EVERYBODY senses that something is wrong with the world... that some mighty event is about to occur. What is it? Bible prophecy tells! Here is a solemn warning... and it is the plain truth." Those words were written half a century ago in the February 1934 issue — the first issue — of The Plain Truth. Its modest bow was made under the editorship of Herbert W. Armstrong in the form of an eight-page, mimeographed issue totaling about 250 copies. As Mr. Armstrong wrote in his Autobiography, "No publication could have had a more humble, or a smaller start." It was the time of the Great Depression. Today, The Plain Truth has a monthly circulation of more than six million copies in seven languages. But its up-to-date, unique perspective has remained the same these past 50 years. That perspective is made possible through an understanding of biblical prophecy. There was no other magazine like it 50 years ago, nor is there one like it today. Through the years, The Plain Truth has continued to act as a "watchman" of world events (Luke 21:36; Ezek. 33), to explain what certain trends mean in light of Bible prophecy and warn our readers of perilous times that lie just ahead. Though the world has changed immensely in the past five decades — in many ways for the worse — if one were to look closely at the world scene today, one would probably find some unsettling similarities with the world of 50 years ago — in which lived a generation that Franklin Roosevelt noted had a "rendezvous with destiny."
The World in 1934
Fifty years ago, the world was in the midst of the worldwide Great Depression. Economic recovery was only just beginning to take shape in a few countries. Few worried about what was happening with the environment or what was taking place in far-off places. The biggest question on people's minds was how to get a job or how to hold on to the one they had. Families were still close. The pace of life was more sane. And yet, there was an uneasiness, a tension in the air. The United States was debating the issue of whether or not to continue the prohibition of the sale of alcohol, and the merits of Roosevelt's New Deal. Europe was in turmoil. Fascists and communists were battling for control of the hearts and minds of the entire continent. The Plain Truth asked, "Is a World Dictator About to Appear?" As the world began to approach the latter half of the 1930s, many truly wanted to believe British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who proclaimed "peace in our time."
The Winds of War
"When will the next war come? Which will be first, the war precipitated by Russia... or the revival of the Roman Empire?" This question posed by The Plain Truth in 1934 was answered five years later. Soon Hitler's armies were rolling over Poland and then the rest of Europe. The war had begun. As the Nazi Afrika Korps began to close in on Palestine (see Daniel 11:40-43) in 1942, many began to think in terms of Armageddon. However, in the November 1939 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong noted that "This may not, after all, be the 'Armageddon War' at all!" He proved to be right. The Allies did turn the tide of battle and finally crushed the Axis powers after nearly six years of bloody struggle that took 50 million lives. Yet, even as a shattered Germany lay prostrate under a heap of rubble, the editor in chief of The Plain Truth was informing a war-weary world that the German nation would rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of the Third Reich to become a major economic and military power once again, but in the framework of a united Europe. Even before World War II began, this magazine informed its readers of the prophesied formation of a new "United States of Europe." The June-July 1943 issue of The Plain Truth explained: "The 17th chapter of Revelation tells us the ancient Roman Empire will be once more revived, this time by a federation of 10 nations." In 1958, the groundwork for that resurrection of the once powerful Roman Empire was laid with the inception of the European Common Market. Today, the European Community consists of 10 nations — many of which had only a few decades ago battled each other in the Second World War. The Plain Truth continues to watch the ebb and flow of European political and religious trends to keep our readers informed of the latest developments there.
A Perilous Age
Near the end of the Second World War, a different weapon was introduced into the arena of human conflict. We were now living in the atomic age. "Where Are We Headed? What's prophesied from here? Will we have hydrogen war?" This headline from the November 1953 issue of The Plain Truth underscores the uneasiness mankind has learned to live with under the shadow of the nuclear bomb. Similarly, other important events to occur in the course of passing decades were revealed to startled audiences in subsequent issues of the magazine. The demise of the once proud British Empire was proclaimed in The Plain Truth long before the Empire was officially ended. Today, the Empire upon which the sun never set is merely a shadow of its former self. For a more in-depth look at why the demise of Britain and the United States has taken place — as well as future problems they will face — please read our free copy of The United States And Britain In Prophecy.
Korea and Vietnam
In 1950, because of an absent Soviet delegation, the United Nations voted to send troops to aid the beleaguered South Korean nation. The United States moved into the area to block the communist advance in a police action designed to force the North Koreans to the bargaining table. The Plain Truth, however, warned the United States, then at the very pinnacle of its might and strength, that it had won its last war. The United States and its U.N. allies did not win in Korea. They merely succeeded in gaining a draw. Vietnam, however, was another matter altogether. Many of the United States' closest allies stood helplessly by while this floundering giant became mired in a war of nerves. There was no surrender of American troops... just of the will to fight. This war was lost, not in the jungles or rice paddies of Vietnam, but in the television sets in the living rooms of America. It was an even worse defeat than any could have imagined. As the May 1968 issue of The Plain Truth noted, "Bible prophecy reveals that not even America, with all of her nuclear muscle, can prevent Southeast Asia from eventually being overrun by communism." That was stated seven years before North Vietnamese forces conquered Saigon, ending the existence of the Republic of South Vietnam and sealing the fate of Laos and Cambodia. In 1977, then President Jimmy Carter and the late Gen. Omar Torrijos of Panama signed a treaty in which the United States agreed to turn complete control of the Canal over to Panama in 1999. In November 1965, The Plain Truth warned, "We said before, and we repeat: America' will not keep the Canal!" Bible prophecy clearly points out that all important "sea gates" — for instance, the Falkland Islands — held by the United States and Britain will fall into the hands of others.
The World in Focus
The Plain Truth has continued to focus our readers attention on the Middle East — the focal point of Bible prophecy. Long before the world was rudely awakened by the oil embargo of the early 1970s, this magazine was pointing out that oil would play a major role in the earthshaking events that are yet ahead of us. The Plain Truth has also focused on the subject of weather conditions. Our readers have long been kept abreast of the world's upset weather patterns, drought, floods, earthquakes and famines in light of what these events really mean and why they are occurring.
The Role of World Government
In June 1945, 50 nations met In San Francisco, California, to approve the United Nations Charter. It was believed that only a world governing body could save mankind from further and even more frightening mass destruction than experienced during World War II. This new body would supposedly have the power to act where its predecessor, the League of Nations, had utterly failed. Editor in chief Herbert Armstrong was at that meeting in San Francisco and declared in the January-February 1945 issue of the magazine, "The plain truth is that the United Nations never will be able to give the world any permanent peace." The League of Nations was unable to prevent the catastrophic events of its day, neither has the United Nations been able to prevent the suffering mankind has experienced since the Second World War. Witness the more than 140 wars and countless bloody skirmishes fought since 1945. One report, released in 1983 by the Center for Defense Information, noted that one in four nations was engaged in major or minor conflicts. These struggles, to date, have taken an estimated one to five million lives with as many as three times that number wounded. The Bible reveals that mankind will experience peace — and peace in our time (Luke 21:29-33) — but in spite of man's best efforts, not because of them. Everybody today "senses that something is wrong with the world... that some mighty event is about to occur." Soon God will intervene directly in the affairs of man to impose peace on the nations. This will be accomplished through a long awaited "mighty event" — the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Instead of retaining false hopes of a human-devised world government, The Plain Truth has for 50 years pointed to the ultimate solution for solving mankind's overwhelming problems. We announce the restoration of the government of God by divine intervention in human affairs and the establishment of the law of God to bring justice and true mercy to a confused world. The Plain Truth will continue to keep you informed of the real news — news that will affect you — until our commission (Matt. 24:14) is completed.