“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth . . . And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken into the ground . . . Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.” (Isa. 21:6-12)
When this prophecy was written, it was the custom to erect a wall around the important cities. The wall around Babylon was a marvelous piece of construction for that time. It was conical in shape with the narrow top wide enough for two chariots to drive around it side by side. It was considered impregnable – a good representation of our present spiritual Babylon, who also says, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” (Rev. 3:17)
Upon the tops of those ancient city walls were turrets or towers in which a watchman was located at night to watch for the approach of enemies, man or beast, to watch for thieves of the crops outside the city, etc. Occasionally, a citizen – inside the fort or directly outside it, would call out, “Watchman, what of the night?” That is, do you notice any sign of enemies or thieves? The watchman in our verse above answered, “The morning cometh [it will be here shortly], and also the night.”
At the time Isaiah wrote this prophecy there was mirth and festivity; he alone was overwhelmed with grief, and refused to be comforted. In the rejoicings of the populace he read the evidence of their hopeless impenitence and insensibility, and he concludes his discourse by expressing the conviction that at last they have sinned beyond the possibility of pardon. The circumstances recall our Lord’s lamentation over Jerusalem on His triumphal entry into the city five days before His crucifixion: “He beheld the city, and wept over it.” (Luke 19:41-42)
THE MORNING COMETH, AND ALSO THE NIGHT
From the Bible chronology, the parallel dispensations, and the signs of the times, it is our firm conviction that this text applies directly to the time in which we are living. From these different sources, it is our conclusion that the “morning” began in 1874. Jesus said, “For as the lightning [the bright shiner, the sun] cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:27)
It is evident that the word “lightning” is a poor translation here. This word is from the Greek astrape, which has several meanings (see Strong’s Concordance). Lightning does not start in the east and go to the west, but the sun does. The sun rises noiselessly in the East, when most people are still asleep, but gradually becomes more prominent and noticeable in the heavens until high noon. “But, the path of the righteous, is as the light of dawn, –going on and brightening, unto meridian day.” (Prov. 4:18, Rotherham) The footnote on this text says: “The stable part of day – when the sun seems motionless in mid‑heaven.”
Thus, we should expect a very obscure beginning of the “morning” in 1874 – just as the sun also arises in the morning without much clamor. Most of our great inventions have come since that date: The telephone, the electric light, the automobile, the airplane, computers, and all the magnificent technological advancements have come since that time. More inventions have come in a little over a hundred years than occurred in the six thousand years before that time.
The sun has not yet come to “meridian day,” but with this great increase of learning has come also “the night” of trouble. This also had a very mild beginning in 1874, but it has now reached alarming proportions; even those not familiar with Bible prophecy see it with much certainty. It is written in Dan. 12:1: “There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” Speaking of Daniel’s prophecy, Jesus said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 24:21) And just as the bright shining proceeds to meridian height, so the trouble also increases; by the time the sun has reached meridian height, the trouble will have reached its nadir, and will be completely over when the sun reaches full height. Then will be fulfilled the prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
OUR LORD’S SECOND COMING
The word translated “coming” in Matthew 24:27 is from the Greek parousia, which actually means “presence,” and should be understood in that manner. Often the question comes to us, Watchman, what of the night – How long is the night? We cannot give a positive answer to the question, although we can quote the words of Jesus: “This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:32) We do not know the length of time of “this generation,” but we can quote the words of Jesus, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” Therefore, we can say with conviction that “the time is at hand.” (Rev. 3:20; Rev. 10:6; Rev. 11:18; Rev. 22:10)
It is our understanding that our Lord’s Parousia has been with us since 1874. It will continue until all the “wheat” has been gathered into the Lord’s barn and the “tares” bundled and burned. In a broad sense our Lord will continue to be present as the world’s King to the full conclusion of the Millennial Age, but His Parousia in the sense of a secret presence will terminate when, as the Scriptures state, He is revealed in “flaming fire,” the great time of trouble, taking vengeance on all who do not receive the Truth in a good and honest heart (2 Thess. 1:7-8), but enlightening all those who will hear to the extent of their opportunity. The secret Parousia is only for those who now hear and obey His calling. The Epiphania is not to the Church or for the Church, but to the world and for the world.
