NO. 740: THE LESSON OF EASTER

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 740

“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” (Rev. 1:18)

We must not allow Easter Sunday to pass without noting its unique lesson – the resurrection of the Savior from the dead. The above text comes to us as fresh as though delivered yesterday from the lips of the risen Redeemer. It is His special message to His people. How much is conveyed in these few words! They affirm positively that Jesus really died, “the just for the unjust,” that He might bring mankind back from sin and condemnation to harmony with God. (1 Pet. 3:18) With equal force they tell us that He is dead no longer. Although unseen by our natural eyes, we may recognize by faith that He arose from the dead and ascended up on high. (Heb. 9:24)

What was accomplished by His death and what is the value of His life to mankind?

His death was necessary because death was the sentence against Adam and all his race because of original sin – disobedience. St. Paul says, “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) It was not an angel that had sinned and hence an angel could not be the Redeemer. The Divine Law was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; hence nothing but the sacrificial death of a perfect man could redeem the race from the death sentence. Any perfect man could have been substituted, but none existed in the whole world. Thus it was necessary that our Lord be “made flesh” so that He might redeem us. (John 1:14) As the Scriptures explain, “Though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor.” (2 Cor. 8:9) He left the perfection of the heavenly nature and came down to perfect human nature; He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” (Heb. 7:26)

The death of Jesus did not redeem the world, but it constituted a ransom price for the world yet to be applied. Our Savior laid down His life, surrendering it to the Father, in obedience to the Divine will. As a reward He was highly exalted and given a name above every name on the spirit plane. (Phil. 2:9) He did not forfeit His human rights by sin; He laid them down in obedience to the Father’s wish, to be disposed of as a bequest to humanity.

Thus we see clearly the inestimable value of our Redeemer’s sacrifice of Himself. A further glance will show His resurrection to be of equal importance. Had the Father not raised Him from the dead, it would have implied some unfaith­fulness, some failure on our Lord’s part. And if He had not arisen, how could He have made application of His human rights on our behalf? No wonder St. Paul forcefully declares: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . . ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished . . . But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.” (1 Cor. 15:14-20)

So the resurrection hopes of the Church and of the world hang upon the death of Jesus and His resurrection. The Scriptures differentiate these hopes. The Church is to share in the “first resurrection” (the chief resurrection), also called “his resurrection.” (Rev. 20:6; Phil. 3:10) It is a resurrection to the spirit nature of glory and perfection. On that glorious plane the Heavenly Bridegroom will soon claim His espoused Church as His Bride and joint-heir in His Kingdom.

Afterward the world’s resurrection will be due to begin. It will not be a resurrection change to spirit nature, nor will it be an instantaneous work. Theirs will be a gradual resurrection to perfect human nature. First they will be awakened, “every man in his own order.” (1 Cor. 15:23) Subse­quently they will be gradually raised up out of sin and death conditions to perfection of life, if they are willing to obey the great King of the Millennial Kingdom. Those refusing to obey will be destroyed in the Second Death. (Acts 3:23)

Regrettably, many Christians, including many of the clergy, fail to discern the great importance of the resurrection as taught in God’s Word. This serious omission has created confusion, leading many to reject the Word of God. Let us heed the testimony of the Bible on the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. In doing so we will surely be following the example of the Great Teacher and the Apostles. Are we wiser than they that we should leave their teachings or neglect them? Certainly not! “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” (Heb. 2:1)


DOES OUR LORD NOW OWN THE HUMAN RACE?

If someone has signed a contract to purchase a building and has secured financing for the purchase, it would be appropriate to consider that person the owner of the building. Strictly speaking, however, he is not the owner until he pays the price, the documents are properly executed, and he has the deed instead of the contract. A contract is an agreement to enter into a transaction; the deed is proof that the transaction has been completed.

Our Lord Jesus entered into a contract with the Father, giving to the Father the ransom price: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) He already has a claim to being Lord of all in a prospective sense, although not in the actual sense. He is not Lord of millions of people on earth today. Their knees have not bowed and their tongues have not confessed. (Rom. 14:11; Isa. 45:23) So He is not their Lord in the absolute sense, but His work is progressing, and in view of the authority which will yet be exercised by Him and of the work which He will yet do, the Father speaks of Him prophetically as “Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36)

Let us consider certain Scriptures bearing on this subject. We cite first the passage which refers to the dead, both good and bad, as “them which are asleep” and those who “sleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14) How are they asleep in Jesus? They sleep in Jesus in exactly the same way that Abraham and all the Old Testament kings and Prophets are said to be asleep. At the time of their death Jesus had not yet paid a ransom price for mankind, nor had He yet come into the world to do so. However, in the Divine Plan God had arranged for and guaranteed that a Redeemer would be found, that a ransom price would be given, and that all mankind would be recovered from the tomb. Further, God Himself spoke from that standpoint when referring to Himself as “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” speaking as though they were really not dead at all, but merely asleep, waiting for Him. (Exod. 3:15)

