NO. 404: IN MEMORIAM (The Star of Laodicea)

by Epiphany Bible Students

No. 404

My dear Brethren: Grace and peace through our Beloved Master!

Comes once more the time of year when many of us are sadly reminded of the passing of the Parousia and Epiphany Messengers – accompanied howbeit by many pleasant memories of our personal experiences with them. In Rev. 1:16 we are told that “He [the Lord] had in His right hand seven stars,” and verse 20 explains that the “seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” That these “stars” are not seven individuals, as some have taught, is clearly demonstrated in Rev. 12:1, where the “woman” (the true church) is adorned with “a crown of twelve stars.” Those twelve stars are the twelve Apostles, who comprised the composite star, or special messengers, to the incipient Gospel‑Age Church.

And, as was true of the first epoch of this Age, the same has likewise been true of all seven epochs of the Gospel Age – each epoch had more than one “angel” as the special Pastor and Teacher. In the last, or seventh, epoch in which we have been since 1870 the “star” contained but two individuals, the same being Brother Russell and Brother Johnson. Thus, we caption this paper “The Star of Laodicea,” and we hope to relate certain items about both of them to the pleasure and inspiration of our readers.

The “angels” all during the Age were under the Lord’s special guidance, protection and care; they were His messengers, or representatives. (See Berean Comment on Rev. 1:20.) It is well to note this fact as a sobering influence upon each of us in our appraisal and attitude toward them. Especially is the thought emphasized for the first and seventh epochs of this Age, of which more later on.

It was never our privilege to meet Brother Russell personally, although we have received much information from various brethren who were closely attached to him. In Vols. 9 and 14 Brother Johnson has eulogized him far beyond anything we might here present; but to what he wrote about him we add one item he related to us personally, and is not given in detail anywhere in his writing, so far as we know – although a kindred thought is expressed in E‑8, p. 561.

As most of us know, Brother Russell never attended any institution of higher learning; therefore, his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek was limited. On the other hand, Brother Johnson was highly skilled in both languages, so much so that he often quoted copious sections of the Bible in English, then quoted the same text in Hebrew. Therefore, Brother Russell often asked his interpretation on difficult texts; and, in over four hundred such instances, Brother Russell himself had the correct meaning before asking Brother Johnson’s opinion. And it was this, said Brother Johnson, that thoroughly convinced him that Brother Russell was “That Servant,” because no one unschooled in Hebrew and Greek could have been so consistently right without the special enlightenment, guidance and care of the Lord.

And, as That Servant, “The Parousia Messenger was given charge of the Church, of its doctrinal, correctional, refutational and ethical teachings, of its work... specifically of the correct interpretation of the Scriptures on the ransom, atonement, sin offerings, mediator and covenants” (E‑11, p. 107); and “as a priest in his relations to the errors and wrong practices of the nominal church. Certainly his face was set like brass in strength against these errors and wrong practices.” (E‑11, p. 108) Of course, this aroused venom and vituperation from those whose errors and wrongs he exposed – just as the same course led Jesus to the cross.

Many were our personal experiences with such people in the years we spent in the colporteur work early in the Epiphany. On one occasion, as we approached a man, the hardening of his features became apparent, as he declared he wanted none of the literature; he had known “Russell” and attended a number of his lectures. In politeness we asked him what opinion he had formed of the man. His answer: “I think he was just an old crank!” In another instance we allayed the ire of a Mormon by mildness and politeness, after which he became affable enough to offer us this advice: “Young man, you have the qualities, and you could be an Evangelist if you just got away from the influence of that old quack.” Many such instances could we relate as we learned from experience the truth of the Lord’s words: “Men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely.” And by such treatment That Servant learned that “the servant is not above His Master” – he drank the same cup as did Jesus. Brother Johnson said he once affectionately told Brother Russell that he was the most loved man on earth. Brother Russell’s answer: “Yes, Brother, and the most hated!”


On previous occasion we have stated that Brother Russell’s stewardship doctrine was the correct interpretation of Leviticus 16, the central feature of which is Restitution. In support of this conclusion, we quote from E‑11, p. 94 (24): “It was especially during this period, in 1879, that the light on the tabernacle in general, and on Leviticus 16 in particular, was by Jesus given, first to That Servant and then later to the Church, showing the two antitypical Sin‑offerings, the two salvations in natures separate and distinct... Here, too, the doctrine of the World’s High Priest was brought to light.”

