“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:4,5)
At the beginning of a new year many in all parts of the world take stock of their affairs – mental, physical, moral, financial and religious. Many no doubt look back to the beginning of the previous year, to the resolutions then made, and feel more or less disappointed with, if not ashamed of, the results. Indeed it is safe to assume that whoever is completely satisfied with his accomplishments during the past twelve months has either too high an estimate of his own victories or else he did not set his goals very high. It is important that we not be discouraged with the past, whatever it may have been; but as we turn over a new leaf we should make fresh resolves of faithfulness to God and His principles of righteousness, and fresh resolves to be more just, forgiving, kind, patient, and loving in our relationships with others.
God’s word in the Scripture quoted above contains some thoughts that should be helpful to us all. It implies that God is proposing a new order on man’s behalf, a new dispensation, with fresh help and assistances for the groaning creation, Adam’s posterity. History records the endeavors of noble-minded men and women who for the past six thousand years have labored to stem the tide of sin, depravity, imperfection, mental, moral and physical decrepitude, dying, and death. Contemplating all these efforts, we are obliged to say, in the language of the Prophet, “We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth.” (Isa. 26:18) We have been unsuccessful in saving the world from sin and its imperfections.
We sometimes endeavor to persuade ourselves that the world is growing purer and holier, more full of faith toward God, more full of the fruits and graces of the spirit of God, more free from selfishness and the crime resulting from it; but as we scrutinize, carefully and honestly, we must confess that the world is far from the divine standard. This conclusion is fully corroborated by the prophetical writings of God’s word, which directly state that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13) down to the very end of this age, when it will give place to the new order of things. We note also the suggestion in the words our Lord Jesus addressed to His Church, which assure them that in the end of the age the deceptions will be so strong that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect,” (Matt. 24:24) and we appreciate the inference of His words, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
OLD THINGS MADE NEW
Notice the Scripture does not say that God will make all new things, but that He will make old things new; He will take hold of the old things and renovate them. Before examining what things are to be renovated, we remember that the Scriptures do speak of a new creation, telling us that each member of the Church, the Elect, is a “new creature” in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 5:17) Therefore, the text does not refer to the Church. This work of God with respect to the Church, which He has been calling out of the world since the day of Pentecost, is distinctively separate from His work in other directions and in other classes. The Church is to be a new creation in the sense that it will be changed to a new nature. By nature the elect were children of wrath even as others of human nature and depravity. By God’s grace they were not only redeemed, but through faith were justified. Then as they followed on to know the LORD and hearken to His word they were called to be special disciples, a “little flock” of the Lord Jesus.
When they accepted this call and made full consecration to the LORD they received a begetting of the Holy Spirit to a new nature, the spiritual nature. Their instruction, disciplining and testing proceeded so that at the close of their sacrificial life they might be counted of the LORD as “fit for the kingdom.” (Luke 9:62) In the First Resurrection (the chief resurrection) these are to be made like their Lord Jesus, changed “in a moment,” sharers of His glory and “partakers of the divine nature.” (1 Cor. 15:52; 2 Pet. 1:4)
This is the New Creation; nothing in the Divine statement respecting the Church implies that they are to be renewed or made over again as perfect men. Theirs is indeed a change, because, as the Apostle explains, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” (1 Cor. 15:50) and these have been called to be God’s Kingdom class, in association with their Redeemer, our Lord Jesus.
We also must not confound this statement of Rev. 21:5 respecting the renewing of old things with the statement of Rev. 21:1 which says, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Nothing in this verse implies that it refers to the same thing; on the contrary, the one is a renewing, the other distinctly states that it is a new creation and that the former passed away.
NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH
To keep our minds clear on the subject, let us note the significance of this symbolic statement respecting the new heaven and new earth. It does not mean that the heaven of God’s residence has become dilapidated and unfit for His service. The figures of heaven, earth, and sea, are symbols common to the entire scriptures and refer to humanity. The heaven represents the ecclesiastical influences and powers of control, while the earth represents organized society, while the restless sea symbolizes the uncivilized and anarchistic masses of mankind.
