NO. 726: THE KINGDOM OF GOD - PART TWO

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 726

 

Our January 2018 paper presented the first part of Brother Johnson’s description of the Kingdom of God from Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 17. There he differentiated between the embryo Kingdom and the reigning Kingdom, and described the Kingdom’s creation and its rulers. We now continue his discussion.

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THE KINGDOM’S TWO PHASES

From the fact that Jesus and His Faithful will be the invisible Kings in the Millennium, supported by the Great Company on a spirit plane of being as a subordinate and invisible nobility, and from the fact that the Ancient and Youthful Worthies will be visible representatives of the invisible Kingdom, we may speak of the Kingdom of God as having two phases – an invisible, heavenly phase, and a visible, earthly phase. These two phases of the Kingdom are frequently referred to in the Scriptures as separate and distinct, as the following passages will show. Sometimes the two phases are represented in Zion and Jerusalem respectively, as in:

Isa. 2:3: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain [Kingdom] 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 [Christ, Head and Body] shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem [the Ancient and Youthful Worthies].

Isa. 62:1-2: “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy right­eousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” Jehovah is here the speaker. By Zion He means Christ and the Church, in a sense also including the Great Company as their associates in the invisible phase of the Kingdom. For their sake God will not hold His peace, i.e., will not remain inactive, and for Jerusalem’s sake (the visible phase of the Kingdom, the Ancient and the Youthful Worthies) He will not rest, not cease from doing that which He has determined to do, until the righteousness that Christ and the Church work among the children of men is so bright and clear, that none will go astray. The “lamp that burneth” is the Word of God. (Psa. 119:105) The things that were written in that Word, particularly the writings of the Prophets of the Old Testament, including Moses, with the writings of the star-members to assist in their interpretation, will at that time be like a lamp burning.

Joel 2:32: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion [the spiritual phase of the Kingdom] and in Jerusalem [the earthly phase of the Kingdom] shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said [prophesied in the Old Testament], and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.The remnant is primarily Christ and the Church and secondarily their earthly representatives – the Ancient and Youthful Worthies. By these God will work deliverance to all that obey.

Thus we see that in all of these three passages the two phases of the Kingdom are indicated by Zion and Jerusalem respectively. We will find that other texts indicate these two phases in other ways.

Psa. 107:32: “Let them exalt him [God] also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.” By the congregation of the people, the Little Flock is primarily meant, and secondly, their co-operating Great Company brethren. By the assembly of the elders, the Ancient and the Youthful Worthies are meant; these will be the earthly phase of the Kingdom of God. These two phases will carry out God’s plan and will cause praise, honor, glory, majesty, love, and obedience to be rendered to all eternity unto the God of perfect wisdom, justice, love and power.

Isa. 32:1: “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment.” The king here is the Christ, Jesus and the Church, His Body. These, as the heavenly phase of the Kingdom, will reign in righteousness. The princes, the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, shall rule in judgment, i.e., in harmony with the doctrinal teachings that the great King shall issue forth.

Gen. 22:16-18: “By myself have I sworn … That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven [the invisible phase of the Kingdom], and as the sand which is upon the sea shore [the earthly phase of the Kingdom]; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies [Jesus and the Church, will conquer: Satan, the world, and the flesh]; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Here we have God’s Oath­bound Covenant presented to us. All of the families of the earth shall be blessed in due time by Christ and the Church; they will be blessed to the extent that they yield obedience to the Kingdom. Some will yield faithful, loyal obedi­ence; others will not so do, but at least all will get some blessing: the blessing of being awakened from Adamic death, the blessing of enlightenment, the blessing of opportunity of gaining everlasting life, the blessing of being put under conditions conducive to righteousness and then, with these blessed conditions surrounding them, the opportunity of demonstrating whether they will be loyal to God. Thus this passage describes, not only the two phases of the Kingdom, but also the work of blessing all the families of the earth, which is done during the Millennium.

THE EARTHLY PHASE VISIBLE

We now turn to some particular proofs that the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, the secondary phase of the Kingdom, will not be heavenly and invisible, but earthly and visible:

John 3:13: “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man.” Jesus indicated to Nicodemus that no human being had ascended or could ascend into heaven, because that condition is only for spirit beings; human beings would have to be begotten and born of the Spirit before they could enter the heavenly, invisible phase of the Kingdom. (John 3:5) The only ones so begotten, and therefore the only ones who could be born of the Spirit and enter into this phase of the Kingdom as their eternal abiding place, would be the Christ – first the Head, and secondly His Body, His Bride, with their associates, the Great Company. This text indicates clearly that none of the Ancient Worthies had ascended into heaven; nor could they, for they had not been begotten of the Spirit, Jesus being the first one to receive the Spirit in this sense. Hence they, together with the Youthful Worthies, will be the earthly, visible phase of the Kingdom.

Acts 2:34: “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.” Obviously David had not gone to heaven, for Peter reasoned that his tomb is with us unto this day, and that tomb still remains! (Acts 2:29) He was not begotten of the Spirit and therefore he will come forth on earth, even as will the rest of the Ancient Worthies. David has not ascended into heaven; he is not of the heavenly phase of the Kingdom, but of its earthly, visible phase.

Heb. 2:3: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” This verse also shows that the opportunity to be of the heavenly, invisible Kingdom was closed until Jesus’ First Advent, and therefore that none of the Ancient Worthies could be of it. The “so great” salvation is the high calling. This great salvation was first begun to be spoken by Jesus at His First Advent. Thus this text also proves that none of the Ancient Worthies could attain to this phase of the Kingdom; it indicates rather that the Worthies will be of the earthly, visible phase of the Kingdom.

Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. God will pour out His Spirit for all flesh “afterward,” meaning after the things stated in the previous verses, including the terrible devastation wrought by the great Antichrist and the little Antichrist (sectarian Protestantism), after the Gospel Age, to which the call to the heavenly, invisible Kingdom is limited. This is the promise of restitution that God will give for the children of men. The sons (the Christ’s sons) are Fleshly Israel and the daughters are the Gentiles, including those Jews who fell away from the Mosaic Covenant. The sons and daughters will “prophesy,” that is, they will teach others the truths of God’s Kingdom. Your old men are the Ancient Worthies who will see the deeper things (“dream dreams”) of the revelation of God. Your young men are the Youthful Worthies who will see the simpler things (“see visions”) of God’s Word. Since both the Ancient and the Youthful Worthies thus will share in the outpouring of the Spirit for all flesh after the Gospel Age, we see clearly that they will not then be of the invisible, heavenly Kingdom, but of its earthly, visible phase.

We now take up some additional passages, which show even more directly that the Worthies, as the Kingdom’s secondary phase, will be earthly and visible:

Gen. 13:14-15: “And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” The Lord here was pointing out to Abraham the land of Palestine, and He promised that He would give it to him as an inheritance. Abraham died without receiving that promise, but he will get it in due time, and that time will be the Millennial Age, for Abraham will be one of the Ancient Worthies, therefore sitting in the earthly phase of the Kingdom, and he will at that time get that land that God promised him. Associated with the Ancient Worthies will be the Youthful Worthies, who then will be given a share in that land, because they, with the Ancient Worthies, will be the visible phase of the Kingdom.

Acts 7:5: “And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.” St. Stephen here is pointing out the fact that during Abraham’s life this promise was not fulfilled; but he assures us that it will be fulfilled in due time, for God promised it to Abraham and God is no liar, no perjurer.

Psa. 45:16: “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” Our Lord Jesus is here being addressed by God, who says that instead of certain ones who were His ancestors remaining such, they would become His children. These are the Ancient Worthies: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and all of the Prophets, and other pre-Gospel-Age faithful ones. These, instead of remaining the fathers of Jesus, will become the children of Jesus, for He will raise them from the dead; and they will also become the children of the Church, for, under Christ as their Head, the Church will assist in giving life to the Ancient Worthies and will make them princes in all the earth. They will set them up as the earthly phase of the Kingdom, the whole earth in due time being subdued unto them. Associated with them as princes will be the Youthful Worthies. They will rule in righteousness, with the Word of God, which they will teach to mankind.

Matt. 11:11: “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Here we find another proof, this time indicating both phases of the Kingdom. John the Baptist, the last of the Ancient Worthies, was the one who was given the glorious office of being the herald of the Messiah, the introducer of the Messiah to Israel, the one who could say that he was a friend of the Bridegroom, who had won for the Bridegroom members of His Bride, of His Body. And though set forth here as one of the very greatest of the Ancient Worthies, he is nevertheless expressly called less than – inferior to – the least one in the heavenly Kingdom Class.

Luke 13:28-30: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” Jesus’ famous statement is an additional proof, in which also the two phases of the Kingdom are mentioned. Jesus here was speaking to the Pharisees, who were constantly persecuting Him, talking against Him, and seeking to set Him aside; He tells them that they will be in great chagrin and disappointment when they see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the Prophets – the Old Testament Prophets – and other Ancient Worthies in the Kingdom of God and themselves thrust out.

Notice that Jesus here states that the Ancient Worthies will be seen, will be visible, but avoids saying that the Little Flock will be seen, will be visible, in the Kingdom. The Kingdom class proper, together with the Great Company, will be spirits, and as such will be invisible; while the Ancient and Youthful Worthies will be human beings, and as such will be visible. Thus there will be a well-organized and fully equipped Kingdom to take control of human affairs as God’s Kingdom among men. The Little Flock, though called last, will be first in Kingdom power, office, honor and work, while the Ancient Worthies, who were the first to be called, will be the last, having a lesser power, office, work, honor and nature than the heavenly, invisible phase of the Kingdom.

Finally, we consider Heb. 11:39-40: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” St. Paul is here referring to the heroes of faith that he mentions earlier in this chapter, beginning with Abel and ending with John the Baptist. They all received a good report through faith, i.e., their faith was faithfulness to the Spirit, Word and providences of God. Though they thus obtained a good report, they did not receive the promise of immortality in the invisible, heavenly phase of the Kingdom of God. Their perfection will come in the Millennium, as they prove faithful to the New Covenant promises, the New Covenant demands and laws. They will then be made perfect in the earthly, visible phase of the Kingdom.

THE PURPOSES OF THE KINGDOM

The purposes of this Kingdom, organized as above described, will be to destroy from among men every evil thing and influence, and to introduce among them every good thing and influence, in order to restore the race to perfection. As our Lord Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil as well as the devil himself (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14), this destruction of his works will be carried out during the Age set aside for that purpose; and the destruction of the devil will be carried out just after the end of that Age. Their destruction manifestly has not yet been realized; for evil is yet in the ascendancy, and is doubtless on the increase. But during Christ’s Millennial reign He will destroy the works of the devil.

Rev. 20:1-3 shows this: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.”

This mighty angel that the Revelator saw was no less than our Lord Jesus Christ. He came in His Second Advent and had the key of the bottomless pit, the power to open it and the power to close it. The key is that which enables one to exercise the power of opening and closing. The bottomless pit is the condition of error. It is indeed bottomless, because it has no foundation. Our Lord Jesus Christ is going to spirit the devil and all the impenitent fallen angels so far away from the earth that they will be unable to see what is going on here; and, being in error, they will imagine all kinds of erroneous things. They shall remain there, and a seal will be set upon them so that they cannot be loosed, so as to deceive the nations, until the thousand years shall be fulfilled – until the whole Millennial Age will be passed; and at its end, in its Little Season, Satan will be allowed to test all of those who, during the thousand years, will have had the opportunity of gaining everlasting life.

Some of these he will easily deceive, and these will be among those who will die, as accursed sinners, as we read in Isa. 65:20; those acting hypocritically, pretending to be in harmony with the rule of the New Covenant, pretending to obey it, will in heart be disobeying it, for they will not allow its laws of love, of justice, of power and of wisdom to be written in their hearts; hence they will be deceived by Satan at the end of the thousand years in the great sifting that will come at that time – they will stand stark naked as hypocrites, as liars, as deceivers, who use all of the Millennial oppor­tunities selfishly and not for the good of others. These then will be destroyed in the Second Death with the devil and the impenitent fallen angels. (Rev. 20:7-10)

Thus Jesus will have destroyed the devil and all his works. Accordingly, we look for the Millennial Age to witness the destruction of the sentence of death, as well as all the effects of that sentence: sin, error, superstition, sorrow, pain, sighing, crying, sickness, famine, pestilence, drought, extreme heat and cold, scarcity, war, revo­lution, anarchy, oppression, poverty, ignorance, dying and death.

