Near the end of his life, Herbert Armstrong made an unforgettable statement that we should think about. He said that his worst fear was what would happen to the Church if God allowed him to die.
That is a beautiful statement. It reveals how much Mr. Armstrong loved the Church.
Time has shown us that his fear was justified. After he died, 95 percent of God’s people turned away from God.
The Philadelphia era of the Church was a spectacular chapter in the history of the work, but without Mr. Armstrong, something went terribly wrong. Now we are in the Laodicean era—a time so bad that God says He is going to spew most of His people out of His mouth and into the Great Tribulation.
This has everything to do with the tree of life described in the first chapters of the Bible—a subject Mr. Armstrong spent a lot of time meditating on and speaking about. Mr. Armstrong ate from the tree of life, and his life bore wonderful fruit. His love for the Church was just part of that fruit.
Most of God’s Church did not eat enough from that tree, and look at the tragedy that produced.
To be a soaring spiritual success, we must eat more from the tree of life. That tree brings us into a beautiful family relationship with God, which is our reason for living. We need to seek that relationship. What kind of a bond do you and I have with God? What sort of marriage do we have with Jesus Christ? We all must continually improve in this area and overcome the obstacles in our relationship. To draw closer to God, we must eat from the tree of life.
In a sermon about the tree of life, Mr. Armstrong said that the two rarest things on Earth are a person who will admit he’s wrong, and a person who will simply believe God. Those two qualities are a good foundation for how we eat from the tree of life: by admitting we’re wrong, and believing God.
If we eat from the tree of life and build God’s character in us, we will have abundant miracles in our lives. And if we eat from the tree of life, we will build God’s house—physically as well as spiritually.
The Rod of an Almond Tree
God has given me a deeper understanding of a prophecy in the book of Jeremiah and helped me to see more specifically how it relates to our work today. This is a truly inspiring truth when you understand it.
“Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree” (Jeremiah 1:11). Jeremiah saw a rod, which came from an almond tree. As you read the following verses, keep your mind on the almond tree that produced the rod.
“Then said the Lord unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the Lord said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land” (verses 12-14).
Remember, this “seething pot” is the rising beast power (you can read about this in the first chapter of our free booklet Jeremiah and the Greatest Vision in the Bible.) Look at the world today: This evil is getting ready to break forth! The Holy Roman Empire is back! The European Union is becoming stronger all the time and asserting itself as never before. This is a prophecy in your Bible that Mr. Armstrong talked about for years, and now we are watching it unfold. Very soon, two leaders will come on the European scene—one over the religion, the other over the politics. We believe one of them is already in power, and the other appears to be gaining prominence. The world is asleep, but these men will wake it up in ways people can’t even imagine.
“For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands” (verses 15-16).
God is speaking about ancient Israel, but more specifically about His own Church. God’s people have forsaken Him. They are no longer concerned with the rod of the almond tree; they don’t care about getting God’s message to Israel to warn of a coming catastrophe.
Mr. Armstrong was concerned about what would happen to spiritual Israel if God let him die. How much do we care? How deep is our love for spiritual Israel—for physical Israel—for the world?
Jeremiah says these people burn incense. They are religious, but they worship other gods instead of the true God. That is specifically directed at the Laodiceans who forsook God and polluted His physical house and spiritual house. Now, just as the great Holy Roman Empire is rising to where everyone can see it, the Laodiceans are asleep!
An Iron Pillar
Jeremiah was a teenager when he received this message. It was not an easy message to deliver, but notice what God told him: “Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them” (verse 17). God prepared Jeremiah to face opposition—much of it in high places.
God’s people are always subject to intense criticism. The Laodicean leaders of the Worldwide Church of God became ashamed of God when worldly churches criticized them. In order to become more accepted, they began attending worldly seminaries and taking on worldly doctrines—and now God is ashamed of them! They should be ashamed of themselves.
Satan hates God’s Church and will throw every conceivable problem at us that God allows him to. As time goes on, the criticism will get sharp. The Philadelphia Church of God will be labeled an apocalyptic cult, and our members and our Imperial College students will be accused of being little robots who don’t think for themselves. This world looks down on us for marching to the law of God! The critics don’t see Christ. They don’t recognize who the Head of this Church really is.
Are you ready for extreme criticism directed at you? it must come! That’s what God told Jeremiah. But like Jeremiah, we should prepare for it and not be overly concerned when it does come.
“For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land” (verse 18).
God will make you an iron pillar against criticism! If we walk with our Leader in faith, He will strengthen us to stand up against kings and princes, or anyone who defies His people!
We need to build that kind of faith.
“And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee” (verse 19). People will fight us—this is a promise from God. But God also promises what the outcome will be.
Can you clearly see this? Can you see the war coming, and can you clearly see the outcome, as God does? It is absolutely certain that we will prevail if we stay with our Leader.