The time for this great change of religious, social, and political institutions is near at hand and will be accomplished by the disintegration of the present heaven and earth in the great time of trouble foretold by the Prophet Daniel: “…there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation…” (Dan. 12:1) Then, after that awful cataclysm of anarchy and disruption which will utterly overthrow present institutions, God promises that He will establish new and better institutions, the present heaven and earth being largely under the control or influence of the “prince of this world,” (John 12:31) who the scriptures declare is to be bound or restrained at the close of this dispensation. (Rev. 20:2)
The new dispensation is, on the contrary, to be under the control of Messiah, the glorified Christ Jesus and His Bride, the elect Church, which will then be complete. The heaven, or ecclesiastical systems of control, will be new in that they will be in the hands of the glorified Christ, who will then, as the scriptures declare, take unto Himself His great power and reign. He has possessed this power ever since His resurrection, but will not exercise it until the Father’s due time. The new earth will be the new social and political systems, constructed on the lines of justice and love, and under heavenly guidance. No wonder then we have the assurance that the sea class, the unruly and uncivilized masses of mankind, will be no more, for we are assured that this new order of things will be the “desire of all nations,” (Hag. 2:7) and that to the new King of the world every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father. (Rom. 14:11)
ALL THINGS NEW
Understanding that this verse does not mean a literal new heaven and a literal new earth, we are better prepared to understand what is meant by the expression, “behold I make all things new.” The preceding verses of this chapter picture the glorified Kingdom of the glorified Christ as the New Jerusalem come down from heaven to earth. (Rev. 21:1-4) This is in harmony with our prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” (Matt. 6:10) Elsewhere we are specifically told about this New Jerusalem whose symbolic foundations bear the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. (Rev. 21:14) There can be no doubt that it signifies the Kingdom of Christ and His glorified Bride, the Kingdom that the Lord promised to His faithful, saying, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21)
From New Jerusalem, the new government that will then be established in the world, there will proceed a symbolic “river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1) This water of life, without impurity of any kind, is Truth which will then be dispensed to all the families of the earth.
The establishment of this heavenly city or government among men will have glorious results: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Rev. 21:3) This scene clearly belongs to the Millennial Age after the New Jerusalem, the heavenly government, shall have been established on earth.
The New Jerusalem will represent God among men, for God will dwell in the glorified Church and all of His powers and gracious characteristics will be manifested in it most thoroughly. But some will ask: Has not God been dwelling with mankind for all the past six thousand years? Why is God’s dwelling place with man represented as being of the future and not of the present?
We reply, No! God has not dwelt with man in any sense of the word. On the contrary He has rejected and condemned mankind on account of sin, and the Apostle tells us that the whole world as a consequence are aliens, strangers and foreigners from God and His promises. He did indeed favor Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and then all of Jacob’s posterity, the nation of Israel. Of this nation He made pictures and types of the blessings which He intended ultimately to accomplish for mankind through Messiah. Their Law Covenant represented in an imperfect manner the New Covenant to be made with the world in the future. Moses, their mediator represented imperfectly the mediator of the New Covenant – the Christ, head and body, Jesus the head, and the Church His body, His bride. Their tabernacle sacrifices represented the better sacrifices offered by Jesus first and chiefly, and secondly by those whom He accepts as members of His body, and who, under His guidance and direction, suffer with Him that they may also be glorified together as members of the world’s mediator in the Kingdom.
The blessing of God’s presence in the future was foreshadowed in the arrangements made with the typical nation of Israel. In their tabernacle, or moveable representation of the heavenlies, the LORD God appeared in the most holy, represented by the shekinah glory within and the pillar of smoke without. When later on, under the LORD’s direction, the temple was built at Jerusalem, it represented the perfect established Kingdom, Messiah’s Kingdom, the Millennial Kingdom of the new heaven and new earth. The LORD is also represented in the most holy of the temple by the shekinah glory.
These representations of God’s dwelling in the midst of Israel were foreshadows of the coming blessing to the world during the Millennial Age when the tabernacle of God will be with men. We have already seen that God will not meet with men in an earthly temple, but, as the Apostle explains, He has during this Gospel Age been preparing a spiritual temple, the Church. The Apostle Peter assures us that the elect are the living stones being prepared for the future glorious temple of God. The Scriptures explain that the trials and sufferings which the LORD permits to come upon His elect are to polish and chisel them, making them fit to be stones in the spiritual temple of the future, the tabernacle of God, the dwelling place of God among men. This temple will be the meeting place from which God’s mercy shall be disseminated and to which the world will approach to receive blessings.
