Now we need to be conscious of the Babylon of religious confusion that exists in the world today. Beside more than two hundred and fifty sects and denominations of the Christian religion, today in the world we have Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam or the Islamic religion, Shintoism, Taoism, agnosticism, atheism, and evolution. And even the latter two are religions, and religious beliefs. How could the world ever have become so mixed up? One person believes this, another person believes that. Where did truth go? How did it escape? It seems that no one knows it anymore.
Now what is religion? Religion is defined as the worship of God, or the supernatural. The worship of, and service to God, or the supernatural. It has to do with man's relation to his Creator. It has to do with what happens in the hereafter. That is the function of religion. And not one knows who and what God is. How can you worship something you don't even know what it is?
You know what the apostle Paul said in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts, when he came to over in Athens, and was taken up to the court of Areopagus, and he said to them: "...Whom you ignorantly worship, him I declare unto you. (Acts 17:23 paraphrased) One of their idols outside that they worshiped was marked, "...TO THE UNKNOWN GOD..." (Acts 17:23). They did not know whom they were worshipping.
Now not only that, not one of these churches or religions knows what and why mankind is. You know this is absolutely amazing, this is astonishing, they don't know this! Are we an immortal soul? Are we just flesh? When we die is that the end of everything? Do we go to heaven, or go to hell, when we die? Or is there any such thing?
Not one knows what happens in the hereafter, except this one persecuted, beleaguered, Church of God. Not one knows what is the gospel message that God sent to the whole world by Jesus Christ, the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Not one knows what that Kingdom is. Not one of them knows what salvation is. What is it? Going to heaven? Is it going to some place? Is it being changed to a certain condition? What? Why all this ignorance? Not one knows why humans were placed on the earth. How did we come to be here? I can prove to you we didn't come by evolution. We were put here for a purpose.
When I think of the human mind and the wonders of it, and what the human mind can produce. The human mind has been able to send men to the moon and to cavort about the moon, and walk over it, and come safely back to earth.
Now I would like you to consider: how could anyone come to know these truths — which are the truth about who and what is God? What and why is mankind? Why were we ever put on the earth? What is the purpose? What is a man? What was the gospel? What is salvation, all of these things?
Now Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they didn't believe what He said. God said if they took of that wrong tree that; "...[they would] surely die." (Genesis 2:17) What was that tree? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and mankind was cut off from God. All except those that God Himself would choose and call. That is the greatest thing that is misunderstood by more professing religionists and churches of anything. I don't say it's the worst thing — I say it is the most prevalent. They all believe that now this is God's world. God is trying to get everyone saved. This is not God's world. God says this is Satan's world. And God right there cut humanity off from Him, and the nations have not known about God.
God's Faithful Servants But now look what God did do. God talked to Noah, because Noah had been a righteous man. And I don't know that he was especially seeking God, or that he really knew God, but he was of pure generation as to his birth. And he also was a righteous man in a world that was entirely corrupt. And God told him to build the ark to save him and his family alive, to protect and to preserve humanity on the earth. And all but eight souls, eight people, were drowned in that great flood.
Now God came to Abram, as his name first was, then Abraham, and Abraham just responded immediately. He is one man who didn't make the excuse; "Oh God, get someone else." That's why he's the father of the faithful. That's why all of the promises of the eternity of you and me are the promises that were made to Abraham. And in the one sense, spiritually, we become the human children of Abraham through Christ, if we have God's salvation.
And then came, after that, Moses. Moses did not seek God, he wasn't trying to find God. Moses wasn't seeking for these truths that I've been telling you about. Moses didn't know any of these things I've been mentioning. And he wasn't just hungry to know and seeking to know, not anything of the kind.
