The History Iran Forgot

The History Iran Forgot

AFP/Getty Images

An inspiring look back at when the Islamic Republic’s forefathers were friends and champions of … the Jews
From the January 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

In 1971, Iran threw a party. A big one.

It took 10 years to plan and lasted five days. The Guinness Book of World Records recorded it as the most “well-attended” international gathering in history. More than 600 foreign dignitaries, including some 65 heads of state, abandoned their presidential palaces and braved the Iranian desert—on sand dunes on the outskirts of Persepolis, capital of the ancient Persian Empire.

The shah was a gracious host and spared no expense to ensure their comfort. Two hundred and fifty custom-built red Mercedes-Benzes zipped across the desert carrying foreign diplomats. Hairdressers and make-up artists were flown in from Paris; drapes and flowers were imported from Italy. Guests stayed in gigantic air-conditioned tents, constructed in traditional Persian style. They ate the finest food, catered by Maxim’s de Paris, which closed its Paris location for nearly two weeks to prepare for the banquet. Around 150 chefs, bakers and waiters were imported. The world’s master hotelier, a Frenchman, was brought out of retirement to manage the waitstaff. Attendees dined on fine china and drank from goblets made from Baccarat crystal.

There were fireworks displays, performances from some of the world’s finest musicians and spectacularly choreographed parades by Iranian soldiers, all dressed in traditional Persian garb. The price tag of the grand affair, according to the Telegraph, was $100 million.

Why such a spectacular celebration? What was so important that the shah felt compelled to transform the Iranian desert into an exquisite tent city so he could celebrate with hundreds of the world’s most powerful leaders?

It was the 2,500-year anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire!

In the sixth century, King Cyrus the Great displayed unmatched and unique skills of leadership to forge the disparate peoples of Mesopotamia into one of the mightiest civilizations in mankind’s history. In 1971, the shah of Iran celebrated this history with such grandeur in an attempt to “reawaken the people of Iran to their past and reawaken the world to Iran.

The shah had his critics for this giant celebration—but we need to think about the history he was trying to invoke. His desire to showcase the legacy of Cyrus the Great and ancient Persia was praiseworthy. He was absolutely right: Iran boasts one of the most unique and majestic histories of all countries on the planet.

Moreover, the history of King Cyrus and ancient Persia is more vital, more illustrious, more inspiring, more hope-filled, more faith-building than the shah of Iran ever knew! The shah could have spent $2 trillion on his celebration and still not have properly showcased the importance of this history.

The Origins of Persia

Before the 1930s, today’s Iran went by the name Persia. Today the names Iran and Persia remain interchangeable. Historians agree that the Persians are an Indo-European people, meaning they can trace their heritage back to Shem, the Caucasian son of Noah. The Jewish historian Josephus records the Persians as being descendants of Shem’s son Elam (Genesis 10:22).

For about 1,500 years after the Flood, the Persians herded sheep and raised horses on the plains of Mesopotamia, mostly in the region just north of the Tigris River and the sea known today as the Persian Gulf. In the mid-sixth century b.c., however, the Persian lifestyle experienced an upheaval.

Under the leadership of Cyrus the Great, the Persians began conquering surrounding city-states. First, they conquered the Medes, who in defeat accepted an invitation from Cyrus to join forces with the Persian army. Within 10 years, King Cyrus was ruling over a kingdom of then unprecedented proportions, one stretching from Thrace in the west to Egypt in the south to the Indus River in the east.

Politically, the Persians were very different from the Assyrians before them. After Cyrus conquered the gargantuan Assyrian/Babylonian-Chaldean empires and fused the disparate peoples and cultures into a single kingdom, succeeding monarchs managed to keep the kingdom united and strong for some 250 years. It wasn’t till Alexander the Great barreled eastward in 333 b.c. that Persia was knocked from its perch above the civilized world.

Historians agree on and admire the fundamental reason Cyrus and his successors were able to maintain such an enormous kingdom: The Persian monarchs were terrific humanitarians. They had tremendous respect and tolerance for the customs and traditions of the people they ruled over.

“Under the close supervision of his government, [Cyrus] permitted the conquered peoples to retain their own customs and religions and their own forms of government,” explains Stanley Chodorow in The Mainstream of Civilization. As an example, he cites the history of King Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem around 535 b.c.

By not forcing his religion or creed on the people he conquered, Cyrus gained their respect and loyalty. The result? Many willingly submitted to Persian rule!

In 1879, British archeologists digging in Iran discovered a barrel-shaped cylinder made out of clay. They called it the Cyrus Cylinder because inscribed on the cylinder in ancient cuneiform is a decree by King Cyrus. In the 40-line decree, the king recalls his defeat of Babylon and outlines a number of policies designed to defend the rights of the conquered. The Cyrus Cylinder confirms King Cyrus’s reputation as a great humanitarian, and is, according to the United Nations, the “world’s first charter of human rights.”

Historians recognize that the governance of Cyrus the Great was profoundly unique. History does not overflow with examples of powerful men mercifully allowing the peoples they conquer to keep their religions, customs and traditions. In fact, it’s full of individuals doing the opposite.