WIPING AWAY TEARS
We see, then, that God’s proposition is to return to mankind through the glorified Christ (Jesus, the head and His body, the Church). He will accept the whole world of mankind through the merit of Christ, dealing with them for their enlightenment, blessing, and uplift out of sin and its resulting mental, moral and physical decay, sorrow, pain, and death. This will be the making of all things new. Thus we see God proposes not to make a new race, but to renew Adam and his race, and the channel or agency through which this renewing or restitution work shall be accomplished will be the New Creation, the “church of the firstborn,” the Christ, head and body. (2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 12:23)
The Scriptures beautifully picture God’s work through the Christ, saying, “God shall wipe away all tears.” (Rev. 7:17; Rev. 21:4; Isa. 25:8) Through Isaiah the LORD informs us that these blessings will proceed from His mountain or Kingdom, which He will establish in the end of this age, the Messiah’s Kingdom:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:2,3)
The Prophet declares that through this mountain or Kingdom God will destroy the obscuring veil of ignorance and death which now covers all people, and that He will make for all “a feast of fat things.” The result is also declared, “He will swallow up death in victory.” (Isa. 25:6-8)
The human race has been under condemnation for 6,000 years, with divine favor and presence withdrawn from it. Sin and death have reigned and have swallowed up the human family. But with the return of divine favor at the second advent of Christ and the establishment of “Thy kingdom come,” everything will be reversed, with the result that death will be swallowed up in victory. All people shall be delivered from the power of death; the resurrection of the dead shall take place under the guidance and control of Him who declared that “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” (John 5:28,29) They will not only come forth to consciousness; they will also come forth to an opportunity for restoration and renewal. If they are willing and obedient the resurrection process will culminate in the full and complete rise out of sin, imperfection, and death and a restoration to the full image and likeness of God and all that was lost in Eden. (Ezek. 34:16; Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10)
How wonderful is the message of God’s word: when His tabernacle, His glorified temple, shall be established in the earth as the Kingdom of God, it will mean victory for mankind over sin and death, victory at the hands of the LORD’s Anointed, the world’s great Mediator. Ah! Indeed there is force and meaning in the expression, “God shall wipe away all tears.” The poetic expression speaks volumes for the blessing and comforting and assuaging of the griefs and sorrows of the world.
NO MORE SORROW, PAIN OR DEATH
The statement that God will wipe away all tears is explained: it signifies that there shall be no more death. Death has reigned as the result of Adam’s disobedience; but the right, the power, the authority of death to reign is broken by the atonement for Adam’s sin, and instead the Redeemer will become the Life-giver of the world to revive the dying and awaken the dead.
That there may be no misunderstanding, the LORD continues to explain that the wiping away of tears signifies not only that death will be no more, but that there will also be no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain forever. O, glorious picture! How it shows us the great plan of our God, by which present evil conditions will be utterly eradicated, and by which mankind will be lifted out of all its troubles by the loving hands of the Redeemer who died, the just for the unjust, that He might have this right, this opportunity of bringing the unjust back into harmony and acceptance with God.
Yes, indeed! Jesus is “the propitiation [satisfaction] for our sins [the Church’s sins]: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Thank God for such lengths, and breadths, and heights, and depths of His love, which indeed, passes all understanding! (Phil 4:7) As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways and plans higher than man can conceive. (Isa. 55:9) “This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” (Psa. 118:23)
The explanation of these great changes is summed up in the few words, “For the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) What are these former things and why and how will they pass away? Man, as God originally created him, was “very good.” It was the introduction of sin that caused the difficulty, as the Apostle Paul explains, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) It is for this reason that the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together (Rom. 8:22), and this condition is the result of divine justice and the execution of the divine sentence against sin: “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” (Ezek. 18:20)
But if these conditions are the result of the just sentence of God, how and why can He ever set them aside or abolish them, so that He can say “the former things are passed away?” In other words, how could God set aside the curse or sentence of death? The answer to this question is the center of the Gospel hope, briefly stated in scriptural language: the present evil conditions are all to be set aside because God has had mercy upon our race. He did not manifest His mercy by overturning the sentence of His own court; but rather the requirements of the sentence have been met for the entire human race through the death of His Son, a “ransom for all,” a corresponding price for the world’s sin. (1 Tim. 2:6; 1 John 2:2)
“EVERY MAN THAT HATH THIS HOPE”
The opening of a new year brings a measure of fresh hope and courage to many. While some make fresh resolves to follow a nobler and more righteous course, to the vast majority life is a humdrum affair and sinful excesses are frequently indulged in with a view to breaking this monotony. It is, therefore, desirable that the world, having nothing better, should have business ambitions to fully absorb their time and energy.
