My dear Brethren: – Grace and peace through our Beloved Master!
At the beginning of this another year it would seem appropriate to offer some comments on “The Third Watch.”
In Luke 12:37‑38 Jesus said, “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching... And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third match, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” These words were addressed primarily to the Saints, but, “What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch” – Mark 13:37. During the ministry of Jesus the Roman army maintained a strong guard in Jerusalem, a fresh troop probably being installed each evening at six o'clock, the same as is true with the American army. The individual guards were relieved every three hours, each relief being Known as a “watch”, the first watch being at six PM, the second at nine, the third at midnight, and the fourth at three AM. When the watch was changed at midnight and at three AM a trumpet was sounded, the same being referred to as the first and second cock‑crowing. Therefore, when Jesus said to Peter (Mark 14:30), “Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice”. He was telling Peter that before the sounding of the second “cock” at three AM that same Peter would have denied Jesus three times.
Jesus never used words idly or without special significance; therefore, He did not do so in this instance. “The morning cometh, and also the night” (Isa. 21:12), the reference here being to the Millennial morning and the night of trouble that would come abreast of it. For those awake to its significance, this morning has given light of great brilliance; but to those not understanding it, it has been a “day of trouble, of clouds and thick darkness”. For those on the alert it would seem proper to observe that they have been in a watching attitude, the first one of these watches being the period of forty years from 1874 to 1914. During that watch the hopes were high and certain that by its end the Household of Faith would all be gathered to their Lord and the Kingdom established; and great was the disappointment of many when 1914 did not confirm all they had expected.
But those whose faith failed not girded themselves for the second watch — the forty years from 1914 to 1954 – and early in this watch the “signs of the times” seemed to point with certainty to the fulfillment of many Kingdom prophecies before that watch would be completed. Surely, the fall in 1917 of Czarist Russia was of great portent; it was one of the greatest and most absolute governments in all history. And other events shortly thereafter brought into clear focus Isa. 24:20, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage.” But the virility of the Old Order is not to be denied, nor is “The Strong Man” easily bound. Thus, the second watch has come and gone; and the third watch is already several years with us.
When Jesus said, “If He shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch”, it would seem a reasonably strong inference that He would come for His own before the third watch is completed. It should be noted that the expression “shall come” does not always refer to His second advent to earth. Note, for instance, Matt. 24:50: “The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him.” The reference here is to That Evil Servant, who did not appear as such until over forty years after Jesus had returned in 1874; yet a superficial reading might cause us to conclude it was something that would occur at the same time as the Second Advent. But, during the first watch; and again in the second watch, and now in the third watch, those who are faithfully watching will still embrace the words of the Psalmist (63:6) – “My mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips .... when I meditate on thee in the night watches.” In Vol. E 12, pages 368‑369 Brother Johnson says that in 1914 “Satan began the antitypical 70 years' depopulation of Christendom”; and it would seem almost certain that some of God's elect will remain until toward the end of that work — just as Jeremiah was one of the last to leave Israel during the desolation of Israel.
As a companion thought with the foregoing, it would seem in order to consider Rev. 18:8, 10, 17 and 19: In Vol. E‑5, 422 (28) Brother Johnson states that the “one day” of verse 8 is the Millennial Day, an hour of which would be 41 years 8 months. At the time he wrote that he could not see clearly the conditions existing today — any more than we can now see clearly the conditions five, ten or twenty years hence. It is now only too apparent that much of what Brother Russell expected in 1914 and what Brother Johnson expected respecting 1954‑56 has not materialized; and this should sober us all in our attempts to pry into the future in too much detail — “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. However, if we consider the “hour of judgment” of verse 10, the “hour” of verse 17, and the “hour of desolation” of verse 19 as three different hours — instead of all of them being the same hour –, we may reach some informative conclusions. But just as Brother Johnson eventually saw much detail respecting 1914‑16 that was not at all apparent at the time, so we too may eventually see much detail respecting 1954‑56 that is not now readily apparent. A pointed example in this respect is Brother Russell's observations on Psa. 149:7‑9, “to execute upon them the judgment written” – which event he discussed as a future matter, although it was going on right at the time he was talking about it.
It is stated that in one hour Babylon's judgment came. If that hour began in 1874, it would end 41 years 8 months later at Passover, 1916; and it was at that date that the last Saint was brought into Present Truth. While the judgment had been pronounced early in the hour, it was not until its full end that it could be truly said, “The voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee.” At that date the judgment had come to the full.
