The resurrection of the just could not mean a resurrection of those who had been perfect, for there are none perfect, none just, “no, not one.” “The resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14), then, must mean the resurrection of those who have been justified; and the justified are those referred to in the Scriptures of whom Abraham was an example. Abraham believed God, and was justified by faith. It was the faith that justified, and the works corroborated the faith.
So with the Church of this Age. The Apostle says, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1,2) We are not only justified out of sin, but are also brought by operation of our faith into the glorious standing of members of Christ; and we may hope to participate with Christ in the glories of His Kingdom in the future. It is one thing to be freed from guilt, and another thing to be raised to the position of sons of God, heirs of God and joint‑heirs with Christ, our Lord.
The resurrection of the dead is similarly spoken of in John 5:28, 29, where we read, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” The Lord does not mean merely all the good, for He also includes in this all that are in their graves. We read in the context that they that have done good shall come forth “unto the resurrection of life”: those who have done evil shall come forth to “damnation [judgment – Dia.].” The word damnation, in the Greek, signifies a crisis, a turning‑point, a decision.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHURCH
Those whose faith enables them to stand through evil report and through good report, and who thus fulfil the Divine requirement, are character‑likenesses of Jesus. These now pass from under the condemnation condition to the life condition. As the Apostle says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” (I John 3:14) This passing from death unto life is not in the full sense in the present time. By faith we are reckoned dead with Christ, counted members of His body. That future life is reckoned to us. We are counted as having it; and this is our condition because we have the Divine approval.
Since there is none good, the only sense in which one could “do good” would be by coming into accord with God by obedience, as under the covenant which prevailed with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or under the still higher covenant that prevails with the Church in this Gospel Age. We have this testimony, that we are pleasing to God, who indicates His pleasure by begetting us of the Holy Spirit. In contradistinction, the world are aliens, foreigners. (Eph. 2:19) By this Holy Spirit, this “unction from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20), therefore, we have the evidence of acceptance with the Father.
The outcome will be, that those having this approval of God, having passed the trials and testings which they have received – for he receiveth no son whom He does not scourge (Heb. 12:6) – and having proved faithful to the end, will be raised by the Lord to the very highest place – glory, honor and immortality. This is the crown, or very highest pinnacle of life that could be imagined. So, then, those who will have part in this First Resurrection will reign with Christ a thousand years. This is the first class mentioned by the Apostle. They are approved; they shall come forth to “life resurrection.”
What is the significance of “life resurrection”? We answer that these shall come forth to perfect life instantly. As St. Paul says, “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spirit body.” (1 Cor. 15:43) Thus instantaneously these blessings come to them. They have their trial in the present time and, therefore, theirs will be the chief resurrection.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE WORLD
But all will have a resurrection. How will the resurrection of the world differ from that apportioned to the Church? The world has not had the Divine approval; the heathen have not had the Divine approval. The Apostle says, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14) They are not fit for heaven. They are not fit to be with the angels or with the Saints, no matter how they came to be in this condition. They came into this condition because of heredity, as children of Adam. But they could not have the same kind of resurrection that those will receive who have God’s approval now, at the time of their death: “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)
So with the majority of those in Christian lands. They could not be thought to be fit for heaven or to have God’s approval in any sense of the word. And they know it. They confess it themselves. Nobody could deny that nine hundred and ninety‑nine out of every thousand are living “after the flesh.” They are not Saints, but have the Divine disapproval, some having heard more of the Word of God, and some having heard less.
THE GENERAL RESURRECTION TO BE GRADUAL
“Those who have done evil” (John 5:29) will come forth to the resurrection of “damnation” (Greek, krisis), resurrection of trial, resurrection of testing. What kind will it be? The Scriptures show us that it will be a gradual resurrection. During the thousand years of Christ’s reign the people will be awakening from the sleep in the tomb. This awakening will be a preparatory work, not the full resurrection, which will require the entire thousand years.
But the Divine provision is that the account will have been settled for the whole world so that when they shall come forth from the tomb in the future they will be in the hands of the Redeemer, whose Kingdom will be world‑wide. They will have the opportunity of being raised again to that which was lost. Human perfection was lost, which includes not only perfect physical health, but perfect mental power; for mental power depends upon the brain, is affected by the brain, as well as by the body, so that men are now in a dying condition, mentally, morally and physically.