Really, when it came to ruling the people he conquered, Cyrus displayed characteristics that simply don’t spring from the natural human mind, which is inherently selfish (Jeremiah 17:9).

Where did this admirable and heretofore unrepeated character trait come from? Where did Cyrus come from, and why did he suddenly emerge in the sixth century? You won’t find the answers in your encyclopedia or via a Google search. We’ll have to look into the world’s most neglected and underrated history book.

Cyrus the Prophecy

As you might expect, Cyrus is mentioned a lot in the Bible. Chronologically, the first author to discuss Cyrus in the Bible is the Prophet Isaiah. Chapter 44 reveals that God “says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid’” (verse 28, Revised Standard Version).

Here, the Bible recalls the decree by King Cyrus in 539 b.c. commissioning the Jews to leave Babylon and return to Judea. In this decree Cyrus told the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem, which had been sacked by the Babylonians about 45 years earlier. Isaiah’s account gels perfectly with archeological evidence such as the Cyrus Cylinder, as well as the works of historians such as Herodotus and Xenophon.

Here’s the thing: Isaiah wrote his book in the latter half of the eighth century b.c.—more than 150 years before King Cyrus commissioned the Jews to return to Jerusalem!

Think on this! Cyrus, Persia’s greatest king, was prophesied by namemore than a hundred years before he was even born!

Not only that, God, through Isaiah, prophesied specifically that He would inspire Cyrus to dispatch the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple! Remember, Isaiah wrote this before Persia existed as an empire, before the Chaldeans had conquered Jerusalem and taken the Jews back to Babylon, and long before King Cyrus ever conquered the Chaldeans and gained control of Mesopotamia.

Surely, among all his terrific accomplishments, Cyrus’s greatest accomplishment was being the living, breathing fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy!

Cyrus the Humanitarian

It is clear that credit for the timing of Cyrus the Great’s emergence belongs to God. But what about his profound and intriguing tolerance and respect for the culture and traditions of other races and peoples?

Let’s pick up the history in Ezra 1: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia …” (verse 1). Ezra here is recording the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 44, where God said He would use Cyrus as a “shepherd” and that through him He would “fulfill my purpose.”

God was working with the mind of this great Persian king!

Ezra also records that under God’s inspiration, Cyrus “made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom … saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel … ” (verses 1-3).

This passage is key to understanding the unique character, as well as the accomplishments, of Cyrus the Great—but you never see it mentioned in history books.

Here, we see that it was the God of the Israelites who “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” to display matchless fondness toward the Jews. Historians, and even Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recognize that Cyrus had exemplary respect and tolerance for human values, and for the culture and traditions of all people. Many would agree that this humanitarian tendency was his defining quality.

Ezra 1 reveals its origin: King Cyrus’s respect for humanity—for the Jews certainly, but even for all the people he conquered—was the direct result of a miracle God caused in the king’s mind!

Sure, you have the prerogative to discard that as claptrap. Before you do, read again what Cyrus himself said about God’s presence in his life and work: “The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth.”

Further evidence of God’s hand in the life and work of Cyrus can be found in the book of Daniel, particularly chapter 6. In verse 25, the Persian king promoted Daniel, a Jewish man, to a position of great power within the mighty Persian Empire. During Daniel’s public promotion, the king of Persia issued a decree to “all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth,” demanding “that in all my royal dominion men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.”

Now that is thrilling history! Persia’s greatest king not only recognized God’s presence in his life, but he also encouraged his subjects to “tremble and fear” before the God of Israel!

No wonder the Persian Empire reached the height of its power under Cyrus the Great!

Cyrus the “Zionist”

Historians widely accept that Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Judea. But none has ever investigated the depth of his affection for the Jews. When you read the Bible, especially Ezra 1, it’s clear that there were no bounds to the favor Cyrus showed toward the Jews.

In Ezra 1:2, Cyrus says openly that the God of Israel had personally “charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem.” He was king of the mightiest empire on Earth,and one of his driving goals was to help the Jews rebuild Jerusalem!

Verses 3-6 show Cyrus giving the Jews a key to the treasury of the Persian Empire. Whatever the Jews wanted, they got, including gold, silver, precious stones, building utensils, lumber, and animals and crops for food. When they finally started building the temple around 535 b.c., they imported cedar trees from Lebanon and tradesmen from Phoenicia, all thanks to the “grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 3:7).

Verse 7 recounts Cyrus being so thrilled by the building project in Judea, he had his men fetch from the treasury the “vessels of the house of the Lord” that had been taken when the temple was sacked by Babylonians in 585 b.c.

History is clear on this point: King Cyrus of Persia was a patron of the Jews, and a willing facilitator of those of them inhabiting Jerusalem. He was, in a real sense, a wholehearted “Zionist”!

The more you think about this history, the clearer it becomes that outside of the Jews themselves, Cyrus the Great was one of the loudest advocates in history of Jewish statehood in Judea!