The Millennial Age will witness the effects of the reversal of the death sentence: righteousness, truth, piety, joy, pleasure, ease, smiles, laughter, abundance, health, Edenic climate, prosperity, national and international peace, order, liberty, riches, education, awakening from the dead, convalescence and restoration to perfect life. The Plan of God, the character, training and powers of the Kingdom classes, and the social order, the rewards and punishments of that Age, will combine to realize these desirable purposes.

We may be sure that God’s promises and oaths and Christ’s Ransom-Sacrifice and exaltation will bring about these blessed results, will bear fruitage in the success of God’s Plan. (Gen. 22:16-18; Num. 14:21; Isa. 45:22-23; Isa. 53:11; John 12:32-33; Rom. 5:18-19; 1 Tim. 2:4-6) As the arrangements of Satan’s kingdom have been conducive to the operation of the curse, so the arrangements of God’s Kingdom will be conducive to the operation of the blessing of restitution from the curse. Praise our God for such a hope and prospect!

THE SUBJECTS OF THE KINGDOM

The entire non-elect portion of the human family, whether living or dead at the time of the establishment of the Kingdom, will become its subjects. (Rev. 15:3-4; Psa. 98:1-4; Psa. 22:27-29; Isa. 25:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:9-11) According to the Scriptures, the Kingdom in its earthly phase will first be established among regathered and converted Israel, who will with joy hail their resurrected patriarchs and Prophets, and who will be greatly blessed by the latter’s rule. (Zech. 12:7; Isa. 1:25-27; Isa. 25:9)

A little later the Gentile nations, broken, exhausted and undone by the woes of the Time of Trouble (Matt. 24:21-22; Dan. 12:1), will learn of the blessings that Israel will be enjoying, and will desire these for themselves. (Isa. 2:3-4; Zech. 8:20-22) In response to their humble petitions for help, the Kingdom with its arrangements will be established from one nation unto another, until it will become a universal Empire. (Dan. 2:44; Dan. 7:27) Fleshly Israel, as the secondary earthly seed of Abraham, under the lead of the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, as the primary earthly seed of Abraham, will be privileged to co-operate with the Kingdom in converting the Gentile world. (Gen. 22:17; Gen. 28:14; Isa. 19:24; Ezek. 16:60-61; Psa. 107:22)

After all of the then living subjects of the Kingdom will have advanced considerably on the way of restitution, as well as the earth itself (Isa. 35:1-9; Isa. 29:18-20), the non-elect dead, probably in companies and at various intervals, will be brought back from the tomb to this earth. (Isa. 35:10; Dan. 12:2-3; Isa. 29:24; Isa. 25:8) These will be welcomed and helped to reform, not only by the Kingdom in its two phases, but by those of mankind in general who will be learning righteousness; for these will also be given an opportunity to assist the awakened ones to come back to the image of God. (Matt. 25:35-40) Thus an ever increasing number of the dead will be brought back from the tomb, and, under the assistance of the Kingdom and its arrangements, will be started on the way to restitution.

Some may ask: Will mankind be given perfect bodies when awakened from the tomb?

We would answer that the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, who have stood their trial of faith and obedience in this life, will receive perfect human bodies at the time of their awakening (Heb. 11:35); but those who come forth for resurrection through a judgment process (John 5:29, RSV) will not be awakened with perfect bodies. They will be brought forth from the tomb for the purpose of giving them the opportunity to walk up the Highway of Holiness to physical, mental, moral and religious perfection. (Isa. 35:8-10) To give them perfect bodies at once would interfere with their reformation, since it would withdraw a strong incentive for reformation: the hope of physical healing for well-doing. Moreover, they would not recognize themselves in perfect bodies, and the large numbers who died in infancy would get no advantage from the experience with evil as a deterrent from wrong-doing, if made perfect in their bodies as soon as they are awakened. Hence we look for them to return with imperfect bodies, which, as they gradually reform, will together with their minds and hearts, be gradually perfected.

RESULTS OF THE KINGDOM’S REIGN

One of the results of the Kingdom’s reign will be the utter elimination of all the effects of the curse as the unholy fruits of Satan’s rule, authority and power. Among other passages, 1 Cor. 15:20-26 shows this. We quote it from the Improved Version: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become a first fruit of them that slept. For since by man [Adam] came death, by man [Jesus] also shall come the resurrection of the dead. For as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ a firstfruit [the Church here is meant]; afterward they that are Christ’s at [during] his presence. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Jesus did not die in Adam, for He was not in Adam, and therefore our correction of the translation. [1] The Little Flock is in Christ; they shall be made alive first and primarily. Afterward they that are shown to be our Lord’s faithful followers during His presence, all who come into Christ, shall also be made alive. At the end of the Little Season, when He shall have ruled over all the earth and given every man the opportunity to gain eternal life, which His Ransom-sacrifice, a corresponding price, enables Him to give, He will deliver up the Kingdom to God, who will be the final judge over the earth and will exercise His judgment through Christ, the Head, primarily, and secondarily, the Church, His Body, as His Vicegerent. Every vestige of the governorship and the pretended authority and might of Satan will be put down by the almighty hand of Christ, the Head, and the Church, the Body, using God’s power as that almighty power in their hand. We see that the enemies that He will put under His feet are not only persons, but also things. The Adamic death in the sense of the dying process is the last great enemy. Because of His faithfulness, Jesus became the One who will after the close of the Millennium finally destroy it.

Not all will obtain eternal life. Those who will not even externally reform, but will continue to be rebellious to the Kingdom during the thousand years, will after 100 years of opportunity be cut off in the Second Death. (Isa. 65:20) Those who will reform externally, but without a heart reformation, will live throughout the thousand years and attain human perfection; but by the trial during the “little season” at the Millennium’s close, their unholy heart’s condition will become manifest, and they will perish in the Second Death – everlasting destruction. (Rev. 20:7-9, 15; Mal. 4:3; Psa. 37:10, 35-38; Isa. 1:28; Acts 3:23)

Those who during the Millennium will practice truth and righteousness, from the love of these principles, will be lifted up to human perfection not only in their faculties, but also in their characters (Isa. 66:10-14), and will thus be enabled to remain faithful amid the final trial during the Little Season after the Millennium; and these shall inherit the earth forever, as Paradise restored. (Matt. 25:35-40; Isa. 65:16-25)

Such will be the grand results of the reign of Jesus and the Church in the earth. (Rev. 21:3-5; Rev. 22:1-3) The sad tragedy of sin will forever have ceased to be enacted. The ages to come will witness the realization of the angels’ song of Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will to men (Luke 2:14); and from every part of the Universe the glorious Hallelujah chorus shall forever and ever celebrate Jehovah and Christ, for their glorious Persons, holy Characters, wonderful Plan and great Works! (Rev. 5:13) Therefore let every lover of God and man, of truth and righteousness, pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth, as in Heaven!” Amen and amen!

[1] It is unclear if Bro. Johnson is quoting another translation or giving his own correction to the common translation. However, the correction seems to be proper as Pastor Russell explained in Studies in the Scriptures, Volume VI, page 696: “The declaration of our common version Bible, that ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,’ is manifestly a mistranslation. Standing in that form it is in conflict with other scriptures, which distinctly limit the number of those who shall be made alive through Christ. The mistranslation favors the doctrine of universal salvation, in that it seems to imply that God’s favor and blessing through Christ will not in any sense of the word take into consideration the characters of those to whom life shall be given. Other scriptures, however, make very clear that not all shall ‘enter into life,’ but only those who ‘do the will of the Father which is in heaven.’ A plain statement on the subject is found in the Lord’s words, ‘He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.’” (1 John 5:12)


NO. 725: THE KINGDOM OF GOD - PART ONE

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 725

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isa. 52:7)

The following is from Chapter V of Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 17, written by Brother Paul S.L. Johnson. It has been condensed and edited to fit the space and the paper format. Readers are encouraged to read the original in its entirety if it is available to them.

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The establishment of God’s Kingdom throughout the earth is one of the main purposes of our Lord’s Return. The Kingdom of God is a subject of unusual prominence in the Scriptures, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The expressions “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” occur nearly 150 times in the New Testament alone. Its prominence in the Scriptures is a proof of its importance in God’s Plan.

THE EMBRYO KINGDOM

When our Lord Jesus commissioned the Apostles to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7), He evidently did not mean that they were to announce that He and the Church were about to reign over the earth; for over 19 centuries have passed since the charge was given, and the Kingdom is not yet fully established in the earth in the sense of their reigning over the earth. Surely His thought was that the disciples should preach that the embryo Kingdom, the Church, which was about to undergo preparation to become rulers in the next Age, was about to step upon the stage of human history, and there perform in this life the earlier Acts of her part in the drama of the Ages.

Thus He instructed them to preach that a change of dispensation had come, that instead of preaching Moses and the Prophets any longer, they were to preach the Kingdom of God, the embryonic Church. And it was at hand; it was begun by Jesus in His ministry; it was continued by the Apostles at Pentecost; it was advanced further at the home of Cornelius as it went forth to the Gentiles; and throughout the Jewish Harvest it was advanced still more. It was now open to anyone, whether Jew or Gentile; and all through the Gospel Age the star-members, their helpers, and those who looked upon them as such, have preached, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and have thus given those who desired to enter this embryo Kingdom an opportunity to do so, and, on entering, to have God’s special favor and to rejoice in it.

Similarly, when Jesus assures us that from the time of John the Baptist the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and that the violent forcibly seize it (Matt. 11:12), He would not have us understand Him as referring to the Kingdom class while reigning in the earth; for then they will be clothed with almighty power, and none will be able to resist them, much less cause them to suffer, and, least of all, violently seize them! Rather, as the experience of the Kingdom class from the beginning proves, Jesus here refers to the embryo Kingdom, the Faithful in their earthly lifetime, the Church Militant, as suffering while they through obedience to the Word and Spirit of God amid trials and tribulations are being fitted to reign with Jesus as the glorified Kingdom in the next Age. (Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12)

It was a fact that John the Baptist, who proclaimed that the Kingdom was coming, suffered violence, being beheaded by Herod for the sake of Herodias and Salome. The Kingdom of Heaven suffered violence in the person of our Lord Jesus; for certainly He was fearfully persecuted by the Scribes and Pharisees, while He was in the flesh; and the Sanhedrin added to that persecution, when it condemned Him, the Innocent One, to death, under the alleged charge that He was a blasphemer. They brought Him to Pilate and had Pilate enforce, as it were, their sentence against Him. He was first terribly scourged, then crowned with thorns and mocked; on Him was laid the heavy cross, under whose weight He fainted; He was nailed to that cross and suffered violence; and the most terrible imprecations and curses and threats and blas­phemies and evil accusations were hurled into His teeth; He, the Innocent One, bore it all in the spirit of meekness, in the spirit of love, in the spirit of loyalty to God; and though the violent took Him by force and shamefully mistreated Him, He never­theless maintained His loyalty to the end.

The same treatment was given to His followers. The Apostles suffered similarly, beginning at Pentecost and continuing in the work toward Cornelius and his family and throughout the whole Harvest of the Jewish Age. Violence was offered to these holy men and they endured it, being forcibly, violently and vilely treated and cruelly misjudged and misrepresented and in every possible way given injustice. The same is true of the brethren all through the Age.

When the Apostle spoke of God’s translating the saints out of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col. 1:13), surely none would think that he meant that during their earthly lifetime they would be the Kingdom of Glory; for the context, as well as the verse itself, shows that the passage refers to the suffering condition of their earthly pilgrimage, hence St. Paul here refers to the embryo Kingdom.

The Bible is very explicit on the point that the earthly career of the faithful members of the Kingdom of God would not be one of reigning, but one of labor, toil, suffering, trial and persecution, culminating in death; the experiences of the faithful also attest to this; and only as any of these proved faithful amid these experiences unto death could they inherit Kingship as their portion, and actually reign in the earth in the future. St. Paul’s statement is clear: “I endure all things for the elect’s sakes … It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” (2 Tim. 2:10-12) To die with Him means to lay down life as He did, as a sacrifice on behalf of God’s plan, in the same form, for the same causes, from the same spirit; it results in attaining the same glorious end. To suffer with Him means to endure similar physical exhaustion, mental sorrow and physical violence for similar reasons. Thus, according to the Scriptures, only those who would faithfully suffer unto death with our Lord would have the privilege of reigning with Him. Hence none could reign with Him in their earthly lifetime.