Of the world, the natural Israelites will be the first to look upon Him “whom they have pierced.” (Zech. 12:10) Brought into covenant relationship with God through the better Mediator than Moses (Heb. 8:6), they will be trained, chastened, blessed and uplifted by Him during the Millennium; so that by the end of the Millennium they shall be ready for the everlasting covenant condition of perfection in harmony with God.
While the besom of destruction becomes more apparent each year to those who are the “Watchmen,” the great majority of the world still sleeps on, as Jesus foretold they would. As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the presence of the Son of Man; the world that was “knew not” until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (Matt. 24:38-39) Thus we should not be surprised to see the inattention of the great majority. “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith [the Truth] on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) History tells us that it has always been thus, with retribution usually overtaking those who disregard the Word of Truth.
However, the Watchman said, “If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.” Thus, some may now inquire to know more, turn toward God and come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, when He pours out His spirit “upon all flesh” many will then awaken to the tremendous operations that will occur. (Joel 2:28)
FROM THE PEN OF THAT SERVANT
We now present (without quotation marks) excerpts from various writings of Pastor Russell:
Reprint 5359: At the Epiphania, or bright shining, of the Lord’s manifestation, God will have completed His present work of directing the Church; and the world will be informed that they are under a different dispensation. When the world will have come to understand the matter fully, they will know the Truth of our Lord’s words, in His last prayer with His disciples – that the Father loves the Church as He loved the Lord Jesus. This is a very astounding statement. It shows that there is nothing selfish in our Lord. He did not say, “They will always be inferior to me. They will never have the glory that I shall have.”
Reprint 5522: Bible students call our attention to the fact that the Bible distinctly differentiates between the Parousia of Christ and His Epiphania, at His second coming. The word Parousia signifies presence, without in any sense of the word indicating that the presence is visible. The word Epiphania signifies the revealing of one who is already present. These Bible students claim that in the end of this Gospel Age Christ will be present, invisible to men, during a period of forty years, doing a work especially in His Church – rewarding the faithful, as shown in the parables of the Pounds and Talents, and receiving the “wise virgins,” as stated in the parable.
With the conclusion of this work of separating the wise virgins, and after they shall have entered into the joys of their Lord by the glorious change of the First Resurrection, then will come Immanuel’s Epiphania, revealing, showing forth. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4) He shall be revealed “in flaming fire, taking vengeance.” In other words, the revelation of Christ to the world will be subsequent to His revelation of Himself to the “wise virgin” class. The world will know that He has taken His great power and begun His reign of righteousness, not by seeing Jesus in the flesh, but by seeing the great time of trouble which then will break upon the world – “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21)
Reprint 5527: The Scriptures indicate that the Gentile governments will receive from their own peoples their first notice that their lease of power has expired. The people will take note of the sign of the Son of man in the heavens. The judgments of the Lord will begin to be manifest in the world, and will run counter to many of their interests. This manifestation of His presence is Scripturally called the Epiphania, the shining forth, the revealment of the King of Glory. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed . . . In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess. 1:7-10) As a result, the nations of earth will be broken to pieces “like a potter’s vessel.” (Psa. 2:8-9; Rev. 2:27)
The prophetic forecast tells us that the trouble will begin in the ecclesiastical heavens, and later will proceed to the social element. The picture given of the end of the Gentile Times is that of a stone striking the image of Gentile supremacy on its feet. (Dan. 2:34-35) The impact will be so sharp and so thorough as to leave nothing of them. Having had their day, they will cease to be – “become like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors.” The next event in order will be the Messianic Kingdom, of which it is written, “The desire of all nations [peoples] shall come.” (Hag. 2:7)
NO MISTAKE IN HIS CHRONOLOGY
From the foregoing writings it is clear That Servant taught we are in the time of establishing God’s promised Kingdom. Although he saw this clearly more than 25 years before 1914, he erred in expecting the entire program would be consummated in a very short time. However, by 1910 he recognized that the time was much too short for the accomplishment of the things necessary, and he openly said so, but some of his dogmatic supporters did not accept his corrections then. In fact, one of them said early in 1914 that he was buying a ticket to go to some west coast area, but he did not buy a return ticket because he would have no use for it. Many such lost much of the Truth and quit the movement as the days carried on. However, when the Russian government was toppled in the fall of 1917, some brethren shouted they were no longer walking by faith; they were then walking by sight – a mistake very easy to make, since the Czarist government of Russia was then one of the strongest autocracies that had ever been on earth.
