NO. 738: “COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE”

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 738

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1-2)

Christendom is united in admitting that all of the Divine Revelation came to and through the Hebrew people. Listen to the argument of the Apostle Paul: “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom. 3:1-2) The “oracles of God” are the collection of sacred writings containing the Divine promises and these writings were committed to the care and guardian­ship of the Jewish people. The Apostle also informs us that the entire Gospel Message was summed up in God’s promise to Abraham: “In thee [in thy Seed] shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8; Gen. 28:14)

It was natural for the Jewish nation to suppose that this promise to Abraham was fulfilled when the Law was given to them at Mount Sinai, through Moses as the mediator. Nevertheless, history shows they were mistaken. All the features of the Law Covenant – their mediator, their priests and their sacrifices, their Tabernacle with its Holy and Most Holy, the Temple – were merely types or fore­shadows of the “better sacrifices,” higher Priesthood, better Mediator, and glorious blessings of eternal forgive­ness and reconciliation yet to be accomplished. (Heb. 9:23)

The period of Israel’s types was not wasted however. Not only were the types established then, but also a special class of representatives was selected: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the Prophets and worthy ones of that age, holy, consecrated to God, and accepted as agents qualified for the Kingdom conditions. The Scriptures declare that these “fell asleep” and they continue to sleep in the dust of the earth, awaiting the glorious Resurrection morning, and a grand share with Messiah in the work then to be accomplished.

These Ancient Worthies are described as “the fathers” because Messiah was foretold to be of the posterity of Abraham and also “David’s Son.” Other Scriptures, however, show us distinctly that “David’s Son” and “Abraham’s Seed” will be Lord and Father of both David and Abraham. Thus we read, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” (Psa. 45:16)

This is not a contradiction. The explanation is simple: when Messiah raises David from the dead, He will then be David’s Father, or Life-giver. He will likewise be the Father of all the Ancient Worthies; and as David’s Lord, and “Lord of lords,” it will be His pleasure to appoint to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all the Ancient Worthies, the Prophets, and other faithful ones a glorious share with Himself in the great Messianic Kingdom. What a great honor to Abraham and his Seed! Will this not mean honor “to the Jew first?” (Rom. 2:10)

ISRAEL’S DOUBLE

As our opening text declares, there is a “double” connected with Israel’s history; that is, Jewish history naturally divides itself into two exactly equal parts. The first part was a time of favor, although intermingled with disciplines. The second part has been one of disfavor and exclusion from fellowship. As foretold by the Prophet Hosea, Israel for many centuries has been without prophet or priest, without ephod and without communion with God; whereas, at one time they were God’s favored people. (Hos. 3:4)

By their own admission, they have been so thoroughly rejected that they have no communication whatever, no light to shine upon their pathway. The Prophet’s words have been fulfilled: “Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not.” (Psa. 69:22-23)

Thank God their blindness is not to be perpetual! With their double fulfilled, it will begin to vanish, and He who scattered Israel will gather them. (Deut. 30:3; Ezek. 37:20-28) We can see by the Word of God that Israel’s double is now fulfilled, that Israel’s blessing has already begun, and that the opening of Israel’s eyes is now in progress. Because the double is completed, we are told, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.”

Pastor Russell visited Jerusalem in 1892, intending chiefly to call attention to the fact that the set time to favor Zion had come and the time for the regathering of Israel was near. He found no hearing ears among the Jewish people; Zionism had not then been dreamed of. Nevertheless, he felt sure that Israel’s double had been fulfilled, and that her morning of joy would soon break. (Psa. 30:5)

Indeed he saw much happen during the years that followed. Zionism arose in every country, giving hope to the “chosen people” and turning their eyes toward the Land of Promise. Not all thought of returning there, but every Jew who retained faith in the God of his fathers and in the Abrahamic promise looked and hoped for the time of blessing long foretold. They still do not know about their double because they have studied the teachings of their ancients as presented by the Talmud instead of studying the Holy Scriptures. They have been making a very similar mistake to that of Christian people, who have been studying the creeds of the Dark Ages instead of God’s Word.

Glancing at three different statements about Israel’s double by three different Prophets, we notice their different time perspectives. Jeremiah first tells of Israel’s coming disfavor: “Then shalt thou say unto them . . . Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not . . . where I will not show you favour.” Then he speaks of their future regathering: “I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.” (Jer. 16:11-15) Then the Lord declares, “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double.” (Jer. 16:18) Jeremiah’s prophecy here views the double from the perspec­tive of his own day, more than six hundred years before the second part of their double began.

Turning to Zechariah’s prophecy, we note that his prophetic viewpoint is at the very time when the second part of the double began. His words are, “Even today do I declare that I will render double unto thee.” (Zech. 9:12)

Next note that in our opening text the Prophet Isaiah views the matter from the standpoint that the double has been fulfilled: “Her warfare [hardship] is accomplished . . . she hath received of the Lord’s hand double [two equal parts] for all her sins.”

It is our understanding that this double was fulfilled in the year 1878 AD. Since then Pastor Russell and Bible Students generally have declared to the best of their ability, as the Lord granted opportunity, these comforting words to Israel, assuring God’s people that their period of disfavor has ended, and that they are gradually returning to prosperity. Many Jews as well as Christians are becoming aware of this feature of the Divine Program relating to Israel’s restoration to Divine favor. Their eyes are gradually being opened as foretold by the Scriptures.

THE TURNING POINT

How do we know when the turning point of Israel’s double took place? How do we know that it was completed in 1878? The answer to the question requires acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah. Zechariah’s prophecy distinctly shows that Israel’s rejection of Messiah as their King marks the turning point of God’s favor. Neither Christians nor Jews have appreciated the full significance of an incident mentioned in the Gospel and foretold by the Prophet Zechariah.

Five days before His crucifixion Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem upon an ass after the manner of Jewish kings. A multitude surrounded Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matt. 21:1-9) Zechariah had called attention to this event centuries before it occurred. (Zech. 9:9) He then gave God’s decla­ration that “even today,” at that exact point in time, He would render double unto them. (Zech. 9:12)

Israel’s history as a nation began with the death of Jacob, when he gave his blessing to the twelve tribes. (Gen. 49:28) The Scriptures show that the period from Jacob’s death to the death of Jesus was 1845 years. A like period of disfavor from the day of Jesus’ rejection marks the year 1878 as the end of Israel’s disfavor – the time when the message of comfort would go forth. However, Divine favor was only gradually taken from Israel, and altogether a period of thirty-six years intervened between the death of Jesus and the utter destruction of Jerusalem.

Similarly we should expect that the return of favor would be gradual, a like period of 36 years; and this would bring us to the year 1914, as the time when God’s favor for His people was to be gradually manifested during the closing hours of Gentile supremacy at the close of the Gospel Age. (Luke 21:24) (See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume II, Study VII for a detailed discussion of the parallel dispensations.)

What has God accomplished during the latter half of Israel’s double? Did He pass by His chosen people to bless the Gentiles directly? The answer is that Almighty God had one feature of His Plan which He did not make known directly and explicitly to Abraham or any other Prophet. He kept that feature of His purpose a secret.

The secret is this: Messiah could not remain a man and yet accomplish the great things the Father purposed as stated in His Word. The Law called for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a man’s life for a man’s life. In this God set forth His governing principle, His course of dealing with men. As by man (Adam) came the death sentence, passed through heredity upon all of his offspring, even so the Divine Law purposed that there must be a sacrifice of one perfect human life to offset the one human life condemned to death. The one who would thus meet the demands of Justice on behalf of the human race would have the right to give eternal life and human perfection to every member of Adam’s race willing to accept it on the terms of the Divine Law. It was for this reason that Christ died, “the just for the unjust.” (1 Pet. 3:18)

As a reward for His obedience to the Father even unto death, Christ was raised from the dead to the Divine Nature. In this exalted condition He is capable of being a Mediator and of doing a work for Israel and for the world much higher and broader than Moses could do as the typical mediator, making atonement for a year with the blood of beasts. Messiah made perpetual atonement for the sins of both Jews and Gentiles with His own blood. He suffered the death of the cross “for all the people.” (Lev. 16:33)

The glorified Messiah, the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, is soon to bless Israel’s Ancient Worthies and make them “Princes in all the earth.” As ministers of His Kingdom they will rule, bless and uplift all who are willing out of the present conditions of sin and death to life eternal, to full human perfection, with the earth as a Paradise restored.

Some may ask: where do Christians fit in connection with this Divine arrangement? And if God’s dealings with the world are to be through Israel and not through the Church, why has there been so long a delay? Why did the glorified Messiah not set up His Kingdom at once, and immediately bring forth the Ancient Worthies from the tomb to be its earthly representatives?

Here another part of the Mystery of God was illustrated by Israel’s types. Isaac, Abraham’s son, was typical of Messiah, the Spiritual Seed. Before Isaac began the work of dispensing the blessings to his brethren and to his children he first took a bride, and this act also was allegorical or typical. In the antitype Messiah, the glorified Jesus, partook of the Divine Nature according to the Father’s invitation, and He is to take a Bride who is to be His joint-heir on the spirit plane – to share with Him the glory, honor and service of His Messianic Kingdom. The period of Israel’s disfavor as a nation has been the time in which a special class has been called of the Father and begotten of the Holy Spirit to joint-heirship with Christ as His Bride.

But did God pass by the natural seed of Israel to extend these spiritual privileges to the Gentiles – to gather from the Gentiles a people to constitute the Bride of Messiah? No, the Scriptures assure us that this spiritual privilege went first to the Jews. They show us that during the three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry and during the thirty-six years following it, the Gospel Message was given almost exclusively to the Jews. Gathered from that people was any found to be an “Israelite indeed,” without guile; any not only of the circumcision of the flesh, but also of the circumcision of the heart. (John 1:47; Rom 2:29) God did not continue to deal with His chosen people; but after having gathered from them as many as were worthy of the spiritual blessing and exaltation – only then did He send the Message to the Gentiles, to gather from them a number sufficient to complete the foreordained and pre­destined number to constitute the Bride.

In proving from the Scriptures that Israel’s double is completed, that Israel’s blindness is about to be taken away, and that Israel’s exaltation as the earthly representatives of Messiah’s Kingdom is near, we are proving to ourselves another thing – namely, that the full number called from among the Gentiles to participate with Christ on the spirit plane, as members of His Bride class, will soon be completed and exalted to Kingdom glory. (Rom. 11:25-32)

A NEW COVENANT AND A NEW MEDIATOR

The chosen people look back to the great Covenant which God made with Abraham – the Covenant confirmed by Almighty God with an oath, so that His people might have full assurance of its ultimate fulfillment. But Israel recognized that in order for the world to be blessed, the Divine Law must be established and mankind must be blessed legally. Thus they point back to the Law Cove­nant, despite their disappointments connected with it.