All who believed God then could speak of and think of the dead as merely asleep and awaiting the resurrection, even though Jesus had not yet come. The same is true since Jesus came and died. It is still more reasonable and proper for us now to say that all “sleep in Jesus,” because now He is identified as the one who has given Himself a ransom price for all. The price has not yet been applied for all, but He has placed in the Father’s hands His sacrificed life, which is His to appropriate and which is sufficient for the sins of the whole world. It has not as yet been appropriated for the world, but merely for the Church, for the price is first a satisfaction for the Church’s sins and afterwards for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2; John 3:16)

THE CHURCH ALONE REDEEMED THUS FAR

Next consider this text: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Pet. 1:18-19) The “ye” referred to here is the Church; the reference does not extend beyond the Church to the world. It does not imply that the world is redeemed as yet. Jesus’ merit, of course, is all-sufficient for the whole world, but He has not yet appropriated it for all men.

Consider another text: “For ye are bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:20) Similarly this text speaks not of the world, but of the Church. It is the “ye” class that were bought, but even they were not yet bought when Jesus died at Calvary. There He indeed committed to the Father’s hands a price sufficient for all (Luke 23:46); but it was not then appropriated for anyone until His resurrection and ascension, when He appeared “in the presence of God for us.” (Heb. 9:24) The “us” class, the Church, were then bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Another text: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) In one sense He was a propitiation, or satisfaction, for the sins of the Church when He died, but the satisfaction had not then been applied for the sins of the Church. When He ascended up on high He appeared for the Church (the “us” class), and made satisfaction for its sins. Therefore, as they believed and made conse­cration, their sins were remitted.

When He died, the merit of His death was also a satisfaction price for the sins of the whole world, but He has not yet applied it for the world. Hence the world is not free from the penalty of sin; it is still under condemnation. Concerning the Church, however, the Apostle says they have “escaped the corruption that is in the world.” (2 Pet. 1:4) And again he says they were “in times past . . . by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Eph. 2:3) The others, we see, are still children of wrath. The reason? It is because the satisfaction for their sins has not yet been applied. The great Redeemer has the satisfaction price; it merely awaits the due time for its application.

Notice another passage: “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (Rom. 14:9) This text succinctly states what our Lord accomplished. His death, His raising and His revival were all necessary features of the redemptive work. Further, He could not yet be Lord in any other way than by the Father’s proclaiming Him such, as when He declared Him Lord of all and when He said, “And let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb. 1:6)

Although Christ is proclaimed to be Lord of all, it will take time for that to be recognized. In harmony with this the Apostle says, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” (Eph. 1:10) It will take the fullness of the Millennial Age to accomplish this gathering together under Him, making Him in fact Lord of all. So we see that prophetically and by Divine appointment He already has that office, but now He is waiting until His enemies are brought under Him and all things are subjected to Him. (1 Cor. 15:25-27; Heb. 2:8)

A RANSOM FOR ALL

Next consider this text: “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:6) As the man Christ Jesus, He gave Himself at Jordan, surrendering His all to the Father’s will. His work of surrendering His earthly life and all His earthly rights was completed at Calvary when He cried, “It is finished.” He finished the work the Father had given Him to do. He gave Himself a ransom for all, and the merit of His death will be sufficient to constitute a ransom for all as soon as it is applied. Thus far it has been applied only for believers. The time for its application for the remainder of the world will be the Millennial Age.

While our Lord’s merit is fully appropriated during the Gospel Age for all who come unto Him, it will be fully set free when the last of the consecrated ones have passed beyond the vail. His merit has been imputed to them for the very purpose of enabling them to sacrifice, following in Christ’s footsteps. When His merit has been released by the death of the last of the consecrated, it will be again at His disposal for appropriation to the world.

Then the great High Priest will make the second sprinkling of the blood – not on behalf of the Church, because they will have no further need of it. The second sprinkling will be on behalf of “all the people” – all who will come under the New Covenant arrangement. (Lev. 16:33) Once all come to sufficient knowledge under that New Covenant, those who desire to come under the merit of our Lord’s ransom price will receive the Restitution blessings. Those who will reject the ransom price will fail to come under the merit, thus rejecting the blessings of Restitution.

Restitution blessings will come gradually throughout the Millennial Age, not instan­taneously at the beginning. The blessings will not come merely in a reckoned sense by faith; they will be actual. Throughout the Millennial Age, Christ will give mankind the benefit of our Lord’s ransom price. The full benefit of this price will not be given until the work of the Millennial Age is finished and all desiring to be God’s people, upon God’s terms, have been brought to perfection. God never intended His blessings to go to any but those who desire to be in harmony with Him on His terms. God never intended to do anything for those who are willingly and intentionally out of harmony with Him, such as Satan.