This is the reason the Persian Empire thrived as the world’s greatest power during the sixth and fifth centuries b.c.: God used ancient Persia as a tool in His work with the Jews and Jerusalem!

As incredible as Cyrus’s moral and material support for the Jews was, that wasn’t even his greatest gesture. His greatest achievement was institutionalizing his affection for the Jews, and establishing a legacy of pro-Jewish policy within the Persian monarchy.

Study the history of Cyrus’s successors. Ezra 5 and 6 record the work of the Jews in Jerusalem about 20 years after the first wave returned to Judea in 535 b.c. Cyrus was dead and Darius i was king of Persia.

With Cyrus gone, leaders from nearby cities had begun persecuting the Jews in Jerusalem. In response, the Jews sent a letter to Darius reminding him of Cyrus’s decree and asking that he issue a similar mandate. “If it seem good to the king,” they implored, “let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter” (Ezra 5:17).

Darius initiated a search, found and studied the original decree, then issued one of his own: “Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place” (Ezra 6:7). The legacy of Cyrus lived on!

This God-inspired favor for the Jews was still alive and still shaping Persian policy during the kingship of Artaxerxes i, who reigned from 465-423 b.c. You can read the history in Nehemiah 1 and 2. Here, 20 years into the reign of Artaxerxes (around 445 b.c.), Nehemiah, the king’s Jewish cupbearer, besought the king to allow him to return to Jerusalem and build a wall of defense around the city. Artaxerxes didn’t begrudgingly grant the leave of absence. He issued a royal decree giving official sanction to Nehemiah’s work and installing the prophet as governor of Jerusalem! Beyond the official order, the king provided Nehemiah with materials, as well as an official letter instructing the “keeper of the king’s forest” to give Nehemiah the timber he needed for his wall!

Nearly a century had passed since Cyrus had issued the original decree, and protecting the presence and work of the Jews in Jerusalem remained a key pillar in the foreign policy of the Persian Empire!

Condemned by History

Five years ago, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, “Some historians believe that the shah’s costly and elaborate anniversary celebration, which overlooked the Islamic religion, was the spark that lit the fire that ended up seeing the country hijacked by radicals in 1979, just a few years later” (Royal Vision, September/October 2005).

Think about that. Iran’s radical Islamists despise their history so vehemently that in 1979 they overthrew the Iranian leader who deeply valued that history, and was engaged in a national—even global—campaign to revive and recreate it.

When you understand the history of King Cyrus of Persia and what he did for the Jews, you can begin to understand the hatred of Iran’s radical Islamists for the shah!

Radical Islam lives to destroy the Jews and conquer Jerusalem. The shah of Iran deeply revered the Persian king who showed deep favor to the Jews, and who devoted his empire to supporting the Jews as they returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the city and the temple!

Radical Islamists hate this history because it so powerfully condemns them and undermines their fundamental cause!

In Tehran this past October, President Ahmadinejad gave a speech in which he recalled some of the achievements of Cyrus the Great, and stated that Iran today remains committed to “culture, human values, justice, love and sacrifice.” He delivered this speech at a ceremony unveiling the Cyrus Cylinder, which is currently in Tehran on loan from the British Museum.

Politically and ideologically, Iran’s president and King Cyrus are polar opposites. So why would Ahmadinejad invoke the history of ancient Persia and a king whose accomplishments, if he understood them, he would find repulsive? It’s simple. Millions of Iranians today continue to cherish the history of King Cyrus: Ahmadinejad is identifying himself with the upright character and accomplishments of Cyrus the Great in an attempt to cover his own hate-filled fanaticism.

It won’t work—it can’t. The life and accomplishments of Cyrus the Great are bright and radiant, while those of Ahmadinejad are dark and black. Invoking the awesome works of King Cyrus only exposes the evil in his own works all the more.

That is exactly why the Iranian people and the world need to be reminded of Iran’s rich and glorious history!

Our Candelabra

More than 40 years ago, when the shah of Iran was making preparations for his spectacular celebration, he commissioned the construction of two candelabra. During the weeklong celebration, the 7-foot brightly lit giants, each weighing 650 pounds and decked with 802 pieces of Baccarat crystal, stood in the midst of the royal tent where all the world leaders gathered to dine.

Together, these shimmering beauties, and the history of King Cyrus and ancient Persia that they embodied, dazzled the kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers at that royal banquet.

Today, those candelabra stand tall and bright in the grand lobby of Armstrong Auditorium, our breathtaking new concert hall here in Oklahoma.

Just as they did to the world’s royalty and upper echelon nearly 40 years ago, those same candelabra dazzle the concertgoers and artists that enter our auditorium today!

They really are stunning. But as breathtaking as they are in appearance, it’s the story behind them we most cherish. Our candelabra were part of the celebration of the 2,500-year anniversary of Cyrus the Great and the Persian Empire. The shah intended that these candelabra awaken the Iranian people and the world to Iran’s majestic history!

Sadly, the hope emanating from Iran was extinguished in 1979, when the shah was violently overthrown and Iran’s government was replaced by an Islamic theocracy. Since then, very few people have revisited the history of Cyrus the Great and Persia.

