At the end of his life, Herbert W. Armstrong was leading a Church bringing in over $200 million annually, broadcasting on over 400 television stations and printing over 8 million Plain Truth magazines every month. One book, The United States and Britain in Prophecy, was sent to more than 5 million people.
Mr. Armstrong established three colleges during his ministry. Matthew 24:14 says he preached the gospel around the world as a witness. Matthew 17:10-11 says that, as the end-time Elijah, he restored all things. Malachi 4:5‑6 says he restored the Family of God within God’s Church. A tremendous work! Through Mr. Armstrong, God did the greatest work ever in His Church, in terms of numbers.
Mr. Armstrong died on January 16, 1986. The Church today has splintered into dozens of groups, each teaching varying degrees of truth and error. Many people drift from church to church; others have completely isolated themselves, or dropped out altogether. What confusion there is!
So, where is God? You need to know. Your spiritual survival is at stake. The answer has to do with the end-time Elijah.
You must ask yourself: Where is the God of Elijah today?
When the original Elijah was taken away in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11), people were asking the same question. God gave them an answer.
You would do well to ask the same question.
In 2 Kings 2, we see Elijah’s last moments with Elisha. “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces” (verses 9-12).
This was a very emotional time for Elisha. Elijah was not his biological father, but his spiritual father, through whom he received the truth of God. Likewise, Mr. Armstrong was our father in this end time; all of the members of the Worldwide Church of God received the truth through him, directly or indirectly. I believe God has separated the Philadelphians from the Laodiceans mainly over this issue: The people in the Philadelphia Church of God look to Mr. Armstrong as “my father, my father.” That’s not saying he was infallible; it is simply acknowledging him as the man who gave us the truth of God. That makes us today a type of the Elisha work.
God blessed Elisha for that beautiful attitude. Notice what happened: When Elijah was taken away, of course people were wondering, who will replace Elijah? Who will do the work that Elijah did? Where is the God of Elijah? And Elisha “took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him [meaning, he took over the leadership], and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over” (verses 13-14).
This answered their question. Elisha smote the waters, the Jordan parted, and he walked across. Quite a sight! I’m sure people saw him. Everybody knew right away where the God of Elijah was, because God showed them, even though Elijah was no longer around.
We have witnessed an even greater miracle today. When the end-time Elijah died, for four years God was testing His Church, giving them time to repent of their sinful changes in the Church. But when that didn’t happen, God sent Malachi’s Message—the understanding of the book of Malachi as it applies to God’s end-time Church. That was a far greater miracle than the parting of the Jordan River, because it is helping people understand and change their spiritual lives. The consequences are eternal. A big question in the mind of many people today is, where is the God of Elijah—the God who did all that work through Mr. Armstrong? Where is He today? That is a question we all need to be able to answer.
If I Be a Father
The Apostle Paul also teaches us about our spiritual father. To the Corinthians he wrote, “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you” (1 Corinthians 4:14). Paul was addressing the Corinthians—God’s own people—calling them his beloved sons. And he said, I have a warning for you. What was that warning about? “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (verse 15).
Paul said, all of you came to God through me. You may have 10,000 instructors, but you only have one father—one person through whom you came to the great God. Where did you get the revelation you have today? Where did I get it? All of the 18 restored truths, either directly or indirectly, came to each one of us from Mr. Armstrong (Matthew 17:10-11). He directed us to God. The warning is that we can easily forget, or fail to respect, our spiritual father. So many have done just that in this end time.
There is also a much deeper lesson here that we will see as we proceed.
Malachi 1:6 contains the same warning, only here it involves people who didn’t heed. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?”
This is God talking: the Lord of hosts, the supreme God, the God of the angels, the universe and everything that ever was created. He says, if I’m a father, where is my honor? Though Christ was the God of the Old Testament, here it is as if God the Father is speaking! He’s asking this question of His own people today. That’s the problem He has with the Laodiceans: They are very ungrateful sons. God says, you’re my sons, and sons ought to honor their father.
As you study this, you will begin to understand that honoring Mr. Armstrong as our father is very closely tied to honoring God the Father. That’s what Paul’s warning was really about. God is trying to teach us the deepest part of the gospel—the central part of this family message: that we must first of all honor the Father. Christ is telling these people how to get their lives straightened out. He is trying to get them to see the family structure. There is nothing on Earth like this inspiring message!
It says these ministers despise God’s name. The Anchor Bible says, “Here the term name represents the essence of God’s being, especially His sovereignty, His rule.” They have despised God’s government. To grasp this message of government, we must understand about God the Father and this loving family relationship we must have. It is critical that we understand the father role. A properly run family should have a father at the head. God is a Father, and He is creating a family. You can’t do that without authority! Try running a family without authority. You will have utter chaos.
It isn’t a natural thing to accept government. But with a loving father at the head, children shouldn’t have a problem accepting that government, even when they are corrected, because they know their father loves them. This is what the Laodiceans don’t really see today: God’s love for them. They don’t see God’s correction as being love. But God says that if you won’t be corrected, you have no Father! That is the worst fate you could have.
If only they would heed this correction in Malachi! Many Laodiceans acknowledge having a problem with Mr. Armstrong as the Elijah, but here God says, you really have a problem with your SPIRITUAL Father—God the Father! That is serious! It is the difference between being in the family of God and not being in the family. God is telling us how to be in the family. We warn the Laodiceans, because they are God’s Family.
God is speaking to His own people—who have scholarly reasons about why they have a different government. God is saying, I’ll tell you what your problem is! You HATE MY GOVERNMENT—my loving family government! They persist in their reasonings, and God puts them in the outer court. God doesn’t mince words. The Laodiceans say, we don’t believe Mr. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah. God’s answer: You hate my government! He’s not going to get caught up in their rebellious reasonings. They are dishonoring their father.
When Christ returns, His top priority in this world will be to restore God’s government. His top priority today in the Church is to restore the Father’s family government. We have a duty to honor our Father. Why not honor a Father who loves you deeply, who has already given His Son for you to prove His love? Why not submit to a Father who has such great love?
Elisha knew that Elijah was his spiritual father. I believe that’s why he was chosen for the job. As Elijah was about to go away he didn’t say, well, I’m glad I’m finally getting that job! He wasn’t there like a vulture, waiting for him to die. He said, my father, my father! He loved Elijah.
Where is the God of Elijah today, who did such a powerful work through the end-time messenger? You can answer that question with another question: Where are the people who honor God as a Father today? And at the same time honor Mr. Armstrong as a spiritual father?