“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” (Psa. 25:14)
Why did the Almighty originally permit evil – sin? And why has He permitted Satan to continue his reign of sin and death? When we consider the suffering of humanity during the present life (ignoring the unscriptural ideas of centuries of purgatory and an eternity of torment), how can we account for its permission by an All-Powerful Creator, who knew the end from the beginning?
Why does He permit pain, injustice, unrighteousness, and all manner of heartaches? Why does He not deal with humanity graciously, kindly, lovingly, as a Father? Is it just or loving on the part of our Creator to bring forth billions of His creatures under such unfavorable conditions, beset by weakness and sin from birth and surrounded by others similarly afflicted? Is it just that we should be subjected to weaknesses, and dying and imperfect conditions through no sin of our own but through the sin of our first parents? Is it just that we should at the same time be in danger of an eternity of torture, as most denominations of Christendom teach, when ignorance and sin have stacked the odds overwhelmingly against us?
Our question is surely too deep for any human philosophy, and those who reject the Bible as of Divine inspiration may as well abandon all hope of an answer. Only God Himself can tell us of His secrets, why He did as He did. Truly, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear [reverence] him; and he will show them his covenant.” (Psa. 25:14)
The light now shining upon the Word of God shows us that the Divine purpose in connection with mankind is a progressive one, embracing Ages and Dispensations. It is the privilege of Bible students today to see the light in God’s Word, to see matters from the Divine standpoint, to understand the mystery of God, hidden for ages but now made known: namely, that in the ages to come all the trials and difficulties, all the sorrows and tears of the past, will be more than compensated for, and proven to be part of the great Divine Plan which will work to the glory of God and the enlightenment and blessing of men as well as angels. (Eph. 3:9-11)
GOD’S GREAT LESSON
God not only created man perfect in mind and body, but He gave to him a free will, the power of choice, the liberty to choose one course or another. God foresaw that giving man this liberty of will would lead to the disobedience of Father Adam. Although Adam and the angels were perfect, they did not have perfect knowledge of their Creator, of His Love, His Wisdom, His Justice, His Power.
God, therefore, without interfering with Adam’s liberty, permitted the great calamity of death to come upon him and his posterity. God premeditated the entire Plan of Salvation and has since been working it out; and He will ultimately completely accomplish it through Messiah’s Kingdom. The great lesson which will eventually come both to angels and men will show forth Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power, fully coordinated. In no other way that we can imagine could this great Revelation of the Divine character be so well made. However, in order to comprehend this great Program, it is necessary that we follow strictly the Scriptural teachings, and avoid wholly the nonsense of creeds manufactured during the Dark Ages. We must see that “the wages of sin” is not eternal torment, nor purgatory, but death.
God allowed this reign of sin and death from Adam until Moses without so much as making an offer of terms for reconciliation and peace. Then an offer was made to the nation of Israel, and to no other nation. The offer of Israel’s Law Covenant was that he who kept it would live. (Lev. 18:5) God, of course, knew that Israel could not keep perfectly the conditions of that great and wonderful Law. The offer served as a lesson to that nation on the impossibility of any man keeping the perfect Law; and the same lesson comes to us of this Gospel Dispensation. We see that what the Jew could not do we cannot do; where he failed we would fail.
God will ultimately teach the same lesson to the world and to angels (“which things the angels desire to look into” – 1 Pet. 1:12), proving that by the deeds of the Law no fallen flesh could be recovered and restored to Divine favor. Four thousand years passed from man’s creation, and death reigned from Moses to Christ as thoroughly as it had previously reigned from Adam to Moses. The Law Covenant did not stop the reign of sin and death. Something more than a Law is necessary. The Divine Program demands recovery from sin and death and provides a plan for this recovery.
Twenty centuries after the first advent of our Lord, the reign of sin and death continues more than ever. The increase of knowledge has brought increase of sin and increase of population has brought increase of death. Today the world is in a terrible condition of mental, moral and physical dilapidation, and it is estimated that more than 150,000 people die each day.
But a remedy is in sight. It was foretold through the Prophets, but it began to operate in Jesus. His miraculous birth, His faithfulness and consecration unto death, His reward of resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of the Majesty on High, are all essential to man’s recovery, essential to the overthrow of this reign of sin and death.