As a people they had expected much more from it – they had expected that by obedience to its requirements they themselves would become possessors of everlasting life. They also expected that God would then use their nation for the blessing of other nations; by bringing all the world of mankind under the dominion of the Law of God, the whole world would receive blessing, restitution and everlasting life through the Law Covenant. Despite their great disappointment that they gained neither eternal life nor national exaltation, they still held to that Covenant and trusted that its blessings were yet to come. In their perplexity, they cried to the Lord for relief and for explanation of why the blessings hoped for did not come.

Through the Prophets they received His answer: Before those promised favors could be fulfilled, the great Messiah must come. He would be a great Teacher and Ruler like unto Moses, but much more powerful. He would embody in Himself all the qualities of Judge, Priest, Mediator, Law-giver and King. Under His superintendence Israel would yet be blessed and become the channel of Divine blessing to every nation. Moses foretold this greater Prophet:

“For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:22-23; Deut. 18:15,19)

Thus Israel waited for the Messianic Priest and Kingly Mediator who would do for them abundantly more than Moses had been able to accomplish, though they had profited much through the ministry of their great Lawgiver. This anti­typical Moses, Messiah, is referred to by the Lord through the Prophet Malachi, saying: “Behold, I will send my messenger [John the Immerser], and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly [not quickly, but unexpectedly] come to his temple [the Church is the Temple], even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” (Mal. 3:1)

This sending of the New Mediator implied a New Covenant, or at least a renewal of the old Law Covenant under Messiah, the more efficient Mediator. The Prophet Jeremiah, now speaking as though at the close of Israel’s long period of exile from Divine favor, specifically refers to this renewal of the Sinaitic Covenant by the superior Mediator. The time is indicated by these words:

“And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the Lord. In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:28-29)

These words clearly indicate that not any period of Israel’s past history is referred to, but rather the period that is about to be inaugurated. The “sour grapes” refer to the evil influences of heredity. The sins of the parents have influenced and affected the children of all humanity so that all are in fact sinners, regardless of their intentions. As David declared, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa. 51:5) With the great dispensational change, however, this condition of heredity will not continue to prevail against the human race. Instead of falling further, it will rise up. Restitution will begin and only those who willfully and knowingly transgress the Divine Law will be held responsible and receive the wages of sin – death. (Rom. 6:23)

Having introduced the main feature of this message respecting the New Covenant, the Prophet continues:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)

The superiority of this New Covenant is clear. The old one was written on tables of stone; the new one will be written in the hearts of all the willing. The old Law had to be continually taught, every Sabbath day and oftener; but the New Law will not need such continuous teaching. All will know it since it will be written in the heart and conscience of all, from the least to the greatest. The Old Law Covenant under Moses as Mediator required annual sacrifices of bulls and goats to cleanse the sins of the people and to bring them Divine forgiveness for another year. The New Law Covenant, with its better sacrifices, will forever do away with the yearly repetition of the Atonement Day. The sins of the people will be so thoroughly eradicated as to need no further sacrificing.

Israel has waited, hoped and prayed for its better Mediator for more than three thousand years. Thank God His reign is near at hand! His power, glory, honor and dignity will be all that Israel expected and much more. With Israel’s period of disfavor closed, we believe that the time for the establishment of His Empire on earth will be after the great time of world-wide trouble to come upon the earth.

But Messiah will be a spiritual Mediator, invisible to men. Only the effects of His power and glory will be seen on earth as He casts down the unfit and lifts the worthy, the down-trodden. The great Priest referred to in the Scriptures as “King of kings and Lord of lords” will be invisible to men then just as Satan, recognized by the Scriptures as the “prince of this world,” is now invisible. During the Time of Trouble the King will bind Satan, restraining him from every power to further deceive mankind during the glorious Millennium.

This great spiritual King must of course have earthly representatives and agents among men, just as Satan has used as his servants wicked persons out of harmony with God and not submissive to His arrangements, many of them unwittingly serving him. But the King will use only the pure, the holy, the reverent, the godly. And none of His servants will be under restraints of ignorance or bonds of superstition.

On the contrary, the righteous will then flourish and the evil-doers will be cut off: “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” (Prov. 11:28) “For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psa. 37:9-11)

God has already selected those wonderful persons who will represent Messiah to Israel and to the world. They were selected long ago according to their trials of faith and obedience and patient endurance for righteousness’ sake. They are a noble band. They are select members of the chosen people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and all the Prophets, besides others too numerous to mention. Through trying ordeals of faith and patience and loyalty, they demonstrated their love for righteousness, for Truth and for God. These are worthy. These are God’s “elect” for this great purpose.

Nor will it serve the Divine purpose that these should be awakened from the tomb in the condition in which they went down into death. No, by their faithfulness under trying conditions they proved to the Divine satisfaction their loyalty to the core. As their reward, they will come forth from the tomb under more favorable conditions than do their fellows. (Heb. 11:35) They will come forth perfect in mind and in body, glorious specimens of perfect humanity. They will be examples to Israel and to all the nations of what each member of Adam’s race may attain if he will be obedient to the terms of the Covenant.

We believe, as Pastor Russell taught, that there is also a similar class of conse­crators after the closing of the High Calling who will be associates of the Ancient Worthies during the Millennium. (See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume VI, Study III, page 157 and Reprint 5761.)

THE GLORIOUS RESULTS OF THE NEW COVENANT

For a thousand years the great Mediator will stand between Divine Justice and Israel to give to all the willing and obedient the blessings of Divine favor. They would not be worthy of these blessings by their own merits because of their inherited imperfections through the fall. God’s Providence will afford them the opportunity of rising up gradually to full human perfection in the likeness of the Ancient Worthies, who as the representatives of Messiah among men will be their instructors and guides.

That will be a glorious day for the chosen people! All that they ever dreamed of, and far more, will be their everlasting heritage. Nor will these wonderful privileges be theirs alone, for although the Covenant will be made with Israel, the privilege of coming into that Covenant relationship with God will be extended to all nations, permitting all to become Israelites, through faith, through obedience to that Law of the New Covenant:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:2-3)

The chosen people have had some sad experiences while waiting for the great Messiah-Mediator of their New Covenant. But the glorious results will more than compensate for all their trials and disappointments during the delay. Under the Law Covenant they merely lived as a nation under Divine favor for a few years and then lapsed into death. Under the arrangements of the New Covenant they will obtain life eternal and full human perfection. It will be possible for them to have the absolute and continuous approval of the Divine Law.

More than this, as agents of God their mission under the New Covenant will be the blessing of all the Gentiles – the Gentiles will be brought up to the same glorious standards of human perfection and eternal life. Surely all who love the Divine promises to the chosen people and the New Covenant through which those promises will be fulfilled may well pray, O Lord, thy Kingdom come! Messiah, come quickly! End the reign of sin and death! Exalt Thy chosen people and bless all the families of the earth!

_______________________________

This paper is based on Pastor Russell’s Sermons, pages 396-403 and What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 89-92.


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NO. 737: TWO PARABLES FOR THE NEW YEAR

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 737

“Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (Psa. 50:14-15) “The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.” (Psa. 29:11)

The dawn of a new year is properly a time for solemn reflection. In retrospect how abundant is the cause for thanksgiving. We who have been blessed with the knowledge of Divine Truth have cause for deepest gratitude. How great was the favor which revealed the hope of everlasting life as justified, human sons of God – of full Restitution to the Divine favor and likeness first possessed by Father Adam. Great was the invitation to give Him our hearts in consecration, to receive a new human heart to love truth and righteousness and to serve Him.

In addition to these blessings of hope and promise is the blessed realization that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, as the Psalmist aptly represents the present life, our blessed Shepherd’s rod and staff have been our comfort and our safeguard. (Psa. 23:4) The friendly crook of the Shepherd’s staff has often kept us from wandering astray. At such times we have recalled the comforting words: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” (Heb. 12:5-8)

Spiritually, we have feasted on the bounties of Divine favor. In temporal matters we have assurance that all things work together for good to them that love God, under whatever circum­stances we have been placed. (Rom. 8:28) We have realized that godliness with contentment is great gain, thus we can and do most heartily “offer unto God thanksgiving.” Let us render unto Him, not only the praise of our lips, but also the incense of truly consecrated lives throughout the coming year.

OUR TALENTS AND THEIR USE

How shall we pay our vows? In the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), the Lord illustrated very clearly how we are expected to pay our vows of consecration to the Most High. He says: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straight­way took his journey.” In those times a talent represented a sum of money, but the thought of the parable is that these talents represent not only financial means, but also natural aptitudes, social advantages, education, etc.

The parable represents the entire Gospel Age from the time when our Lord ascended on High, going to the “far country” – Heaven itself. He left His interests in the hands of His servants, the Apostles and believers in general, and in their hands these interests have remained ever since. The narrative shows that the servants do not represent merely nominal Christians, but true Christians, fully consecrated believers. These alone have the talents belonging to the Lord in their charge for use in His service, “every man according to his several ability.”

Those who merely hear the Lord’s voice calling them as sinners to repentance are not as yet His servants, nor are they entrusted with any of His talents. They are still strangers, aliens and foreigners, without God and having no hope. (Eph. 2:11-13) But after they have learned of the grace of God in Christ and of the provision made in Him for the covering of past sins and present blemishes, if they then rejoice to accept Him as their Savior, they thereby take the first step toward God, being thus justified by faith. They have peace with God respecting their former sins and the condemnation they realize they are under. (Rom. 5:1-3) They have not yet become servants of God, but they are in that attitude of mind where the Lord would be willing to accept them as His servants. Accordingly, the Apostle invites them, saying: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1)

The believer thus lays in consecration at the Lord’s feet his life, his time, his influence, together with whatever property or mental endowments he may possess – all for the Lord, to be used in joyful service for the glory of our King. At this point the Scriptures represent him to be begotten again by the Holy Spirit to newness of life, newness of aim, newness of purpose. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) It is such New Creatures that God recognizes as His servants, consecrated to His service; and it is this class which is represented in the parable. To these servants He gives various talents to be used by them.[1]

These talents are the very talents which they possessed before consecration, and which in consecration they laid at the Lord’s feet. These He now entrusts into their custody, thus making them rewards of their own time, influence, means, education, mental ability, etc. From this viewpoint we can see how some have one talent, others two talents, and still others five talents; for no two of the Lord’s people are exactly alike in ability, in influence, in opportunity or in wealth. However, each is responsible for exactly the amount thus entrusted to his stewardship, plus whatever increase he may be able to achieve. His love for his Master and his loyalty as a servant are to be tested by the degree of effort he will exercise in the use of these talents, opportunities, etc. under his care.

Although the parable depicts the faithfulness of those having five talents and two talents, and the unfaithfulness of the one having but one talent, this we are to understand is merely an illustration. It is possible for a person having but one talent to be faithful, and equally possible for those having two or more talents to be unfaithful. Indeed those possessing the most talents are as likely to be among the unfaithful as are those who have but one talent. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the majority of those consecrated to the Lord have possessed only one talent.

