Editor's note: the following article was originally written in 1925.
Eighteen centuries and more have passed since Israel's greatest Prophet, Jesus, sent forth His message of reconciliation with God. At the time of His birth angel visitors, announcing Him, declared that His birth signified "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people" and that this would mean "peace on earth and good will amongst men." (Luke 2:10,11) Yet after eighteen centuries these prophecies are still unfulfilled. We find the world in a more warlike condition at present than ever before. Europe has a standing army of many millions of the picked men of its several nations. And even our own country has deemed it necessary to considerably increase its standing army. On every sea are great battleships requiring thousands of men and millions of dollars for their upkeep, not to mention the millions of dollars which they originally cost. And still more war vessels are planned with greater guns, some of which expend hundreds of thousands of dollars for powder and shells for even one day's target practice. It is safe to say, too, that the chief interest in and chief backing of recent experiments in aerial navigation come from the War Departments of Christendom, which see in such devices an effective method of warfare. And the latest information is that a new torpedo and new gases have recently been invented more powerful, more destructive, more terrible than any previous device [written in 1925].
What means this great battle array, this preparation for a great struggle between the nations? Why do not the nations disband their armies and dismantle their navies and turn these wasted energies to human profit, to making the earth blossom as the rose? The answer is ─ Sin. Sin marred the original God-likeness of love in the human heart, and, instead, implanted the opposite disposition of selfishness. By heredity sin and selfishness have permeated our race, as we read, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5) This is true of the entire human family. We gloss the surface. We make a show of giving a little money for the education of the heathen. We make a little show of religious activity in Christendom, but the great surplus of wealth is spent in self-gratification ─ alcoholic beverages alone consuming many fold the amount doled out to benevolent enterprises of all kinds. For centuries the world has been crying out, "Peace, Peace; yet there is no peace," but still greater preparation for war. Why? Because, despite our gloss of civilization, the world well knows its own selfishness, its own greed, its own thirst for power and it wisely reasons that in others selfishness and greed similarly rule. Hence, with all their protestations of friendship, all the governments of the world distrust, disbelieve one another. And now we have reached a place where the disbanding of the armies of the world would be a dangerous matter. Other millions of men thrown on the labor market, already glutted, would be dangerous. And to leave our cities unprotected would invite anarchy in every land. We are not endeavoring to discourage peace conferences and federations. We are merely calling attention to facts ─ indisputable facts.
The Scriptures graphically describe our present condition. They give us a word-painting of what is now going on, saying, "Beat your plow-shares into swords and your pruning-hooks into spears. Let the weak say I am strong," and endeavor to keep pace with the strong. "Come, get ye down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat" ─ the valley of death ─ the place of the great struggle with which the reign of the Prince of Darkness shall terminate and which will prepare the way for Messiah's Kingdom (Joel 3:9-13). Thank God for the assurances of His Word that the great "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation," which has already in the World war burst upon the world, whose masses are better educated than ever before and trained to the use of all military equipments, will be but a short struggle! The intimation of the Scriptures is that if those days should not be shortened, no flesh would survive. But for the elect's sake ─ by virtue of the Kingdom of God's elect being established ─ those days shall be shortened. Then will come the reign of the Prince of Peace, and, as the prophets declare, he shall be like unto Solomon, who had no wars, but to whom every knee bowed and every tongue confessed. His Kingdom of righteousness will be a Kingdom of peace, notwithstanding the fact that it will be ushered in by such a time of trouble.