But the war ended in November 1918, things began to calm down, followed by a business boom for eleven years; then the great crash of 1929, followed by the great depression of four years. Once again the predictions of doom were very prevalent, but soon disappeared. In fact, some concluded by about 1920 that Brother Russell had made a mistake of nineteen years in the Chronology; the Gentile Times would not end until 1933. This same error had been “discovered” about a hundred years before that by a deluded Babylon teacher, so it was nothing new. When 1933 came and not one thing occurred to substantiate the error, the subject was discreetly dropped.
It is our firm conviction that no mistake was made in the Chronology by That Servant. His dates are yet well established, but he made the mistake of expecting too much in too short a time, although everything he taught about what would happen is still well substantiated by the Bible and current events.
In all of the events that have occurred since 1914, we are firmly convinced that he was right in declaring that the Kingdom had been set up in 1878, that the elect Church had then been tentatively gathered – although some dropped out before 1914 and others were called in. By 1914 he was convinced that the full number of the Elect had been won. For some years now the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been declaring the full establishment of the Kingdom, with their group being its firm nucleus. Current events clearly reveal their error on the matter. As late as 1915, Brother Russell wrote this:
Reprint 5632: The final phrase, “to execute the judgments written,” would seem to imply that there would be something for the saints on this side of the Veil to do in connection with the execution of the judgments upon the nations. (Psa. 149:7-9) [It was going on right then, but our dear Pastor had not then discerned it – JJH] As to just what this means, we have not yet fully learned. But we see nothing here to conflict with the thought that the Lord’s Kingdom may be properly understood to have begun operations and that the present smiting of the nations is under Kingdom control. The fact that some of the members of the Kingdom class are still in the flesh does not militate at all against this thought. We see the kingdoms of this world now being dashed to pieces, and we are expecting to see the process continued until they are all completely ground to powder. They shall become as the chaff of the summer threshing floor, and the wind shall carry them away. Then shall they be found no more at all. (Dan. 2:35)
Because certain important things are to be accomplished, we see that God is permitting what to others might seem to be purely human devilishness. For a wise purpose He permits this reign of lawlessness, this condition which evokes universal odium. Our thought is that we should look for still further evidences day by day that the Gentile Times have ended, and that God’s Kingdom has begun its work. We are expecting to see multiplied proofs of the Kingdom power, though the world will not recognize it as such until it is manifested in the flaming fire of anarchy, which is still further along. The present step is the war of the nations. The next step will be Socialism – an attempted Socialism – among the people [after Armageddon – JJH]. Then the third step, anarchy, will gradually come on. When this symbolic fire shall prevail then the world will realize what we are trying to tell them now; namely, that God’s Kingdom is taking control, and that these various demonstrations are evidences that our Lord is taking His great power. But the many will not begin to see until the flaming fire is revealed. When we endeavor to tell them now they will not receive it, but they will be thoroughly convinced when they see the destructive fire of Anarchy.
