GREETINGS, from JERUSALEM! These past three weeks in the ancient lands of the Bible have been the most eventful — the most eye-opening — of my life!
This has been a very necessary — a most important, experience. It has made the Bible an entirely new and different Book. It certainly ought to make a dynamic change in my ministry, and the pity is that this trip could not have been made at least 15 years ago. But today this land is the very center and erupting point of world disturbance and prophecy fulfillment. So it seems this is the time we were destined to come!
Always before the events of the Bible — the places, the people, seemed mystic, far-off, unreal. The people of the Bible didn't seem like OUR people we all know at home. These lands didn't seem real — but like some far-away mystic land that was not like our earth, and not REAL like the earth in America. It didn't seem as if Abraham, Moses, David, Soloman, Elijah, Jesus, Peter or Paul actually walked on the very same earth — on ground that was just like OUR ground.
But now I have walked where Jesus walked. I have been to the places where He went. I have seen where He was born, and where He died, and where He was buried and resurrected from the dead. I have walked to the garden where He walked and where He sat and talked with His disciples, and have been on the Mount of Olives from where He ascended to heaven. And it's all the very same kind of earth, the same kind of ground we have in California, and other parts of America!
We've been down in Egypt where Joseph was Prime Minister, and where Jacob's children later were slaves. We've crossed the Nile in a boat, and seen the bull-rushes along its banks, just like those where Moses' mother hid him when he was a baby.
AND IT'S ALL REAL!
We have been over the same trail the children of Israel wandered for 40 years — and it IS a wilderness of desert and barren mountains. The difference is, we were privileged to FLY over this route from Egypt to Jerusalem in comfort in around two hours, instead of trudging over it for 40 years, as our forefathers did.
But we did get a taste of "roughing it" down thru that desolate wilderness. We later took a three-day tour down to PETRA, the mysterious, awe-inspiring ancient city built in a Rock, called the Rose-Red City half as old as Time. We traveled in the comfort of a modern Ford automobile, but even so it was a slow, jolting, dusty journey — half of it over primitive dirt-and-rock roads, around narrow ledges on sharp "figure-8" curves on steep canyon- sides. The last 4 miles going in and coming out were ridden on horseback, thru the narrow single-file Siq, with solid rock walls rising straight above us for hundreds of feet. I'll have much to tell you, later, about fantastic Petra — a now deserted city that was carved out of solid rock, in a recessed hide-away surrounded by its own impenetrable wall of mountains.
But first, we flew over to Baghdad, so we could take an automobile tour from there to see with our own eyes how the Word of God has been fulfilled in His sentence on ancient Babylon. I can now give you my personal testimony that, as God said would happen, it is an absolute desolation — even the few ruins now visible have been excavated from above, — and not a man lives there. The Iraq government maintains a small museum at the site of the ruins, with a single custodian. But he told me he does not live there, and rides to the museum on his donkey each day. And it's a fact, as the Bible said it would be — not an Arab will even pitch his tent there!
We have been all along the Street called Straight, where Saul of Tarsus was led after God struck him blind, in Damascus. We even saw the place where they lowered Paul through a high window in the wall, and he was let down outside the city when he had to flee for his life. Beyond doubt Paul went from there direct to Petra, where he spent the unaccounted for 3 years with Christ. We thought of that, when we were in Petra — and how undoubtedly that is the very place where WE shall spend from 3« to 7 years during the Great Tribulation and possibly also the terrible Day of the Lord, soon to come — IF we are close to God instead of this pleasure-man world — if we are praying always, and WATCHING, and accounted worthy to escape the things that are coming on the earth! During our visit there, we became more than ever convinced of the probability that Petra is the place God will take us. And, if so, our advance visit and inspection was VERY NECESSARY, in order that proper preparations may be made.