We see still further developments and preparations. The Scriptures inform us that it is the Divine purpose to have a many member Messiah, with the glorious Jesus the Head and the Church the Body. We see that during the Gospel Age God has been calling and drawing a special class of mankind to constitute His Elect, the Bride Class, to be joint-heirs with His Son in the Kingdom of Glory which will finally vanquish sin and Satan, delivering the willing and obedient of mankind into the full liberty of the children of God, free from sin and death, enjoying life everlasting and Divine favor. (Rom. 8:17-21)
THE DARK AND NARROW PATH
This special class has been required to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to walk by faith and not by sight in the “narrow way” (Matt. 7:14) of self-denial and opposition to the world, the flesh and the Adversary. They have demonstrated their full loyalty and obedience to the will of God, even unto death, by walking this narrow way amid the world’s deplorable conditions of ignorance, selfishness, sin, and death. No such narrow way could have existed had God not permitted evil, sin; therefore, this Elect class could not be developed and tested except by the Divine permission of sin. The very essence of their character development is associated with the Divine promise that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)
It seemed wise to our Heavenly Father that our Lord Jesus should learn obedience through sufferings and be tested in respect to His willingness to endure suffering for righteousness’ sake. How appropriate it is that the same Father should make similar arrangements for all of the Church, received from among mankind to be members of the Royal Priesthood under Jesus, the High Priest of our order! (Heb. 3:1)
We see wisdom on God’s part in thus preparing a priesthood of the future. A priest, as recognized among the Jews, was not merely one who offered sacrifices, although every priest was of necessity a sacrificer. The special mission of the priestly tribe among the other tribes was that of instructing, helping, healing, and teaching. And so God has been preparing a Royal Priesthood for the Messianic Age to bless, to heal, to teach, to uplift all the willing and obedient. The Priesthood will then no longer be a sacrificing class, for all sacrificing will be at an end. It will be a glorious royal class, of the divine nature; with our Lord Jesus they will be representatives of the Divine power. (Rom. 8:18; 2 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 5:10)
SIN’S LESSON TO HUMANITY AND ANGELS
Humanity is learning a great lesson through the permission of sin. Present experiences teach the lesson that “The way of transgressors is hard,” “The wages of sin is death,” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:20) The exceeding sinfulness of sin is thus being demonstrated to humanity. Few profit by the lesson in the present life; the great majority of mankind learn to know sin, evil, only. Even God’s provision for the future of mankind is obscured from the masses. “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. 4:4)
But with the dawning of Messiah’s Kingdom the knowledge of the glory of God’s character will shine everywhere. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” (Isa. 35:5) Messiah’s gracious reign, the manifestation of Divine mercy, will be for the very purpose of uplifting the poor, fallen masses of the human race. During the thousand years of Messiah’s Kingdom, the whole world will have full opportunity for learning the great desirability of righteousness, as now, for a few years, they have the opportunity of learning the undesirability of sin.
By the close of the Mediatorial reign mankind will have learned wonderful lessons respecting good and evil! Then will come their final testing. After full knowledge of both good and evil, which will they choose? God urges all to choose the right and its reward of life eternal. Nevertheless, He will not coerce; He will allow each individual to make his choice, to mark out his own course. Those who ultimately choose to love righteousness and hate iniquity shall be accounted worthy of a place in the glorious Kingdom of Messiah.
God’s dealings with humanity also constitute a great object lesson to the angels, who perceive the inflexibility of Divine Justice – the decree of God. “Dying thou shalt die” (Gen. 2:17, KJV margin) has been unflinchingly executed against Adam and his posterity for six thousand years. They perceive the love of God, which passes all understanding. They perceive the Divine provision that the Son of God should die, the Just for the unjust, to bring mankind back to full harmony with the Creator. They see the breadth of the Divine character exemplified in the great reward given to our Lord Jesus Christ for His obedience to the Father’s will even unto death, an exaltation to the divine nature, honor and immortality.
