Herbert W. Armstrong’s interpretation of the 3 ½ years
Herbert W. Armstrong’s editorial in The PLAIN TRUTH, June 1967, was written shortly after the Six-Day 1967 Arab-Israeli War. In this editorial, he interpreted the three and a half years of the prophecies of Revelation 11, 12, and 13, as literal years, that he claimed were about to be fulfilled.
Armstrong’s headline was “Jews take Jerusalem!” At a meeting at the Radio Church of God’s college in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, England, held just a few weeks before the conflict broke out, Armstrong had speculated about the unstable condition then prevailing in the Middle East, where Arab nations were united against a powerful but tiny Jewish state, and its possible significance in prophecy. After the war Armstrong wrote from London, quoting from his earlier talk. 
On April 16th I flew to Amman and Jerusalem, Jordan. Returning, I stopped off at our Ambassador College campus in England. I spoke before an assembly of students, faculty, and others. What I said to a few hundred assembled there was tape-recorded.
From that recording, this is what I said, May 1st, 1967–just one month and five days before what I predicted actually happened!–
“I have just come from Jerusalem–the old city–in Jordan. And now I want to bring you up-to-date on where we stand, at the moment, in the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. For 33 years I have been telling the radio audience, and the readers of The PLAIN TRUTH, that the final world disturbances and military battles–of this age will center on the Middle East, and on Jerusalem in particular. We are entering the very climax at the close of the age–this civilization–right now! I want you to realize just how short time is!
“Any day now, you may expect the Israelis of the country that calls itself ‘Israel’ to flood over with a military invasion into the Jordanian half of the divided city of Jerusalem. The Jordan sector is the ‘old city.’ the only part of Jerusalem that was built in the time of Christ. There are the two divided cities–both trouble spots of world importance–Jerusalem and Berlin–and some of you, the entire senior class, are starting tonight on an educational tour to Berlin.
“There will be a Jewish Temple built in Jerusalem, with animal sacrifices once again being offered, probably in about four-and-one-half years. It is going to take some time to build such a Temple. And I don’t see how they have another month to spare–in taking over the ‘old city’ now in Arab hands–if they are going to have the Temple built by the time indicated by prophecy.
[Remember, I said this before several hundred people five weeks before it actually happened.]
“Once the Israelis do take over the Jordan sector of Jerusalem, instantly the United Nations and the major individual powers, the United States, USSR, Britain, France, probably will stop further occupation of Arab countries by the Jews. I think they will get only as far as the main center within the walls of old Jerusalem, in Jordan before the UN intervenes. But the Jews will undoubtedly be allowed to hold the old city of Jerusalem, Jordan.
“For a long time the Jewish people have had in mind the rebuilding of the Temple, though they keep it pretty secret. And it must be built on the exact site of Solomon’s Temple. The wealthiest Jews in the world, in the United States, Britain, France and other parts of the world, are going to pour money into that.
“Now notice some very significant prophecies [this is continuing my talk of May 1, 1967].
Having reviewed his understanding of prophecies about the future of Jerusalem in his talk prior to the war, Armstrong was evidently elated and enthused about what he saw as the likely imminent fulfillment of biblical prophecy in world affairs. He made two predictions: 
“So now, putting the two accounts of Jesus’ Olivet prophecy together, Matthew 24 and Luke 21, two things are to occur, just before the Great Tribulation. 1) There will very soon be a Temple in Jerusalem, with daily sacrifices once again being offered. But the ruler of the soon-coming resurrected ‘Holy Roman Empire,’ a political-military union of ten European nations–will stop the daily sacrifices and profane the Holy Place in the Temple; and 2) Jerusalem will be surrounded and captured [Zechariah 14:1-2] by the Fascist-Nazi armies of the European Empire, already starting to rise now out of the Common Market. They will invade Jerusalem, and take charge of the Temple.
[Don’t forget–you are reading my speech delivered just five weeks to the day before the Arab-Israeli war.]
Now, the Jews had gained control over Jerusalem. Armstrong clearly thought, surely the construction of a Temple was not far off. It all seemed to fit his previous claims about the end of the age and the coming of Christ possibly occurring in 1975. Armstrong was the author of a booklet called “1975 in Prophecy.” He wrote: 
“This European power, resurrecting for a very short while the Roman Empire, will take over the city of Jerusalem Zechariah 14:2. They will take the Temple, and plant the palace of their headquarters there. With this coming military leader, pictured in Revelation 17 as the symbolic ‘beast,’ will be a supreme religious leader, called ‘the False prophet,’ [Rev. 16:3; 19:20; 20:10] and the ‘man of sin.’ So will you turn next to II Thessalonians 2:3-4:
“‘Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day’–the Day of the Lord, verse 2–’shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.’
“So there will have to be the Temple there! Probably in about four-and-one-half years. And they will put there the ‘abomination’ of which the statue of Jupiter Olympus, placed by Antiochus Epiphanes was the type. [You are continuing in what I said on May 1.]
