“Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
Today it is a proper appraisal to say that Protestantism is almost dead – the spirit of the Reformers, John Wessel, Martin Luther, John Wesley, et al (all confirmed Protesters) has almost vanished from the earth. In this grouping we may also include Brother Russell, because the “protest” that he began in 1874 and continued to 1916 has almost vanished from the Truth movements. While the Jehovah’s Witnesses do continue the attack upon established systems of religious error, they themselves have become such errorists that it is rank travesty to include them with those genuine reformers – protesters – who manifested “the patience and the faith of the saints.” (Rev. 13:10)
But, with the passing of the spirit of the real protesters there has now come a wide surge of Combinationism. Let us forget our differences, they say, and cooperate against the common enemy now attacking the Church; let us defeat the atheistic rabble now so apparent on every hand. And such a combining is just what we should expect. In the 34th Chapter of Isaiah the Prophet says this: “Yahweh hath wrath against all the nations, and indignation against all their host. He hath devoted them to destruction... and, the mountains, shall melt away with their blood... the heavens [the present day prominent religious sects] shall roll up as a scroll.” (Isa. 34: 2-4, Rotherham; see also Rev. 6:14) On every hand there is loud acclaim for this rolling together as the “unlearned and unstable” blindly follow their blind leaders – to fall into the ditch. (2 Pet. 3:16; Matt. 15:14) “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.” (Amos 6:1)
THE PRINCE OF PEACE MAKES WAR
In Rev. 19:11‑21 there is a description of the action of this day in which we now live, clearly revealing God’s attitude toward the combining forces of this time. We quote parts of it (from the Diaglott):
“I saw Heaven opened [the Plan of God made very clear], and behold a white horse [clear spotless doctrine – a ‘pure language’... Zeph. 3:9]; and He who sat on him was called Faithful and True [just another name for the Prince of Peace, a name not used here in order not to conflict with the ‘war’ to be waged], and in righteousness [not for greed, territory, revenge or other selfish interests, but according to the supreme Law of Justice] He judges and makes war... And He was invested with a mantle dipped in blood [indicating the bloody nature of the present conflict]; and His name is called, The Word [The Logos, the spokesman] of God... And out of His mouth proceeds a sharp two‑edged broadsword [to cut asunder error, secular and religious, in whichever way it is wielded], so that with it He may smite the nations... on His mantle and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords [the promise to Jesus’ faithful followers is that they shall be Kings and Priests, and the omnipotent Jesus is to be the King over those Kings, and the Lord over those Lords].”
Much of this Scripture is also revealed in Mal. 4:1-2, “Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven,” with the accompanying promise that “the Sun of righteousness [shall] arise with healing in his wings.” This great and dreadful day is to accomplish two things: “He maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Job 5:18) Clearly enough, it is only by considering both sides of the situation that we shall come to a proper appraisal of our own personal privileges and obligations, if we would be faithful to the Lord, the Truth, and the Brethren.
It is directly counseled by the Apostle Paul that we should, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14; See also Rom. 14:19 and 2 Tim. 2:22); but the Apostle James limits the words of Paul by his statement in Jas. 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable....” And this principle had been emphasized by Jehu hundreds of years before in 2 Kgs. 9:22 when asked by Joram, “Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms [corrupt teachings and practices] of thy mother Jezebel [typical of the Roman Church – see Rev. 2:20] and her witchcrafts [especially deceptive false teachings] are so many?” But some – even some who have supposedly been schooled in Present Truth – ignore these outstanding and vital exceptions, stressing only peace, and quoting 1 Tim. 3:16 to justify their position, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” That this text has been badly corrupted by the translators is quite clear when we read it from Dr. Rotherham’s translation: “Confessedly [most certainly] great, is the sacred secret of godliness, – Who was made manifest in the flesh.” (Also see 1 Tim. 3:16, Diaglott) This “sacred secret” is further mentioned by St. Paul in Eph. 5:32: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” It needs no argument that it has been a “great mystery” all during the Age that Christ is not one member, but many (Christ and the Church – the Head and the Body).
