(Malachi 3:1; 4:3)
“Behold he shall come, saith the Lord, even the Messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight in. But who may abide the day of his coming? for he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” – Malachi 3:1,2.
Malachi’s prophecy, the most striking features of which constitute the lesson, concludes the Old Testament canon. It contains not only a Divine rebuke for sin, but also a Divine promise of rescue. It fits well to the time generally assigned to it – Nehemiah’s period. It remained for Israel to show thorough repentance and to institute thorough reforms. The needed reformation fits equally well to our day. In their professed devotions they were robbing God and impoverishing themselves. It rested upon them to note what great blessings would be theirs if they rendered a whole-heart service to the King of kings.
The Jews, comparing themselves with other nations, perceived that as a result of being God’s people they had been held to a more strict account than other nations, so that although their nationality was superior, it was through repeated and severe chastisements. They were even questioning the profitableness of being “God’s chosen people.” The arrogant, proud nations around them flourished in temporalities more than they. They could not stand this; they forgot that they were a people for a purpose and that to fit them for Divine service in the future trying experiences were permitted, and were really evidences of Divine favor. “What son is he whom the father chasteneth not? If ye be without chastisement, then are ye not sons.” (Heb. 12:7,8)
This lesson of a future reward is brought forward by the words, “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord harkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord and thought upon his Name. They shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” (Mal. 3:16,17)
ISRAEL – TYPICAL AND ANTITYPICAL
The foregoing has revealed very much of all prophecies respecting Israel’s favors to be fulfilled – a portion in Spiritual Israel’s experiences and another portion in Natural Israel’s. The faithful of the Jewish Age, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets, will surely have a great reward. When Messiah’s Kingdom shall be inaugurated on the spirit plane, invisible to men, those Ancient Worthies, who were once called the fathers, will have a very high rank of service in connection with the Kingdom, in that they will be its earthly representatives and exponents. “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children [of Messiah], whom thou [Messiah] mayest make princes [rulers] in all the earth.” (Psa. 45:16)
Spiritual Israel, as history shows us, is the great Messiah for whom the Jews have so long waited. This Messiah has many members – Jesus is its Head, the Church are His members. This Messiah, Jesus and His members or Bride, constitute the spiritual seed of Abraham – “as the stars of heaven.” (Gen. 22:17) These must first be completed, and will be glorified in Kingdom power before the Ancient Worthies can receive their blessing on the earthly plane, and before natural Israel can be gathered to them as the nucleus of the Kingdom of God on earth, to which ultimately all nations, peoples, kindred and tongues shall flow for a share in Israel’s New Covenant blessings. Of these St. Paul says, “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed [typified by Isaac], and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) These are to be God’s jewels on the spirit plane, as the faithful Jews of the past are to be the jewels on the earthly plane, marked or enrolled for distinguished honor in connection with Messiah’s Kingdom.
“MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT”
The Israelites, discouraged with their failure to keep the Law and to get the blessings promised therefrom, were encouraged by the Lord with the promise that some day a great Messiah would appear – greater than Moses, with whom God would make a New Covenant on their behalf. The New Covenant would be superior to the old one in that it would have a better Mediator, for Israel already had God’s perfect law. The New Mediator would not relax the law, either. The advantage to accrue through Him would be that somehow His covenant and sin–offering would be more efficacious than that which Moses instituted, because it would put away sin forever and give willing Israelites a new heart, a heart of flesh, after which they would be given everlasting life on condition of their maintaining their relationship with the Almighty.
Jeremiah particularized this, saying: “It shall come to pass after those days, saith the Lord, that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers when I led them out of Egypt... but their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Jer. 31:31)
Israel’s hope thenceforth was in the Messiah, whose coming would bring to them the New Covenant blessings. They have waited for Him since. Who can help admiring the persistency of the Jewish faith – their loyalty to God! Who can help noticing how sharply it is in contrast with their previous unbelief and idolatry! Who can doubt that God still loves His people whom He foreknew and whom He has promised shall be regathered back to their own land and back to His favor under the New Covenant! (Rom. 11:25)
But the Prophet Malachi clearly intimates that there might be disappointment in connection with the much longed for Messenger or Mediator of the New Covenant, in whom the Jews so delighted and hoped. The declaration is that His day will be a strenuous one: “Who shall stand when he appeareth?” “Who will abide the day of his coming?” (Mal. 3:2) The intimation is that not many will abide, not many will stand – the majority will fall.
