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It is a documented fact that, with the exception of various prophecy issues, virtually every change to Herbert W. Armstrong’s apostolic doctrine (including government) embraced by the splinter organizations today was originally advocated by some or all of the 1970’s liberals. Yet Mr. Armstrong literally rose off his deathbed to miraculously defeat these unfaithful ministers and drive them from the Church, precisely at the time when they believed, with good reason, their takeover of the Church was unstoppable and imminent.
In his battle to purge God’s Church of the persuasive, pervasive influence of these apostate ministers, Mr. Armstrong gave the Church what may have been the most important sermon of his life. It was a life and death warning, rebuke, and plea to save God’s people from the superficially attractive apostate doctrines of the “Laodicean condition.” Mr. Armstrong concluded his grave warning with a bold, unqualified prophecy: like Elijah on Mount Carmel, he announced that God would give a very specific demonstration of His Almighty power to prove unmistakably whose doctrine was His—Mr. Armstrong’s, or the liberals’.
God fulfilled Herbert W. Armstrong’s prophecy wondrously before the entire Church, and indeed much of the world. In doing so, God not only made the message Mr. Armstrong gave that Sabbath in 1978 His Word of salvation for the vast majority of the Church of that time, but He also made the message His prophetic warning and miraculous answer to save the scattered Church today in the very same life and death test. That test requires us to know who speaks for God in this time: is it Mr. Armstrong still; or is it the splinter leaders who overruled his doctrine in favor of the same doctrine God wondrously repudiated more than thirty years ago, “answering by fire”?
The historical context of Mr. Armstrong’s sermon is important to review in order to receive the full meaning of his vital prophetic warning and direction for us today.
Year by year throughout the seventies—hidden cleverly from Mr. Armstrong, whom the Work required to be away from Pasadena most of the time—liberal doctrinal ideas steadily spread among the ministry, grew in subtle influence among the membership, and took increasing control over Headquarters operations. Each year of the seventies, aside from Mr. Armstrong’s personal accomplishment in proclaiming the Gospel overseas, the Work’s effectiveness and the Church’s growth and vitality stagnated or even declined by every important measure. To obscure these telling facts liberal ministers, professing “all due respect for Mr. Armstrong,” told members that the Church’s spiritual condition was better than ever: such ministers claimed their teaching and doctrinal scholarship had contributed to the Church improved doctrinal “accuracy, balance, and sophistication.”
In 1978, just a few months after God raised him up from total heart failure, Mr. Armstrong began to more clearly perceive and systematically uncover this widespread liberal conspiracy, which he called a deadly “cancer” in the body of Christ. The “Laodicean condition,” he revealed, interprets God’s law, government, and other deep aspects of Truth from a more “intellectual,” “worldly,” “permissive” mindset, with touches of Protestantism on some issues. Mr. Armstrong warned that the condition inevitably generates fraudulent “new understanding” of where various doctrines and spiritual judgments established in the Church through God’s apostle are at least partially erroneous, unreliably incomplete, or “unbalanced.”