Corroborating the foregoing is this in Parousia Vol. 3, page 216 by Brother Russell himself: “And strange to say, it is the message of God’s loving provision, in the ransom, for the restitution of all things [Acts 3:19‑21], by and through Christ Jesus and His glorified body, the Church, God’s Kingdom, that is to develop and draw into heart union the true class only, to test them and separate them from the nominal mass.” This statement by Brother Russell clearly states that the preaching of Restitution would accomplish the Harvest reaping work, and this is substantiated even in the name of one of his types in E‑14, p. 114:

“Jashobeam, the people shall return, in allusion to his preaching much on restitution.”

And further in E‑14, p. 155 (16): “Brother Russell also charged these Sunday Pilgrims to exhort the public to declare continually the restitution salvation.”

It was the understanding of Restitution that harmonized the Bible, made vital the Harvest Message. (See E‑8, p. 384, top) As at the first Advent, “The people that sat in darkness saw a great light,” so all of us “saw great light” when the restitution message was explained to us. But, just as the great light at the first Advent roused great opposition, so here in the Harvest time the Truth people became “the sect that everywhere is spoken against.” (Acts 28:22) Nevertheless, Brother Russell continued with vigor and determination to preach Restitution “through evil report, and good report”; and surely we all can join with Brother Johnson in exclaiming, “God bless his memory!”

[Sad to note that the organization that Pastor Russell founded, known today as Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not teach Restitution and Resurrection for all mankind – only for those who join them. Pastor Russell is not the founder of their gross errors.]


Brother Johnson was Brother Russell’s companion helper, and faithfully carried on in spirit and in Truth the teachings and practices established by him. As he himself states in E‑11, p. 107, it was his duty “to expound and defend correctly everything connected with the antitypical Tabernacle.” If he was right in that statement, then the attempts to change the teachings of that Tabernacle which have been made since his death are all anathema.

As some of our readers know, it was in the fall of 1942 that we were privileged to accomplish a month’s pilgrim trip with Brother Johnson to the West Coast of the United States and back. This gave us many intimate hours of travel together, during which he related details of his life from infancy, which he said he had never before revealed to any one. Clearly enough, he was among us “as one that serveth” – “an example of the believers” and to the believers. Nothing was ever too bad; he had that “godliness with contentment, which is great gain.” On occasion when the going was rough, he would emit his hearty chuckle with the observation: “When we get into the Kingdom, won’t we look back and laugh at some of these experiences.”

As we said at his funeral on October 27, 1950, he was a man, even as you and I; and he made mistakes, even as you and I. But when we consider all the good he did for us in his years of faithful ministry, we reveal our sad limitations if we dwell upon his mistakes, rather than his virtues. As for us, and our house, we heartily exclaim, God bless his memory!


It is not good that we should extol the Stars of Laodicea beyond fact; although we should be guided by St. Paul’s clear admonition to “count them worthy of double honor who labor in word and doctrine.” (1 Tim. 5:17) They themselves repeatedly exhorted all likewise to “labor in word and doctrine” – “to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good.” Thus, as faithful Pastors and Teachers, they “watched over your souls as they that must give an account,” and continually waged war against clericalism and sectarianism – two besetting Gospel‑Age sins of the Great Company that developed after the Apostles passed away. The Ephesus period of the Church was commended for the avoidance of these evils: “This thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.” (Rev. 2:6) Note the Comments: “The deeds of the Nicolaitanes (Nicholans means ‘Lord’ – Compare verse 15.) Which I also hate – ‘One is your master (Lord) and all ye are brethren.”’

And, while we should not “fall at their feet and worship,” neither should we take the other extreme of discounting them too much, or become overly critical. The outstanding warning against this latter evil is to be found in Numbers 12, where the Lord’s anger was kindled against Miriam and Aaron: “Were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” We do well to take close note of this, and apply it properly and according to our time. Jesus specifically told the “Star” (the twelve Apostles) of the first Church: “He that receiveth you receiveth me.” (Matt. 10:40) At that time those that rejected the Apostles were not blessed with the Harvest Truth. That condition did not prevail between the two Harvests, because the Interim Stars did not possess the same authority as did the Apostles. But with the inception of the Gospel‑Age Harvest some of the same authority attached to the Laodicean Star; That Servant was made ruler over all His goods. Those who refused to receive him never came into Present Truth; and those who did receive him, and then “spoke against” him soon found themselves “leprous,” as was Miriam – they became “plagued” with error.