In fact, the Lord tells us that not many of those who have money talents will accept His invitation at all. Not many of them will consecrate them­selves, placing their natural talents at His disposal. The Scriptures state: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor. 1:26) “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (Jas. 2:5)

The parable then refers to our Lord’s Second Advent, and indicates that then His first work will be with the Church, not with the world: “After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.” (Matt. 25:19) The words of St. Peter agree with this: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” (1 Pet. 4:17) In this we have positive assurance that the servants of the parable are not worldly people who have no part in this matter, and who are not in any sense of the word stewards of the grace of God. It is true the Lord causes His sun to shine upon both the just and the unjust, and His rain to fall upon good and bad alike. However, He recognizes none as His servants except those who have come to Him in the appointed way: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

If we have the right understanding of “the times and seasons” outlined in the Scriptures, we are now living in the very time of the Second Advent of Christ – the time during which He is reckoning with His servants, preparatory to assuming the Kingdom control of the world. This transfer of the world to Immanuel’s Government will be accomplished through the overthrow of present institutions – financial, political, social and religious – in “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1)

This reckoning of course must include the resurrection change of all the faithful in Christ Jesus mentioned in the Apostle Paul’s description of the First Resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:42-44) Those who during this Gospel Age have been faithful to the Lord in the use of the talents committed to them are in line for the glory, honor and immortality of this First Resurrection, by which they will enter into the joy of their Lord. The Apostle’s statement respecting these is that they will differ in the degree of glory received as “one star differeth from another star in glory.” (1 Cor. 15:41) If this thought is not directly corroborated by the Parable of the Talents, it is by the corresponding Parable of the Pounds, discussed later.

THE TALENT HID IN THE EARTH

We come now to the distinctive feature of the Parable of the Talents. The servant who had but one talent entrusted to him hid it in the earth. The hiding of the talent in the earth is full of meaning. It implies that the opportunities and abilities consecrated to the Lord are being buried in earthly affairs such as business, pleasure, society, etc., to the neglect of the stewardship and in repudiation of the original consecration. In excusing himself for not having made better use of it, he reveals that his heart was filled with fear instead of with love for his Lord; for he thought of his Lord as unjust, hard, unmerciful, and unloving. (Matt. 25:24-25) His theology was bad! Many Christian people are in a similar plight. Having a wrong conception of the Lord’s character and purposes, they are deterred from using in His service what talents they possess.

Perhaps consideration of this parable may help some who are now in this attitude, prompting them to take their talent out of its earthly investment and apply it with redoubled energy and zeal according to their original covenant, hoping in the mercy of God for forgiveness of their previous laxness. By His grace they may yet hear His words: “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matt. 25:23)

If you, dear brother or sister, are not in the place of this unfaithful servant, you may recognize the likeness of some of your fellow servants. They are not bad people; they are not wicked. They are moral, honest in their dealings with their fellow men – though not honest with the Lord in the use of their consecrated talents. Now that you see the person or the class represented by the unfaithful servant in the parable, doubtless your love and your sympathy begin to exercise themselves toward these dear neighbors, friends and relatives.

The punishment outlined in the parable for this class of unfaithful servants is certainly severe, although there is nothing that suggests the unscriptural concept of eternal torment. The first part of the punishment meted to the unfaithful servant is the loss of the talent – the loss of the opportunity and privilege of service as a co-laborer with the Lord. This implies that the unfaithful one cannot be accepted as a member of the glorified Body of Christ. His failure to use his consecrated talent signifies his failure to make his calling and election sure.

The second feature of the punishment is casting out: “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 25:30) To be thrust into the outer darkness of the world is to lose whatever light, privilege and appreciation of spiritual matters that was previously enjoyed. The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” illustrates a further feature of the punishment. The unfaithful servants will share in the great Time of Trouble with which this Gospel Age is to end – the time of anarchy and confusion which the Lord declared His faithful people will be accounted worthy to escape. (Luke 21:36)

The parable merely mentions the punishment of the unfaithful servant without showing what the result will be – how he will be disciplined by the tribulations through which he will pass. But the great Teacher who spoke the parable later sent a message to His people explaining how the unfaithful servants may through their tribulations be enabled to some extent to recover their standing and obtain a share in the Divine blessing – although not in the Bride class. (Rev. 7:9-17) We see that their severe experiences will work with many of them such a change that they will gladly praise their Lord, and rejoice to be servants in His Temple and before His Throne.

Faithfulness in the use of their talents would have given this class a place with their Lord in His Throne, even as He promised. (Rev. 3:21) But in His great mercy, while rejecting them from association in the Throne and while causing them to pass through merited tribulation for their unfaithfulness, He will nevertheless permit them to come up through that tribulation, washing their robes in the merit of His sacrifice. To those who are rightly exercised by these experiences He will give the palm of victory, but not the crown, for this is reserved for the faithful servants alone.

The Scriptures do not guarantee, however, that all of the spirit-begotten consecrated will be either in the Throne or before the Throne. The Scriptures bring to our attention still another class who sin willfully, who “fall away.” (Heb. 6:4-8; Heb. 10:26-27) The Apostle states: “There is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16) – the Second Death. But this sin is something beyond the sin of hiding the talent in the earth – neglecting the covenant made with the Lord. From that willful sin unto death there is no hope of recovery, either in this age or in that to come.

Let us arouse ourselves, dear fellow servants of the King of Glory. Let us use every talent we possess to “show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) Let us develop in our hearts more and more the graces of the Holy Spirit – meekness, gentle­ness, patience, brotherly kindness, love. “For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:8-11)

THE PARABLE OF THE POUNDS

We should not confuse the Parable of the Talents with the Parable of the Pounds. (Luke 19:11-27) They may seem similar but they teach different lessons. In the Parable of the Talents the amount given to each of the servants was different, whereas in the Parable of the Pounds each servant received the same amount – one pound. The Parable of the Pounds therefore illustrates something that is the same for all members of the servant class.

The object of the parable is clearly stated. The Lord and His disciples were approaching Jerusalem where shortly He was to be crucified. Because the disciples had supposed that the Messianic Kingdom would immediately be established in power and great honor, this parable was intended to inform them that in fact a long period of time would elapse before the Kingdom would be established. (Luke 19:11)

The disciples knew that the kings of Palestine were appointed by the Roman Emperor, and were aware that recently one of the Herods had gone to Rome seeking an appointment to a kingdom. Some who hated him sent a message to Rome, discrediting him and declaring their preference for another king. Jesus used this event to illustrate His own case: He was the Appointee for the Messianic Kingdom of the world. He would go to Heaven itself and there appear in the presence of the Heavenly Father, the Emperor of the universe. He would be invested by the Father with the ruling authority, and later return to earth and exercise His dominion, but while He was away His opponents would be in control. This was exactly according to Old Testament prophecy: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [the nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” (Psa. 2:8)

During the interim of the Master’s absence, He has committed to His disciples, His servants, something that is symbolized by the one pound left to each of the servants of the parable. They have full liberty to use their best judgment and to show their love and their zeal in His service. At His return, all these servants will be reckoned with, and the degree of their zeal and productivity as servants will be manifested by the results, and the rewards given them will be proportionate.

The parable distinguishes between these consecrated servants of God and the masses of the people. It shows that nothing is committed to the masses and that no judgment or reward, is made in their case at the return of the Master as King. The pounds are given only to His servants and they only are held responsible for them.

In considering what is symbolized, by the pound, we must keep in mind that the same amount was given to each. There is but one thing we can think of that is given to all of the Lord’s people in exactly the same measure. Their financial circum­stances, natural abilities and opportunities are not alike. None of these varied talents pertain to this Parable of the Pounds.

The pound is the same to all: it represents justification. The one thing the Redeemer does for all who become His followers is to justify them freely from all things, leaving them all on an even footing. Justification makes up for the deficiencies of each individual in proportion as he by nature falls short of perfection, the Divine standard.

All who in the present time become children of God, servants of God, followers of Christ, must receive from the Lord the pound, the free forgiveness of sins – justification – as a basis for this relationship. Justification gives them standing with God, and whatever they may do or endeavor to do will be to their credit. Because all are equally qualified by justification, the results will show the degree of loving zeal controlling each servant. Those who love much will serve much. Those who love little will neglect to use their opportunities. As one servant in the parable gained ten pounds, so such noble characters as St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John and others, sacrificed themselves over and over again in the Divine service. In their zeal they counted all earthly things but as loss that they might be pleasing to their Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3:8) Those who have gladly spent themselves most zealously in the service of the Lord are to have the highest rewards, as represented by the Lord’s words, “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:17)

Another servant in the parable reported a gain of five pounds. He had not done as well as the first, but he had done well. He had been faithful, although less faithful than the first. He also received his master’s commendation but the reward was less; he received dominion over five cities. This will mean a less influential place in the Messianic Kingdom.

Then in the parable another came saying, “Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.” (Luke 19:20-21) The master in the parable still addressed this one as a servant, but as a “wicked servant,” who knew his master’s will, who had undertaken his service, but who had been found unfaithful in it. (Luke 19:22) Had he not professed to be a servant, he would have received no pound and would have had no responsibility for it. He should have made use of his privilege and opportunity. He should have lived for his master. He should have made at least some use of the pound entrusted to him, so that he would have had some results to show.

This servant represents a class who enter into a covenant with the Lord to be His servants and receive justification at His hands, but fail to sacrifice as they covenanted to do. They endeavor to maintain their justification and live justly and honorably, but do not sacrifice themselves. They are glad to be able to say they have lost nothing but they are really afraid to use their opportunity, their privilege, realizing the Lord would be expecting a considerable return from the amount given them.

This class is the same as that represented by the unfaithful servant of the Parable of the Talents. It is also represented by the foolish virgins in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. (Matt. 25:1-13) They will not be lost, in the worst sense of that word, although they will indeed lose the great prize of the High Calling. Because they still remain servants and have a love for righteousness, they will be saved so as by fire; that is, through tribulations. They will ultimately gain everlasting life on the spirit plane, but will be quite inferior to the Bride class. They seem to be represented in the Scriptures as the virgins, the Bride’s companions who follow her. (Psa. 45:14)

The fear expressed by this servant reminds us of the Apostle’s words when he declares that Christ at His Second Coming will deliver those who all their lifetime were subject to bondage through fear of death. (Heb. 2:15) The consecration of the Lord’s servants is unto death, and those who fear death are fearful of performing their covenant vow. They will not be worthy of the Lord’s approval as faithful servants. Nevertheless, we are told there are many vessels in the King’s house, some to more honor and some to less honor. (2 Tim. 2:20-21)

SLAYING THE ENEMIES

The Parable of the Pounds shows that Messiah will only deal with the world, and especially with His enemies, after He has first dealt with His own servants at His Second Coming. After dealing with his servants upon his return, the nobleman in the parable states: “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27) This teaching of the parable is borne out by numerous Scriptures. When Jesus prayed on the night before His crucifixion, He said: “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” (John 17:9) Thus we see the work of the Gospel Age as outlined by our Lord is merely for the selection, testing, and proving of His servants, with the object of determining which will be found worthy of association with Him in the great Millennial Kingdom, the work of which will be to bless and uplift all mankind.

