January 16: More Than Just Another Date

Reese Zoellner/Trumpet

January 16: More Than Just Another Date

A look back on 32 years of history

The following is from the Trumpet Brief sent out yesterday. These daily e-mails contain personal messages from the Trumpet staff. Click here to join the over 20,000 members of our mailing list, so you don’t miss another message.

January 16, 1986: That is when the 20th-century’s foremost tv evangelist, Herbert W. Armstrong, died at the age of 93. It’s incredible to think about the massive impact this man had on the United States and the entire world. It’s also incredible that you will hear almost nothing about this man today—unless you happen to read our publications or listen to our broadcasts.

If you have been reading the Trumpet for long, you know all about Herbert Armstrong. And if you know anything about the work God did through that man, how can you deny that this man was one of the most prominent religious figures of our modern times?

He was more than a tv evangelist. He was an unofficial ambassador for world peace, a man who met more world leaders in their private offices than any other diplomat or world leader. He was the first religious leader invited to speak in China after the Cultural Revolution. When he died, presidents, kings and prime ministers alike mourned the loss of a great man and a leader in the pursuit of world peace.

Mr. Armstrong’s popular television program, the World Tomorrow, reached millions of people around the world on 382 television stations, more than any other religious program. He wrote dozens of books and booklets. In the four years between 1980 and 1984 alone, the church distributed 361.6 million books, booklets, magazines, newspapers, Bible lessons and letters. He headed a newsmagazine, the Plain Truth, published in seven languages with a monthly circulation of over 8 million at the time of his death—more than Time and Newsweek combined.

After Mr. Armstrong’s death on Jan. 16, 1986, however, the Plain Truth and the work that produced it were no longer plain nor true. Although his teachings had been supported and enjoyed by millions over the course of decades, after Mr. Armstrong’s death they were repudiated and ridiculed by his most-trusted lieutenants—the very people who succeeded him in the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God (wcg).

After his death, the work that God built through this man fell to pieces, and quickly. Ten years after Mr. Armstrong died, the current pastor general of that church said regarding Mr. Armstrong’s work, “We have much to repent of and apologize for” (Plain Truth, March-April 1996). He described Mr. Armstrong’s teachings as “judgmental and self-righteous.”

Judgmental and self-righteous? That is not the man I remember—or the man that millions listened to on the World Tomorrow program each week—or the man who wrote such dynamic articles in the Plain Truth—or the man that dozens of world leaders around the world were proud to call their friend.

Here at the Trumpet, we are proud to follow in the footsteps of Herbert W. Armstrong. We declare the truths that God restored through him, and we honor him for the incredible work that God did through him.

Our magazine, the Trumpet, follows in the path of the Plain Truth magazine. Mr. Armstrong wrote dozens of books and booklets, and we went to court against the wcg for six years to win the copyrights to those books. Now we offer them to you, free of charge.

In the July-August 2017 Royal Vision, my father pointed out how pleased God was with His servant Herbert W. Armstrong. He wrote, “I have realized that every time i honor Mr. Armstrong, God honors me” (emphasis added).

That is a beautiful statement. God loved Mr. Armstrong’s attitude and his dynamic focus on His work. God honors Mr. Armstrong for what he did. And when we honor Mr. Armstrong, God honors us as well. That’s what my father said in that special Royal Vision issue.

Beginning in 1989, the same God who raised up His Church under Mr. Armstrong went to work raising the ruins of that church through the Philadelphia Church of God (pcg). The scattered people who held on to their original faith grew in number. In 1997, the pcg made a bold and exciting decision to enter a new phase of God’s work. The Church began reprinting and sending Mr. Armstrong’s literature—particularly his masterwork, Mystery of the Ages—to the largest audience possible.

Immediately, the same leadership that cut down Mr. Armstrong came gunning for this resurrected work, promising to bury the facts again, saying it was their “Christian duty to keep this book out of print.”

A grueling, life-and-death, six-year copyright battle ensued in which the wcg and the pcg went head to head over the beliefs outlined in Mystery of the Ages. The history of that amazing case and its wondrous outcome shines a stark light on what really happened inside the wcg.

Our court battle was all about honoring Mr. Armstrong’s legacy. That was the reason we went to court—to honor him and the revelation that God gave to him.

The wcg leadership had declared that Mystery of the Ages was “riddled with errors.” You can read that book for yourself to prove that statement wrong. We decided to print Mystery of the Ages, labeling it “© Herbert W. Armstrong.” Today, we print Mystery of the Ages and 18 of his other books and booklets with “© Philadelphia Church of God.”

God truly does honor us when we honor Mr. Armstrong. The outcome of the court battle shows that more clearly than anything else.

The wcg won in court at the appellate level, and things looked bad for the pcg. Yet Pastor General Gerald Flurry said a year in advance that one way or the other, the pcg would be able to print Mystery of the Ages. He based that on a revealed meaning of Habakkuk 3:2, where the Prophet Habakkuk implored God, “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.”

“The pcg has never needed reviving except in the court case,” my father wrote in the September-October 2002 Royal Vision. “This is a prophecy about God reviving us. So we need to prepare for a spectacular end! Yes—we are going to get Mr. Armstrong’s writings. … I believe that God will have to give us Mr. Armstrong’s writings. I state that in faith, and I strongly believe He will if we have the faith we need.”

On Jan. 16, 2003—17 years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, to the day—the court case came to a miraculous end. The wcg accepted our offer to settle out of court and gave us the copyrights to Mystery of the Ages and the other 18 works we sought to reprint. That was a truly miraculous outcome!

The timing of that capitulation was not an accident. It was a marvelous miracle—a double wonder—an astonishing victory for a little Church that wanted to honor Mr. Armstrong and the God who worked through him. It was God who gave us those writings. And even more than that, He gave us great honor for honoring the legacy of Mr. Armstrong.

This story is one of the most astonishing events in all Church history. If you want to read more about it, please request Raising the Ruins. This book goes into deep detail about the court battle and, as the cover says, “The fight to revive the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong.” You can also request Mystery of the Ages, a book that answers the most pressing questions of mankind—a book that, for us, was worth spending millions for, worth fighting for in order to be able to give it away to you free. If you study this book with your Bible, you will understand why we fought so hard to keep this truth.