Again, the promise of the crown of life, the Divine nature and joint-heirship with Christ, is expressly stated in Rev. 2:10 as being conditional on one’s faithfulness unto death as a member of the Body of Christ. It reads: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” The Lord Jesus is here in the book of Revelation addressing the second phase, the Smyrna phase, of the Church. He tells the brethren that the Roman empire, which He here calls the devil, would cast some of them into prison – would greatly restrain them in their work and persecute them most fiendishly and most outrageously; for the Smyrna Church and the Philadelphia Church were the two most persecuted by violence of any of the seven churches of the Gospel Age. Their tribulation of ten symbolic days was especially the ten years’ persecution they endured under Diocletian. The Lord exhorted them to be faithful unto death in spite of those terrible persecutions and He would give them a crown of life – immortality, the Divine nature.

Some of the Corinthian brethren, losing sight of this fact, acted as though the time of reigning had already come; therefore with irony the Apostle reproves them, saying: “Ye have reigned as kings without us.” (1 Cor. 4:8) This irony was used to bring them the more quickly to their senses, in harmony with what he had taught as to the Church suffering throughout this life before it could reign in harmony with the Divine Plan. Then, realizing how desirable the reigning time was in contrast with the suffering of the earthly life for the Church, he cried out, “I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.” Accordingly, in this verse the Apostle shows that the time for the Kingdom of God to reign in the earth is not during the Gospel Age. It will be during the Millennium, when the sufferings of the earthly lifetime are swallowed up in the glories then attained. (Rom. 8:17-19; Rev. 20:4, 6)

This fact, that the Kingdom class during the Gospel Age would be in a suffering and humiliated condition, undergoing untoward experiences to train her in fitness to reign with the Lord in the next Age, is an all-important one, and must ever be kept in mind by all of the Elect classes, to help them to keep from falling from their steadfastness. It is because early in this Age many forgot this that they in the great Apostasy fell from the primitive truths and practices of the Church and developed the great Antichrist, which claimed that the earthly life is the time for the Church to convert the world and to reign over the earth. And through this fundamental error the gates were thrown wide open for a thousand false doctrines and wrong practices to enter the Church, resulting in that perversion of truth and righteousness which we now see in great papacy. (2 Thess. 2:3-12) The true hope of the Kingdom to come into power at our Lord’s Return always kept the Church pure in faith and practice, as the loss of that hope and the adoption of the false hope of converting the world and reigning over the race before our Lord’s Return occasioned the loss of that purity of faith and practice, and the introduction of almost every evil word and work that became current during the Dark Ages.

THE REIGNING KINGDOM

If the Kingdom had been set up in royal power at Pentecost, as some of our dear Heavenly Father’s children mistakenly affirm, often with great self-confidence, it would no longer be appropriate to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” (Matt 6:10) Amid such circumstances we should cease to pray for the Kingdom to come, and instead thank God that the Kingdom has already come and that, as a result, His will is being done in earth as in Heaven – a thing that all know is not now being done. Hence this passage refers to Christ and the Church entering into their reign at His Second Advent.

Luke 21:31 uses the expression, “the Kingdom of God,” in the same sense. Jesus there tells us that when we see the signs of the times connected with His Second Advent enacting before our eyes, we should recognize that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand – that He and His faithful ones shortly will enter into their office as Kings in the earth. Certainly this passage could not refer to the embryo Kingdom, for that has been here ever since Pentecost. When the Lord assured the Apostles (Luke 22:29-30) that they would share with Him in His Heavenly privileges – eating and drinking at His table in His Kingdom – and would occupy thrones, ruling over Israel, He thereby certainly did not mean an activity that the Apostles would exercise in this life while still part of the embryo Kingdom; for instead of ruling over Israel in this life they were by Jews and Gentiles greatly persecuted, even unto death. Nor have they yet ruled over Israel. Hence this passage refers to the Millennial Kingdom. (Matt. 19:28)

Again, in Rev. 2:26-27; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 5:10 we hear Jesus through the Apostle John speak of the Kingdom in the sense of its reigning in this earth after all the Faithful have left the world; for all of these passages show that those who would reign with the Lord would first have to prove overcomers – a thing not completed in any case until death. (Rev. 2:10) Hence these passages refer to the reigning time as following the deliverance of the last member of the Church. Indisputably clear is Rev. 20:4, 6 as proving that this reign is yet future; for it shows that it is the privilege of those only who share in the First Resurrection – a thing that follows our Lord’s Second Advent. (1 Cor. 15:23-26, 42-44, 51-54; 1 Thess. 4:16-17)

The Old Testament has much to say on this point and abundantly proves that the Kingdom of God comes after our Lord’s Return. Hence these passages cannot refer to the embryo Kingdom. They must refer to the Kingdom in power and glory reigning in the earth. On this point we suggest that our readers look up the following references: Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 22, 26-27; Dan. 2:44; Psa. 22:27-29; Psa. 72:1-20; Isa. 2:2-4; Mic. 4:1-4; Isa. 11:1-11; Isa. 25:6-9; Isa. 35:1-10; Isa. 60:2-22; Isa. 61:4-11; Isa. 62:1-12; Isa. 65:17-25; Jer. 23:5-6; Jer. 33:14-16; Ezek. 37:23-25; Joel 2:28, 32; Ob. 21; Zeph. 3:8-9; Hag. 2:6-9; Zech. 8:20-23; Mal. 4:1-3.

From the Scriptures discussed above we see that the Bible treats of the Kingdom class from two standpoints: (1) the embryo Kingdom – the Church in the flesh, being fitted to reign in the next Age; and (2) the born Kingdom – the Church in great power and glory reigning in the earth after Christ’s Return.

It would also be in order to mention the fact that the expression, “Kingdom of God,” is sometimes used of the typical Kingdom of God (Fleshly Israel), because Fleshly Israel was typical of the Church, the real Kingdom of God. (Matt. 8:12; 1 Chron. 17:14; 1 Chron. 28:5; 2 Chron. 13:8) So, too, this expression is used of nominal Spiritual Israel as God’s nominal Kingdom. (Matt. 13:31-33)

THE CREATION OF THE KINGDOM

The Scriptures mention seven steps in the creation of the Kingdom class:

(1) The begettal of the Spirit in its individual members made them embryo New Creatures. (John 1:12-13[1]; John 3:31; 1 Cor. 4:15; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 231; 1 John 5:11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)

(2) Each was quickened (made alive) as an embryo. (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13)

(3) They began to grow in grace and knowledge in their embryo condition. (2 Pet. 3:18; Eph. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:2)

(4) They strengthened in every good word and work and in grace and knowledge. (Eph. 3:16; Eph. 6:10-17; Col. 1:11; 2 Tim. 2:1)

(5) They developed by balancing the various parts of a Christ-like character with one another. (2 Thess. 2:17; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Thess. 3:12-13; Jas. 5:8; 2 Pet. 1:12)

(6) Their full development as embryos was completed by perfecting their characters, truly conforming them unto Christ’s image. (Rom. 8:29; Luke 6:40; Eph. 4:12; Heb. 13:20, 21; 1 Pet. 5:10)

(7) They were then ready to experience Spirit birth in the First Resurrection, by which they were to obtain the Divine nature, through obtaining immortality. (John 3:5-8; Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23; Jas. 1:18; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:50, 52-54)

All who proved faithful as such underwent these seven processes which, beginning with the begettal of the Spirit and ending in the birth of the Spirit, constitute the creative Acts whereby God brings to completion the creation of a new order of beings on the Divine plane of existence. This New Creation consists of Jesus and all His Body members.

The means which God uses to produce this New Creation are His Spirit (1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Cor. 6:11), His Word (1 Pet. 1: 22-24; 1 Pet. 2:2; John 17:17) and His providences. (Rom. 8:28, 35-39; Heb. 12:5-13) The Scriptures teach that each member of the Kingdom class would have his part in this creative process by consecrating himself to God, becoming dead to self and the world and alive to God, that he might receive the begettal. (Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:3) Then in his various experiences he was to remain dead to self and the world and alive to God. (Rom. 12:2; Rom. 6:2-11; Col. 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 1:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:11; 1 Pet. 4:1-3) By the grace of God this resulted, in the case of those who proved faithful as members of His Body, in the birth of the Spirit in the First Resurrection.

The subject of bringing the New Creation into existence is Scripturally set forth under the figure of the generation of a human being; hence in harmony with this figure God is set forth as the Father who would beget the New Creation as His children. (Jas. 1:18) The Sarah Covenant is set forth in this figure as their mother, in whose womb (representing the promises) their begetting, quickening, growth, strengthening, balancing and perfecting as embryo New Creatures would take place (Rom. 9:7-9; Gal. 4:22-31); and finally, they are set forth in this figure as born from this mother in the First Resurrection. (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; John 3:5-8)

The birth of the Spirit made those who experienced it spirit beings. Jesus states this in John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” St. Paul likewise assures us that human beings – flesh and blood – as such cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 15:50) Hence he teaches that the saints are changed from the human nature, which was inherited from Adam (Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45-49) to the Divine nature, which God and our Lord Jesus have, by receiving Divine, immortal bodies. (1 Cor. 15:42-54; 2 Pet. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:16-5:4; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2) Thus they are born of the Spirit in the First Resurrection, no longer with human bodies, but with spirit bodies, and that of the highest nature in existence – the Divine nature! Accord­ingly, when the Faithful reign in the earth they will be Divine beings, like our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

This great salvation to the Divine nature had not been made known until our Lord came and brought it to light. (2 Tim. 1:9-10; Heb. 2:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Luke 16:16) It was an entirely new and unheard of thing to Nicodemus, who failed to understand it. (John 3:1-13) However, it is the glorious hope that during the Gospel Age God has offered “the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28; Rom. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Col. 1:25-27; 2 Pet. 1:3-4)

THE INVISIBILITY OF THE KINGDOM

The fact that the Kingdom class become spirit beings, spirit beings of the highest of spirit natures (the Divine nature), proves that they will be invisible while reigning over the earth. We know that angels are spirits (Heb. 1:7), and that as such they are invisible; for our guardian angels are about us, but we cannot see their bodies with our natural eyes. (Heb. 1:14; Matt. 18:10; Psa. 34:7; Psa. 91:11-12) The only way that they could manifest themselves to our physical eyes would be by their creating for themselves natural bodies and showing these to us, as they did to various ones during the time that God’s Word was in process of revelation. (Gen. 18:1-8; Gen. 19:1-3; Heb. 13:2; Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 6:11-22; Judg. 13:3-21; Luke 1:11-20, 26-38; Luke 2:9-15; Matt. 28:2-7; Acts 12:7-10, etc.) But in every case the bodies which were seen were not the spirit bodies of the angels, but those which they materialized. We may be sure that if the bodies of the lower orders of spirit beings, like those of the angels, are invisible to us, the bodies of the highest order of spirit beings (Divine beings) must be invisible. Hence no human being ever saw God’s body. (John 1:18; John 5:37; 1 Tim. 1:17; Col. 1:15) Nor can any man see Christ’s present body which is a Divine body. (1 Tim. 6:16)

Jesus, by comparing them to the wind, told Nicodemus that those who would be born of the Spirit would be invisible. He said that as the wind comes and goes invisibly to us, we know of its presence not by our sight but by other senses and by its visible effects; so also, He said, are all those born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom class would be invisible when they come to reign over the earth, for He said that the Kingdom would come “not with observation” – not with outward show or visibly. Nor would anyone be able to point out these Rulers to the sight of others, saying, “Lo, here! or, lo, there!” (Luke 17:20-21) They would be invisible, “within you,” (literally “in your midst,” see Luke 17:21, NIV).

Thus no human being will ever be able to see the Kingdom class who, glorified as spirit beings of the Divine nature, are thoroughly invisible, just as the angels of God are invisible. But someone may ask concerning this Kingdom, How can there be such things as invisible rulers? We answer: There is now an invisible kingdom ruling over this world – Satan and his angels. (Matt. 12:24-28; Luke 4:5-7; John 14:30; John 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Eph. 6:11-12) We know, not only from the Bible, but also from the works of the World-Empire that Satan and his angels are now the kingdom over this present evil world. (Col. 1:13; Gal. 1:4) As subjects he has mankind in general, whom he controls politically through the political rulers, socially through the rulers in society, and financially through the trusts, corporations, mergers, etc. He despotically rules over them as a tyrant, as the executioner of God’s sentence, not that God has appointed him to be the ruler, but he has taken this rulership by usurpation and he uses this rulership invisibly.

