A Short Critique of Herbert W. Armstrong’s British-Israelism
The United States and Britain in Fantasy part 2
Armstrong’s conclusion is completely unsound, however. Jeremiah 33:18 continues from verse 17: "Neither shall the priests the Levites want [fail to have] a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually." Armstrong admits that the Levites do not offer sacrifice today: "But Jeremiah prophesied that Levites would always be available—in existence—who could offer sacrifices if there were a temple." Armstrong cannot have it both ways. If verse 18 refers to lineage and not activity, then so does verse 17.
Jeremiah 33:17 simply means that the lineage of David would be preserved, not that there would be no interruption in its ruling over the house of Israel. The reason it was to be preserved was to prove, as shown in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, that Jesus Christ was of the line of David. And with Jesus Christ, Jeremiah 33:17 reached its ultimate fulfillment because the living Jesus Christ is the living, legitimate Heir to the throne. If the British monarchs were really sitting on the throne of David, they would be usurpers!
Armstrong’s entire case rests on his argument that the ancient northern Kingdom of Israel consisted of 10 of the tribes of Israel and that these were captured by the Assyrians and never returned. Armstrong emphasizes that while "Israel" might mean any or all of the tribes (including the Jews), "house of Israel" refers exclusively to the tribes of the northern Kingdom of Israel. The house of Israel remained distinct from the tribes living in the southern Kingdom of Judah—called Jews—and became known as the lost Ten Tribes. If we can prove that the house of Israel did not remain distinct from the Jews and that there is no such thing as the lost Ten Tribes, Armstrong’s teaching in The United States and Britain in Prophecy falls apart.
In Acts 2:14, Peter begins his inspired speech by saying: "Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem." A few verses later, in the same sermon and to the same people, Peter says, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words" (verse 22). He ends in verse 36 by saying to the same audience, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, Whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." To Peter, the men of Judæa, the men of Israel, and all the house of Israel were one and the same. Notice also that Peter equates those who crucified Jesus with all the house of Israel. Peter could not do this if the house of Israel were not even in Palestine at the time. The Jews were not just the tribes Armstrong says lived in the old southern Kingdom of Judah. The Jews included "all the house of Israel."
Even the words of our Lord prove that Armstrong’s distinction between the house of Israel and the Jews is false. In addressing the twelve apostles before sending them out on a mission, Jesus said in Matthew 10:5-6: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Notice that the apostles were not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans. These instructions must have been for the immediate mission at hand. They could not have applied to the apostles’ mission after Jesus’ resurrection because after His resurrection Jesus instituted through the apostles a ministry to the Gentiles.
Since the apostles could not go among the Gentiles and since they could not go into any city of the Samaritans and because they had physical limitations where they could go during this short mission, it is evident they went to the Jews in their immediate area. It is the Jews whom our Lord called the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," not tribes of Israel outside Judea.
Similar proof is found in Matthew 15. When approached by a Canaanite woman asking Him to heal her daughter, Jesus at first said nothing (verse 23). Then in verse 24 He answered, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." As can be seen throughout the Gospels, Jesus’ personal mission was to the Jews. Yet in Matthew 15:24, He calls those to whom He was sent the "lost sheep of the house of Israel." Jesus Christ considered the Jews to be the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
But if, instead of being Israelites scattered among the nations and who had lost their identity, the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" were Jews who knew their identity, how were they lost? The "lost" refers to spiritual condition, not geographic disorientation. In Isaiah 53:6 we read, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." This agrees with Jesus’ parable in Luke 15 and Matthew 18 of the sinner symbolized by the lost sheep. As Jesus said in Matthew 18:11, "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost."
Contrary to Herbert Armstrong’s pet idea, then, there is no distinction between the Jews and the house of Israel. And "lost" is a description of the spiritual condition of the house of Israel—the Jews—not of their physical whereabouts. How appropriate that while The United States and Britain in Prophecy is full of "fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith" (1 Timothy 1:4), the truth points to Jesus’ mission of salvation.
One last bit of evidence before closing this subject: After Jesus’ resurrection, God opened salvation to the Gentiles. But most members of the Worldwide Church of God and its daughter churches are white, English-speaking people and the people of northwestern Europe. This means that—using Armstrong’s British-Israelism definitions—most "true Christians" (that is, according to Armstrongism, members of the churches that teach the doctrines of Herbert Armstrong) are Israelites, physical descendants of Jacob (Israel). This contradicts the biblical teaching "that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25; see also 10:19; 11:11, 32; and Matthew 21:43). But the fantasy world of Herbert Armstrong aside, most Christians today are Gentiles, just as the Bible says they would be.
15. Ibid., pp. 64-71. Return
16. Jesus’ mentioning in John 10:16 of "other sheep...which are not of this fold" is a reference to the Gentiles. Return
Copyright © 1993-2009 Peter Ditzel