“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1-2)
Christendom is united in admitting that all of the Divine Revelation came to and through the Hebrew people. Listen to the argument of the Apostle Paul: “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (Rom. 3:1-2) The “oracles of God” are the collection of sacred writings containing the Divine promises and these writings were committed to the care and guardianship of the Jewish people. The Apostle also informs us that the entire Gospel Message was summed up in God’s promise to Abraham: “In thee [in thy Seed] shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8; Gen. 28:14)
It was natural for the Jewish nation to suppose that this promise to Abraham was fulfilled when the Law was given to them at Mount Sinai, through Moses as the mediator. Nevertheless, history shows they were mistaken. All the features of the Law Covenant – their mediator, their priests and their sacrifices, their Tabernacle with its Holy and Most Holy, the Temple – were merely types or foreshadows of the “better sacrifices,” higher Priesthood, better Mediator, and glorious blessings of eternal forgiveness and reconciliation yet to be accomplished. (Heb. 9:23)
The period of Israel’s types was not wasted however. Not only were the types established then, but also a special class of representatives was selected: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the Prophets and worthy ones of that age, holy, consecrated to God, and accepted as agents qualified for the Kingdom conditions. The Scriptures declare that these “fell asleep” and they continue to sleep in the dust of the earth, awaiting the glorious Resurrection morning, and a grand share with Messiah in the work then to be accomplished.
These Ancient Worthies are described as “the fathers” because Messiah was foretold to be of the posterity of Abraham and also “David’s Son.” Other Scriptures, however, show us distinctly that “David’s Son” and “Abraham’s Seed” will be Lord and Father of both David and Abraham. Thus we read, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” (Psa. 45:16)
This is not a contradiction. The explanation is simple: when Messiah raises David from the dead, He will then be David’s Father, or Life-giver. He will likewise be the Father of all the Ancient Worthies; and as David’s Lord, and “Lord of lords,” it will be His pleasure to appoint to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all the Ancient Worthies, the Prophets, and other faithful ones a glorious share with Himself in the great Messianic Kingdom. What a great honor to Abraham and his Seed! Will this not mean honor “to the Jew first?” (Rom. 2:10)
As our opening text declares, there is a “double” connected with Israel’s history; that is, Jewish history naturally divides itself into two exactly equal parts. The first part was a time of favor, although intermingled with disciplines. The second part has been one of disfavor and exclusion from fellowship. As foretold by the Prophet Hosea, Israel for many centuries has been without prophet or priest, without ephod and without communion with God; whereas, at one time they were God’s favored people. (Hos. 3:4)
By their own admission, they have been so thoroughly rejected that they have no communication whatever, no light to shine upon their pathway. The Prophet’s words have been fulfilled: “Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not.” (Psa. 69:22-23)
Thank God their blindness is not to be perpetual! With their double fulfilled, it will begin to vanish, and He who scattered Israel will gather them. (Deut. 30:3; Ezek. 37:20-28) We can see by the Word of God that Israel’s double is now fulfilled, that Israel’s blessing has already begun, and that the opening of Israel’s eyes is now in progress. Because the double is completed, we are told, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem.”
Pastor Russell visited Jerusalem in 1892, intending chiefly to call attention to the fact that the set time to favor Zion had come and the time for the regathering of Israel was near. He found no hearing ears among the Jewish people; Zionism had not then been dreamed of. Nevertheless, he felt sure that Israel’s double had been fulfilled, and that her morning of joy would soon break. (Psa. 30:5)
Indeed he saw much happen during the years that followed. Zionism arose in every country, giving hope to the “chosen people” and turning their eyes toward the Land of Promise. Not all thought of returning there, but every Jew who retained faith in the God of his fathers and in the Abrahamic promise looked and hoped for the time of blessing long foretold. They still do not know about their double because they have studied the teachings of their ancients as presented by the Talmud instead of studying the Holy Scriptures. They have been making a very similar mistake to that of Christian people, who have been studying the creeds of the Dark Ages instead of God’s Word.
Glancing at three different statements about Israel’s double by three different Prophets, we notice their different time perspectives. Jeremiah first tells of Israel’s coming disfavor: “Then shalt thou say unto them . . . Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not . . . where I will not show you favour.” Then he speaks of their future regathering: “I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.” (Jer. 16:11-15) Then the Lord declares, “And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double.” (Jer. 16:18) Jeremiah’s prophecy here views the double from the perspective of his own day, more than six hundred years before the second part of their double began.