But do the Scriptures contradict them-selves? What did the Great Teacher mean when He declared, "I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword?" (Matt. 10:34) Ah! He referred prophetically to the effect which His gracious message of love and favor would produce in the world during the reign of sin. He well knew that the Prince of Darkness would oppose all of His followers, as well as Himself. He foretold that whosoever would live godly would suffer persecution ─ and so it has been. Eighteen centuries have proven it! He sent forth His followers, like Himself, unarmed, to be peacemakers, to be helpers, to "follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." He counseled His followers, "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword." But their message of peace and love and the coming Kingdom which shall bless the whole world and fulfill the angelic prophecy at His birth ─ these things seem to anger the world ─ not merely the vicious, the ungodly, but the worldly professors of godliness who have schemes and plans and theories of their own to work out which are contrary to the Gospel Message. The darkness, more or less mixed with selfishness, hateth the light, the Truth and the love of God, neither cometh to the light, lest its deeds of darkness, selfishness, selfish ambition and hypocrisy should be made manifest. The Master knew what the effects of His Gospel Message would be in the world and that only those who would compromise His Message could possibly live at peace ─ that all who would be loyal and faithful to Him would be traduced, slandered, persecuted ─ "beheaded," either literally or figuratively. His words, therefore, were a prophecy respecting the tribulations which all His footstep followers would surely have.
But more than this, His words were a prophecy respecting the nations. What is it that has brought us to our present degree of civilized savagery? What is it that makes almost every business corporation a buccaneer seeking the destruction of every competing financial craft? What is it that has thus sharpened the wits of humanity to such an extent that the majority find it difficult to be honest, because they see so many opportunities for profit through dishonesty, while it is impossible for lawmakers to make new laws with sufficient rapidity to keep peace with the intelligent methods of circumvention? The laws, doctrines, of Christ are, in a certain sense, responsible for all this. The liberty wherewith Christ makes free His followers and the light which He and they let shine upon a darkened world, received in part into unsanctified hearts and minds, have given wisdom that, misapplied, we call cunning and craft. The proof of what we say is found in the fact that other nations than those which have received this reflected light of Christianity are still quite in the background. Only now, as Christian civilization in a perverted form is reaching these peoples are they awakening and becoming competitors with so-called Christendom. In our advanced conceptions of finance, warfare, etc., a pertinent question worthy of deep thought, is, Will it be possible to live in the world at all after the greatest financial minds shall have "trust-ified" all of the world's business, and after the labor organizations shall have had their say as to who shall and who shall not earn a living, and after the teeming millions of China, India and Japan shall have become thoroughly civilized and Christianized after the nominal sort? Would not the hordes of the Far East overwhelm the comparatively little handful of Europe and America? What is the prospect of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the text ─ "Peace on earth, good will toward men"? There is no prospect from the earthly sources toward which we have been looking. If that prophecy is ever to be fulfilled, it must be by some Divine intervention in human affairs.
THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS COMING
Notwithstanding the eighteen centuries of delay the text as a prophecy will surely be fulfilled, and be fulfilled, too, by and through the One whom the angels announced, and whose birth is very generally celebrated at Christmas. The Great Teacher, questioned by Pilate, answered that He was born to be a King ─ the King of the Jews; but He also added, "My Kingdom is not of this World" ─ order of affairs, How true! Many of us have gotten the wrong impression ─ that our Redeemer has been waging, as the Great King of Glory, an unsuccessful warfare for eighteen centuries against Satan, sin and death. But here we learn from the Great Teacher's own lips that His Kingdom is not of this World. It belongs to the "world to come" ─ to its first Age. Do we inquire, then, who has been the ruler of this world? The answer of the Master is that Satan is the Prince of this world. He is a usurper. The dominion of earth was given to man. But Satan, deceiving our race, putting darkness for light, has become thereby the real ruler, using humanity merely as his tools. He is styled "the god of this world," and the "Prince of this world." And we are told again that "He now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience." When we reflect how many of humanity are disobedient, we see the vastness of the empire controlled by the Prince of Darkness. And when we see the few, comparatively, who are soldiers of the cross and followers of the Lamb, we perceive that, as the Master said, his following during this Age is to be a "Little Flock"
Perplexed and confused many may ask, What, then, is the hope of the fulfillment of the text, "Peace on earth, good will toward men"? We answer that our Master, who declared that He was not the Prince of this World, declared also that His Kingdom of the next Age will be introduced with power and great glory and that, although its initial manifestation will be with clouds and darkness and a time of trouble such as never before has been, nevertheless His reign will be glorious, triumphant and eternal. "He shall take unto Himself His great power and reign" until "He shall have put all enemies under His feet" "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." "Unto Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess." The victory of Emanuel means the overthrow of sin ─ the crushing of the serpent's head. At the very beginning of His glorious reign Satan shall be bound and following its close he shall be destroyed in the Second Death, together with all those who love unrighteousness, after they shall have had full knowledge and full opportunity for recovery from the snares of sin and death. Then, indeed, the whole world will proclaim the glory of God. There will no longer be discordant sounds. As the Scriptures declare: There shall be no more crying, no more sighing, no more dying ─ all the former things of sin and death shall have passed away (Rev. 21:4).
