Wise King Solomon once wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18). Vision is a mental image of what the future will be or could be. We all need vision—and hope and inspiration—or we perish!
I want to explain the tremendous vision—a hopeful and inspiring vision that you need—in the city of Jerusalem. In its future, as well as its past, and even its present.
No city on Earth has a past, present or future filled with such meaning and hope. There is vision in the Old City, in the City of David and on the Temple Mount; there is vision in the hills of Judea and on the coastal plains. There is vision in the ancient ruins that testify of this land’s incomparable history, and in the many sensational artifacts that have been uncovered in archaeological excavation, illuminating Israel’s ancient past.
Israel today is also the epicenter of major issues and trends, both regionally and globally. Though the news media do not convey it, there is enormous vision in this daily news. Israel’s domestic politics, the terrorist threat, the ongoing conflict with Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Gaza, and many other events, become staggeringly meaningful when viewed in light of Israel’s past and the writings of its prophets. These writings place events in their historical context. More importantly, the ancient prophets explain where today’s events are leading.
These sacred writings also foretell of a magnificent future for this incomparable city—a future, soon to be realized, that should set our hearts aflame!
King Solomon wasn’t the only one to discuss vision and its importance to individual and national health. Many biblical priests, prophets and leaders talk about vision, especially the importance of the Jerusalem vision.
In Psalm 137:5-6, the psalmist wrote: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I remember thee not; If I set not Jerusalem [a]bove my chiefest joy” (Jewish Publication Society). Written in Babylonian captivity, this beautiful song expresses the deep yearning of God’s people for this city of God. It is a perpetual reminder to hold fast the vision of Jerusalem.
The Bible is filled with passages like this—passages that describe how important it is to cherish the Jerusalem vision.
Anciently, God instructed Abraham to uproot himself and move (Genesis 12). Abraham obeyed, and was a stranger and a pilgrim on this Earth. Hebrews 11 tells us that he “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” This is speaking of new Jerusalem—prophesied in exquisite detail in Revelation 21. Abraham was unconcerned about his physical whereabouts because he knew his spiritual destination. He held a vision of Jerusalem’s ultimate future, when it will serve as God’s headquarters for all nations and even the universe!
The Prophet Isaiah wrote extensively about Jerusalem. Consider Isaiah 40, which is about both the past and the future, and illuminates the Jerusalem vision. Verse 9 says, “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, Get thee up into the high mountain; O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, Lift up thy voice with strength; Lift it up, be not afraid; Say unto the cities of Judah: ‘Behold your God!’” (jps).
Jerusalem and the State of Israel are filled with history and events that declare, “Behold your God!” Traveling that land is like walking through the Bible. There are biblically significant archaeological excavations, artifacts and ruins all over the country. Many political events and trends in Israel are connected to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In its own way, each of these declares, “Behold your God!”
This message, though, must also be specifically declared and made plain, or people will not recognize it. In recent decades, it has been trumpeted by a specific individual—a man who has been called a modern-day “prophet” for Jerusalem.
From 1965 to 1993, the mayor of Jerusalem was Teddy Kollek. He had a vision for the city and was able to turn much of that vision into reality. He oversaw the development of Jerusalem after its reunification in 1967 and brought it into the modern age. He has been called “the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod the Great.”
After his fourth reelection as mayor in 1983, Kollek was hosting a luncheon for a friend of his, with whom he could share, develop and expand his vision of his beloved city: Herbert W. Armstrong. Mayor Kollek deeply respected Mr. Armstrong’s understanding of the Bible and of Jerusalem’s paramountcy in its history and prophecy. After Mr. Armstrong toasted the mayor’s electoral success, Mayor Kollek smiled and responded from his chair, “Jerusalem at this time does not have a prophet. You will have to be our prophet.”
That statement showed profound insight. Mr. Armstrong was chancellor of Ambassador College, headquartered in Pasadena, California. A prolific author, educator, philanthropist and theologian, Mr. Armstrong traveled the world teaching the true causes of the problems facing humanity and their ultimate solutions. He published the Plain Truth newsmagazine, read by 1 out of every 583 people on the planet; broadcast the World Tomorrow program, seen on 382 television stations and 36 radio stations. Mr. Armstrong directed many important projects, but his greatest passion, especially in the final decades of his long life, was for the Jewish state and for Jerusalem. Between 1967 and his death in 1986, he visited Jerusalem more than 50 times. He personally befriended all of Israel’s prime ministers and presidents during this time. In 1968, Mr. Armstrong and Ambassador College formed what Israel’s tourism minister at the time called “an iron bridge that can never be broken” with Hebrew University and the State of Israel. Mr. Armstrong and Ambassador College supported several archaeological digs in the Old City, including the massive Temple Mount excavations led by Prof. Benjamin Mazar and Hebrew University. When Mr. Armstrong visited, he would often walk arm in arm with Mayor Kollek around the city. The mayor would share his vision of modern Jerusalem, and Mr. Armstrong would give the mayor feedback and ideas about his projects and plans.
