Victory Prophesied!

From the booklet Habakkuk

Here is why, even in the darkest days of our court battle, we absolutely knew the pcg would obtain these invaluable written works.

By Stephen Flurry

Though he had expected the district court’s ruling in favor of the Philadelphia Church of God to stand, Pastor General Gerald Flurry was anything but devastated by the Ninth Circuit’s reversal on September 18, 2000. “I’m not discouraged—I’m not depressed,” he told pcg members a few days after the disappointing verdict. “I want to fight more than ever. I asked the lawyers to fight as if our lives depended on it, but to really fight it with a positive attitude—realizing that God is with us.” Soon after the decision at the appellate level, our attorneys petitioned for a rehearing en banc. We submitted a brief to all 27 judges at the Ninth Circuit, hoping one of them would move to have our case submitted before an 11-judge panel. No one responded.

“It’s not over yet,” Mr. Flurry insisted. “We’re going to win this thing in the end. We absolutely know that.”

We then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. While waiting to hear if it would accept the case, my dad made this amazing statement in the March-April 2001 Trumpet: “We are in a court battle over Herbert W. Armstrong’s book Mystery of the Ages. The big issue is, who owns the copyright? … Now there has been an injunction issued. We have had to stop printing and mailing Mystery of the Ages (and all of Mr. Armstrong’s writings).

“We have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. There is less than a 1 percent chance of our getting into the Supreme Court, but I believe we will. I prophesy to you that, one way or the other, God will provide a way for us to mail that book again” (emphasis added).

A few weeks after that appeared in print, on April 2, the Supreme Court declined to hear our petition without comment as to why.

On the surface, things had gone from bad to worse.

Yet everything my dad kept saying assured pcg members that things would eventually take a turn for the better. In Unveiled at Last: The Royal Book of Revelation, published about the same time the Supreme Court decided not to hear our case, he wrote, “Should we deliver Mystery of the Ages? I tell you we must deliver it! When the Bible talks about prophesying again, that primarily means the same prophecy—again. God is talking about a message that has been prophesied before. We must prophesy again because we haven’t yet reached the largest audience possible with Mystery of the Ages. The job is still incomplete.

“God won’t allow anybody to stop this message until that work is done. The injunction is only a temporary delay!”

He based his strong statements on certain prophecies in Revelation 10, where God said the “mystery of God” had to be “finished” before Christ returned (see Revelation 10:7, 11). This is why, he went on to say, the pcg has been commissioned to get Mystery of the Ages to the world. “But for this temporary injunction, Mystery of the Ages is going out again. Understanding this really puts things into a greatly reduced time frame,” he wrote.

He didn’t know all the answers with respect to how God would do it—only that God would do it! Regarding the lawsuit, we knew that our counterclaim for 18 other works had yet to be resolved. We also knew that once the damages trial for Mystery of the Ages ended, we could again appeal to the Supreme Court. And since the Ninth Circuit’s ruling was a split decision and was criticized in a number of law journals, including the Harvard Law Review (April 2001), we felt like anything could happen.

Then there was our opponent—the Worldwide Church of God—beset with plummeting income and reserves, and averse to the idea of facing us in court. And even if it chose to fight through to the end—and won at every stop—it would then be obligated to somehow make these works available. For it was on the strength of its “annotated version” argument—that it wanted to print Mystery of the Ages with annotations of all its “errors”—that it won at the Ninth Circuit. And after all was said and done, if the annotated plan never got off the ground, would it then expose itself to more litigation?

The way we looked at it, God could fulfill His prophecy in Revelation 10 any number of ways.

Helge’s Indirect Admission

Writing for The Journal, a publication reporting on the news of the wcg and its many splinter groups, Bill Stough said in the May 31, 2001, issue, “The director of the Worldwide Church of God’s legal department says that if the Philadelphia Church of God wants to publish and distribute wcg-copyrighted publications it should negotiate directly with the Worldwide Church of God.”