How superior is the position of the Christian, who has the promise in the LORD’s word of not only the life which now is, but also of that which is to come. We see that the elect Church, called according to God’s purpose, will by and by be the glorious new Jerusalem, the government or Kingdom of God that will bless and uplift the world of mankind. This is a blessed hope. It gives us new aims, new ambitions, new energy and strengthens every good resolve in a manner nothing else could do. The Apostle declares, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3)
The trouble with the majority of Christians is that they have not this scriptural hope, but vain unreal hopes and imaginings, built not upon the word of God, but upon the theories, creeds and traditions of the elders handed down from the Dark Ages. Let us go to the fountain head, and receive God’s message of love and mercy from His own word, through His inspired Son, His Apostles and the Prophets.
Even to those of the world, who have not yet given their hearts to the LORD, there is a message of encouragement in the Scriptures in the glorious promise of the coming time when God will wipe away all tears and there shall be no more sighing, no more crying, no more dying. This message is an encouragement to any whose faith can grasp it to any degree. It will help all such to fight against the allurements of the world, the flesh and the adversary. It will assure them that every good impulse and noble effort made now will bring corresponding peace and refreshment of heart in the present time, and it will help them to reach the future life, with its glorious hopes and promises, on a higher plane than if they now yielded to sin and Satan.
(Based on a sermon given by Pastor Russell in 1906 and printed in Harvest Gleanings, Volume 3)
“THE PLACE OF MY FEET”
“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” (Isa. 66:1)
“The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.”(Isa. 60:13)
The word feet is sometimes used in Scripture, as in the above text, to represent permanent establishment, or rest. God used His footstool before sin entered the world, but since then He has removed His presence and allowed sin to reign and Satan to be “the prince [ruler] of this world.” (John 14:30) In type, He established His presence among the Israelites in the Tabernacle and Temple. All through the Gospel Age He has been present in the Gospel Church in a higher and better sense, as in a shifting tent or Tabernacle. Soon the Temple glory, His presence in the Glorified Church – head and body, will be manifested to the world.
That glorious reign of the Christ complete was typified by Solomon’s peaceful reign, and the glorious Temple was typified by the temple “made with hands.” (Heb. 9:24) Under this glorious reign, all the families of the earth shall be blessed, and brought into complete harmony with God. When all sin and every opponent of right has been destroyed, then the knowledge and glory of the LORD will fill the whole earth; the wilderness shall sing and the solitary place be glad. All the ends of the earth (people) shall remember and turn to the LORD. (Gal. 3:8; Isa. 35:1; Isa. 40:5; Heb. 8:11)
The LORD will prepare and cleanse His footstool to place His feet there, that His presence may abide with the restored race of men and be their joy and blessing. Thus we read His declaration: “I will make the place of my feet glorious.” In harmony with this thought, we find in Zechariah a description of when and how God will establish His feet, or residence:
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh … And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives…” (Zech. 14:1,4)
These Scriptures, as well as some of those previously quoted, apply to the Father – the LORD God, Yahweh – but are often misapplied to our Lord Jesus. While Jesus and His Church will doubtless be the active agents of the Father in subduing all things (Phil. 3:21), yet the fact remains, that the work here mentioned is the Father’s, and the Hebrew text leaves no question about it.
Examining this prophecy further, we see the scene is laid in “the time of trouble,” probably near its close. It is surely during “the day of the Lord” when the first return of Israelites to Israel will have taken place (a second and greater returning mentioned by the Prophets evidently will not take place until after the time of trouble). Israel will have been in comparative peace and security there and measurably free from the trouble which, meantime, will have been disturbing and overturning and impoverishing the nations of the earth. Israel’s wealth and prosperity will excite the greed of the nations, which we read will come up against His people Israel dwelling safely in their own land “to take a spoil, and to take a prey.” (Ezek. 38:8,12)
The battle at first will go against Israel: “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” (Zech. 14:2) Then, the time having come for a manifestation of God’s justice against the nations and His favor to His anciently favored people, He will manifest His power and fight against the nations: “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:3) The fight will not occur by Jesus and the saints appearing on a mountain with carnal weapons, but rather as the LORD “fought in the day of battle.” God fought Israel’s battles in ancient times without being seen by other than the eyes of their understanding.