Note the agreement of this text: “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) This is God’s great work which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world – that the ransoming of Adam and all his race should be accomplished through the death of Christ. (Eph. 1:9-10) Thus Jesus tasted death for every man, whether the benefit of it was received on the Day of Pentecost or later during the Gospel Age, or whether they will get it in the Millennial Age. It is for every man that He tasted death, so that He might give them the blessings that will come to the world of mankind during the Millennial Age, blessings that will be theirs to all eternity if they are obedient.

“When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive.” (Eph. 4:8) We think another translation states it more clearly: “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives.” (Eph. 4:8, RSV) This passage (a quotation of Psa. 68:18) shows He is the leader of the entire captive race. They will all be led forth, all delivered from the power of sin and death.

THE APPLICATION OF THE PRICE

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6) This passage does not say that Christ made an application of His merit for the ungodly; it merely states that God arranged His plan so that it was necessary for Christ to die for the ungodly. He arranged it on behalf of all the ungodly, not merely the Jews and those who may desire to be in harmony with God. The merit of His death was intended by the Father to apply to every member of the human race, the ungodly race of Adam, all of them sinners and more or less depraved and degraded and out of harmony with God.

The object for which the price was given is one thing and the application of it is another. The purpose of Christ’s death was to redeem the world, to be the world’s ransom price, that He might be the restorer of all. But time and order are crucial to this plan; the work progresses step by step. The first step was for Christ Himself to secure eternal glory by being obedient unto death, thus securing an asset that He could then give away – His earthly life, which He had not forfeited.

The next step was for Him to ascend up on high and apply this price. He appeared as advocate for a special class, those from among men who desired to come into harmony with God, who desired to accept God’s favor and to become members of the Body of Christ under a special plan that God had arranged. When He appeared for these He imputed the merit of His sacrifice on their behalf, and thus all this merit was absorbed in this one work of justifying and assisting this special class. He did not do this by first giving them earthly restitution, but by simply imputing His merit to them.

This imputation of His merit has covered the Adamic sin of those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, turning from sin and consecrating themselves to God. It has made up for all deficiencies of their flesh, allowing them to present themselves “a living sacrifice, holy, accept­able unto God.” (Rom. 12:1) In other words, He became their guarantor. Not being sufficient of themselves, He has guaranteed for them that if they faithfully performed this laying down of their lives, His merit would continue to be applied for all their imperfections. These are the Royal Priests, represented in one picture as His Bride and in another as members of His Body. These are “more than conquerors.” (Rom. 8:37) They are the “called, and chosen, and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14)

However, not all of those called have made their “calling and election sure.” (2 Pet. 1:10) There have been those (probably few) who “fall away,” who “draw back unto perdition,” sinning willfully against full light and dying the Second Death. (Heb. 6:4-6; Heb. 10:39) For them there is nothing reserved but everlasting destruction. They are perished as brute beasts. (2 Pet. 2:12)

There is also a large secondary class, a “Great Company,” who have not voluntarily, heartily and cheerfully laid down their lives in the desire to please the Father and do His will. These, nevertheless, are loyal at heart but are restrained from full sacrifice “through fear of death,” through fear of what it will cost them. (Heb. 2:15) They could only be saved “so as by fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15) “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9-14) They take a lower place than that to which they were called.

These three classes having finished their course, all the merit that Christ imputed will again be available and will be applied in the sealing of the New Covenant. The New Covenant will be made with Israel, but it will be broad enough to include all those of every nation of the earth who are willing to come under its terms. Through faith and obedience, they will become the children of Abraham.

THE PURCHASED POSSESSION REDEEMED

Now consider this text: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)

The Holy Spirit granted to the Church is the earnest or foretaste of their inheritance. They are to “inherit all things.” (Rev. 21:7) First of all they inherit the Divine nature, and secondly they inherit the great Abrahamic promise that through them, in union with our Lord Jesus as members of His Body, all the families of the earth will be blessed. (Gen. 22:18; Gen. 28:14; Gal. 3:29) They are spoken of as the Lord’s purchased possession and this part of His possession will be complete when they are changed to receive His glory. They will then be perfect and under His direct control.