Until now!

These two candelabra standing in Armstrong Auditorium recall that history to us today in a beautiful, majestic way. They remind us of the glorious reign of Cyrus the Great—the Persian king whose life, from beginning to end, was shaped by God.

This was the king who guaranteed the Jews’ presence in Jerusalem, the king whose mind God inspired to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem—a temple designed to point people toward God’s future temple in new Jerusalem!

If you haven’t done so yet, make it a goal to come visit Armstrong Auditorium. When you enter the grand lobby of the auditorium, stop a moment to look at these candelabra. As you do, let your mind hearken back to the glorious and spiritually uplifting history of ancient Persia, of Cyrus the Great, a patron of the Jews—and a man whose life and work prove the existence of an all-powerful God!

The Magnificent New Armstrong Auditorium

Seeing is believing.
From the December 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

After the Queen of Sheba toured Solomon’s temple, Scripture says “there was no more spirit in her” (1 Kings 10:5). She had heard about the penetrating insights of King Solomon, the luxurious splendor of the house he built for God, the magnificent gardens surrounding the temple, the blissful countenance of Solomon’s entourage, their regal attire and the sumptuous delicacies served in the royal court. But when she finally saw it all for herself, it literally took her breath away.

I didn’t know the half of it, she exclaimed. This actually exceeds the fame that had spread by word of mouth (verse 7). She left Jerusalem so moved with emotion, so giddy with delight, that she actually glorified the great God of Israel!

In September, the Philadelphia Church of God, which sponsors the Trumpet magazine, completed a new performing arts center on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma. Armstrong Auditorium may not rise to the level of excellence of Solomon’s house, but judging by the initial wave of reviews, it will take your breath away.

From Around the World

“Jaw dropping” is how Ray Hibbard described his experience. “Frankly,” Hibbard wrote in Edmond Life & Leisure, “calling this palace a building is probably the largest understatement you have ever seen in print. At every turn of my tour, I was at a loss in finding words to describe how impressed I was with the choice of materials and quality construction.”

He was especially moved by the international array of building materials and feature pieces that are displayed throughout the facility. For example, the grand mall, which wraps around the entrance, is covered with 40,000 square feet of Turkish travertine marble—nearly enough tiles to fill a square acre. The 120-foot-long reflecting pool in the middle of the mall showcases a beautiful bronze sculpture, Swans in Flight, made by world-renowned British sculptor, Sir David Wynne, who personally attended the auditorium’s dedication.

Inside the house, suspended above the grand lobby, are three massive chandeliers, weighing nearly six tons in total. Of the more than 50,000 pieces of shimmering crystal clinging to the chandeliers, about two thirds are Strass crystal made by Swarovski of Innsbruck, Austria—the “Rolls Royce” manufacturer of chandelier crystal.

The two 7-foot candelabras featured on the lobby floor were commissioned by the Shah of Iran in 1971 to commemorate the 2,500-year anniversary of the Persian Empire. Each candelabra weighs 650 pounds and supports 802 pieces of Baccarat crystal from France.

Behind the candelabras in the grand lobby are three gorgeous feature walls made of caramel onyx. The semi-precious stone was quarried in Azerbaijan, near the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, and then cut and polished in Italy.

Upstairs, Spanish and Chinese marble covers 2,000 square feet in the balcony lobby. In the theater, American cherry wood veneer, with matching grain, stretches from floor to ceiling on both sidewalls. Backstage are two concert grand pianos manufactured by Steinway and Sons in Hamburg, Germany.

It is palatial, said Tricia Pemberton in the Daily Oklahoman. Touring the edifice and its surrounding grounds is like a “study in opulence,” she wrote.

Writing in Distinctly Oklahoma, a monthly periodical, Dena Edwards said the auditorium, with its 12 towering pillars in front, dominates the surrounding woodlands in north Edmond “like a modern Greek temple.”

Edmond Monthly, another local magazine, featured the auditorium on the cover of its September issue. “The aesthetics of Armstrong Auditorium are, in a word, breathtaking,” wrote Kent Anderson. It gives Oklahoma a concert hall that is truly world-class, he said.

Chris Pritchard, the lead architect for the project, said, “This is going to become a landmark for north Edmond—a true world-class facility, the scale of which is unmatched here.” Clif Warren, who wrote about the project back in April, predicted it would possibly become “the most beautiful temple in the Southwest region.”

Raising the Ruins

From the beginning, we have modeled our construction project after a similar project completed by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1974—Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California. That house became the crown jewel of the Ambassador College campus toward the end of Mr. Armstrong’s 55-year ministry.

After Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, the new leaders systematically dismantled the church’s body of beliefs plank by plank. They changed the church’s commission and gutted its faith. They stopped the television program, closed the college, and eventually sold off all the church’s most valuable assets—including God’s house.

Beginning in late 1989, the same God who raised up His Church under Mr. Armstrong started all over again with just 12 people, led by my father, Gerald Flurry. After a little more than 10 years, the scattered remains of those who held to their original faith had grown in number to support an exciting new phase of God’s work: raising the ruins of the work God did through Mr. Armstrong.