We visited Tyre and Sidon, and God's great prophecies concerning those cities are truly clear to me now. My television program on Tyre excited more interest, and brought a heavier mail response, than any other TV program. But at that time I had to get many of my facts about the present condition of Tyre second-hand, and I was not able, in that way, to get the picture clearly in mind. This shows how IMPORTANT it is, if I am to shout out the TRUTH of these prophecies and Christ's Gospel to the world, and SHOW these things on TV, that I visit these places myself and get all the facts straight and clearly in mind. Actually, the true facts show the prophecy fulfilled even MORE effectively than I had been told, and had explained on radio and TV. The amphitheatre and one or two other buildings the Romans attempted to build were not on the site of OLD Tyre on the mainland, as it was represented to me — but on the peninsula that once was an island, and on the site of NEW Tyre. Actually, no town or city has ever been built on the site of Old Tyre, since Alexander the Great scraped its wreckage, debris, timbers, stones and top-soil into the sea. However, the site of Old Tyre is not solid rock today, because thru the 2550 long years much dirt has blown in over its rock base, and it looks like any other ground — but no city has ever been built there. There's absolutely NOTHING there but the barren earth.
All this experience has made us realize as never before that God is REAL. What He has said is SURE. These places are REAL!
But while, as I said, I have now walked where Jesus walked, I have not walked on the same ground. The ground where Jesus walked is now buried some 20 or more feet under the present ground-surface. We have not seen ANY of the buildings that stood in Jerusalem in Bible times, for one century builds on top of the debris of the previous century. But we did see a few places in the wall of Jerusalem which in all probability are the very same original stones that were a part of the wall in Jesus' day. The city is still in the same identical spot, only the earth has built up so that we are always 20 or 30 feet higher than they were 1900 years ago. Yet the whole shape and contour of the land in general is the SAME. And it's the same kind of soil. So we know exactly how it all looked to Jesus and to Peter and Paul.
I forgot to mention — of course I have taken motion- picture films of all these very important places, to be used on future TELEVISION programs. Mrs. Armstrong, of course, is with me, and also our elder son Richard (Dick). Dick has taken scores and scores of still pictures with our German Contax camera, while I have taken most of the movies with a Bolex — many hundreds of feet of film. These pictures will be used in the PLAIN TRUTH as well as on TV.
One thing we've seen that makes the Bible more REAL is the dress and the customs of the people here in the Middle East. While the earth is the same earth — the trees and vegetation mostly the same as in the same climate-zones in the United States — yet the customs and the garb worn, and the architecture and design of cities is quite different.
In all these Bible lands, except the new country of "Israel" which we entered only yesterday afternoon, the people are Arabs. Their dress, their ways and methods are still the same as they were 2,000 years ago. In Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, and to a considerable extent in Jordan and Syria, men do not wear trousers, coats and hats. They wear long flowing robes, with an Arab-type cloth turban covering their heads and flowing down their backs — often wrapped around most of their faces, especially in rural sections out in the hot sun. The women wear black robes and keep their faces half-veiled or full-veiled. Usually the women are walking along in a graceful glide, arms swinging, balancing a wide flat basket, a tall water-jug, or almost any kind of cartage on their heads. I would keep looking, expecting to see the basket or jug fall off — but never once of the hundreds of women I've seen carrying freight on their heads have I seen one get the slightest bit out of balance! It seems as if these baskets are nailed onto their heads! They turn around, turn their heads this way or that, at will — but never do the things they balance on their heads become the slightest bit unbalanced. This was a deep mystery to me. But it was so in Jesus' day!
Their houses and cities are built more on the European style, which is that of the ancient Middle East. Houses are built out of mud, adobe, mud-bricks, or stone, depending on location and accessibility of materials. In Egypt, buildings in cities were of stone, but in rural districts mostly of mud, adobe, or mud-brick. In Jerusalem, it is nearly all stone. Houses are built one adjoining another, with inside courts — no lawns — no space between houses. Along the country-side we will see a green valley down below, with green trees and vegetation, while the city where the people all live will be up on a barren hill — all the houses flush against one another, narrow streets barely wide enough for one automobile single-file and no side-walks — and not a single tree or shrub or plant in sight.