MESSIAH’S KINGDOM TO BE INVISIBLE
“The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21, NIV)
Reprint 5455: Our understanding of the Master’s words (Luke 17:20‑37) depends considerably upon the setting in which we see them. John the Baptist preceded Jesus and preached the Kingdom of God is at hand. In due time he pointed out Jesus as the Messiah that should come, the Lamb of God. After waiting for months to establish himself, and finding instead that his own work was closing, he was put into prison by Herod. John then sent to Jesus to inquire whether or not He was the one that should come or whether they should look for another. He was disappointed in not seeing evidences of the Kingdom, as he had expected.
The scribes and the Pharisees heard of the claim that Jesus was the long‑promised King who would set up His Messianic Kingdom, and they derided Him. They looked at His motley company of followers – publicans and sinners, as well as honorable people, but none of special rank, influence or wealth. They considered Jesus a deceiver and His followers dupes. Our lesson tells how they attempted to expose what they supposed was a deception of Jesus, thus to turn away the delusion of His followers. Therefore, they asked Him in public the question: When will God’s Kingdom come? How long will it be before you set it up?
Doubtless they purposed to entrap Jesus; for if He should say, “A long time,” they would proceed to query, “Where will you get your army? How will you pay your soldiers? How will you supply them with food? Will you go to Rome to battle with the powers that be, that our whole nation has been unable to cope with?” etc.
But those Pharisees got only as far as the first question, because the answer to it confuted them, and no doubt perplexed them. Jesus answered that God’s Kingdom would not come with observation [with outward show]; that is to say, when the Kingdom should come people would not see it. Proceeding, Jesus elaborated, saying that when the Kingdom of God should be established, people would not see whether it was here or there; for the Kingdom of God would be the power of God exerted everywhere in the midst of the people.
Our translation [the KJV] is faulty, though evidently not intentionally so, when it reads “For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) The translators, had they noted carefully, would have been on guard against saying that the Kingdom of God was within those Pharisees that Jesus had designated hypocrites, whited sepulchers, etc. (Matt. 23:27) A closer examination of the original would have shown that the text would better be translated, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.”
A kingdom is always represented by its king. Jesus, as the King, was present in their midst, but they did not recognize Him. “There standeth one among you, whom ye know not.” (John 1:26) Similarly, all through the Gospel Age, the Church of Christ, His “body,” had been undiscerned by the world. “The world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” (1 John 3:1) For eighteen hundred years this has been true in this sense; but Christ and the Church in the flesh are not the Kingdom of God in the full, proper sense that the Bible promises: a Kingdom of power and great glory. Christ and the Church have been only the incipient Kingdom, an embryo Kingdom – the Kingdom class, preparing for investiture of authority in God’s due time, which we believe is now near.
The Kingdom is to be a spiritual one, and hence its rulers will be as invisible as are the angels and the Heavenly Father. Jesus declared, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.” (John 14:19) What was true of the Head will be true of every member of the elect body of Christ, the Church. Changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” the world will see them no more; for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” and flesh and blood cannot see that which is spiritual. (1 Cor. 15:50,52)
During the Millennium, the Kingdom authority and power of God through Christ and the Church will be exercised amongst men; and yet they will not see it with the natural eye, but merely with the eyes of their understanding. All the blind eyes will be opened. Thus every eye will see that the Kingdom is established; and every one will understand that He who suffered has entered into His glory, that the Church, His bride, is with Him in glory, and that the blessings of the Millennium proceed from them. (Rev. 20:6)
DAYS OF THE SON OF MAN
Turning from the silenced Pharisees to His disciples, Jesus said, “The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.” (Luke 17:22) This was astonishing news to the faithful. Yet they were accustomed to hearing from the Master things which they could not understand; such as that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, that He must be crucified, etc. They took all these things figuratively and wondered what might be the real interpretation. How could Jesus be the great King, as they had expected, and yet they not see Him and His days?
