We come now to the year 1936. The meetings being held 12 miles north of Salem, Oregon, had started around December 12, 1935. Originally scheduled for three weeks only, they were continued an additional three weeks because of local interest—especially after the episode of bringing two sheriff’s deputies from Salem to guard the school property every night.
Going to Heaven?
One night I spoke on the reward of the saved. Most people, of course, suppose it is a matter of destination—going to heaven. In other words, a matter of where, instead of what we are to be.
I had shown that Jesus Christ came to “confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” Whatever the promises made to the fathers, Jesus confirmed them as the reward of the saved. Then I showed by both Old and New Testament scriptures that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were “the fathers.”
Next, starting with the 12th chapter of Genesis, I showed that Abraham was not promised heaven, but rather this Earth for an everlasting possession. The words “everlasting possession” simply mean eternal life. The same promises were re-promised to Isaac and Jacob. This was confirmed by Christ, who preached eternal life as the gift of God.
Of course, most people have been taught, and carelessly assumed, precisely the opposite of the biblical teaching on this, and many other basic truths. The Bible says: “The wages [reward of] sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Yet nearly every professing Christian believes exactly the opposite. Most believe the wages of sin is eternal life—in hell fire. They do not believe eternal life is the gift of God—the reward of the saved. They believe we already possess eternal life. They believe the pagan Plato’s teaching that we are “immortal souls” living in a fleshly body which is merely our temporary cloak we have put around us.
The original Hebrew word translated “soul” is nephesh, which means animal life—mortal existence, subject to cessation in death. The very word “soul” has the opposite meaning to eternal life. The expression “immortal soul” is as impossible and self-contradictory as that silly poem circulated some 50 years ago, about the “barefoot boy with shoes on” who “stood sitting in the grass, while the rising sun was setting in the west as it rained all day that night.”
The Bible says positively, and twice: “The soul that sinneth, it shall DIE” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).
Teaching the Teacher
Many do not realize that the idea of going to heaven did not come from the Bible, but from pagan superstitions. Anyway, in the course of the sermon, I offered $5 to anyone who could show me any place in the Bible where it gives any plain statement or promise that the saved shall go to heaven.
After the service, one of the two teachers of that two-room country schoolhouse came to me, and with a tantalizing grin said, “Mr. Armstrong, I’m just mercenary enough to take that $5 from you. Here, read this.”
She had a Bible opened to the beatitudes in the “sermon on the mount.” She pointed to verse 3 of Matthew 5: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I smiled, too.
“Well,” I exclaimed with a glint in my own eye, “now please read verse 5.”
She read: “‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”‘
“Now that is a plain statement of what they shall inherit—the Earth,” I said. “Doesn’t that contradict your idea of going to heaven? How do you explain that?”
“Well, I don’t know—unless,” she said, suddenly jumping to an explanation, “unless the people who are meek have to stay on Earth, but the poor in spirit get to go to heaven.”
“Now, come, you know better than that,” I smiled. “Are you not one of the teachers in this school?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well, now,” I persisted, teasing her a little, “do you think you are qualified to be a teacher, when you don’t know the difference in meaning between the simple little words of ‘in’ and ‘of’? You have heard about the famous Bank of Morgan in New York, haven’t you?”
“Oh, yes, of course.”
“Well, is that bank inside of Mr. Morgan?”
“I see what you mean,” she smiled. “The word ‘of’ denotes ownership—it is not the bank in Mr. Morgan, but the bank he owns.”
“Right! And the kingdom of heaven is not referring to a kingdom that is in heaven, but one that is to be on Earth and owned or ruled by heaven. Now turn to Luke’s account of the same saying: ‘Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.’ Here the expression is ‘Kingdom of God.’ It is not speaking of a kingdom inside of God’s person—but the earthly kingdom Godrules and possesses!”
Then I explained how Matthew consistently employs the phrase “Kingdom of heaven,” where Mark, Luke and John, often quoting the same words of Jesus, always use the expression “Kingdom of God.” Both expressions mean the same.
“Now do you still think I should give you the $5?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “thanks for the free lesson.”
As always in the evangelistic meetings I held through those years, we reaped a “harvest.” There were conversions. The little group was formed into a small local church—but there was no pastor to leave there to “feed the little flock.”
The details of what followed that campaign are very dim in my memory now. A general mimeographed letter to co-workers dated March 30, 1936, shows I had been continuing to spend some little time visiting converts and interested people in that vicinity.
