“God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”—John 4:24.
The structure of the brain places veneration at the very top, and thus by implication conforms to the statement in the catechism that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” However great the depravity of our race in the dark places of the earth this element of veneration, is an instinctive appreciation of a God and a feeling of responsibility toward Him. It constitutes a foundation upon which to build and to reconstruct, the depraved elements of character. Without this veneration, missionaries and philanthropists might well lose all heart and all hope in respect to the moral and social uplift of the masses.
Therefore, whoever is intelligently a friend to his race must do everything in his power to maintain this center of mental balance of mind and to utilize it as an essential feature in the Divine arrangement for human well-being. Whoever in any manner or degree undermines this element of the mind is surely doing a destructive work, instead of a constructive one, whether he realizes it or not.
But, alas that we must say it, some of the most intelligent of our most intellectual day are rapidly drifting away from the fundamental truth that there is a living and true God! These intellectuals are accepting the thought of an impersonal God. From our standpoint this is tantamount to saying, “There is no living and true God.” This is the position taken, not only by Theosophists and Christian Scientists, but also by many scientific and professional thinkers. Rarely is an attempt made to define the impersonal God. Rather the term God is used merely as a concession to popular sentiment and the “ignorance of the unlearned.”
Those who hold this view often use the word nature as a synonym for God. Their thought really seems to be that there is no intelligent Creator in the Universe; that our sun, stars and planets are governed by what they term “natural laws,” and that humanity prospers and progresses merely as it learns by experience the operation of these laws, and seeks co-operation and avoids conflict with them.
Christian Science, dealing less with the scholastic and more with the ordinary reason, attempts to explain that the word God simply signifies Good. Then with something of a play upon words, which confounds the reasoning faculties of the untrained mind, tells us that whatever is useful is good, and therefore is God. Proceeding with the explanation, it declares that every tree and rock have good or usefulness in them, and hence to that extent have God in them. Elaborating further, it says that God is in the air, because of its vitalizing effect. He is in the flower because of its goodness and usefulness for beauty and fragrance. He is in the teakettle because of its usefulness. He is in the table, the floor, the ceiling, everything. Whoever entertains such views proportionately destroys his faith in a personal God, “the Living and True God,” and in the Bible as His revelation.
How could an impersonal God have a purpose, a will, a plan, a program? How could it give a revelation of that purpose or program in the Bible or otherwise? “He that cometh unto God must believe that He is, and that He rewards them that diligently seek Him.” He shall be found of them. “He that seeketh findeth.” But our Christian Science friends meet our objection with the assertion that Buddhists and Theophists hold the same view, and that they represent a large proportion of the human family.
Furthermore, they claim that the same thought of an impersonal God is taught in all the principal creeds of Christendom, when they declare faith in an omnipresent God. Alas! It must be admitted that the charge is well founded; that the seed of error on this subject was planted in our minds and confessions of faith long ago. Notice this inconsistency cannot be charged against the Bible, for although our confessions of faith were ostensibly made to be in harmony with the Scriptures, the truth is that not one word of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, declares bodily omnipresence, but every utterance on the subject affirms the personality of the Father, and that our Lord Jesus is the “express image of His person.”—Heb. 1:3.
THE GOD OF THE BIBLE is A PERSON
“God is a spirit,” but He is a being, a person. The Scriptures distinctly tell us that a spirit has not flesh and blood, as we have; but they as distinctly inform us of the Divine personality, and use the members and qualities of the human body to bring the Creator within the range of our apprehension. The Hand of the Lord (His Divine Power) and the Eye of the Lord (His Divine Wisdom) is in every place. The Ear of the Lord is bowed down to hear the groaning of the prisoner. And the Heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind. Heaven is His Throne and the earth is His Footstool. True, these expressions are pictorial, figurative; nevertheless, they figure not an impersonal Creator, but a personal One, who feels, who thinks, who exercises His power; who has displeasure with those who are sinful and who loves those who seek to do His will, to walk in righteousness.