The reason is given. He will require such purity, such holiness, that few will come up to His requirements. The tests He will impose will be like fullers’ soap, which is the foe of every spot upon a garment white. His requirements will be like those of a refiner of silver – all the dross must be eliminated, in a furnace hot enough to insure its separation. The test will last a considerable time, for He will sit as a refiner sits, giving close inspection, that the heat be neither too great nor too little, the time neither too long nor too short.
This great Messiah, the Messenger of the New Covenant, began His refining and purifying work more than eighteen centuries ago. He followed the Divine rule, “To the Jew first.” He began to refine and purify a priestly class for association with Himself in the glorious Messianic work. To the Jew first came the privilege of being the antitypical Levites. Thousands of them responded at Pentecost, and subsequently, but not enough to complete the foreordained number of spiritual Israelites, members of the body of Messiah.
Since then the selecting work has been in progress for eighteen centuries. God has been calling and drawing from all nations, and as many as respond the great Refiner has been purifying; and if these suffer afflictions for righteousness they are sharing in the sufferings of Messiah that they may be accounted worthy also of a share in His glories to follow. Soon the “elect” number will be completed; the blood of the New Covenant will be made efficacious for Israel and for all the families of the earth, and on that basis the Messianic Kingdom or reign of righteousness will begin. (Pastor Russell, Reprints 4930–4931, December 1, 1911)
JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS
“Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto me.” (Verse 45)
Having given His disciples many parables illustrating the experiences of the Church, the Kingdom class, in their development and preparation for Kingdom honor, it was eminently proper that Jesus should give the parable of this lesson to illustrate the work of this Kingdom after its establishment – to show its purpose and its effect upon the world of mankind.
Many of us have in the past read the Bible too carelessly. Our minds were sluggish respecting spiritual things. For instance, this lesson was at one time applied to the Church. We failed altogether to notice that it says not a word respecting the Church, but is entirely applied to the world, to the nations, the heathen. For centuries the Jews had been accustomed to think of themselves as God’s nation, God’s people. All others they styled heathen, Gentiles, the people, the nations; and in the prophecies God treated the matter from this standpoint. So when spiritual Israel was received into Divine favor as the Royal Priesthood, the Holy Nation, the peculiar people, all the remainder of mankind were properly enough to be thought of and described as “the nations” – “the Gentiles.”
In line with this, our Lord in this parable tells what is to befall after His Kingdom shall have been set up – after the selection of the true Church class to be the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife, the joint–heir in His Kingdom, in His throne. This, we notice, is very clearly stated by the Master, saying “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” Who, after proper consideration, will say that this is a matter of the past? Who will dispute that this is a description of Messiah’s Kingdom following His Parousia and His Epiphania [the Epiphania and the Time of Trouble are one and the same] at His Second Advent?
APPLICATION OF THIS PARABLE
Then follows a description of the work of the Millennial Age. “Before him shall be gathered all nations.” This means all the people of the world outside of the Lord’s holy nation, His peculiar people, the Church. Everybody except the Church will be before His great white throne of justice, mercy and love; that will be their judgment time.
Six thousand years ago, Adam and his entire race were judged in Eden, and the sentence was death. None of the race are worthy of everlasting life. They are all sinners. In due time God sent His Son to die for Adam’s sin, in order that, “as by a man came death [of the entire race), by a man [Jesus] also will come the resurrection of the dead [the entire race]. For as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive. Every man in his own order.” (I Cor. 15:21–23)
The first order to be made alive in Christ is the Church, called out of the world, separated, “begotten again” of the Holy Spirit. These pass their judgment, their trial, for life everlasting or death everlasting in the present time. Hence the worthy ones, with characters formed pleasing and acceptable to God, will be quite ready to be Messiah’s Bride class, joint–heirs with Him in His Kingdom and in His work of judging the world. He has promised that all the faithful shall sit with Him in His throne – the very throne pictured in the words of our text – the throne before which all the nations, all the people outside of the Church, will be gathered.