After this, another part of this same promise (another feature of the same possession) will become operative. The precious blood will then be applied to seal the New Covenant on behalf of the sins of all the people. The work of recovering the still larger possession will progress until the close of the Millennial Age, when the entire possession will be redeemed. Christ will have put down all enemies and accomplished His mission of restoring mankind to perfection. He will then deliver up His completed work to the Father. (1 Cor. 15:24)

Also consider this passage: “For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” (Rom. 5:15) Here the Apostle evidently does not mean that the full abundance of grace had at that time reached the many, because that would be untrue. It is now nearly 2,000 years since the Apostle’s day, and the abundance of grace has not yet reached the majority of mankind. So we must understand him to mean that the abundance of grace in Christ according to the Father’s plan and purpose is yet to reach the many. The world is yet in its sins; Israel is yet in its sins and will not be recovered until after the glorification of the Church, as the Apostle points out: “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:26-27)

Since this grace has not yet gone to the Jews nor to the Gentiles in general, the only way in which it has abounded is through the promise of God that the death of Christ will yet be made efficacious for all. Therefore, speaking from this prophetic standpoint, it is plain to be seen how Jesus is the Savior of the world, although the work of saving the Church will not be complete until the end of the Gospel Age. Similarly, He will not be the Savior of the world in the full sense until the end of the Millennial Age. Some will never be fully saved because they will refuse the grace of God; and yet He is, according to the Scriptures, the Savior of all men – the Savior of the world.

The Scriptures declare that He was the Savior of the world when He was born. The message of the angels was, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) He was then a Savior in the prospective sense – not because of what He was then, as a babe, and not merely because of what He has since accomplished through His sacrifice, but because of all that He will accomplish according to God’s promise by the time He delivers up the Kingdom to the Father. “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)

He now saves in a partial sense, by hope, those who come unto the Father through Him. The saving of the world will begin when He awakens them from death; but they will not be fully saved, will not attain full Restitution nor gain eternal life, except as they exercise faith and obedience. He opens the door; He makes the way; He provides all the arrangements by which they may know and obey.

The whole earth is a part of the purchased possession and shall be filled with the glory of God. And if any knee will then refuse to bow and any tongue refuse to confess and any fail to accept of the favor of God, there will be nothing further for that person; he will die the Second Death. “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23)

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This paper is based on writings of Pastor Russell, primarily Reprints 4587 and 4632.


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QUESTIONS OF GENERAL INTEREST

Question: Are the Youthful Worthies of the Household of Faith?

Answer: We use the expression, the Household of Faith, from a variety of standpoints: . . . [1] In the Old Testament times all believers in the promises were of the Household of Faith. (Heb. 11:1-39) [2] All Gospel-Age believers in Jesus are of the Household of Faith . . . (Rom. 4:11-12) This was typed by all children – the afterborn as well as the firstborn – in each family in Israel partaking of the Paschal Lamb in Egypt. (Exod. 12:3-17, 21-28) [3] All new creatures, as a finished work, in the end of the Gospel Age, especially during the Epiphany, are the Household of Faith. (Heb. 9:24; Heb. 10:14; 1 John 2:2; Mal. 3:2-3; 1 Cor. 3:11-15) Aaron and his house on the Atonement day typed this Household of Faith. (Lev. 16:6,11) [4] The Little Flock, the Ancient Worthies, the Great Company and the Youthful Worthies will be the Millennial Household of Faith. (2 Tim. 2:20) The Priests and Levites dwelling about the Tabernacle type this Household of Faith. (Num. 1; Num. 3:4) The Youthful Worthies, of course, are not of the New Creature Household of Faith, because they are not new creatures. But from the standpoint of having “the faith of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7,9) they are, of course, like him, of the Household of Faith. They are among the believers referred to under [2] . . . The reason why they are of the Household of Faith is that they are a faith class; for all that are of the faith of Abraham are of the Household of Faith. [See also R5358, page 358]

Question: If they are of the Household of Faith, what is their position with regard to the blood of the antitypical Bullock?

Answer: We understand that the blood of the antitypical Bullock is actually imputed on behalf of that Household of Faith only which consists of new creatures, those referred to under No. [3] . . . “He hath now appeared in the presence of God [in the antitypical Most Holy, with the antitypical Bullock’s blood] for us” (Heb. 9:24); hence for the firstborn only. “By one offering [imputation of His merit] He hath perfected [justified reckonedly] forever them that are sanctified” [the consecrated who become new creatures]. (Heb. 10:14) These are the antitypes of those for whom Aaron made atonement with the bullock’s blood. The Youthful Worthies are not among these, for their justification is not vitalized. While because of their faith God tentatively treats them as though the merit of the antitypical Bullock had been imputed on their behalf, actually there has been no such imputation made for them; actually they are not yet released from the Adamic sentence; and actually, with the Ancient Worthies and the Restitution class in general, they must wait for the application of the Lord’s merit on their behalf in connection with the blood of the Lord’s antitypical Goat; for they are counted in among the Ancient Worthies, of whom it is written, “That they without us [apart from the application of the Lord’s merit in the blood of the Lord’s antitypical Goat, and The Christ bringing them back from the tomb] should not be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:40 )

(Brother Paul Johnson, E-4, pages 405-406)


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NO. 739: SOME THOUGHTS FOR THE MEMORIAL

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 739

“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” (Exod. 12:14)

The time again approaches for us to commemorate the anniversary of our Lord’s Supper. While the thoughts presented here should be very familiar to most of our readers, such an important topic warrants frequent review.

