Once again we feel impelled to discuss some of the errors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, this time using what they say on p. 651 of the November 1, 1976 Watch Tower, col. 2, par. 1 – having to do with the Rich Man in Hell. (Luke 16:19-31) That this is a parable they themselves admit; and it should be stressed that in a parable the thing said is never the thing meant. Thus, the interpretation of any parable should be strictly in accord with all other teachings of the Bible; in other words, it should be “sound doctrine.”
In their comment they say “The rich man depicts religious leaders of the Jews back there, whereas Lazarus represents the common people who accepted Jesus Christ.” This is quite a contrary opinion to the one given by their one-time leader, Pastor Russell; and it is our opinion that his interpretation is the correct one, while theirs is error. To offer the distinction they do between the rich and the poor Jews is simply arbitrary teaching, not in harmony with the general concept of the Bible. Nowhere does the Bible refer to the ordinary Jew as being licked by dogs; but it is common knowledge that the Jews generally (rich and poor) in Jesus’ day did rate the Gentiles as so many dogs.
The foregoing is confirmed by Jesus in Matt. 15:21-28, where the “woman from Canaan” (a Gentile) asked a favor of Jesus; and He answered her: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Here is the comment in one edition of the Bible: “The children are the Jews; and the dogs are the Gentiles. This was the name applied by the Jews to all outside the chosen race, the dog being in the East a symbol of impurity... the woman takes Jesus at his word, accepts the name of reproach, and claims the little share that falls even to the dogs.” Clearly enough, even the nominal church (Babylon) has a better understanding of Lazarus and the Rich man, as respects the company of Lazarus with dogs, than do the Witnesses. This latter was also the view of Pastor Russell, as we shall presently show.
While there is only one paragraph in the Tower cited above, this subject is given quite some elaboration in their book, “Is This Life All There Is?” – first published in 1974. In this book they also mingle others of their errors, upon which we may comment later. But as of now, we simply raise the question – Why are the Witnesses so ready to change so many things that Pastor Russell taught? In this Lazarus item we offer two reasons: (1) they have repeatedly changed his teachings, much as a child changes fairy-tale books. This keeps the “unstable and the unlearned” among their followers constantly in turmoil, so that they are never quite sure what they believe.
Secondly, in this particular case, we believe it is to bolster up their glaring error that those Jewish leaders back there have all gone into the second death; there is no hope of resurrection for them. They do not say as much in the book or in the Nov. 1, 1976 Watch Tower; but that has been their teaching in the past, so we still consider it from that standpoint. However, we quote a clear contradiction to their position in Matt. 26:64: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven.” And further in Luke 13:28: “Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” Self-evidently, if those leaders are to “see” those things in the Kingdom, they would have to be alive – not dead!
THE CORRECT INTERPRETATION
Below we offer the explanation of Pastor Russell, as found on pages 97-101 of the March 15, April 1, 1900 Watch Towers – PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS – Luke 16: 19-31:
“The great difficulty with many in reading this Scripture is that, though they regard it as a parable, they reason on it and draw conclusions from it as though it were a literal statement. To regard it as a literal statement involves several absurdities; for instance, that the rich man went to ‘hell’ because he had enjoyed many earthly blessings and gave nothing but crumbs to Lazarus. Not a word is said about his wickedness. Again, Lazarus was blessed, not because he was a sincere child of God, full of faith and trust, not because he was good, but simply because he was poor and sick. If this be interpreted literally, the only logical lesson to be drawn from it is, that unless we are poor beggars full of sores, we will never enter into future bliss; and that if now we wear any fine linen and purple, and have plenty to eat every day, we are sure of future torment. Again, the coveted place of favor is ‘Abraham’s bosom’; and if the whole statement be literal, the bosom must also be literal, and it surely would not hold many of earth’s millions of sick and poor.
