“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” (1 Thess. 5:1-5)
The common tendency of the human mind is expressed by St. Peter, who prophesied what the worldly would be saying in the present time: “Where is the promise of his coming [presence] . . . all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Pet. 3:4) Ignorance of God’s Plan is to be expected of the world, but the true people of God have the promise of His special instruction so that they need not be in darkness about the Divine Program. Our world for six thousand years has been the battlefield between the forces of light and darkness, truth and error, righteousness and sin; the Prince of Darkness, otherwise styled the “Prince of this world,” has led his forces in person. He has controlled the masses and is still controlling them.
The Prince of Light is represented in a feeble way by ambassadors who are especially cautioned by Him that they must not use carnal weapons nor carnal methods, but must in meekness correct those who oppose them. They must be subject to “the powers that be” to the extent that their consciences will permit, and so far as possible live peaceably with all men. (Rom. 12:18) This experience of subjection to the powers of evil has been a hard lesson, difficult to learn. It has been a trial of faith as well as of endurance, the value of which has been difficult sometimes to appreciate. But these ambassadors must walk by faith and not by sight if they are to please the Captain of their salvation. For centuries the prayer has gone up to God from their hearts, “How long, O Lord!” Reason assures them that it cannot be the Divine purpose to forever permit the victory of sin and death. (Rev. 6:10)
God presents Himself as a great Husbandman, a farmer, a grower of crops. Each age is a “season” that bears its own crop. Each age has its own time for the plowing of the field, the sowing of the good seed, and the harvest work. Bible students note the work accomplished in the age that ended with the Flood, the different work accomplished during the Patriarchal Age, and the still different work accomplished during the Jewish Age, which lasted from the death of Jacob, and particularly from the giving of the Law, until the death of Jesus.
Our Lord’s ministry of three and a half years was a harvest time to the Jewish people in the close of their age of favor, or “day of visitation.” He said to His disciples, “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” (John 4:38) The plowing and sowing connected with the Jewish Dispensation was in the far past. The Egyptian bondage served to do a plowing work, as also Israel’s escape from that bondage and the forty years of wandering in the wilderness before they reached Canaan. The giving of the Law and the establishment of them as a people, the lessons of their sacrifices, and the exhortation of their Prophets, all constituted a seed-sowing, harrowing and cultivating experience. In the end of their age Jesus gathered the ripe fruitage of that experience – those sanctified thereby and developed in character and obedience to God.
The crop gathered by our Lord and the Apostles in the Jewish harvest numbered in the thousands. These were gathered out of Judaism and from under the Law Covenant into Christianity – gathered under a covenant applying only to the Church, the Body of Christ. This covenant, under which they became associated with Messiah, reads: “Gather my saints [holy ones] together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Psa. 50:5) All coming thus into relationship with God as members of the Body of Messiah came by way of the cross – through a recognition of their own imperfection, and of Jesus and His sacrifice as the satisfaction for their sins, a covering for their blemishes, by which alone their sacrifices were rendered holy and acceptable to God. (Rom. 12:1)
The reaping work of the Jewish Age merged into the sowing work of the Gospel Age as the invitation to become joint-sacrificers with Jesus was extended beyond the Jews to all having hearing ears. Now in turn we have arrived at the harvest of this Gospel Age – the reaping time, the time of gathering into the garner – beyond the veil – by the power of the First Resurrection.
The Lord declares, “None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” (Dan. 12:10) The declaration of our text, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness,” implies either that the brethren are very few or that a considerable number of them have not yet become sufficiently awake to discern the times and seasons in which we are living. Many of the brethren, many of the world and many of the “wicked” do realize we are living in strange times and under peculiar conditions. These try to persuade themselves, however, that what we see today is merely a recurrence of what has repeated itself time and again during the past centuries. Thus they lull themselves, saying, “Peace and safety!”