The gathering of the world will be the result of knowledge. The Time of Trouble will lead on to great enlightenment, in which all the blind eyes will be opened, all the deaf ears will be unstopped (Isa. 35:5), and the knowledge of the glory of God will fill the whole earth. Some there will be those who, resisting this knowledge, will decline
to accept Christ and will not come into this judgment; but after a hundred years of resistance these will be destroyed. (Isa. 65:20)
Those in the parable are such as have accepted Christ’s terms and desire to be on judgment, or on trial, for everlasting life. This will include all in their graves, who, the Master tells us, will come forth, not all at once, but gradually. Messiah’s Kingdom will exercise its power and disseminate the knowledge of God and of righteousness, with a view to encouraging, helping and uplifting all the willing and obedient. All such may rise more and more out of sin and death conditions – out of imperfection of mind and body and out of immoral conduct to the full image of God, as possessed by father Adam in the beginning.
It will be the work of the entire Millennial Age to bring this about. Righteousness will reign then, as sin reigns now. That is to say, it will be in control, in the ascendency; and whosoever will sin then will suffer promptly. Hence all the nations will be avoiding sin. Then the world in general will be a grand place, where “nothing shall hurt or destroy” (Isa. 11:9); where “the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick” (Isa. 33:24); where the curse shall be gradually rolled away, and there shall be no more crying, no more sighing, no more dying; and where the blessing of God, bringing perfection, will prevail. “O happy day!” we exclaim. And surely it will be such; for all who live through those thousand years will have a great blessing.
THE LAW OF RETRIBUTION OPERATIVE
But, some inquire, what about the sins of the world? Will there be no chastisements, no punishments, for these? We answer that it will be equally as just for God to forgive the sins of the world for Christ’s sake as it has been just for Him to forgive the sins of the Church for Christ’s sake. If the one is just, so will be the other; for God is no respecter of persons, and is equally as willing to forgive the sins of the world as the sins of the Church, when the world, repenting of sin, will turn from it, accepting Christ as their Redeemer.
This does not mean, however, that justice is to be ignored. In the case of the Church, note how the sins of youth may leave their scar and sting to the end of life. And so we may reasonably assume that certain stripes, or punishments, will be permitted to follow the world in just the same manner. It will be from these weaknesses and frailties that they will be gradually raised up to perfection during those blessed thousand years of Christ’s Kingdom, when Satan will be bound and not be permitted to deceive any during that period.
But what about heart condition? If conformity to the Divine Law in an outward way will bring blessings to all, will there not still be a difference between the people some coming heartily into accord with the Father, and others merely outwardly into harmony, because this outward harmony will be the way to restitution, perfection?
Undoubtedly this is correct reasoning. It is along this line that the parable before us teaches; namely, that outwardly the “sheep” and the “goats” will have much the same appearance and demeanor, except to the Judge, the King, who will read the, heart and ultimately will manifest to all that there has been a real heart-difference between the two classes, all of whom will have been on trial for a thousand years, receiving blessings of the Kingdom.
THE BASIS OF JUDGMENT
All the while each individual will be making character. This character will be fully appreciated by the great Judge, and the individual will be rated either as a “sheep” or as a “goat.” All the sheep class will thus be received at the right hand of the great Jehovah; and all the goat class will be rated as out of favor with Him, even though all the while they will be receiving the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom and outwardly rendering obedience to its laws.
Not until the conclusion of the Millennium will the decision of the Judge be manifested. Then great surprise will be shown at His decision – by both parties. To the “sheep” at His right hand He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father [the kind that my Father is pleased to bless and to grant everlasting life! Come,] inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” When God laid the foundation of the earth and planned its human habitation, it was His design to give it to you. Now the time has come for you to enter into this kingdom and to possess it.