Especially would we say it is markedly true of those who came to an understanding of the Numbers 12 type. Once such began to “speak against” him, it was not long before they became noticeably “leprous”; they rejected some Truth they had, thus becoming “unclean.” (John 15:3)

These are troublous times, with the tendency in every direction being toward Anarchy; and the Lord’s people should be on guard that “it shall not come nigh thee.” (Psa. 91:7) We believe all would do well at this time to read Chapter 6 of Parousia Vol. 6 “Order and Discipline in the New Creation.” This will be honoring both members of the Laodicean Star.

It is well for us to note here once more that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth.” Moses was the youngest child – the “baby” in his family. Then, as is still true in many countries, the oldest boy was given the pre‑eminence in inheritance and prestige. Even yet, in Germany the oldest boy is considered the head of the family after the father dies, regardless of the superior brilliance and integrity that may reside in a younger son. We have the striking example of this in the way Joseph’s older brethren envied and discounted him – hated him, and “could not speak peaceably unto him.” (Gen. 37:4)

Somewhat similar was the situation of Brother Johnson, who was one of the younger pilgrims at Brother Russell’s death, and his older brethren would not bring themselves to accept instruction from him. Yet, it is now clear to us who hold his memory blessed, that he was more qualified than all of them combined to be leader of God’s people. Again there was demonstrated the truism that “Age is no proof against folly,” coupled with the advice of St. Paul to Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth!” (1 Tim. 4:12) It is well that we honor those whom God honors, regardless of age or youth, and strive honestly to “see not as man seeth.”

It is our opinion that both Brother Russell and Brother Johnson did the best they knew how to do; nor will greater tribute ever be paid to any of us. As Jesus said of Mary, “She hath done what she could,” so may it eventually be said of each of us – “We have done what we could!” And again, God bless their memory!

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the House of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.” (Psa. 122:6‑9)

Sincerely your brother, John J. Hoefle, Pilgrim

(Reprint of No. 76, October 1, 1961)



(Deut. 34:1‑12)

Our Lord alone excepted, no character of history stands out before us so grandly and majestically as that of Moses, the great Apostle Paul, even, being overshadowed by him. If we think of him as a man, we see a sublime grandeur and nobility of character, combining strength with humility, wisdom with love and gentleness. If we consider him as the leader and deliverer of Israel, we find that he accomplished a greater work than any of the kind before or since. If we consider him as the lawgiver, we find in his code of laws justice, wisdom, mercy and an appreciation of human nature far superior to anything of his day, and the basis upon which the laws of Christendom in this twentieth century are built. If we consider him as a statesman, we find him wise, prudent, careful, yet broad.

We see how he brought order out of confusion, and changed a disorganized rabble of over a million into a thoroughly organized and well ordered nation. But it is when we come to consider him as the servant of God that his character shines out most brilliantly. His faithfulness to God; his faithfulness to the trust committed to him as the Mediator for his people; his self‑sacrificing spirit in connection with the entire work, indicating that he served not the god of fame or of ambitions or of self‑love, but the Lord of Hosts.

The greatness of Moses would be incomprehensible to us from any other standpoint than that which the Scriptures set forth; viz., that he was under special Divine direction as God’s servant, and that, therefore, being naturally an able, efficient, humble, good man, had these manifold qualities of his character intensified by reason of the Lord’s power working in him and through him for the effecting of the Divine purposes.

Moses was now 120 years old; 40 years of his life had been spent as an Egyptian prince in the court of Egypt, educated, trained, and in the public service as a general and a ruler. The second forty years of his life he was a shepherd in the wilderness, because of his love for the Lord, his appreciation of the Divine promise, and his preference to share these with his brethren, the Israelites, rather than to continue in the favor of the Egyptians, their enemies and oppressors. We have already seen how this wilderness experience was probably valuable to him, enabling him to transform and transmute the knowledge and experiences already gained into a broad and deep philosophy, the foundation of which was faith in God and respect for His promises.

Thus does God sometimes work by natural means to prepare the instruments for his service. The closing forty years of his life were devoted to the exercise of all the knowledge, experience and mental philosophy and faith previously gained, to the service of Israel as their leader, lawgiver, statesman – prophet, priest and king. And now his work was finished – the work which the Lord intended him to do. Another, Joshua, was to take up the work of leader, and he had already, by the Lord’s direction, been formally and publicly ordained to this office, and Moses was ready to die.