But he was coming back from his father-in-law's place, Jethro, and there was that burning bush. And of course all of you know very well that incident of the burning bush. He saw it before he came to it, and he walked up to it, and then on past it. Then he turned back and looked, and for some reason there didn't seem to be much — I don't know whether there was a little firewood, or what was burning, but there was very little there. And he wondered; why doesn't it burn up? Well now the Bible says, God was in that bush, and spoke to him, at least the voice of God. He said:
"Moses, take your shoes from off your feet, for the ground where you're standing is holy ground." (Exodus 3:5 paraphrased)
What made it holy? God's person there made it holy. Now God told Moses He had chosen him and was calling him to lead his fellow countrymen, the Israelites, out of Egyptian slavery. But Moses wasn't seeking anything like that. He said; "Oh now wait," — this is in modern language — he said, "Hold on there a minute, God. Just count me out. You see, oh, I couldn't do it, God. I've got an impediment of speech." He says, "I st ... st ... stutter." God says; "I know you stutter, and I've taken care of that. I have chosen your brother, Aaron, to be your spokesman and speak for you. You will do what I say." (Exodus 4:10-16) And Moses did.
And so this knowledge was revealed to Moses. How did Moses know what is in these first five books of the Bible? Moses didn't dream it up; it was revealed to him by God; and God talked directly to Moses. That's the only way, otherwise he never would have found out.
Now take the apostle Paul who wrote the next largest portion of the Bible, a great many books in the New Testament. Paul wasn't seeking God, necessarily, and he certainly wasn't seeking Christ or Christianity. He was out seeking Christians to haul them in to be persecuted and even put to death. But God caused him to fall down temporarily blinded. And God spoke in a voice that he heard, and the people with him didn't even hear it:
"And Paul said, "Well, well, who — who — who are you? He said, I am Jesus that you are persecuting. Why do you persecute Me? Well, he said, well Lord, what do you want me to do?" (Acts 9:4-6 paraphrased)
God had arranged for a man, by the name of Ananias, to show him what he was to do; and Paul did. Now then Paul had three years that are unaccounted for down in Arabia. But later Paul said:
"...have I not seen...Christ...?" (I Corinthians 9:1)
Have I not been with Christ, how did the apostle Paul get the knowledge that he wrote in the New Testament? He got it direct from Christ. How did the original apostles get what they did? And well some of them, Matthew and James and John and Peter all wrote part of the Bible in the New Testament. They got it directly from Christ.
God Must Call Now then if you will turn to John 6 and verse forty-four, Jesus said:
"No man can come to me [he just can't do it, no man can come to me], except the Father which...sent me, draw him..." (John 6:44)
If God doesn't draw you, if God doesn't call you, you can't come. And if God had not called you, none of you could have come to Him. God is not trying to save the world now. Let me go just a little bit further, one more scripture, Romans 3:11 where it says:
"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." (Romans 3:11)
People are not seeking after God really. And they have not been seeking after God. Abraham did not seek for God. God just called Abraham. Now Abraham is a little bit different from most other men. When God called him, he didn't say, "Oh God, I don't know; just count me out."
When God was calling me, I didn't want to come either. I was just like these other fellows. I wanted to be in the advertising business, that's what I chose. Peter wanted to be a fisherman. And Jesus said to all of His apostles; "You did not choose Me, I chose you..." (John 15:16 paraphrased) It's those that God has called; and everyone God has called - now this is just as important as the corollary that I said to begin with - that God calls no one just as a favorite to get salvation. He calls only those He has something to do.
Now I know how I was called. As God struck the apostle Paul down, and blinded temporarily, although it was restored after he woke up and decided he would serve Jesus Christ. God struck me down in a different way altogether, and I think you all know about it. Now to make a long story short, my mind was swept clean. And I said; "Here is the Word of God; I will believe what it says." And little by little God began to reveal to me what He said.
Well this work knows and understands God's truth. Old Testament prophecies had it revealed from God; the New Testament apostles were taught it by Christ. And Jesus is the Personal Word of God, and as I said a while ago, the Bible is the Word of God in print, or in writing. And they didn't have it in print, you know, 'til about some four hundred years ago - four, five hundred years ago. You know I think if I had found something like that I would really appreciate it, brethren, I really think I would.