We can only see from the effects of his reign what he is doing; for we know that he ruthlessly destroys the political, the social, the financial rulers, the trusts, the corporations, the mergers and the like, when they no longer serve his purpose. He does this, not by making himself seen visibly, but by acts that are seen among the children of men. For that reason Satan’s invisible empire, usurped over the children of men during the time of the curse and particularly in the second evil world (from the flood until Christ’s Second Advent) illustrates in its invisibility what the Kingdom of God will be like when it rules over the earth.

The Christ, Head and Body, will be present, but invisible in the Divine nature, as such having immortality and incorruptibility. They will not be seen by the children of men, either before the Millennium or during the Millennium or forever afterwards, even as Jesus says of Himself: “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.” (John 14:19) So it is not an impossible or an improbable thing that God’s Kingdom – Jesus and the Church – should be invisible while reigning over the earth.

As assistants of Jesus and the Little Flock, the Lamb’s Wife, in the spiritual or invisible phase of the Kingdom, will be the Great Multitude des­cribed in Rev. 7:9-17 and Rev. 19:1-9. This class consists of those who were called to be members of Christ’s Bride, but who more or less came short of the prize of the high calling. They are nevertheless rewarded for their measurable faithfulness by being invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Rev. 19:9) They are not of the world of mankind to be given life as children of the Second Adam and the Second Eve in the thousand-year Day of Judgment, the Restitution time, the Day of Regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory (Matt. 19:28), for they will be present at the Marriage Supper, prior to the begetting and birth of the world of mankind in their regeneration unto life. They are of the Gospel-Age salvation, justified by faith, the imperfections of their flesh being covered by Christ’s robe of righteousness, which through carelessness they allowed to become soiled or spotted by contami­nation with the world, etc., and which they wash as a class during the great tribulation. (Rev. 7:14)

They are not given a place in the throne, but before it (Rev. 7:15), as antitypical Levites (who have no inheritance in the land – Deut. 18:1-2) and Noblemen, hence not of the Restitution class, typified by the twelve tribes of Israel exclusive of the Levites. The Great Multitude as antitypical Levites are “before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” (Rev. 7:15) They are included in Abraham’s seed among “the stars of heaven” for multitude (Gen. 15:5; Gen. 22:17), as a part of the spiritual phase of the Kingdom, which will be invisible to mankind.

THE KINGDOM’S EARTHLY REPRESENTATIVES

While the Kingdom class proper – Jesus and the Church – will during their reign be invisible to mankind, they will be visibly represented through­out the earth by certain human beings – the Ancient Worthies and the Youthful Worthies – even as Satan and his angels have during their reign been visibly represented by certain human beings, such as oppressive rulers, false religious teachers and predatory aristocrats, who through Satanic decep­tion have more or less claimed to exercise their authority by Divine Right. Satan manipulated such persons through their selfish and sinful desires and through their errors and ignorance to do what he wished accomplished, by making it profitable for them to do so, and hindered them from doing what he did not want done by making it disastrous for them to do it. Hence he controlled them through selfishness, ignorance, error and wrong. Accord­ingly, they have been fitting representatives of his empire.

But the Ancient and Youthful Worthies, before being made the visible representatives of the reigning Kingdom of Heaven in this earth (Gen. 13:14-15; Acts 7:5; Heb. 11:39-40), will have dem­onstrated, through their faithfulness while on trial in this life, their loyalty to truth and right­eousness. Hence they will be suitable and dependable representatives of the invisible Rulers in the next Age. The Ancient Worthies will be the princes (not kings) throughout the earth that will rule in judgment – truth and righteousness. (Isa. 32:1; Psa. 45:16) They will have as their associates the Youthful Worthies. (Joel 2:28) They will exper­ience a better resurrection than the world (Heb. 11:35) – better because they will be awakened perfect at the beginning of Christ’s Reign.

These Ancient and Youthful Worthies will be the subordinate rulers under Christ; the world will then be subject to these Worthies, and will become perfect gradually during the Millennium and will attain perfection completely only at its end. The Ancient and Youthful Worthies will stand before the world as the latter’s visible rulers, and as such will be recognized and obeyed by the world. All these things make their resurrection better than the world’s.

To be continued in our February 2018 paper.

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ANNOUNCEMENT

The date of our Lord’s Memorial is March 29, 2018 after six p.m.

 [1] The subject of the begettal and birth of the Spirit has been somewhat darkened by the incorrect translation of the Greek word gennao, which means to beget when a male is the active agent, and to bear or give birth when a female is the active agent. See Matt. 1:16 where this word appears twice and is correctly translated in the first instance as “begat” and in the second instance as “was born.” God is always regarded as masculine; hence gennao, when used in connection with God as in these instances, should be rendered as some form of the word “beget” and not as “born.”


NO. 724: "UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN"

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 724

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6, NKJV)

Even though Christmas day is not the real anniversary of our Lord’s birth, but more likely closer to the annunciation day or the date of His human begetting (Luke 1:28), nevertheless, since the celebration of our Lord’s birth is not a matter of Divine appointment or injunction, but merely a tribute of respect to Him, it is not necessary to quibble about the date. We join with the civilized world in celebrating the grand event on the day which the majority celebrate – “Christmas day.”

In Isaiah 9:2-7[1], we find a lesson appro­priate to the Christmas season – a prophecy of our Savior and the great salvation, the gift of God, provided through Him. The prophecy begins: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (Isa. 9:2) This statement pertains to the future although it reads as if it relates to something in the past. (Similarly we read “unto us a Child is born,” whereas Jesus was not born until several centuries later.) The promised great Light is not yet shining upon the people. Mankind still dwells in the land of the shadow of death. The shadows of the demoralized, sinful, dying condition of Adam’s race affect all of life’s interests for the whole world of mankind. As the Apostle Paul subsequently explained, “For we know the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22)

We are still in the time when darkness covers the earth (civilized society) and gross darkness the people (unbelievers). (Isa. 60:2) It is true that there is a measure of light in the world and that it emanated from our dear Redeemer, His words and His works. It still shines forth from all who are truly His, all whose hearts are illuminated by His promises and His Spirit. But this is not the light which is to scatter all of earth’s darkness and to cause all mankind to appreciate the glory of God. It is merely the light of faith, hope, and love that exists in believers.

Our Lord’s light shone into a little corner of the world called Israel and from His lamp many followers have lit their lamps. To these the Master pointed out, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” He instructed them, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” He added, however, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (Matt. 5:15-16; John 3:202 Cor. 4:4)

THE TRUE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

That the True Light is not now shining, that the Sun of Righteousness has not yet arisen with “healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2) is fully evidenced by the gross darkness of the non-Christian world and by the comparatively lesser darkness of Christendom. Some light has spread throughout the world to the degree that Jesus’ true followers have kept their lights trimmed and burning. But all this is merely the shining of light in the midst of darkness and at the present time and under present conditions a light wholly inadequate to dispel the night and to bring in the glorious Day for which the whole creation groans and waits. That glorious Day cannot come until all the members of the Lord’s Body are found; together with Him they will constitute the Sun of Righteousness. (Matt. 13:43)

Soon the Church of Christ will be completed; soon the Sun of Righteousness will shine; soon its rays will light the farthest reaches of the earth. Then every child of Adam, all who shared in his curse, will share in Messiah’s great work of blessing. They will be brought under the influence of that great Light which will make the Millennial Age a Day of glory and of knowledge of the Lord as foretold by prophecy: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)

This prophecy goes beyond those living at the time and assures us that the Light will shine to those who are in the shadow of death – those already in the darkness of the death state – sheol, hades. The light must shine upon every member of Adam’s race, for Christ tasted death for all. (Heb. 2:9) Just as all of Adam’s children were condemned before their birth, so Christ died for all, before the majority were even born. Just as they shared in the curse that came upon Father Adam, so surely they will receive a blessing from the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:17-18)

MULTIPLICATION BY RESURRECTION

The prophecy continues: “Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” (Isa. 9:3, RSV) This, the Revised Standard Version rendering, is evidently more accurate than the King James Version and is consistent with many other translations. This pictures the world of mankind during the Millennial Age, brought forth from the bondage of death, released from the Adamic curse, rejoicing as those who are dividing a spoil – sharing in something which is not theirs, something which has fallen to them. This is how it will be. The blessings of the Millennium will be distributed as Divine bounty; the curse will be rolled away; the Sun of Righteousness will shine for all, bringing Restitution to all. None will forfeit the blessings except those who willfully refuse them and disregard God’s favor.

The same is true for those who receive Divine mercy now. It is a gift; they can do nothing for it; they are merely assured that they are forgiven. The difference is that now only a very few have the eye to see, the ear to hear and the heart to appreciate God’s mercy as it is told us in the Good Tidings which can only be understood by the hearing of faith. In the next age sight and knowledge will largely take the place of faith. The world will then realize the grace of God in Christ Jesus, forgiving their sins and providing them with life everlasting if they will accept it; and they will rejoice to divide the great spoil, the great gift of God. (Rom. 6:23)

The next verse describes the cause for this rejoicing: “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.” (Isa. 9:4) It will be because the great oppressor, Satan, will no longer have control. His yoke of sin, sorrow, pain and death, his rod and his staff of affliction and slavery, will be broken forever, as the Lord explains. (Rev. 20:1-3) The victory over the Adversary is not to be a slow and gradual one, not to be accomplished by missions or any human power; but the Lord Himself will interpose His Power, “as in the day of Midian.”

GIDEON’S ARMY

The day of Midian was the day when Gideon and his little band, armed with trumpets and pitchers with lights in them, delivered Israel from the hosts of Midian. (Judges 7:15-22) By the blowing of the trumpets, the breaking of the pitchers and the shining of the lights, they confused the Midianites, so that they killed one another with a great slaughter. The Lord overwhelmed the powerful enemies of His people, granting them a miraculous deliverance.

Our Lord Jesus is the antitypical Gideon, and His “little flock” (Luke 12:32), the Church of this Gospel Age, are the antitype of Gideon’s little army. It will be through their intervention (on the other side of the vail) that the hosts of sin and the present weapons of evil will be utterly defeated and will self-destruct in the great Time of Trouble drawing near. The great victory for truth and righteousness will result in the binding of Satan and the release of all the oppressed.

In the next verse we read of the grand conclusion, the end of sin and trouble: For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. (Isa. 9:5, RSV) The interpretation of this figurative statement is that everything pertaining to this great conflict between right­eousness and unrighteousness, all of the weapons of Satan, all the accessories of sin and death which have prevailed in the world for centuries, shall be utterly destroyed. The picture shows us the world cleansed from every evidence of opposition to the Divine Government and the Law of Righteousness, and harmonizes well with the statement of Revelation: And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13)

HOW WILL IT BE BROUGHT ABOUT?

Next the Lord gives the explanation of the process by which this prophecy of blessing and release will be accomplished, drawing attention to the fact that no such blessing and enlightenment would be possible until Messiah has come. He also shows that Messiah was to be born after the manner of mankind, but would nevertheless be the Son of the Living God: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given . . . . “ (Isa. 9:6, NKJV)

How beautiful, how simple, is the entire statement from the standpoint of faith! Yet the wisdom of this world still may stumble over even such simple statements as these, claiming, as Higher Critics do, that this prophecy was wholly to the Israelites of Isaiah’s day, and that the promised one was King Hezekiah! Blessed are our eyes if they see and our ears if they hear the true meaning of this prophecy and thus permit us to recognize in it the Messiah, Immanuel – meaning “God with us” – the one sent of God to be the great Deliverer and to accomplish for us all the wonderful things which God has promised by all the holy Prophets since the world began, confirming His promise made to Abraham: “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Acts 3:19-21; Gen. 28:14; Gal. 3:8,16,29)

The prophecy continues, picturing the Child grown to manhood, and the government placed upon His shoulders: “. . . . And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6, NKJV) The respon­sibility falls upon Him as a royal mantle from the Heavenly Emperor, God the Father. Skipping over the earthly trials and sufferings of our Redeemer and the Church during the Gospel Age, the prophecy points to the complete and glorified Messiah at His Second Advent, viewed from God’s standpoint, the standpoint from which the whole world will ultimately recognize Him.

