THE END TIME ELIJAH

A conviction strongly adhered to by many in the end time Church of God is that Herbert W Armstrong fulfilled the role prophesied in Mt 17:10-11, that of the so called "end time Elijah". I realise not all Churches of God hold to this doctrine, and some put a different spin on it, but it is nevertheless a widely held belief.

The author of this website held this belief virtually unquestioned for some 25 years.

Very few in the Church of God realise how Herbert Armstrong, through his acquaintance with the writings of a former Seventh Day Adventist minister named G G Rupert, learned the truth about the validity of God's law, including the Holy Days. Rupert believed that he himself was the "end time Elijah", and mentions others before him who believed that they were the "end time Elijah".

Click here to read the G G Rupert article from 1919 that shows these things.

The concept of and the belief in an "end time Elijah" did not originate with Herbert W Armstrong.

Although the words of Christ in Matthew 17:11, "Elijah truly shall come first, and restore all things", do not say what these "all things" are, it has always, in the recent history of the Church of God, been explained as referring to Church doctrines. G G Rupert thought so too.

Even if we assume this is correct, it raises an enormous problem: ministers from the Church Herbert Armstrong (HWA) attended for years, the Church of God Seventh Day (COG7), say that most of what HWA taught after he left them and went his own way, was already taught by them. Taking into account the teachings of G G Rupert and those taught by the COG7, how many doctrines were actually "restored" to the Church by HWA?

We have been repeatedly told that what is usually labeled the "Sardis era" had only three or four truths, these being the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments, tithing, and the name "Church of God". A little bit of research into the old writings of the COG7 however, paints a very different picture.

The author was able to compile a list of 39 beliefs the Church of God had prior to the time of Herbert Armstrong.

These are:

1) The Ten Commandments

2) The seventh day Sabbath

3) The name "Church of God"

4) Tithing

5) Baptism by immersion

6) Non-baptism of children

7) Physical circumcision is replaced by spiritual circumcision

8) The Great Whore of Rev 17 is the Catholic Church

9) Catholic doctrine originated in Babylon

10) The dead do not go to heaven or hell

11) Mortality of the soul / The dead are asleep

12) The resurrection of the dead

13) Christ was in the grave three days and three nights

14) The days Christ was in the grave ran from Wednesday till the Sabbath

15) Christ died in the middle of the week as prophesied by Daniel

16) Sunday is the Mark of the Beast

17) The Mark of the Beast concerns the forehead (seat of intellect) and the hand (sign of labour)

18) Rejection of the symbol of the cross

19) Rejection of Christmas

20) Rejection of Easter

21) The Christian is to keep the commandments by the power of the holy spirit

22) Clean and unclean foods

23) Christ is the Mediator between God and man, not Mary or someone else

24) The existence of a "True Church"

25) The Church is the Bride of Christ

26) The Church is the Family of God

27) The belief in an "end time Elijah" (G G Rupert taught it was himself)

28) The keeping of Passover on the 14th of Abib

29) The keeping of Pentecost

30) The validity of the Holy Days (G G Rupert, Clarence Dodd)

31) British Israelism (various identifications of tribes taught by different individuals)

32) The belief that the return of Christ is imminent

33) The rejection of military service

34) Knowledge of the "day for a year" principle of interpreting prophecy

35) Knowledge that a prophetic year is 360 days

36) Knowledge that a "time" is a year; and "time, times and half a time" equals 1260 years

37) Knowledge of the meaning of the nations comprising the Daniel 2 statue

38) The four beasts of Dan 7 are the same four world ruling empires of the statue of Dan 2

39) The "little horn" of Dan 7 is the Papacy

Most of these beliefs and practices can be found in "A History of the True Religion" by

Andrew Dugger and Clarence Dodd.

Click here to read "A History of the True Religion" by Andrew Dugger and Clarence Dodd.

To say that leading Church figures did not accept the keeping of the biblical Holy Days is proved incorrect by the simple fact that the Churches that have followed on from Clarence Dodd still keep these Feasts to this day.

The "Sabbath Sentinel" magazine of September 1988 makes these two startling statements on this topic (both on page 8):

1) "In the Spring of 1937, Elder C.O. Dodd of Salem, West Virginia, began publishing a paper called The Faith, advocating the Feasts of Leviticus 23."

2) "During the Churches of God (7th Day) Feast of Tabernacles that Fall (1938) in Warrior, Alabama, lectures by ........."

 

Not only was the doctrine of the annual Holy Days accepted, it quickly became practice.

Some brethren, including G G Rupert, adhered to different interpretations of the then well known doctrine of British Israelism. This doctrine had been around for a long time, and was already known to King James I of England, of King James Bible fame, who believed that as King of England he had been made King of Israel, and had coins minted alluding to this.

British Israel views were at various times published in the Church of God Seventh Day newspaper, the "Bible Advocate", even though these beliefs were not taught by the majority of ministers. Church doctrines and beliefs were then not as strictly and centrally controlled as they are today.

 

In Matthew 17, the Scriptures teach us that John the Baptist was the first century fulfilment of an Elijah prophesied in Malachi 4 to appear prior to Jesus Christ. Jesus himself confirmed this in Mt 17:12-13, "But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist".