This attitude is what the Scriptures foretold: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” It is only “ye, brethren” who are privileged to have the clearer light respecting present and future conditions. We know that we are in the Harvest time of this age – the reckoning time, the testing time, the time when the “wheat” is being gathered into the Heavenly garner, the time when the field is being cleared of all “tares” in a fiery trouble, the time when the plowshare of trouble runs through the world of mankind to prepare the whole world for the New Dispensation about to begin. Illustrating the Divine methods and the rapid following of events in the Divine Program, the Lord through the Prophet tells us, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper.” (Amos 9:13)
So accurately timed is every feature of the Divine Plan that part fits to part and work to work closely. The Gospel Age Harvest is the gathered fruitage of this Gospel Age – “the Church of the First-borns, whose names are written in Heaven” – those who have made a covenant with God by sacrifice. The Head of the saintly Messiah is Jesus. The members of the Body of this Messiah have been gathered from every nation, first from the Jews and then from all nations. God’s call and selection of saintly sacrificers in this Gospel Age has ignored all sectarian, all denominational, all national lines; “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” (2 Tim. 2:19) The winds of violence that have been loosed (beginning with the World War in its two phases) started the terrific storm. These winds were held back until the sealing of God’s servants in their foreheads had been accomplished. (Rev. 7:1-3)
This sealing in the forehead implies an intellectual appreciation of Heavenly things, and is intimately associated with the Harvest work – the sealed are the ripe wheat gathered for the Heavenly garner. As soon as the sealing work was accomplished, the winds of strife and trouble were let loose according to the Master’s declaration, and the result is a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” Nor shall there ever be the like again. (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21) The awful lessons which will thereby be learned by humanity will be sufficient for all time.
The strife, the hatred, the malevolence, the anarchy of this day of trouble are depicted in various places in the Word of God. (Rev. 7:1-3; Matt. 24:21; Psa. 46:8-10) The trouble time is indeed declared to be a time of Divine wrath, and we must not lose sight of that feature of it. Divine Justice has indignation against inequity and selfishness in general, for selfishness is but another name for sin. All sin is selfish, and all selfishness is sin. The captains of industry, the captains of education, and captains of wealth have today greater opportunities and therefore greater responsibilities than the kings of the earth for their dealings with their fellowmen. Similarly, there are leaders of the people, presidents and secretaries of unions, etc., who are also captains, and who also have great responsibility.
All perceive that the world of humanity is rapidly nearing a crisis. The almost miraculous opening of the eyes of understanding which God has recently granted has brought to the world inventions and processes which are making the world rich with amazing speed. Although these blessings are to a considerable extent reaching the masses of mankind and uplifting all to a higher plane of comfort, nevertheless general education has opened the eyes of human understanding correspondingly.
“The common people” are looking with amazement at the luxury of the rich as the barbarians of old looked upon the much lesser splendors of Rome. They are covetous, they are hungry for what they term their “share” of the bounties being dispensed by Providence with so lavish a hand. Even if the vast increase of wealth through machinery, chemistry, etc., were to be evenly distributed we doubt if it would satisfy them.
THE DIVINE PLAN IS THE SOLUTION
There seem to be two possible solutions: (1) To convert all of the wealthy into saints, whose pleasure it would be to administer the flood of wealth now rolling in upon them for the general blessing of mankind, along the most benevolent lines imaginable; or (2) To convert into saints the masses of mankind and to imbue them with Heavenly hopes and prospects that they would not particularly care for earthly good things nor crave them, but rather rejoice to be “the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom.” (Jas. 2:5)
We cannot believe that either solution can be accomplished; hence we must believe what the Bible teaches – that an awful conflict is about to be precipitated between these two classes because neither one nor the other can be fully converted to the Lord’s way. How glad we are that the Bible shows that the culmination of the conflict will bring everlasting peace – a just, loving, equitable and satisfactory adjustment of earth’s affairs, under Messiah’s glorious Reign of a thousand years!
Some may ask if these same difficulties would not beset any new government which Messiah or others might institute. Will not the element of selfishness forever persist in the human heart, and will not this imply that to all eternity there will be a conflict of selfish interests? No – the Divine Plan solves the problem perfectly. Jesus has demonstrated His unselfishness by laying down His life. He proved not only His loyalty to righteousness and to the Father’s will, but also His love. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
This Friend of humanity is to be the great King of the world in the New Dispensation, and His associates in the Kingdom, the Bride class, are to be such only as have His spirit and disposition of obedience to the Father’s will – self-sacrifice and love for fellowman – unselfish love. Under present conditions these may not always be known, nor their true character and unselfishness be discerned, because they have the treasure in “earthen vessels,” which do not always fully present their true benevolence of heart. (2 Cor. 4:7) The Divine provision is that those who have demonstrated their unselfishness of heart and loyalty to the Lord are to be given new bodies in the resurrection: “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44)
The Bride, in association with the Redeemer, will constitute the Kingdom class which is to rule the world for a thousand years under the Headship of Jesus. Surely we can trust them, we can have confidence in them. The fact that God has elected them and is pleased to give them rule over the world for a thousand years testifies beyond a doubt their worthiness and capability.