The Angel of the LORD put to death the Assyrians (Isa. 37:36); put to flight the Midianites (Judges 7:21), and “smote great nations, and slew mighty kings.” (Psa. 135:10) As He fought for Israel then, so He will do again at their deliverance. The deliverance will be so great and marked, that they will recognize God’s power and favor, and will be blessed by being brought to a condition of nearness to Him. In prayer and supplication, they will come to a full recognition that, as a people, they had rejected and pierced their Redeemer. “They shall look on [recognize] him whom they pierced,” and shall all mourn because of Him. (John 19:37; Zech. 12:10)
As the above Scriptures show how it will be manifested to fleshly Israel that God’s arm is ruling (Isa. 53:1), now we see how symbols are used in describing the spiritual view of the Kingdom’s establishment. God’s spiritual dominion is pictured in the description of the LORD’s feet standing in that day upon the Mount of Olives. The picture continues:
“…and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” (Zech. 14:4)
A mountain is a symbol of a kingdom, and the Mount of Olives (the peaceful habitation), its location to the east (or sun-rising) of Jerusalem, signifies the Kingdom of Light and Peace. In this “day of the LORD,” already begun, the LORD God will establish Himself in a Kingdom of light and peace. This, we believe, will be accomplished through His representative, Jesus, who takes His great power and reigns along with His Church, resurrected to spiritual bodies. This we understand to be the organization of the Kingdom, whose exaltation to power invisibly smites and consumes evil systems and governments. By the teaching of the Word, we understand that this organization of the Kingdom began in 1878, and will be complete when the living members are changed. This Kingdom is the LORD’s foothold, and is to be the source of government from which shall emanate the laws, etc., for the guidance and blessing of mankind (Mount Zion is another figure representing this Kingdom).
The division of the mountain into two parts represents the two phases of the Kingdom of God: one the higher, spiritual, invisible Kingdom, composed of Jesus and the Gospel Church; the other the earthly phase of the Kingdom, composed of perfected fleshly beings, visible to humanity – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the Prophets, and all those of past ages justified by their faith.
The prophecy continues:
“And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains … and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” (Zech. 14:5-7)
The valley represents a place of favor and protection, made and guaranteed by both the heavenly and earthly phases of Kingdom power; and into this place of protection and safety Israel is represented as fleeing. Then they shall recognize Him whom they have pierced.
The day of the LORD will remain a dark day until the close of this period of trouble, or until the evening “when it shall be light.” When the day of wrath is over the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings, blessing and restoring morally and physically. (Mal. 4:2)
The earthly phase of the Kingdom will thus be seen to be essentially Israelitish, and according to the promises of God, ungodliness shall be turned from Israel (Rom. 11:26) and they shall come into the inheritance of the land, and the promises made to Abraham; and then the fleshly seed of Abraham will be used as the agents of God in carrying to the world the blessings purchased by Christ, the higher, spiritual seed of God, whom Abraham typified.
This earthly part of the Kingdom is to spread and increase until it fills the whole earth and is under the whole heaven, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor into it, by coming into harmony with its laws.
These two parts of the Kingdom will be in perfect harmony; the earthly being under the control and direction of the heavenly: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion [the spiritual phase] shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem [the earthly phase].”(Isa. 2:3)
Though in due time there will be an earthly element of the Kingdom visible to humanity and praised throughout the whole earth, yet in the inception of the Kingdom it will not have this double character (the LORD’s feet first stand on the undivided Mount of Olives). And so we read that when demanded of the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God should come, Jesus answered and said: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your midst].” (Luke 17:20, 21) That is to say, the Kingdom of God will be among men but will be invisible to them in its coming. It is only after it has come and done a work, that the visible phase is due, during the Millennial Age.
It is for this Kingdom in both its phases that we pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Oh, may the time soon come when God’s feet will be established and His footstool made glorious!
(Based on Pastor Russell Reprint 286)
Please direct all correspondence to:
P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246