So far as we know, this was wcg’s first indication that it had reconsidered its “Christian duty” (in the words of its pastor general) to suppress Mr. Armstrong’s works and might, under certain circumstances, allow them to be distributed. (Helge was interviewed for the story on May 11, 2001.) But more than an offer to license the works, I believe the above quote implies this indirect admission from Helge: There are no plans to annotate or make Mr. Armstrong’s works available. The deeper wcg got into this litigation, the more it realized that in order to prevail on all the merits of its case, it had to, in some form, make these works by Mr. Armstrong available to the public.

Later that summer, wcg made it known in court filings that it would have objectively considered any offer we might have made to license the works of Mr. Armstrong prior to our printing them in 1997. It also suggested that it would—even then—seriously consider any bona fide offer from the pcg. Furthermore, it assured us (and the court) that when Joe Tkach Jr. said he had a “Christian duty” to keep Mr. Armstrong’s works out of print, he was not speaking for the wcg, but rather espousing his own “personal” views.

At the time, we had a hard time believing that wcg sincerely wanted to get out of this lawsuit by letting go of Mr. Armstrong’s works. To that point, we had been dropping the “Christian duty” statement at every opportunity in court, arguing that it would have been futile to make any request to obtain the works direct from wcg.

Prophecy Gets More Specific

In September 2001, we produced another booklet, titled Who Is ‘That Prophet’? My dad wrote, “I believe we will not lose the court case. Yes, our chances of winning are small. But that only makes greater odds for God. He is like the Supreme Court in that He only takes certain cases. But He usually takes them when you’ve already gone into the fiery furnace! Mystery of the Ages was an open door for us. God has put it on hold temporarily. But Isaiah 22:22 says that when Eliakim opens a door, none can shut it. We must have faith in that.”

Whereas Revelation 10 (as expounded on in The Royal Book of Revelation) revealed that the message in Mystery of the Ages would, in fact, go out again, the prophecies discussed in That Prophet indicated more. Isaiah 22 says that someone in this end time would come as a type of Eliakim. Notice what verse 24 says regarding this man: “And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons.” Anciently, these vessels were the tools needed to perform the temple services. My dad explained that today, “[t]hese must refer to all of our books and booklets. All the glory hangs on Eliakim—all the revelation from Mr. Armstrong, plus all the new revelation God has given to that prophet. That is quite a lot of glory! We have it all!” (ibid; emphasis added).

This was the first indication we had that God wanted more for us than just the right to copy and distribute Mr. Armstrong’s works. He wanted us to own them!

Later in the same booklet, my dad expounded upon another prophecy, in Amos 9: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” (verse 11). This, he believed, referred to the work the pcg was doing—raising up something that had been torn down. In other words, Mr. Armstrong’s work! “If you’re going to build this tabernacle ‘as in the days of old,’ you would have to have the books and booklets you once had,” he wrote.

Notice verse 12: “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this.” Here is what my dad wrote regarding this verse: “That must include Mystery of the Ages and Mr. Armstrong’s other books and booklets. That is what I believe, and faith firmly dictates that I continue to believe that until God says otherwise.”

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word possess in verse 12 means “to occupy (by driving out previous tenants, and possessing in their place); by implication, to seize, to rob, to inherit; also to expel, to impoverish, to ruin.” God was now getting pretty specific in directing my father through the lawsuit. Being able to use the material was not enough—God wanted us to control it. As to how that would work out, we still weren’t quite sure.

E-Publishing—More Revelation

By this point in the lawsuit, wcg had concocted another “plan” to help support its argument in court. It intended to e-publish all the works we were seeking—that is, make them available over the Internet. Initially, it wanted us to absorb the costs of such action. In November 2001, however, wcg told us that if we failed to settle the case, it would move forward with the e-publishing venture, at its own cost, in order to undermine our argument that it would be futile to request a license.

That same month, we produced yet another booklet, The God Family Vision. In it, my dad wrote, “Mystery of the Ages doesn’t belong to the Worldwide Church of God. It is the knowledge of God!”