“But why consider absurdities? As a parable, it is easy of interpretation. In a parable the thing said is never the thing meant. We know this from our Lord’s own explanations of his parables. When he said ‘wheat,’ he meant ‘children of the kingdom’; when he said ‘tares’ he meant ‘the children of the devil’; when he said ‘reapers,’ his servants were to be understood, etc. (Matt. 13) The same classes were represented by different symbols in different parables. Thus the ‘wheat’ of one parable correspond to the ‘faithful servants,’ and the ‘wise virgins’ of others. So, in this parable, the rich man represents a class and Lazarus represents another class.
“In attempting to expound a parable such as this, an explanation of which the Lord does not furnish us, modestly in expressing our opinion regarding it is certainly appropriate. We therefore offer the following explanation without any attempt to force our views upon the reader, except so far as his own truth-enlightened judgment may commend them as in accord with God’s Word and Plan. To our understanding, Abraham represented God, and the ‘rich man’ represented the Jewish nation. At the time of the utterance of the parable, and for a long time previous, the Jews had ‘fared sumptuously every day’ being the especial recipients of God’s favors. As Paul says: ‘What advantage, then, hath the Jew? Much every way: chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God (Law and Prophecy).’ The promises to Abraham and David and their organization as a typical kingdom of God invested that people with royalty, as represented by the rich man’s ‘purple.’ The typical sacrifices of the Law constituted them, in a typical sense, a holy (righteous) nation, represented by the rich man’s ‘fine linen’ – symbolic of righteousness.—(Rev. 19:8)
“Lazarus represented the outcasts from divine favor under the law, who sin-sick, hungered and thirsted after righteousness. ‘Publicans and sinners’ of Israel, seeking a better life, and truth-hungry Gentiles who were ‘feeling after God’ constituted the Lazarus class. These, at the time of the utterance of this parable, were entirely destitute of those special divine blessings which Israel enjoyed. They lay at the gate of the rich man. No rich promises of royalty were theirs; not even typically were they cleansed; but, in moral sickness, pollution and sin, they were companions of ‘dogs.’ (A statement not applicable to the Jews in the slightest degree—JJH) Dogs were regarded as detestable creatures in those days, and the typically clean Jew called the outsiders ‘heathen’ and ‘dogs.’ and would never eat with them, nor marry, nor have any dealings with them. (John 4:9)
“As to how these ate of the ‘crumbs’ of Divine favor which fell from Israel’s table of bounties, the Lord’s words to the Syro-phoenician woman give us a key. He said to this Gentile woman – ‘It is not meet (proper) to take the children’s (Israelite’s) bread and cast it to dogs (Gentiles)’; and she answered, ‘Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ (Matt. 15:26,27) Jesus healed her daughter, thus giving the desired crumb of favor.
“But there came a great dispensational change in Israel’s history as a nation as they rejected and crucified the Son of God. Then their typical righteousness ceased – then the promise of royalty ceased to be theirs, and the kingdom was taken from them to be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof – the Gospel Church, ‘a holy nation, a peculiar people.’ (Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:7; Matt. 21:43) Thus the ‘rich man’ died to these special advantages, and soon he (the Jewish nation) found himself in a cast-off condition – in tribulation and affliction. In such condition that nation has suffered from that day to this.