Of course in Jesus' time the cities all were surrounded by very thick high walls — 25 to 35 feet high. These walls were their defense against invasion. Consequently they huddled their houses close together, and made their streets very narrow, for space was at a premium. The European custom has followed this ancient manner, tho without the walls.
As a matter of fact, Jesus seldom if ever spent a night in the city of Jerusalem. When there He usually made His abode down at Bethany, almost at the base of the Mount of Olives, and south-east of Jerusalem. One can walk from there up into Jerusalem in a matter of not too many minutes.
The one difference between these people we saw in these Bible lands today, and those of Jesus' day is this: Today the people populating this territory are Arabs, who are more or less degenerate. In Jesus' day they were mostly Jews, who were on a higher level of intelligence and culture. And besides there has been general degeneration constantly among all peoples.
I will have much to tell you — on the air, in The PLAIN TRUTH, and future letters, and I will speak of these things as they come to me.
But now about the WORLD CRISIS of the moment.
As you know, Jerusalem and this new nation called "Israel" is right now the seething trouble-spot of the world. Not more than about an hour's drive from where we are, there have been border shots and provocative incidents just during the past three or four days that are keeping New York, Washington, London, and the capitals of the world in a state of jitters.
For a while it looked as if war was breaking out, and we would not be able to make this trip to the land God has chosen for His own. But, just before we came, the UN sent its Secretary- General Dag Hammarskjold over here to get a "Cease-Fire," and armistice. While he did not succeed in achieving any permanent solution or peace, he did get a temporary "'Cease-fire." So we were able to come on along.
As our plane stopped 30 minutes at Amman airport, enroute from Cairo to Baghdad, we saw Mr. Hammarskjold's UN plane at the airport, and I took a few movie-shots of it.
Yet even this morning, as Mr. Hammarskjold is now back at UN headquarters in New York, the 3-column main page 1 headline of the morning paper here in Jewish Jerusalem shouts "CONCERN OVER NEW VIOLENCE" — lists Jordan, Egyptian attacks. THE TROUBLE IS FAR FROM OVER! And I have just learned there was machine-gun fire heard in this hotel last night, tho we all slept thru it, and have not yet learned who shot what.
Here, in few words, is the basis of it:
The Saudi-Arabians are the original fanatical anti-Jewish group. In 1945, and until the new nation "Israel" was set up in 1948, their Sheik, Hafiz Wahba, was in charge of Palestine affairs for the Arab nations. I know the Sheik well. I spent an hour with him at San Francisco, during the United Nations Conference in 1945, and then reported in The PLAIN TRUTH the Arab position in regard to Jewish aspirations in Palestine.
In few words, it was this: Although the Jews claim Palestine as their original ancient home-land, Sheik Hafiz Wahba points out that this was all around 2,000 years ago. Palestine, he said, has been the home of the Arabs for thirteen long centuries. They built their famous "Dome of the Rock." usually known in America as the Mosque of Omar on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 7th century, A.D. The Sheik pointed out to me that America once was the home of the Indians, and that our people have lived there only some 300 years, and our nation is less than 200 years old. And he asked me if we would feel it right that we now get out and give it back to the Indians, because their fore- fathers occupied most of America over 300 years ago? Palestine, he said, belongs to the Arabs. It has been their home for 1,300 years. Jerusalem is THEIR religious home, and their Mosque is there today, instead of any Jewish temple. If the Jews need a national home, let them go somewhere else. Why drive the Arabs out of their own homes in their own land. That is the Arab viewpoint, and they will fight with fanaticism to exterminate the Jews from here.
The Sheik invited Mrs. Armstrong and me to a Royal Reception in London in 1947, to be presented to the then Crown Prince Emir, who now is King Saud of Arabia. While we were in Cairo, two weeks ago, the Sheik came to our hotel with his wife and three daughters, whom he introduced to us, and talked for more than two hours with me, while Madam Hafiz Wahba chatted for more than an hour with Mrs. Armstrong. God may have reasons for keeping us in close personal acquaintance with the Arab's chief diplomat in this whole powder-keg disturbance which COULD set off World War III.