The second Psalm points out that the Redeemer will not ask for the world (He will not pray for it) until He is ready to establish His Kingdom at His Second Advent, His Church having first been gathered to glory. Then He will ask for “the heathen,” by which is meant all who are out of fellowship with God. Messiah will deal forcefully with them: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (Psa. 2:9) As other scriptures show, this means that the inaugu­ration of Messiah’s Kingdom will bring a great Time of Trouble, symbolically portrayed as fire or fiery judgments. (2 Thess. 1:7-8) Everything contrary to the Divine standard of justice will be shaken and eventually destroyed.

At first we might think these words show the King of Glory to be ferocious and unsym­pa­thetic with His enemies, contrary to His admonition to love our enemies and to do good to them. This will indeed be His policy; but He will do the greatest good for His enemies in bringing upon them just punishments (perhaps in the form of shame, notoriety, contempt) for their wrong actions, making them aware of their true condition and showing them their Restitution privileges. The Lord wounds that He may heal. We read, “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9) The judgements will be especially severe in the beginning, but only upon those deserving them. All who learn righteousness, coming into harmony with the King of kings and Lord of lords, will gradually be uplifted to human perfection.

We are not to forget that in dealing with His faithful servants during this age the Lord has permitted fiery trials to try and instruct them. It should not be a wonder to us therefore that fiery judgments upon the world are the Master’s design, not for the world’s injury, but for its blessing. In Revelation the Lord is represented in glorious majesty with a sword proceeding out of His mouth smiting the nations. (Rev. 19:15) Blessed smiting! We might feel that the sooner it begins, the better for the world; yet we remember that God’s time is best for everything.

As companion parables, the Parable of the Pounds and the Parable of the Talents illustrate from different standpoints the responsibilities of the stewardship of God’s people. Dearly beloved, let us have for our watchword during the year the word devotion; and let each of us write upon his heart the gracious promise: “The Lord will give strength unto his people.” Let us be faithfully His people, and let us earnestly desire and faithfully use the strength promised. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)” (Heb. 10:23)

If you lack the strength to use faithfully your talent or your pound, the fault is yours, not God’s. You either have not His service closely enough at heart or else do not make use of the strength He provides. The Lord will give strength to His trusting, faithful servants, those who are using to His praise their justification and the talents consecrated to their Master, however many or few their talents may be.

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This paper is based on various writings of Pastor Russell, primarily Pastor Russell’s Sermons, pages 507-515 and Reprints 1281 and 5492.

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ANNOUNCEMENT

The date of our Lord’s Memorial is March 19, 2019 after six p.m.

[1] While both parables discussed in this article relate to the spirit begotten Church class (the door to this High Calling we believe to be closed), they provide valuable lessons for the Youthful Worthies who make the same kind of consecration: “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country.” (Lev. 24:22) They are not on trial for life but for faith and obedience and the reward of a “better resurrection.” If unfaithful they also risk being thrust into “outer darkness” with the world, and may ultimately lose their class standing.


No. 736: THE BIRTH OF CHRIST

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 736

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

The story of the “good tidings” is so familiar it should require no elaboration – yet the hope of the whole world lies in its simple details. The birth of this child had been prophesied for four thousand years, and during that forty centuries faithful souls continued to trust in the promises and to look for the salvation to be brought through Him. We may be sure that the humble shepherds to whom the message of the Lord’s Advent was first delivered were men who thus hoped in the promises of God, for only to such does the Lord disclose His purposes.

These shepherds where quietly tending their flocks by night when suddenly, “The angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.” (Luke 2:9) Their fear was soon overcome by the message of the angel, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings, of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)

One of the most marvelous features of this message is largely overlooked: That it will be to all people. Observe the cumulative blessedness of this message. First there are “good tidings;” then there is “great joy;” then the crowning feature is that it is to “all people.” It was not only a message to the shepherds, who that night looked for the hope of Israel, but it was a message to all – all then living, all who would live in the future, and all who were already in the grave.

Hearken to the joyous sound of the blessed tidings: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) The Scriptures clearly affirm that He was to be a Savior to all people: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9) We are told that He “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim 2:6)

That testimony, to be given in due time, is just as necessary to the salvation of the sinner as the fact that Christ gave Himself a ransom for all. The favor of salvation will not be forced upon any; but all will hear the testimony that the opportunity for it has been provided for them, on the condition that they accept the favor upon God’s terms. And though millions of the human race for whom Christ died have gone down to the grave without receiving such a testimony, the fact remains that the testimony will be given to them in due time. Accordingly, the due time for them must be after their awakening from death.

The words of our Lord forcefully confirm this: “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good [who in this present life have come into judgment and who have passed their trial successfully], unto the resurrection of life [the full reward of the faithful – such will be the overcoming Church]; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29)

Those included in the resurrection of judgement will come forth from the grave to have the Truth testified to them for their acceptance or rejection. They will be judged worthy or unworthy of life based upon the results of this trial, but only after the Truth has been testified to them in the Millennial Age, the age now just ahead of us. Thus, the angel of the Lord, in delivering the message to the shepherds on the plane of Beth­lehem, was preaching the good tidings of “the restitution of all things.” (Acts 3:19-23)

The angel then told the shepherds where and how they would find this bud of promise, so that when they saw Him they would be sure that it was He: “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) This statement not only helped the shepherds to identify Jesus, but it showed them the humble conditions under which this great King of earth was born into the world. It served to bring down their thoughts from the great and grand results to its humble beginnings, lest they should be misled in their expectations.

It should be the same with our proclamations of the Divine Plan. We are not only to tell of the future glory, greatness, and grandeur, but we are to tell also of our Savior who humbled Himself to take a low estate among men and to die for our sins. We should also point out that the “elect” have been called to walk in His footsteps, under similarly humil­iating circumstances – to suffer with Him, if they would reign with Him; to die with Him, if they would live with Him. As the Apostle points out, the Prophets spoke not only of the glory that is to follow, but also of the sufferings of Christ (head and body) which must precede the glory. (1 Pet. 1:11)

The narrative then shows the interest of the angels of God in the affairs of men, how they sympathize with us and rejoice over our prosperity: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:13-14) Our Lord’s own statement corroborates this interest of the angels: “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7) Other Scripture state­ments show their keen interest in mankind’s salvation, “which things the angels desire to look into,” esteeming it a privilege to serve the heirs of this salvation: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (1 Pet. 1:12; Heb. 1:14)

Thus we see the angels are creatures of God full of loving benevolence even toward a fallen race, although they know, as they studiously look into God’s Plan, that an elect few of this fallen race are to be highly exalted, even above the angels who never sinned. Thus we see their humble recognition of the right of the Creator to do what He will with His own, and their cheerful and joyful acquiescence in His perfect will, which they know to be determined by His unerring wisdom and His fathomless love. Oh, what universal joy will prevail when the whole family of God in heaven and in earth is brought into fullest harmony under the Father’s Anointed!

Continuing with the account, we are then shown the teachable attitude of the shepherds. They immediately recognized the angels and their message as coming from God. Their fears were allayed, their hopes revived, and their faith increased. They felt that they must act at once: “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” (Luke 2:15)

They hastened to find Mary, Joseph and Jesus and afterward these humble, trustworthy agents spread the word abroad about the glorious event and those who heard them were amazed at the message. (Luke 2:16-18) We should likewise serve the Lord’s cause by proclaiming this gracious message we have been favored to receive.

We then see the humility of Mary: “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) She made no boasts but waited for God’s due time, doubtless calling to mind also the message of the angel to her. (Luke 1:28-35) Again and again we seem to hear her say, “My soul doth magnify the Lord . . . For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden . . . he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49)

The shepherds returned to their flocks, fully assured of the wonderful truth that the promised Savior had really come. They rejoiced and glorified God for all the things they had heard and seen. (Luke 2:20)

“HALLELUJAH WHAT A SAVIOR!”

Our Lord Jesus was God’s great gift to Israel and to the world, a gift as yet fully appreciated only by the Spiritual Israelite. All the gifts God has promised to mankind are to come through Him. (Eph. 4:8) While all may gather something of the force and meaning of the word “Savior” as signifying deliverer, there is another underlying significance not generally recognized. In Aramaic, the language assumed to be spoken by the Lord and His disciples, the word rendered Savior signifies “Life-Giver.” How much force this adds to the meaning of this beautiful text! Jesus was born to be a Life-Giver, and this joyful news is to all people. He may give life to whomsoever He chooses; and He chooses to give it, in harmony with the Divine will, only to those who come unto the Father through Him, by faith and obedience.

A “life-giver” is a father, and it is from this standpoint that our Lord Jesus was prophesied to be the “Everlasting Father,” the giver of everlasting life to the obedient of the world. (Isa. 9:6) Adam, the father of the race, failed to give to his posterity perfect and lasting life. Through sin he came under the sentence of death himself, and transmitted to his posterity only a blemished, dying condition. What the whole world needs, therefore, is life – eternal life – and in sending Jesus into the world, God was meeting our necessities most bountifully.

But God does not propose to give eternal life to any of His creatures unless that gift would be a real blessing; we know that eternal life would be a curse instead of a blessing to any not in full accord with the Lord and His righteous arrange­ments. Accordingly, we are told that all who would have the life which Jesus came to secure and offer to all must accept it according to the terms, conditions, and limitations of the New Covenant – faith in the Redeemer and heart-harmony and obedience to God, to the extent of ability. In the present time, when sin abounds and Satan is deceiving and blinding mankind, not many can appreciate this great gift of God’s love, and not many become His disciples. The Gospel Age has been the time, therefore, for selecting out of the whole world of the redeemed ones a “Little Flock” to be joint-heirs with Christ in the Kingdom.

But thanks be unto God, we can now see that the plan of salvation does not stop with the gathering of the elect Church, but that in the full sense of the word it has merely begun there. (1 John 2:2) The testimony of the angelic choir which sang at our Savior’s birth and the declaration of good tidings of great joy has yet to be completely fulfilled.

THE APOSTLE’S LESSON

In the first chapter of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul sets forth a lesson which calls attention to the fact that our Lord Jesus and His testimonies were but further developments of the great Divine Plan of which God had been speaking to His people Israel: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things.” (Heb. 1:1-2) He points out that if it was always appropriate to hearken to the Lord’s messengers, it is much more appropriate that we hearken to the great Chief Messenger of God, our Lord Jesus.

The Apostle next points out the basis of our good hopes of salvation through Christ, the basis on which Divine justice and love may operate toward fallen mankind through Him: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3)

When the Apostle points out the high exaltation of our Lord Jesus, and that it was a reward for His obedience in suffering death on our behalf, he shows four things:

(1) Our Lord Jesus gave a ransom for our transgressions which was satisfactory to Divine justice, so that through His stripes we might be healed, despite the death sentence which was against us through father Adam’s transgression. (Isa. 53:5)

(2) Because He paid the ransom price, our Lord was exalted above angels, to share the Father’s throne and nature in glory.

(3) This exaltation of the Savior shows He was given power – power to carry out the blessed provisions of the New Covenant, which He sealed with His precious blood, making it effective to mankind.

(4) The Life-Giver will in due time use this power and exaltation granted by God to establish the heavenly Kingdom.