In considering the fact that Moses was not permitted to go into the promised land, we are to bear in mind that he, as well as the nation of Israel, was being used of the Lord in a typical manner. We are not to go to the extreme of higher criticism, and to think of the deliverance from Egypt as an allegory. It was all true; the history of a series of facts; but truths and facts, under the Lord’s guidance, may be so arranged as to be types of still higher facts, illustrations of still higher principles. One of the reasons mentioned why Moses was not permitted to lead Israel into the land of promise was the second smiting of the rock. The smiting the first time (Ex. 17:1‑7) was by the Lord’s direction, and the waters gushed forth, but the second time (Num. 20:2‑12) the Lord said to Moses, “Speak unto the rock,” but instead he smote the rock a second time.

In this he spoiled a type, while he made another type. Christ Jesus, the true Rock, was to be smitten but once for our sins, and as a result of that one smiting at Calvary the water of life would be obtained for all true Israelites to all time; and if for a reason the flow was stopped it was only necessary that the Rock should be invoked in the name of the Lord, that the waters might again flow forth. Christ dieth no more; death has no dominion over him; therefore in the type the Rock should not have been smitten a second time.

But the second smiting, nevertheless, made a new type, because as the Apostle explains, there are some now who crucify Christ afresh, and put him to an open shame some of his professed followers denying or ignoring the value of the original sacrifice, denying the blood that bought them, are counted as committing the sin unto death – second death – and of these Moses became a type, and as a type of a class which would have to do with the antitype of the rock, he was debarred from Canaan. (Heb. 6:4‑6)

But even aside from the making of this type, Moses would not have gone into the land of Canaan; because, from another point of view, he was the type of the Law Covenant, which must end before the people can enter into their rest. As Moses was the representative of the Law Covenant, so Joshua became the representative or type of the New Covenant and of its mediator, Jesus, the Deliverer. “The law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The law was a pedagogue or guide to prepare and bring the Israelites along to the borders of Canaan, but the Law could never give them rest, could never take them into the land of promise. Christ, the antitype of Joshua, must do that.

We are to remember, too, that Moses’ error in smiting the Rock, did not involve him in the Second Death, nor will it work any injury to him as respects to the future. It was comparatively a trivial matter, and taught him a valuable lesson which he evidently learned to the Lord’s pleasement, and his failure to go into the land of promise, therefore, should not indicate a continuance of Divine indignation against him, but merely a continuance of the Divine purpose in making of him a type of a class who would have to do with the antitypical Rock, the antitypical water, and the antitypical smiting.

We might remark here, too, that those who smote the Lord the first time, at Calvary, have the promise of full forgiveness. They shall look upon Him whom they pierced, and shall mourn for Him and the Lord will pour out upon them the spirit of prayer and supplication, and they shall have full opportunity of recompense and reconciliation. (Zech. 12:10) It is those who, with greater knowledge, and after they have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the Age to come, sin willfully and count the blood of the covenant a common thing – these are they who commit the real sin unto death, and for whom the Scriptures suggest no hope, or further opportunity, because they have sinned willfully.


At this time the Israelites were in the land of Moab, at the northern end of the Dead Sea, opposite Jericho, and nearly in line with the city of Jerusalem. They awaited the Lord’s direction, by the pillar of cloud, before crossing Jordan to take possession of Canaan. Here, Moses’ work being accomplished, the Lord led him up to Mount Pisgah’s top, a lofty peak 3,586 feet above the sea‑level. From this point an extended panoramic view was possible – is possible today. Here Moses saw much with his natural eyes, but much more with the eye of faith, seeing the promises which God had made to the tribes of Israel, through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and by his own mouth. He saw of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied. We hear not a murmur respecting the transfer of leadership and the cessation of his own labors. If God had used him in His service to the extent that He was pleased to do, the servant was thankful and satisfied.

“So Moses, the servant of God, died” – not from weakness and infirmity of age, for “his eye was not dimmed nor his natural force abated”; he died according to the word of the Lord. Throughout his life he had been the Lord’s servant, used and blessed as such, protected and kept by the power of God through the many vicissitudes of life, and He who thus kept him, buried him in one of the many little inaccessible valleys of this Mount Pisgah. The Lord not only hid Moses in the grave, but hid the grave, so that no man knoweth its place.

This also illustrates the Divine Wisdom; for (1) had the place of the grave been known it no doubt would have been an object of veneration amongst the Israelites, a Mecca, to which pilgrimages would have been made, and the man Moses would have been honored, rather than the God whom this man represented, and whose servant and mouthpiece he was. (2) Doubtless, also, the hiding of the grave was typical, and represented that the Law Covenant, which died and passed away, was not to be revived; that the New Covenant, not only displaced, but thoroughly replaced it, so that there would never more be need for the Law Covenant in connection with the bringing of Israel to all the precious promises of God.

“Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime;

And departing leave behind us

Footprints in the sands of time.”

This great truth, so beautifully expressed by the poet, finds a grand illustration in Moses. His life and character are a noble example, not only for the Lord’s saints, but also for natural men. No one can study the life of Moses, and note its purity, its lofty ideals, it humility, its obedience to the Lord, its faithfulness to his fellows, without being bettered, ennobled, by the contemplation. And each one thus bettered himself by contemplating this noble character, should in turn seek to leave noble and enduring footprints for others, that perchance “some forlorn or shipwrecked brother seeing may take heart again.”

The Book of Deuteronomy is chiefly composed of addresses by Moses to the Israelites, setting before them the various lessons they had received from the Lord, expounding to them the Divine Law, their duty to God and to man. It closes with the Song of Moses, and Moses’ blessing of the nation, two poems whose beauty and literary merit are acknowledged as being of the highest order. Jacob called his twelve sons when dying and pronounced over them certain blessings. So now Moses, as the father of the nation, in these poems, completes his admonitions respecting them, his warnings and encouragements; and in these prophecies, not only their trials and difficulties and failures are foretold, but also their final victories, as we believe these victories shall ultimately be attained by all the Israel of God – all who will become by faith the children of Abraham – the Jew first and also the Gentile, during the Millennial Age. (Rom. 11:11,12, 28‑32)

This song of Moses was evidently not merely for Israel but prophetical, and was referred to by our Lord (Rev. 15:3,4), but long after that nation had been blinded and given up as respects the High Calling of this Gospel Age. This is the song of Moses and the Lamb which the overcomers are to sing, those who, with Christ, shall be members of the body of the great Prophet who shall bless, not only the literal seed of Abraham, but all the true Israel of God; all who shall become Israelites according to the faith and obedience of Abraham. This song, after telling of trying experiences, ends with rejoicing, saying, “Rejoice all ye nations with his people!” The poem of blessing, which applied most particularly to the tribes of Israel, though doubtless also typical of the elect 144,000, ends with rejoicing, saying, “Happy art thou, O Israel! Who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord?” (Deut. 32 and 33)

The scribe who wrote the Book of Deuteronomy at Moses’ dictation finished its account as a historian, describing the death and burial of Israel’s great leader, and declaring the great honor in which he was esteemed, recounting his mighty works, and ascribing these as did Moses himself, not to Moses personally, but to the Lord, who sent him to do them.


Joshua was now eighty years of age, and was accepted by the Israelites as Moses’ successor without murmur. They had, doubtless, learned valuable lessons in their wilderness discipline. Joshua, it will be remembered, was Moses’ companion when he went up into the mountain, Sinai, and there received the Law, and indeed throughout the wilderness journey he seems to have been the one above all others upon whom Moses could thoroughly rely. He and Caleb were the two spies who brought the favorable report, declaring that by the help of the Lord Israel might go up and assuredly take possession. In the change of leadership Israel learned another great lesson; viz., that their confidence and trust must not be in man; that so long as they recognized the Lord as their Leader they might feel safe and confident; because, although others might pass away, the Lord would abide faithful and could raise them up at any time just such leaders as he saw best.

There is a lesson in this matter for spiritual Israelites as well. We are not to put our trust in leaders, but in the Lord. This does not signify that we are not to trust leaders, and not to acknowledge leaders, for all the history of the Lord’s dealings with His people, the typical as well as the antitypical, shows us that He is pleased to use human agencies as His representatives in the teaching and leading of His people from grace to grace, from knowledge to knowledge. The lesson to be learned is that the Lord is thoroughly competent to manage His own work, and that while we may look for His leading through human agencies our trust is not in them, their wisdom, their strength, but in the Lord’s wisdom and strength, guiding them and us through them.

Another lesson here set forth is found in the words “Israel hearkened unto him [Joshua] and did as the Lord commanded Moses.” Joshua was to be followed only as the people could realize that he was following God’s instructions, given through Moses through the Law. In the antitype the great Deliverer Jesus, will be the commander of the people, will bless the people during the Millennial Age, and they must hear Him and must obey Him, but all that He will speak and all that He will order will be in full accord with the Divine Law, as represented by Moses.

The Christ, during the Millennial Kingdom, will attempt nothing on behalf of mankind in violation of the laws of righteousness, the laws of God. But everything in the way of lifting mankind up, will be by magnifying the Law of God, and making it honorable, and assisting all to conform their lives thereto, but not by that Law Covenant which is forever dead.

 (Pastor Russell, Reprints 3077‑3078, September 15, 1902)



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