Prophecies for Today Now there are two prophecies for our time that I would like to call your attention to. Back in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah you will read here:
"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness [now this was speaking of John the Baptist, in the wilderness of the Jordan River, preparing the way for the first coming of Christ; New Testament passages make that absolutely certain, saying], Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3)
Now in verse six it says again:
"The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?..." (Isaiah 40:6)
Now the scene begins to change, and coming to verse nine it is an entirely different thing. Now I want you to notice, verse nine:
O Zion [now Zion either means the city of David, just to the very south of Jerusalem, that is of the Temple wall of Jerusalem, the ancient city of David, or it means the Church, now the Church is often called Zion in the Bible. O Zion], that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain..." (Isaiah 40:9)
Now 'good tidings' is good news. And what is the definition of the word 'gospel?' It means, 'good news'. So this is talking about Zion that brings the gospel. That cannot mean the physical grounds south of Jerusalem. Therefore it has to mean the Church. It doesn't mean the Zionist movement, because they have never come to know the gospel. So it means the Church. "...O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings..." (Isaiah 40:9) or the gospel:
"O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest [see, the gospel] good tidings [get thee up], lift up thy voice with strength..." (Isaiah 40:9)
Now; "...lift up your voice with strength..." (Isaiah 40:9) It didn't say that for John the Baptist back at the first coming of Christ. But today we have things they didn't have in those days. I have a microphone right here; we have amplification of sound, and this says to:
"...lift up [your] voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid [and I'm not going to be afraid]; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" (Isaiah 40:9)
God is preparing the way for me to say that very thing before the cities of Judah, or the towns and villages of Judah, as some of the translations give it in the English language.
"Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and...his reward is with him and his work before him." (Isaiah 40:10)
And another place that; "..his arm [will] rule for him..." (Isaiah 40:10) I happen to be Strong Arm, or Armstrong, whichever way you want to record that, if there's any significance to that, I don't know:
"Behold, the Lord GOD will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule [with] him: behold his reward is with him, and his work before him." (Isaiah 40:10)
Brethren, we're doing that work. What do we call it? We call it, 'The Work' and it's before His coming. Now that voice is going to cry out. And John the Baptist was only a forerunner. Now I don't mean in any way to belittle John the Baptist, because Jesus Christ said; "Of all of the men ever born, none was greater than John the Baptist." (Matthew 11:11 paraphrased) It isn't how great is the man, I'm talking about how great is the mission itself. And I think, so far as the greatness of man is concerned, I think we've been degenerating all the time. I don't think we're as great today as they were in that day.
But next now I'd like to have you notice in Malachi the third chapter, last book in the Old Testament:
"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek [which is Christ], shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: he shall come..." (Malachi 3:1)
Now then that has a dual application. And in Matthew, Mark, and John in the New Testament, you will find that John the Baptist was the man there identified. But read on a little bit; the next verse says:
"But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD [or the Eternal] an offering [of] righteousness." (Malachi 3:2-3)
Did that ever happen at the first coming of Jesus Christ? Not at all:
"Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD [or the Eternal], as in the days of old, and as in the former years. And I will come near to you to judgment [He did not do that when Jesus came the first time] ...and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the swearers, and against those that [oppose] the hireling in his wages, the widow, the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from the right, and fear not me, says the LORD of hosts." (Malachi 3:4-5)
All of those verses show that this messenger to prepare the way as a messenger before the Second Coming of Christ. So just as it was in the prophecy in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, here is a duality. First; there was John the Baptist in the wilderness of the Jordan River, preparing the way for a physical Jesus to come to a physical building, and a physical people, with a prophecy that He would build His Kingdom. Secondly; there is a messenger coming announcing, out of the spiritual wilderness of all of these religions, and the mixed up world in confusion today. Announcing the soon coming of Christ to rule all nations with a rod of iron, and to bring us peace at last.