The correct time for the observance for 2019 is after 6 p.m. on March 19. The date is determined by this method: The moon nearest the Vernal Equinox becomes new in Jerusalem on March 6 at 6:03 p.m., thus establishing 6 p.m. March 6 as the beginning of Nisan 1. Counting forward to Nisan 14, we arrive at 6 p.m. March 19. Any time that evening after 6 p.m. would be proper for the celebration.

The Passover memorial was and still is one of the most important religious observances among the Jewish people. It was the first feature of “the Law” given them as a typical people. The typical Passover occurred more than three thousand years ago in Egypt, where the Israelites were held in servitude by the Egyptians. When the Lord’s providence provided for their deliverance, their masters sought selfishly to keep them in bondage, refusing to let them go to the land of Canaan. During that year the Lord sent nine different plagues upon the people of Egypt. One after another, the Lord relieved the plagues when Pharaoh begged for mercy and made promises which he afterwards broke.

Finally, the servant of the Lord, Moses, announced a great, final disaster: the firstborn in every family of Egypt would die in one night. In the homes of the humblest peasants as well as in the home of Pharaoh there would be great mourning. As a result they would finally yield and let the Israelites go. In fact, they would urge them to go quickly, for fear the Lord would ultimately bring death upon the entire people if Pharaoh continued to harden his heart and resist the Divine mandate.

The first three plagues were common to all in Egypt, including the Israelites. The next six plagues affected only the Egyptians. The tenth plague was to be common to the entire land of Egypt, including the Israelites, except that the Israelites were given a means of salvation. They were to show faith and obedience by sacrificing a lamb and sprinkling its blood upon the sides and lintels of their doorways. The flesh was to be eaten in the same night, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The eaters were to stand with staff in hand and girded for the journey, fully expecting that the Lord would strike the firstborn of the Egyptians with death and make them willing to let the Israelites go, and with full faith also that they would share in this calamity were it not for the blood upon their doorposts and lintels.

Because of the sprinkled blood and the eaten lamb on that night (the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar), the firstborn of Israel were passed over – spared from the plague of death which claimed the firstborn of the Egyptians. The next day Israel marched out free from Egyptian bondage; therefore, by God’s command (Exod. 12:14), they were instructed to commemorate this great event every year on its anniversary.

While Jews still have a measure of respect for this ancient custom, not many have inquired deeply into its meaning. Why was the lamb slain and eaten? Why was its blood sprinkled upon the doorposts and lintels? Because God so commanded, of course; but what reason, motive, object or lesson was there behind the Divine command? Although Christianity has the answer to this question, the majority of Christians are likewise unable to discern it. Truly a reasonable God gives reasonable commands, and in due time He will be willing for His faithful people to understand the meaning of every requirement.

CHRIST OUR PASSOVER

The Israelites saw only the letter of this ceremony and not its typical significance. We might have been in similar darkness had not the Holy Spirit of God given us the key to its meaning by inspiring the Apostle to write the words: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

The severe bondage of Israel under Pharaoh calls to mind the bondage of sin and death under which the whole creation groans. (Rom. 8:21-22) Pharaoh fitly typifies Satan, “the god of this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4) In the deliverance of all Israel under the leadership of Moses we see the deliverance during the Millennium of all who will reverence God and His Laws under the leadership of the greater than Moses, Christ, head and body. In the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea we see the destruction in the Second Death of Satan and all who follow his course. All of these anti-typical blessings are the results of the anti-typical Passover, of which Christ is the central figure.

The Apostle’s words having called our attention to the matter, we find other Scriptures which clearly show that Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” was the antitype of the Passover lamb and that His death was as essential to the deliverance of “the church of the firstborn” from death, as was the death of the typical lamb to the firstborns of Israel. We are thus led to the words and acts of Jesus at the last Passover which He ate with His disciples.

God is very exact, and the slaying of the typical lamb, on the fourteenth day of the first month, foreshadowed or typified the fact that in God’s plan Jesus was to die at that time. And it is remarkable that God arranged the reckoning of time among the Jews so that it was possible for Jesus to commemorate the Passover with the disciples, and Himself be slain as the real “Lamb” on the same day (the Jewish day commencing at six o’clock in the evening and ending at six the next evening). By eating the Passover that evening, Jesus and the disciples ate it “the same night in which he was betrayed,” and the same day in which He died – thus not “one jot or one tittle” was left unfulfilled. (1 Cor. 11:23; Matt. 5:18)

Five days before His crucifixion Jesus presented Himself to be received or rejected when He rode into the city on the ass, fulfilling the prophecy, “Behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.” (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:4-5) At the same time, the feature of the Passover type was fulfilled which stipulated that the lamb must be received into the house five days before it was killed. (Exod. 12:2-3) Thus Jesus made His last presentation to the house of Israel five days before the Passover, as we read: “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany . . . On the next day [five days before] much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem . . . went forth to meet him.” Then it was that their King came unto them, “sitting on an ass’s colt.” (John 12:1,12-15) Afterward, He wept over them declaring, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:38-39)

Jesus knew the significance of the Passover, but the disciples did not. He was alone; none could sympathize, none could encourage Him. Even had He explained to the disciples, they could not have understood or appreciated His explanation, because they were not yet begotten of the Spirit. Nor could they be begotten until justified from Adamic sin, until “passed over,” or reckoned free from sin by virtue of the slain Lamb, whose shed blood ransomed them from the power of the destroyer, death. Thus He walked the narrow way alone, where none before had walked. It is no wonder that His heart at times was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death.