THE TITLES GIVEN TO JESUS

All the titles given to our Lord – “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – represent His majesty, dignity, power and glory. Our Lord is already recognized by His true followers, who know Him as the most wonderful Counselor. No other counsel, no other teaching is like His. The world in general has yet to learn this fact about Him; but before the close of the Millennium it will be generally known: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) If after confessing Him any willfully and deliberately ignore and reject His teachings, sinning willfully and intentionally, such will die the Second Death. (Acts 3:23)

Our Lord Jesus is recognized now by His true followers as the Mighty Lord, the Mighty God, but not as God the Father. (1 Cor. 8:6) He is the Father’s representative, voice, mouthpiece, the well-beloved Son whom the Father has clothed with glory, honor and immortality, and given all power in Heaven and in earth necessary to the accomplishment of the great work entrusted to Him. (Matt. 3:17; Matt. 28:18) He demonstrated His fitness for this office by His love and His loyalty even unto the death of the Cross.

Our Lord Jesus will be the Everlasting Father of the human race in the sense that, while their father Adam failed to give them life, our Lord redeemed Adam and all his posterity, thus becoming the Author of everlasting life to all who will obey Him. This will include all of the human family that will attain to everlasting life, except the Church class of this Gospel Age, who are chosen out of the world and begotten of the Heavenly Father to a new, spiritual nature. (1 Pet. 1:3-4) These spirit-begotten ones are separate and distinct from the world, and are Scripturally designated the New Creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) They are spoken of as the brethren of Christ in one figure, and as His Bride and Joint-heirs in another, but never as His children. (Heb. 2:11; Rev. 21:2) To the world, however, He will be the Everlasting Father, or Life-giver through whom they may have everlasting life – life to all eternity – if they will become obedient to God’s arrangements.

Another of our Lord’s titles will be Prince of Peace. While His Kingdom will be introduced by the great Time of Trouble such as never before was, the trouble will not be of His producing. (Dan. 12:1) It will be the result of the wrong course of sin and selfishness fostered by the great oppressor, Satan. The Prince of Peace will subdue all enemies, all sin, all unrighteousness, all insubordination to the Divine will. He will neither fail nor be discouraged. Nothing will hinder the accomplishment of this great mission entrusted to Him by the Father. His love of peace will not hinder Him from dashing the nations to pieces as a potter’s vessel, in order that righteousness be established upon a firm and sure foundation. (Psa. 2:9; Rev. 2:26-27)

“UPON THE THRONE OF DAVID”

Our lesson concludes: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isa. 9:7)

The word David signifies “beloved;” and the kingdom entrusted to King David was God’s Kingdom in a typical form, which was never to pass away. (1 Chron. 29:23; 2 Sam. 7:16) It was maintained by the Lord down to the time of Zedekiah, when we are told that the crown and the scepter of authority and power were removed to be overturned until He would come whose right it is. (Ezek. 21:27).

Our Lord in the flesh, as a descendant of King David, was the legitimate Heir to that Kingdom of David which was to have no end. But instead of establishing His Kingdom at His First Advent, He declared, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) That is to say, His Kingdom was not of that age, that dispensation. He then began the selection of the Little Flock who in the world to come, the Millennial Age, will be His joint-heirs and associates in the Millennial Kingdom. This work of selecting the Church – the kings, rulers, priests – has since been in progress, and we have the assurance of God’s Word that it will reach a final and glorious consummation worthy of our God.

When Christ and the glorified Church reign over the earth, their rule will be the continuation or exaltation of the Kingdom of God which was begun in King David and Natural Israel. This greater David, this greater Beloved of the Father, full of grace and truth, will establish righteousness in the earth with judgment – with punishments for wrong-doing and rewards for right-doing.

Although the Millennial Kingdom will be under the direct supervision of our glorious Lord and His associated Church, yet behind it will be the Father’s delegated power. As the Apostle assures us, when it is said that all things will be put under subjection to Christ, it is manifest that the Father is excepted, for it is He that puts all things under Christ. “Then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God [the Father] may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:27,28)

Immanuel’s government, from the time of its beginning to the time it will be transferred to the Father, will be one continuous success; there will be no breaks or changes of course. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” The discipline and order which He will establish will be on such a firm basis that day by day will see it more secure, until finally the consummation having been reached, the trials all being complete, the willfully incorrigible having been destroyed, the dominion without end will be passed to the Father.

It was the Father’s Kingdom from the time of David; it will be the Father’s Kingdom under the control of Messiah during the period of subjugation and Restitution, the Millennial Age; and it will be the Father’s Kingdom without end after “he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” (1 Cor. 15:24) The assurance given is that the work of reconstruction will be so thoroughly carried out that never again will sin bring a curse upon the earth. (Rev. 21:4)

CALL HIS NAME JESUS

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)

This text sums up the entire work of our Lord Jesus, indicating that it is all implied in the meaning of the name Jesus, Savior. We sometimes refer to our Lord as the Savior of sinners, and properly so, because we are all sinners through our share in the Adamic fall. We sometimes speak of Him as the Savior of the world, and properly so, because the whole world was lost through Adam’s disobe­dience, and the whole world was redeemed and is to have the glorious opportunity of reconciliation to the Father through their Redeemer. But it is also appropriate that we note the statement of this text that He will save His people from their sins.

This statement, that only the Lord’s people are to be saved from their sins, is in full agreement with the other statements that He is the Savior of sinners and the Savior of the world. Although His salvation (from the Adamic death) extends to and embraces every member of Adam’s race, yet only those who accept the great salvation and the opportunities accorded them once they learn of them, thus becoming His people, only they and no others will get the full salvation and be delivered completely from death, and attain to the life everlasting, which is the gift of God to all those who obey Him. (Rom. 6:23)

(Derived from several writings of Pastor Russell, primarily Reprints 3685-3687)

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THE SCOPE OF THE ANGELS’ SONG

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

The song which the angels sang at the birth of the Savior has been seized upon and misapplied by some who do not see the plan of God for the salvation of the world. Be­coming discouraged by the seemingly poor prospect for the world’s conversion, these have put forth a version of this passage more in harmony with their own doubts and misconcep­tions. To these the prayer which our Master taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” has lost its meaning; for they see no hope of its fulfillment except in a very limited sense. Hence they prefer to translate the latter part of the verse, “And on earth peace, among men of good will.” Were this the proper rendering, our hopes for the ultimate good of all, as far as this passage is concerned, would surely be eclipsed; for very few thus far in the history of the race have been “men of good will,” men who have unselfishly endeavored to any appreci­able degree to bring about the good of their fellows.

But we do not believe this to be the thought of the original. It is not in harmony with what we have clearly seen to be the plan of God for mankind. Such a translation eliminates the thought of God’s eventual good will toward all the world, and greatly minimizes the scope of this glorious song. It implies merely that men who have a feeling of good will are, or will be, at peace among themselves. How utterly barren of hope for all men would such an expression be! And how little the song of the angels would signify if this were its meaning!

On the contrary, this song was a prophecy of God’s purpose to bring about through the newly born Child the overturning of the curse and the establishment of peace and sin­lessness among mankind, in which God and man would become at-one. It was an expression of God’s good will, His good purpose, to bring man back to the image and likeness of Himself in which Adam was created. When this shall have been accomplished, then peace will dwell in all the earth; for the causes of discord will have been eliminated.

The world of mankind came under the curse, or sentence, of death because of the sin in Eden – because our first parents disobeyed God’s righteous command. All humanity, therefore, are members of an accursed race – under penal servitude, which ends in the tomb. The race has been learning the lesson of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and its terrible effects. But God has promised to take away the curse and to bring a permanent blessing in its place. This will mean a return to His favor, to full harmony with Himself.

PROGRESSION OF GOD’S GREAT PLAN

We speak of this song as a prophecy because the peace has not yet come, nor the good will, in the sense that God’s face is not yet turned toward man. It is a declaration of what God purposes to do. He does not have good will toward the present sinful, re­bellious attitude of the race. He has never had good will toward sin. We are not to understand that God was expressing His good will toward man when He pronounced the sentence of death upon him. God’s curse indicated His ill will toward man – in other words, His displeasure because of man’s sin. He wished man to suffer ill as a just punishment for his willful disobedience. God cut him off from fellowship with Himself. He was not bound in justice to do anything more for the race. But in His infinite mercy He provided a deliverance for mankind. He foreknew man’s fall, and planned his redemption from before the foundation of the world. (1 Pet. 1:18-20)

Through all the ages since the fall of Adam God’s plan has been slowly, steadily progressing. While men have been learning in pain and tears and trouble the nature and results of sin, God has been selecting His saintly ones, His elect – first, the elect who are to be the earthly princes in His Kingdom of blessing; then, the elect who are to reign over all as kings and priests of God on the highest plane of existence. The chief of all the elect is His well-beloved Son, the Savior of the world, whose birth the angels proclaimed to the shepherds watching on the plains of Judea, some twenty centuries ago. (Isa. 42:1) When all the elect ones are chosen the blessing of the world at large will be inaugurated. “For the earnest expectation of the creature [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God [the Church]. For the creature was made subject to vanity [futility], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:19-21)

The coming of the Son of God to earth was only preliminary to His offering of Himself as a ransom for the forfeited life of Adam, the father of the race, in whom all his posterity fell. But even when our Lord had died as man’s ransom-price, God’s favor did not come to the world. Jesus was next raised from the dead a glorious, Divine being. Then He ascended up on high, and appeared in the presence of God for those who were to be of the spiritual elect. Thus the last became first in God’s plan. The merit of Jesus’ death was utilized first on behalf of these. It has not yet been applied for any others. The Church of Christ now has this promised peace and good will. It is granted only to those who have come into vital relationship with God through Christ – the fully consecrated ones.

The Scriptures show that after these are all selected, prepared and glorified, the next step will be the application to all men of the merit which has been imputed to these elect, and through whom it is to go to the Worthies of old and to the entire world of mankind. This spiritual class has been chosen to be members of the body of Christ, ­joint-associates with Him in the Messianic Kingdom. All of these who prove entirely faithful are to attain this exalted position. As soon as all the spiritual class have been glorified, the sins of all the world, those living and the dead as well, will be legally canceled by the application of the virtue, the merit, of the sacrificial death of Jesus. Then they will be freed from the condemnation of the sentence of death. The death penalty will be lifted. They will be turned over to The Christ, Head and Body, the Great Mediator. The curse will be removed.

The great work of the Millennial Age will then begin. It will be a work of gradual uplift during the entire thousand years of the reign of The Christ. The dead will be gradually awakened and brought to a clear knowledge of the salvation of God in Christ.  All will then have the opportunity of coming into the blessed condition of peace and good will proclaimed by the angels. By degrees they will be brought, if they will, to where they will be ready to be received by the Father, to be introduced to Him. This will be the blessed experience of all who will be obedient to the rules and requirements of the Kingdom. If they prove unwilling and disobedient, after being brought to a clear understanding, they will be “cut off,” destroyed, as not worthy of further effort on God’s part for their reclamation. (Acts 3:23)

(Excerpt from Reprint 5576, with minor editing)

[1] The first verse of this chapter properly belongs with the previous chapter; accordingly, in the Hebrew text it is numbered 8:23. Therefore our topic begins with the second verse.


NO. 723: THE JUBILEE OF RESTORATION

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 723

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” (Lev 25:10)

God gave His chosen people two distinct sets of Sabbaths or rests. The seventh day of the week was appointed for rest from labor for the benefit of their physical well-being; that Sabbath day was a type which foreshadowed a future time of rest of heart and mind.

There was also a special Sabbath day once a year, falling early in the ecclesiastical year after the Passover and the priest’s waving of the sheaf of first fruits (typifying our Lord’s resurrection to the heavenly plane). At the beginning of their religious year a cycle of seven times seven days began. Following this cycle of 49 days, came the fiftieth day, Pentecost, a special Sabbath day, the Jubilee Day. On this day there came a great blessing to all of the Children of Israel who were in the proper condition of heart.