All will be fully raised, from imperfection to perfection, at the end of the thousand years. All who will respond to the beneficent arrangements will secure that which Father Adam enjoyed at first – perfect manhood. Those who will not be obedient to the requirements of Christ’s Kingdom will be cut off in the Second Death (Acts 3:23). They will be destroyed as brute beasts, having had the full measure of Divine favor. (2 Peter 2:12)
When the sentence came upon Father Adam he was thrust out of Eden. All of his children have been born dying, and are still in a dying condition. Therefore, the raising of man out of sin and death will be the bringing of him to full perfection – perfect life. This will be a gradual process. They will be made more alive and more alive, and less dead and less dead, as the thousand years progress, and none will get the resurrection life until they are raised to the condition of perfection – perfect life in the image of God, which was lost by Adam.
BURNING OF THE WORLD SYMBOLICAL
The Scriptures declare that “the earth abideth forever” and that “God formed it not in vain; He made it to be inhabited.” (See Eccl. 1:4; Isa. 45:18) It has not yet reached the blessed condition when it will blossom as a rose, although it is in process of completion. At the end of the thousand years of Christ’s reign, the whole earth shall have been brought to perfection. In the prophecies, mountains are symbolical of kingdoms. In 2 Peter 3:12 the Apostle’s words signify that there will be a great conflagration and that the heavens also will be on fire, but that, nevertheless, there will be a new order of things, to take the place of the old order; and under this new order of things there shall come a blessing to all in the earth. The word “fire,” in this sense signifies destruction of the present order of things, of the kosmos – not the geological earth, but the social system, society as at present organized.
We not infrequently hear people say, “Well, matters are getting pretty hot!” Yes, the battle between capital and labor is getting hotter, as is evidenced lately in the labor troubles, particularly in Great Britain and the United States. But the time of conflagration will be such a “time of trouble,” that it will entirely consume the present order of things, a Time of Trouble, therefore, that will be epoch‑making, and the new epoch will be introduced immediately thereafter.
MOUNTAINS SYMBOLIZE KINGDOMS
We remember riding over the mountains once with an Adventist. The Adventist brother said, “Do you not think it will be a glorious time when these mountains will be brought down to a level?” We said, “Dear brother, the mountains are very beautiful, very useful.” He said, “You cannot raise corn on this mountain. “Well,” said we, “go to the prairie if you want to raise corn.” Then he said, “What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the mountains shall be brought low, and when they speak about the melting of the earth”? We said, “Dear brother, the ‘mountains’ there are kingdoms. We read that ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be exalted in the top of the mountains’; it will be the chief mountain or kingdom.” (Isa. 2:2)
THE RESURRECTION WILL LEVEL ALL CLASSES
The Psalmist tells us that “the mountains shall be removed and carried into the midst of the sea” (Psa. 46:2), mountains being symbolical of the kingdoms, of the governments of the earth, and society in general, the elements which support the governments. (Psa. 46) St. Peter also speaks as though the whole world will be consumed by fire. These things are symbolical, implying that the people who are now in a low condition will be brought up, and that those who are high will be brought low. Thus there will be a leveling process.
We remember the statement of the Scripture in Zephaniah 3:8, “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord.” Here Jehovah is speaking to the Church, telling us that we should not be dissatisfied, that we should not be anarchists and strife‑breeders: I shall attend to this matter myself. You can rest with the present order of things. “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.” That this fire is not literal is shown in the next sentence: “Then will I turn unto the people a pure message that they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph. 3:8,9)
WHEN “THE SPIRIT AND THE BRIDE SAY, ‘COME’”
It will be the work of the thousand years of Messiah’s reign to thus make known the pure message of God, the pure Word of God. We all see, as we look back, that a pure message of God has not been declared to mankind, but creed contradicting creed, making confusion worse confounded. The Lord, however, will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, and the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the great deep. (Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14) As the Revelator puts it, “the river of the water of life” will flow freely. (Rev. 21:6; 22:1,2)
We see that there is no throne yet established and that there is no Bride now. We are waiting for the time to come when the throne will be established and when “the water of life” will flow out. In the future it will be “a river of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:1) This cannot take place until the second coming of our Lord; consequently, it will be after that, in the glorious time of Messiah’s Kingdom, when the Spirit and the Bride will say, “Come!” The election of the Church of God will then have been completed; and every creature will come to a knowledge of the Truth and will have the opportunity of attaining to the full perfection made possible by the redemptive work of Christ.
THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE CHURCH TO EARTHLY SOCIETY
The spirit condition is spoken of as a heavenly condition in the sense that the words heaven and heavenly in the Scriptures are used to signify higher. So the heaven to which the Church will be taken is this higher condition. But the mission of the Church in the next age is in connection with humanity. We are, then, to understand that the Lord and the Church will be present, operating through human, earthly agents; supervising, over- ruling.
We have an example of this invisible power in Satan, who has been ruling here for over six thousand years, through his agents. His work is a deceptive work. He has ruled mankind through ignorance, superstition, etc. But the rule of Christ will be the scattering of error, superstition. The world shall know the Truth that the Truth may make them free. Those who will receive the Truth will receive the freedom and will eventually attain the liberty which belongs to the Sons of God. Men will be quite visible to The Christ, but they will be invisible to men. It is in respect to these that the Lord said that the twelve Apostles shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel – that the Apostles shall be associates with Him in judging and ruling the world.
Then there is another class: “Ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:28); but our Lord does not say a word about their seeing Himself or His apostles. He and His apostles will be in the invisible phase of the Kingdom. So it is written, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth” (Psa. 45:16) The patriarchs will be considered the children. A father is a life‑giver. While in one sense of the word Abraham and Isaac, etc., might be considered fathers, yet by virtue of Christ’s redemptive work He will give them life and they will be his children; for whoever gives life is the father and whoever receives life is the child. They will be princes in all the earth, not on the heavenly plane, but on the earthly plane, having obtained the “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11) because they were faithful. Each one of them will be a sample of perfect manhood; and each one of them will be a prince or ruler. Their wisdom will be a wisdom superintended by the Church in glory.
THE OBJECT OF THE INDIVIDUAL TRIAL OF MANKIND
Mankind will need to be put on trial to see whether or not they will accept God’s plan with the knowledge they will have received. If they accept they will be adjudged worthy of everlasting life. If they fail to come into harmony, they will be adjudged worthy of everlasting death. But this judgment will be passed by Christ and His Bride.
So, then, we see that there is a great judgment or trial coming to the world to give them the opportunity of deciding whether or not they will come into harmony with the arrangements of Christ’s Kingdom. In the work of judging, the Church will be associated with Christ. We read that God “hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained” (Acts 17:31) Christ, the Head, and the Church His Body. Again, “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?” (I Cor. 6:2) Therefore our own judgment or trial takes place in advance, that we may be prepared to try or judge the world; and by the experiences through which we have passed we may be assistful to them, as they shall be on trial and under the control of our Lord and the Church.
(Pastor Russell, Reprints 4989, 4990, March 1, 1912)
DEGREES OF SIN AND THEIR PUNISHMENT
The question is often asked, “Is there any special punishment for thieves, murderers and other criminals, or will they, if repentant, be received into the Kingdom along with those who have tried to do right throughout their lives?”
This question can be viewed from two standpoints. God Himself is the great determiner of right and wrong. Everything that is right God approves; everything that is wrong God disapproves. The things that God approves are those things that are good, helpful and favorable for everybody. The things that God disapproves are the things that are wrong, unjust, injurious to every one. Therefore God has condemned certain things that are unjust or injurious to ourselves or to others. Whoever, therefore, commits sin, violates first of all, a Divine command, and to that extent has a certain penalty attached to him for that wrong doing.
We speak of certain persons as “sowing their wild oats.” What does this expression signify? It means that they are now contracting habits which are injurious not only to their own health and happiness, but probably to that of others. As a result of practicing sin they are sure to bring upon themselves a degradation of both mind and body. Thus sin brings its own reward in a natural way. Whoever sins will suffer, is the general law. But aside from that law, there is a God, who has given certain commands and certain penalties that go with those commands.
WHO ARE THIEVES AND MURDERERS?
God’s standard of righteousness is much higher than is man’s present standard. Our Lord gave very fine meanings to the words “thief,” “adulterer,” and “murderer.” He taught that anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger; that he who looks upon another’s wife with impure desire has committed adultery. (Matt. 5:22,28) These are very fine distinctions. Moreover, we must all admit, as Shakespeare has said:
“Who steals my purse steals trash…..