Like the biblical prophets and the great Jewish figures of antiquity, Mr. Armstrong had an extraordinary vision of Jerusalem and the Jewish state. He understood that there is tremendous hope and inspiration bound up in the past, present and future of this city and nation. And he devoted a lot of energy to sharing this hope.
In 1967, I was attending Ambassador College. Mr. Armstrong was about ready to deliver a message in Israel. In a letter to co-workers at that time, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “[T]he living Christ has moved swiftly to open the all-important door that has been closed since the days of the original apostles!” In the first century, Jesus Christ came to Jerusalem with a message, and the people killed Him!—something God the Father vividly remembers and has deep feelings about (Revelation 11:8). The people of God went to Pella, a place of safety, in a.d. 69. In all the centuries since, the truth of God was not again broadly preached in that city! God slammed the door on Jerusalem! God allowed Jerusalem to suffer the terrifying holocaust of a.d. 70, the Roman siege that destroyed the city and the temple.
Yet in modern times, God inspired Mr. Armstrong to carry out the commission spoken of in Isaiah 40 about the voice “that crieth in the wilderness.” This commission was fulfilled by John the Baptist before Jesus Christ’s first coming (Matthew 3:3), but there was also to be an end-time fulfillment before the Second Coming—and that would be accomplished by Mr. Armstrong.
The king of Jordan had worked out a way with Mr. Armstrong for him to deliver that message via radio to Jerusalem. But before he could get there and broadcast, the Six-Day War broke out. Mr. Armstrong was deeply disappointed. He desperately wanted to deliver that message!
This proved to be the first of several major obstacles Mr. Armstrong faced while doing a work in Israel. Yet, Mr. Armstrong still managed to achieve extraordinary things there. There is a powerful lesson in this history for all of us.
I have gone back and studied all that Mr. Armstrong accomplished in Israel and the challenges that arose, and I am convinced of two truths. First, the reason for those troubles was that Satan the devil hated what he was doing and worked fervently to oppose it. Second, Mr. Armstrong’s intense determination to surmount those obstacles showed his passion and love for Jerusalem! His knowledge of the Bible’s prophecies kept him focused on that city, and he found tremendous hope there. He saw its importance because he had vision!
During the 1970s especially, there was significant turmoil in the Church Mr. Armstrong founded. Some ministers staged something of a coup aimed at liberalizing the Church’s teachings. Ambassador College succumbed to these liberal forces in the faculty and student body. Mr. Armstrong had to disfellowship his own son, who then publicly maligned him. The state of California attacked the Church in what was later proved to be a totally unsubstantiated, unconstitutional assault. Many members and ministers left the Church.
This is a compelling illustration of the truth in King Solomon’s proverb. These people lacked vision, and they were perishing spiritually!
All this occurred while Mr. Armstrong was undertaking his greatest efforts in Jerusalem! Satan knows the power of this Jerusalem vision. He repeatedly attacked Mr. Armstrong’s Church and its work in Jerusalem. Such activity in that city makes him very uneasy—and very wrathful! This is because when that Isaiah 40:9 commission is fulfilled, his evil work will end! (e.g. Revelation 12:12).
Mr. Armstrong confronted the problems forcibly, but he also didn’t allow them to undermine the work in Judah. If you follow that history in the 1970s, it seems Mr. Armstrong was unshakable! Some critics inside the Church chided him for traveling to Jerusalem when the college was “falling apart.” He responded by saying that if the college proved to be a distraction from God’s work, he would shut it down! He would not be sidetracked. He knew he needed to focus on Jerusalem, and carried right on doing so!
When you have the Jerusalem vision, even heavy trials will not stop you.
You would think that in the 1980s, while Mr. Armstrong was putting the Church back on track, he would have stopped the dig in Israel. Instead he joined more excavations. He also received a medal in the Knesset, and met with President Chaim Herzog and Shimon Peres. Prof. Benjamin Mazar, who led the Jerusalem digs, personally visited the Ambassador College campus many times.
The fruits show that God was inspiring Mr. Armstrong’s presence in Jerusalem. He was providing miracles and opening doors, and Mr. Armstrong always tried to walk through every door God opened! Some of the most outstanding universities in America were trying to be a part of those excavations—the most important digs on Earth. Yet a small college in Pasadena, California, was the one that received that honor! God was trying to get His people’s minds on Jerusalem and the vision it represents.