Furthermore, the contention “without controversy” is directly contradicted by such statements as “endure hardness, as a good soldier” – “fight the good fight,” etc. (2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:12); and these statements are also supported by certain Scriptures that apply especially here in the end of the Age – e.g., Isa. 28:17: “The hail [hard cutting Truth] shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters [great floods of Truth] shall overflow the hiding place.” Also, Isa. 41:15,16: “Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument [the Harvest sickle of Present Truth – See Rev. 14:14 and Berean Comment] having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains [great strong kingdoms], and beat them small, and shall make the hills [democracies and lesser governments] as chaff... and the whirlwind [the great Time of Trouble] shall scatter them.” The greatest “refuge of lies” of all time has been the Papacy, which has counterfeited almost every fundamental truth of the Bible – and especially so, and in very profuse manner, the truth concerning the glorious Kingdom reign of Christ and the Church.
It is a very easy matter to reach a hasty, but erroneous, conclusion from reading just one Scripture; and such is true of those who conclude that “without controversy” means we should follow peace at any price. Old Testament precedent directly contradicts it, as can be seen from the Prophets who “waxed valiant in fight... were tortured... were stoned, they were sawn asunder... slain with the sword.” (Heb. 11:34-38) All of these outrages occurred because the Prophets exposed the evils of teaching and practice of their time – particularly, the evils of the religious leaders of their time. Note specifically 2 Chr. 24:19‑21: “He [God] sent prophets to them… they testified against them: but they would not give ear... the spirit of God came upon Zechariah ...[who] said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord?... because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king...” Many who were one time in the forefront of the Harvest battle now seem to feel that the laurels gained in the past will suffice to bring them to the Heavenly Canaan; but the entire record decries such an attitude. Of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zechariah, Jesus, the Apostles, and the multitude of Gospel‑Age martyrs, the sublime report is that they died with their boots on – “faithful unto death.” Those people today who advocate the preaching only of winsome truths – giving no offense to any one – can scarcely be classified as enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ – nor will they eventually be in the same record book with those who have done so – the fully faithful. We consider it a truthful observation that none can be faithful to Present Truth without contending for that Truth. “Ye should earnestly contend for the faith [the Truth] which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3)
WHO MAY ENDURE THE DAY OF HIS COMING?
“Behold Me! sending my messenger... But who may endure the day of his coming? And who is he that can stand when he appeareth [is made manifest]? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ alkali; Therefore will he sit as a refiner and purifier [polisher] of silver, and will purify [polish, develop] the sons of Levi [primarily the Little Flock and the Great Company], and will smelt them, as gold and as silver; so shall they belong to Yahweh, offering a gift in righteousness.” (Mal. 3:1‑3, Rotherham) These texts are undoubtedly prophetic of Jesus’ Second Advent; and they itemize some of the things He would accomplish at that time. It is stated that He will be (1) like a refiner’s fire; (2) like fullers’ alkali; (3) sit as a refiner and purifier (polisher) of silver (the Truth); (4) purify (thoroughly polish, develop) the sons of Levi, so they may (5) offer a gift in righteousness.
Our concern in this writing will be mainly with No. 3 above: A refiner and polisher of silver. It needs no argument that literal silver is not here meant. Quite clearly it means the Truth. All who are familiar with the facts know only too well that the Lord did refine the Truth since 1874, by separating from it the conglomeration of error that had attached to it during the interim from His First Advent. And not only so, once the error was eliminated, a great polishing work was done with the then refined Truth, giving it a brilliance that made it a thing of real beauty to all who were “of the Truth.” This was true not only of religious Truth, but also applied with great force to secular truth. The “unclean spirits” (teachings) of the Divine Right of Kings, Clergy, Aristocracy and Labor have been mercilessly exposed, so that today in the more enlightened countries very few still cling to the doctrine that “The King can do no wrong,” or that the preachers and priests can consign to eternal torment all who do not “hear” them. “Truth shall spring out of the earth [the organized social order]; and righteousness shall look down from Heaven.” (Psa. 85:11) The Holy Spirit will “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John. 16:8)
But just as human agents waged battle against secular error, so human agents were also used of the Lord as He “looked down from Heaven.” These human beings were that group that wielded the sickle of Harvest Truth, chief of whom was Brother Russell. He not only put the “ink” into the “inkhorn” (Ezek. 9:2) for all to use, but he himself was foremost of the antitypical “three hundred” who waged antitypical Gideon’s battle against the hosts of antitypical Midian (religious errorists – Judges, Chapter 7). Of course, there was much of turmoil and great controversy in all this, with the victory surely coming to those who held to the polished brilliant Truth on the state of the dead, etc. This victory had become so pronounced that toward the end of Brother Russell’s life one secular writer wrote that “he put the fires out of Hell!”