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.”
Many people have been guilty of stealing the good name of others; many have been guilty of murder in the sense that they hate others. When it comes to the point of deciding who are the most guilty murderers and thieves, we are not competent to judge, for we are not able to know the qualities of mind and the weaknesses with which each person was born. God only could tell the degree of wrong in any of these cases. There are some people who are, we might say, naturally good; others seem to have been born with less patience. Some who, naturally, would not get angry with their brother, nor with any one, as soon as some one else would, may never be in danger of committing murder, either literally or figuratively; for they are born with the quality of forbearance.
As these may not manifest any special patience more than that with which they were born, so others may manifest special qualities because of the condition in which they were born.
The world has learned the necessity of restraining those who are injurious to others. The judgment of the people of the state of New York is, according to the law, that no murderer shall be at large. He shall be confined; for a murderer is not a safe person to permit in society. Therefore, he is put into prison or is executed. This is the general judgment, outside of God’s judgment. The best thing for him and the world in general is that he go down to hades, sheol – the great state of death, where he cannot murder anyone else. The Scriptures agree with the laws of the state of New York, that if a man commits heinous crimes he should be punished.
GOD IS TRAINING THE JUDGES NOW
But so far as taking the position of a judge is concerned, we are not capable of doing this. God alone, at the present time, knows how much more worthy of punishment some are who are in prison than some who are out of prison would be for something else. The offense of the prisoners might outwardly be the greater crime; that of those who are not confined might be just as great a crime from the Divine standpoint; for they might be sinning against greater light and ability. No one but God could tell. Therefore, “Judge nothing before the time.” (l Cor. 4:5)
When is “the time”? People are always glad to get the chance to judge others. Someone may ask, “When may we have the chance to judge? We would like to have it now.” We reply, “Yours is the wrong spirit. Get rid of it or you will never be a judge at all. God is selecting another class to be judges – a saintly class that will be fully satisfied to judge nothing before the time, but to leave everything to him. He says, “This is the kind I want. I will select them.” The Apostle says, “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the world?” – (l Cor. 6:2)
We shall judge the world, not now, under present conditions, but after we shall have been changed in the First Resurrection, changed in a moment. The Apostle explains what that change will mean to us – “Sown in weakness, raised in power; sown in dishonor, raised in glory; sown an animal body, raised a spirit body.” (1 Cor. 15:42‑44) When we reach that condition of bodily likeness, as well as character‑likeness to our Lord, we shall be His associates, His wife, the Royal Priesthood. Then there will be plenty of time for us to judge the world. All the lessons we get now will only develop us for that time. All the experiences we have with ourselves – you judging yourself and I myself – the better we shall be prepared for the opportunity which God will give us by and by.
A JUDGE MUST POSSESS PERFECT SELF‑CONTROL
Whoever has not learned to rule his own spirit, is in no condition to rule others. Whoever has not learned to judge his own heart motives and has not put a restraint on them to the best of his ability, is not prepared to sit in judgment upon another. Those who are now being selected of the Lord are not by nature free from imperfections, but have many of the same weaknesses that others have.
Nevertheless, they are seeking to judge themselves to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, to get self‑control, or as the Bible says, to “overcome.” All those who will be with the Lord in Kingdom glory and power and the work of the Millennial Age will be “more than conquerors through him that loved us” and bought us with his own “precious blood.” (Rom. 8:37; 1 Pet. 1:18,19)
Various qualities of murder, lust, covetousness, etc., are more or less seen in the unbalanced mental and moral conditions resulting from the fall. We see how this is operating in the whole world. Some are so mentally unbalanced they are put into asylums. Some are so morally unbalanced they are not permitted to be at large, but must of necessity be put into prison. Others are able to be about in the world and have their liberty, but they are not sound of mind. “There is none righteous; no, not one” (Rom. 3: 10), is the Bible declaration.
Since we have learned to appreciate the Bible teaching, to see that a great fall came upon our race six thousand years ago, and that all are born in sin and “shapen in iniquity and in sin did our mothers conceive us” (Psa. 51:5), it gives us a great deal of sympathy for many poor people; and as we have more strength of character, mentally and morally, than some of them, we thank God and say, “Who hath made thee to differ?” (1 Cor. 4:7)
We were, perhaps, born differently from many; and what we did not get by heredity, we got through grace; so our strength of character is not of ourselves. It is all by God’s grace that we are better than others; and it is not for us to glory, but to give thanks. So we have sympathy for murderers, thieves and vagabonds in general; and we believe the Lord has.