They perceive, too, a still greater manifestation of Divine goodness in God’s invitation to the Church to walk in the Master’s footsteps, becoming joint-heirs with Christ in His glory, honor and immortality. Who could have dreamed of such Divine love which stooped down, not only to redeem the human race, but also to invite some of its members to these exceeding great and precious promises? (2 Pet. 1:4) “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9)
Finally they will see Divine mercy extended to the world through Jesus. By the Father’s arrangement every member of the human race, no matter how degraded, no matter how fallen, no matter how mean, will have opportunity for everlasting life. The redeeming blood has been shed, “the just for the unjust,” for the sins of the whole world. (1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:2)
GOD’S POWER AND WISDOM MANIFESTED
While Divine Power is manifested in all the realm of nature and creation, a still greater Divine Power was manifested in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead, after He had been deceased three days. But even the power manifested in our Lord’s resurrection seems small in comparison to the further works of resurrection which the Scriptures assure us our dear Lord’s death ensures. It will be a still more miraculous work to resurrect the Church to glory, honor and immortality, after many of them have been in the power of death for centuries.
The resurrection work God plans for the world of mankind is still more stupendous. Billions will be awakened to essentially the same conditions they were in before death. Then through the work of the Messiah they will be gradually released and uplifted from this condition of imperfection. This resurrection work for the world, gradually carried forward during that thousand years, will all be accomplished by the Father’s power, through the Messiah, the Mediator of the New Covenant. It will be a continuous miracle of awakening and uplifting of the human race.
The Wisdom of God will not be manifested in its full, clear light until the close of the reign of Messiah, when all willing to return to Divine favor will be completely uplifted from sin and death. Some may now partially see some of God’s Wisdom, but the majority still inquire: Why was evil permitted? Ultimately the Divine Wisdom of the permission of evil will be clearly seen by the saints, by the angels and by the world of mankind. Well does the Revelator exclaim: “Who shall not fear [reverence] thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? ... for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments [righteous acts] are made manifest!” (Rev. 15:4)
We now see God’s Power exhibited in creation: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psa. 19:1-3) As the voice of nature acclaims God so, eventually, “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth…heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13) All this will be the result of God’s permission of the reign of evil, sin, death. The key is found in the Plan of the Ages showing the work which each Age is to accomplish, and the eventual grand overthrow of evil.
(Based on a writing by Pastor Russell originally published under the series title People’s Pulpit. Reproduced in Harvest Gleanings, Volume 3)
GOD’S JUSTICE AND LOVE PERFECTLY POISED
“Mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (Jas. 2:13)
This text shows that Love gains a victory over Justice, mercy being an outward expression of Love. Considering the way Divine Love gains the victory over Divine Justice, we learn something about our proper attitude; for we should copy God’s character, studying His methods and ways that we may become more like Him. Since His perfect Love and perfect Justice are inherent, invisible qualities of the Divine Nature, we could not study them unless they were manifested, although thus far they have been manifested only to a faithful few.
We see that God’s Love operated in the very beginning, when He created His Son to be His Logos. His Love was afterwards seen in His creation of angels and men, in His own image. Then we see that the fall of our race brought into operation Divine Justice; for it was Justice which decreed that man, because of his disobedience, should not live.
When Justice decreed that death must result from transgression, Divine Love agreed the sentence was altogether proper, not only because it is right for God to be just and in harmony with His own Law, but also because it would not be good for men to live everlastingly in a fallen condition. If God had permitted men to live on in imperfection, we can scarcely imagine the tremendous power some would have by this time. As it is, we see that some of the human race within a limited lifespan are able to cultivate such qualities of mind and character as to give them dominance over their fellow men; and were they allowed to live on indefinitely in sin, they would undoubtedly bring all others into subjection to themselves. Unless man exercises the attributes of his character in harmony with the Divine character, he should not be permitted to live, because of the great injury which he would do to others. Thus, in the Divine arrangement, we see Love agreeing with Justice that sinful man should die.
When our race came under the death sentence, God might have cut us off more quickly than He did had He not had His great plan – the Divine Plan of the Ages. (Eph. 3:11, Diaglott) Man was to learn certain lessons during the present life in order that he might profit by them in the future life. We see that God has arranged a very reasonable and loving way of dealing with the sinner race. In His wonderful Purpose He planned to redeem man from this death condition, and to restore the race in due time.
All the experiences of the present life will have a bearing upon all of the fallen race during the period of their restoration, in the incoming Age. God planned that mankind should have experiences of pain and death, thus to learn the needful lessons. For six thousand years the world has been getting its education as to what a terrible thing sin is: how hard it is to control, how ruinous are its effects, and how death will inevitably result from its continued practice. Thus billions of our race have had a great schooling during the past six thousand years.