In 1986, Ambassador College students appeared on the cover of Biblical Archaeology Review—impressive prestige and publicity for any college. It was as though God was reminding His people that they needed to stay focused on Jerusalem.
Sadly, when Mr. Armstrong died, the Church members got their minds off that city. And where there is no vision, the people perish. Without vision, churches and colleges perish! That is what happened to Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God.
Thankfully, that is not where the story ends.
Behold Your God!
Within four years of Mr. Armstrong’s death, the organization behind this magazine launched with the express purpose of continuing the work his successors abandoned. Equipped with the same truth Mr. Armstrong proclaimed, and inspired by the same vision, we have resurrected the television program, magazines, book and booklet production and other media efforts. We have revived many other aspects of his work, including Public Appearance Campaigns, a primary and secondary school and summer educational programs for youth, concerts and other cultural events, and a liberal arts college with campuses in America and Britain (now named Herbert W. Armstrong College).
We also have a work in Israel that continues Mr. Armstrong’s legacy. We raised the ruins of Mr. Armstrong’s humanitarian work in Jerusalem with the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation. We worked to restore Liberty Bell Park. Shortly after Dr. Eilat Mazar discovered King David’s palace in the City of David, we started a partnership with her. We sent our first students to assist in her excavations in 2006. That same year, we met Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. Our students have since been heavily involved in several digs that have unearthed marvelous, biblically significant artifacts, including Nehemiah’s Wall, the bulla of Gedaliah (one of the Prophet Jeremiah’s persecutors), and Solomon’s Wall. God has clearly been abundantly blessing Dr. Mazar’s work, because she has made one discovery of mind-boggling value after another!
Mr. Armstrong’s presence in Jerusalem prepared the way for our work there today. Dr. Mazar probably wouldn’t even be working with us today if it weren’t for Mr. Armstrong working with her grandfather, Benjamin Mazar. She grew up interacting with the Ambassador College students on the excavations.
The message of Isaiah 40:9 still needs to be proclaimed to the cities of Judah and in Jerusalem. God is doing that today through this work. We are allowing God to lead us through any doors He opens for us in the modern Jewish state to announce Christ’s imminent return: “Behold your God!”
On March 30, the New York Times published an article titled “Can an Archaeological Dig Change the Future of Jerusalem?” It quoted former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro as saying, “It’s hard to overstate how moving it is for Jews to connect to David’s Jerusalem.” We operate a website, Watch Jerusalem (watchJerusalem.co.il), and are about to launch a new magazine, also with the title Watch Jerusalem. It will be aimed at connecting the people of Israel to David’s Jerusalem. We have a powerful message about that city that they need to hear, especially as the nation’s problems intensify in the time ahead—which they certainly will, just as they did before a.d. 70.
God is reaching out to the people of Israel! Their own amazing history and heritage is being unearthed from the soil under their feet—artifacts that connect to prophecies of what is about to happen to them!
Jesus Christ is about to return! If He did not do so, every human being on Earth would be killed (Matthew 24:22). We must prepare the way for His Second Coming. We must declare to Judah, “Behold your God!” Your Messiah is coming! You crucified my Son, God the Father might say, but now He’s coming back. This is the Messiah you were looking for the first time around. You didn’t want the one who would be crucified—you wanted a powerful Messiah! This time, that’s what you’re going to get. BEHOLD YOUR GOD!
That is our message to Jerusalem! There is wonderful vision wrapped up in Isaiah 40. Everything we are doing in this end time is about “Behold your God!” And God is opening this door.
You need to watch Jerusalem! You need the vision of what is going to happen in that city! In a very short while, Jerusalem is going to be the capital of this world. It will be called a city of truth. Peace, joy and happiness will be abundant (Zechariah 8:3-6). People from around the world will flow to Jerusalem to be taught God’s law and to learn the way of peace (Isaiah 2:1-5). God’s education and truth will fill the Earth! (Habakkuk 2:14).
I want to encourage you to request my free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy. It explains these and many of the Bible’s other prophecies about what will happen in this city in the time just ahead, and in that coming utopia. The last chapter is called “Looking to New Jerusalem.” It explains how, after a thousand years of that world governed by Jesus Christ, all mankind will be resurrected, instructed, and given the opportunity for salvation (Revelation 20). Then God the Father will bring new Jerusalem—the city that has foundations, after which Abraham sought—down to this Earth, and establish that as His universe headquarters (Revelation 21). He will be united at last with His Family, which will be absolutely happy and have full joy. That is the beginning of the rest of eternity! What a vision!