When we get persecuted, we should not feel sorry for ourselves. We should feel sorry for God’s lukewarm people—because unless they repent, they’re going to have to stand eyeball to eyeball with the beast out of the north!
Satan wants to make us uneasy and afraid—he wants us to focus on ourselves. But notice: Mr. Armstrong wasn’t afraid of what would happen to him—he was fearful of what would happen to the brethren. That is the kind of love we need.
When I wrote the Jeremiah booklet and explained Jeremiah 1:11, I focused on the rod. Here is what I wrote: “What is the ‘rod of an almond tree’? It precedes the boiling pot. The Companion Bible describes it as ‘a watcher or an early waker because it is the first of the trees to wake from its winter sleep and it is thus what the cock is to the birds.’ It is also described as ‘a vigilant watchman.’
“A watchman always precedes some great disaster to strike Israel. God raises up a watchman to warn His people of their terrifying punishment. The boiling pot—Babylon from the north (the European Union today)—is about to spill over, and God gives America, Britain and Judah a chance to repent before it occurs—and afterward.”
At that time I looked at the rod. In this article I want to focus on the almond tree, because there is a lot of symbolism there.
The word rod comes from a root word meaning to germinate, or to begin to grow or sprout. The rod is just a branch of the tree, and is used like a staff to point people in the right direction. The rod is a symbol of authority. It has a warning message, one that will guide people into safety and protection if they will listen to it.
The Companion Bible defines it, “A stick with leaves on it from a living tree.” Notice: this rod grew out of the tree. it is not just a piece of dead wood. it is alive, and it is attached to the tree.
what is that tree? it is a symbol of the tree of life.
This work of God is a spiritual tree of life. It grows and bears leaves and fruit.
We are warning the world about the danger that is about to spill out over Israel. God says if we do our job right, we will see a lot of growth on this tree. We have a college and are now planning to build a house of God. We are acquiring other buildings too—an administration building and dorms; we have purchased artifacts from the Ambassador Auditorium. These are signs of a growing, fruit-bearing work.
god is telling us this work is like a little tree of life, and it’s going to grow to fill the entire earth!
We must not despise the day of small beginnings. We are part of a small work today, but it is about to envelop the whole globe! The world is ticking down to its destruction—and what is going to happen after that? this work!
That is not a fantasy. That is why we are here. That is why we are building today: to prepare to build all over the world. It’s as if the land God has given His Church is a tiny little tree of life.
Our work is a type of the World Tomorrow, when the tree of life will fill the Earth, and every individual will be eating from it.
God’s people all over the world are supporting this work. That is a type of our ruling the whole world in God’s Kingdom.
As we build this work today, we are striving to do so as closely as we possibly can to the way we will build in God’s Kingdom. In this sense, the World Tomorrow is beginning already, in embryo, on the acreage God has given His Church. Obviously we will perfect our approach, but we are building the same way we will be building in the World Tomorrow!
In the Jeremiah booklet, I focused too much on the rod. Yes, the rod is important—but the tree is far more important!
It is an almond tree, which is the first tree to appear. In other words, it’s the only tree of life here when Jesus Christ returns.
If we don’t distribute God’s message, we are not eating from the tree of life.
It’s not the work of any man or group of people. god is building His work—and He is doing it through a group of people who are eating from the tree of life.
Filling the Earth
The way God’s tree of life will fill the world is illustrated by a vision of Nebuchadnezzar, who was king over a world-ruling empire.
Nebuchadnezzar described his dream: “Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth” (Daniel 4:10-11). This is talking about a human, Gentile empire. But, in principle, this is how the tree of life will work.
Nebuchadnezzar’s tree reached heaven—because god gave him that empire!
The Prophet Daniel explained the vision: “Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth” (verses 21-22). That’s the way the tree of life will be in the World Tomorrow. Jesus Christ’s rule will fill the Earth and reach to the stars.
A Right To the Tree of Life
Here is a picture of the tree of life in the World Tomorrow: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).
In that day, the whole world will have access to the tree of life. It will have a right to eat from that tree. You must have a right to eat from the tree of life. It is a privilege and an honor.
How do you gain that right? This same verse tells us. You repent and “do his commandments”! If you don’t keep the commandments of God, you have no right to that tree.
God was able to offer the tree of life to Adam in the Garden of Eden because he hadn’t sinned. When Adam rejected it, God cut off his access to that tree.
This scripture alone should prove to the world that it must keep God’s commandments! It’s as clear as the bright light of day. Yet people who hate God’s law will convince themselves that isn’t what this verse means. They don’t want to keep the law, and they don’t want to eat from the tree of life. They are trapped in sin. So God doesn’t offer the tree of life to the world.
