The Al-Aqsa Arson

The Al-Aqsa Mosque Fire

August 21, 1969

A fire was started by a visitor from Australia named Denis Michael Rohan. Rohan was a member of an evangelical Christian sect known as the Worldwide Church of God. He hoped that by burning down al-Aqsa Mosque he would hasten the Second Coming of Jesus, making way for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. Rohan was subsequently hospitalized in a mental institution. In response to the incident, a summit of Islamic countries was held in Rabat that same year, hosted by Faisal of Saudi Arabia, the late king of Saudi Arabia. The al-Aqsa fire is regarded as one of the catalysts for the formation of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC, now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) in 1972.

Rohan, a Christian, stated that he considered himself "the Lord's emissary" and that he tried to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque acting upon divine instructions to enable the Jews of Israel to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount in accordance with the Book of Zechariah, thereby hastening the second coming of Jesus Christ. Rohan was a subscriber of The Plain Truth magazine published by the Worldwide Church of God's (WCG) founder Herbert W. Armstrong and stated that he had begun his attempt after reading an editorial by Armstrong in the June 1967 edition.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London pictured Rohan on its front page with a copy of The Plain Truth magazine sticking out from his outside jacket pocket. On 26 September 1969, Armstrong, in a letter to financial contributors to his The World Tomorrow program, distanced himself from Rohan:

"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."

Prophetic Super-Structure

Herbert W. Armstrong's credibility problem was nothing new to those who followed the churches proclamations. The WCG's apocalyptic predictions, of course, are not unique in the field of religion. The Montanists set a date for the return of Christ in the second half of the second century. The Anabaptists predicted the return of Christ in 1533. Prevalent among European Jews was the belief that the Messiah would come in the year 1648. The Millerites expected the second coming of Christ in 1843. The WCG expected to flee in 1972, with the Second Coming in 1975 (Sept.6th, to be exact). And the same thing happened when all these dates failed: the delay of the second advent failed to put an end to any of these movements; quite to the contrary it gave them new life and vitality. The failure was always followed by greater efforts to expand their work. See "Herbert W. Armstrong's Prophetic Record"

WCG Temple Prophecies

Plain Truth, Oct., 1958, page 4, column 31 paragraph 4, HLH: "A temple or sanctuary is yet to be built by the Jews in Jerusalem! ... it shall happen in less than 14 years from now!"

Plain Truth, June, 1967, page 2, column 2, paragraph 6, HWA: "There will very soon be a Temple in Jerusalem, with daily sacrifices once again being offered ... They will invade Jerusalem, and take charge of the Temple." Page 4, column 2, paragraph 3, HWA: "So there will have to be a temple there!" Page 5, column 1, paragraph 4, Herbert W. Armstrong: "So there will be a temple built on the spot of the old temple in Jerusalem." Page 5, column 2, paragraph 4, HWA: "Then Revelation 11 shows there will be a temple in Jerusalem."

Plain Truth, Mar., 1968, page 8, column 2, paragraph 3, RCM: ".... a religious center and Temple will be built there (Jerusalem) within the very next few years!" Page 41, column 1, paragraph 2, RCM: "The building of a literal Temple" and "a great religious leader making his Headquarters right in that Temple in Jerusalem" are to be signs that "the END OF this age" is near.

Plain Truth, Aug., 1968, page 41, column 2, paragraph 4 GTA: "Bible prophecy specifically states that there WILL BE A TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM." Column 3, paragraph 3, GTA: "This reveals clearly. that the TEMPLE of which these prophecies speak must be a Temple IN JERUSALEM -- on the same site as the one in which Christ spoke; the same site on which Solomon's Temple had stood. This cannot be some other "temple" in some other area -- it must be a temple IN JERUSALEM -- or the prophecies of your Bible fail! ... He will SIT IN A TEMPLE OF GOD" -- ON THE TEMPLE SITE -- IN JERUSALEM!"