen in the near future, like Jeremiah. Jeremiah said Judah shall fall to Babylon. It happened. HWA said the US will fall into slavery but Jesus Christ will return to save them in 1975. It did not happen.

What does the God of the Bible of prophets, preachers who make up such false prophecies? '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.' (Deuteronomy 18:22). Did you read that. You are not to fear such a prophet. His prophecies cannot hurt you. God is not working through him. He has no proper authority to demand three tithes from you. And neither do any of his petty wannabe successors, like Roderick C. Meredith who simply uses the false prophecies of '1975 in Prophecy'--with a few modern additions such as the end time King of the South, and pushing it forward, just 10 to 25 years ahead-- to make people scared and willing to hand over money to him and his organization. Alas, these people, of which I was one till very recently, do not know that God commands them not to fear such people, not to give them respect due to a man of God.

HWA is a false prophet. He must be denounced as such. He did predict 1975 as the date of Christ's Second Coming. Those who say it was just speculation, it was not an actual set prophecy, are wrong. This proves that God is not working through him and we must not follow him.

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