It started with 160 acres of pastureland located in north Edmond. As work began in earnest to resurrect God’s college, beginning with the John Amos Field House in 2001, we set aside space on the land for a proposed house that would be dedicated to God.

After obtaining all of Mr. Armstrong’s major writings at the end of a grueling six-year lawsuit in 2003, my father sharpened his focus on the house of God. At a Pasadena auction in July 2004, we purchased one of our two Steinway pianos, a concert grand that Mr. Armstrong had originally ordered for Ambassador in 1983.

We also bought the two candelabras commissioned by the shah in 1971. Mr. Armstrong originally purchased the pair from a London department store in 1973 and placed them inside the main lobby of Ambassador Auditorium.

In 2005, we contacted an Oklahoma City architectural firm about building God’s house. At our first meeting, we handed over a stack of pictures and literature about Ambassador Auditorium. We said we wanted a structure that rivaled the elegance and quality of Ambassador and that blended in with our more rural landscape in Central Oklahoma.

In 2006, we contacted the same acoustical firm that helped design Ambassador Auditorium’s near-perfect acoustics.

In early 2007, with architectural drawings nearly complete, my father described his vision to members of the Philadelphia Church of God: “We could create a magnificent jewel in this area, an edifice that would stand as a monument to the living God like nothing else we could do in this world. The more I think about it, the more the idea inspires me!”

In September that year, he announced that plans were indeed going forward on the house of God.

On Jan. 6, 2008, on a gorgeous spring-like day, with temperatures topping 70 degrees, 500 people joined my father in a 45-minute ceremony kicking off this historic project. This auditorium, he told the gathering, would bring more glory to God than any other building project we had undertaken.

A month later, with earthmovers digging the hole that would become the auditorium basement, my father requested a significant revision to the architectural drawings. He decided to raise the canopy in front of the building by 16 feet, which increased the towering size of the 12 pillars to 48 feet. Besides opening up the view of the campus from the balcony lobby, this change gave the front of the structure a look that is distinctly Ambassadoresque.

In 2009, we landed yet another piece from the Armstrong era: the beautiful Swans in Flight. Mr. Armstrong assigned David Wynne to the task in 1968. Upon completion, it was placed at the entrance of the Ambassador College campus in Big Sandy, Texas. After we purchased the work of art from the campus’s new owners in May 2009, we disassembled the 1,200-pound sculpture and moved it to Norman, Oklahoma, where it was refurbished and stored until January of this year. It was installed on our campus in March.

Finally, there are the gold-plated bronze letters affixed to the onyx wall featured in the center of the grand lobby. They read, “Armstrong Auditorium: Made possible by gifts from the Philadelphia Church of God. Dedicated to the honor and glory of the Great God.” Except for where the names are different, these are the original letters that used to be on the feature wall inside the Ambassador Auditorium lobby, generously given to us by the current owners of Ambassador!

Hearing—Then Seeing

For nearly a decade, members and supporters of this work heard about the majesty and beauty of God’s house. It is by their sacrifice and freewill gifts that this project has moved forward, step by step, without delay. They heard of its grand design—how the towering portico, the color scheme inside the theater and the various assortments of marble, sandstone and onyx were all designed with Ambassador Auditorium in mind.

They heard of the many Armstrong accents collected along the way and tucked away in storage, like the two candelabra—as if longing for the day they would finally settle into their new home. They heard of the truckloads of trees and bushes—more than 3,000 of them—that were delivered for the grounds surrounding the auditorium. And they heard about the many miracles that have made it possible for such a small band of supporters to complete a project this magnificent, this massive.

Now that the auditorium has been dedicated to our great God and its doors opened to the general public, many brethren have been able to see it all for themselves.

Breathtaking!

What Is the Day of the Lord?

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!
From the January 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

To the average person, the idea of Jesus Christ returning to Earth is a fantastic fable that has no bearing whatsoever on the realities of life.

Yet millions of professing Christians still expect the Second Coming of Christ—though widely divided among themselves as to why, when and how He will appear.

Just before His death and resurrection—before His departure from the Mount of Olives almost 2,000 years ago—Jesus Christ promised, “I will come again” (John 14:3).

So was Christ telling the truth? Will He come again? The answer is a resounding YES—though the manner of His return will be shocking to most professing Christians.

Jesus Christ came about 2,000 years ago as a meek lamb to be slain for the sins of the world. But when He comes again, He will be wrathful—angry—toward all evil! He will use His mighty power to change the ways that have caused all the sorrow and suffering on Earth.

Let’s understand why.

What Christ Will Do When He Returns

1. When Christ returns, exactly why will God have to punish mankind? Revelation 11:18, last few words; Zephaniah 1:17.

Comment: God is love (1 John 4:16). God and Christ love all of humanity (John 3:16). But Christ will be angry at the sins of mankind when He returns. To save the human race alive (Matthew 24:22), He is coming to punish in love! Otherwise, man would destroy all life upon the Earth!