Why does God offer the tree of life to His people? Because they have repented and are keeping His commandments. That doesn’t happen overnight. Eating from the tree and receiving God’s Holy Spirit simply opens your mind—it doesn’t make you totally converted. However, it enables you to see the truth. When you eat from the tree and apply God’s Spirit, then you can believe God. “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” When God gives us commandments, we don’t argue with God or reason around them—we do them.
Those who eat of the tree of life and live forever will only be those who submitted themselves to the Most High God. That is God’s master plan—to fill His Family with individuals who passionately do his commandments, so it can be a Family of joy forever!
This physical life is only a temporary chemical existence, like the grass of the field. But our potential is transcendent! We’re going to rule with God for all eternity over all the universe! That is what we must keep our minds on. That is food from the tree of life.
But God will never, ever give someone eternal life unless they do his commandments and develop His character.
No Hope In Man
Adam wanted to acquire knowledge through the five senses, and he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He exalted his own mind and thought he could work things out for himself. He put God in his back pocket and scorned the tree of life.
The Laodiceans have done the same thing. They have forsaken God and eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
This world is founded on Adam’s way of thinking—it exalts human reasoning. Man still thinks he can work things out on his own. That shows you how delusional human nature can be. If people were honest in analyzing the global situation, they would quickly realize it is past the time of man-made solutions.
This world is headed toward unparalleled disaster. God is allowing mankind to go right to the brink, where we are seconds away from blotting out all life on the planet!
Why would a loving God let circumstances get so bad? because there is no hope unless we obey god! Mankind must learn this lesson. God wouldn’t put mankind through that unless He had to. There will come a point when men will hit bottom and lose all hope—then they will finally realize that they need god.
That is the point God can begin to work with them. Why isn’t this world more interested in God’s message today? because man still has hope in man.
Like Christ said, people must realize that they are sick and need a physician (Matthew 9:12). Of ourselves, humankind is infected with a terminal sickness! Each of us must realize that. If we don’t, we have a much worse problem! That blindness is why Christ couldn’t help the Pharisees.
It’s all a question of which tree you’re eating from.
The House For God
Mr. Armstrong built one of the most beautiful auditoriums in the world; it was God’s physical House. That structure hosted the headquarters congregation of the Church of God—which was God’s spiritual House.
That auditorium served a role in fulfilling the great commission of the church. Mr. Armstrong brought the finest performing artists in the world to its stage, and that performing artist series was actually considered part of proclaiming the gospel! It was intended to showcase the very best that the human spirit was capable of producing. The auditorium helped people to see that this great work of God, which some label a “cult,” has so much to offer this world.
Now God has given us 170 acres, and we have just finalized our plans for an auditorium as well. This work is sprouting leaves and showing the world a taste of the wonderful things to come in God’s Kingdom. God wants us to build another house of God so we can show this world what great things He can accomplish!
The Prophet Haggai discusses the building of God’s house. God stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, Joshua and all the people, and they worked to build a house for God (Haggai 1:14). These people were building the second temple after Solomon’s temple had been destroyed. Our Haggai booklet shows how this history is a type of God’s work in this end time (you may request a free copy if you don’t have one).
“The glory of this latter house [God’s end-time spiritual house] shall be greater than of the former [Solomon’s temple] saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9).
This verse is talking about god’s people today. God dwells within His people! Haggai’s prophecy tells us that our glory, with the Almighty God dwelling in us, actually exceeds that of Solomon’s temple, which was “exceeding magnifical”—a sight to behold in all the nations (1 Chronicles 22:5).
How could this end-time temple be greater than Solomon’s? because it is composed of people who are eating from the tree of life. God gives us that glory.
Our physical life is just temporary, like any animal life. But we have the potential to possess eternal life—and with God’s Spirit, we already have eternal life in embryo!
The last part of Haggai 2:9 talks about “this place,” which refers to a physical place. In the Haggai booklet I explain how that is referring to what was once the physical house of God—Ambassador Auditorium. God said He would give peace in that house.
Mr. Armstrong told the Church that Haggai’s prophecy contained a command for the Worldwide Church of God to build God’s house.
i tell you the same thing today.
To build God’s house today, we must possess a lot of faith. Most people in the world would look at the small size of our group today and simply scoff at our ambition. but the great god doesn’t need numbers. he needs people who are eating from the tree of life!
God builds through His people. He always has. If we step out on faith, God will provide the means to build His house. Walking by faith is the only way it will be possible.
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11).
God says ”I will raise up”—”I will build it.” god is doing the raising. god is doing the building! All we need to do is get ourselves out of the way. We don’t need to worry about how God will do it—we just need to be filled with faith that god will do it!
I believe our Church members already exhibit remarkable faith. That is why our work is growing as quickly as it is.