When the time came, they sat down to eat the Passover and Jesus said to the disciples: “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16) He doubtless longed to have them understand how the fulfillment would begin a little later that very day by the slaying of the real Lamb. He probably especially desired to eat this Passover with them in order to use the occasion to break the truth of its significance to them to the extent they could comprehend it. As the Apostle recounts: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25)

We cannot doubt that the design of the Master was to call their minds from the typical lamb to Himself, the antitype, and to show them that it would be no longer proper to observe a feature of the Law which He was about to fulfill. Thereafter the bread and wine were to be remembrancers of Him, the elements which would take the place of the lamb. Thus considered, there is force in His words, “This do in remembrance of me.” No longer were they to kill a literal lamb in remem­brance of a typical deliverance. Instead they were to use the bread and wine to represent His flesh and life – the basis of the real deliverance – the real passing over.

Thus our Lord instituted His Supper as the remembrancer of His death, and as a substitute for the Passover as observed by the Jews. One might wonder why Jesus first ate of the typical Passover lamb before instituting the substitute. It was because He was born under the dominion of the Law, and must observe every requirement of it. Since He made an end of the Law, nailing it to His cross, we are free from the Law as it relates to either the Passover or its substitute, the Lord’s Supper. However, we esteem it a privilege to celebrate each year the anniversary of our Lord’s death, in remembrance of Him. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast.”

WHEN TO KEEP THE FEAST

As on many other matters, most Christians have left the teachings of the Word and the example of the early Church in observing the Memorial of the Last Supper. Few observe it as a “supper” at all, many selecting for convenience mid-day instead of evening. Some commemorate the Lord’s death every Sunday and some at various times throughout the year. They consider the time and frequency as unimportant, perhaps reasoning that if it is a good thing to do, why not do it often, even daily, causing the service to lose much of its significance.

Those who celebrate every Sunday may point to the Scriptural record of the “love feasts” of the early Church. (Acts 2:42,46; Acts 20:7,11 ) They suppose those occasions to have been the Lord’s Supper, but it was the custom of the early Church to eat a plain meal together when they gathered from distant places on the first day of the week. These love-feasts were not instituted by any command of our Lord or of the Apostles. Like the celebration of the first day of the week, they seem to have been the spontaneous prompting of grateful hearts. The early Church thus celebrated the resurrection of our Lord (not His death) every week, and the breaking of bread in their love-feast was probably a pleasant reminder of the fact that the Lord was made known to the disciples at Emmaus and on other occasions after His resurrection in the breaking of bread at their ordinary meal. (Luke 24:29-30,42 ; John 21:12-13) They neither used wine (no less important than the bread in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper), nor did they call it the Lord’s Supper, or observe it with special gravity, but rather with thankfulness and joy they “did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” (Acts 2:46)

St. Paul’s statement that “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup” (1 Cor. 11:26) does not imply liberty for doing it whenever one pleases. On the contrary, the Apostle uses the term “as often” to mean “whenever.” The context shows that Paul was referring to the “same night in which he [our Lord] was betrayed,” when the bread and wine was then instituted by our Lord as His remembrancers to take the place of the typical Passover eaten by the Jews. Paul wrote to those who well knew the Jewish custom of celebrating the Passover and how often it was celebrated, so that “as often,” or “whenever,” to them signified each anniversary.

The Lord’s Supper was designed to replace the annual commemoration of the typical passing over of Israel’s firstborn, whose lives were saved through the blood of the typical lamb. Such an event could only be properly celebrated on its anniversary, which our Lord and His disciples and all the Jews strictly observed. They no more thought of celebrating it at any other time, than Americans would think of celebrating the signing of their Declaration of Independence on any other day than the fourth of July.

We do not imply that those who have commemorated the Redeemer’s death at inappro­priate times are condemned by our Lord. No, thank God, the Gospel Age faithful are not under the Law but under grace, in this as in every other matter. Those who in heart sincerity have so partaken of the emblems of our Lord’s body and blood may have suffered loss of some of the power the occasion was designed to have on their hearts; nevertheless, they have not been spurned by He whose sacrifice they thus commemorated. But surely, when the intent of our Lord’s words is grasped, all the fully consecrated will gladly comply with His arrangement, assured that it is best and most appropriate, as well as most acceptable to Him of whom it is a remembrancer.