In love, God revealed His way of life that leads to everything good and desirable—including eternal life—to our first parents, Adam and Eve. But they rejected that way. Their descendants have continued to reject God’s way for 6,000 years!

Therefore, as any wise and loving father punishes his children for their own good when they refuse to respond to kind and loving verbal admonition, an all-loving, all-wise God will have to punish this world to bring it to its senses! The glorified Christ is coming in all the splendor, power and glory of God to stop escalating wars, nuclear mass destruction, and human pain and suffering. He is coming to usher in peace, abundant prosperity, happiness and joy for all mankind.

2. What is this time period of God’s wrath called? Isaiah 13:6, 9; Joel 1:15; Zephaniah 1:18.

Comment: In over 30 prophecies in the Old and New Testaments, the period of Christ’s supernatural intervention and wrath at mankind’s sins is called the Day of the Lord!

3. How long does this prophetic “day” of the Lord’s wrath last? Isaiah 34:8; 61:2; 63:4. Does a prophetic day often represent a year? Numbers 14:34.

Comment: The “day of the Lord” refers to a year-long punishment that culminates with the return of Christ.

The Trumpets Begin to Sound!

In the last installment, we learned that the Great Tribulation is immediately followed by supernatural signs in heaven (Matthew 24:21, 29). The signs in heaven are also referred to as the sixth seal in Revelation (Revelation 6:12-14).

1. What happens next? Is the seventh seal, which contains the seven trumpets, opened? Revelation 8:1-6. Is this time period of the seventh seal (which occurs immediately after the heavenly signs) called the Day of the Lord? Acts 2:20.

Comment: The wrath of the “day of the Lord” is manifested in the seven “trumpet” plagues which are unleashed consecutively over a period of months, culminating in the Second Coming of Christ.

2. What will occur on Earth when the first angel blows his trumpet? Revelation 8:7.

Comment: A gigantic firestorm will burn all green grass and one third of the trees. Burned vegetation will be the first punishment on mankind for continued refusal to submit to the government of God and refusing to obey His commandments.

3. What does the blast of the second angel’s trumpet announce? Verses 8-9.

Comment: The seas will be gravely affected by this plague. One third of the seas will turn to blood, one third of life in the seas will be destroyed, and one third of the ships, mainly used for trade and warfare, will be destroyed!

4. Next, what happens to part of the Earth’s supplies of drinking water when the trumpet of the third angel sounds? Verses 10-11. Will many die from drinking this poisoned water? Verse 11.

Comment: God will next punish unrepentant sinners by making one third of the waters of the Earth unfit for human consumption. The waters will become bitter, causing many to die.

5. What terrifying plague is announced by the fourth trumpet? Verse 12.

Comment: Most people during the Day of the Lord, although terrified because of the heavenly signs, will still continue in sin, despite God’s repeated warnings to repent!

Nevertheless, remember that God is ultimately after repentance. As each plague from God falls on the wicked and disobedient, those who surrender to God—those who do repent and begin to obey Him and forsake the ways of this evil society—will be protected from the horrible punishments yet to come.

Woe, Woe, Woe!

1. Will there be further cataclysmic events that will jolt humanity? Verse 13. Are these three woes the same as the final three trumpets? Same verse.

Comment: These three woes involve three final major battles, each so horrifying that it is called a “woe” by Almighty God. Each battle is so destructive that only God will be able to repair the damage man’s armies will do to the surface of the Earth.

At the third battle—the third woe and last trumpet—all mankind will be saved from extinction only by a miracle from God. If God did not personally intervene in this climactic war, men would destroy the last vestige of human life from the face of the Earth!

2. What is revealed about the fifth trumpet, the first woe? Revelation 9:1-12.

3. Does the Apostle John describe terrifying “locusts”—grasshoppers—that will be used to inflict pain on men? Verses 3-10.

Comment: John used the symbolic term locusts to describe the terrifying war machines that would be invented by scientists and used by the military in this final world conflict! Notice that these symbolic locusts, or grasshoppers, are driven by men and are able to fly (verses 7, 9). They will make a tremendous noise and are protected by armored plating.

These superweapons of destruction and world conquest were completely unfamiliar to the Apostle John. He could only describe them in the language of his day. These terrifying weapons of war probably now exist in design in our modern military arsenals. At the time of the fifth trumpet and the first woe, it will be plainly evident just what these weapons are and how they will be used.

4. Who is the real leader of this army that is equipped with these awesome weapons of mass destruction? Verse 11.

Comment: The Hebrew word abaddon and the Greek word apollyon both mean “destroyer”! The sinister power that will guide this army is Satan the devil!

5. Where does this army, with its diabolical leadership, come from? Verses 2-3. Is this symbolic “bottomless pit” referred to elsewhere so we can identify the army that proceeds from it? Revelation 17:8. Is this superarmy of the beast power—that is, the final restoration of the Roman Empire (in Europe)—backed by a great false religion? Verses 7-13.

Comment: For a detailed explanation of the beast power and the false religion that will dominate it, request our free booklet Whoor What Is the Prophetic Beast?