Saudi Arabia is fabulously rich in oil. Now read this carefully, for here is the crux of the whole trouble — the heart and center of all WORLD-trouble today — the present vital scene of conflict between the U.S. and Russia. More than half of all the world's known oil reserves are in this Middle East — 60% to be exact! Western armed forces, above all BRITAIN'S, are absolutely dependent on this oil. They could be defeated in war quickly without it! The whole Western economy depends largely upon it. Russia, having less than 7% of the world's oil reserves, looks on this Middle East with hungry, covetous eyes. THERE'S THE CAUSE OF TODAY'S FRICTION, mingled with this Arab-Jew dispute over Palestine.
The Saudi-Arabians, receiving more millions of dollars from American oil companies than they need at home, began using this money to fan flames of racial hatred among other Arab countries against the Jews.
Gamel Abdel Nasser, the young, dynamic, 38-year-old Premier of Egypt, has been swept into the vortex of this wave of racial hatred and fanaticism. Nasser started a program to rehabilitate his people — put in force compulsory education, started a great dam project to harness the Nile and build Egypt. But he is young and ambitious, and now apparently aspires to be the "big-shot" leader of the Arab nations. Today Nasser is beginning to forget the wretchedness and ignorance of his people — which we saw there.
The Soviets saw their opportunity to make a drive into the Middle East, and stir up things against America and Britain. They offered Nasser arms at half price. He is young and impetuous, lacking mature wisdom, and he fell for their bait. Now he is becoming a sword-rattler, and a threat to the peace of the whole world. He has started many incidents on the Israel border at the ancient town of Gaza.
There will be NO SETTLING of this dispute. Prophecy says that every nation that burdens itself with Jerusalem shall be cut to pieces. "And in that day," says God, speaking of NOW, "will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces" (Zech. 12:3). The trouble will go on. Later, the resurrected ROMAN EMPIRE — the Roman Catholic Fascist United States of Europe, even NOW in process of being formed — will take over this territory and move their capital here, until the coming of Christ.
Truly, still today, JERUSALEM IS TRODDEN DOWN OF THE GENTILES. It is regarded as the cradle of the three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is called the "Holy City." But there is very little here visible that is holy today. Jesus said, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles UNTIL the Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." The Gentile Times are not yet fulfilled. Jerusalem is INDEED trodden down by them and their abominations today!
Jerusalem today is literally cut in two. The east half, containing all the old city and all the historical places, is in Jordan. The West half, once just hilly ground, the NEW city, is occupied by the Jews, and is the capital of the new nation "Israel."
First, on this tour, we visited Egypt. We journeyed 400 miles south of Cairo up the Nile, by train, to Luxor, site of ancient Thebes, once the glorious capital of Egypt. Once there flourished an "advanced" civilization there, in this world's sense. Medicine originated there. But we saw there the fruits of that worldly civilization — not health, but degeneration, decay, children and land wasting from rickets and trachoma, bilharziasis and starvation, and even Nasser's rejuvenation of his country now interrupted by the vanity and greed and ambition for power as a military force. From Egypt we spent two weeks travelling thru the wilderness — ancient Babylon, Tyre and Sidon, and Petra. Then, finally, we crossed the Jordan river, on to Jericho, down thru Bethany, and on up into Jerusalem.
I think I felt some of the thrill of the ancient Israelites entering the promised land. But it is not today a land flowing with milk and honey, but largely barren and desolate, under God's curse because of the sins of the people! Jerusalem, incidentally, is on hills. You go DOWN the hill from Mt. Moriah where the old Temple site of Jerusalem is, and then UP a hill again to the Mount of Olives. The Garden of Gethsemane is at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and a portion of it is retained today as a beautiful garden. We took pictures to show you. But finally, from today's down-trodden, defiled, dirty Jerusalem, we crossed thru the Mandelbaum Gate, and across "No-Man's-Land," carrying our own luggage alone, into the "NEW Jerusalem," of this modern "Israel." The Jewish Jerusalem is all practically new — built of cream- colored stone which is beautiful and has warmth. We expected to find American Jews here. We didn't. They are mostly Jews from the Balkan regions, Europe, and Russia. American Jewish DOLLARS are here, but most American Jews are staying in America to make more dollars.