In that book, my dad discussed how the Worldwide Church of God had sold its spiritual birthright, comparing that church to Esau. He wrote, “If you sell your birthright for all the wealth in the world today, it’s still just a bowl of soup!” And that’s what wcg had been doing for a number of years—selling off valuable gifts given to Mr. Armstrong, fine furniture, youth camps, festival sites, college campuses. It was even trying to sell its headquarters facilities in Pasadena, including the church’s crown jewel—Ambassador Auditorium. (It has now sold all those facilities for many millions of dollars.)

But would they also sell off Mr. Armstrong’s writings? To that point, it had only suggested licenses—and very restrictive ones, at that.

Initial Offer to License

On March 14, 2002, we made a formal offer to wcg to license the works in dispute. Admittedly, the offer was not put forth without some reservation. For one, we felt God wanted us to own the works. And we simply did not trust wcg. We didn’t like the fact that under such an agreement, wcg would have control of the literature, even if we were able to distribute the works.

But in thinking on it, this was really no different from what we had in 1997 when we started printing Mystery of the Ages. The wcg owned the copyright, but we were able to distribute it under “fair use.” Aside from that, wcg had made representations in court that it would have, all along, considered any offer to license the works. So we wanted to see just how serious it was.

Turns out, it wasn’t—at least not at that time. In response, wcg said on April 8 that our offer was “denied.” It said it was no longer interested in licensing the works now that e-publishing would make all the works available.

In posting these works online, however, wcg prefaced each of them with a 1,500-word attack against Mr. Armstrong and his teachings. It had a “Christian duty,” you see, to keep these works “out of print.” But if it absolutely had to publish them, it wanted to make sure readers understood that Mr. Armstrong was stupid and that he taught heresy.

When wcg rejected our offer and later revealed its defamatory preface, it breathed life into our litigation. From then on, we concentrated all our energies on fighting it in court—giving no thought to licensing the works.

God wanted us to have those works. And somehow—we still didn’t know exactly how—He would hand them to us.

Habakkuk Revealed the Outcome

As 2002 wore on, looking at it purely from a legal perspective, we were getting further and further away from possessing our spiritual vessels. The counterclaim had yet to be resolved, and the damages trial kept getting postponed. Once the counterclaim was settled, it would have undoubtedly been appealed to the Ninth Circuit by the losing party. After the damages trial, we would have immediately appealed to the Supreme Court. In other words, much more litigation.

On the other hand, Bible prophecy indicated that things were quickly winding down. My dad wrote a lengthy article in our September-October 2002 issue of Royal Vision. The title speaks for itself: “Habakkuk Reveals the Outcome of Our Court Case.” Regarding Habakkuk 3:2, he wrote, “The pcg has never needed reviving except in the court case. 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.”

Once again, he based such strong statements on what was revealed in Scripture. Notice Habakkuk 1:1-2: “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!” There was a temple crisis in Habakkuk’s day—a type of what the pcg has endured in this end time.

Verse 3: “Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention. The Hebrew for those two words, strife and contention, indicates that this is a legal struggle.

And notice, God’s faithful people in Habakkuk’s day didn’t fare well in their legal struggle. “Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth” (verse 4). Again, notice the legal language—law, judgment, wrong judgment. The Hebrew word for judgment, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, especially a sentence or formal decree ….”

My dad quoted from a couple commentaries in his article. Concerning “wrong judgment,” Lange’s Commentary says, “[T]he meaning would be: There is no more any righteous verdict given ….” The Anchor Bible says, “[T]he juridical language of verse 4 is unmistakable … it could be describing corruption in the courts.”

Habakkuk’s reference to a wrong judgment, or verdict, is especially interesting in light of our court battle. There is no mention of a right judgment to correct the wrong. It just continues on with this most inspiring verse: “Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you” (verse 5).