However, as stated, the supposed Elijah who was to come in the end time was believed to be about restoring doctrines. John the Baptist is said not to have restored any doctrines and therefore is, in hindsight, ruled out as being the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Mt 17:10-11.

Here a danger immediately becomes apparent. If you make an incorrect assumption about a particular passage of Scripture, you might not be able to see the correct interpretation because your initial assumption was incorrect.

The prophecy in Mt 17 is taken by the Churches to refer to someone who appears just before Christ's second coming. However, if Mt 17:11 is read as "Elijah indeed comes first" (Green's Literal Translation), which of course John the Baptist did, the Scripture makes perfect sense in its first century fulfilment. When read in parallel with Mk 9:12, "Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things, and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought", it is seen that the "Elijah" who restores all things appears before Christ's suffering. This suffering occurred, of course, at Christ's first coming. When He returns, He does so in power and glory, not again to suffer.

The disciples were questioning Christ as a result of the Pharisees claiming that He couldn't be the Christ because Elijah hadn't come yet. Christ confirmed the prophesied sequence of events and what this Elijah would accomplish, by saying "Elijah truly does come first and shall restore all things", but then explained that the Elijah already had come in the person of John the Baptist and had fulfilled that part of the prophecy.

I have personally heard said in Church of God sermons: "John the Baptist restored nothing". This however does not make sense looking at the Scriptures. John was prophesied to "turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk 1:16-17). Clearly John succeeded in fulfilling these prophecies. Jesus Himself said that John was the greatest man ever born of a woman - greater than all the prophets! Surely he fulfilled what he was prophesied to fulfil

What exactly did John the Baptist restore?

John the Baptist restored the true religion to Israel. He restored the relationship between God and His people.

 

When Jesus Christ began to preach, the Scriptures tell us that "the people heard Him gladly" (Mk 12:37). The people said that "All things this man (John) spoke of Him (Christ) were true" (Jn 10:41).

Why did the common people respond in this way? Because John the Baptist had "restored all things" i.e. restored knowledge of the true God to them, not the one the Pharisees and Sadducees represented.

Also, John the Baptist was given the holy spirit from conception. This the Scriptures show is a very rare thing. A very special work must be expected from a person who is given God's spirit from the womb. I'm not aware of anyone, among all those who say they are end time prophets and apostles, making the claim of having had God's spirit from conception.

We say that the man who had the holy spirit from the womb "restored nothing", but he who did not have the holy spirit from the womb supposedly "restored all things".

If Herbert Armstrong's restoration work was greater than John the Baptist's, why didn't he have the holy spirit from conception?

A big part of the misunderstanding lies in a misinterpretation of the prophecy in Mal 4:5-6: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse".

Unfortunately, the phrase "day of the Lord" has been explained, in the final era of the Church, as being solely applicable to the time of Christ's second coming. A closer examination of the usage of this phrase in Scripture however, shows that it is used to describe a variety of occasions where God intervenes in Israel's affairs in a major way.

A perfect example is the book of Joel. The phrase "day of the Lord" is found five times in Joel. None of these apply to the time of Christ's return. The book of Joel begins before Judah's first captivity. In Joel 1:6 it says that a nation compared to a "lion" is going to devour the land. Notice that Dan 7:4 compares the first "beast" power to a lion. Elsewhere in Daniel this power is identified as Babylon. Joel describes the conquest of his people by this "lion" as a "day of the Lord" in Joel 1:15, 2:1 and 2:11. It should not surprise us that Joel uses this phrase to describe this event, because Jeremiah does the same thing in Lam 2:22, calling it "the day of the Lord's anger". Jeremiah personally witnessed the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and describes it graphically in the book of Lamentations.

In Joel 2, God shows that a remnant of the Jews is brought back from Babylon to Israel. In Joel 2:28-29 we get a chronological marker, referring to the time of Christ's first coming and the establishment of the Church. Joel 2:28 is quoted in Acts 2:16-18 in regard to the pouring out of God's spirit. Most of the Jews however, rejected Christ and so Joel 2:31 predicts another "day of the Lord". This came in the form of the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem. This is the same "day of the Lord" mentioned in Mal 4:5-6, which involved striking the "earth" of Israel with utter destruction.

In Joel 3:1, the restoration of the Jews is foretold after their 2520 years of punishment has ended. God says that He will "bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem" and they will never again be uprooted from their land. This event is again called a "day of the Lord" in Joel 3:14, concerning the Holocaust and WWII, after which the Jews were released from their oppressors and returned to the promised land.

So we have seen the phrase "day of the Lord" used six times, without once referring to Christ's return. The misapplication of Mal 4:5-6 in Church of God prophetic interpretation regarding a supposed "end time Elijah", needs no further evidence. The phrase "day of the Lord" in Mal 4:5 refers to Christ's first coming to Israel and its consequences for that generation. 

Hopefully this clarifies the folly of the "end time Elijah" doctrine. The Laodicean era problem is one of it big-noting itself, thinking it is spiritually "rich and increased with goods" (Rev 3:17), when the opposite is the truth. Please see the page "THE TRUE CHURCH ERAS" for a detailed explanation.