Everything appertaining to this great Plan of Salvation outlined in the Word of God is reasonable. The crucial testing of the elect Church is necessary in order that as faithful and merciful priests of God and of Christ, associated with Him in His kingly glory, they may be God's instrumentality in succoring mankind from the fallen conditions which have resulted from six thousand years of sin, and from the malignant influence of the Prince of Darkness, during the thousand years which the Bible stipulates as the period of Messiah's reign (Rev. 20:6) ─ a period neither too long nor too short in which to accomplish the great work of the world's salvation. True, some one might say, If it has required eighteen centuries for the development of the Church, how much more time will be necessary for the uplifting of the world? But we answer that it is not the Divine Purpose to uplift the world to the station of spirit nature and glory, but rather to restitution blessings and conditions. It is because of the high exaltation offered to the Church that such crucial testings of sacrificial obedience even unto death is required. With the Prince of Darkness bound and the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in its beams, the darkness of sin and sorrow will soon die away.
One century of such blessed influence upon the world will surely work wonders, bringing in also inventions and comforts and blessings, as yet undreamed of. Next will come the gradual awakening of all who have fallen asleep in death. They will come forth from the prison-house of death, as the Scriptures declare; will come forth that they may be made acquainted with the true God and with His glorious Son, the Redeemer, and with the principles of righteousness in contrast with the principles of sin. We cannot suppose that it will require the majority of men, under those conditions, to sit long counting the value of the blessings of eternal life and restitution proffered them. The upward move, resurrection, uplifting, regeneration, will go rapidly on, while meantime, generation after generation shall come forth from the tomb and enjoy similar experiences. Finally all shall have come forth, because the love of God made this provision through the death of our Redeemer, who delighted to do the Father's will, and who has already been rewarded gloriously with high exaltation to the Divine plane of glory, honor and immortality.
The attainment of the condition of good will amongst men will mean the attainment of human perfection. God is Love. And when our first parents were created an earthly image of God, love must have been the predominant quality of their characters. What we see of selfishness is largely a matter of heredity, and all of life's customs are in line with it, continually increasing its weight and its hold upon us. But with the new King and the new reign of righteousness will come the glorious uplift and transformation. Gradually, during the thousand years of Messiah's domination of the world, the evils of selfishness will be made apparent and the beauties of holiness and love will be shown in contrast. Restitution rewards will lift all the willing and obedient up out of sin and selfishness to holiness and love. Then with love the very essence of man's being, good will toward men will everywhere prevail, because the Divine Law, almost effaced through the reign of sin, will be rewritten in the human constitution. That law, as we know, is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself." Dear friends, how glad we are that this is true; how glad we are that the terrible falsehoods palmed off on us during the Dark Ages respecting a God of cruelty and a hell of torture everlasting are not true!