Whoever cultivates this thought of a righteous personal God assists in establishing his heart along lines of corresponding character. He seeks a further knowledge of such a Creator; seeks his compassion and his protecting care, and learns to love Him, as he never could appreciate nor love Nature or any disordered conception of a space-pervading non-entity. He whose mind and heart grasps the Scriptural Personality of the Heavenly Father catches the significance of our Savior’s words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:29-31)
Such may worship in spirit and in truth proportionate to their knowledge of the Infinite One, whom they were directed to address, “Our Father, which art in Heaven.” Thinking of the Almighty, as everywhere present is entirely unsatisfactory to our comprehension, which calls for a God whose Throne is in Heaven. This was the same thought that our Savior again impressed on the women who met Him after His resurrection. To these he said, “I have not yet ascended to My Father and to your Father; to My God and to your God.” Thus, the general trend of Scriptural testimony confirms the thought which we receive by nature, and intensifies and elaborates it, by giving location and quality of heart, mind and power. Regardless of the truth of the two theories, the Bible presentation is surely the more helpful to humanity. To have no personal God must eventually signify to the reasoning mind no Law-Giver, no Judge, no Justice, no Love, no Mercy, no personal relationship as between father and child. Thus would be lost the very basis of Christian faith and doctrine.
INFINITELY SUPERIOR TO OUR HIGHEST IDEALS
The Scriptural presentation of the Almighty is, therefore, the one most consistent to our reason and most helpful to us; namely, that He is a great God, infinite in His Wisdom, His Justice, His Love and His Power. His personality has Heaven for His locality, but His influence and powers pervade the Universe. We may but imperfectly imagine the various channels of His information and the innumerable agencies through which He can exercise the Almighty Power. But in the light of present day inventions, we have at least suggestions of it; for cannot man communicate by wireless instruments over thousands of miles? And not only so, but cannot he use the Hertz-waves for the transmission of power? And can he not with the telescope greatly enlarge his vision, and with the microscope see things otherwise indiscernible?
And if puny man, imperfect and fallen, “born in sin and shapen in iniquity and of few days and full of trouble,” can thus enlarge his natural powers, what limitations might he justly or wisely set upon the intelligence and powers of his Creator? “He that formed the eye, shall He not see? He that formed the ear, shall He not hear?” He that gave to humans the sense of justice, shall we not consider Him the very embodiment of Justice? He who gave us the power of sympathy, compassion and love, shall we not consider Him, the Author of our powers, as infinitely superior to our highest ideals?
For our present purpose, it is not even necessary that we be believers in the Bible in order to formulate before our minds something of the glorious character and attributes of our Maker. True, correct views of the teachings of the Scriptures will surely aid us in our conceptions; but at this time, we are addressing not merely believers in the Scriptures, but also unbelievers. We urge, then, that rational thought on the subject bids us believe that man is the highest type of earthly intelligence, and this teaches us that there must be an intelligent Creator as much superior to us as we are to the crawling worm.
Yea, more than this, He who gave us our intelligent being must be separated from us by a still wider gulf than that which separates us from the worm. And it is but a logical process of reasoning that the noblest of our talents and powers are but feeble reflections of the same qualities in our Creator.
Scriptures assist us by showing that the blemishes which we find in others and ourselves are the results of disobedience to the Divine instruction.
IGNOBLE CONCEPTIONS OF A DARK PAST
Filled with so noble a conception of Deity, we would naturally hasten to worship and bow down, but are stopped by the voices from the Dark Ages, which misrepresent the Almighty, implying that He is not the embodiment of Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power. These voices assure us that, although He has commanded us to love our enemies, and to do good to them that hate us, persecute us and say all manner of evil against us falsely, nevertheless the Almighty, who gave these commands, does not love nor forgive His enemies, but has made preparation for their eternal torture.
There is something wholly inconsistent between these voices from the past and the voices of our reason. It is claimed by many that the Bible substantiates the voices of the Dark Ages, the creeds. But we hold that this is a mistake, partly attributable to poor translation and partly to misunderstood parables. The reasoning mind surely rebels against the theory which in the Dark Ages held sway and led to the Inquisition and the stake. And it is glad that it has gotten rid of so gross a misconception of the “Father of Lights.” A well-balanced and reverential intellect will rejoice to find and to recognize a God who not only is not devoid of Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power, and on a plane lower than our own, but is infinite in these attributes and worthy of reverence and worship.