Today Jerusalem is literally FILLED with churches, shrines, and pagan monuments venerating every spot where the various religions CLAIM some Bible event occurred — literally dozens upon dozens of these shrines, where the awe-struck, ignorant, yet devout victims of satanic deception come and kneel, and bow, and kiss stones and rocks, and cross themselves. We have seen them here by the DOZENS on the Arab side of Jerusalem, going through these useless, senseless motions, worshipping the THING, the PLACE, or the CREATED, but not knowing how to worship the CREATOR. Worshipping in ignorance and in the physical, knowing nothing about worshipping in Spirit and in Truth!
Well, that's a brief outline of our tour so far. From here we tour this "new" Jerusalem this afternoon, then tomorrow morning we go by automobile to visit Galilee, the city of Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the districts where so much of Jesus' ministry took place — the valley where "Armageddon" will be fought, Haifa, then back to Tel Aviv. From there we fly to Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey, then to Athens, and to visit Corinth, then Rome once more, then London, where we are to hold a campaign of nightly meetings, sailing for home on the Queen Mary the middle of July.
MEANWHILE — and FINALLY — world conditions are WORSENING, not getting better. We've seen the Germans everywhere over in this Middle East — preparing for the day when THEY, at the head of the resurrected Roman Empire, shall rule over this land — for a while. OUR TIME GROWS SHORTER DAILY, for finishing the Great Work of God! We see people here at Jerusalem, worshipping they know not what — material relics of supposed sacred events — PROFESSING Christ, but IN TOTAL IGNORANCE OF HIS GOSPEL.
Jesus had compassion on these ignorant multitudes. We have been moved with that same compassion.
CO-WORKERS, I realize as never before the MOMENTOUS task before us. This GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM — Christ's own Message MUST go, more powerfully than ever, to ALL THE WORLD. We are NOT reaching this Middle East as yet. WE MUST! We must dedicate ourselves anew, with renewed zeal, to the great task. I see these ignorant, superstitious people, SO REVERENT and DEVOUT in their worship of material THINGS!
WHY, Oh, WHY is it, dear Co-Workers, that we, who have the precious knowledge of the TRUTH, and God's TRUE WAY, and the gift of the very LIFE and POWER of the Holy Spirit of God, are so lukewarm — so LACKING in that devout, reverent, worshipful ZEAL and even fanaticism, which I see in these ignorant, misled, deceived people living in true spiritual darkness?
Can't we WAKE UP?
Can't we rally stronger than ever to the greatest CAUSE ever commissioned to any people? I know from sorrowful experience that, unless you keep hearing from me, MANY of you will let up your effort, and totally neglect the precious WORK OF GOD!
Must the Work of God suffer, or even have to stop, because God has called His servant over here for necessary television pictures, for a spiritual rejuvenation, for new knowledge to form part of the Gospel Message? Remember, while God called Moses away from the people, up into the mount with God, the people said, "As for this Moses, we wot not what has become of him. Come on, let's make us idols to worship — let's forsake the true God."
Brethren, Co-Workers, YOU MUST NOT BE LIKE THAT TODAY! Not only is the precious work of God almost continuously in a DESPERATE financial condition, but your very own personal salvation is also at stake. For YOUR sake, I implore you, IN JESUS' PRECIOUS NAME, arouse yourself, and remain DILIGENT, and FAITHFUL, to any amount of sacrifice. Keep PRAYING, earnestly, continually, with YOUR WHOLE HEART, for the work. Keep praying for ME. I am under continual temptation you know nothing about, and only the POWER OF GOD can keep me, and I personally need your prayers! And keep sending, in addition to your full honest tithe, as generous offerings as you can, REGULARLY, for the work. I have to rely on YOU, while I'm away.
God bless all you Co-Workers! I pray for you. And I am grateful for your faithfulness and sacrifice!