This war will come about as hordes from the east will be preparing to attack the beast power. But rather than let them obtain the advantage by striking the first blow, the beast will turn to attack them in the full fury of his military might! (Daniel 11:44).

This attack—using all the terrifying destructive power the beast can devise—will be the first woe. It will be the beginning of the all-out struggle for complete world domination between two Eurasian rivals for world rule.

6. Are the sixth angel’s trumpet plague and the second woe clearly the same? Revelation 9:12-13. What will happen when the sixth trumpet is blown—who will even dare to threaten and make war on the beast power? Verses 14-16. And how are their weapons described? Verses 17-19.

Comment: The Asian hordes of 200 million soldiers will counterattack, devastating the cities and armies of the beast. Again, the Apostle John could describe the terrifying weapons they will use only by comparing them with things familiar to him! These symbols likely represent nuclear explosives, as well as chemical and biological weapons.

At this point we come to the climactic moment of the sounding of the seventh trumpet. One more “woe” remains to occur. Almost immediately, at the blast of this final trumpet, God will move with lightning speed to execute multiple events around the globe, as we will cover in the next installment.

Practice Happy

Follow the biblical prescription: To be happy, act happy.
From the December 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Do you have a pencil? Place it in your teeth, and don’t let it touch your lips. Great! We’ll come back to this. Now, think of something you enjoy. Coffee and a Sunday paper, beautiful hiking weather, an unexpected snow day, a pencil that tastes like beef jerky. Whatever it is, the reason you enjoy it is ultimately that it makes you happy.

If we could draw happiness out of a stream or pluck it from a tree, we would. We would seal it up in jam jars on the counter, sorted by flavor: delight, joy, contentment, belonging, peace.

Everybody wants happiness, but it doesn’t come in jam jars. Though we may not always know where it comes from, we can see the effects. When people are happy, we smile. When positive, we nod. When amused, we laugh.

But here’s something interesting: Scientists analyzing happiness have discovered that the thing also works in reverse. When you smile, you become happier.

A popular psychology book called 59 Seconds,Think a Little, Change a Lot lists a digest of three experiments testing this “proprioceptive” idea that the behavior can cause the thoughts instead of the other way around.

In the first study, people in one group were asked to furrow their brows. Those in the other group were asked to smile. The result: Members of the latter group had significantly happier moods simply because they used their smile muscles.

In the second study, participants looked at products scrolling across a large screen. Some scrolled horizontally, some scrolled vertically. Participants favored the random products moving vertically, apparently simply because they were unknowingly nodding their heads.

In the third study, people read Far Side cartoons. Half held pencils in their mouths using only their lips. Half held pencils in their mouths using only their teeth. The latter group found the cartoons much funnier, without realizing that while the others were frowning, their mouths had been forced into a bit of a smile!

You can drop the pencil now. But why not leave it in?

Another author collected hundreds of studies in a book called Feelings: The Perception of Self. All of them concluded that behavior can actually cause feelings.

Maybe this phenomenon seems like a magical shortcut to happiness—or, if your eyes are scrolling side-to-side, maybe you think of it more as cutesy junk science. But nod your head and think about this: It reflects an important truth about happiness.

“Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3).

The Bible teaches that our actions flow from our thoughts. But in this proverb, the Creator of happiness indicates that the reverse can also be true: Thoughts can flow from actions. In real-life terms, if we take action and do what God commands, our minds and hearts will be settled, mature, at peace—happy.

The Bible often stresses how actions matter. The book of James, for instance, teaches that faith is “dead” without works. Proverbs 29:18 has this nugget: “[H]e that keepeththe law,happy is he.” Jesus Christ Himself said, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). If you want to be happy, keeping God’s law, doing what God says, is the way.

Perhaps we think, ButI can’t do it if I don’t feel it first. We think it’s only natural if we let our emotions dictate our actions. But the conventional wisdom is wrong on this. Letting our emotions drive life makes the pursuit of happiness like running on a treadmill and riding a rollercoaster at the same time. We must do good works, and the happiness will follow.

A great Creator designed the happiness you experience when your friend helps you, your spouse loves you, or your child makes you laugh. He wants the effect of happy thoughts to be established in your mind, and He tells you the cause: Take action! Do what sometimes you feel like not doing. Chat with a group of people. Find a little something to joke about. Force your mouth into a smile. And keep a well-chewed pencil around.

Have You Ever Looked at a Monkey?

Have You Ever Looked at a Monkey?

©iStock.com/GloabalP

From the January 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

When Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell referred to evolution as a myth during a 1998 roundtable discussion, comedian Bill Maher contemptuously shot back, “Have you ever looked at a monkey?” Maher replayed that video clip on his talk show in September.

In October, as if taking its cue from Maher, cbs’s 60 Minutes paraded before millions of Americans the most celebrated monkey-observer the scientific community has ever produced: Jane Goodall. Fifty years ago, as a fresh-faced, vivacious youngster from Britain, Goodall became famous for her National Geographic reports about life in Africa with chimpanzees.