Turning to Zechariah’s prophecy, we note that his prophetic viewpoint is at the very time when the second part of the double began. His words are, “Even today do I declare that I will render double unto thee.” (Zech. 9:12)
Next note that in our opening text the Prophet Isaiah views the matter from the standpoint that the double has been fulfilled: “Her warfare [hardship] is accomplished . . . she hath received of the Lord’s hand double [two equal parts] for all her sins.”
It is our understanding that this double was fulfilled in the year 1878 AD. Since then Pastor Russell and Bible Students generally have declared to the best of their ability, as the Lord granted opportunity, these comforting words to Israel, assuring God’s people that their period of disfavor has ended, and that they are gradually returning to prosperity. Many Jews as well as Christians are becoming aware of this feature of the Divine Program relating to Israel’s restoration to Divine favor. Their eyes are gradually being opened as foretold by the Scriptures.
THE TURNING POINT
How do we know when the turning point of Israel’s double took place? How do we know that it was completed in 1878? The answer to the question requires acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah. Zechariah’s prophecy distinctly shows that Israel’s rejection of Messiah as their King marks the turning point of God’s favor. Neither Christians nor Jews have appreciated the full significance of an incident mentioned in the Gospel and foretold by the Prophet Zechariah.
Five days before His crucifixion Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem upon an ass after the manner of Jewish kings. A multitude surrounded Him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.” (Matt. 21:1-9) Zechariah had called attention to this event centuries before it occurred. (Zech. 9:9) He then gave God’s declaration that “even today,” at that exact point in time, He would render double unto them. (Zech. 9:12)
Israel’s history as a nation began with the death of Jacob, when he gave his blessing to the twelve tribes. (Gen. 49:28) The Scriptures show that the period from Jacob’s death to the death of Jesus was 1845 years. A like period of disfavor from the day of Jesus’ rejection marks the year 1878 as the end of Israel’s disfavor – the time when the message of comfort would go forth. However, Divine favor was only gradually taken from Israel, and altogether a period of thirty-six years intervened between the death of Jesus and the utter destruction of Jerusalem.
Similarly we should expect that the return of favor would be gradual, a like period of 36 years; and this would bring us to the year 1914, as the time when God’s favor for His people was to be gradually manifested during the closing hours of Gentile supremacy at the close of the Gospel Age. (Luke 21:24) (See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume II, Study VII for a detailed discussion of the parallel dispensations.)
What has God accomplished during the latter half of Israel’s double? Did He pass by His chosen people to bless the Gentiles directly? The answer is that Almighty God had one feature of His Plan which He did not make known directly and explicitly to Abraham or any other Prophet. He kept that feature of His purpose a secret.
The secret is this: Messiah could not remain a man and yet accomplish the great things the Father purposed as stated in His Word. The Law called for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a man’s life for a man’s life. In this God set forth His governing principle, His course of dealing with men. As by man (Adam) came the death sentence, passed through heredity upon all of his offspring, even so the Divine Law purposed that there must be a sacrifice of one perfect human life to offset the one human life condemned to death. The one who would thus meet the demands of Justice on behalf of the human race would have the right to give eternal life and human perfection to every member of Adam’s race willing to accept it on the terms of the Divine Law. It was for this reason that Christ died, “the just for the unjust.” (1 Pet. 3:18)
As a reward for His obedience to the Father even unto death, Christ was raised from the dead to the Divine Nature. In this exalted condition He is capable of being a Mediator and of doing a work for Israel and for the world much higher and broader than Moses could do as the typical mediator, making atonement for a year with the blood of beasts. Messiah made perpetual atonement for the sins of both Jews and Gentiles with His own blood. He suffered the death of the cross “for all the people.” (Lev. 16:33)
The glorified Messiah, the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, is soon to bless Israel’s Ancient Worthies and make them “Princes in all the earth.” As ministers of His Kingdom they will rule, bless and uplift all who are willing out of the present conditions of sin and death to life eternal, to full human perfection, with the earth as a Paradise restored.
Some may ask: where do Christians fit in connection with this Divine arrangement? And if God’s dealings with the world are to be through Israel and not through the Church, why has there been so long a delay? Why did the glorified Messiah not set up His Kingdom at once, and immediately bring forth the Ancient Worthies from the tomb to be its earthly representatives?