God's Work Today I talk to men that don't know the way to peace, the heads of government. One of the last things that Emperor Haile Selassie did before they took him, and he died in the captivity of the overthrow of his government, was to send me congratulations on my 82nd birthday. Some of those are not here any longer, that I have known. And it's remarkable how thrones and nations are being overturned, just as you will read back in Haggai, the thrones of nations.
Now not one knows the way to world peace. I go around the world and I probably know more heads of government, kings, presidents, emperors, of which there's only one left now, there were two of whom I've known them both, and prime ministers, than almost anybody else; or shall I say, Henry Kissinger. But I go, as an ambassador without portfolio, an ambassador for world peace. And I go proclaiming the only sure hope of that world peace. I talk to these kings, not to try to get them converted, I talk to them about their own problems, because that's what Jesus Christ would talk to them about if He were here, problems that are too great for them to handle.
One king of one very well known great nation said to me; "Mr. Armstrong, I need your help, and you're the only one that can help me; no one else can help me." He had a problem. His mountain people were illiterate. And they had gone from raising food stuffs, vegetation and so on, vegetables, they had gone into raising poppies for the narcotic trade. And he wanted to stamp it out.
I sent a team of about seven of our men over there to investigate for ten days, what was needed and what help we could do. They came back and told me. As a result, we started with seven portable schools. And I sent our agricultural expert from Big Sandy, Texas. If we were going to help transfer and educate those illiterate farmers back to raising food stuffs again, we had to also supply a market for their produce. And we have accomplished that, that's one of the things we have done. If anyone, except someone representing Jesus Christ, had done it the world would laud them to the skies. The reason is because I represent Jesus Christ, and this world doesn't want Jesus Christ, it doesn't believe Him.
Adam and Eve didn't believe what God said when they saw Him in person. Jesus Christ preached to thousands when He was here, and only one hundred and twenty believed what He said, as you will find in the very fifteenth verse of the first chapter of the book of Acts. They just did not believe what He said.
Later we were able to double that into twelve portable schools. And actually it had to be their military men who made it because it was so close to the communist border. And the last time I saw the King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, the last time I saw this king, I said, "By the way, how have we come with this program that we're cooperating with?" He says, "Ninety-five percent of the opium trade has been stamped out, and ninety-five percent have been turned back to raising vegetables and food stuffs."
Well today, in the latter part of the twentieth century, here is what Jesus Christ Himself said, in Matthew 24 and verse 14. When they had asked Jesus for a sign. How would they know when we're near the end of this world, and just before Christ comes for the wonderful World Tomorrow? The world's only sure hope, because we are in really terrible times now, and everybody knows it, it's a world full of evils of almost every kind. But He said:
"...this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14)
Now that is the gospel of the Kingdom. That is the gospel that we preach. That is what we've been called for. That is the purpose of this Church. Now today, from this Church of God, a voice cries out with amplified power; the power of radio and television. And with the printing press and multiple millions of copies, a magazine that now has passed some of the great weekly magazines.
As John the Baptist cried out from the physical wilderness 1900 years ago, of the Jordan River; about the coming of the human physical Jesus to the material temple built of stone, and other materials, woods, and other materials. And to the physical people of Judah announcing the future, more than 1900 years future, of the establishment of the Kingdom of God. So today the Living Christ is sending forth this Church to cry out from the spiritual wilderness of religious confusion. Announcing the soon coming of the glorified, all powerful Christ to His spiritual Temple. And that Temple He's coming to is a spiritual Temple, which is this Church, that will be, then, born again.
It's a pity that so many don't understand what God means, and the Bible means, by 'born again'. We will be resurrected, we won't be human, we won't be flesh and blood anymore. We will be composed of spirit, as God is, born sons of God. And He is coming to that spiritual Temple resurrected, and for the purpose now, not of announcing, but setting up that Kingdom of God to rule all the earth. And to bring peace and happiness to this terribly sick world, as it is today.
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