That government will not be a republic, but a monarchy, a theocracy, a Divine Kingdom. Christ and His Bride will be the King and Queen of the New Dispensation, supplanting Satan and the fallen angels, who for centuries have been in control. The Kingdom of God will be invisible just as the kingdom of darkness has been and it will operate through human agencies, just as Satan’s kingdom has. Its human agents have been provided in the Divine Plan; the Scriptures inform us that the worthy ones of the Jewish Dispensation and before, will be the “princes in all the earth” who will represent Messiah’s Kingdom among men. (Psa. 45:16) They will be perfect men, made so by participation in the “resurrection of life.”
How grand the prospect! The Time of Trouble, although it will be awful, will be short, as typed in the terrible trouble which came upon the Jewish nation following the harvest work of their age. Then will come the leveling process, which in the Divine order will prove to be a blessing to everybody. In other words, the socialists and anarchists are not so far from a correct conception of what must ultimately prevail, but they are far astray respecting the methods by which it will be obtained. Their attempt to grasp the rudder of the world’s affairs shows an utter lack of appreciation of the mighty influences with which they seek to contend. Their efforts will merely precipitate upon themselves and upon others the terrible trouble which the Scriptures foretell.
God’s people are distinctly warned that they must keep hands off, must not interfere with the powers that be; their reliance must be upon the Lord, and not in the use of carnal weapons. St. James, writing on this subject, declares the coming trouble and tells that it will be especially severe upon the rich. (Jas. 5:1-7) No doubt the troubles will be equally upon the poor; but to them they will seem less severe since they have been accustomed to less.
The message to God’s people is this: “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (Jas. 5:8) “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord.” (Zeph. 3:8) “Seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3) Herein is safety sure.
(From Pastor Russell’s Sermons, pages 184-191. Edited for clarity and length.)
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TIME OF TROUBLE
“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted . . . Your gold and silver is cankered . . . Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth . . . Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton . . .” (Jas. 5:1-6)
Question: Can you explain the first six verses of the fifth chapter of James?
Answer: This is a prophecy relating to “the last days” (Jas. 5:3) and is contrary to the expectations of many Christian people who are anticipating the world’s conversion to Christianity before the second coming of the Lord. This is a clear-cut statement of the Apostle describing the conditions that would exist in the last times. Had he been living in these times he could not have described the situation of affairs in the world more accurately or concisely. Is it not true that treasures have been heaped together? . . . Are not the “rich men” living in pleasure; and are they not “wanton” (extravagant – luxurious) in their ways of living? (Jas. 5:5) Expensive palaces, yachts, automobiles, jewels, balls, banquets, and various forms of amusements are aggravating the poor and the unemployed to such an extent that they are crying out; and these “cries” (Jas. 5:4) have swelled into a mighty volume and find expression throughout all the public press. Do not all intelligent people know that the vast accumulation of wealth has been brought about mainly by “fraud?” (Jas. 5:4) It is the farming class, “the labourers who have reaped down your fields,” that are the real wealth producers of the world, and these are the ones who have been defrauded the most by the political and financial frauds of the times. Pity the poor rich (Jas. 5:1) in the coming “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Dan. 12:1), for theirs will be a season of special sorrow and anguish of mind when all the accumulated wealth will become valueless. (Jas. 5:2-3)
Question: What is meant by the Scriptures which declare that in the last days there would be a fearful time of trouble? (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21-22) Has this any reference to the industrial and social crisis that is now developing throughout the world?
Answer: There have been seasons of severe trouble and destruction at various times in the history of the race, such as the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, when about a million and a quarter of Jews were slain, and the French Revolution, when vast numbers were slaughtered by the mobs and by the troops – a reign of terror indeed – but the “time of trouble” in the end of this age (not the end of the world for “the earth abideth forever” – Eccl. 1:4) is represented as being more dreadful than any preceding experience, in the sense that it will be world-wide and not a local disturbance as were the previous seasons of destruction. (See Rev. 16:14; Luke 21:25; Zeph. 3:8-9) The Scriptures clearly indicate in what way the trouble will be developed, after the nations, kingdoms and governments have become associated together, forming a general community of interests, such as we see existing now, when all are brought together by financial, political, and social ties, treaties and alliances. It will be an industrial and social conflict that will involve all classes and be terrible when the climax is reached. The battle lines are already sharply drawn. Organized capital on the one hand and organized labor on the other are the two forces arrayed against each other in deadly conflict. The Apostle James writes almost like a socialist in describing some of the phases of the impending struggle. (Jas. 5:1-5) After the “trouble” is over conditions will be established on a new basis, and an era of peace and prosperity be ushered in. (Hag. 2:7)
Question: Of what practical advantage is a knowledge of the truth of God’s character and plan of salvation, to one in time of trouble, disappointment, sorrow, etc.?