But it was the same experience as other evangelistic efforts. There were results—converts baptized—but without a local minister, the “flock” was soon devoured by the world, the flesh or the devil. Few seem to be able to endure without a minister to feed them spiritually, counsel with them in their problems, and keep the “wolves” away. So far as I know, just one of that group who attended the Eldreage school meetings continues to endure at the time of this writing!
Still, this voice of experience did not sink into my consciousness sufficiently to produce the solution until 10 years later. It was in 1946 that the Eternal God finally got through to me the fact that He intended to use me in founding His own college, out of which were to come forth the ministers and pastors so direly needed for the growth of God’s Work!
This same general letter also records the fact that there had been no issue of the Plain Truth for several months—since starting these meetings. Still, I find in this mimeographed letter the statement: “As you know, I have never begged for money over the air.” And, “For more than two years we have conducted this Radio Church on sheer faith.”
The latter part of May or early June Mrs. Armstrong and I drove our aging secondhand car to Hawthorne, California—a Los Angeles suburb—to pick up a tent which the Sardis people had purchased the year before. We towed it back on a trailer. I set it up in a good location on the edge of the downtown district in Springfield. Springfield adjoins Eugene to the east—a somewhat smaller city.
Of course we had a good radio following in Springfield. The tent seated around 400. We had a nightly attendance that must have averaged 150 to over 200. However, just as interest was increasing, at the end of two weeks, the Sardis people needed the tent. One of their men was going to hold meetings in the little town of Stayton. They had a small tent, maximum seating capacity 50 people, which they brought me to replace the bigger one.
For the remainder of the Springfield meetings we were forced to raise the side flaps straight out, with 50 people seated inside, and 100 or more having to sit outside—except the night it rained. Then only the first 50 obtained seats. The others had to return home. Meanwhile, it was privately reported to me that most nights over at Stayton there was no attendance whatever—one night two people came, and another night there were four, who had a full sermon preached to them. This was just another of the many experiences trying to cooperate with these people.
A Tough Lesson in Faith
In the preceding chapter, I quoted penciled notations from an old now-yellowed sheet showing that $6.50 per month was pledged by eight co-workers to start off the radio broadcasting. Actually, the original pledges were only $5.50. Three others, totaling $1 per month, were added a little later.
When the first opportunity came to go on the air regularly, the owner of station kore, Eugene, Oregon, offered me a Sunday morning half hour at the astonishingly low rate of $2.50 per half hour. During a four-Sunday month that totaled $10, and in a five-Sunday month, $12.50. Actually, before starting, only $5.50 per month was guaranteed by pledges. That is, roughly, only half the required amount. But, in active faith, I did walk right on through the radio door Jesus Christ had opened.
And I have explained how, in those bottom-Depression days, this took real living faith! When 25¢, 50¢ and $1 per month was all that people felt they could afford to pledge, you may realize how big the unpledged balance appeared.
At that time Jesus Christ opened the door! I walked through it. I trusted Him to keep the balance coming. He kept it coming! Sometimes the necessary $2.50 was not on hand up to 30 minutes before broadcast time. Then one of the brethren might knock at our front door and just happen (?) to leave some tithe money, or an offering, at that psychological minute!
Never once did Christ fail to provide. Never did we have to miss a broadcast! Real faith requires the courage of believing and acting on it! This, let me explain, was not like going in debt for something consumed and unpaid for. We didn’t go into debt. We trusted Christ to send the money to pay before each program, in advance.
But I had not yet fully learned this lesson of active faith.
By December that first year of broadcasting—1934—Christ opened a second door. His time had come for the broadcast to leap to Portland, with 10 times the potential listeners. In fact, a hookup was opened to us for two additional stations, kxl, Portland, and kslm, Salem—both at that time only 100-watt stations. The cost was to be $50 per month.
But I had grown more cautious, apparently. I wanted more than Christ’s assurances—I wanted tangible pledges in black and white that I could see! In the preceding chapter I quoted from the letter sent out December 20, 1934, asking for those pledges. Not enough was pledged. I let the opportunity slip. Then it was too late!
On September 3, 1936, after almost three years of broadcasting, I sent out a letter to co-workers. One paragraph said: “Do you realize that kore, our present radio station, is only a small local station of 100 watts? That it reaches only 50 to 75 miles from Eugene? Did you realize that people north of Salem, south of Roseburg, east of the Cascades, are never able to hear the message being broadcast? Yet over this local station, in this small territory, we have established a regular weekly audience of around 10,000 people.”