The exalted and fully empowered Life-Giver will then stand ready to make known to all mankind the terms of the New Covenant. Thus He will bring in everlasting righteous­ness as the law of earth; He will lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet; He will sweep away the refuge of lies; He will bind the great Adversary, Satan; He will open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf; He will cause all mankind to know the love of God which passes all understanding, love which would not have any to perish, but would have all to turn to Him and live. (Isa. 11:9; Isa. 28:17; Isa. 35:5; 2 Pet. 3:9,13; Rev. 20:2)

“Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25)

BUT WHEN PEACE AND GOOD WILL?

The peace and good will that the angelic choir sang of is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. Instead of peace and good will to men, we have war, savagery, and other works of the flesh and of the Devil mentioned by St. Paul – anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife, etc. (Gal. 5:19-21) The Scriptures show that the turmoil is only beginning; most of the wailing and gnashing of teeth, most of the anguish and despair, suffering, sorrow and devastation, are ahead, “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1)

In the midst of all these tribulations the world must learn the great lesson which God wishes all mankind to learn: “Hope thou in God!” (Psa. 42:5) Earth’s only hope is in God. All must yet learn the lesson recorded by the Prophet many centuries ago, namely, “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish.” (Isa. 29:14) They must learn that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God, even as the wisdom of God is foolishness with men. (1 Cor. 3:19; 1 Cor. 1:18)

Many who have prayed “Thy Kingdom come” have failed to study the message of that Kingdom. Many have thought that it has already come; many others have felt that because God has not exercised His power and force in dealing with humanity up this point, He will not do so in the future.

The Bible, however, assures us that Messiah’s Kingdom will be a forceful one. He will rule the nations “with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers.” (Rev. 2:27) The foretold breaking and shaking processes, now beginning, are causing this Time of Trouble. The shaking will be social, political, financial and religious. The monstrous false creeds engrafted upon the teachings of the Bible in the Dark Ages will be shaken to pieces, and all the great institutions misnamed “churches” will be shaken with them. Only the one true Church will stand. It will include all saintly followers of Jesus of every nation and denomination and it will exclude all others.

How glorious the hope that Messiah’s Kingdom will speedily set the world’s affairs in order, bringing peace out of confusion and strife! When human strength is weakened, human pride humbled into the dust, and human hopes dashed, the world will be ready for the New Day. The Bible beautifully pictures it as the rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His beams, scatter­ing the darkness, ignorance, superstition, sin, and death that have caused the night of sorrow never to be forgotten. (Mal. 4:2) The Lord’s people, awake and looking in the right direction, already perceive that we are in the dawning of the Millennium. The advancements which have come to the world at an ever increasing rate are Millennial blessings, fore­shadows of still greater favors to come.

Human hearts have not properly responded to the blessings already received. Instead of gratitude, there is a spirit of selfishness begetting discontent and covetousness, which will culminate with every man’s hand against his neighbor and his brother. (Ezek. 38:21; Zech. 8:10)

A SEEMING CONTRADICTION

Do the Scriptures contradict themselves? The Great Teacher declared, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34) He referred prophet­ically to the effect which His gracious message of love and favor would produce in the world during the reign of sin. He knew that the Prince of Darkness would oppose Him as well as His followers. It was foretold that whoever would live godly in Him would suffer persecution; and so it has been. (2 Tim. 3:12)

Nevertheless, our Lord sent His followers forth unarmed, like Himself, to be peacemakers. Jesus counseled His followers, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matt. 26:52) As the Apostle states, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14)

However, the message of peace and love and the coming Kingdom has angered not only the vicious and ungodly, but also those professing godliness while having their own schemes, plans and theories contrary to the Gospel Message. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:20)

The Master knew the effects His Gospel Message would have; He knew that only those who compromised His message could possibly live at peace, that all who would be loyal and faithful to Him would be slandered, persecuted and “beheaded,” either literally or figuratively. When He stated that He came to send a sword, therefore, it was a prophecy of the tribulations His faithful would surely have. More than this, it was a prophecy respecting the nations, the peoples.

What is it that has brought us to our present degree of civilized savagery? What is it that makes of every business corporation a cutthroat, seeking the destruction of every competing enterprise? What is it that has sharpened the wits of humanity to such an extent that the majority find it difficult to be honest, because they see so many oppor­tunities for dishonesty. Why is it is impossible for lawmakers, who themselves circumvent the law, to make new laws quickly enough to thwart newly invented corrupt schemes?

The doctrines of Christ are in a certain sense responsible for all this. Christ has given liberty (from the constraints of the Law Covenant) to His followers that they have covenanted to use by following in His footsteps, even laying down their lives in service. This same liberty, however, and the light that Christ and His followers have shown upon a darkened world, have given rise to cunning and craft when received into unsanctified hearts and minds. As proof of this we find that so-called Christian nations have often been the most brutal and corrupt, while other nations which have not received this reflected light of Christianity have been relatively less so. Only as Christian civili­zation in a perverted form has reached these peoples have they caught up with Christendom.

THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS IS COMING

Notwithstanding the nearly twenty centuries of delay, the prophecy will surely be fulfilled by and through the One whom the angels announced and whose birth we celebrate at this season. Many have gotten the impression that our Redeemer has been waging an unsuccessful war against Satan, sin and death during these long centuries. We learn this, however, from the Great Teacher’s own words: “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) That is, His Kingdom is not of this age; it belongs to the age to come. The ruler of this world has been Satan. The dominion of earth was originally given to man, but Satan having deceived our race, putting darkness for light, has become the real ruler, using humanity merely as his tools. Scripturally he is styled “the god of this world,” and “the prince of this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4; John 14:30)

Perplexed and confused, many question if there is hope for the fulfillment of the promised peace and good will. We answer: Our Master, who declared that He was not the Prince of this World, declared also that His Kingdom will be introduced with power and great glory. (Matt. 24:30) Although its initial manifestation will be with clouds, darkness, and a Time of Trouble, nevertheless His Reign will be glorious, triumphant and eternal. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor. 15:25) Immanuel’s victory means the overthrow of sin, the crushing of the Serpent’s head. At the very beginning of the glorious Reign of Messiah, Satan will be bound, and following its close he will be destroyed in the Second Death. All those who love unrighteousness, after having had full opportunity for recovery from the snares of sin and death, will also be destroyed. (Acts 3:23) Then the whole world will indeed be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. (Hab. 2:14) The Great King, who died the Just for the unjust, that He might bring mankind back into harmony with God, is to be the great Restorer of all that was lost in Adam; and He will make all things new. (1 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 21:5)

Everything relating to this great Plan of Salvation outlined in the Word of God is reasonable. The crucial testing of the elect Church is necessary in order that, as faithful and merciful priests of God and of Christ, associated with Him in His kingly glory, they may be God’s instruments in succoring mankind from the fallen conditions which have resulted from six thousand years of sin and from the malignant influence of the Prince of Darkness. The thousand years which the Bible stipulates as the period of Messiah’s Reign is a period neither too long nor too short in which to accomplish the world’s salvation.

Some may say, if the entire Gospel Age has been required for the development of the Church, how much more time will be necessary for the uplifting of the world? But, we answer, it is not the Divine purpose to uplift the world to spirit nature and glory, but rather to Restitution blessings and conditions. It is because of the high exaltation offered to the Church that such crucial testings of sacrificial obedience even unto death have been required. When the Prince of Darkness has been bound and the Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in His beams, the darkness of sin, crime and sorrow will soon flee away. One century of such blessed influence upon the world will surely work wonders, bringing in also inventions, blessings and comforts as yet unimagined

Next will come the gradual awakening of all who have fallen asleep in death. They will come forth from the prison-house of death, as the Scriptures declare; they will come forth that they may be made acquainted with the true God, with His glorious Son, our Redeemer, and with the principles of righteousness in contrast with the principles of sin.

Under these conditions, we cannot suppose that it will take long for the majority of mankind to accept the value of the blessings of everlasting life and Restitution proffered them. The uplifting and regeneration will progress rapidly, while in the meantime, generation after generation will come forth from the tomb to enjoy similar experiences, finally all will have come forth. The love of God provided for this through the death of our Redeemer, who delighted to do the Father’s will, and has been rewarded gloriously with high exaltation to the Divine plane of glory, honor and immortality.

GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN

Many, having become discouraged by the seemingly poor prospects for the world’s conver­sion, have chosen to accept another translation of the angels’ song, rendering it, “And on earth peace, among men of good will.” Were this the correct thought, all our hopes would be dashed as there have been relatively few men of good will throughout history. It would also make void the prayer our Master taught His disciples: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” This translation could not be the correct thought since it is not in harmony with what we have clearly seen to be the plan of God for mankind.

Attaining the condition of good will toward (among) men will mean the attainment of human perfection. We are told, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Therefore, when our first parents were created an earthly image of God, love must have been the predominant quality of their characters. The selfishness we see is largely a matter of heredity and all society’s customs promote it. It continually increases its hold upon us.

But with the new King and the new Reign of Righteousness will come the glorious uplifting and transformation. Gradually, during the thousand years of Messiah’s rule, the evils of selfishness will be made apparent, and the beauties of holiness and love will be shown in contrast. Restitution rewards will lift mankind up out of sin and selfishness to holiness and love. Then, with love as the very essence of man’s being, good will among men will everywhere prevail; for the Divine Law, almost effaced through the reign of sin, will be rewritten in the human constitution. (Jer. 31:33)

That Law is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27)

The great Divine Plan of the Ages is rolling onward towards completion; and at every stage its progress makes for fresh blessings and fresh revelations of the glorious things which God hath purposed in Himself from before the foundation of the world. Truly, God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, and His thoughts than man’s thoughts! (Isa. 55:9)

(The above is based on various writings of Pastor Russell)

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NO. 735: “WHO IS WORTHY?”

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 735

“And I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’” (Rev. 5:1-2, RSV)

The mystery of the Divine Plan, hidden from the world and from nominal Christians in parables, figures and symbols - hidden from all except the fully consecrated children of God - is most beautifully symbolized in the Book of Revelation. In the vision, John was shown a symbolic panorama of the Father seated upon His throne of glory, holding in His right hand a scroll sealed with seven seals. The scroll does not symbolize the Bible, but rather the Divine Plan, with its times and seasons. While the Bible is indeed a record of God’s plan, He had the plan from the very beginning, before the Bible was written. It was the mystery, the secret of the Lord, unknown to anyone but Himself - His plan for the salvation of the world.

In the symbol John heard the proclamation, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” In other words, who is worthy to open and execute the great Divine Plan, wonderful for its wisdom and love, for its lengths and breadths and depths and heights past human comprehension? A silence followed the question, and John “wept much.” He feared this signified that none would be found worthy, that the Divine Plan would never be fully revealed and therefore never fully executed. But the angel again touched him and said, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev. 5:4-5, RSV)

Is the Divine Plan really a secret? Are not God’s arrangements so plain that “the wayfaring men, though fools [unlearned], shall not err therein?” (Isa. 35:8) Are not the steps of the plan of salvation simple enough for a child to understand?