LOVE PLANS MAN’S REDEMPTION
As we study the matter, we can see great wisdom in God’s course. Love was not indifferent, though for a time God could not show man His interest. Love had beforehand arranged a Plan whereby redemption would come, whereby Love would triumph over Justice. In God’s due time a purchase price for man would be given. Then after Justice should reign for six thousand years, during which the world would learn its needed lesson with respect to the heinousness of sin in all its manifold forms, Redeeming Love should become Restoring Love calling mankind forth from the tomb, during the thousand years’ Reign of the One who purchased them.
So ultimately, when death and hell (the grave) shall have delivered all that are in them, and when the curse of death shall be no more, Love will have triumphed over Justice. Thus we read, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55,57)
This is one of the most wonderful things that we see in the Bible – the more wonderful as we understand it the more. God always maintains His Justice and He always maintains His Love; and we are blessed by both. Justice, having triumphed over the world for six thousand years, has brought our race down to Sheol, Hades – the tomb. Love, in the meantime, began to operate in harmony with Justice, and it has given the great sacrifice of Jesus, and has arranged that at the time of the Second Advent of Christ, and through His Reign of a thousand years, He shall awaken all humanity from the sleep of death.
HOW ONE PAID FOR ALL
We can thus see in the Bible what a great balance God has arranged. Since billions of souls have sinned, any other way than God’s way would have required billions of redeemers. But when we see how God is operating, we marvel at His arrangement. He provided that only one man should be condemned to death, and that through this one man condemnation should come upon all men while still in his loins. Thus one man could pay the penalty for all. “For since by man [Adam] came death, by man [Jesus] came also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:21) One man was a sinner; one Man was the Redeemer.
Beautiful! We have never heard of anything like this except in God’s Plan. Think of a great Plan, covering six thousand years, in which the salvation of billions of human creatures is involved, and yet all so easily and perfectly poised! Justice will never be cheated out of its dues; yet Love gains the victory and provides the way, and does this at the expense of the One through whom the whole Plan is consummated – our blessed Lord Jesus.
The penalty resting upon mankind was met by the sacrifice of Jesus’ life. But was not that unjust? No! The Bible assures us that God stated the proposition beforehand to the Son, and that the Son was in full agreement with it – not the Man Jesus, but the Logos, the Word, the Messenger – Michael, the Godlike One. The proposition was made to Him that by the purchase of the whole race of man through His sacrifice He might obtain the honor and glory of Messiah – the opportunity of delivering and blessing the billions of humanity who had been condemned to death in Adam. And then, what more? Oh, much more! That He should be supremely exalted, even to the Divine Nature, for all eternity – far above angels, principalities, powers and every name that is named. (Phil. 2:5-11) All this is the great triumph of Love over Justice. While Justice remains forever inviolate, yet Love is the victor.
GOD’S WONDERFUL PLAN OF THE AGES
When we see the Bible teaching concerning the Divine Plan, it gives us a confidence in the Bible that we can get from no other source. It is the study of the Bible from the outside by those who try to tear it into shreds, using their brains against the Bible, that prove the professors of our day the worst of all times. Only when we perceive from the inside can we see the strength of the Bible. No human mind ever originated such a Plan. It is surely Divine, surely Biblical. We did not discover it, but it has been shown to the faithful “in due time.”
We know that this great Plan is of God; and the Book that contains such a wonderful Message is surely the Word of God. It must be that “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) The Spirit of God dictated this wonderful Message. The many men who in various times and places uttered the words did not know what they meant. The understanding was not then due. But their words constitute a harmonious whole, and “they are written for our admonition [instruction], upon whom the ends of the world [ages] are come.” (1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Rom. 15:4)
Nor could the Church understand their words until they received the begetting of the Holy Spirit with its consequent enlightenment. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church, “ye were illuminated.” (Heb. 10:32) Thus these things were brought to light in God’s due time. This illumination of the Church had its beginning at Pentecost. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given. (John 7:39)
The Church is a special class, called out in advance of the world. The early Church had to wait until Jesus had finished His sacrifice for sin, had ascended up on High as the great High Priest, to appear in the presence of God for the Church (not yet for the world), to sprinkle the blood of His sacrifice upon the Mercy-Seat on behalf of the Church, and had become the Advocate of those who would follow in His steps. (Heb. 9:24) Having made satisfaction for the sins of the consecrated, He imputed His own merit to them, thereby making them acceptable to the Father. Not until then could they receive the begetting of the Holy Spirit. Ever since that time the Holy Spirit has been with the Church, begetting each one who entered this class.