One of our congregations sent a building fund donation specifically earmarked for God’s house. Along with it was a note from one of the women there. “I can’t tell you how excited and honored we are to be a part of this,” she wrote. “God has blessed us with such a wonderful opportunity to build His house. To build a house, not for ourselves but for God! I don’t know if we truly realize in the history of man how many have been chosen to actually build a house for God.”
That truly is inspiring to ponder! what an opportunity to build god’s house-what a blessing-what an honor that god has given only to a very few in human history! This prophecy puts God’s little very elect right on the front page of history!
Amos’ prophecy continues: “That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this” (verse 12). The Laodiceans are still called by God’s name, but they strayed so far from God that they are now “heathen.”
The “remnant of Edom” could very well include some physical items from the Ambassador Auditorium.
We do own some of those artifacts. The PCG purchased a 9-foot concert Steinway grand piano manufactured in Hamburg, Germany, and two spectacular candelabras from the auditorium.
The story behind those candelabras is remarkable. Mr. Armstrong purchased them from Harrods in England. They were originally commissioned by Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire in 1971. At the time, the Plain Truth wrote, “The purpose of the lavish seven-day festival in the words of Iran’s monarch, the shah, was to reawaken the people of Iran to their past and reawaken the world to Iran.”
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.
The leader of Iran was commemorating the reign of King Cyrus—the Persian king whose spirit God stirred up to build the house of God! Notice what Ezra recorded: “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, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, 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” (Ezra 1:1-2).
There is a link between the great King Cyrus and these candelabras, which we are going to put in the house for God in Edmond when it is built. Verse 2 shows that Cyrus ruled “all the kingdoms of the earth.” He was like a king of kings—a type of Jesus Christ!
God charged this carnal man to build Him a house! Can you imagine that? And Cyrus responded in a magnificent way. He accepted God’s commission and carried it out. Clearly God was working on His mind. Ezra 6:3-5 also talk about this second temple construction, and verse 14 brings Haggai and Zechariah into the picture. This is all prophecy for us.
In Isaiah 45:1, God calls Cyrus His “anointed”! That verse reads, “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.”
Where did Cyrus get the power to conquer the nations? From God!
“I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me” (verses 2-4). God named Cyrus—because He had a work for him to do!
God will use carnal-minded men to help His people get the work done, if that’s what we need. He will even take a carnal man and anoint him!
Soon there may come a time when God will move the mind of another carnal-minded king in order to provide His people a place of safety. I believe that is probably how it will happen.god will raise up the ruins! By whatever means He has to.
We possess two candelabras which were commissioned specifically to celebrate the reign of King Cyrus, who helped build God’s house. What history and symbolism is there for us!
Mr. Armstrong didn’t understand the connection to Cyrus in those candelabras. God wants us to have this understanding to help us see that we must build God’s house. God wants us to think about Cyrus and his world-ruling empire from 2,500 years ago. He wants US to think about ruling the world! God wants to get our minds on building his house. Those candelabras should stretch our minds.
I don’t know how much time we have left, but God is challenging us to expand our thinking as we finish His work. That is the only reason we are here.
As we do God’s work, we prepare to celebrate the return of the King of kings. We get ready to teach this world what real majesty is. We are about to show this world what it means to rule the world God’s way! Do God’s very elect fully realize that they are here to rule the world?
How blessed we are!
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions [offices]: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).
What a vision is wrapped up in these words! It is much deeper than we normally see.
God is building offices right now for those who are eating from the tree of life. Christ didn’t say “my Father’s house” purposelessly. We will be right there in God’s house! Certainly that applies to the headquarters temple in the Millennium, but Christ was also talking about the new Jerusalem—the Father’s house that will come down from heaven! That is our ultimate goal!
When we build a house for God, it will give us a vision to see that future with God the Father more than anything else we could have physically. It points us far beyond the millenium-spiritually.
Look at Abraham’s example: he was so filled with faith that his mind was focused on the new Jerusalem. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
We’re going to have offices in that city! What a vision that is! God’s house will help us envision that better than anything physically. That is our aim. That is the sort of vision that helps us endure any trial we could ever face.
Look at the examples in Hebrews 11. Paul details a list of nightmarish trials and tests—but these individuals were able to endure because of their towering faith. They were looking forward to that “better resurrection”—the first resurrection! The reward for being in that group of firstfruits is mind-staggering!
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11). That’s right—if you are one of God’s Philadelphians—you have a crown! It’s there—it’s real! It’s waiting for you, and it is about to be placed on your head! You must not let anyone take it.
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (verse 12). Where will you be a pillar? Not only in the Millennium temple! Christ is also talking about the new jerusalem!
Beyond the Millennium, when there are no human beings left, God is going to bring new Jerusalem down to this Earth. In that temple, we will be pillars. Christ is going to write on us the name of God the Father. we will be married to christ, and a pillar in the family of god, ruling the earth and universe, forever and ever.
Royal Vision, September/October 2005