As was the case with David, Brother Russell was very much a man of war – always in the forefront of some battle somewhere. One brother once said to him, “Brother Russell, you are the most loved man on earth.” To which Brother Russell replied, “Yes and the most hated!” But we believe it is a fair appraisal to conclude that those who knew him well, would certainly classify him as a gentle man – a man who would much prefer peace to war. It has indeed been a great Gospel‑Age paradox that the “sons of peace” led by the Son of Peace – have been in almost continuous battle; and many of such have done so contrary to their inherited dispositions. Many of them would have followed a more peaceful path had they been allowed to do the choosing; yet they had forced themselves to be “good soldiers” as duty had appeared to them.
To do any task well, there must first of all be the knowledge to do; then the will to do; then the tools wherewith to do; then the capacity to do; and finally the providential circumstances to do (the physical, mental and financial strength). This is very well summed up by St. Paul in 2 Tim. 3:15‑17, Dia.: “That from a child thou hast known those Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise for salvation, through that faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture, divinely inspired, is indeed profitable for teaching [doctrine – what we should believe], for conviction [reproof of error – that which we should not believe], for correction [that which we should not do], for that discipline which is in righteousness [that which we should do]; so that the Man of God may be complete, thoroughly fitted for every good work.” Usually it is by controversy that the clear untainted truth is established; and this has been especially true here in the end of the Age. Thus, the prophecy of Malachi forcefully applies: He (Jesus) will sit as a refiner and a polisher (developer) of the Truth.
And those who clamor for peace without first having purity, those who have faulted Brother Russell and others for engaging in controversy, such have in effect been finding fault with our Lord Himself; because this controversy, this polishing, this developing of the Truth is specifically one of the outstanding activities of His Second Advent. It is this “polishing” of the Truth that has directly resulted in polishing, developing the Sons of Levi. And the reason the Sons of Levi must be so developed is that they may make an offering in righteousness unto the Lord. Until all such have come into Present Truth, to appropriate the Truth from the table the Lord has provided for His people at this time, no activity on their part can be acceptable to the Lord regardless of any outward appearance of prosperity they may have. Jesus said one of His primary purposes at His first Advent was: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18:37) And, just as the Truth at that time brought life and immortality to light, so in His Second Advent “the hail [hard cutting Truth] shall sweep away the refuge of lies.” (Isa. 28:17) Note the Berean Comment on 1 Tim. 6:13: “It was the Lord’s witness to the truth that cost him his life.”
SOME CORROBORATING CITATIONS
The following is something on this subject from Brother Russell: “Having put on the whole armor of God, and boldly withstood error by clear and fearless presentation and defense of the truth during this evil day, when giant errors so boldly and defiantly stalk abroad, the saints are exhorted, ‘Having done all, to stand,’ clad in full armor, with the sword of the spirit ever ready for defense, and with watchfulness and perseverance and prayer for all saints.” (Vol. 3, p. 212; Eph. 6:13) “And suffering with Christ, we have seen, is not the ordinary suffering, common to all in the fallen state, but only such sufferings as are the results, more or less directly, of the following of Christ’s example, in advocating unpopular truths and in exposing popular errors.” (Vol. 3, p. 209, emphasis added)
In the face of such clear statements by Brother Russell, it seems ridiculous in the extreme for any to decry controversy, and yet claim they are fully faithful to the Harvest Truth and That Servant’s teachings. Indeed, he was fully alerted to the fact that one of our Lord’s outstanding Second‑Advent works would be the polishing, developing of the Truth; and those who do not understand this are just that much out of Present Truth.