Then at Passover 1916 began the second hour (verse 17) – “so great riches is come to nought” (“in one hour such great wealth is laid waste” – Dia.); and this hour will end at about January 1958 – about a year yet to its completion. Have we seen any evidence of the wasting of great wealth in this second hour? Yea, verily – such more than appears on the surface! The rule of `hard money' has almost completely disappeared; Governments have issued so much worthless paper that no one with any financial intelligence believes it will ever be redeemed with gold, which is still the only international money of any value. Few governments today want the paper of other governments; and there is not nearly enough gold even to transact international trade in its present‑day volume. There are only three ways to do business: (1) By cash – Gold; (2) by credit – paper promises to pay; (3) by barter. At best the barter system is cumbersome; and then it is only workable when governments have mutually desirable commodities. It cannot work at all between, say, two agricultural countries, since they cannot trade wheat to each for agricultural machinery; nor can it work between two industrial countries, as they cannot trade each other machinery for foodstuff. It should here be noted that it was the failure of the Austrian Reichsbank in late 1931 that caused such international turmoil as to force England off the Gold Standard, which in turn forced the United States to do the same some months later.
The amount of paper issued in various countries is staggering beyond comprehension. In France today the Franc is about 400 for one American dollar; and this is the same Franc that was the unit of value in France before the second hour of wasting began – just as our dollar is the unit of value here. With the Franz deteriorated to 1/4 cent, one may buy little more than a toothpick or a match with one of them; and even the Frenchmen do not want them except for day‑to‑day convenience. It is well known that the peasants of France have their little gold hoards, which the government has repeatedly tried to tempt into exchange for paper Francs; but the peasants will have no part of a rotting and wasting currency, which gives every evidence of being worth even less in the days ahead. Several years ago in Czechoslovakia the people awoke one morning to be greeted with the news that the currency unit had been shrunk to one for fifty; thus, a man having $5,000 in the bank was given $100, and told to start all over accumulating more. It caused widespread riots, resulting in many deaths and injuries.
In the United States the overall debt today is about 750 billion dollars. This includes national, state, municipal and private obligations. If we figure just four per cent interest on that, the yearly interest is thirty billion — about $180 for each man, woman and child in the United States. Thus, a man and wife with three children faces an annual interest burden of about $900 – as an average. To express a solid cold opinion on this might involve “things not lawful for a man to utter”; but it should not require a very vivid imagination to arrive at certain conclusions, and it would indeed be an ironic fate should we eventually see the capitalistic system “wasted” by the Frankenstein of its own creation — caused to collapse by a top‑heavy interest system of its own making. Of this there will be more to say “in due time”.
Coming to the hour of verse 19, the hour of desolation, which will begin about January, 1958: We have often been asked when the violent features of Armageddon will begin. If the calculations and conclusions herein are correct, then it will not begin before 1958; but please understand we do not say it will begin then. However, it will certainly be accomplished to the full in the third hour. It is pointedly significant that governments never fall so long as the army remains loyal. It seems almost certain that Armageddon would have overtaken some countries ere this had it not been for the American army which is there to preserve order; nor is there any likelihood of violent disturbance in any countries where a loyal American army continues to police it. And, since the “hour of desolation” has not yet arrived, the spirit of a sound mind should forbid us from making conjectures about details yet future. We may relax in the assurance that “the vision is yet for an appointed time......... it will surely cone, it will not tarry”; and it is for each of God's people to order his affairs in keeping therewith.
With this treatise comes the best wishes of the writer to one and all for a happy and prosperous 1957 — especially, that you may prosper in the better things, which are growth in grace and knowledge and progress in every good word and work. It is with much appreciation and thanks that me acknowledge our Father's overruling Goodness during 1956, as well as the encouragement in word and deed that has come to us from many faithful brethren in the United States and foreign countries. If our work is not of the Lord, it will surely come to nought; if it is of His appointment, then it cannot fail. The years have taught us that the battle for Truth and Righteousness is a “good fight” and no greater tribute can come to any than that it may finally be said of us that we have been a “good soldier” in that good fight. Therefore,
At close of our day may each of us say,
"I have fought my way through;
I have finished the work thou didst give me to do!"