We assent that the Divine Word, the Bible, has been greatly misrepresented by us all in the past, and deserves reconsideration. If our forefathers read the Bible with smoking lamps and blurred vision, and nevertheless got some blessing, what a power of God it would be to us now if, in the light of the electric age, we should find it the Store-house of Divine grace and truth, perfectly coordinated and surpassing our highest ideals!(From Pastor Charles Taze Russell’s Book of Sermons Pages. 621–626)
QUALITIES AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
The Scriptures declare a “beginning of the creation of God.” His qualities and attributes were the same then as they are now; for the Scriptures also declare His unchangeableness; “the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8; Psa. 90:1, 2)
The completeness of the Divine perfection is such that companionship is not necessary to the happiness of God. The One who “inhabiteth eternity” is self–contained. The creation of angels and of man was indeed His pleasure, because, benevolently, he desires to do good, to give capacity for pleasure and to afford it opportunity for gratification. Furthermore, the highest good of his creatures calls for an exhibition to the full of all the elements of Divine character: Divine Justice, Love, Power and Wisdom.
BELIEF IN SATAN LOGICAL
The declaration of the Bible respecting the Father’s Power is that “the eyes of the Lord [the intelligence of God] are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3) This statement implies that there are things evil as well as good; things which God approves and things which He disapproves. This citation comes the nearest to a suggestion of God’s omnipresence contained in the Scriptures.
The fact that the Lord has knowledge of all conditions of things is not out of harmony with the other facts that He permits conditions which He disapproves, and which He declares that He will ultimately destroy. “All the wicked will he destroy.” (Psa. 145:20)
If we accept the great Divine premise that the Bible is the Word of God, then we are bound to accept the declaration that there is a being called Satan, that he is the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and that he now works in the “hearts of the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) These words imply not only that there are evil principles at work in this world, but that behind them there are evil spirit beings, of whom Satan is the inspirer and through whom he is working.
Certain statements are made respecting Satan which could not be applied properly to a principle of evil, or to a working of error; as, for instance, Jesus declared that Satan was a “murderer” from the beginning – and a “liar.” (John 8:44) Errors and principles are not murderers and liars. It would be a misuse of language to make such application. Only a being with some reasoning power can be a murderer or a liar. Hence, the whole tenor of the Scriptures upholds the assertion that there is such a being as Satan and that he is in opposition to God.
If we were to suppose the everlasting continuance of Satan as a being, as an adversary of God, the matter would seem strange to us, because it is irreconcilable with our conception of Divine Power. We have the statement of the Scriptures respecting his reign and ultimate destruction (Heb. 2:14). With this information, we have a reasonable, logical thought on the subject. When we consider the Scriptural presentation further, that originally Satan was not an evil being, but that he made himself evil by the exercise of personal liberty and became the enemy of God, the subject seems to be clear and reasonable. In fact, this is the only rational solution to the problem of his existence.
To suppose that there is no Satan is to suppose that God has permitted his Word to deceive mankind in this respect, or that the devil is a manifestation of God himself, a position which is unthinkable. Nor is it logical to say that there is a devil, an opponent of God, and at the same time to maintain that God is all in all, and omnipresent, everywhere present. But we do not find this latter statement to be Biblical.
The Scriptural proposition is that when Christ shall have conquered sin and Satan, when Satan shall have been destroyed, and when the empire of the universe shall be in absolute harmony, then God will be all in all. (1 Cor. 15:28) To all eternity, there will be no opposition to His will. There is opposition now, however, in many places and at many times. But ultimately, God will have full control.
THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD
To say that God is all power is sophistry of language which often misleads the one questioning as well as the one attempting to answer him. The statement is not correct. If God is all power then he is not love, justice, or wisdom. He would thus be limited to the one great attribute of power, or force. Such cannot be the thought entertained by any logical mind. It is, nevertheless, a form of statement that is often used, perhaps unintentionally, but very injuriously to the reasoning faculties.