With this begetting comes the illumination. This illumination enables the consecrated one to understand things previously hidden. Thereafter all the Word of God becomes food to us, that thereby we may grow in grace, in knowledge, in justice, in love, in all qualities of the Divine character, that thus we may become more like our Father who is in Heaven.
DELIVERANCE OF THE WORLD NOW DUE
Having seen how Divine Justice has operated until now for the future blessing of mankind, we look further, and see that Divine Mercy (Love) is now about to gain a great victory for the whole world. As soon as the Church is glorified, the merit of the Redeemer is to be applied for all the human race. But it will require the entire thousand years of Messiah’s Reign before Mercy shall have fully triumphed over Justice. We now perceive what Love will be doing for the world throughout those thousand years. It will be awakening mankind from death and lifting them up from degradation to holiness and life.
This will all come through the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be God’s Agent, the Agent of Justice and of Love. The faithful Church, born of the Spirit in the First Resurrection, will be associated with Him in all His Kingdom glory and honor. At the conclusion of the Millennial Reign this glorious work of Divine Love will have been accomplished. Through all the out-workings of this wonderful Plan, the principles of absolute Justice and absolute Love will be observed, operating in full harmony.
In what manner will God’s Justice operate during the next Age toward mankind? Some have difficulty seeing how the world in the future will have their sins forgiven. Will the murderer have the same opportunity as those who have been nobler in their lives? How will Justice then be represented?
We believe that God’s dealings will be in full harmony with Justice. While Love will be especially operative or manifest during the Millennial Age, Justice will nonetheless never be violated. Will mankind in the future Age be punished for their sins committed in the present life? Yes, and no. They will not be punished in the sense of being held legally accountable for sins of the past – for this would nullify the work which Christ accomplished in His death in providing satisfaction for Adamic sin. Christ having made satisfaction for the sins of believers in this Age, they are no longer legally responsible for them. The same principle will operate with the world in the future Age.
HOW JUSTICE OPERATES
Consider the experiences of the Church of Christ. Suppose one had lived in such a way as to have gotten himself into a bad condition of body, mind or morals. These thing will be more or less a penalty upon him after he has become a Christian. Although God has forgiven his sin and cleans him from all unrighteousness, nevertheless he will have in his body or in his mind certain natural penalties resulting from his previous sinful course. If he had lived a sinful life for many years, the evil would be so much the more deeply entrenched; and he will have all the greater fight to overcome these deeply imbedded tendencies to sin. One who has lived a conscientious, moral life has just that much less to overcome.
If through evil thoughts or evil deeds the mind of that person has become poisoned, he may have to battle all his life against the seeds of sin, not in the way of direct punishment for his wrong doing, but through natural law. It is like a piece of land which has long been given over to weeds, in which case the roots would have become deeply entrenched in the soil. This land may afterward be changed into a wheat-field; but we know from experience that the weeds will be there also, and that the wheat will not flourish so readily, because of this fact.
It is even so with the heart and body of the consecrated one. After having given them to the Lord the fleshly tendencies are still there. God has accepted him and His grace covers his sins, which are no longer chargeable to him. But whoever has had a larger planting of sin in his former life may have to his dying day a great battle against these poisonous weeds; and that will be a proper and natural punishment for his past course. So it will be in the future. The world will get retribution for their sins, and it will take many years to get entirely free from the effects of sin.
(Based on an article by Pastor Russell originally published in the Overland Monthly)
THE WORD OF GOD
Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
True wisdom its pages unfold;
And though we may read them a thousand times o’er,
They never, no never, grow old!
Each line hath a pleasure, each promise a pearl,
That all if they will may secure;
And we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure.
Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
The lamp that our Father above
So kindly hath lighted to teach us the way
That leads to the arms of His love!
Its warnings, its counsels, are faithful and just;
Its judgments are perfect and pure;
And we know that when time and the world pass away,
God’s Word shall forever endure.
Oh, wonderful, wonderful Word of the Lord!
Our only salvation is there;
It carries conviction down deep in the heart,
And shows us ourselves as we are.
It tells of a Savior, and points to the cross,
Where pardon we now may secure;
And we know that when time and the world pass away
God’s Word shall forever endure.
 See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 6, page 714.