And more from Brother Russell in Vol. 2, pp. 236, 237: “As there [in the Jewish Harvest] the truth set the father against the son, the daughter against the mother, and the mother‑in‑law against the daughter‑in‑law, so again, a man’s foes are often they of his own household. This cannot be avoided. They who love peace more than truth will be tested, and they who love truth supremely will be accepted and approved as the overcomers, as in the Jewish Harvest... As we should expect we find it here: the blindest are the leaders of the blind, who, like their types, Know not the time of their visitation.” (Luke 19:44)
Now follows something from Reprints 5546, 5547 (emphasis added): “Today, as in Jesus’ time, many are influenced by the false representations of those to whom they have been accustomed to look as their spiritual shepherds. If then the world should come to be in sympathy with us as a people, and should speak well of us, and we should become popular, we should come under the condemnation expressed in the Master’s words, ‘Woe unto you when all men speak well of you; for so did their fathers unto the false prophets’... There are all manner of evil forces and influences surrounding us. These evil influences are of Satan and the fallen angels... As we look back, we can see that all who have walked in the narrow way have received persecution. Whoever has been in accord with God has been out of accord with the course of this world. There were the Baptists, and then the Methodists, who in the early days had persecution because they had had more light than others. The Presbyterians also for a time, because they had greater light than others, received persecution [from their former brethren, as was the case of our Lord and others – JJH]. And we must expect the same today. Persecution will come to those who have the courage of their convictions. The Lord tells us that the anointing that we have received of Him is for the very purpose that we may show forth His praises.” (1 Pet. 2:9)
In 2 Tim. 3:12 we are told, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The only way such persecution may come is by “a good confession” of the Truth. Regardless of how much Truth we may know, if we do not sound forth the “trumpet,” nobody will bother us.
All of the foregoing is quite in harmony with St. Paul’s words in Rom. 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed [changed in disposition, and the like] by the renewing of your mind [with Present Truth], that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Clearly enough, the great Apostle was a non‑conformist – “beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.” (Acts 26:24) As Mark Twain so ably stated, “Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.” But in all of this it is well that we retain “the spirit of a sound mind” and, that we consider well the Apostle’s words to his beloved Philippians (Phil. 2:3-4, Dia.): “doing nothing from party‑spirit [Sectarianism], or vainglory... not each one regarding his own interests, but each one also those of others.” This same point was impressed upon the Jews immediately after they were delivered from Egyptian bondage: “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil [in sectarian blindness, or do‑nothing complacency].” (Ex. 23:2)
To be a “good soldier” one must have courage and combativeness ‑ not a good runner, but a good fighter. And, while “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” (2 Cor. 10:4) many of God’s people throughout the Age have willingly answered the call to battle with “the sword of the spirit, which is God’s Word.” (Eph. 6:17, Dia.) The Adversary, ever seeking whom he may devour – and being a shrewd appraiser of human frailty – was quick to discern that many would face lions in the Roman arena, rather than forsake the “good fight.” Consequently, he aroused their combativeness against each other, with both sides on occasion being in error; yet contending so strenuously for their error that they destroyed each other. This mistake we should studiously and determinedly avoid, giving heed to the Prophet’s words, “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” (Isa. 30:15) We should ever bear in mind it is not characteristic of the Lord’s true people to wish destruction upon the gainsayers (Luke 9:53‑55); but to recover them if possible from their path of error. (Jas. 5:20, Dia.)
2 Tim. 2:25,26 (Dia.) offers excellent complement to the foregoing: “In meekness correcting the opposers; perhaps God may give them a change of mind in order to a knowledge of the Truth; and that they may be recovered from the snare of the enemy...” Those of us who were not “born in the Truth” know by experience that at one time we had no ear for it; but God eventually gave us a “change of mind.” Thus, there may be some today who occupy our identical position before receiving this “change of mind”; so time and instruction may eventually cause them to receive it. This thought should always be in our mind as we appraise those who do not hear us now; they may hear us next year if we give them courteous and generous treatment.