The Bible nowhere says God is all power. There is a marked difference between being power and exercising power. God is all–powerful. He has the ability to exercise power in any direction to the extent that He wills. If He had chosen, He could have so created Satan that he could not think or do other than in harmony with the Divine will; or He could have exercised His power to crush the adversary and thus have destroyed him long ago. But He has permitted Satan to exist for six thousand years, in the sense that He does not restrain the devil from doing evil. The Scriptures, however, tell us that God will eventually destroy him.
The scope of the exercise of Divine Power is the universe, but it is difficult for our finite minds to comprehend the meaning of this word – universe. Astronomers tell us there are more than 125,000,000 suns – the centers of solar systems like our own, with supposedly more than a billion of planets more or less like our earth. These, we may assume, are in process of development, are in preparation for inhabitants, whom the great Creator will in due time provide. From the Scriptural standpoint, however, the great work of human creation began with our earth. That a boundless thought we have in the mere suggestion that the billion worlds are to be peopled, and that the lessons of righteousness and sin, of life and death eternal, now being taught to humanity, will never need to be repeated.
We stand appalled at the immensity of space and at the law and order which everywhere reign! We heartily assent to the words of the Prophet David, “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” (Psa. 19:2,3) The person who can look upon this wonderful display of superhuman power and believe that these worlds created themselves, shows to the majority of us that if he has brains they are sadly disordered, unbalanced. Whoever, after mature thought, concludes that there is no God, that everything came to be what it is by chance or by the operation of some blind force – that person is described in the Scriptures in the following words, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psa. 14:1)
As scientific instruments demonstrate to us the immensity of the universe, we perceive that the Prophet used very moderate language indeed in his description of the majestic power and greatness of the Creator, when he represents Him as weighing the mountains in his balance and holding the seas in the hollow of His hand (Isa. 40:12). From His standpoint, a thousand years are but as a watch in the night (Psa. 90:4). How insignificantly small we all feel in the presence of our God! No wonder some great men are inclined to say that humanity is too insignificant from the Divine standpoint to be worthy of the least consideration – much less to be objects of Divine care and providence!
THE OMNISCIENCE OF the Lord God
o say that God is all knowledge is also an inaccurate statement. If God were all knowledge, how could He be all power? God has all knowledge, possesses all knowledge. But this is a different matter. If we say, “The boy has a bicycle,” we do not mean that he is a bicycle. To be a bicycle and to have a bicycle are not the same. God is omniscient; that is, He knows all things. This very fact proves that He is a personal God. There can be no knowledge without personality. Knowledge implies cognizance of external things. Amongst the things outside the Divine Person are things both good and evil.
When we read that God created man in His own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26, 27) we may know that man is not God. He was merely made in the image of God. Because God is perfect, therefore the human being made in His image would be satisfactory to God. That human being had knowledge. But he neglected the Word of God, and thus he learned something by his neglect. What he learned is mentioned in the Scriptures. “He is become as one of us [the Elohim], to know good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22) This statement proves that God knows good and evil.
If God did not know evil from good, then He could not be our Instructor. By His laws, His principles, God sets before our minds that which is right and that which is wrong. Adam knew how to discriminate between right and wrong, but his disobedience increased his knowledge of both good and evil. In his fallen condition, man cannot always determine between them. Therefore, God gave Israel a law, and man’s knowledge of that law assists him to discriminate between good and evil.
The Prophet Isaiah said, “Thou art a God which hidest thyself.” (Isa. 45:15) How true! As a result, the world by wisdom knows not God. He is near in His wisdom and love, yet He can be seen only by those whose eyes of understanding have been opened. But we are glad that the time is coming when all the blind eyes shall see clearly. “As truly as I live,” says God, “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Num. 14:21; Hab. 2:14) Then all shall see what God hath wrought, and our temporary blindness will but accentuate the glorious brightness of His Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power.
