You Can’t Change That!
There are people within God’s Church today, who believe the teachings of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong cannot be changed. This belief expressed in words is, “You can’t change what God’s apostle established.”
An example of this kind of thinking is illustrated on a Church of God website, committed to upholding the biblical truths taught by Mr. Armstrong.
Is this type of thinking consistent with God’s Word?
Does God expect His Church to maintain a 1986 mindset, with no further spiritual development?
Would God oppose His people continuing to develop their minds to meet the changing times they are living in?
What approach would Mr. Armstrong take, if he were alive today?
Mr. Armstrong’s approach
An example of his approach is demonstrated in a letter to the brethren, dated February 11, 1974 concerning the timing of the Great White Throne Judgment or 2nd resurrection.
“To admit that this hostile woman was right and that I was wrong would possibly have been very humiliating to most men. I doubt that any other church would have changed it. But on the next Sabbath, it was corrected by the Church, and on Sunday I corrected it on the broadcast.”
The Bible says God’s Church is to grow in knowledge, overcome sin and hold fast to His Truth.
“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (II Pet. 3:18).
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Rev. 21:7)
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev. 3:11).
Complete biblical understanding?
Did Mr. Armstrong have complete biblical understanding at the time of his death?
NO, he did not!
This is evidenced in his 1985 Feast of Trumpets sermon, the last live sermon he gave before his death in 1986.
“Now, when Christ comes, Satan will still be on the throne (of this earth). And Christ isn’t going to have Satan put off (his throne) before Christ comes, but after He comes. Maybe it’ll be ten actual literal days apart (reference to the Day of Atonement). We don’t know. That’s the way the holy days are arranged anyway. Of course, it doesn’t mean that Christ will come on this certain day (Trumpets) in just so many years from now. But there is ample reason to think that things have happened that way in the fulfillment of prophecies previously in the other holy days, and it could happen that way. But we don’t know because God had said that no man, not even Christ, knew the time or the day or the hour when Christ would come.”
Mr. Armstrong died not knowing if Christ would return on the Feast of Trumpets or not. He also questioned when Satan would be put away for a 1,000 years, if Christ returned on Trumpets.
While his thinking was biblically reasoned based on a pattern he observed from studying God’s Holy Days, twice he said “we (in God’s Church) don’t know” when these events will occur.
It is assumed in God's Church today that Christ will return on the Feast of Trumpets and Satan will be put away for a 1,000 years on the Day of Atonement.
But, what if Christ does not return on the Feast of Trumpets?
What if Satan is not put away for a 1,000 years on the Day of Atonement?
Then answers to these questions require further revelation from God to understand.
If God reveals Christ will not return on the Feast of Trumpets and Satan will not be put away on the Day of Atonement, would it be wrong for God’s ministry to teach this information?
No, emphatically not!
What would be wrong is for the ministry not to present new information, and instead continue teaching information which has proven to be incorrect.
Setting up Mr. Armstrong as an idol
The belief that Mr. Armstrong’s teachings cannot be changed sets up Mr. Armstrong as an idol.
When God provides additional revelation of His Word, Mr. Armstrong’s example should be followed in handling it. Upon receiving and proving new information, Mr. Armstrong was quick to make the change and move forward. He did not allow himself to get hung up on information which he knew was incorrect.
Again, Mr. Armstrong’s approach from his 1974 letter to the brethren should clear up any confusion.
“God’s Church is always accepting new knowledge when proved to be true knowledge; always examining; always reexamining; always correcting error when found; always growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; always holding fast that which is good.”
Notice his emphasis on the word “always.” "Always" extends beyond the life and work of Herbert W. Armstrong. To say that no change can be made to what God’s apostle taught is spiritually foolish and idolatrous. Those who think this way need to repent immediately (Rev. 3:19).
Growth is part of being in God’s Church
Growth is an essential part of being in God’s Church. It comes through God’s revelation of knowledge and the use of His Holy Spirit.
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, it will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:25-26).
“However, when it, the Spirit of truth, has come, it will guide you into all truth; for it will not speak on its own authority, but whatever it hears it will speak; and it will tell you things to come” (John 16:13).
The Bible is God’s textbook for learning, which requires having the Holy Spirit to understand. Sadly today, the vast majority in God’s Church are neither studying God’s Word nor using His Spirit to understand (Rev. 3:17).
The core of Mr. Armstrong’s teaching needs little revision. It is biblically sound. To make changes to core doctrinal truths would be wrong and detrimental to the spiritual health of God's Church. However, maintaining a 1986 mindset absent of continued spiritual growth is not biblically justified (I Thes. 5:21).
Mr. Armstrong set the example of making change when necessary. Were he alive today, he would not approve of those who say, “You can’t change that!”