Early in the 20th Century a few prominent preachers were alerted to the peace‑at-any‑price disposition already appearing. One said: “When Christianity disposes wholly with controversy it will be like a sleeping man – harmless and helpless ... Controversy was the life of Paul’s works – polite controversy, brotherly controversy; but strong in exposing error and building up the Truth. The Epistles were full of controversy. Moreover, many of Christ’s sayings were strictly controversial.” [The Christian Advocate, March 23, 1911] It is plainly evident that many who attend services in the various sects, and claiming to be “in the Truth” do no more about it than attend meetings. They have a nice place to “go to church.”
We now offer one more quotation from Brother Russell, found in Parousia Volume 2, pp. 358, 359: “In 2 Thes. 2:8‑12, the Apostle Paul declares concerning Antichrist: ‘Whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the spirit of his mouth, and annihilate with the bright shining [Epiphaneia] of his presence [Parousia].’ The light of truth is to penetrate every subject. By exposing rights and wrongs it will lead into the great struggle between these principles, and between the human exponents of each – causing the great time of trouble and wrath. In this struggle, wrong and evil shall fall, and right and truth shall triumph. Among other evils now to be finally and utterly destroyed is Antichrist, with which nearly every evil, of theory and practice, is more or less directly connected. And it will be this bright‑shining [Epiphaneia], this sunlight from the Lord’s presence, which will produce the day of trouble, because of and in which Antichrist, with every other evil system, will be destroyed. ‘Whose presence is with [accompanied by or during] an energetic operation of Satan [Satanic energy and action] with all power, and signs, and lying delusions, and with every iniquitous deception for those perishing; because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be preserved. And for this reason God will send to them a deluding power, that they might believe the error [pronouncedly true of those who have had Parousia Truth and now contend for ‘peace and tranquility’ instead of contending for the Truth – JJH]: so that all not believing the truth, but taking pleasure in iniquity, may be judged’ unworthy to share the Millennial Kingdom as joint heirs with Christ.
“We understand these words to imply that in the time of the Lord’s presence (since 1874), through this Antichrist system (one of the principal of Satan’s agencies for deceiving and controlling the world), as well as through all his other agencies, the devil will make a most desperate resistance to the new order of things about to be established. He will take advantage of every little circumstance, and all the inherited weaknesses and selfishness of the human family, to enlist their hearts and hands and pens in this final struggle against liberty and the full elucidation of truth. Prejudices will be enkindled where, if the truth were clearly seen, none would exist; and passionate zeal will be evoked, and partisan unions formed, which will deceive and mislead many [beginning at the House of the Lord among the Truth groups – JJH]. And this will be so, not because God has not made the truth clear enough to guide all the fully consecrated, but because those who will be deceived were not sufficiently in earnest in seeking out and using the truth provided as meat in due season. And thus it will be manifested that the class misled received not the truth in the love of it, but rather through custom, formality or fear.”
The manifesting is in this Epiphany. The Berean Comment on 2 Thes. 2:11: “Great delusions are just before us, and some of these may come closest upon those possessing the most light of Present Truth.”
To which the words of St. Paul may be added: “Praying at every season... on my behalf, that eloquence may be given me... to make known the secret of the Glad Tidings... that I may speak boldly concerning it... Peace to the Brethren, and Love with Faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The favor be with all who sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 6:18‑23, Dia.)
(Written by Brother John J. Hoefle in 1967. Reprint of No. 522, November 1, 2000, with minor editing.)
A HARMONIOUS VIEW
Among Christian people there are three leading views relative to Christ’s coming. Stated briefly:
First: Second Adventists look for Christ’s coming, expecting that soon He will appear – a fleshly being – in the sky, when instantly the Church will be caught up into the air above the earth and there remain with Him, while fire and brimstone are rained upon the earth, burning it to a cinder. During the time it is burning, and until it cools off (probably thousands of years), Christ and the Church will be waiting in the clouds.
These will then take possession of the earth, which will become as the Garden of Eden again. There they expect to build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them, and long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isa. 65:21,22) There they expect to reign with Christ as kings and priests – over whom none can tell (unless over one another), since all the rest of mankind must have long since burned up.