My dad wrote in his article, “God says He will raise up a work that people will hear about but won’t believe—and this is in the context of the court battle. I believe this has already been fulfilled in general, but is God also saying there will be a specific fulfillment related to the court case, a specific miracle, that will fill God’s people with wonder? A miracle that will remove the injustices and destruction? Do we have the faith to believe?” (emphasis added).

The “destruction” he refers to is brought about by an evil man bent on destroying God’s truth. Right at the outset of our lawsuit, Joseph Tkach Jr. said he had a “Christian duty” to keep all of Mr. Armstrong’s writings “out of print”—destroyed. And while we won the lawsuit at the district level, the Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling—injustice. With that as our context, Habakkuk says something wondrously marvelous would happen to remove the injustice and the destruction. What could prevent Mr. Tkach from destroying Mr. Armstrong’s literature and the Ninth Circuit’s injustice from keeping it buried? Only a miracle from God.

My dad continued in his article, “I believe we will see something dramatic on the scene very soon! I can’t read these verses any other way. This is in the context of a revival, and a court battle, and God says a double wonder is coming” (emphasis added).

Later in the article my dad wrote, “If God reveals Habakkuk, then it follows that He is going to revive this Work soon if we walk by faith. … We must continue. If so, we cannot lose. God will revive His Work” (emphasis added).

A General and Specific Fulfillment

This specific understanding of Habakkuk in that issue of Royal Vision set the tone for my dad’s messages at the Feast of Tabernacles in September 2002. On September 22, he compared two verses in Daniel. In Daniel 8:11, it says that in this end time, Satan will take away the “daily”—meaning God’s Work delivering His truth (see verse 12). My dad explained that this was a direct reference to Mr. Armstrong’s literature and how it had been cast to the ground in this end time because of the court case.

Then, in comparing that passage with Daniel 12:11, we read that God (not Satan) takes away the “daily” just before the Great Tribulation begins. Elsewhere in Scripture, this is referred to as the famine of the word (see Amos 8:11).

The point is this: For the daily to be taken away now (by Satan) and then again just before the Great Tribulation (by God), it proves, my dad said in September, that we will somehow do the daily, or continue God’s Work of proclaiming His revealed truth (including Mr. Armstrong’s literature) to the world again before Christ returns.

A week later, on September 28, my dad expounded on a verse in Revelation 10:11—“And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” In The Royal Book of Revelation, he had explained the general meaning of the verse: that we were to prophesy again, the way Mr. Armstrong had done before he died.

Yet look at this verse in all its specific detail, he told the pcg membership. “Prophesy again implies that it was stopped. Then God says, ‘Prophesy again.’ But we must fight our way through it and see how God delivers us.

And Then—‘Double Wonder’

Less than three weeks later, on October 14, the Worldwide Church of God made an offer it had not made throughout the six years of litigation and, in fact, had vowed in 1997 never to make. It asked if we would be interested in buying Mystery of the Ages. It even attached a dollar figure to its offer (one that was much too high for our budget). Later, it not only lowered its dollar amount to a more reasonable sum—it tacked on the other 18 works we were seeking in our counterclaim!

Everything we had been fighting for was now ours. No one but God could have predicted such an incredible outcome for the Philadelphia Church of God. Yet given these numerous specific prophecies, that is exactly what He had done.

Answering the Critics

In the Journal story quoted earlier in this chapter (May 31, 2001), the author asked Ralph Helge if he was aware of the prophecy Gerald Flurry made in the March-April 2001 Trumpet—that “one way or the other, God will provide a way for us to mail that book again.”

Aware of my dad’s comments, Helge was quoted as saying, “He won’t want his prophecy to fail, so what he is probably really doing is pronouncing ahead of time what he is actually planning on doing. Hence his words are really nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Stop and think about that comment for a moment. The Ninth Circuit had ruled against us eight months earlier. There had been an injunction served against us. And we had just heard that the Supreme Court chose not to hear our petition. The wcg had won the lawsuit over Mystery at the appellate level and would receive damages from us at trial!