This does not mean that we have the kind of sympathy which would say, “Open wide the prison doors and let every one out!” No, no! Some who have received the Truth while in prison have asked us to intercede in their behalf, that they might be released; and we have answered that we were not sure but that they were better where they are; for in prison there is less temptation than in the world. Liberty is a good thing; but it brings a responsibility and additional trials as well.
SIN AND DEATH ARE HEREDITARY
As we consider the weakness and sinfulness of humanity, the question naturally arises, “Why is this so?” The Scriptures, not the Evolution theory, give us a satisfactory answer to the question.
When God placed our first parents in the Garden of Eden, He made this proposition to them: “If you do right, as I command, you may continue to live; but if you do wrong, contrary to my command, you shall die.” Our first parents disregarded the Divine command and were disobedient. God immediately sentenced them to death. Death was the penalty of disobedience. In other words, God said, “If you are a sinner I will not permit you to live. Those to whom I wish to “grant eternal life are those who will gladly obey my law.” For, as Jesus said, true worshippers will “worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (John 4:23)
But in addition to having the death sentence passed upon him – whether that death come sooner or later – Father Adam received other punishment, aside from that penalty. Ejected from the Garden of Eden, he was brought into contact with thorns and thistles; he labored with sweat of face; he had the sorrows and troubles that come with the decaying body. All these things were the result of sin.
But so far as God was concerned, the penalty of sin was the death sentence merely. In effect God had said, “You are not fit to live; you are not fit for everlasting life; you shall not have everlasting life.” But through the sacrifice of His human nature, Jesus, by the grace of God, has tasted death for the whole world of mankind – Adam and all his children, all of whom will ultimately be redeemed from God’s sentence. They will be redeemed from death in order that Jesus may, during His Messianic reign of one thousand years, lift them up out of sin and degradation.
THE TRANSGRESSOR MAKES HIS OWN WAY HARD
But do you ever think to what extent man degrades himself? To that extent he will be more degraded than is necessary; and whenever the time comes for his uplifting, the lower he is, the more difficulty there will be in getting him up again. Since God’s arrangement for lifting mankind out of the death condition is that he must help himself, each man must labor to rise from his degradation, and must be assisted in his labor. But by his own efforts he must get out of the difficulty. No man will get out by saying, “I would rather be out of this and have life.” The way back to perfection will be an uphill way. It will not be the narrow way of the present time – darkness on every hand, a strait gate, etc. – but a highway, an upward way, something favorable to the person going up. He cannot roll up. He will not be required to put forth so much effort in a month or in a year or in ten years, as we have to put forth, but he will have a good share of the thousand years of Christ’s reign in which be can gradually rise up out of his imperfection.
We, on the contrary, are required to turn from sin to righteousness and to make a full sacrifice of ourselves to the Lord. Then we must walk in the Narrow Way to the best of our ability. In this we have the Master to help us; but ours is a short, sharp period of fiery trial; and if our trial is hard, we have the assurance that there is a great reward to those who come off victorious in this battle against self and sin.
In a word, then, when people die, that is the end of things, in one sense of the word, and not an end in another sense of the word. When a man is dead be has come under the full sentence of the law, for the law said, “Thou shalt die.”
THE WORLD’S HOPE IS THE RESURRECTION
A junk heap represents the condition of humanity, as well as it can be represented. Some people will go to a junk pile and find a great deal of value there; they can do something with this, that and the other thing. Our Lord is the greatest restorer ever known. When His Kingdom is set up, He will take over the world of mankind, approximately 20,000,000,000 of humanity – Adam and his children, all in their broken, fallen condition; and then the great work of refreshing and restoring will begin. The sawing, the hammering and the filing, if you please, will continue during the whole thousand years of the Millennial reign.