“Lazarus also died: the condition of the humble Gentiles and the God-seeking ‘outcasts’ of Israel underwent a great change, being carried by the angels (messengers apostles, etc.) to Abraham’s bosom. Abraham is represented as the father of the faithful, and receives all the children of faith, who are thus recognized as the heirs of all the promises made to Abraham; for the children of the flesh are not the children of God, ‘but the children of the promise are counted for the seed’ (children of Abraham); ‘which seed is Christ’; and ‘if ye be Christ’s, then are ye (believers) Abraham’s seed (children), and heirs according to the (Abrahamic) promise.’ (Gal. 3:29)
“Yes, the termination of the condition of things then existing was well illustrated by the figure, death – the dissolution of the Jewish polity and the withdrawal of the favors which Israel had so long enjoyed. There they were cast off and have since been shown ‘no favor,’ while the poor Gentiles who before had been ‘aliens from the commonwealth (the polity) of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise (up to this time given to Israel only) having no hope and without God in the world,’ were then ‘made nigh by the blood of Christ’ and reconciled to God. (Eph. 2:12,13)
“To the symbolisms of death and burial used to demonstrate the dissolution of Israel and their burial or hiding among the other nations, our Lord added a further figure – ‘in hell (hades, the grave) he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off,’ etc. The dead cannot lift up their eyes, nor see either near or far, nor converse; for it is distinctly stated, ‘There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave’ ; and the dead are described as those who ‘go down into silence.’ (Eccl. 9:10; Psa. 115:117) But the Lord wished to show that great sufferings or ‘torments’ would be added to the Jews as a nation after their national dissolution and burial amongst the other peoples dead in trespasses and sins; and that they would plead in vain for release and comfort at the hand of the formerly despised Lazarus class.
“And history has borne out this parabolic prophecy. For eighteen hundred years the Jews have not only been in distress of mind over their casting out from the favor of God and the loss of their temple and other necessaries to the offering of their sacrifices, but they have been relentlessly persecuted by all classes, including professed Christians. It was from the latter that the Jews have expected mercy, as expressed in the parable ‘Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue’; but the great gulf fixed between them hinders that. Nevertheless, God still recognizes the relationship established in his covenant with them, and addresses them as children of the covenant. (v. 25) These ‘torments’ have been the penalties attached to the violation of their covenant, and were as certain to be visited upon them as the blessings promised for obedience. (See Lev. 26)
“The ‘great gulf fixed’ represents the wide difference between the Gospel church and the Jew – the former enjoying free grace, joy, comfort, and peace, as true sons of God, and the latter holding to the law, which condemns and torments. Prejudice, pride and error, from the Jewish side, form the bulwarks of this gulf which hinder the Jew from coming into the conditions of true sons of God by accepting Christ and the Gospel of His Grace. The bulwark of this gulf which hinders true sons of God from going to the Jew – under the bondage of the law – is their knowledge that by the deeds of the law none can be justified before God, and that if any man keep the law (put himself under it to try to commend himself to God by reason of obedience to it), Christ shall profit him nothing. (Gal. 5:2-4) So, then, we who are of the Lazarus class should not attempt to mix the Law and the Gospel, knowing that they cannot be mixed, and that we can do no good to those who still cling to the Law and reject the sacrifice for sins given by our Lord. And they, not seeing the change of dispensation which took place, argue that to deny the Law as the power to save would he to deny all the past history of their race, and to deny all of God’s special dealings with ‘the fathers, (promises and dealings which through pride and selfishness they failed rightly to apprehend and use); hence they cannot come over to the bosom of Abraham into the true rest and peace – the portion of all the true children of faith. (John 8:39; Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:29)
“True, a few Jews probably came into the Christian faith all the way down the Gospel Age, but so few as to be ignored in a parable which represented the Jewish people as a whole. As at the first, Dives represented the orthodox Jews, and not the ‘outcasts of Israel,’ so down to the close of the parable he continues to represent a similar class, and hence does not represent such Jews as have renounced the Law Covenant and embraced the Covenant of Grace, or such as have become infidels ...