It’s almost as if Helge knew, even then, that we would somehow get these works. And when we did, he wanted everyone to know that it wouldn’t be because God said so, but because of a self-fulfilling prophecy of Gerald Flurry!

How in the world could Gerald Flurry have “planned” for the case to end up the way it did?

Fast-forward two years and look at what Mr. Helge said once the lawsuit was over and the pcg owned the copyrights: “During the last year or so, pcg made different offers to license or purchase some or all of the literary works in question, and thereby settle the litigation. As the church did not consider that the amounts offered were sufficient, the offers were rejected. But then pcg made a substantial offer of $3 million [of which the pcg paid $2 million] to purchase 19 of the literary works written by Mr. Armstrong, and settle the litigation.

“The church board of directors and some of its officials met to consider this offer” (Worldwide News, April 2003).

This misrepresents the facts entirely. The truth of the matter is this: Long before there were ever any negotiations, the wcg board of directors met to decide they wanted out of this lawsuit. This is why, on October 14, 2002, they offered to sell Mystery of the Ages on the condition that they drop their suit and that we drop our counterclaim.

We rejected this initial offer, and many others to follow, just as sure as wcg “rejected” a number of our counteroffers.

The fact of the matter is, it wanted out. It was obvious. That’s why it asked us to settle.

Even after both sides had agreed to the principle terms of settlement on January 16, 2003, contractual negotiations were nearly derailed when wcg insisted that we either give back or destroy all the documents from wcg we had accumulated in this case. We told it this was a “deal breaker” for us.

On February 27, my dad said that he was getting his “second wind” and was prepared to go back to court if wcg insisted on that clause in the contract. Four days later, Helge wrote to tell us that wcg had reconsidered and, “in the spirit of Christian cooperation,” had agreed to delete the paragraph requiring destruction of court documents from the contract.

In light of what Helge said in the months that led up to October 14, it makes sense that he would put the spin on the settlement discussions that he did. All along, he had made no secret of the fact that he felt wcg was in the driver’s seat—that pcg was in a totally indefensible position, faced with the prospect of not getting Mr. Armstrong’s literature and paying out multiple millions of dollars.

In its “ideal” position, the only way wcg would even talk to us was if we humbly approached it with an offer it couldn’t refuse. So goes the spin.

In that Habakkuk article I quoted from earlier, my dad made this statement: “People have pressured us to make a deal to resolve this dispute. But we won’t make a deal with such an evil force—we will only fight, using any means at our disposal!” Leaving aside the incredible number of fulfilled prophecies in that article, not to mention the context in which the above statement is made, let us examine that statement in particular, since a handful of critics have said that we caved in to make a deal.

First of all, who was “pressured”? Halting negotiations at the 11th hour, insisting we call the judge to resume litigation—as my dad did—are not the acts of one pressured to make a deal.

Even Helge would have to admit that we did fight, using any means at our disposal. And it was for this very reason that the wcg, despite its spin, was pressured to make a deal in order to get out of this lawsuit.

Now look at the context of the statement in question: “If you look at the court case physically, it is hard to understand why one church would go to such effort and expense simply to destroy what we’re doing. But if you understand Satan and his demons, you clearly recognize that there is a force out there intent on destroying God’s truth!” What follows is the comment about the pcg not being pressured to make a deal.

In pressuring wcg to make a deal, God prevented it from destroying His truth! Those who might criticize one statement in my dad’s 12-page article need to read the entire article—and then direct their criticism elsewhere. Joseph Tkach Jr. is the one who said he had a “Christian duty” to keep Mystery of the Ages out of print.

So much for his duty as a Christian to keep Mr. Armstrong’s teachings buried. He’s the one who sold out—not Gerald Flurry. We got everything we wanted—and more!

But in considering these arguments from critics—doesn’t it make sense? They know we now own the very works we not only fought for, but said—over and over—that we would obtain! Now that it has happened, they have to criticize the manner in which those works fell into our lap. The only other alternative is to believe the prophecies of God as revealed by His messenger.