Did God reject me because I had not yet learned that lesson in faith? No, I had exercised faith in other ways many times, and answers had been miraculous. But He let me pay for this mistake! I had to wait two more whole years before Christ again opened the door to Portland! Here we were, September 1936, and still on only that one little, local station!
Yet on the other hand, I had worked hard and remained faithful. I had held repeated evangelistic campaigns. I had kept up the publishing work, with Mrs. Armstrong’s full-time help. Scores had been converted and baptized. I had preached God’s truth fearlessly.
From another paragraph in this general letter of September 3, 1936, I quote: “Nero fiddled while Rome burned! Many churches and religious broadcasts are today giving the people a sleeping potion in the form of nice, soothing, pleasing, comforting programs—lulling the people to sleep—while the judgments ofGodare fast coming upon them! Why, in Jesus’s name, do they not wake up and fearlessly shout the warning? This is no time for soft and smooth platitudes. It is time to awaken people! It is time to warn them!”
And that is precisely what this program was doing then—and is doing on many thousands of times greater power, today! Even then, in that little section of one state, it was like a voice in the wilderness—the only voice on the air fearlessly proclaiming Christ’s own gospel message of the Kingdom of God!
No, God did not reject us. But He did try us. He did let us suffer to learn lessons. He did let us go along on that one low-powered station, unable to leap out into greater fields, for two additional years!
At Last—Into PORTLAND!
This same letter of September 3, 1936, told co-workers of how I planned now to get on Portland’s most powerful station. Actually, Christ had not opened that door. Herbert W. Armstrong tried to open it. Here is another excerpt from that letter:
“Consequently, the Lord willing, we plan now to extend the radio broadcasting to a powerful Portland station—if possible the most powerful station in Oregon. This station has 50 times the power of kore. After sundown this station reaches out all over Oregon, Washington, Idaho. After 6 p.m. the cost is just double, but if we are able to secure a 30-minute period between 5 and 6 p.m., Sunday evenings, which will be after sundown in the months just ahead, we can send the program out over this large territory at a cost of only $110 per month.”
But again the pledges fell short—less than half!
Christ had not opened that door. I had to learn to wait until He did, and then to walk on through the doors He opens!
But by November 8, another letter to our co-workers shows that Christ finally had opened the door once again in Portland. Not the door of the biggest, most powerful station in Oregon. The same identical door He had opened two years before—the smallest power of only 100 watts, as it was then, kxl!
Here are portions from the letter dated November 8, 1936, which tell the story:
“I was in Portland this week, and learned that, beginning November 1, kex (the station I had wanted) goes off the air on a silent period at 4:45 in the afternoon, before dark. We cannot afford to pay their high rate for a daytime broadcast. We now have subscriptions for only about $40 per month, and it began to look like we would have to give up the whole program.
“And so I am sure you will rejoice with me to know that the Lord has opened to us a better broadcast than would now be available on station kex, and at half the cost. The owner of another smaller station, kxl, who also owns the Salem station, made me a proposition for hooking up by wire hookup with both these stations, at our regular Sunday morning time, 10 a.m., over kore, at Eugene, at a reduction of one third from the regular rate. These three stations form the Oregon Network, and are connected by wire hookup …. It is not as big a program as we had hoped for, but it is what the Lord has provided, and will multiply the number of listeners to between seven and 10 times the number we now reach …. It is a stepping stone. Often the Lord does not let us progress as rapidly as we would like, and He knows best. I believe that this will soon lead to other larger stations, so that soon we shall be covering the entire coast, and later the entire nation …. We can now hope to start off this extended program by next Sunday.”
The next co-worker general mimeographed letter in my files is dated December 9, 1936. It tells its own story:
“Greetings in Jesus’s name! I know you will rejoice with me that the extended broadcast over the network is already bearing fruit!
“We are now in the second month of this broadcast, and are receiving letters from listeners every day.
“I have just returned from Portland with good news that I know will cause you to rejoice as it did me. The way is now open, as soon as finances permit, to extend the broadcast still further, into Washington.”
Once we broke out of Eugene, and learned to follow through where Christ leads in His Work, we were allowed to begin expanding with increasing momentum.