“The plea of the ‘rich man, for the sending of Lazarus to his five brethren we interpret as follows: The people of Judea, at the time of our Lord’s utterance of this parable, were repeatedly referred to as ‘Israel,’ ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ ‘cities of Israel,’ etc., because all of the tribes were represented there; but actually the majority of the people were of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but few of the ten tribes having returned from Babylon under Cyrus’ general permission. If the nation of the Jews (chiefly two tribes) were represented in the one ‘rich man,’ it would be a harmony of numbers to understand the ‘five brethren’ to represent the ten tribes chiefly scattered abroad. The request relative to them was doubtlessly introduced to show that all special favor of God ceased to all Israel (the ten tribes, as well as to the two more directly addressed). It seems to us evident that Israel only was meant, for no other nation than Israel had ‘Moses and the prophets’ as instructors. (v. 29) The majority of the ten tribes had so far disregarded Moses and the prophets that they did not return to the land of promise, but preferred to dwell among idolaters; and hence it would be useless to attempt further communications with them, even by one from the dead – the figuratively dead, but now figuratively risen Lazarus class. (Eph. 2:5)
“Though the parable mentions no bridging of this ‘great gulf,’ other portions of Scripture indicate that it was to be ‘fixed’ only throughout the Gospel Age, and that at its close the ‘rich man,, having received the measurement of punishment for his sins, will walk out of his fiery troubles over the bridge of God’s promises yet unfulfilled to that nation.
“Though for centuries the Jews have been bitterly persecuted by pagans, Mohammedans and professed Christians, they are now gradually rising to political freedom and influence; and although much of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ (natural Israelites—JJH) is just at hand, yet as a people they will be very prominent among the nations in the beginning of the Millennium. The ‘vail’ (2 Cor. 3:13-16) of prejudice still exists, but it will be gradually taken away as the light of the Millennial morning dawns; nor should we be surprised to hear of great awakenings among the Jews, and many coming to acknowledge Christ. They will thus leave their hadean state (national death) and torment, and come, the first of the nations, to be blessed by the true seed of Abraham, which is Christ, Head and Body. Their bulwark of race prejudice and pride is falling in some places and the humble, the poor in spirit, are beginning already to look upon Him whom they have pierced, and to inquire, Is not this the Christ? And as they look the Lord pours upon them the spirit of grace and supplication. (Zech. 12:10) Therefore, ‘Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is accomplished.’ (Isa. 40:1,2, margin)
“In a word, this parable seems to teach precisely what Paul explained in Romans 11:19-32. Because of unbelief the natural branches were broken off and the wild branches grafted into the Abrahamic root-promise. The parable leaves the Jews in their trouble and does not refer to their final restoration to favor – doubtless because it was not pertinent to the feature of the subject treated; but Paul assures us that when the fullness of the Gentiles – the full number from among the Gentiles to make up the bride of Christ – is come in, ‘they (natural Israel) shall obtain mercy through your (the Church’s) mercy.’ He assures us that this is God’s covenant with fleshly Israel (who lost his higher spiritual promises, but are still the possessors of certain earthly promises, to become the chief nation of earth, etc. In proof of this statement, he quotes from the prophet, saying ‘The deliverer shall come out of Zion (the glorified church), and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (the fleshly seed). ‘For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. 0 the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God.’ (Rom. 11:26-33)”
It is our opinion that the foregoing will present itself to our readers as a winsome and rational interpretation; and it certainly offers eloquent testimony that Bro. Russell was “wise.” (Matt. 24:45) As evidence that the ‘rich man’ was “in torments” during this generation we would cite the Russian pogroms during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt just after the turn of the century. The dictionary defines ‘pogroms, as “an organized massacre of helpless people; especially such a massacre of Jews.” The Russian atrocities were so vicious, and the suffering of the Jews was so pronounced at that time that they appealed to President Roosevelt to use his influence with the Russian government to ease up even just a little on the punishment the Jews were experiencing. It requires no stretch of the imagination to apply their request at that time to the text: “Send Lazarus (the Gentiles) that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tortured in this flame.”
Further in regard to this matter, some years ago we were very well acquainted with a man – a German born in Russia – who was inducted into the Russian Army; and, as was the policy in those days, the new inductees were sent to parts quite some distance from their homes, and separated from each other, to prevent insurrection. Our friend received the same treatment, found himself in a barracks next to a complete stranger. Of course, he engaged in friendly conversation with his comrade; but one day, after several weeks, his friend received a letter from his parents, written in Yiddish. Much surprised my friend exclaimed, You are not Jewish, are you? When the man said he was, my friend said he thought all Jews had horns growing out of the top of their heads – much the same as the devil, because that was the way they were always pictured in the newspapers. Surely the words of Psa. 107:17 apply pointedly to the Jews here: “Fools because of their transgression (they crucified the Lord of Glory – their great transgression), and because of their iniquities (their violations of the Law Covenant), are afflicted.”