(Brother Paul S. L. Johnson, The Herald of the Epiphany, pages 41-43, November 15, 1925)
ATONEMENT VERSUS EVOLUTION AND HIGHER CRITICISM
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls.” (Lev. 17:11)
Almost all the trend of religious scholarship in recent years is away from the Bible and in line with the Evolution theory. The Bible sets forth that the first man was created perfect, in the image and likeness of his Creator, and that when on trial for life or death everlasting he was disobedient, and came under the sentence of death; and that all trouble, all sin and sorrow, all pain and death, for the past six thousand years, is the penalty, the result, of that fall from obedience and harmony with God. The Bible teaches the necessity for an Atonement for sin, and this lesson was shown in the typical sacrifices of bullocks and goats, which Israelites for centuries commemorated, especially upon their Atonement Day, at the beginning of each year. Evolution claims that man started as a cousin to the monkey, and that instead of falling into sin and death, an evolution process has been bringing him up, up, up to his present high elevation. This theory, having no place for sin or a fall, finds, of course, no place or need for a recovery, through a Redeemer, a Savior. The two theories are absolutely opposed. Whoever believes the Darwinian theory cannot, logically, be a Christian. Whoever is a Christian cannot, logically, hold to the Darwinian theory. And yet the pulpits of Christendom are well stocked with Higher Critics and Evolutionists, and almost all of our colleges and theological seminaries are graduating others, all antagonistic to the Bible and its presentations. For years the fight has been conducted on the quiet. It is time that the battle between truth and error should come out into the open, because the majority of those who are being misled do not realize the situation until their faith is entirely under-mined ─ until their minds are so entrenched in error that the verities of God's Word, including the Word of Jesus and the Apostles, have passed with them into the list of absurdities, amongst these, the stories of Jonah and the great fish, Noah and the flood, etc., endorsed by Jesus and the Apostles.
Today almost every college and theological seminary throughout the whole civilized world, is teaching what is commonly known as Higher Criticism of the Bible ─ though the proper name for it would be higher infidelity ─ infidelity amongst the high ones of all Christendom. These Higher Critics are doing the same work exactly that Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll did, only they are carrying on their work on a higher plane ─ appealing not to the gross and the vile, but to the refined, intelligent and truth-seeking. As a result their influence is a thousand fold more injurious. Those to whom Paine and Ingersoll appealed were very rarely Christians at all; hence they destroyed very little faith ─ they merely made the unbelief more rank and foul. But these Higher Critic infidels of this "evil day" are making use of all the vast machinery of Christendom in all denominations, especially through theological seminaries, to undermine and overthrow the faith of all who have named the name of Christ, great and small, rich and. poor, cultured and ignorant. It is being done systematically, too, craftily, deceitfully, in a manner that the masses of the people would scarcely credit. It is safe to say that fully four out of five who graduate from Protestant theological seminaries are Higher Critic infidels, who are instructed that their main business is to promote morality amongst the people, especially to build up Church-ianity, particularly their own denomination, and to gradually, stealthily, craftily wean the people from the faith of the Bible to their higher critical dogmas. And they are succeeding most wonderfully. A "pestilence" is the only figure of speech which really fits this pernicious influence.
Our text refers to a blood atonement for sin. The Law Covenant required the death of a bullock and a goat, but the repetition of these sacrifices every year indicated that no cancellation was effected thereby ─ merely a typical covering of sin for a year. The Law required an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a man's life for a man's life, which implied that a perfect man must of necessity die in order to be the Redeemer of Adam and the race which shared his condemnation. The bullock of the sin-offering, therefore, was merely a type of a better sacrifice. The true sacrifice was provided in the death of the Man Christ Jesus. He was a man and yet not a sinful man, because, although born of a woman, His life was from above. Had he received His life from an earthly father, He would have been a blemished, imperfect, sinful man, and as such could not have paid the ransom–price for another. For this cause One was chosen to be the Redeemer who was "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners." And all this because of His miraculous conception. As in the type the blood of the bullock was used to make a typical atonement for a year, so in the antitype the blood of Jesus is efficacious to make atonement for the sins of the whole world. In the type an earthly priest offered the blood, in an earthly tabernacle; in the antitype, He who became the Sin-Offering, begotten of the Holy Spirit, at the time of His consecration, was therefore recognized as the great Antitypical High Priest. After His resurrection He ascended on high, "to appear in the presence of God for us" ─ for the Church ─ first; and when the Church shall be completed, He will appear for the world. He will seal the New Covenant for Israel, applicable to all the families of the earth, through Israel. Then, as the great Mediator of that New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31), He will, for a thousand years, reign as King of earth, the Antitype of Melchizedek ─ a Priest upon His throne ─ a Royal Priest, possessed of the necessary power to put down sin and to uplift humanity and perform the function of instructing and blessing mankind.