“GOD IS LOVE”
God is love in the sense that the term love represents the central principle of the Divine character. There is nothing contrary to love in God. The Scriptures do not teach anywhere that there is nothing except love that God is everywhere and love is everywhere. But they teach that God is a loving character.
This does not militate against the other statements that God is just, wise and powerful. But this quality of love best of all represents the Divine Being. All of His justice is in harmony with His love. There is no exercise of justice or power in an evil sense, for all His attributes work together for good to all His creatures.
The Scriptures encourage us to reason from the known to the unknown. They tell us that although God is so great, so wise, so powerful, He is also just and loving. And the more we consider the matter, the more reasonable the Bible description of the Almighty appears. His power we see demonstrated. The wisdom of One so great cannot be doubted. When we come to consider, could One so wise and so powerful be unjust or ungenerous? Our hearts answer, No! No one is really great who is devoid of justice and love. As surely as our God is Lord, He must possess these qualities.
When we come in contact with the Bible, and particularly when we learn something of its teachings and get rid of the misrepresentations which gathered about it during the Dark Ages – then we begin to recognize it as the message of God to His creatures. It informs us that the great Creator of the universe is not only almighty and all–wise, but loving and kind, with Justice as the foundation of his empire (Psa. 89:13, 14).
From the Bible we learn, too, that our Creator has been pleased to make us in His own image, in His own moral likeness, to the intent that we may enjoy Him and the fruits of His righteousness to all eternity.
All the power, all the justice, all the wisdom, of God must be used in accordance with His own character, which is love. It will therefore be loving wisdom, loving justice, which He will use toward all creation in the exercise of His loving power for their good. He created man. He permitted Adam to disobey His law, telling us that He knew in advance what man would do and that he permitted man to do wrong (Isa. 6:9, 10).
In permitting sin to enter the world, God had two ends in view. He purposed to give an illustration to the angels respecting the results of obedience and of disobedience. He also intended that the human family should gain a lesson from this experience. Thus, we know that God’s arrangement from the beginning has been for a resurrection of the dead. “As all in Adam die, even so shall all in Christ be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:21, 22)
If we were to take any fragment of Scripture as a basis for a system of doctrine, we would find ourselves either teaching universalism on the one hand, or claiming that God has no wisdom, or that He purposed the evil, or what not. We would get into all sorts of confusion. But when we see the perfect adjustment of God’s Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power, and realize that He has good purposes respecting the evil, that He has fully marked out what it shall do and what it shall not do, either in its present influence, or its ultimate influence, this gives us confidence in the character of God.
THE PERMISSION OF EVIL
From only one standpoint can Divine Wisdom and Love be discerned in connection with the history of mankind. It must include the Age about to be ushered in, the period of Messiah’s reign of righteousness. This will be the time when every member of Adam’s race, sharing the penalty of sin and death because inheriting weaknesses, will be set free from these; the time when the full knowledge of the glory of God shall be granted to every human being, and when a full opportunity will come to each, by obedience, to gain life everlasting.
The lesson thus far taught is the goodness and the severity of God – His goodness in bringing us into being, and His severity in the punishment of father Adam’s willful transgression; also to men and angels, justice, unswerving justice.
The next lesson to be taught to God’s intelligent creatures is that God is love. The foundation for these lessons is already laid in the ransom-sacrifice of Jesus, through and on account of which he becomes the world’s Redeemer and Restorer. A few can believe this message by faith; but not many have the ear of faith or the eye of faith.
That which is now secret and understood only by the few is shortly to be made manifest to every creature in heaven and in earth.
All will then see and be able to appreciate the great fact that the redemption accomplished by the sacrifice of Jesus is world-wide and means a full deliverance from the sin-and-death condemnation which passed upon Adam and his entire race, to all who will accept the same as a gift from God. The remainder will be destroyed in the Second Death.
THE SECOND DEATH THE ESSENCE OF WISDOM
As for the Second Death, we see easily that if God created man in His own image, man must of necessity be a free moral agent; otherwise, he would not be in God’s image. If man was created a free moral agent, he must have the power or privilege to will wrong as well as right. If he exercises his power in the direction of evil, God has the power to destroy him. On the other hand, if he lives in harmony with righteousness God has the power to grant him life to all eternity.