A third reason for this new truth (?) by the Witnesses is that they now completely reject the Jews as a nation – to make way for their newly-invented “great crowd” – much the same as the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement also attempts the same “sleight of hand and cunning craftiness” (Eph. 4:14) to make a place for their non-existent “Consecrated Campers.” We would emphasize here that it takes very little effort for those of us who still adhere to “Present Truth” to refute those who have departed from what “they have learned, and been assured of” by God’s real ‘‘Witnesses” – the true Laodicean Messengers. The foregoing quotation from Brother Russell is a pronounced case in point; and it provides us ample ability always “by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers.” (Tit. 1:9)
The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim they are God’s chosen people now, and not the Jews: They say they are now God’s Kingdom on earth. However, they will permit any individual Jew to join with them, if he wholeheartedly accepts them; and in this way the individual Jew can still claim God’s promise, “To the Jew first.” The LHMM takes a more liberal view; the Jews will still find a place in the Kingdom if they do not become Consecrated Campers – a secondary place – although they may yet claim first place if they now become Consecrated Campers; but we have not heard of any of them doing that.
However, if Brother Russell is right in the article aforegoing – and we certainly think he is right – then the Witnesses and the LHMM Campers will have to become Jews before they can receive the Kingdom blessings, as Brother Russell has stated. “Those who have been teaching errors will soon be ashamed (Isa. 66:5), while the fire of this day (this Epiphany day—JJH) will only manifest the truth to all. No power, no tongue, no pen, can successfully contradict the truth, the great Divine Plan of the Ages. It is strong before its enemies and before all who make assaults upon it, and ere long the folly of its foes shall be made known to the whole world. ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.,” (Reprints 5916, col. 2, par. 3. And we add the Berean Comment on Matt. 25:30: “Gnashing of teeth – Sorrow, disappointment and chagrin in every sense.”)
It should be emphasized here that time itself is already accomplishing some of the foregoing with these two organizations that emanated from the Harvest Truth; and time will continue to put increasing pressure on them in the not far distant future. In the Jan. 15, 1977 Tower, p. 49 (23) there is this: “While individuals among the Lord’s people may be killed (not live through Armageddon as was promised to those who would join with them—JJH) between now and then (modifying their former teaching—JJH)... yet Jehovah’s people as a class will survive the ‘great tribulation’ (Armageddon—JJH). Even if you personally should prove to be one who suffers great hardships and calamities – such as the collapse of your health, a death in your family, loss of children or material possessions, or economic disasters – yet, in spite of what occurs, you should never suffer the loss of your faith and confidence in Jehovah (which is quite true of the Lord’s faithful, although they might – and should – lose faith in those who have made promises that are not in accord with God’s Word—JJH). Never doubt the promises of your God (which means that you shouldn’t lose faith in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, even if they make promises that self-evidently the Lord doesn’t approve—JJH). Never grow fearful and run in a cowardly way for cover (don’t leave God’s organization on earth – the Jehovah’s Witnesses!—JJH); never deny your God or compromise your integrity. And never allow your vision to become dim as regards angelic backing of those holding to their dedication to Jehovah.”
All of the above is certainly sound teaching – just as it stands; but when we consider it is just a shoddy attempt to cover-up for their erroneous teachings of the past, then quite a different viewpoint arises. If all their good exhortations to their devoted followers would mean that they want them to look to God and His Word, it would be correct – but what they actually mean is to look to them for future guidance and forget what they had promised before. The memory of the average man is very short, and politicians take full advantage of this; but such technique does not sully the teachings of the Lord and the Apostles, nor did it find any place in the teachings of Pastor Russell. He offered the Lord’s people no promises except those promises God Himself gives them in His Word. The main reason for so many of these promises that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have given from time to time, is to put fear into their hearts, thereby enticing them to join with them in order to have “survival” through Armageddon – just as other sects in Big Babylon have done to bring in converts because of the fear of eternal torment.