Here another part of the Mystery of God was illustrated by Israel’s types. Isaac, Abraham’s son, was typical of Messiah, the Spiritual Seed. Before Isaac began the work of dispensing the blessings to his brethren and to his children he first took a bride, and this act also was allegorical or typical. In the antitype Messiah, the glorified Jesus, partook of the Divine Nature according to the Father’s invitation, and He is to take a Bride who is to be His joint-heir on the spirit plane – to share with Him the glory, honor and service of His Messianic Kingdom. The period of Israel’s disfavor as a nation has been the time in which a special class has been called of the Father and begotten of the Holy Spirit to joint-heirship with Christ as His Bride.
But did God pass by the natural seed of Israel to extend these spiritual privileges to the Gentiles – to gather from the Gentiles a people to constitute the Bride of Messiah? No, the Scriptures assure us that this spiritual privilege went first to the Jews. They show us that during the three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry and during the thirty-six years following it, the Gospel Message was given almost exclusively to the Jews. Gathered from that people was any found to be an “Israelite indeed,” without guile; any not only of the circumcision of the flesh, but also of the circumcision of the heart. (John 1:47; Rom 2:29) God did not continue to deal with His chosen people; but after having gathered from them as many as were worthy of the spiritual blessing and exaltation – only then did He send the Message to the Gentiles, to gather from them a number sufficient to complete the foreordained and predestined number to constitute the Bride.
In proving from the Scriptures that Israel’s double is completed, that Israel’s blindness is about to be taken away, and that Israel’s exaltation as the earthly representatives of Messiah’s Kingdom is near, we are proving to ourselves another thing – namely, that the full number called from among the Gentiles to participate with Christ on the spirit plane, as members of His Bride class, will soon be completed and exalted to Kingdom glory. (Rom. 11:25-32)
A NEW COVENANT AND A NEW MEDIATOR
The chosen people look back to the great Covenant which God made with Abraham – the Covenant confirmed by Almighty God with an oath, so that His people might have full assurance of its ultimate fulfillment. But Israel recognized that in order for the world to be blessed, the Divine Law must be established and mankind must be blessed legally. Thus they point back to the Law Covenant, despite their disappointments connected with it.
As a people they had expected much more from it – they had expected that by obedience to its requirements they themselves would become possessors of everlasting life. They also expected that God would then use their nation for the blessing of other nations; by bringing all the world of mankind under the dominion of the Law of God, the whole world would receive blessing, restitution and everlasting life through the Law Covenant. Despite their great disappointment that they gained neither eternal life nor national exaltation, they still held to that Covenant and trusted that its blessings were yet to come. In their perplexity, they cried to the Lord for relief and for explanation of why the blessings hoped for did not come.
Through the Prophets they received His answer: Before those promised favors could be fulfilled, the great Messiah must come. He would be a great Teacher and Ruler like unto Moses, but much more powerful. He would embody in Himself all the qualities of Judge, Priest, Mediator, Law-giver and King. Under His superintendence Israel would yet be blessed and become the channel of Divine blessing to every nation. Moses foretold this greater Prophet:
“For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:22-23; Deut. 18:15,19)
Thus Israel waited for the Messianic Priest and Kingly Mediator who would do for them abundantly more than Moses had been able to accomplish, though they had profited much through the ministry of their great Lawgiver. This antitypical Moses, Messiah, is referred to by the Lord through the Prophet Malachi, saying: “Behold, I will send my messenger [John the Immerser], and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly [not quickly, but unexpectedly] come to his temple [the Church is the Temple], even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.” (Mal. 3:1)
This sending of the New Mediator implied a New Covenant, or at least a renewal of the old Law Covenant under Messiah, the more efficient Mediator. The Prophet Jeremiah, now speaking as though at the close of Israel’s long period of exile from Divine favor, specifically refers to this renewal of the Sinaitic Covenant by the superior Mediator. The time is indicated by these words:
“And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the Lord. In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:28-29)
These words clearly indicate that not any period of Israel’s past history is referred to, but rather the period that is about to be inaugurated. The “sour grapes” refer to the evil influences of heredity. The sins of the parents have influenced and affected the children of all humanity so that all are in fact sinners, regardless of their intentions. As David declared, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa. 51:5) With the great dispensational change, however, this condition of heredity will not continue to prevail against the human race. Instead of falling further, it will rise up. Restitution will begin and only those who willfully and knowingly transgress the Divine Law will be held responsible and receive the wages of sin – death. (Rom. 6:23)
Having introduced the main feature of this message respecting the New Covenant, the Prophet continues:
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)
The superiority of this New Covenant is clear. The old one was written on tables of stone; the new one will be written in the hearts of all the willing. The old Law had to be continually taught, every Sabbath day and oftener; but the New Law will not need such continuous teaching. All will know it since it will be written in the heart and conscience of all, from the least to the greatest. The Old Law Covenant under Moses as Mediator required annual sacrifices of bulls and goats to cleanse the sins of the people and to bring them Divine forgiveness for another year. The New Law Covenant, with its better sacrifices, will forever do away with the yearly repetition of the Atonement Day. The sins of the people will be so thoroughly eradicated as to need no further sacrificing.