This is not the same kingdom as the Messianic Kingdom. On the contrary, it is the kingdom which God gave to Adam, which Adam lost through his disobedience and which Christ redeemed by the sacrifice of Himself. It will be given only to those who will have developed the God-like character – those who will have become the Lord’s “sheep” during the Millennium.
Then the other class, the goats of the parable, will be sentenced: “Depart, ye accursed ones [doomed ones], into everlasting punishment.” Granted all the privileges, blessings and experiences of a thousand years of contact with righteousness, truth and the Spirit of God, you indeed render an outward obedience, but at heart you have not come into harmony with God. I cannot recognize you as My sheep. I cannot present you to the Father blameless and irreprovable. You must be destroyed; the punishment is the Second Death, “everlasting destruction.” The penalty upon you is an everlasting one because there will be no further provision made for your redemption or for your resurrection from the Second Death. You will be as though you had never been. You have failed utterly to appreciate the goodness of God and to copy His Character-likeness. Eternal life is only for those who have God’s likeness and God’s Spirit. “The Father seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23)
Both classes, the “sheep” and the “goats,” were surprised at what the King, the Judge, declared to be the basis of His judgment. To the sheep He said, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” To the goat class He said, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink; was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not.”
Both “sheep” and “goats” claimed that they had no knowledge of any such experiences. When did we minister unto Thee? When did we fail to minister unto Thee? The answer was, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of My brethren, or did it not unto him, ye did it, or did it not, unto Me.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SHEEP CLASS
Now, who are these respecting whom there will be a test upon the sheep class and upon the goat class? Will there be people sick, hungry and in prison during the Millennium? Does the Lord wish us to understand that there will be such? We have, on the contrary, always assumed that sickness, poverty, hunger and prisons will then be gone forever. What does it all mean?
The meaning is plain. With the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom all who come into harmony with it will have the great privilege of doing something to help others. The world is blind and starved now, for lack of spiritual food and the anointing eye-salve of the truth. While the Millennial blessings will be showered upon those who accept the Lord’s terms, there will be others who will need assistance. Those who have the Spirit of God, the spirit of love, will be glad to carry the heavenly message of reconciliation to all humanity, glad to apply the eye-salve to the blind, glad to unstop the ears of the deaf, glad to help the sin-sick back into harmony with God – to the blessings of Messiah’s Kingdom, to the way in which these may be obtained – helping them to cover their nakedness with the merit of Christ.
All who will take pleasure in this work will thus be manifesting that they have God’s Spirit and are co–laborers with Him. All these will be the sheep. On the other hand, those who will be careless in respect to their vow, and merely enjoy the Millennial blessings themselves, will be of the goat class and will thus be marking themselves as “goat,” and correspondingly will be out of favor with the great King of kings, their Judge, the Lord of Glory.
THE WORLD’S RESURRECTION
The prison referred to in the parable is undoubtedly the great prison-house of death, into which approximately twenty thousand millions already have gone. All these are to come forth. But the Scriptures declare that they will not all come forth at once, but “every man in his own order.” (1 Cor. 15:23) Only the Church will be in the First Resurrection.
During the Millennium the awakening from the sleep of death, the prison-house, will come about by Divine Power, of course, but we believe in answer to prayer. Each family circle, as it can prepare for another and another member, will be glad to do so, and will make request for his return. Thus the race will come out of the “prison-house” in reverse order to that in which they entered, and will be acquainted with, identified by, and prepared for by their friends, their relatives.
While the blessing of the Lord will provide an abundance for all, nevertheless we may safely assume that the provision will be in the hands of their fellows. It will be the “sheep” that will be especially interested in praying for and preparing for those who are in the great prison-house of death. Any by so engaging their time and energy these “sheep” will be manifesting a purpose, a will, in harmony with that of the Creator. God has willed that all who are in their graves shall come forth at the command of Jesus (John 5:28,29), and those in sympathy with God and Christ will be co–laborers with God in accomplishing the work for which Christ died. Any not interested in that work will be lacking in God’s Spirit; and this is exactly what is charged against the goat class.