Evidently not! Differing opinions about the Divine Plan are everywhere. Not only are there a great variety of utterly false non-Christian theories, but Christian people have various theories that are in direct oppo­sition to each other. Even among the scholars of the various sects of Christendom there are differing conceptions of God’s intentions and methods.

Some claim God’s plan to be one of “Free Grace,” by which He gives an equal opportunity to all to share in it. Yet, looking about us it is evident all are not equally privileged; all are not equally informed; all are not equally circum­stanced. Others claim God’s plan is one of “Election.” They deny that grace is free to all, holding that it is restricted to the favored few. Besides these two theories, we have various other conflicting theories, and the most obtuse thinker must admit that if there is so much disagreement among theologians, college professors and doctors of divinity, the unlearned “wayfaring man” has many chances to err.

It is then quite literally true that the Lord’s plan is a secret: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” (Psa. 25:14) He did not disclose it to the angels - not even to the Logos. Nor did He disclose its time features fully to our Lord Jesus while He was in the flesh. And after His resurrection Jesus spoke of these things saying, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7)

All the Prophets spoke more or less obscurely and in parables, including the Great Prophet, our Lord Jesus, of whom it is written that He taught the people in parables and dark sayings: “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.” (Matt. 13:34-35; Psa. 78:2) Never­theless, He promised that in due time the Holy Spirit would guide His true disciples into all truth and would show them things to come. (John 16:13)

 THE DIVINE SCROLL

The scroll representing God’s Word has writing on the inside and outside. The things written on the outside represent the easy and simple things of the Bible, like histories, most of its precepts and exhortations and some of its doctrine. Those things written on the inside and sealed by seven seals represent the secret features of the Bible, which could not be made known to men until someone was found worthy to open the seals. They could not be understood until the due time for Jesus to open the seals and expound to God’s elect people (“them that fear Him”) the things inside. Of Jesus the testimony was given: “Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10, RSV)

God had intimated to Abraham that He had a plan for the fallen race. He declared to Abraham unconditionally that He would bless the world of mankind. (Gen. 22:18) He also later pointed out through the types and shadows of the Law certain features of the plan by which He would bless the world. He declared that there would be a Redeemer, but kept secret who the Redeemer would be. Both angels and men desired to know but they were not permitted the knowledge. The inspired Prophets spoke concerning this Redeemer, but they did not understand the meaning of their own words.

In due time the Logos was sent forth. A loyal Son before He was sent, He undertook to do the Father’s will, not yet knowing what it would cost to be the Messiah, for God had kept these things secret. He manifested His faith and His trust; He delighted to do the Father’s will, even to the taking of a lower nature. He humbled Himself from His previous glorious condition and took the human nature. He became a man - a perfect man, not a sinful man. Our Lord did this in order to carry out the great program which the Father had in His own mind and which He had not revealed to any other.

Great was the favor bestowed upon the Strong One of the Tribe of Judah in being permitted to open the seals - to carry out and make manifest the grand designs of infinite love - and great is the privilege of those who are permitted to look thereon as the seals are opened.

When Jesus reached the age of thirty, the earliest age at which He could present Himself to God under the Law, He went to Jordan and made a consecration of Himself with the determination to do everything that was in the Father’s plan - every­thing that typically and prophetically had been written in the Holy Scriptures concerning Him. “Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Psa. 40:7-8; Heb. 10:7,9)

This was our Lord’s consecration. His human nature became His sacrifice; He laid down His life. He did not finish laying down His life at Jordan; but so far as His will was concerned, He committed it there. He there became the Priest, the great High Priest, His flesh being typed by the bullock of sin-offering, sacrificed on Israel’s Day of Atonement. During the three and a half years of His ministry He carried out this sacrificing satisfactorily, and everything the Father gave Him to do was finished at the cross.

THE DEEP THINGS UNFOLDED AT JORDAN

Our Lord Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit when He came up out of the water at His baptism and the heavens were opened to Him. The Scriptures were unfolded to His view and the higher things which He had not previously understood became clear. He knew He was going up to Jerusalem to be crucified. He knew that He would be betrayed by one of His chosen disciples, and He knew which of them would be the betrayer. He knew these things because He had been begotten of the Holy Spirit and accepted of God as a Son on the Divine plane. (Mark 1:10-11)

During the three and a half years of His ministry He was the Messiah, the One sent of God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He had sacrificed His will, but this was not sufficient. God wished Him to sacrifice not only His will, but actually to lay down His human life. And God purposed to prove Him by certain crucial tests. So He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) When all His tests were completed at His death on the cross, God gave Him a name at which all should bow, both in heaven and in earth. (Phil. 2:10)

Here we find the answer to the words “Who is worthy?” This inquiry encompassed the period from before Jesus came into the world until His resurrection from the grave. God had given the most honorable One of all the host of heaven the first opportunity to prove His worthiness to loosen the scroll of God’s great plan and to fulfill its provisions. He was given this opportunity because, as the First-born of the Father, He had the right to the first privilege of service, and He did not allow the privilege to go to waste. He accepted it; He was faithful; He humbled Himself to the human nature. Being born as a man to the Tribe of Judah, He thus became the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, a title He did not have in His position as the Logos. It was as the Son of Mary that He was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David.

PROCLAIMED WORTHY BY THE ANGELS

Our Lord’s worthiness was not proven when He was born as a man; it was not proven when He made His consecration. It was only when He finished His course in death that He was proven worthy to receive glory, honor and power. The demonstration was not complete until He cried with His dying breath, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) From the time of Adam until Jesus no one had been found worthy to open the great scroll. But then John the Revelator depicted Jesus thus: “And I beheld, and, lo . . . a Lamb as it had been slain.” Myriads of Angels were then heard proclaiming, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” (Rev 5:6, 11-12)

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension the scroll was given into His hands to be opened, meaning that the Divine Plan as a whole was then made known to Him. He already had knowledge of much of it, the part of the plan that was written on the outside of the scroll. But then all things were then given to Him to unloose, the part written on the inside. While still in the flesh He had said, “But of that day and that hour [of His second coming] knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32) The things that were sealed were not proper to be understood by our Redeemer until He had received all power, after His resurrection. The execution of God’s plan was then given into His hands.

Our Lord Jesus had proven His loyalty to the Heavenly Father by His obedience, not only in humbling Himself to take man’s estate for the suffering of death, but also in His obedience “unto death, even the [ignominious] death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) Then and there He proved Himself worthy of every confidence and trust. As the Apostle declares, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

Thus is pictured the high exaltation of the Heavenly Father’s representative, the “Messenger [servant] of the Covenant.” (Mal. 3:1) Because of His humility, complete submission and obedience to the Father’s will, He is proclaimed thenceforth the sharer of the Father’s throne. Finally “every creature” will understand that God has very highly exalted His Only Begotten Son, even to association with Himself in the Kingdom, and shout their approval, saying, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13)

No wonder, we are instructed henceforth: “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23)

GRADUAL OPENING OF THE SEALS

Then came the opening of the seals, the revealing by Jesus, the disclosing of one after another of the various features connected with the Divine purpose. Each seal as it was loosed permitted the scroll as a whole to open a little wider, and a little wider, thus permitting “the mystery of God” to be a little more clearly discerned, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 13:35)

The opening of the seals has progressed all during the Gospel Age. The whole plan of God is represented in this scroll. It has required all of the present age and will require all of the next age to complete the plan. The Plan of God includes the “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21)

We are now able to see these wonderful things and to tell about them, because each of the seals as it has been opened has made the plan a little clearer. We may suppose that the Lord Jesus was made aware of all its features after He ascended to the presence of the Father. We who are God’s people seek to know these things more and more fully. The Master declared that as the Father revealed them to Him, so would He reveal them to us; but this revelation has been gradual, as the successive seals have been broken.

Brethren, beloved in Christ, realizing that our God has counted us worthy to look upon the wondrous scroll of His great Plan, which has been unsealed for us by Jesus our Lord, let us continue to prove ourselves worthy to look therein and comprehend the glorious things of His Word, by faithfulness, obedience and loyalty to His plan in everything! Let our appreciation continually increase for our wondrous privilege in being permitted to share this blessed ministry of bearing Divine Truth to other hungry hearts that they also may rejoice in the Lord and in the power of His might!

(Based on several writings of Pastor Russell, primarily reprint 5943)

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ATTEMPTED ENTRAPMENT

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.” (Matt. 22:15)

The Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious leaders at the time of our Lord’s first advent. Having formed an alliance or federation of sorts, they rarely attacked each other, although their doctrines were directly opposed. The Pharisees acknowledged God, the Prophets and the Law, and believed in a future life by a resurrection from the dead. They believed a coming Messiah would exalt their nation and through it bless the world. The Sadducees, on the other hand, believed none of these things – they were agnostics, the “Higher Critics” of their time. They sought to make the best of the present life, doubting any future life existed.

The Pharisees opposed Jesus because He did not acknowledge their religious authority. He instead criticized them and exposed their hypocrisies in claiming to be perfect and holy in the keeping of the Law. He also reproved them for their lack of sympathy for the poor and less prominent.

The Sadducees also opposed Jesus because, as unbelievers, they considered Him a fraud. Even so, they only bothered themselves to oppose Him because they perceived that He was gaining influence with the people. They feared this influ­ence might sooner or later lead to some disturbance of the peace and influence the Roman Empire against the Jews. So while the Sadducees and Pharisees both opposed Jesus, their opposition was for different reasons.

Five days before His crucifixion, Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the multitude cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:9) This awakened envy in the minds of the Pharisees, but in the Sadducees it produced fear that the common people would be incited to involve their nation in conflict with the Empire.

From the time Jesus called Lazarus back from the tomb, the Pharisees had privately determined to kill Him. (John 11:44-53) His driving out of the money-changers, etc., from the Temple was a further manifestation of His power with the common people, who would not stand by quietly and see Him injured. Whatever was done must be done quietly and quickly. Moreover, since the people revered the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees reasoned it would be desirable to have Him executed under Pilate’s decree.

But how could they bring the matter before Pilate? What charges could they make? It was the people who had proclaimed Him king and not Himself. They reasoned that they must get Him to make some treasonous statement which would result in Him being brought before Pilate as an enemy of the Roman Empire. He could then be legally executed in a manner which the public could not protest. The Pharisees wanted to turn the sympathy of the people away from the Great Teacher.

THE PHARISEES SET A TRAP

To this end, on the last day of our Lord’s public ministry (two days after His entry into Jerusalem), a group of Pharisees, along with members of another Jewish sect, the Herodians, came to Jesus seeking to entrap Him with the question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 22:17)

The Pharisees generally held that the Jews as the people of God were to be the rulers of all other peoples, and that they should never pay tribute (taxes) to other rulers. They kept these teachings privately, however, for fear of being apprehended as traitors to Rome. The Herodians sided with Herod, standing firmly and publicly for the control of the Roman Empire. They claimed that it was to the advantage of the people of Israel and that the paying of tribute was right and proper. The common people seemed to favor the view of the Pharisees and oppose the view of the Herodians.