Jesus continued the enigma, saying, “And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there; go not after them, nor follow them.” (Luke 17:23) In a word, do not believe anybody who will thus tell you about My second coming; do not be deceived into believing that I will come in any such manner. This is how I shall come: “For as the lightning [astrape, the bright shining, the sun], that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.” (Luke 17:24)
Then, that they might gradually learn that these things belonged to a distant time, Jesus explained that first He must suffer many things and be rejected of that nation. Coming back to an explanation of what would be the signs of His presence as recorded in Matthew 24, He declared, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” (Luke 17:26)
Here we have something definite, concrete. We know what to look for at the time when the Kingdom will be due for establishment – the time when the Sun of Righteousness will begin to shine forth from one end of heaven to the other. The signs of the time will not be in the outward condition of the world; for on the contrary everything will be going along in as quiet and orderly a manner as ever, just as in the days of Noah, just as before the Deluge came, and just as in the days of Lot, before the destruction of Sodom – they ate, drank, married, built, bought, sowed, planted, as usual. These things are not signs of wickedness, but are mentioned to show us that there will be no outward sign to indicate to the world the time of the second presence of Christ, when He will begin to deal with the world and to set up His Kingdom. [This was the condition of the world just before World War One – the greatest calamity yet to happen. However, today’s condition is: “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:26) – JJH]
Why introduce these two pictures – the Deluge and the destruction of Sodom – in conjunction, while talking of the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom, which is to bless the world? The answer is that the Bible everywhere foretells that although Messiah’s Kingdom is the greatest provision of God, which will lift the curse and bring in blessings world‑wide, nevertheless it is to be established upon the wreck of our present institutions. And it is this wreck of social, financial, political and religious institutions of the present time that Jesus illustrated by the Deluge and the destruction of Sodom. And His own presence preceding this time of trouble is to be unseen to the world, unknown to the world, unsuspected, unbelieved, until the cataclysm of trouble precipitates with suddenness [as it did in World War One – JJH].
This is not a charming picture. We are glad that we may turn from it, and note the silver lining of the cloud, and the glorious blessings which will speedily follow the establishment of the Kingdom on the ruins of our human failures.
Emphasizing the suddenness with which the calamity will overtake the world, Jesus said that on the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained down fire and brimstone from heaven; and He declared that thus it will be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. The Greek text shows a difference between the Parousia, or presence, of Christ before the Time of Trouble and the later Epiphania, or revealing. [The Epiphania is the time in which we are living. Men are perplexed, their “hearts failing them for fear.” – JJH]
The description of the revealing of Christ is given in the words, He shall be revealed in flaming fire. (2 Thess. 1:7-8) Indeed, that time of trouble is frequently described in the Bible as a burning of the world – so much so that many creeds of Christendom express the thought that the earth is to be “burned.” They overlook the fact that the heavens are to be “burned” also.
In the symbolical usage of the Bible, the earth represents the social order of human affairs; the sea, the restless, discontented masses; the heavens, the ecclesiastical powers. St. Peter tells us that all these will pass away with a great confusion, and that instead will come the new heavens and the new earth which God has promised. (2 Pet. 3:10-13) The new heavens will be the new ecclesiastical society – the Church in glory, joint‑heirs with Christ in His Kingdom [also with the Worthies as the visible ruling powers – JJH]. The new earth will be the new social order which Messiah’s Kingdom will establish.
“Watchman [the present enlightened Lord’s people], what of the night?” (Isa. 21:11) It is our hope that we have clearly defined “the night,” as well as “the morning.” A proper understanding of the morning in Messiah’s Kingdom will minimize greatly the gloomy picture of the night. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psa. 30:5) Faithful believers recognize the trouble as the preparation, according to God’s Plan, for blessing the whole world. “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness [of sin and error]. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thess. 5:5-6)
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto, I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11)
(Reprint of No. 335 by John J. Hoefle, May, 1983, with minor editing.)