This Old Pope

The big news of the day, Monday, February 11, 2013, is that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. Not only is this a surprise to just about everyone, but it is made more surprising since a Pope hasn’t resigned in about 600yrs—since Gregory XII in 1415.

Of course, as fascinating as the whole thing might be, that is not why we are here. We are here because Pope Benedict the Sixteenth was ushered in with such dire fanfare by the Philadelphia Church of God way back in 2005. 

The Force is strong with this one...

The Force is strong with this one…

I remember it well. I was very recently out of the church (temporary suspension) and the news of this Ratzinger character was mildly terrifying. Mr. Flurry was making some bold statements about Bible Prophecy indicating that this could be the man—well, not The Man, like The Man to Watch in Europe (Stoiber, Guttenburg, Prodi, etc), but that other man. He would be the Church Man in that Church/State combine known as the Holy Roman Empire. Time was short. I had best get right with God and the Church quickly lest I be left behind to face the horrors of the Tribulation and lose out on my Incredible Human Potential.

Nearly eight years ago I was sitting in a cheap motel in Oklahoma City watching the news, beginning a short career of heavy drinking, and fretting about my sins. Now I sit in Amsterdam sipping tea and stealing time to write between the time my 18mo old son goes to sleep and when my wife and I do. To be honest, this feels like closure. I didn’t seriously start doubting the church until some time in ’07 (though I had random doubts through many of the years prior, I always shoved them back); since then I’ve joined with some compatriots to put the teachings of the church to the test—we have found them wanting. This story, however, for me, feels like the last nail in the coffin of any lingering fears that the PCG and Armstrong might could have possibly been right.

Here’s why.

The June 2005 Trumpet was a Special Issue filled predominately with news and views on the death of the dearly beloved Pope John Paul II and the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the position of Pope Benedict XVI. It was a Special Edition because it would explain “why the change in Popes is more important than you realize”.

A Pope and a Prophecy/How He Set the Stage:

 Ron Fraser leads the charge in this opening article:

Our concerns about Pope Benedict xvi are much different—and far deeper—than those who wish the pope would permit abortion or the ordination of women priests. Our view of Benedict—and even of his much-hailed predecessor—is not based on a mistrust of authority or a hostility toward morality. It is based on prophecies spelled out in the Holy Bible of a powerful religious leader who would come on the scene in our day.

By all appearances, Benedict xvi looks the part. If he is, time is exceedingly short. And this world, split between liberals who sneer at the pope and conservatives who defend him, urgently needs the strongest warning it has ever heard.”

Yes, if he is that other man, then the people urgently need a warning. Of course, as we read along, it will be clear that the “if” is meant rhetorically.

But the setting of the stage was apparently done by John Paul II, the arch-conservative. He was successful in getting special language in the European Constitution, in Article 52, that gives churches a special place in European politics. There is a pledge of “transparent dialogue”, and a special position of Consultation on most new legislation. Such special privilege troubles some observers, but sends Fraser into quite a tizzy of “laying the groundwork for the ‘Holy’ part of the Holy Roman Empire!” and the unification of Church and State.

He was Right:

Mark Jenkins then brings up support of the charge with a reminder that He Was Right!

“From the very start of his work, when the church was called the Radio Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong realized in his study of the bible that he must warn about a coming religiously dominated European superpower just before the return of Jesus Christ to Earth.”

Lol. Yes, yes he did. It has been fun pointing out all the times old Herbie ran around hollering about the sky falling. Who can forget our classic articles like this one, and this one, this one…

In a Sep. 20, 1979 Co-Worker letter, HWA talks about how Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) would recreate the HRE through non-Israelitish countries—too bad Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Instead, it would be made up of former Soviet Satellites. “In 2004, just as Mr. Armstrong foretold, eight former Eastern bloc countries were admitted to the European Union…”

Wow, he must have really been right! Oh, wait, no no…seems that isn’t quite the whole story. According to, there are a number of “Israelitish” countries present in the Union: Ireland, the UK, and Denmark have been part of the EU since ’73 (Ireland is a full member, but the UK not—so you use Euros in Ireland, but Pounds in the UK); the Netherlands has been in since 1958—France since ’52; Sweden has been a member since 1995 (but like the UK, a partial member of some type, hence it has retained the Krona as its currency). So, yes, 25yrs later, eight Eastern Bloc countries came in at once; meanwhile, all the “Israelitish” countries, save Norway, had been in for many years already.