Armstrong based his ill-fated predictions upon a literal view of the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 and 12:6. He interpreted these as referring to a literal three and a half years. But the 1,260 days of Revelation 12:6 are associated with the “time, times and a half” of Revelation 12:14, and also, Daniel 7:25, and 12:7. That period is also related to the mysterious numbers in Daniel 12:11-12, the 1,290 days, and the 1,335 days.
A careful scrutiny of these numbers would reveal that they do not conform to three and a half natural years, as the months are exactly 30 days, whereas real lunar months are about 29.53 days. So the number of days in a real year cannot be a multiple of 30. Each of the prophetic numbers representing three years and a half is a multiple of 30. This alone demonstrates they cannot represent natural, or real years.
Daniel’s numbers represent three and a half years, where the years are various combinations of regular years of 12 months, and leap years of 13 months. The ancient calendar of the Hebrews and the Babylonians incorporated both kinds of years. There were seven years of 13 months in 19 years.
Daniel’s 1,290 days and 1,335 days fit the pattern of “a time, times, and a half,” where in each case, one year differs from the rest. The 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 represents three and a half years where all years have 12 months.
As many Christians who have studied Bible prophecy in past centuries have concluded, the three and a half year periods of Revelation are symbolic and not to be taken as three and a half literal years. Several scholars have suggested that they represent the age of the church, or the remaining part of it. Ignoring the counsel of Christian scholars of the past centuries cannot be called wise.
Armstrong’s preaching tended to denigrate other denominations. He believed that he was the only one on earth preaching the “true” gospel of the kingdom, which he had revived, after 19 centuries during which it had been lost and neglected.
Armstrong wrote: 
“Then Revelation 11 shows there will be a Temple in Jerusalem, at the time of the two witnesses, who preach for three-and-one-half years, ending at Christ’s coming. Also the prophecy of II Thessalonians 2 shows there will be a Temple.
“So putting all these prophecies together, it is plain the Israelis must soon flood over the ‘no-man’s land’ of the divided city of Jerusalem, and take at least the territory where the ancient Temple stood, and then start to build a Temple.”
(And here I end quoting from my tape-recorded speech in England, exactly five weeks before the six-day war began.)
One of the two million subscribers to The Plain Truth Magazine was Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian sheep shearer. Rohan had also studied the Bible Correspondence Course that was offered by Armstrong and his World Tomorrow Radio program. After reading the editorial written by Armstrong in the June 1967 issue of The Plain Truth, Rohan believed he received some divine instructions. His idea, he thought, would hasten the coming of the Messiah.
On August 21, 1969, Rohan attempted to set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The fire caused extensive damage, gutting the southeastern wing of the mosque. It destroyed a 1,000 year old wood and ivory minbar or pulpit, a gift of Saladin. Rohan was arrested for the arson attack on August 23, 1969.
On September 26, 1969, in a letter to his Coworkers and members of the Radio Church of God which supported The World Tomorrow program, Armstrong distanced himself from Rohan. Armstrong wrote: 
Every effort, it seems, is being made to link us with it in a way to discredit the Work of God. The man, Rohan being held as the arsonist, the dispatches say, claims to be identified with us. This claim is TOTALLY FALSE. The first any of us at Pasadena ever heard of this man was when the press dispatches began coming over the Teletypes in our News Bureau. Checkups revealed that this man had sent in for and received a number of our Correspondence Course lessons. Last December he had sent in a subscription to The PLAIN TRUTH. But any claim to any further connection or association with us is an absolute lie.
Two million others subscribe to The PLAIN TRUTH. 100,000 others subscribe to the Correspondence Course lessons. These are sent to any and everybody who requests them, FREE. But such subscriptions do not connect us with such subscribers or any act any one of them might commit, any more than a subscription to the New York TIMES makes that newspaper responsible for any acts committed by its subscribers.
On January 5, 1968, the Radio Church of God was renamed the Worldwide Church of God.
Years later, Bob Gerringer observed, “Soon after Rohan’s attempted Mosque burning Mr. HWA began saying that neither he nor anyone else in the WCG had ever proclaimed that a literal temple had to be built in Jerusalem.” 
Such statements by Herbert W. Armstrong can be understood only in the light of the church’s name change. Presumably, he viewed his statements made in the name of the Radio Church of God as not affecting the Worldwide Church of God.
Rohan was tried in an Israeli court, found to be insane, and hospitalized in a mental institution. On 14 May 1974, he was deported from Israel “on humanitarian grounds, for further psychiatric treatment near his family”. He was subsequently transferred to the Callan Park Hospital in Australia. He died in 1995.
Herbert W. Armstrong is remembered for his many failed predictions. 
1. Herbert W. Armstrong. Personal from the Editor. The PLAIN TRUTH, June 1967. p. 1.
6. Bob Gerringer, Letter to Mr. Charles Hunting, October 29, 1975. p. 16.
- Henry Alford’s commentary on Revelation 11:1-14
- Charles D. Alexander on the 3 ½ years of prophecy
- George Gifford on the 3 ½ years of Revelation 12
- Patrick Fairbairn on the 3 ½ years of prophecy
- Interpreting the 3 ½ years of prophecy
- Interpreting the 3 ½ years of prophecy (2)
- The 1,260 days and the ever-widening gap