Second: Pre-Millenarians expect Christ to come unawares and gather the Church, and with them leave the world and go to heaven for a few years. During the absence of Christ and the Church, the world will be full of trouble, distress of nations, pouring out of the vials of wrath (more or less literal), etc. This trouble and distress will destroy or subdue unruly sinners, and then Christ Jesus and His Church will return to earth and inhabit a new Jerusalem City which will (literally) descend from the sky.
Christ and His saints – all glorious fleshly beings – [called spiritual as a compliment to Paul (1 Cor. 15:44-50), though held to be really fleshly] will then reign over the few of the nations which have survived the trouble. This reign will last a thousand years. Then the dead, so unfortunate as not to live during the Millennial Age, will be brought out of a “lake of fire” to earth, and arraigned for mock trial and condemnation before Christ Jesus and His Church. All will speedily be condemned and sent back to hell for never ending ages; then Christ and the Church will go to heaven and deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, and the world will be set on fire and melted – possibly to become, at some future time, again a stage for combat between new races of men and devils; or possibly to continue to roll through space a blackened cinder, a lasting memorial of the lost cause of man’s dominion, and of God’s lack of wisdom in undertaking to establish an earthly government of which man should be king. (Psa. 8:6)
Third: Post-Millenarians, by far the largest class, including nearly all so-called orthodox Christians, claim that the foregoing views are too gross and materialistic. They claim, and with good reason we think, that it would be very absurd to think of the glorious Christ and His Church (spiritual beings) either building houses and planting vineyards and enjoying the work of their hands, or reigning and living in a city in Israel. They think this would be progress backward and not forward. During this age, they say, the Church walks by faith and not by sight. To bring in a new age, in which it would walk by sight, would prove it to be a dispensation on a lower plane and not progression.
They claim that the Millennium, or 1,000 year reign of truth and righteousness, will be marked by no visible manifestation of Christ to men’s natural eyes, but that the Church, in her present condition, will stem the tide of evil and cause righteousness to prevail, and that thus God’s Kingdom – Church – (which they claim is now reigning) will conquer the world, and bring about the foretold blessedness and happiness to fill the earth. All this is to be accomplished without Jesus’ personal presence here, though they claim that the Church will have special spiritual help and power from Him in the great work. When the point is reached where all evil and wrong is subjected to right, the plan ends (i.e., if so aimless a supposition can be called a plan at all), and then Jesus comes and the mock trial and condemnation of the ignorant and unfortunate billions, who lived before the Millennial light had fully blazed forth, are re-consigned to endless woe and the earth destroyed by fire, much as Pre-Millennialists believe.
We cannot find words to express our thankfulness to our Father that we have been led into a much more harmonious and reasonable understanding of His plan than any of these views present. These are the human reasonings on the Word of God before the true light was due. Many still tenaciously hold these ideas of the past, but those who walk in the path, which shines more and more, are led into a more reasonable and harmonious view. (Prov. 4:18) We rejoice to be of those free from fetters of human creeds – free to search and believe God’s Word – free to be taught of God. Hence, as the Millennial morn is breaking, we are prepared to see light in God’s light.
The truth seems to lie between – the last two views being the extremes – Second Adventism being, in our judgment, the grossest and farthest from truth, except on the one point of man’s condition in death (unconsciousness).
Now, let us state briefly a fourth view of this subject. We ask a careful comparison of it, not only with the three above, but with God’s Word as a whole.
THE FOURTH VIEW
This view recognizes plan, system, purpose in all God’s works, reading them in His statements and in His doings. God did not form the earth to be burned, but to be inhabited. “He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited” (Isa. 45:18). He created various orders of creatures adapted to the earthly home, of which man was the Chief – Lord – Ruler – King (1 Cor. 15:40; Psa. 8:6). This is God’s plan, and must ultimately be accomplished, but its accomplishment requires the work of seven thousand years.
Man, to be in any degree a likeness of God, must have a free will, and, in order to properly use his will, he must have knowledge. God could have given him knowledge without experience, but instead He has permitted man to gain by experience. When man sinned by the exercise of his free will, God inflicted a righteous punishment and withdrew his life, and thus death reigned by sin, and man for 6,000 years has been experiencing “the exceeding sinfulness of sin” and the bitterness of its fruit.