We have always known that in a very important sense, the life of every creature is in its blood, as our text declares. But we are continually finding that the Bible contains such a superhuman wisdom that many of its statements grow in importance as our knowledge increases. Our text is no exception to this rule. The latest findings of science are to the effect that life and nature are more particularly represented in the blood than in any other manner. If the theory of Evolution seemed supported by Mr. Darwin's careful inter-breeding of his pigeons, we are not to forget the difficulty he encountered in maintaining his fancy breeds. The constant tendency appeared to be to turn back to the original stock. We are now informed that this is a rule, a law of nature, which applies both to animal and vegetable life. We are informed that all such breedings return to their original species in the third or fourth generation. It is even pointed out now that diseases of the blood proceed no further than the third or fourth generation, and this most fortunately, otherwise the physical health of humanity might be much more impaired than it is. Is not this a direct corroboration of that Bible statement which some of us once thought so ungracious ─ God's declaration that He would "visit" the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation?" (Ex. 20:5.) It now appears that, instead of being a mark of Divine disfavor, it is a mark of Divine mercy that hereditary taint in the blood is limited to the third or fourth generation.
A celebrated physician and scientist, Dr. William Hanna Thomson promulgating this theory, said: "Professor George H. F. Nuttall, of the University of Cambridge, took up the subject and has so extended its application that a single drop of blood from any animal now suffices, not only to show by its own peculiar chemical reaction what animal it comes from, but also how nearly related an animal is by its blood to other animals. It begins, therefore. to look as if the whole classification of zoology might have to be rearranged according to these blood tests. Thus a drop of blood from a walrus shows no relation to a drop of whale's blood, or the blood of any other cetacean, such as seals or porpoises, which, like the walrus, are mammals that have taken to the sea." We may be sure that those who hold fast to the teachings of the Bible will come out on the right side of the argument in the long run. The endeavor of worldly wise men to get away from God's book has led many of them to extremes of thought and of statement, which some day will be fully rectified to their shame. The Bible foretells this, saying, "The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid." (Isa. 29:14) St. Paul refers to science, falsely so-called, which will ultimately be proven entirely wrong.
For nearly six thousand years the reign of sin and death has prevailed. It is nearly two thousand years since the Redeemer came to give His life as man's redemption price, still the reign of sin and death continues. It is not because the blood of Christ was insufficient to satisfy the claims of justice for the sins of the world, but because, before the merit of the blood of Christ could be given to Adam and his race, it must have a previous use. That use has been in progress for the past eighteen centuries, during which it has been the basis of the Church's justification by faith. There is a difference between the Church's faith-justification of this Age, and the world's actual justification, to be accomplished in the next Age. The world will actually get restitution to human life and its privileges, earthly dominion, etc. All that Adam had and lost, all that Jesus redeemed will be given to Adam and his race to have and to hold as theirs forever. But, meantime, the merit of Christ's blood or sacrifice is used in the interest of “the Church of the Firstborn.” The earthly, natural rights will not be given to the Church, for she is to have "some better thing" ─ a heavenly inheritance with her Lord and a participation in His spirit nature. The Redeemer's merit is imputed to the Church, to cover the imperfection and weakness of each one called and drawn of the Father to membership in the Bride of Christ. The difference between a gift and an imputation is manifest ─ an imputation signifies merely a loan, an assistance. Thus the merit of Christ, imputed to those who would become His Elect Church, covers their blemishes so that they may present their bodies living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, as footstep followers of Jesus ─ as participants with Him.