The Jubilee Day foreshadowed the beginning of the real rest of heart and mind which was to come to those who were in heart readiness and who accepted Jesus as Messiah. This rest of mind and heart, typified in the Pentecostal day and its blessings, was but the earnest or foretaste of a still greater blessing and rest to be entered into by the faithful at the end of the race set before them. (Eph. 1:14; Heb. 12:1)

But Israel not only had day Sabbaths, it also had year Sabbaths, for every seventh year was a Sabbath year. Just as the Sabbath days could be observed by the chosen people anywhere and everywhere, the rest typified by their Sabbath days may be enjoyed by the consecrated everywhere under all conditions. But the Sabbath years were different. They could only be observed while the people were in their own land, because they only related to that land. In the Sabbath years, the land was allowed to rest and no crops were to be planted. (Lev. 25:4)

These Sabbath years had a cycle similar to that of the Sabbath days. The cycle of seven times seven years brought them to the fiftieth year, which was a special Sabbath year, just as the fiftieth day was a special Sabbath day. It was the Jubilee Year.

The Jubilee Year was undoubtedly a wise and beneficial arrangement made for the chosen people by God, their great King. It was first an economic arrangement; it prevented the accumulation of property in the hands of the few. It was a social and financial safety arrangement for the preservation of the rights and interests of the less successful of the people of Israel. Every fiftieth year was a Jubilee Year in which property under mortgage or lien for debt would revert to its original owner free from all encumbrance. Similarly, if a family had gotten into financial difficulty, losing its homestead and perhaps even being forced into servitude, in the fiftieth year not only the estate would be free, but all obligations of servitude would terminate.

In the Jubilee Year every man returned to his original rights and possessions. This was not unjust to anyone. Everyone knew in advance that a loan or debt or contract for the property of another could last only to the fiftieth year. Hence all valuation of property and of service rendered was based upon this arrangement. The valuation was greater when the Jubilee Year was far off and became less as it drew near. Thus under Divine arrangement it was impossible for the land of Israel to get into the hands of great landlords, trusts, etc. because the property right inhered in the family.

TIMES OF RESTITUTION THE ANTITYPE

Israel did not particularly care for this arrangement, and it gradually fell into disuse. The Almighty did not insist upon its continuance. Its chief value was that of a type pointing forward to greater “Times of Restitution” (Acts 3:21), the antitypical Jubilee Year when Adam and all of his posterity will be permitted to come back from the “land of the enemy.” (Jer. 31:16) They will be released from the power of the grave and from the dominion of sin and death. They will be brought back to harmony with God, to perfection of human nature, to inheritance of the land and all the blessings and rights and privileges which originally belonged to Father Adam.

When the great Messiah comes in power and great glory to establish in the earth His Millennial Kingdom, the human family will come into all these rights and privileges lost in Eden and redeemed at Calvary. The first to be blessed under that Kingdom arrangement will be God’s chosen people, Israel; and subsequently, all nations will receive a similar share by coming under the same conditions and participating in Israel’s New Law Covenant. (Isa. 2:3-4; Zech. 14:16-17; Rom. 2:10)

The Restitution blessings outlined by the Prophets include the restoration of Israel to Divine favor, their repossession and control of the land of Israel, and the sending forth of the Abrahamic blessings through them to all people. Restitution will include bringing the earth to full perfection, as was symbolically represented in the Garden of Eden. (Isa. 60:13, Isa. 66:1) It will include the lifting of humanity out of mental, moral and physical imperfection up to the grand heights of human perfection in the image and likeness of the Creator, to the original estate lost by Father Adam.

The Millennial Age, the reign of Messiah, will be the anti-typical Jubilee time, in which gladness and rejoicing will come to earth, and come to stay; for all who refuse the gracious privileges and opportunities of that time and reject the favor of God knowingly, willingly, intentionally, will be cut off from life in the Second Death, from which there will be no recovery. (Acts 3:23)

BLOWING SILVER TRUMPETS

At the opening of Israel’s Jubilee Year it was the priests’ duty to blow the silver trumpets pro­claiming “liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Lev. 25:9-10) The bugle note sounded by the priests was repeated every­where upon ram’s horns and upon anything that would make a joyful sound proclaiming liberty. Doubtless some who heard the sound may have been ready to dispute the correctness of the message, claiming there was a mistake.

Some who heard the proclamation of liberty were probably boisterous and rowdy in their jubilation and behaved unwisely. The beginning of the Jubilee Year must have been a time of general tumult and disruption. The current holders of the land may have been slow to surrender it; and the beneficiaries of human servitude were probably unwilling to give it up. Likewise those to whom land and freedom belonged by Divine right may have been impatient with any delay, thus becoming unreasonable in their demands for immediate restitution.

The Divine Word teaches that the great anti-typical Jubilee period of one thousand years is already upon us. We are now in the time when the priests are blowing the silver trumpets – the Truth of God’s Word – and when the common people everywhere are waking up and loudly demanding their rights and freedom, sometimes violently.

All the blessings of this Jubilee period have been Divinely provided, so it is right that humanity should receive them; however, Divine Providence should be noted and its leadings should be followed. It is God’s arrangement that the Jubilee Restitution be ushered in, so surely it will come to pass; for all of God’s purposes will be accom­plished. So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11)

There should be no breathless haste, but a quiet, patient, faithful waiting on the Almighty. He tells us, however, that many will be impatient; as a result, there will come upon the world “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) The trouble time will serve as the opening of the door to the Jubilee of Restitution. Hear the exhortation of the Prophet:

“Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (the fire of His zeal, anger). (Zeph. 3:8)

We know this will not be a literal fire, but terrible trouble causing great distress, for the next verse shows that the people will survive the trouble. There we read, “For then will I turn to the people a pure language [the Gospel of the Love and Justice of God], that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph. 3:9)

The Holy Scriptures warn all who have an ear to hear this message not to attempt to bring in the great Jubilee too hastily. The great leveling of humanity, rich and poor, is coming, and coming speedily, because “the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” (Micah 4:4) The great Jubilee with its restoration of human rights to every child of Adam is already upon us. Blessed will those be who, recognizing the fact, shall most speedily and most heartily join in and cooperate with the Divine arrangement.

Let the rich exercise benevolence of heart and rejoice to turn their millions into channels of usefulness for the people, and let them do it speedily. They should not think that all things will continue as they have been in the past – the anti-typical Jubilee has come. Its silver trumpet is now sounding in our ears. Already the masses are clamoring and restless, unable to wait for Divine Providence to give them the promised blessings. They do not know God; they do not discern that this Jubilee is coming and is of His making.

The people vainly think they are transforming society themselves. They think they must force the issue and grasp the coveted prize of equal rights, prosperity and leisure. The peculiar condition of things we now see can only be understood or appreciated in the light of the Scriptures. God’s Word gives the soundest of advice; however, the great intellects of the world have discarded the Bible and have gathered other teachers, whose doctrines credit worldly wisdom and evolution for the wonderful progress of the human race.

The Bible tells us that these doctrines will speedily come to naught: “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. (1 Cor. 1:19; Isa. 29:14-15; Prov. 14:8)

The Bible’s message regarding the present time is profitable to both rich and poor: “Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment [done His will]; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3) Few of either the rich or the poor are in the attitude of mind to hear.

“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings [including the financial kings]: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [salute, recognize the great King of Glory], lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psa. 2:10-12) This is God’s last warning to Christendom to now or never (as nations) recognize their new King by abandoning oppression and establishing justice. Now is the time for nations to concede to all men their natural rights. The Scriptures show that all nations will be found in violent opposition to the heavenly Kingdom and hence will be crushed as the vessels of a potter. (Rev. 2:27)

THE ANTI-TYPICAL JUBILLEE BEGUN

Harmonious prophecies based upon the Jubilee type show that the Jubilee chronologically began in 1875 A.D. Since then the masses have been struggling for their rights by various methods, some wise, some unwise. Everywhere the anti-typical ram’s horns are being blown and the watch-word is “rights!”

Those who own capital and have vested interests, not realizing that the Jubilee “Times of Restitution” are at hand, are perplexed at the situation and even alarmed. They have summoned the best legal talent and worldly wisdom in the endeavor to hold fast to everything they have gained and to relinquish and restore nothing! If the vested interests can possibly bar the way, the Times of Restitution will not come. Elated at their success, they believe themselves stronger, more thoroughly entrenched than ever in the control of the money and power. They hold that everything can be purchased with money – “every man has his price.”

The great struggle, the Time of Trouble, will be precipitated as a result of the extreme confidence of both sides. Organized labor and organized capital, each self-confident, will precipitate the most terrible disaster that has ever befallen Christendom – world-wide anarchy. Neither will hear; neither will understand the situation. It remains for those who have the hearing ear to heed the message of God’s word: “Seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3)

THE MATHEMATICAL CALCULATION UNDER THE LAW

The Divine key to the date for the ushering in of the anti-typical Jubilee lies in the system of day Sabbaths and year Sabbaths, culminating in a fiftieth or Jubilee Year. The multiplying of the Sabbath or seventh day by seven (7 x 7 = 49) pointed out Pentecost, the Jubilee Day which followed; and the multiplying of the seventh year by seven (7 x 7 = 49) made the cycle which pointed out and led to the fiftieth or Jubilee Year. The same system would indicate that to reach the great antitype which we seek we should in like manner square the Jubilee – i.e., multiply the fiftieth year by fifty. The anti-typical Jubilee will be the great Jubilee of Jubilees, reached by the same method of counting, 50 x 50 years, or 2,500 years in all.

The question is: When should we begin the counting of this cycle? The answer is: Where the type ceased to be observed the great cycle began. In other words, God preserved the type until the proper time for the anti-typical cycle to begin to count.

We know that the Hebrew people maintained their Jubilee system very imperfectly and with more or less dissatisfaction until the overthrow of their government. After Zedekiah’s government was over­thrown and the people taken into captivity for seventy years by Nebuchadnezzar, the typical Jubilee must have ceased during this period, because it could be observed only while in their own land. Prior to that time, although repeatedly taken into captivity by their enemies, they were never out of their land long enough to prevent the celebration of the Jubilee. And so far as any record shows, the Israelites have never observed a Jubilee Year since their return from the Babylonian captivity.

Moreover, through the Prophet Jeremiah the Lord distinctly tells us that Israel’s observance of the Jubilee Sabbath years was unsatisfactory, and that He made desolate their land during those seventy years in order that it might have the full number of Sabbaths which He had designed, and which the people had selfishly neglected to observe. All of those seventy years of captivity were Jubilee Years and the land had rest – none being observed subsequently:

“And them that had escaped from the sword carried he [Nebuchadnezzar] away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill three score and ten years.” (2 Chron. 36:20-21)

Thus we know when the seventy years desolation began; namely, 606 B.C.[1] But how may we determine just when Israel observed their last Jubilee? To answer this question, we must reckon from the time when the Jubilee system of counting began down to 606 B.C., the beginning of the captivity, and then divide that total of years by 50. This would show us how many Jubilees Israel had already kept unsatisfactorily; and the remainder would represent the number of years which had elapsed between the last unsatisfactory Jubilee and the carrying into captivity.

The Scriptures distinctly inform us that the counting of the years of Jubilee began when Israel entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. (Lev. 25:2-4) There were six years from the crossing of Jordan until the division of the land; then a period of judges of 450 years; and a period of kings, 513 years, totaling 969 years to the desolation of the land at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. This number, divided by 50, would show that 19 Jubilees had passed, and that the last one occurred 19 years before the captivity.

Understanding that the anti-typical cycle began to count where the type ceased, we arrive at the 2,500 years for the great antitypical Jubilee thus: from the 19th Jubilee to the beginning of the desolation = 19 years; the period of desolation = 70 years; from the end of the desolation until A.D. 1 = 536 years; from A.D. 1 to A.D. 1874 = 1874 years. The total would be the sum of 19, 70, 536 and 1874, namely 2,499 years. As the Jubilee of Jubilees would come in the 2500th year, it follows that the year 1875 would correspond to that year. Since the anti-type, however, was not to be one year, but a thousand years, we understand that it was the thousand-year Jubilee which began in 1875 (that year beginning in October 1874 according to Jewish civil time).

This seems comparatively strong and clear as a Scriptural argument, and certainly seems to be in accordance with the facts of history. It is just what we should expect in this day of blowing the anti-typical trumpets and general commotion on the part of those desiring to quickly get their Jubilee rights.

