Russia’s Kingdom Witness
The recent elections in Russia, with the ensuing thousands across the country protesting the legitimacy of the results of a win by Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev’s United Russia party, have ignited diplomatic tensions once more between East and West. Comments from the U.S. secretary of state have added further fuel to the fire.
Considering this current geopolitical backdrop, it’s worth recollecting the open doors afforded Herbert Armstrong in reaching nations worldwide in all corners of the globe. Beginning in 1967, on through the time of his death in 1986, he visited more than 70 countries, meeting with national representatives, proclaiming the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. Russia was no exception. It must be remembered that this was the time of the Cold War. After Stalin’s landgrab at the conclusion of World War ii, the Soviet Union became a massive power bloc of amalgamated nations shadowed under the cloak of communism. How did the gospel reach these nations, teeming with their great mass of peoples, described in the Bible as Meshech and Tubal? (Genesis 10:2-3).
As early as 1945, Herbert Armstrong was declaring prophetic events in light of Bible prophecy concerning Russia. By 1955, The World Tomorrow was reaching Russia in English via Radio Luxembourg. Then in 1959, Mr. Armstrong secured time on Radio Monte Carlo, which reached into all Russia Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. He hired a translator to ensure Russians heard the message in their mother tongue. “This is a world first!” he wrote listeners of The World Tomorrow and readers of the Plain Truth. “This is the first time that the true gospel of Christ has ever been allowed to be broadcast into Russia! Think of it! For the first time millions of the Russian people are going to hear the truth! And God has called you and me to be His instruments in getting it to them! What a privilege! How wonderfully our God does work! He has promised to open doors to us! He has said His gospel shall be preached ‘unto all nations’” (co-worker letter, Feb. 23, 1959).
As more and more doors swung open to fulfill Christ’s declaration of Matthew 24:14, preliminary work on public appearance campaigns in numerous world capitals was under way. “[P]ossible meetings with heads of state in Peking and Moscow are pending,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “If God wants His message to go to them, He has the power to open those doors!” (ibid, May 21, 1974).
In was not until 1979 that an open dialogue was under way between Mr. Armstrong’s staff and the Russian chargé d’affaires in Beijing, China. In addition, “We’ve been received very nicely by the Russian Embassy people in Japan,” wrote his assistant. “They have been more than helpful. They have broken all the rules to give us things quickly, giving us special service, and that’s an indication that they definitely want us to go, and that’s why we’re going to go through that door” (Worldwide News, March 24, 1980).
By December 18 he could excitedly write co-workers, “Now I am also invited to go to Moscow by the government there! That trip is planned for about next April or May.” The removal of the shah of Iran January of that year and the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran starting in November, exacerbated by President Carter’s ultimatum of Jan. 20, 1980, that the U.S. would boycott the Olympic Games in Moscow if the ussr didn’t remove its troops from Afghanistan, put the atmosphere at fever pitch.
So concerned was Mr. Armstrong at this turn of events that he noted: “However, the events of the past few days may mean that my invitation to visit Moscow and talk with Kremlin leaders may have to be cancelled. But remember—that’s more their loss than ours!” (ibid, Jan. 23, 1980).
On March 24, Mr. Armstrong went on to write: “At Moscow, in addition to meeting some of the Kremlin leaders, we hope to arrange for a scholarship in the performing arts, where winners annually in such arts as ballet and gymnastics will make first performances at the Ambassador Auditorium, and the [Ambassador International Cultural] Foundation will arrange for their bookings all the way across the United States, winding up at the Lincoln Center in New York” (Worldwide News).
“In our visit to Moscow, as in China, we are to be housed in a government guest house, as guests of the ussr. They are very friendly to us in the Kremlin, but right now very hostile toward President Jimmy Carter and the government at Washington. At least that is the attitude they express to us” (ibid). In April 1980, just before Herbert Armstrong’s scheduled meeting with the Kremlin leaders, the U.S. president authorized the disastrously failed rescue attempt of U.S. hostages in Iran, code-named Operation Eagle Claw, which compounded national animosities.
Mr. Armstrong shared some of what he was preparing to deliver to the Kremlin leaders. “Obviously in a Communist country where there is no religious freedom and the national ‘religion’ is atheism, I cannot use such biblical terms as ‘salvation,’ ‘repentance,’ ‘forgiveness of sins,’ etc. Yet God has shown me how to carry to them the good news of the Kingdom of God—the true gospel—by using such simple terms as ‘give’ and ‘get.’ I explain that the ‘give’ way is outflowing ‘love’—the way of serving, helping, cooperating and sharing. But the ‘get’ way is self-centeredness, vanity, coveting, lust and greed, jealousy and envy, competition and strife, which leads to destruction, violence and war, and rebellion against authority” (ibid).
Mr. Armstrong noted that internationally, particularly in respect of the atheistic countries where there is controlled freedom of religion, he had to follow the Apostle Paul’s example. “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law” (1 Corinthians 9:20).
Due to the prevailing political climate, the visit to Russia was temporarily postponed and then finally put on the back burner. Undeterred, Herbert Armstrong went ahead delivering the gospel as a witness to Russia and the world. With World Tomorrow television programs and cover articles in the mass-circulation Plain Truth magazine featuring headlines such as “Why Russia Will Not Attack America” and “Russia in Prophecy,” the message prophesying the coming Kingdom of God continued to be sounded. The election of Ronald Reagan and the ensuing arms race would catapult the Soviet Union repeatedly into daily headlines amid a world climate of nuclear-engendered fear.
Mr. Armstrong declared how, in the “end time,” one final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire would stride atop the world yet continue to fear its eastern neighbor and allies (Daniel 11:44). Less than four years after his death, the Berlin Wall fell—not long after Ronald Reagan, standing at the Brandenburg Gate, implored, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The move united East and West Germany and shrunk the ussr to its borders as the Russia of today.
Russia, after a decade of “stability” and economic recovery, underpinned by its oil politics and the strong hand from the Putin-Medvedev governing combine—together with developing regional alliances with China, India, Iran and other nations—remains a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.
Bible prophecy forecasts that Russia and China, together with other Asian allies, will ultimately overthrow the developing German-dominated United States of Europe, then swing south to join a massive force of resistance against the returning Jesus Christ and His impregnable force. They will be crushed in that mighty war against the Prince of Peace. Yet will they learn a lasting lesson from this?
It is intriguing to think that of all nations, it is Russia, in alliance with China, that, as recounted in Bible prophecy, will come against the “city of peace” three separate times within a period of a thousand years in an effort to conquer Jerusalem and vanquish the government of God. Each time, Russia and China will meet with spectacular defeat by God and His family empire, through His unrivaled power and righteous might—ensuring that His government, law, order and all-loving Kingdom will rule and reign forever.