Israel has waited, hoped and prayed for its better Mediator for more than three thousand years. Thank God His reign is near at hand! His power, glory, honor and dignity will be all that Israel expected and much more. With Israel’s period of disfavor closed, we believe that the time for the establishment of His Empire on earth will be after the great time of world-wide trouble to come upon the earth.
But Messiah will be a spiritual Mediator, invisible to men. Only the effects of His power and glory will be seen on earth as He casts down the unfit and lifts the worthy, the down-trodden. The great Priest referred to in the Scriptures as “King of kings and Lord of lords” will be invisible to men then just as Satan, recognized by the Scriptures as the “prince of this world,” is now invisible. During the Time of Trouble the King will bind Satan, restraining him from every power to further deceive mankind during the glorious Millennium.
This great spiritual King must of course have earthly representatives and agents among men, just as Satan has used as his servants wicked persons out of harmony with God and not submissive to His arrangements, many of them unwittingly serving him. But the King will use only the pure, the holy, the reverent, the godly. And none of His servants will be under restraints of ignorance or bonds of superstition.
On the contrary, the righteous will then flourish and the evil-doers will be cut off: “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” (Prov. 11:28) “For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psa. 37:9-11)
God has already selected those wonderful persons who will represent Messiah to Israel and to the world. They were selected long ago according to their trials of faith and obedience and patient endurance for righteousness’ sake. They are a noble band. They are select members of the chosen people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and all the Prophets, besides others too numerous to mention. Through trying ordeals of faith and patience and loyalty, they demonstrated their love for righteousness, for Truth and for God. These are worthy. These are God’s “elect” for this great purpose.
Nor will it serve the Divine purpose that these should be awakened from the tomb in the condition in which they went down into death. No, by their faithfulness under trying conditions they proved to the Divine satisfaction their loyalty to the core. As their reward, they will come forth from the tomb under more favorable conditions than do their fellows. (Heb. 11:35) They will come forth perfect in mind and in body, glorious specimens of perfect humanity. They will be examples to Israel and to all the nations of what each member of Adam’s race may attain if he will be obedient to the terms of the Covenant.
We believe, as Pastor Russell taught, that there is also a similar class of consecrators after the closing of the High Calling who will be associates of the Ancient Worthies during the Millennium. (See Studies in the Scriptures, Volume VI, Study III, page 157 and Reprint 5761.)
THE GLORIOUS RESULTS OF THE NEW COVENANT
For a thousand years the great Mediator will stand between Divine Justice and Israel to give to all the willing and obedient the blessings of Divine favor. They would not be worthy of these blessings by their own merits because of their inherited imperfections through the fall. God’s Providence will afford them the opportunity of rising up gradually to full human perfection in the likeness of the Ancient Worthies, who as the representatives of Messiah among men will be their instructors and guides.
That will be a glorious day for the chosen people! All that they ever dreamed of, and far more, will be their everlasting heritage. Nor will these wonderful privileges be theirs alone, for although the Covenant will be made with Israel, the privilege of coming into that Covenant relationship with God will be extended to all nations, permitting all to become Israelites, through faith, through obedience to that Law of the New Covenant:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:2-3)
The chosen people have had some sad experiences while waiting for the great Messiah-Mediator of their New Covenant. But the glorious results will more than compensate for all their trials and disappointments during the delay. Under the Law Covenant they merely lived as a nation under Divine favor for a few years and then lapsed into death. Under the arrangements of the New Covenant they will obtain life eternal and full human perfection. It will be possible for them to have the absolute and continuous approval of the Divine Law.
More than this, as agents of God their mission under the New Covenant will be the blessing of all the Gentiles – the Gentiles will be brought up to the same glorious standards of human perfection and eternal life. Surely all who love the Divine promises to the chosen people and the New Covenant through which those promises will be fulfilled may well pray, O Lord, thy Kingdom come! Messiah, come quickly! End the reign of sin and death! Exalt Thy chosen people and bless all the families of the earth!
This paper is based on Pastor Russell’s Sermons, pages 396-403 and What Pastor Russell Wrote for the Overland Monthly, pages 89-92.
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