THE JUBILEES ACCORDING TO PROPHECY

The Law sets things forth exactly as they should occur. As we have just seen, the great cycle of 50 x 50 = 2,500 years should begin exactly where the typical Jubilee ceased. Prophecy, however, shows matters from another standpoint; it foretells matters exactly as they will occur. Thus, through the Prophet Jeremiah, the Lord informs us that the total number of Jubilees would be seventy. (2 Chron. 36:20-21)

The total number may thus be counted in two different ways. We have seen that nineteen Jubilees were actually observed, although unsatisfactorily. These, deducted from 70, would leave 51 of the 7 x 7 cycles to be fulfilled. But since the Jubilees were not observed but the cycles only without the 50th year, the cycles only should be counted, and these were 49 years each. Thus, 51 cycles without Jubilees would be 51 x 49, or 2,499 years. The 19 cycles with Jubilees would be 19 x 50, or 950 years.

Thus we have the full 70 cycles shown; and 2,499 plus 950 is 3,449, which is the number of years from their first Jubilee on entering Canaan, to the close of the year 1874 A.D., which would be October, 1874. So we reach the same date as by the Law method of counting.

The whole world, as well as Israel, has an interest in the Jubilee and its “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21) But the Restitution blessings will come first to Israel, after the stress of the great Time of Trouble, in which the chosen people will have their share, “the time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer. 30:7) The Millennial blessings will begin with Israel. Their law-givers will be restored as at the first, and their judges as at the beginning. (Isa 1:26) The Lord will assume the guidance, control, blessing and uplifting – the Restitution – of all the willing and obedient, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. (Rom. 11:25-31; Rom. 1:16)

(Based on What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 84-88)

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THE GREATEST THING IN THE UNIVERSE

“That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:7)

That Christendom has erred in its assessment of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of God’s love is evidenced by its conflicting creeds. Not one of these creeds is rational enough to be defended by one in a hundred of its own clergy, who profess to believe and teach it.

This is driving many noble people away from the Bible, which has been misinterpreted by us all. We have looked at the unfinished parts of the Divine Plan without properly using the telescope of God’s Word to see the future features of it.

None of us would judge a new building merely by the first story of the structure, incomplete and surrounded by scaffolding. On the contrary, we would ask for the architect’s drawings and consider them prophecies of the building to be built. The Jewish Age with its people, law, mediator, priesthood, and Jubilee were only rough outline sketches of the Divine Plan, which had not then even begun.

To judge God’s character we must see the Truth, the entire Divine Plan, and not merely a primary section of it. The Redeemer is the foundation for the great structure as St. Paul said, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11)

God’s Plan first calls for the development of the Church as a “new creation” on the spirit plane, higher than the angels, “partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; 2 Pet. 1:4) They are “the church of the living God; the pillar and ground of the truth,” (1 Tim. 3:15) and “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (Jas. 1:18)

By declaring the Church to be the “firstfruits,” and the “firstborn” (Heb. 12:23), God positively declares there is a secondary part of His great plan of salvation in which free grace and fullest opportunity for reconciliation to God will be granted to the whole world, the non-elect. (Rom. 5:15-19; 2 Cor. 5:19)

The world’s salvation will not be heavenly, but earthly; their resurrection will not mean a change from human nature to spiritual nature. For all the willing and obedient, it will mean a raising up to the perfection of human nature to be enjoyed in a world-wide paradise. The unwilling and disobedient will not be tortured to all eternity, but, as the Scriptures declare: “The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.” (Psa. 145:20) The wicked will perish like brute beasts in the second death, returning to sheol, the death state. (2 Pet. 2:12; Psa. 9:17, RSV)

A God of justice, wisdom and power devoid of love would be as cold and unsympathetic as a marble statue. The greatest thing among men is love. Neither palace nor cottage could be a real home and a place of joy and peace and refreshment without love. We cannot even suppose a heart devoid of love without supposing it under the control of selfishness, and selfishness is merely another name for sin.

The greatest men and women who have lived and done the most to bless the human race have been men and women of heart, of love. Love is the principal thing in all this world. Without it none can be truly happy under any condition, but with it happiness is possible under almost any condition. How did man get this quality of love unless from the Creator?

God’s love will be most wonderfully displayed in His gracious kindness in the resurrection of the Church to glory, honor and immortality. Then will come a further display of “love Divine, all love excelling,” when mankind in general shall be blessed under the thousand year Messianic Kingdom.

Astronomers tell us that our galaxy, The Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars and likely a hundred billion planets. It was once thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe, but we now know it is just one of many galaxies. How little we feel ourselves to be, and proportionately how amazing seems the love of God toward us in Christ Jesus!

We are not informed respecting the work of the Church beyond their thousand year reign; the Bible merely assures us that Divine Love is unlimited, and that those who have proven themselves loyal, even unto death, will have blessing upon blessing through future ages. (Rom. 2:7) The future work of the Church after the Millennial Age could relate to these other billions of worlds.

Our verse shows that a limitless eternity is provided for the showing forth of God’s love toward us. There is no doubt that the lessons taught through the permission of sin among humanity on our earth were designed by the Creator to furnish a great lesson throughout ages to come.

(Based on What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 174-175)

 

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HE WILL MAKE IT PLAIN

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour;

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.

[1] See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume II, Chapter II for a detailed discussion of Bible chronology.


NO. 722: WHO GAVE THEE THIS AUTHORITY? - PART TWO

by Epiphany Bible Students


No. 722

We continue from our last paper with Pastor Russell’s response to the San Francisco Monitor. That publication challenged Pastor Russell’s credentials and authority and defended the doctrine of eternal torment. The Monitor presented three texts which supposedly proved eternal torment.

After establishing his authority to expound God’s word, Pastor Russell began to explain the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, pointing out that the rich man represents the Jewish nation and Lazarus, the poor man, represents Gentiles. We now continue with Pastor Russell’s rebuttal:

THE RICH MAN IN HADES

All scholars are aware that in the Bible the Greek word hades[1] in the New Testament is the equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol in the Old Testament. All are aware that these words signify the tomb, the state of death, and not a place of suffering or torture, at all. The word that is rendered hell fire in our English Bibles is a different word, namely, gehenna, which we will consider later.

If hades signifies the state of death, the tomb, how could the “rich man” suffer there? We reply that the rich man is to be viewed from two different standpoints – national and individual. Nationally the Jew went into hades – their kingdom and nation­ality have been buried for eighteen centuries; but individually the Jews are very much alive, and for all of these eighteen centuries that their nationality has been buried, they have been suffering injustices and tortures, and, alas, chiefly from those calling themselves Christians, but denying both the power and the spirit of Christianity.

There is an impassable gulf between the saintly Lazarus class (represented by the beggar) and the Jews. God has not wished that the Jewish nation should amalgamate with other nations nor with Christendom. He has a special work for the Jews to do in the near future, and for this very purpose He has preserved them as a people for now thirty-five hundred years. In his sufferings the Jew at times has made an appeal, desiring that the Lazarus class might give a symbolical drop of water – of comfort and refreshment; but this has been denied. As an illustration of such an appeal, many of us remember the Jewish protest against Russian persecutions and their request of Mr. (Theodore) Roosevelt, when President, that he intervene. President Roosevelt expressed sym­pathy, but declared compliance with the request impossible, as it would be a violation of the comity of nations.

The Jewish nation consisted of twelve tribes. Some of all were at Jerusalem in Palestine, the center of their national life. But two tribes, mainly, were represented there – Judah and Benjamin. These two, therefore, may be specially considered as the “rich man” in the parable. His five brethren mentioned would correspond to the remaining ten tribes residing in the countries around. The parable shows that no special favor would be shown to those brethren – “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (Luke 16:29) These words clearly identify the rich man and his brethren as the twelve tribes of Israel to whom God’s favors and blessings came through Moses and the Prophets.

Cannot all see clearly that this parable, which is the mainstay of all the eternal torment doctrines and teachings, has been misunderstood? Its teachings are beautiful and in entire accord with the facts of history and revelation.

2. THE GOATS IN EVERLASTING FIRE – Matt. 25:31-46

This, also, is a parable, and not a literal statement. Besides, it applies not to people now living, but to people who will be living in the world during the thousand years of Christ’s reign follow­ing His second advent. The context tells us this. We read, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations.” (Matt. 25:31-32)

The Son of Man has not yet come in His glory. He is waiting for the development of the Church, His saintly Bride class, which is to sit with Him in His Throne and share His glory, and participate with Him, in the judging of the world – “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2) This parable, then, belongs not to the Church, nor to this Gospel Age, but to the world’s Judgment Day or trial time in the coming Age, the thousand years of Messiah’s reign. Mankind is represented by sheep and goats. Surely these are symbolical. Surely mankind will not turn into sheep and goats! We must interpret it symbolically.

Like a shepherd the great Messiah will, during the thousand years, instruct, uplift and enlighten humanity. Such as receive the instruc­tions and come into full accord with Him are styled sheep, symbolically, of course. And they are placed at His right hand, symbolically, of course, signifying a place of favor. The others, the way­ward, not developing the graces of character under these instructions, will be goats, in a symbolical sense, of course, and will be gathered to Messiah’s left hand of disfavor. At the conclusion of that glorious thousand years of Divine favor, uplifting, restitution (Acts 3:19-21), the consum­mation of the matter will have been reached. The sheep class, perfect, glorious, will be ushered into life everlasting. The goat class, willful rejecters of Divine favor on the Divine terms, will receive death everlasting, their everlasting punish­ment.

But what kind of punishment will it be? St. Paul answers, they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction.” (2 Thess. 1:9) Destruction will be their punishment. St. Peter says they “shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23) Again, he tells us that they will perish like natural brute beasts. (2 Pet. 2:12) What could be plainer or simpler than this? The word used by our Lord, in the Greek rendered punishment (Matt. 25:46), is kolasis. It signifies restraint, cutting off. It has no thought of torment connected with it.

The question may arise: Why did our Lord use the words, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt: 25:41)? Fire is here used as a symbol of destruction, and the word everlasting gives its full significance, as St. Paul expressed it, “ever­lasting destruction.” Is not fire as good a symbol of destruction as a sheep is a symbol of a child of God, or a goat a symbol of a follower of Satan? We can think of no better symbol of destruction than fire – nothing more destructive.

But the Monitor raises the suggestion that matter is indestructible. Very true. The burning of a human body in a literal flame or the burning of the same body by the chemical action of the atmos­phere, more slowly, would reduce it to dust and gases. Nothing would be lost. But man is more than a body. The intelligent will, thought, etc., which constitutes a human soul or human being, is some­thing more than a body, and is not subject to the same conditions. The soul can be destroyed. Intelligence can be blotted out. The human will perishes when the spark of animal life quits the body. And it is the soul that the Bible declares is responsible for sin, and not the body. It was Adam, a soul, that was condemned to death. It was Adam and the souls of all his children that were redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice: “Who redeemeth thy life [soul, being] from destruction.” (Psa. 103:4)

The death or destruction of Adam’s soul would have meant annihilation had not the Almighty provided the redemption. The redemption price was the death of Jesus’ soul; as we read, “He hath poured out his soul unto death;” He “shalt make his soul an offering for sin.” (Isa. 53:12,10) Likewise it was Jesus’ soul that was raised from the dead; as we read, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell” (hades, sheol, the grave). (Acts 2:27) This is St. Peter’s explanation not ours.

Because Adam, a soul, and all his children’s souls have thus been redeemed (not from torment, but from sheol, hades, the tomb, the state of death), therefore we have the Master’s own words, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth.” (John 5:28) The First Resurrection will consist only of the holy, the saintly, whose trial is in the present time, and who will be awakened to their reward to sit with Messiah in His Throne. During the thousand years all the remainder of the dead will be awakened and given the opportunity of resurrection or raising up out of sin and death. That will be a resurrection of judgment, or trial, or testing for them, because only those who will conform to the tests of that time will ever be fully raised up. The others, the goat class, will be destroyed in the Second Death.

3. LOOKING UPON THE CARCASSES – Mark 9:42-48

The Monitor’s third proof-text of eternal torment is found in St. Mark 9:42-48. The Lord advised all to cut off their right hand or pluck out their eye rather than to go into gehenna fire “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

We read recently of a poor man in Sweden who took the Monitor’s literal view of this step and chopped off his right hand. He thought the statement literal and acted according to his faith. We doubt if the Monitor’s editor has done the same, or would be likely to take this passage literally if the conditions were ever so favorable.