When J. F. Rutherford wrote “Comfort For The Jews,” he then believed the interpretation of the Rich Man and Lazarus as given aforegoing by Pastor Russell. However, when the Witnesses changed their teaching on the Jews, this book was discarded, as has been done with quite a few others when they changed their teaching. We have a book of a collection of writings by Brother Russell – Life-Death-Hereafter – which treats on the Rich Man and Lazarus, Where Are The Dead, etc., which we will supply to all who wish a copy. This book is as true now as it was in the year 1900, when first published, and will never need to be discarded by those who have “continued in what they have learned and been assured of.” This book would adorn any religious library.
It is probably a sound conclusion that the Witnesses have descended into the “bottomless pit” (error, which has no foundation or bottom to it—Rev. 20:3) faster than any other organization during the entire Gospel Age. It took many years for Papacy and other sects of Babylon to pervert the Truth; but the Witnesses have put on all speed possible to discard the sound system of Truth left them by Pastor Russell; and they have succeeded in accomplishing these perversions of just about all the important tenets of his teachings except the state of the dead, immortality, and the like. And the compelling truth on these items is so appealing to thinking people that many readily then also accept their errors – until they begin to think a little bit. We are informed that many thousands have left them after wholeheartedly accepting them for a time. Quite a number have written to us of their own experiences, so we write from first-hand information. In fact, any time we see any group attracting large numbers, we should immediately become suspicious, for St. Paul tells us that specifically here in the end of the Age, “they will not endure sound doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:3) The Roman Catholic Church is certainly an outstanding example of this truth.
And in all this bedlam that has arisen since 1916, it pleases us much to state that most of the Truth groups of any prominence, aside from the Witnesses, have not cast aside the Six Volumes of the Studies in the Scriptures, and substituted their own literature therefor. The Witnesses alone have done this, so far as we know; and they have been forced to do it to accommodate their changes – such as the one concerning the Rich Man and Lazarus.
ANOTHER CONSPICUOUS ERROR
In the book, Is This Life All There Is? – pp. 98-110, the Lazarus item is greatly elaborated; and on p. 109 the Witnesses make this statement: “There is little reason for Christendom’s clergymen not to be familiar with this understanding of Jesus’ parable.” There is no reason at all why they should be familiar with “this understanding,” because “this understanding” is rank error – i.e., if we accept the true interpretation as given by Pastor Russell. Having cast aside the true explanation to harmonize their distorted teaching about the Jews, we would say they are much more guilty than any clergyman who has never had the truth on the parable. When they treat Pastor Russell’s interpretations as they have been doing, they stand exactly in the same position as do the “Higher Critics” of the Bible itself. “They have rejected the word of the Lord (so well clarified by Pastor Russell); and what wisdom is in them?... from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.” (Jer. 8:9,10)
And on p. 106, par. 2, there is this: “On the day of Pentecost of the year 33 C.E. the change in conditions was accomplished. At that time the new covenant replaced the old Law covenant.” This “new covenant” contention entered very conspicuously into the 1908-11 sifting; and the sifters were thoroughly refuted at that time – so decisively that it is unbelievable that that error is now being resurrected by the Witnesses. We assume they still believe that the Mediator of the New Covenant is Christ and His Church, so we quote from Heb. 9:15, 16: “He (Jesus) is the mediator of the new testament... Where a Testament is there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.” Since they claim some ten thousand of their “remnant” are still with us, the Mediator of the New Covenant cannot yet be completed; and until the last one dies, the New Covenant cannot possibly be in operation, but is yet some years in the future. So here we have one more doctrine by Pastor Russell that they now cast aside. J. F. Rutherford at the outset did not believe we are under the New Covenant. That is one reason for his casting aside Brother Russell’s teaching that there would be a Class of unbegotten consecrators between the Ages – from the time the High Calling closed and the beginning of Restitution – that there could be no such Class until the New Covenant is inaugurated.