By coming to Jesus in public, the represen­tatives of these two sects hoped to get Him to do one of two things: either agree with the Herodians that the tax was right and proper and thus break His influence with the common people, or publicly side with the Pharisees and common people, declaring the tax improper and contrary to the Divine will, thus labeling Himself as a traitor and a leader of sedition.

They artfully endeavored to ensnare the Master by prefacing their question with a compliment upon His truthfulness, impressing upon Him their appreciation of Him as a Teacher: “Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.” (Matt. 22:16)

These treacherous compliments were intended to entrap Him, but He promptly answered, “Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? [Why do you veil your base designs under guise of speaking for the Truth?] Show me the tribute money.” They handed Him a denarius inscribed with Caesar’s likeness and superscription. Jesus then asked, “Whose is this image and superscription?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Jesus replied, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:18-21)

Jesus did not go into a discourse on the advantages to the Jewish nation from the protection of Rome, nor did He declare that the tribute tax was just in every respect. But He did sum up the matter in those few words: If Caesar had just claims against them, they were to render to him accordingly. This would not interfere with God’s just claims which they should be equally ready to meet. This answer was not an evasion of the question. It was an answer in the full sense, far beyond what his questioners could fully comprehend.

They did comprehend, however, that they had failed to entrap Him. He had answered their question in a manner which would never have occurred to them, and they saw that He had a wisdom far beyond theirs and beyond all natural earthly wisdom. He had the wisdom from above: pure, peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and good deeds. (Jas. 3:17)

THE SADDUCEES’ ATTEMPT

Having failed, the Pharisees and Herodians left; but then on the same day the Sadducees came to Jesus. These agnostics, who did not believe in a resurrection, tried to entrap the Great Teacher by asking one of their stock questions: Seven brothers in turn married the same woman and all died before she did. They asked, “Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven?” (Matt. 22:28) They did not ask whose wife she would be in heaven or eternal torture or purgatory, for neither Jesus nor any of the Jewish sects held any such belief. The Pharisees and Jesus taught the resurrection of the dead, and it was against this teaching that the Sadducees aimed their sarcastic question, which aimed to show an absurdity in the doctrine of a future life, implying that human affairs would be so muddled that all eternity would not straighten them out.

Note the majesty of the Master’s answer: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:29-30) The Sadducees did not understand the Scripture teachings and ignored the great Divine power to be exercised at the resurrection, which will straighten out all difficulties. The Great Teacher explained that those who would gradually attain the resurrection, the complete raising up out of sin and death conditions, would be sexless, as are the angels. The crowds who heard this were astonished at Jesus’ teaching. Thus the supposed great and unanswerable question of the Sadducees fell flat and their ignorance was exposed.

ONE LAST QUESTION

When the Pharisees learned that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they again gathered together to question Him. One of them who was a lawyer (one considered an expert in religious law) questioned Jesus about the relative importance of the Divine commandments, asking which com­mandment Jesus considered the greatest one of all. This perhaps was another attempt to entrap Jesus or it may have been asked in all sincerity, the lawyer having witnessed how well Jesus answered previous questions.

The Great Teacher promptly divided the Ten Commandments into two, quoting from the Old Testament. He answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great [chief] commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40; Deut. 6:5)

What could the lawyer say to such a summarization of the Law? He had nothing left to say. He had never before heard such an answer. Who today, hundreds of years later, could more completely summarize the great truth of this text? Heavenly Wisdom was manifested in the original statement and the same Heavenly Wisdom was manifested when our Lord quoted it; He added nothing, because nothing could be added.

We see more and more clearly the power of this statement. Love is the principal thing! In times past many might have changed this statement to conform to their creeds, making it convey the idea that we should dread, fear, and tremble, because the Almighty God of the Universe purposed to eternally torment the great majority of humanity. The Bible stands distinctly separate from all human creeds and superstitions, and tells us that God is love, that He is the Father of light and mercy, from whom comes every good and perfect gift. (1 John 4:16: Jas. 1:17)

THEN JESUS ASKED THE QUESTIONS

The Great Teacher then asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” They answered, “The son of David.” He then asked, “How then doth David in spirit [prophetically] call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (Matt. 22:42-45)

This question was of course too deep for the Pharisees. The Great Teacher could answer all of their questions, but they could not answer His. How beautifully clear we see it: Messiah, “according to the flesh,” was born of the lineage of David (Rom. 1:3), but God’s purposes were not fully accom­plished in Messiah of the flesh. He laid down His flesh sacrificially and was raised from the dead to the plane of glory, honor and immortality. We perceive that while in the flesh He was the Son of David, but in His glorification He is David’s Lord. Through Him, David will in due time receive not only resurrection from the dead, but also the blessing of participating in the Messianic Kingdom.

The father of Messiah in the flesh will thus become the son of the Messiah of glory, whose earthly life is to be the restitution price for the whole world, including David. Thus it is written, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes [rulers] in all the earth.” (Psa. 45:16)

(Based on several Reprints, including 4686, 3852 and 5521)


 


NO. 734: TIMES OF REFRESHING - TIMES OF RESTITUTION

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 734

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21)

It has been our custom for many years to pay tribute at this time of year to Pastor Russell, That Wise and Faithful Servant, to commemorate his death on October 31, 1916. We believe his steward­ship doctrine was a correct understanding of the Atonement, the central teaching of which is Restitution. It has been said that once Brother Russell received the Truth on this doctrine, he never delivered a public discourse in which Restitution did not have a prominent place. In keeping with this, we present this treatise.

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In Acts 3:19-24 the Apostle Peter called to the attention of the Jews the promise that God had made to Abraham, saying, “And in thy seed shall all the nations [peoples] of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) The word “restitution” in the text means restoration; or, as Rotherham states it, “the times of the due establishment of all things . . . But, indeed, all the prophets, – from Samuel and those following after, as many as have spoken, have even announced these days.” (Acts 3:19-24, Rotherham) The Apostle Peter here describes the refreshing times to come, as opposed to the present dry and dying condition of the human race – which he elsewhere likens to grass that withers and sears for lack of rain. (1 Pet. 1:24) He proceeds to stress that the Prophet Samuel and all who came after him had spoken of these refreshing times to come.

This was one of the first public speeches that came from any of the Apostles after Pentecost, and it is in fact just another way of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Often it is recorded of Jesus that He went about “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23; Matt. 9:35; Mark 1:14), which the Apostle Peter here declares to be the “times of restitution.”

It would seem that such an important and far-reaching doctrine as this should have prominent recognition wherever and whenever the Christian religion is preached. But what do we find? So far as we are concerned, we have never once heard Acts 3:19-24 even mentioned from the pulpits of Big Babylon, much less has any attempt been made to explain it. Since men usually preach the things they understand and love, we can but conclude that the silence on this part of Scripture is due to the lack of knowledge of those who should be declaring it.

All during the Gospel Age, since the death of the Apostles (or shortly thereafter), the doctrine of Restitution was completely lost, as represented by parable of the woman who had ten pieces of silver, lost one and sought diligently until she found it. She then called her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” (Luke 15:8-9) The woman in the parable is the Church, which lost sight of one cardinal doctrine of the Bible – Restitution – and it was not until the Harvest that this great Truth was with great rejoicing once more recognized. After the Harvest work had attracted a following, and the Pilgrims began to circulate, That Servant often urged them all to preach Restitution. That was especially emphasized with the Sunday speakers that were sent from the Bible House on weekends. It was indeed “Good Tidings of Great Joy” to all who received it with grateful hearts.

RESTORING THAT WHICH WAS LOST

Jesus said, “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) After the transgression in the Garden of Eden four things were lost – things which man once had in his pristine purity. (1) He lost his intimate and friendly relationship with his Creator. (2) He lost his perfect home: “The Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man.” (Gen. 3:23-24) (3) He lost his original dominion over earth: “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:26) Noting this loss of dominion, the Apostle Paul said, “But now we see not yet all things put under him.” (Heb. 2:8) (4) He lost his life. Man was not created to die – he was created to live – and the Scripture is clear enough that he would have continued to “live forever” had he remained in his perfect Edenic home, from which he was driven out “lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.” (Gen. 3:22)

Just as four things were lost, there are four component parts to the Restitution, the restoration, as clearly set forth in Psa. 103:2-5: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: [1] Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; [2] Who healeth all thy diseases; [3] Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; [4] Who crowneth thee with loving­kindness and tender mercies . . . thy youth is renewed like the eagles.”

The first of these processes came without any effort on man’s part and generally with little or no knowledge that he is receiving this “benefit.” St. Paul says of us who presently believe, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Thus, Christ made Himself an offering for sin for us before we knew anything about it being done. He “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:6) In “due time” all men will recognize what we now know – that a propitiation for sins was provided by the Redeemer without men asking for it – Christ forgives all iniquities.

The same may be said for the second Restitution process, the healing all diseases. In the resurrection day it is self-evident that the disease which brought man to the grave must be cured before his awakening; otherwise, he would immediately die again. The natural and artificial causes that have caused death for centuries must be eliminated in all men before they are returned from the grave. This also will be accomplished without men asking for it.

The third process will operate somewhat differently. Redemption from destruction will require cooperation on the part of the recipient. “God our savior . . . will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3-4) But this knowledge of the Truth will not be forced down the throats of the unwilling; they must show some desire for it and willingly cooperate in the educational process. That educational process will not only teach men the religious truth on the facts of life and death, it will also teach them the physical, mental, moral and religious philosophies of life which will enable them to live forever in perpetual youth. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” (Hos. 13:14) That power which now turns man to destruction, to the grave, will be stayed. Death will be deprived of its present power over all. Then will come to pass the prophecy: “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall return to the days of his youth.” (Job 33:24-25)

The fourth process, the “crowning,” will also require the cooperation of the recipient, who will receive it with a clear understanding of its import. It is emphasized in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” (Matt. 25:34) In times past, when a prince inherited a kingdom from his father, he was seated on the throne and a crown placed upon his head. Figuratively speaking, this same procedure will be followed when the Restitution process is complete. Each one of the “sheep” will inherit a kingdom – perfect human life with its accompanying life rights – just as Adam had in Eden when he was given dominion over all things on earth. He was then in every sense a monarch over all he surveyed.

However, the Restitution processes cannot be completed fully until the causes that now send men to the grave have been eliminated. St. John states this very graphically: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men . . . And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)

The angel who gave those words to John evidently realized the disbelief with which the message would be received by the present sick and dying race, for he then emphasized it with these words: “Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:5)

The logical conclusion is that the Restitution processes will eliminate all crime, thievery, violence, moral depravity, and sickness. There will be no more need for locked doors; no more destructive armies; no more rigid police protection. “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isa. 2:4)

THEN COMETH THE END

St. Paul graphically confirms this outcome: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [Jesus] of them that slept. For since by man [Adam] came death, by [a] man [Jesus] came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die [all who were in Adam die; this would exclude Jesus, for He was never in Adam], even so [all who are] in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits [meaning the entire Christ Company, and not merely Jesus only]; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming [presence]. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and all power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:20-26)

“The end” is the end of the Little Season, when Christ will have ruled over the earth to the full elimination of Satan and his evil acts and death and the dying process. The “last enemy” is the dying process – all the mental, moral, physical and religious ills now prevalent in the human race. Then the conclusion of St. Paul will be realized: “That through death he [Jesus] might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14)

The foregoing is vividly illustrated in what is perhaps the grandest type of the entire Old Testament: “And the Lord said unto Moses [type of Christ], Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians [Pharaoh and his hosts being typical of Satan and his henchmen] . . . and the sea returned to his strength . . . and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea . . . and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.” (Exod. 14:26-31) The destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea typically sets forth how Satan and all who are on his side will be forever destroyed. The “goats” of the parable in Matt. 25:31-46 will come to their complete annihilation, leaving the “sheep” as the unmolested and perfected rulers of all they survey – free from all the evils that Satan’s deceptions have inflicted upon the human race.