The destruction of the wicked in the Second Death is the essence of wisdom. As to the declaration that God is too pure to behold evil (Hab. 1:13), the thought of the original seems to be that God’s character is so pure and so righteous and He will not continue to behold evil. He will not permit evil to all eternity, for this condition would not be pleasing to Him.
This very thought implies that there is evil to behold. If not so, how could He behold it? But this is all consistent with God’s plan. Ultimately, all evil shall be destroyed. Ultimately all creatures which are “in heaven and on earth and such as are in the sea shall be heard saying, Blessing and honor sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13)
(Pastor Russell, Reprints 5209–5211, April 1, 1913)
QUESTION OF GENERAL INTEREST
QUESTION: – In John 3:16, 17 it is stated “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son... that the world through Him might be saved.” But in 1 John 2:15 we are told “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Skeptics seize upon these texts as one instance where the Bible contradicts itself. What is the correct thought on these texts?
ANSWER: – The Bible is harmonious with itself. If this were not true – even in a single instance – it could not be regarded as “the Word of Truth.” In both these texts, the word “love” is from the Greek agapao; but the word “world” is from the Greek kosmos. Agapao in both texts carries the thought of duty love; but the word kosmos has two different meanings – just as many of our English words have two or three different meanings. In the first text the kosmos means the inhabitants of the earth; whereas, in the second text it carries the thought of the present social order or arrangement.
In the Bible, we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves, but nowhere are we told to love the present social order. It was the present social order that crucified our Lord; and it was the present social order that has shed “the blood of the prophets and of saints,” and it has been condemned to destruction “by fire,” the fire being a figurative expression used to denote complete annihilation.
In 2 Peter 3:10 we are told “the earth [another expression for the present social order] and the works that are therein [the selfish and depraved acts of men] shall be burned up.” The whole chapter from which we have quoted one small text is written in highly figurative language, but much confusion has resulted by men attempting to accept these figurative statements as literal. If they were literal, it would indeed be a sore and unexplainable contradiction of many other Bible statements ‑ such as “The earth [the planet on which we live] abideth forever.” (Eccl. 1:4) This “burning” began in 1874 in a broad sense; but it actually began in a narrow violent way in 1914 with the outbreak of the World War; and has been steadily progressing since 1914 – so much so that it is now apparent to many persons of sharp discernment. As one outstanding instance, we quote President Woodrow Wilson, who said concerning the Great War, “The world is on fire.” Thus, it becomes apparent that God has arranged for the salvation of the people living in this present social order, although He has condemned the social order itself to destruction.
It is our thought that the Jehovah’s Witnesses would be well advised to ponder this point in their present proclamations, because they are heralding just the reverse of what the Scriptures teach on the subject – also it is just the reverse of the error which they taught for 1925, Millions Now Living Will Never Die. These people change their teachings just as easily and just as readily as the chameleon changes his color. They reverse themselves when their predictions fail; and their “dedicated” adherents close their eyes, open their mouths, and swallow any new delirium that they present to them. For the past few years, they have been very vociferous in their declaration that the large majority of earth’s inhabitants now living WILL DIE – be annihilated in Armageddon when the present kosmos is overthrown. They now have about two million “saved” persons in their organization, and it is only those who accept them that will survive Armageddon. While the Bible does teach that large numbers of the human family will perish in Armageddon, nowhere does it teach that such death means their eternal annihilation, but the Bible does teach clearly and emphatically the eternal annihilation of the present kosmos – the present social order.
The Witnesses’ present teaching is indeed a far cry from what they were teaching some fifty years ago, at which time they placed great stress upon Zech. 13:8,9: “It shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” When they were using this text, they tried to give it a very literal explanation. Namely, one‑third of earth’s population would survive Armageddon, which would mean by present reckoning that over one billion living through 1925 would live right on through Armageddon, and into the Kingdom, which is how they arrived at their slogan “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” – after the year 1925. Of course, time itself made them look quite ridiculous, so they were forced to come up with some new hocus‑pocus. Now only their “dedicated” devotees will live on into the Kingdom; all others will be annihilated by that seething caldron. Thus, through fear they have persuaded many to join them – just as did the Roman Catholic Church in the Dark Ages gather numbers to avoid the fate of eternal torment. As so many of their devotees have died since 1975 they have been forced to change their teachings. They now teach that their faithful devotees who have died before Armageddon will also be rulers in the Kingdom with those who live through Armageddon on into the Kingdom.