In describing what she discovered during her “magical” experience in Tanzania, Goodall told cbs correspondent Lara Logan that she learned how chimps were happy and sad, affectionate and funny, playful and communicative—“all of these things done in the same context we do them,” she said (emphasis mine throughout).

In fact, before embarking on her groundbreaking study, Goodall assumed that monkeys would be a lot like humans—only nicer. But while studying animal life in the African forest, Goodall witnessed the darker side of the animal kingdom. Monkeys actually treated other monkeys cruelly—sometimes even brutally killing their own species.

In the end, Goodall concluded, monkeys are not a nicer species of human-like creatures. They are actually “just like” human beings!

You want scientific proof? All you have to do is look at monkeys.

“Equal Minds”?

It used to be, in order to link human beings to chimpanzees, you had to at least produce evidence in the fossil record. In 1912, for example, a group of paleontologists in Britain found a human-like skull with an orangutan jawbone. And for more than 40 years, Piltdown Man, as it was dubbed, was universally accepted throughout the scientific community as the “missing link” between apes and humans. The discovery was widely disseminated as indisputable proof of evolution both in scientific journals and school textbooks.

Not until 1953, after the development of more sophisticated age-dating techniques, was the Piltdown fossil exposed as one of the greatest scientific frauds in history. It wasn’t a transitional fossil after all—just a collection of bone fragments that had been cobbled together by evolutionists eager to “prove” their theory dishonestly.

This same story repeated itself in 2009. During the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, scientists in New York unveiled a fossilized skeleton of a monkey they named Ida and again proclaimed it to be the long-sought-after “missing link” in human evolution. The Guardian called it “one of the most significant primate fossil finds ever.” It was supposed to impact the world of paleontology “somewhat like an asteroid falling down to Earth.”

A few months later, however, Ida was exposed as yet another in a long line of highly publicized scientific hoaxes. As it turns out, Ida was nothing more than an extinct variety of lemur—just a nice fossilized set of monkey bones.

For nearly two centuries, evolutionists have searched in vain for transitional forms between monkeys and humans. As Robert Morley noted in the August 2009 Trumpet, “According to the evolutionary theory, there should be millions and billions [of transitional fossils]. Animals have been evolving into new species for hundreds of millions of years, the theory goes. Therefore, scientists have reasonably expected to find thousands, or at least hundreds, or maybe 10, fossils of transitionary species. But they can’t find a single one!

But never mind the bones. Just look at monkeys, some atheists now say, as they scoff at the thought of a great Creator God. Consider this statement from the 60 Minutes report, made by Bill Wallauer, a photographer who works at the Jane Goodall Institute: “You get the feeling when you’re looking at him [a monkey] and he’s looking at you—it’s equal minds.”

I don’t get that feeling at all—not when watching 60 Minutes or while observing monkeys at a zoo or wildlife preserve. When I watch monkeys, as fascinating as it is to see one use a stick to fish for termites, it reminds me of the giant gulf that exists between the animal kingdom and human beings.

The Source of Mind Power

Why such a massive gap? As far as the physical composition is concerned, there is little difference between the brains of human beings and monkeys; they’re nearly identical. Why, then, is the human mind so vastly superior to the animal brain? It’s because of a nonphysical component that exists in man called the human spirit (see Job 32:8 and Zechariah 12:1).

This is what gives human beings mind power!

“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?” the Apostle Paul asked in 1 Corinthians 2:11. The human spirit imparts the power of intellect to the human brain. It enables man to think and reason, to make calculated decisions and choices, to create and compose, to stake out positions on ethics and morality, to set goals, to pursue excellence.

Animals, on the other hand, have no such spiritual component in their brains. This is why chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants are incapable of understanding the things of man.

This past October, I watched the world-renowned chamber orchestra Academy of St. Martin in the Fields as it joined forces with an extraordinarily talented Israeli pianist named Inon Barnatan. They performed an all-Mozart concert inside the stunningly beautiful Armstrong Auditorium here in Edmond, Oklahoma.

It was one of the best classical performances our foundation has ever sponsored. What a testimony it was to the awesome power and superior intellect in the human mind compared to the brain of a monkey.

If you were to observe a family of monkeys at the zoo in the afternoon and then attend the same concert I did later that night, how could you honestly conclude that what you observed was pretty much equal in mind power?

One reason we sponsor such fine events at Armstrong Auditorium is to showcase the remarkable achievements of the human spirit! Among other things, our concert series highlights the fact that man is a uniquely created being with awe-inspiring potential.

Consider again 1 Corinthians 2:11: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Notice: Two spirits are mentioned in this verse—the spirit of man, which is in him, and the Spirit of God, which is not in man, but can be, if we surrender to God in repentance and faith!

There is, after all, a “missing link”! But it doesn’t connect man to mindless monkeys in the jungle. It joins human beings to their heavenly Father. That link, as plainly revealed in the inspired Word of God, is Jesus Christ! “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

This is the profound, irrefutable truth of the gospel message proclaimed throughout the Bible. The living Jesus Christ is our link to eternal life in the Family of God!

Why the Pharisees Opposed Jesus

Traditional Christianity has never really understood this basic reason.