It is worthy of note that the word here rendered hell fire, is not the same Greek word that is generally rendered hell and which signifies the tomb. The word here is gehenna. It refers not to some place beyond the bounds of time and space, but to a valley just outside of the walls of Jerusalem. As Jerusalem typically represented the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God, and harmony with God, so this Valley of Hinnom, called in the Greek gehenna, symbolized the utter destruction of all finally unrepentant and willfully disobedient sinners in the Second Death – “everlasting des­truction.” This is acknowledged by the Monitor, which says:

“Gehenna originally stood for ‘the valley of the sons of Hinnom.’ It was notorious as the scene in earlier days of the horrible worship of Moloch. Later, when the Jews fell away from the true worship of God, they even went so far as to burn their own children to the demons of that region. It was a place that had been defiled by Josiah, cursed by Jeremias, and for these associations held in abomination by the Jews, who according to the course of time, used it to signify also the fiery and cursed abode of the damned. This is the very usage of the term that Christ Himself adopted.”

The Monitor styles it the abode of the damned. But what is the real meaning of the word damned? All will agree that it signifies condemned. So we say that gehenna will be the abode of all condemned to the Second Death as the filth and offscouring of the earth, unfit for the Divine favor and blessing of life everlasting.

The Valley of Hinnom (gehenna), in our Lord’s day, was deep and was used as a garbage place for the destruction of valueless things. No living things were ever cast into it – only dead carcasses, rats, mice, dogs, etc. Many of these, falling along the sides of the Valley would gradually decompose. Maggots would breed in them and speedily reduce them to dust. These are the worms mentioned by Jesus, that “dieth not.” These worms are not alive now; they were like any other worms. Jesus meant that, as the worms surely accomplished the destruction of the refuse cast therein, complete destruction so awaits the willfully wicked. No one thought of killing those worms or stopping their ravages. They were doing good work.

When Jesus spoke of the fire that was not quenched, He referred to the burning of brimstone in the bottom of this gehenna. Its use was intended to destroy bacteria, the germs of disease, and help to preserve the health of the city. Those who heard Jesus had no thought that He meant for them to cut off their hands or their feet, or pluck out their eyes. Neither did they understand Him to mean that the wicked would be literally cast into that or any similar gehenna. They interpreted the parable properly to mean that any sin we may cherish, be it as precious to us as a right hand, a right foot, or a right eye, would be too costly to continue if it were to lose for us the everlasting life and harmony with God symbolized by the New Jerusalem – if it would win for us the Second Death, symbolized by gehenna and its worms and fire.

The Monitor evidently knew about the prophecy which corresponds exactly to Jesus’ words, but it does not cite it. We will do so. It is found in Isaiah 66:24. The context shows us that the prophecy relates to the future – to the period of Messiah’s Kingdom, when all will be expected to worship God and to obey, under the assistance of the great Mediator between God and men. Then, however, transgressors will perish, and the righteous will look (figuratively) upon the carcasses of them that transgressed against God, whose worms shall not die, whose fire shall not be quenched. It will be the carcasses that will be in evidence, and the worms and the fire, and the people will see these. (All shall see the justice, as well as the wisdom of the utter destruction of the incorrigible, willful enemies of right.) It will not be a roasting of souls by devils with pitchforks to all eternity! A little Scripture helps to dissolve much of the confusion of the “dark ages.”

THE MONITOR AGREES

The Monitor agrees that the literal meaning of the word sheol, the only word translated hell in the Old Testament, is the grave. It says:

“Pastor Russell thinks to do away with the Biblical reason for a hereafter of punishment by calling attention to the fact that the word sheol, the Hebrew term for hell, literally means, the grave. It is to be remarked first that the origin of this word is doubtful. The general agreement among Hebrew scholars is that it comes from another Hebrew word meaning to be sunk in or to be hollow; accordingly signifying a cave or place under the earth, and hence a grave. But as in all other tongues, so in Hebrew, words have several significations related or connected with their original meaning.”

Very good. No scholar would think of ques­tioning that the primary meaning of sheol is the grave, and that the word sheol in the Common Version of the Old Testament is translated grave and pit more times than it is translated hell, but means grave or pit every time. The Monitor thinks, however, that it sees an objection, and that sheol does not always signify the grave. It cites us to Jacob’s lament over the supposed death of Joseph. Jacob said, “I will go down into the grave [sheol] unto my son mourning.” (Gen. 37:35) The Monitor argues that, since he thought his son had been devoured by wild beasts, he could not refer to going to the grave. The Monitor must take a broader view of the word grave and consider it the tomb, the death state. Otherwise he would be forced to the supposition that Jacob expected the same wild beast to devour him, so that he could go to his son.

In order to understand the Bible we must approach it with free minds, unbiased, and seek to be taught by it instead of seeking to make it support our own theory or irrational theories of the past. In old English literature the word hell was freely used as signifying grave or pit or any covered state or condition. Thus a man might speak of the helling of his house and mean the thatching of it with straw, the one-storied buildings of olden times being buried under the thatch. Farmers in olden times wrote, telling how many bushels of potatoes they helled in the fall – buried in pits to keep them from sprouting that they might be dug up for use in the spring.

Whoever will take the trouble to look up every one of the sixty-five occurrences of the word sheol in the Old Testament may satisfy himself without a doubt respecting the meaning of the word, that it refers to the death state, the tomb. Hades in the New Testament corresponds to this, and is used to translate sheol in Acts 2:27 (a quotation of Psa. 16:10), “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,” and in 1 Cor. 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” As before stated, the only word translated hell which has fire connected with it in any sense is gehenna, which is a metaphor.

Whatever sheol is, it is to be destroyed. It is not to last forever, for the Lord so declares, “O grave [sheol], I will be thy destruction.” (Hos. 13:14) The grave, the tomb, the state of death is to be destroyed. The death penalty which came upon the race through our Father Adam’s disobedience is to be cancelled, obliterated, as a result of Jesus’ sacrificial death, the Just for the unjust. The thousand years of Messiah’s reign will be devoted to this very work of destroying Adamic death – the death which has come upon the human family because of Father Adam’s disobedience. From the Bible standpoint, the whole human family are dead, in the sense that they have no right to life because imperfect.

Thus Jesus speaks of them, saying, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60) During Messiah’s reign, the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth. Every creature will be enlightened. All the blind eyes shall be opened. All the deaf ears shall be unstopped. All that have gone down into sheol (the tomb) will come up; thus sheol will be destroyed, to be no more. (Isa. 11:9; Isa. 35:5; John 5:28-29)

St. Paul confirms this, declaring that ultimately a great shout will go up, “O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55) Hades now is having a great victory; its captives number ninety thousand every day. But soon Emanuel’s Kingdom will be established, and instead of the reign of sin and death will come in the reign of righteousness unto life – the turning back of the tide – the recovery of the race. By the close of Messiah’s reign He will have accomplished a great victory over sin and all opposition, including death, the last enemy to be fully destroyed. (1 Cor. 15:25-26) “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:54; Isa. 25:8)

The Monitor closes with an appeal to believe in eternal torment based on its final text on the subject, St. Luke 12:4-5:

“And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

Strange to say, the Monitor does not perceive that this, its last thunderbolt, shatters its own argument! The argument is that the Lord’s disciples should not fear men in their loyalty to principle, because men could merely kill the body, could merely take away the present life and could do no more. Men could have no power to vitiate or render inoperative that privilege of everlasting life which God has provided for all mankind through Jesus. On the contrary, all should know that God is able to destroy the soul, the future life, in gehenna.

He, and He alone, is to be feared. The present life is of minor consequence, anyway. It can last but a few years at most. The life we are most interested in is the eternal one, which Jesus has secured for all who will accept it on His terms, but which will be missed by all those who fear and obey men rather than God. Compare Matthew 10:28, remembering the Monitor’s definition of gehenna, to which we agree, with supplemental explanation respecting the future, antitypical gehenna (the Second Death).

THE MONITOR’S IMPASSIONED APPEAL

The Monitor closes with the following old-fashioned appeal, which many erroneously suppose to be Scriptural – “To doubt is to be damned.” It says:

“What a mad act it is to close one’s eyes on the edge of an abyss, only to fall into it the more surely! Better hard truth than false security.”

The difficulty with the Monitor and with many others of us in the past has been that we kept our mental eyes closed and imagined hobgoblins and dreamed nightmares respecting fireproof devils with horns and forked tails and cloven feet, etc., which are not only unknown to the Scriptures, but thoroughly contrary thereto. If the Monitor is still blind, notwithstanding the eye-salve of exposition which we have endeavored to apply as gently as possible, we shall consider its case hopeless and leave it with the masses of the world for that blessed future time declared through the Prophet when all the blind eyes shall be opened.

Then they will see the hitherto undiscovered length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God. Then they will see that Satan and his fallen angels, instead of being afar off stoking fires, have been right here with humanity, posing as angels of light and doctoring our theology to make it picture the Almighty God as the most horrible and monstrous Being of the Universe, and His Plan of dealing with humanity the most diabolical and unjust possible for the human mind to conceive.

These “doctrines of devils,” as St. Paul calls them, have had a good, long trial, and the result is, that those who believe these things most thoroughly are very generally the worst people in the world. Rarely do we hear of a murderer being executed who has not professed faith in these monstrous theories of the past, still advocated by the Monitor.

If preaching bad tidings of misery to nearly all the people has brought so little good fruitage in so long a time, would it not be well for the Monitor and all who claim to be ambassadors and mouth­pieces for God and for Christ, to preach for a while the blessed Gospel first announced to Abraham?: “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:14) The same message was heralded by the angel who proclaimed Jesus’ birth, saying: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” – all people from thenceforth and all people who had died during the four thousand years prior to Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2:10)

It was the full belief in these “doctrines of devils” which led our forefathers, as Catholics and Protestants, to burn each other at the stake. And it is partly because these doctrines are less believed today than then that we have a better, safer, saner religion, more in accord with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. It is the Gospel of God’s love and mercy that is proving now a blessing to the saintly few who have ears to hear and hearts to fully respond. And it will be the Gospel of Divine mercy toward mankind in general, throughout Messiah’s Kingdom, which will bless, uplift and captivate the hearts of mankind in general during the Millennium.

Whether the majority of these thousands of millions will become sheep at the right hand of Messiah and gain eternal life, or whether the majority will be of the “goat” class, who will fail to get that eternal life, and instead get everlasting destruction, is not for us to determine. We can, however, declare with the eye of faith, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Rev. 15:3-4)

The righteous dealings of God will bring a sure penalty to everyone in proportion to his degree of knowledge and willfulness, but it will bring a just and not an unjust penalty, and it will be remedial – with a view to the recovery of the penitent and his everlasting blessing. Otherwise it will terminate in his everlasting destruction. (2 Thess. 1:8-9)

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From What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 164-170, with minor editing.

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SEVEN AXIOMS FOR BIBLE STUDY

Many Christians take symbols, parables and types literally, but they are not literal statements. There are many texts in the Bible that are literal, however. Our Bibles are only the translation of God’s inspired Word – the real Bible. We believe that most of our translators were sincere in their efforts. But all of them were prejudiced because of their belief as to how it should be translated.

The Emphasized translation by Dr. Rotherham is one of the best. The King James Version is one of the most beautiful, although it contains many mistakes. Most all of the translations contain some of God’s inspired Word – enough that we will find God has a Plan of Salvation for all mankind, as pointed out in Eph. 3:11. The Diaglott translation of this verse renders the text “Plan of the Ages,” while the King James translation renders it “eternal purpose.”

When a text does not harmonize with God’s character of Wisdom, Love, Justice and Power, it is either misinterpreted or spurious. The mistakes are not inspired. Only God’s Word is inspired.

There are seven axioms we should follow in Bible study:

A doctrine must harmonize (1) With itself; (2) With all Truth; (3) With all Scriptural doctrine; (4) With God’s character; (5) With the Ransom; (6) With facts; (7) With the purposes of God.

There is much confusion on the interpretation of the Bible. God is not the Author of confusion – man is. He is a God of Truth and harmony. We are thankful for these texts:

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6) These texts are literal. God is faithful that promised. (Heb. 10:23)

[1] Hades is translated hell in the King James Version except for one instance where it is translated grave:

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory.” (1 Cor. 15:55)