But in truth, we can’t fault Mr. Armstrong for being off on his timing by a few years. Look at the Apostle Paul (I Thes. 4:15), or John when writes about the “Last Hour” (I John 2:18)—they have been off in their timing by 2000 years, but they’re certainly not wrong…is Jenkins’ sad pre-emptive defense of Herbie’s 70 years of fruitless Doom-saying. “When the Great Tribulation comes before the return of Jesus Christ, no one will think about the timing of Mr. Armstrong’s comments”. Yeah, buster, so you better just watch yourself!

The Dark Side of the Pope’s Funeral:

The thunderous Shock Attack has been left to the (pastor) General himself, as he comes crashing into the melee with his loyal bodyguard of Apocalyptic Hyperbole and Exclamation Marks!!

“The Pope’s funeral was a gigantic turning point in the history of man!”

Wow, really? And why would this be? Seems that the media attention for the funeral topped that for any other person or event in history, practically. All the good-will JP II had garnered in his long years as Pontiff, combined with the universally positive media coverage nearly brought all of Protestantism back to the fold! It focused attention on Rome and the Holy See in a way not known for centuries, and now Emperor Palpatine…er, I mean, Benedict XVI can use it as a springboard to form the Galactic Empire…I mean, Holy Roman Empire!

He does a lot of yelling about Charlamagne (Karl the Great, for the German folks) and the sea of blood he waded through in forcibly Christianizing Europe; he also drops the name of Otto van Habsburg, that last remnant of a royal house long bereft of Lordship. And again, as we’ve pointed out before, Flurry seems to think that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was nothing but the mindless enforcer for the true Emperor’s will (as in, da Pope) and will be again. He seems to forget how many times the Emperor of the HRE was excommunicated for fighting with the Holy See, and how many Anti-Popes said excommunicated Emperors set up. He also seems to forget that the Protestant Reformation was born in Germany.

“Bible prophecy says that the new pope, Benedict XVI, is going to be far to the right of Pope John Paul II. And we believe this pope will be the last one” (emphasis mine).

Unspecified bible prophecies show us enough that we believe this to be the last Pope!! Now, I know that Flurry wasn’t an Apostle at this point, but he was already That Prophet—shouldn’t he be able to be a bit more confident in his Apocryphal Proclamations? Which prophecies? If specific prophecies lead you to believe this will be the last Pope, then spit it out! Don’t keep it secret—you have a duty to warn the world! And again, why do you believe Benedict will be the last? Shouldn’t you know? Don’t you have a “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Pet. 1:19)?

The Perfect Man for the Job

After the Shock and Awe, Flurry pulls back and allows the infantry to move in for the final push.

“Put together what the Trumpet has reported about Joesph Ratzinger and what we have warned about the next pope, and in Benedict XVI you have just the man to fulfill some of the most Earth-shaking prophecies of all time.” That is the lead-in for Ryan Malone’s article. Wow, scary!

Apparently, the “Earth-shaking prophecies” are in the last paragraph; Revelation 13 and 17 are the only scriptures mentioned in the article. According to their interpretation of scripture (and if you’ve done very much research into religion at all, you know there are hundreds of different interpretations of scripture), Rev. 13 and 17 talk about the Seven Resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire. “And in Benedict XVI you have just the man to fulfill some of the most Earth-shaking prophecies of all time.” So, Benedict is just the man to help resurrect (along with Stoiber, or Guttenburg, or Romano Prodi, or whoever) the very final, and most bloody, Roman Empire.

“The reason this pope is of vital interest is that he will most likely be one of the two most powerful leaders of the seventh resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire—an empire that will thrust the world into a prophesied World War III! … Now that the first German pope in 10 centuries rules the Vatican, every indication is that these prophecies will speed to fruition!”

Well, he better hurry—he only has 14 days to get it done!

Returning to the Fold

The final assault intended to break down all logical opposition and send it fleeing in terror is lead by the Heir to the throne, Stephen Flurry. He expands on a topic his father mentioned, namely, the returning to the fold of all the errant daughter churches of Catholicism. Yes, to finally and fully unite Europe, all Protestantism will be reabsorbed into the Catholic Church, all swearing service and fealty unto the Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter, his Holiness the Pope!