THE BREAD OF LIFE

The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of our Lord. Our Lord as a man was the living bread (bread of life) which came down from heaven to give life to the world. The illustration is perfect: Mankind is dying for want of life and needs some food so full of life-producing quality that it will arrest the wasting of death, and repair and restore mankind to the original perfection lost in Adam. Men have sought panaceas, elixirs, life restorers of all kinds – in foods, in minerals, and in chemicals, but all in vain. No such “bread of life” has ever been found. But Jesus said: “I am that bread of life . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” (John 6:48,51) That is, if by faith in the means which God has provided to accomplish his redemption he accepts the favor of life, he can have it on those terms, and those only. This our Lord symbolically termed “eating” His flesh.

Notice how perfect is this illustration. The Son of God as a heavenly or spiritual being in His pre-human condition was not bread for man, and had He given His spiritual body as bread, we being of a different nature (human), could not have appropriated it, just as that which would nourish and perfect a tree (air, water, and soil) could not perfect and nourish a man, who is of a different nature. Man is of the fleshly nature; hence if the spiritual Son of God would give to dying men the bread of life, it must be flesh, full of life-giving nutriment.

The preparation for this was the change of the Son of God from spirit to flesh. Humbling Himself, He was “made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) The flesh was to be the life-giving bread. Because He who had been in the heavenly or spirit state had become earthly or human, it is literally true that this “bread” came down from heaven, from the heavenly or spirit condition to the earthly or human nature. “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” (John 6:50)

How are we to eat this bread of life? We cannot eat anything that is still alive and anything that died by disease would not be fit for food. So if our Lord had died what is called a “natural” death,[1] it would have proved that He was a sinner like other men; for death is the penalty of sin, and hence to partake of Him would have given no new life. So then we see that there was no way to give us this life-food or “bread of life” except by the sacrifice of the man Christ Jesus. He did not die because His life, like ours, was forfeited, but He gave Himself a ransom, a corresponding price, a substitute for all – for Adam and all who lost life through him. His life in the flesh, His example and counsel, teachings, etc., could not give life. We may study and try to follow His perfect example, but we cannot do it perfectly because we are dying and lack strength. We need life, life-producing food, and He became flesh, for the very purpose of providing us this life supply which we could get in no other way.

So He told His disciples that the killing of the Lamb was necessary so that they could eat of Him: “The Son of man must suffer many things . . . and be slain . . .” (Luke 9:22) Had He remained with them in the flesh, they would indeed have been greatly blessed, but they could never have gotten life. Hence He said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” (John 16:7) That is, if He had remained flesh and not submitted Himself in sacrifice, He could not carry out the Father’s plan for their redemption. Only by His sacrifice, and by their partaking (eating) of Him, could they escape condemnation and come into harmony and acceptance with God and be granted life.

It is a mistake to suppose that truth is the bread of life, and that the eating of truth will justify us, or give us a right to life. It is a mistake to suppose that believing the Sermon on the Mount and other of our Lord’s sayings will give life. These truths are good for food after and with the Lamb, but indigestible without it. These very truths were indigestible to many who heard them, acting as emetics rather than as nourishing food, and “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66) Even the Apostles got little nourishment from our Lord’s teachings until after the Lamb was slain and they by faith had eaten of that life-giving food. With the vigor of that food, they were able to find sweetness and strength in all things the Master had spoken unto them.

When Jesus was “made flesh” He became human. So then, to give His flesh means He gave Himself as a human being. He sacrificed the human rights and privileges He possessed under God’s law so that the human family might receive them back. Adam’s family was all in him when he sinned and lost life and all the rights and privileges of son-ship, and so we all are sharers in that one loss. Those rights then belonged to the new man, “the man Christ Jesus,” who exchanged His higher rights as a perfect spirit being for the lower rights of a perfect man, rights which Adam forfeited. He then laid down all that He had in the interest and for the use of the condemned race. (Matt. 13:44) The giving of His flesh for the life of the world means handing back to dying men the lost life, liberties, and privileges: “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)

What He gave up when He died is ours. It is free to every member of the human race, but only to those that eat, those who by faith appropriate what He sacrificed. The eating of His flesh means the eater appropriates to his own use the rights, liberties, and life which the perfect sinless “man Christ Jesus” possessed, no more, and no less.

If a person has a hereditary disease it is not he alone who is affected; all in him, i.e., all his unborn posterity are affected as well. If a treatment (a bread of life), a sure cure for this hereditary condition were provided, it must be received into the system and appropriated to be effective, else no cure can result. The entire family could not be cured by any one of them taking the treatment or bread of life.