DOCTRINE OF RESTITUTION DISTORTED

That Servant gave a very clear and convincing presentation of the Times of Restitution; and his entire following was almost a solid unit in accepting it the way he taught it. But what do we find since his death? We find many who once seemed to understand the subject have now perverted it out of all recognition to the manner in which they had once accepted it. Chief among these are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who now have consigned Adam to annihilation, which is actually a denial of the Ransom – although they would not admit that.

Since Adam was the only perfect man on earth aside from Jesus Himself, and since the word Ransom itself means a corresponding price, an exact duplicate, Adam is actually the only one who could be ransomed. Therefore, St. Paul gives the philosophy: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22) When ransom was provided for Adam, that act became the inheritance for all of us – just as all of us inherited the death penalty for sin passed on him. The Witnesses now leave out a very large section of the human race in their presentation of Restitution. To all who understand the philosophy of the Ransom, it is an elementary conclusion that if Adam is not to be awakened, none of the rest of the world will be awakened.

They are now telling us that all living today who do not accept them will never be awakened, although they admit that Satan is still blinding the eyes of unbelievers. They are dividing the Sheep from the Goats now during this Time of Trouble when, more than ever, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” (2 Cor. 4:4) They tell us that those who will never be awakened will therefore never have the opportunity of Restitution when the Devil is bound, and nothing but truth will be taught.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us this: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. . . . And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.” (Isa. 35:5,8) The highway is the established New Covenant. It will not be a “narrow way” but instead a public roadway, open to all. The unclean who refuse to go up it will “be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) Also Rev. 22:5 tells us, “And there shall be no night [error] there.”

When the Jehovah’s Witnesses say all present “unbelievers” in them will be annihilated in the approaching Armageddon, it is a far cry from the “good news” taught by That Servant, who had a message of hope for the groaning creation. And they claim That Servant as their founder! He is not the founder of their errors; he was the founder of The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, which the errorists took over after his death. Their teachings reveal that they do not understand, or will not accept, the meaning of “the gospel of the Kingdom,” as St. Paul so clearly states: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8) Most of these “heathen” have never intelligently heard the name of Christ (nor have they heard of the Jehovah’s Witnesses).

According to the Witnesses, this annihi­lation in Armageddon will include the majority of the people living – quite a few of whom are honorable, benevolent and kind – their besetting sin being that they cannot accept the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their errors. They can no longer teach: “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29) (Judgment is mistranslated damnation in the King James Version. Judgment is for all restitutionists. See Diaglott.)

Nor can they teach: “There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15) For a number of years they put forth their “Jonadabs” as the Restitution class. They still retain much the same view, except that they now call their Jonadabs the Great Multitude of Rev. 7:9-17. All Bible logic is against such an interpretation, because the language and setting of Revelation 7 clearly depict a class on the spirit plane – “before the throne – which is in Heaven. They have set aside That Servant’s interpretation of this text and substituted their own interpretation, which is error.

We continue to teach the Gospel of Christ, the Good Tidings to all mankind, the grand and glorious Restitution work of that blessed Kingdom, which will include all current unbelievers as well as current believers in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Another group, The Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement, also teaches a superior Restitution class that is being developed now – “Consecrated Epiphany Campers.” To refute this error we need only bear in mind that we are still in the Gospel Age, the Faith Age; and during this Age the merit of Jesus is only for Himself and His house – for all those who honestly accept Him as their Savior and walk a “narrow way.” During this Faith Age there is only one place where His merit can be obtained, and that is inside the Court of the antitypical Gospel-Age Tabernacle. The LHMM has their non-existent class outside the linen curtain of the Gospel-Age Tabernacle – outside the righteousness of Christ in this Faith Age.

Jesus said, “I am the way” (John 14:6) and there is only one manner in which that “way” can be obtained, and that is by taking the step from the Camp, through the antitypical Tabernacle Gate, and into the Court, whereby “justification by faith” has been obtainable all during the Faith Age. It is still the only way, because we are still in the Gospel (faith) Age. We would emphasize that a place in the typical Tabernacle represents a condition in this Faith Age antitype.

For those who have received Harvest Truth, there would seem to be little excuse for such distortions. According to the Prophet Malachi, one of the specific missions of Jesus at His Second Advent would be to “sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Mal. 3:3) The “silver” in this text represents the Truth and the Truth has shone with great brilliance during the Harvest period. While the Truth on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the state of the dead, etc., were understood fairly well by some groups in Christendom before 1874, it remained for the Harvest Messenger to refine and elaborate upon every one of them with telling force. The word “purifier” in our text is from the Hebrew taher, one meaning of which is to make bright or to polish. Thus, at His Second Advent our Lord not only refines, purges the dross of error from the Truth, but He also brightens or polishes it.

Note that He “shall sit” as a refiner and polisher. At the time of the First Advent it was the custom for a speaker to sit, while the audience stood. In the Talmud the phrase to sit is almost synonymous with to teach. Jesus was indeed the teacher; but when He said the Scribes and Pharisees “sit in Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2), He meant they were setting themselves forth as the teachers of the people – just as Moses had done when he gave them the Law at Sinai. Jesus now sits on His throne, as does a king and as a judge sits on his bench, etc. Thus, He is the executive, the authority, the official opponent of error and developer of the Truth. This is true not only of religious truth, but also to a large degree of secular truth. Satan has done an excellent job of corrupting secular and religious truth over the centuries, and none but our all-powerful Divine Lord is capable of undoing the damage. He has come with the “golden crown” on His head as evidence that He has the power and the authority to eliminate the damage of the past. (Rev. 14:14)

To polish anything requires a cleansing agent to be applied with muscular strength. Since 1874 especially, this has been accomplished mainly through much controversy. The Truth comes out in controversy; those who object to controversy are actually objecting to one of the special missions of our Lord since 1874, and are imposing a deception on those who listen to them.

Our chief purpose in giving this explanation is to focus attention upon the “outer darkness” of those who once saw Restitution in its brilliance and clarity, but who have now sullied it so badly by their perversions (See Matt. 25:30 on the “unprof­itable servant” with the Berean Comments). The evidence clearly points to something being woefully wrong in the hearts of such.

“ALL MEN TO BE SAVED” – SOME CONTRARY VIEWS

Like all other fundamental teachings of the Bible, the text stating that God “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), has been given the extremes of erroneous interpretation. Some contend that if God will have all men to be saved, that is a guarantee of eternal life for every human being that has ever lived. Universalism goes even further, insisting that even the Devil and his angels will also eventually be saved, despite the clear statement of St. Paul to the contrary. (Heb. 2:14) Others contend that God would like to have all men saved, but He just can’t seem to accomplish it. All of these perversions are based upon a misunderstanding of the salvation process.

God will have all men to be saved. But saved from what, to what? St. Paul offers us the proper help: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) All of Adam’s progeny inherited the death sentence from him through no fault of their own. It is relief from that sentence from which God wishes all men to be saved. Often in human affairs we hear of a condemned man being “saved from execution” by official decree; but that does not mean that he will continue to live forever. It simply means that he is saved from the sentence passed upon him by the judicial process.

Much the same explanation may be given for the entire human race being saved; they will be saved from the sentence now hanging over them, and thenceforth will be given the privilege of regaining perfect life, as Adam had it, if they wish to take advantage of it. If they do, they will be classified as the “sheep” of the parable; if they do not, they will be classified as the “goats” of the parable, and will be sentenced to death once more – for their own transgression, not for one inherited from another.

This is well stated by the Prophet Jeremiah: “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29-30) No longer will the iniquities of the fathers be visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. (Exod. 20:5)

Some years back we corresponded with a preacher who insisted that St. Paul’s words mean that every man will eventually receive eternal life – although there is just nothing in the text to warrant such a conclusion. Man will be relieved from the present load upon his back, and given the opportunity, under favorable conditions, to free himself from its effects if he will take advantage of the opportunity. Nothing more than that; nothing less. The preacher argued that the “everlasting punishment” of Matt. 25:46 simply means “age-lasting” and that man will continue to receive one opportunity after another – for a full Age – until he eventually avails himself of eternal life. But the same Greek adjective aionios is used to describe both the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the unrighteous. This would force the logical conclusion that the life received by the sheep will also be limited to the Age. Note the footnote for verse 46 in the Emphatic Diaglott:

“The Common Version, and many modern ones, render kolasin aionioon, everlasting punish­ment, conveying the idea, as generally interpreted, of basinos, torment. Kolasin . . . is derived from kolazoo, which signifies [primarily] to cut off; as lopping off branches of trees, to prune . . . The righteous go to life, the wicked to the cutting off from life, or death.”

If we cut the limb from a tree, we know that limb will no longer continue to live; it withers and disintegrates – in much the same manner that Adam withered for 930 years, then disintegrated in the grave. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:19)

“THE MEEK SHALL EAT AND BE SATISFIED”

At the birth of Jesus the angel declared, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10) St. John elaborated: “He is the propitiation for our sins [those who accept Him in this present Age]: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

As we look back with joy at the Savior’s birth and the subsequent atonement for all people, so the ancients looked forward to it. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56) A beautiful prophecy on the subject is presented in Psalm 72: “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth [times of refreshing]. In his days shall the righteous flourish [the sheep of the parable]; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth . . . Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him . . . daily shall he be praised . . . they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth . . . All nations shall call him blessed . . . Let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” Truly, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil. 2:10-11)

Biblical names are often significant of the character and accomplishments of the persons to whom they are given. Thus, Jesus is the Latin word for Joshua, or Jeshua, which means “Yahweh is salvation,” the name being very expressive of the work He would do. Thus, He not only delivers, or saves believers in this Age, but in the next Age He will deliver the world in general from the sentence now resting upon men. This He will accomplish by His Priestly, Mediatorial, Kingly, Legislative, Judicial, Prophetic and Paternal offices, by His good Word and works. He “forgiveth all thine iniquities.” (Psa. 103:3) He is indeed “mighty to save!” (Isa. 63:1)

Then will be realized the words: “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever . . . all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations . . . A seed shall serve him . . . They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born.” (Psa. 22:26-31)

(Reprint of an article by Brother John J. Hoefle, with some modifications. Originally printed in No. 217, July 1, 1973.)

P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246; epiphanybiblestudents@gmail.com