So, you see, the condition into which a man gets himself now has a great deal to do with his future. Many will be so degraded that when they come forth from the tomb they will have a very difficult time. Some of these are mentioned in the Scriptures. We are told that some of these will come forth to shame and lasting contempt. There are many people who will come forth to shame. After they had died, many have been found to have been defaulters; many people have been found to have indulged in very criminal acts; yet perhaps no one knew it while they lived. These things came out after their death, and some things may not have come out yet; but we may be very sure that when the Lord’s time shall come for the general opening up, there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed. Therefore, keep your records as clear as possible. Whatever is there will surely be made manifest, is the Lord’s declaration of the matter.
When the world’s history shall all be known, some that we have thought to be very honest, just people, we may find to have been just the reverse; and others who may have been thought to be dishonest may be found to have been very honest. The judgment of the world is not always right. This is one reason why the Lord warns His people not to judge at the present time. We are not competent now. The Lord will judge in the future. When that time comes and the whole world of mankind are brought forth to have their trial before the “Great White Throne,” the books will be opened. Then some will have shame, and some will have great contempt, which will last just as long as they are contemptible. How long will they be contemptible? Just as long as they remain in the wrong state of mind. But if they will obey the terms and regulations of the Messianic Kingdom they will rise daily out of their degradation and meanness, coming back more and more to the perfect likeness of God in the flesh, as represented in Adam.
As mankind rise from their fallen condition, so this contempt will pass away. At that time people will perhaps say, “Well, you know he was a very wicked man in his time. He suffered contempt when it was first realized what a degraded character be was.” Or, “She was a wicked woman, but now see what a change has come over her! See how well she has gotten along! See what effort she is putting forth! See what character she is developing!” And all will rejoice to see the change.
By the end of the Millennial Age, one who was in shame and contempt at the beginning will, if he has taken the right course, have been lifted up above it. We see the principle illustrated in the Scriptures. Saul of Tarsus was in shame and contempt because he was a murderer and blasphemer. But we do not hold him in contempt. Neither do we hold St. Peter in contempt because he denied the Lord. At that time it will be said of the world just as we say of the Apostles when we see what wonderful characters they were afterwards. When the world shall have been brought to a knowledge of God and His righteousness under the favorable condition of the Kingdom, restitution will take out of them all imperfections and give them all the good qualities that God originally gave to the perfect man, when God said that he was “very good.”
WHO MAY ENTER THE KINGDOM
But do not the Scriptures say that no murderer shall enter the Kingdom of God? Yes. The Scriptures state that murderers will not be in the kingdom, that they will be outside – have no part in it – “without are murderers,” etc. (Rev. 22:14,15) This statement does not signify that a man who has once been a murderer might not reform and become a Saint and an Heir of the Kingdom. We have already referred to one murderer mentioned in the Scriptures, guilty of the murder of St. Stephen, Saul of Tarsus, who afterwards became one of the most notable Apostles. He was a murderer, the responsibility of Stephen’s death lay at his feet. He was a member of the Sanhedrin and approved of the stoning of Stephen, without which approval the latter could not have been stoned.
So when we read that no drunkard or murderer or robber shall enter the Kingdom, the New Jerusalem, how shall we understand it? In this way; that when during the Millennial Kingdom all mankind shall have the opportunity of coming into harmony with God, those who maintain a sympathy or love for unrighteousness of any kind will not have Divine approval. They will not be permitted to enter within the gate of the city, which symbolically represents the Kingdom and the Divine favor. Originally, Jerusalem represented the Church. “I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife”; and “the wall of the city had twelve foundations [foundation stones], and in them the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:9-14) But into that city there would be brought the good only.
So all the world of mankind who will come into harmony with God will come into that city, into the New Jerusalem and Kingdom of God, and outside of that city will be found all impure characters. We have them pictured in this statement, that liars and murderers, etc., shall have their portion in the “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” This “lake of fire and brimstone” is as symbolical as is the city. As the city is not a literal city of gold, neither is the lake a literal lake of fire and brimstone. That city was pictured by Jerusalem, and the “fire” by Gehenna. As the offal of the literal city of Jerusalem was put into the Valley of Hinnom for destruction and for the purification of the city, so all the offal of the Millennial Kingdom will be destroyed and be kept outside of the Golden Jerusalem. That will be a glorious Kingdom, free from anything that would be a blight or blemish or sin; and all who love unrighteousness, in any sense of the word, will be destroyed in “the lake of fire,” which is, we are told by the Revelator, the Second Death. (Rev. 21:8)
(Pastor Russell, Reprints 4990-4992, March 15, 1912)