You cannot have a united 7th Resurrection of the HRE without religious, as well as political, unity…for some reason, though a lack of religious unity never stopped the Roman Empire before. But believe me, it is a vitally important part of the dastardly plan!

“Back in 1963, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, ‘Protestant churches everywhere are gravitating toward union with the Roman Catholic Church. These religious movements are speeding the fulfillment of the prophecies of the resurrected Roman Empire’ (Oct. 27, 1963).” Since it has a day in the date, I’m guessing it was quoted from a Co-Worker letter, though the Trumpet article does not specify.

“In the Plain Truth magazine, Mr. Armstrong also boldly stated: Protestantism will be absorbed into the ‘mother’ church (Oct. ’61).” There was, at the time of John Paul II’s death, considerable friendliness between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church, with public prayers for disaster victims being jointly written by priests of both churches, and even a “Priest Swap” day where they preached at each other’s pulpits! It was a regular Hippie Love-In.

I don’t know if the writers of the Trumpet felt that the attitude of the Anglicans were indicative of the attitude of all Protestant groups (not to mention Orthodox Christianity), or if they felt that the Anglicans are the most important Protestant sect, but they seem to see in that friendliness the shadow of the end of Protestantism as a whole! Yes, because the Anglican church is being especially friendly with the Catholic Church, then the end of Lutherans, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Presbyterians, United Methodists, Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Congregationalists, and even Unitarians is nigh! And, well, it should be nigh, because if HWA was prophesying this 50yrs ago, then it must be super close to happening by now!

But of course, they must see the friendliness of Anglicans with the Catholic church as evidence of Protestantism as a whole being reabsorbed because that is how they interpret scriptures like Isa. 47 and Rev. 17 (referencing the article). “This is the prophecy that prompted Herbert W. Armstrong to state, with absolute certainty—and more than 40 years ago—that Protestant churches would gravitate toward unification with Rome.” They were talking about Isa. 47:8. Instead of looking at the evidence and seeing what conclusion they can reach from it, they start with a conclusion and try to force every bit of news they can find into support of it. “Hey, you, bit of news over there! Get over here and push our conclusion forward!” “But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and while I am flattered, I am not nearly that powerful” or “But I am not relevant to that conclusion”, complain the hard put-upon news bits. “That doesn’t matter!” *snaps a whip* “Get over here!”

The End is Nigh

Aye, it truly is.

There isn’t a whole lot more to say, though if I get bored some day I may add an addendum referencing other places where the Trumpet proclaims poor Herr Ratzinger to be the reincarnation of Sauron.

Nearly eight years ago this current pope was new and shiny and scary. And while his Palpatine-esque visage has continued to be a source for hilariously frightening meme generation, his Powers appear to be as sickly and deteriorated as his wrinkly face. In the end, he was not Emperor Palpatine, Sith Lord. Nor was he That Other Man of the duo who would revive an old idea in order to plunge the world into death and chaos. No, he was just a kind of creepy-looking old man who happened to be the head of the largest, oldest, and richest international organization in history, and in just over 14 days he will be stepping down without having brought a Thousand Years of Darkness upon humanity.

Of course, you can go to the Trumpet website and see their latest articles, wherein they declare confidently that the next pope will be even more conservative, dogmatic, and doctrinaire than even this guy was. But Armstrong & Co. have been predicting a wolf “in the next 7-10yrs” or “in the next 10-15yrs” for 79 years already, so I wouldn’t lose any sleep over them doing it all again.


18 thoughts on “This Old Pope

  1. An excellent post, though I’ve only had the time to skim it so far. I hope to have the time to enjoy it more fully, at my leisure. But in the meantime, I wanted you to know that I’ve posted it in The People of the Sign group on facebook.

    We, in that group, are largely believers, with a current majority being COG legacy adherants. So I don’t want to invite a rush of militant “cult bashers” with this comment, which would be offensive and counterproductive.

    Still, wanted to say thanks for a well-written and timely article.


    • Sorry it took me a while to get back to you on this. Thanks for the repost!