It is the same with Adam and his posterity. Adam sinned and all his unborn posterity were affected through heredity. Christ is the bread of life, the treatment for the condition of the condemned and dying sinner. This bread must be made accessible to each sinner and he must eat it, that is appropriate it by faith. It is “for every man” (Heb. 2:9), hence every sinner must have an opportunity to eat and live. None can eat it ignorantly (though many eat its symbol ignorantly). Since all must come to the knowledge of this truth, this of itself is proof of the judgment (trial) to come, in the great Millennial Day; for it must be “testified in due time” to all in order that all who are willing may eat and live forever. (1 Tim. 2:4-6) Since only a few have come to even an imperfect knowledge of the Truth in this age, it is evident that God’s “due time” for spreading this great feast before the world, is in the Millennium, when the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth. (Hab. 2:14; Isa. 25:6)

Those who eat this bread of life now do not now experience restitution to human perfection; our perfection is only reckoned, not actual. It is only by faith that we eat of the flesh of our Redeemer, accepting by faith (contrary to sight) human rights, liberties, and life from His sacrifice. While none can walk by sight now, mankind in the next age will have sight as an aid to their faith. They will feel their gradual physical improvement as they take the steps of faith and obedience.

But why should any be permitted to eat thus of His flesh (His human perfections, rights, etc.) beforehand – before the general time for spreading the feast for all? There is a very precious truth there which lies covered from the view of the world: “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us [the Church] through Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:7)

THE LIFE IS IN THE BLOOD

Let us look at this hidden truth. The shed blood, symbolized by the wine, represents death, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11) So the shed blood of Christ signifies the death of Christ – the life given up for the sins of the world. In the typical Passover in Egypt, the Lamb was eaten but the blood was not (no Israelite was allowed to eat blood). This was symbolic of how all are to eat the flesh of the Son of man but all are not to drink or partake of His death. Those to whom our Lord gave the wine as representative of His blood, were invited to partake of and share in His death, which was proper, because they were to be members of His body; and not only He, the Head, should taste death for every man, but His body should be “made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10), and become dead with Him. (Rom. 6:8) The “cup” then is the symbol of Christ’s death.

This being true, how appropriate that the giving of the wine was after the eating of the bread, and to those only who had eaten it. This teaches, in harmony with all the Scriptures, that only those who are justified from all sin by faith in the merit and sacrifice of the Lamb of God (and no others) are invited to crucify their (justified) humanity and share in the afflictions of Christ in this age, and in His glory in the age to follow.

The drinking of the cup of suffering and death by the spirit-begotten Church of the Firstborn must all be done in the Gospel Age. When the age of glory opens, all the sufferings of Christ will be in the past, both those of the Head and those of every member of His body. When the Prophets spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (1 Pet. 1:11), they spoke truly, of the entire Christ including the smallest and last member. With the door to that High Calling closed, the drinking of the blood will be at an end.

MEMORIAL STILL APPROPRIATE

Is it still appropriate to partake of the Lord’s Supper if the door to the High Calling is closed? We recognize that the primary participants in the Lord’s Supper were to be the Saints, the Little Flock. However, we believe there is an unbegotten class who consecrate after the closing of the High Calling similar to those faithful ones who preceded the Gospel Age (see Reprint 5761). We call that class “Youthful Worthies” and believe they will be rewarded in the earthly phase of the Kingdom in honor and in service with the Ancient Worthies of Hebrews Chapter 11.

Youthful Worthies may certainly partake of the Lord’s Supper. They are thankful and appreciative of what our Savior has done for them. They do not “suffer with Christ,” nor will they “reign with Christ;” therefore they partake of the bread and wine symbolizing their tentative justifica­tion and our Lord’s death as the Lamb of God. Their trial is for faith and obedience and not for life as was the Saints’ trial, although they make the same kind of consecration as did the spirit-begotten: “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger [the unbegotten], as for one of your own country [the spirit-begotten]. (Lev. 24:22)

It is our prayer that this year’s remem­brance may be profitable to all who partake in sincerity and in Truth. As always, we suggest reading the Passover chapter in Volume Six; and we pray a rich blessing upon all who partake. We are living in wonderful times, and we know not what a day may bring; but we have the strong assurance that we can firmly trust Him who left us an example that we should follow in His steps. (1 Pet. 2:21)

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This paper is based on writings of Pastor Russell, including Reprints 465, 1013, 3525 and 5640.

Write to us at: epiphanybiblestudents@gmail.com

[1] There is really no such thing as natural death. In God’s arrangement life is the natural condition and death comes as a violation of natural life, as a consequence or penalty for disobedience, sin. However this term may be considered an allowable expression when referring to the fallen, condemned race, because it is the natural result of sin, common to all human sinners. So our Lord could not have died by disease, etc., unless He had sinned, in which case His flesh would have been far from life-giving. Nor could His life be taken from Him. Rather, He chose to give it as our ransom price, that His flesh might impart life to us.


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!

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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 stewards 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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