He who sits upon the throne, having redeemed the world of mankind and having provided for the resurrection of all these redeemed ones, counts them as in a certain sense representing Himself – as He says in the parable: “I was an hungered, and ye fed me; I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me,” ministered unto Me and helped Me.
Likewise the reproof to the goat class: to these He said, You were not interested in the things of God. Your interest was merely personal, a selfish one. You have enjoyed the blessings of these glorious thousand years, and that is all that God has provided for you. You are not of the kind of whom He is pleased to grant everlasting life. You will therefore die. You have more or less of the selfish spirit, which is the spirit of Satan, and as God’s provision for all who will not be in fellowship with Him in spirit is destruction, this is to be your portion – the Second Death. (Rev. 21:8)
The eternal fire is the fire of God’s jealousy or anger, which burns against and destroys everything antagonistic to His righteousness. (Zeph. 1:18; 3:8) It is, of course, merely a figurative expression representing complete destruction.
(Pastor Russell, Reprints 5530–5532, September 1, 1914)
LETTERS OF GENERAL INTEREST
Dear Sister Hoefle: Grace and peace in the Name of our Beloved Savior!
I received the tracts and the Divine Plan of the Ages in very good condition. But there was a delay in the Post Office for two months. The man in the Post Office went on a two-months holiday and I didn’t get the package until he returned. But all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.
I am now seeing about my passage to go to St. Lucia just for a few days, either by plane or by boat, and I will start giving out the tracts and the Divine Plan of the Ages.
The Lord bless you in all your efforts to serve Him. Give my love to all those in the Bible House.
Your brother by His Grace ------- (ST. VINCENT)
Dear Sister Hoefle,
Someone must have sent you our name, as we have been getting your papers for several years. Before that we didn’t know of the existence of the movement of EBSA.
We came into the truth in 1940. I live with my wife on the farm I was born on. We have two daughters who are married – one lives in Grand Rapids and the other in Denver, Colorado.
When God aroused my interest in His Word I found several JW books and read them. One of the books was “The Harp of God.” Not too long afterwards, however, I was told about the Studies in the Scriptures. We found a set of them in Seattle, Washington, and came home and studied them carefully. We found there is a great difference between the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Studies in the Scripture. We have accepted the truth taught in the Studies in the Scripture and believe in the truth to this day.
I am 74 and my wife is 73. We have met a number of brethren of the Johnson group. In Grand Rapids we met Brother and Sister ------------- and Sister -------------- of Muskegon. Sister ----- and Brother ----------- visited us about two years ago. We keep in touch with many of the brethren we have met at conventions. We keep a list of their names.
More and more we are able to grasp the true meaning of the Grace of God. How it thrills our hearts to be able to comprehend the heights and depths of the love of God with all the saints. As St. Paul said, “I live, yet not I but Christ in me.” It is clear to me that the greatest message we should proclaim is the Gospel of Grace [the Plan of Salvation for all mankind]. That is because we have submitted ourselves to His keeping. We are His workmanship through the Holy Spirit.
If you care to publish this letter we would be grateful. This is only an introduction. Hope to hear from you. Christian love, --------------(Michigan
PS – When you publish our letter, please add that we would be glad to hear from any of the brethren. We would like to get acquainted with as many brethren as possible.
Dear Sr. Hoefle: Greetings in our Redeemer’s Name!
I appreciate your prompt answer to my letter requesting more information about the Epiphany Bible Students’ articles you have been sending me; and I gratefully accept your offer to keep sending them. I believe I have received all of the 1990 papers, and after reading them I share them with two other sisters in our class. So, at the moment I don’t have any of the back issues in my possession. Please just keep on going from here on.
Also, I thank you for your offer of the Charles Taze Russell book. I shall read it with great interest and also let others get the benefit of it.
Our class numbers 9 or 10 at present and varies from week to week. All of our members are older. We don’t have any young people anymore.