During all this time God’s plan did not change. Man knew not of it, nor did the angels, for “angels desire to look into” these things, but have not been permitted. (1 Pet. 1:12) Meanwhile, God gave laws, and caused types and shadows of His plan to be enacted in a nation which He chose for this purpose (Israel). These shadows showed the leprous character of sin and pointed to the slain Lamb of God as the means and agency for its removal.
In due time Christ Jesus came and “gave himself a ransom [equivalent price] for all.” (1 Tim. 2:6) Did He come too soon, since sin must reign the full 6,000 years? No, our Father had another part of His plan hidden in this plan for earth! It was to select “a peculiar people,” “a little flock,” “the Bride,” who should be lifted out of the human nature entirely and become new creatures, partakers of the Bridegroom’s Divine nature. Thus the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, was not too soon, but in “due time.” All must be bought before any could be selected, and there was just sufficient time for the selection of the Bride before the due time should come for giving the human family a knowledge (experience) of good, and bringing in everlasting righteousness, and restoring the lost dominion to such as would have it.
We are now in the early dawn of the Millennial day. It is the best day of man’s week (7,000 years); the only one in which right will rule and wrong be fully subjected. Man will be restored by natural processes to the perfection once lost by the disobedience of one man, the right to which has been redeemed by the obedience of the man Christ Jesus. (Rom. 5:18)
During this Millennial Age Jesus and His Bride, no longer men but spiritual beings, will be personally present, directing and overruling the affairs of earth, but invisible to men, as angels have been in the past. As Satan and his angels (presently invisible yet ruling among men) have used Rome as so willing an agent that it is scripturally called by his name – the devil and Satan – so this spiritual Kingdom of God will operate through restored fleshly Israel, and find in it so willing an agency that it will be properly called also the Kingdom of God, and will extend its borders righteously, as the Roman counterfeit has attempted to do unrighteously, until the Kingdom shall fill the whole earth. Then shall be fulfilled the prayer of the Master, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Restored mankind shall plant and build and long enjoy the work of their hands, for “the earth abideth forever” (Ecc. 1:4) and was formed to be inhabited.
When sin and Adamic death are wiped out, and all its traces removed, and the incorrigible destroyed in the Second Death, then man, being in the condition in which he was first created – an image of his Creator, and possessed of an experimental knowledge of both good and evil – will be in the proper condition to receive and rightly use the first dominion. Then the dominion will be delivered up to God, even the Father, men being made accountable thereafter directly to God, instead of to Jesus as during the Millennial Age. During the Millennium the Father has committed all judgment unto the Son as His agent and man’s Redeemer. (1 Cor. 15:24; John 5:22)
Thus we glimpse God’s plan for bringing many sons to glory – some to the glory of perfect human nature and some to the glory of the Divine nature, the two glories being entirely different things. (1 Cor. 15:40) Surely we can say that it is a plan worthy of our God – full of Wisdom, Love, Justice and Power. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33)
We are in the dawn of the glorious day. It is not yet sunrise (the shining forth of the Church – Matt. 13:43), but the “day star” (Jesus) has arisen in our hearts. (2 Pet. 1:19) We know of His presence – and the sunshine will before long dispel the darkness and storm with which this day opens. We believe this Millennial era commences with a time of trouble and the pouring out of symbolic plagues and vials. We believe the trouble and distress will be of a sort at first little appreciated by many. First, the nominal church systems, having filled their mission, are due to be destroyed. Secondly, earthly kingdoms, having served their purpose, are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. (Rom. 9:22) Mankind, long held in bonds of ignorance, oppression and superstition, is to be released and prepared for their experience with good during Messiah’s reign.
As this Gospel Age is the time for trial of the Church, those called to the heavenly nature, so the Millennial Age is to be the time of trial of the world of mankind, both those living at the beginning of the Age and the resurrected dead, to determine who of them are worthy of human perfection and the dominion of earth.
(The above is from Pastor Russell reprint 469, with minor editing.)
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