      I’m somewhat surprised that you would repost, as I would imagine the article would be not very friendly toward believers? But, of course, the article is mostly anti-PCG, so that may be appealing for those not in it…lol. 😉

      What is the attitude of these COG legacy adherants toward The End? I’m sure it differs somewhat from group to group, but the imminence of the end was kind of a huge thing, so I wouldn’t imagine it could be forgotten altogether. I guess I’m asking, do most people think it is “soon”, or do they believe that certain people (like Obama, or Guttenburg, or Prodi, etc) are likely harbingers of the end? Just curious…

  2. Their god must have gone back to the drawing board and rescheduled everything. After all, why would he allow them to spend millions of dollars on a facility that could not be used to move his work along since all the masses are the “thousand years of darkness upon humanity”?

    All the same, I respect Pope Benedict more than HWA. Benedict realized and accepted that his poor health and age was not allowing him to serve as a religous leader to the fullest capacity. HWA hang on the reigns until the shadow of death was fully upon him… and I bet GRF would do the same.

  3. Gerald Flurry had some really important things to say about the new Pope in this 2005 article:


    And: “The next pope is going to strengthen this church-state bond. In fact, he will come to actually GUIDE European affairs in a powerful way! European leaders will soon realize that if they want to be in power, they will have to gain the support of the pope. They will actually become subservient to him. This is what the Bible prophesies.”

    Flurry’s nonsense is especially funny in light of the fact that when, 6 years later, Benedict gave a speech at the German Parliament, 45 members refused to show up. Another got up and walked out as the speech began. The New York Times reported it this way: “Pope Weathers Protests and Boycotts in First Official Visit to Germany.”

  4. Nice links, Brandon! It speaks to the point was making nicely. I haven’t read anything they’ve been saying about New Pope since I wrote this. Would be funny to see if they’re still waxing apocalyptic. lol

    The bit in the Trumpet link you put up about world leaders becoming subservient to the Pope…yeah, been there, done that. It was called the Medieval period. Back then it was “kingdom against kingdom” “wars and rumours of wars”, and when 50K could die in one battle…well, surely never a time of trouble like it! And “world leaders had to be subservient to the Pope!” So if one wants to interpret “current events in the light of bible prophecy” then…LOL

  5. Hi Anonymous. Please understand that I am in no way affiliated with this website or its ‘ownership’ but I am intrigued with your clinical assertions. I should also hasten to point out that at present, your claim would appear to be unfalsifiable. In other words, YOU REALLY MIGHT BE ON TO SOMETHING HERE. For your claim to be worthy of consideration from many people (except from some curious character like me) it would appear that you would need to demonstrate which owner… and which part of his or her brain had been damaged and how and to what extent… Please don’t misunderstand. None of what I just said means that it didn’t happen. It very well may have. I would just say… Hey. Take this ball and run with it.

  6. Yes, I’m sure that everyone who was once in an Armstrongist cult has suffered mentally, and it is lovely that an anonymous person sees that and is (I’m assuming) offering words of comfort, no matter how poorly communicated. 🙂

  7. We have been hurt, some more than others but you have to admit, Mr. Armstrong taught us some good things, I know I received the Holy Spirit. I also know that I have become lukewarm….danger sign, right?

      • I am leaning more toward Messianic Jews, remember, salvation comes from the Jews. I love them…Mr. Armstrong taught us that. In the last days people would be asking the Jews to teach us? They really enjoy their services… they sing & dance. I love it. I haven’ t been able to go to services for quite awhile…distance & all that. I want to say another thing in Mr. A. defense, I was happier than I had ever been, so many friends. Love to you all, it feels so good to be able to talk to people who understand. Please don’t be bitter, it will work out.

  8. Writing in all caps now is interpreted as shouting, HWA was so ill-mannered, he was always shouting/raging every time he sent those “money demanding” letters. And claimed to be an apostle. Funny if it is not so sad.

    • What’s wrong with having a little RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION? We are SUPPOSED to shout the message FROM the rooftops!
      Ok, I am just being sarcastic here but …

  9. Great article. You explained Pope Benedict better than I ever could. Pope Benedict didn’t even measure close to what the Trumpet predicted about him. Sure, he made some controversial comments about Islam, but you gotta remember it was five years after 9/11 and just a couple years after the attacks on Spain. This new pope is even more liberal than the last one. As always, the TRUMPET likes to falsely predict things that will never happen.

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