Was Herbert Armstrong a false prophet when he predicted Jesus Christ would return within five to ten years (Military Service and War 1967, p. 54), that communism would take over India and engulf “the yellow races” (1975 in Prophecy, p. 10, 1956), or that a world dictator was about to appear (first copy of The Plain Truth)? Or, as Armstrong apologists say, were his prophecies merely delayed?
How long can a prophecy be delayed and still be from God? What does the bible say about this? Forget what your church teaches for a moment—what does the bible say? It might come as as surprise, but the bible does address this issue!
When Paul spoke of the return of Christ in his time (I Thess 4:17), was he merely “off in his timing” as many ministers preach? Were the prophecies of Jesus predicting his second coming (Matt 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) delayed 2000 years? Does this make Jesus a false prophet?
If any of these men were off in their timing, do they deserve the death penalty for being false prophets? The frank bible answer will come as a shock to any Christian brave enough to face it. If you are a Christian, brace yourself, and read on.
Deut 18:20-22 says if a prophet arises and if his words do not come to pass, he must die! God actually commanded the death. One cannot carry out a death sentence on someone who has aleady died of natural causes, so, obviously, the death sentence must be carried out while the prophet is still alive. If the prophet dies of natural causes that command has not been kept. This must be considered seriously. It was a serious sin to disobey a command to execute a false prophet.
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, IF THE THING FOLLOW NOT, NOR COME TO PASS, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptiously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut 18:22.). Note that it says explicity (in v. 21) that this is how they were to “know” that the words of the false prophet were not from God. They did not have to guess, wonder, or wait indefinitely to find out if the words were from God. They could know. Then.
What was the penalty for the prophet?
“But the prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak … even THAT PROPHET SHALL DIE.” (v. 20).
Notice the command: the false prophet must die. It’s not talking about letting him die of natural causes!
Now let’s suppose I were a false prophet. I could prophesy in the name of the Lord that lead will turn into gold. My followers might load up on lead, then wait for lead to turn into gold. And wait. And wait. How long should they wait? Eventually I die of old age. Was it a failed prophecy? I never set a date for the prophecy to be fulfilled, so my followers could be waiting forever. How will they know it was a false prophecy? How long should they hold onto their lead?
If they accept the “prophecy did not fail, it was just delayed” excuse they could be waiting forever. By that standard, one could come up with millions of prophecies which can never be disproven no matter how long we wait.
But God said you can KNOW that the words of the false prophet were not from God (v. 21). If we wait and wait forever, we will NEVER know. But God said we can KNOW if the word was from him, by whether it comes to pass.
Clearly, there must be an upper time limit on how long we must wait before we can know, and it must be before the death of the false prophet from natural causes.
“And if you say in your heart, How shall we KNOW the word which the Lord has NOT spoken?” (v. 21).
This is not talking about knowing a true prophet by words which DO come to pass. It is talking about knowing a FALSE prophet by words which do NOT come to pass. It does not say here that we should just keep waiting indefinitely because we can never know. It says we can KNOW.
God commanded that if a prophet arises and if his words do not come to pass, he must be put to death. Once again, this sentence was to be carried out while the prophet was still alive—in the prophet’s own lifetime. It would have been pointless for God to order the death of the false prophet otherwise.
Though we don’t kill false prophets today, the instructions on how to detect a false prophet are still applicable today.
To my knowledge, the bible does not say how many years to wait, but it does effectivly put an upper time limit on the prophecy. If the prophet dies of natural causes, we waited too long because God COMMANDED that he be executed, which means he must be executed before he dies of natural causes. So the maximum time we must wait is some time less than the life time of the prophet.
In other words, if the prophet dies before his prophesy comes to pass, he was a false prophet, and should have been executed!
Did Herbert Armstrong die before his prophecies came to pass? Yes! He was a false prophet. Did Paul die before his prophecies came to pass? Yes! He was a false prophet. Did Jesus die before his prophecies came to pass? Yes! Another false prophet.
But many readers will object: “the bible is full of prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled.” That is true. But according to Deuteronomy, every one of them was uttered by a false prophet. Either Deuteronomy is false, or many bible prophets who came later are false. We can’t have it both ways.
This is just more proof that the bible is a collection of contradictions that were not inspired by God. Bible scholars and ministers make a living confusing the issues. They try to jump through hoops to explain away such contradictions in the bible. This is nothing more than self-serving self-delusion and lies. If they can’t dazzle us with brilliance, they try to baffle us with nonsense. Don’t believe their nonsense.
These men are also false prophets themselves because they are perpetuating those false prophecies, telling people, contrary to Deuteronomy, to wait indefinitely until the prophecies are fulfilled. They try to scare people with the fear of lost salvation, or death, or suffering for those who disregard their prophecies. But Deuteronomy commands us not to fear such men.
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptiously: THOU SHALT NOT BE AFRAID OF HIM.” (Deuteronomy 18:22.).
Sadly, many lack courage. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare…” Revelation 21:8 says “But the cowardly … their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”
How many chances should we give the prophet whose words do not come to pass?
“But the prophet which shall presume to speak A WORD in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak … even THAT PROPHET SHALL DIE.” (v. 20). I.e. just one “word”.
“… if THE thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is THE thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet has spoken IT presumptiously …” (Deuteronomy 18:22.). Just ONE thing. One chance. One failed (“delayed”) prophecy—that’s it!
Do not fear your ministers. Reject fear. And reject false prophets and the “prophecy was just delayed” excuse.