I was glad to learn a little more about the Epiphany Bible Students Ass’n and the good work you are doing in supplying the brethren with these articles. I pray the Lord’s rich blessing on you.
Yours in His service, ------- (INDIANA)
Dear Sister Emily: Peace and Blessing in Jesus dear Name!
At last I am writing you a letter. I hope this finds you feeling well. I am in quite good health.
The war has started and we wonder how it will end. We feel for the downed pilots and all our boys stationed in the Middle East. It is another tragic event that it would seem bring things closer to the end of this present evil world.
Sr. Rose Suk Michalek’s daughter Joan wrote me that Sr. Krewson died around Christmas time. She was 84. I hadn’t heard from Joan for quite some number of years. Sr. Rose Suk had a stroke several years ago and doesn’t write. She is around 86 years, I think.
Thank you for all your good letters to me and also for the interesting and informative January/February paper. I sent part of it to my granddaughter. She lives north of San Francisco. I hope David and Nan are feeling stronger. David keeps going. His news releases are informative, and gives news that we wouldn’t get otherwise.
A few months ago I wrote a letter to Santa Barbara News Press. Their articles of the news of Israel seems slanted to me. I told them I was a Christian who cared about Israel. Also sent them copies of Bill Dunnagan’s letter and articles by David Horowitz which contained Bill Dunnagan’s letter but had something different in it. There were also some good letters from local Jewish people explaining Israel’s side of the question. It’s about time for the mail to come, so I will close with love ------- (CALIFORNIA)
Your January 1st letter and the Jan-Feb bulletin arrived a few days before the outbreak of the Gulf war against Iraq. Firstly, let me thank you for your thoughts and warm concern: Your letters are always so encouraging and so supportive. We appreciate your friendship more than I can put in words.
I read the Bulletin from A to Z and once again I wish to compliment you on a superb job! (Even though the first item on p. 9 must be understood rather as a way of thinking and praying – of belief but not a realistic appraisal for people who live here and who right now go through extremely trying times.)
The Gulf war is now 6 days old. Here in Israel it dominates every aspect of our life... The missiles wrought horrible material damage but did not kill anybody, although 600 people lost their homes – after going through moments of traumatic shock none of them will ever forget. The children among them will bear marks of that night of fear and havoc for the rest of their lives.
As you know, we here in Israel knew all along what the inexhaustible supply of the most sophisticated modern arms by the Soviet Union and the major Western nations to the Iraqi dictatorship would produce in the end.
When in 1981 the Iraqi nuclear power plant was wiped out by Israeli pilots, Israel was universally blamed. Now – years too late – Israel is praised for that action. But now – incredible as it may sound – Americans fight lethal war arsenals in Iraq, supplied by US! British pilots face British-trained Iraqi pilots. The French are up against huge stockpiles of modern weaponry supplied by them over the years to Iraq; and, of course, all – ALL the ‘coalition’ partners have to fight the unbelivable number of Soviet-supplied airplanes, guns, missiles and vast assemblies of sundry modern war-and-death machines bearing the Communist trade mark. I put ‘coalition’ between ‘ ‘ because to everyone here and all those who have as much as an inkling of the true nature of this ‘coalition’ know very well that it’s just lip-service. When the chips are down, Syria, Saudia, et al, will prove to be “staff of a broken reed,” as Isaiah so aptly puts it (36:6).
It is all so sad and so painful, but we here will have to stand up to every conceivable challenge – come what may. We pray and hope that we won’t be alone and that, even if very hard times are ahead, the Rock of Israel (2 Sam. 23:3) will stand by us and perhaps some men, too.
Be well and accept our best wishes and hearty blessings! -----------------(ISRAEL)
Dear Brethren: Greetings in the Name of our Beloved Redeemer!
Just wanted to tell you that we appreciated the March/April papers, especially the Special about Israel. It is very informative, especially with the map giving the God-given promises to the Jews of their homeland.
Our Christian love and prayers are with you. The Lord bless and guide you as you continue to serve Him.
Your brother and sister ------- (NORTH CAROLINA)