Thus it will be seen that since the entire world lost life and all its privileges through the disobedience of Adam, all of these may be fully recovered from their inherited disaster, through the Redeemer, because His life was given ─ figuratively, His blood was shed ─ "the Just for the unjust," as the great sin atonement for the world. In our text the word soul is a synonym for person or being. Father Adam was a human soul, a human being; so also his children. He alone, however, had a standing before Justice. He alone was perfect, he alone was on trial, and through his disobedience and fall his children are involved. Jesus was, originally, a spirit being, personality or soul, the Logos. He came a partaker of flesh and blood; He was not, previously, a human soul, hence it was that it was necessary for Him to lay aside the glory of His higher nature or order of being and become a human soul, "that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man." (Heb. 2:9) He gave His blood, His life, a Ransom for all, and thus we see the fulfillment of our text, the exhibition of Divine favor and love with the resultant blessing to the world, during Messiah's reign, and the blessing and exaltation of the Church, which must proceed.
(Brother Paul S.L. Johnson, The Herald of the Epiphany, pages 33,34, September 15, 1926)
SPIRITUAL PROMISES TO NATURAL ISRAEL
In the Scriptures the word spiritual is generally used in a particular way referring to those who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit, as our Lord and all those who accept him and consecrate themselves to do the will of God. All promises and all things which appertain to these are particularly classified and styled as spiritual promises and spiritual things. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14) So, then, if God gave anything spiritual to the Israelites before the spiritual dispensation, they did not appreciate it, since none could do so except through spirit-begetting.
Nevertheless, there were spiritual things given to natural Israel, which they were unable to receive. The Apostle says: “The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Rom. 7:14) That law given at Sinai came from the Spirit Being of the highest order ─ God himself. It did not take hold, merely of the fleshly instincts, and control the body alone, but it took hold of the heart, the mind, the will. None of the Jews could keep that law because they were sold under sin. It was a spiritual law that could be kept only by a spirit-begotten person or a person in the image of God.
SPIRITUAL LESSONS IN THE LAW
Certain of the lessons of the law were spiritual, also; as, for instance, the rock in the wilderness, which, when smitten, gave forth water abundantly, and the manna, each afforded a spiritual lesson. But Israel did not understand anything about the spiritual Rock or the spiritual water of life. So of the law that was given to them: they could see only the outer part, or shell. Nor could any see further until the due time for the begetting of the Spirit. We may say, then, that a great many spiritual things were given to Israel, but only such of them as were Israelites indeed, and in harmony with God would be made able, in due time, to see these.
The spiritual things were in the law all the time, but they were not disclosed, not manifest, not seen by the Jew, because of his own condition of mind; and the first Israelite who was permitted to see spiritual things was Jesus himself, after he was begotten of the Spirit and able to appreciate these things. But the Jewish nation, not coming up to the required standard, was not able to appreciate them. Certain ones who desired to walk in Jesus’ steps received through him a covering, and they also were begotten of the Holy Spirit and could appreciate spiritual things. Thus the Apostle says that the righteousness of the law is “fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” We cannot keep the law in our flesh, but in our hearts, our minds. “With the mind I serve the law of God.” (Rom. 8:4; 7:25)
BASIS OF SPIRITUAL INSIGHT
When God made a covenant with Abraham, saying, “In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed,” he said that Abraham’s seed should be as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the seashore. This is a spiritual promise, which, of course, the Jews at that time were not able to appreciate, as the Apostle Peter intimates. When realizing that as a nation they had crucified the son of God, many said, What shall we do? St. Peter said, “Repent… for this promise is unto you, and to your children.” (Acts 2:38,39) It was a spiritual promise and belonged to them, but on condition that they would take certain steps.
Only a few of the Jews were in the proper attitude to meet this condition. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power [the privilege, the right] to become the sons of God.” (John 1:11,12) And these, coming into the relation of spiritual Israelites, were enabled by this begetting of the Holy Spirit to appreciate the spiritual things given to such Israelites. All the truths that we have are drawn from those things God gave to the natural Israelites. And we can understand them, though the natural Israelite could not. The Apostle says: “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” (Rom. 11:7) So then, they were seeking for the spiritual, whether they understood it or not. Except the few, however, they did not attain the spiritual, because of an improper condition of heart. But the spiritual must have been there for them to seek after, else they could not have sought it.
(Pastor Russell, Reprint 5295, August 15, 1913)