They wobble on all their teachings when time catches up with them, even as they now wobble on the Armageddon hoax; and we may safely predict they will yet wobble still more on it – when “their foolishness shall be very plain to all.” (2 Tim. 3:9, Dia.) Certainly the words of St. Paul are applicable here: “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth. As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7,8)
“The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.” (Psa. 103:17,18)
Sincerely your brother,
John J. Hoefle, Pilgrim
QUESTION OF GENERAL INTEREST
QUESTION: – Heb. 2:14 tells us that our Lord will destroy Satan “who hath the power of death.” Then Matt. 10:28 says “fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”; and Psa. 68:20: “He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues of death.” Please harmonize these texts.
ANSWER: – These statements are all harmonious if we “rightly divide the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) The Devil cannot destroy any of the saints; nor can he destroy any other persons that God wishes to remain alive. Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); he has the empire, the dominion over death; but he does not have the power to resurrect any one, although he can cure certain diseases if he wishes to do so, and thus prolong the lives of those he heals. By the same reasoning, he can diminish the life span of those who yield to his temptations; and in that sense be has limited power over death.
One commentator states it quite well: “Satan has the power, not as lord, but as executioner; his present power is only a permissive one... in accordance with the just will of God.” This “permissive power” is definitely pertinent as respects the faithful Household of Faith. They can be assured that their “times are in thy hand.” (Psa. 21:15) Nor does Satan have any power whatever in the Adamic-death process in the “goat for the Lord” (Lev. 16:8) – they “have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:14). From the Apostle John’s statement it should be clear enough that those in God’s Household were once considered “dead” – a member of the dead world. It is over the “dead world” that Satan “hath the power of death.” Jesus made this clear enough in His statement in Matt. 8:22, Dia.: “Leave the dead ones to inter their own dead.” Therefore, Satan’s “power over death” applies only to those who accept his influence, as it is ably stated, “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard” – hard on themselves and on others.
The “goat for the Lord,” in every one of its members, diminished the Adamic death process in themselves, although the “covenant by sacrifice” exacted its toll during their lifetime – even as Jesus “poured out his soul unto death.” And so it has been with all of His true followers.
However, it is different with the measurably faithful new creatures, over whom Satan does have limited power. This is clearly typified in Lev. 16:8: “one lot for the Lord, and the other for Azazel.” Over this second lot the Devil (Azazel) has a limited authority. When they are abandoned by the Lord they have their wilderness experiences, during which the Devil is permitted to buffet them severely – for a good purpose: “for the destruction of the flesh (the fleshly minds), that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Cor. 5:5) Such experiences do have the effect of partially destroying the lives of some of such people, although there is no record that the Devil has ever been allowed to carry these adversities to the full and produce complete cessation of life, because they are still in the Lord’s Household so long as they don’t commit the sin unto death.
“Many (a “great multitude”—JJH) hear the good tidings of great joy for all people, and while declaring it to be the grandest message conceivable, yet selfish interests especially sectarianism, and the feeling that instead of this message building up their favorite sect or party it will have the effect of discrediting the same – seem to evilly influence those who rejoiced in the gracious message but a short time previously.” (Reprints 3302, top) However, the lives of the fully faithful cannot be taken from them in any manner until the work the Father has given them to do is finished.
Those who have not come into the Lord’s Household during this Faith Age are considered the “dead world” (Eph. 2:1), because the sentence of death is upon them, whether they live to be 100 or die in infancy. Our Lord will call all of them from the grave. (John 5:28,29) They will then learn righteousness. (Isa. 26:9) 0 blessed Hope! This is the “good tidings of great joy that will be unto all people.”