When the lawyer asked Jesus which is the great commandment (Matt. 22:37‑40) He answered him in this manner: The first “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind... and the second, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” From this, it is very clear that the requirements of the Law given through Moses are a duty, and many of the Jews tried to keep it, but could not do so because of their fallen condition. And in this connection it should be noted that when “the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19‑23) is fully established under the Kingdom reign, perfect duty love will be required of all who gain life under that arrangement ‑ a “new heavens [new spiritual powers] and a new earth [a new social arrangement] wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13) Just the opposite of that condition prevails now, which is the reason for its “burning,” which will proceed to a completion in the future.
As stated foregoing, the word “love” in both texts in the question is from the Greek agapao, which conveys the thought of duty love. There are a number of other texts which contain the word love, but are translated from different Greek words. One of these is the Greek agape, which carries the thought of a sacrificial love, and has been in operation specifically since Pentecost; but it has not been required of the world in general during this Gospel Age, nor will it be required in the next Age when “the restitution of all things” becomes operative. The only ones required to practice sacrificial love during this Age have been those who have accepted Jesus in the full sense determined by His words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) But this has been an invitation – and not a command.
Such persons as the foregoing have been a very small minority, and they have not loved the world as it refers to the present social order. This is graphically typified by the acts of the Prophet Elijah in his attempts to reform the Jews ‑ especially so as respects Ahab and Jezebel. In this, he typed the Gospel‑Age Christians who have attempted to reform the present social order, and have failed badly in their efforts. However, the reformers have shown great love for the people, the inhabitants, of this “present evil world,” and have done much good for them in their ministries.
The Jews under the Law were not required to practice agape love; in fact, they knew little or nothing about it. This is clearly stated by Jesus (Matt. 5:43, 44): “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
The foregoing, however, applies only to those who have come into the Christian family; it is not now required of the “world” (the inhabitants of earth), nor will it ever be required of them in the next world. [Sacrificial love will not be necessary in the Kingdom as “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” – Isa. 11:9] Much confusion has resulted as Christians all during the Age – since shortly after the demise of the Apostles – attempted to apply these words to every one now, which error came about through the loss of the Truth on the two salvations – the “common salvation” (Jude 3), and the “great salvation” (Heb. 2:3). The “common salvation” is not available during the Gospel Age; and the “great salvation” will not be available in the next Age. Any attempt to mix the two salvations is certain to result in rank confusion.
Love for our enemies was not required under the Law Covenant, such love being sacrificial love ‑ from the Greek agape. Our Lord was the One who brought this agape love into focus – just as He also “brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (2 Tim. 1:10) Had “the ancients” in Old Testament times been instructed in agape love, David and Samson would not have prayed for the death of their enemies.
(Brother John J. Hoefle, Reprint No. 250, April, 1976)
Thy Blood was shed on Calvary
Forgive me Lord, to Thee I pray,
Forgive the sins I did today
And help me know Thy truth and might
And serve thee always, day and night.
If there is good that I could do,
Some soul, Lord; I can bring to you,
Then let me not be satisfied
Until that soul in Thee abides.
I know I’m weak and filled with sin
But Thou can make me pure within.
Place in my heart thy love divine,
And let me know I’m wholly Thine.
There is no friend like Thee, I know,
In all life’s sorrows I can go,
For thou has promised and I know,
That Thou canst make me white as snow.
Then lead me Lord, lest I should stray
From Thine own perfect righteous way,
And ever, Jesus, let me see,
Thy blood was shed on Calvary,
For me was shed, dear Lord, for me.
By Virginia Snow Dunnagan