Answer: The knowledge of God, the Creator, that He is wise and just, loving and all powerful, and that He is our loving Heavenly Father, one that we can draw nigh unto with confidence and trust in every time of need, through the merits of the Anointed Savior, is a wonderful source of comfort and consolation, and is of far more practical benefit than all that earthly wealth or fame could possibly bestow. After all, real advantage or benefit is that which brings peace and happiness to the heart. Those who have the consciousness that they are the children of the Most High God, and that He loves them, and is over-ruling all of the affairs of life to their interest and welfare as spiritual children – ah, these have that inward peace and joy and happiness, that not all the storms, and trials and afflictions of life can mar or take away. The knowledge of the plan of the ages, brings unspeakable joy to those who thus know what God has in reservation for those who love Him; and not only for these, the Church of Christ, but also for all the families of the earth – the world of mankind. In view of the high exaltation to glory, honor, and immortality at the right hand of the Majesty on high, promised to the Lord’s faithful people, how trifling and insignificant must seem the trials and hardships of life! And thus the Apostle Paul expresses the matter saying, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. 4:17)
(What Pastor Russell Said, pages 848-849)
Love is that tender solicitude and affection with which anything commanding admiration and respect is regarded. That which is not lovely never can be loved in the true sense of the word. A degenerate nature may desire and find a morbid satisfaction in that which is unlovely, but that is not love. Love wherever found is a gleam of the Divine likeness, and is spontaneously awakened by the presence of that which is noble and pure and good. This wonderful principle binds in holiest and most delightful union and harmony all intelligent beings controlled by it. God is the most glorious exhibition of its nobility and grandeur. It is the law of His being, and shall ultimately be the controlling law of all His universe.
One may inquire, if only that which commands admiration and respect can be truly loved, how could God love sinners and tell us to do the same? We reply that God never loved sinners as such; He loved the jewel He first brought into perfect being because it was truly lovely. When it lost its excellence and glory through temptation, His love for its perfection caused Him to pity it in its fall. Although His justice condemned it; it was His love that devised the wondrous plan for its recovery.
Note the attitude of God towards those whom He so loved as to give His only begotten Son to redeem. For six thousand years He has permitted their adversary to have dominion over them: Famine and pestilence have stalked abroad; hatred and strife, and war and bloodshed, have filled the earth with untold agony and woe, until the grave closed over generation after generation. God still stands off, and the king of terror still reigns. When the long promised Deliverer comes, it is to rule with a rod of iron – to dash in pieces as a potter’s vessel the kingdoms of earth, which from the human standpoint seem necessary for protection against greater evils. In fear and dismay men look upon God as an enemy, and seek to hide from His presence. Yet, “God is love.”
The love of God is currently veiled, but soon it will be revealed in the glorious restoration to the perfection and bliss of Eden: “And the ransomed of the Lord [all mankind] shall return, and come to Zion [the Church in Kingdom power] with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa. 35:10) God’s love is often veiled by His wisdom.
True love will seek to shield and protect, but will also justly judge a fault and strive to eradicate it. True love will expose the fault and let the light shine on it, that it may be removed, allowing grace and beauty to take its place. A very false notion of love prevails among the majority of Christian people, and under this false notion our adversary endeavors to shield some of the most dangerous and deadly errors that sap the very foundations of the Christian’s hope. Anyone wielding “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph. 6:17) against a deadly error presented to God’s children by the adversary is said to be uncharitable, loveless.
This is by no means so! Jesus was full of the love of God, but He spoke out most emphatically against evil-doers: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” (Matt. 23:13, 24) He also did not refrain from rebuking His own disciples, as when He said to erring Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan [adversary]: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt. 16:23)
Paul was a noble pattern of his Master’s spirit in his zeal for the Truth and his care for fellow members of the Church. His usual manner toward all, like that of Jesus, was kind, generous and affectionate, but Paul did not hide the Truth, shield error, or fail to warn an erring brother or the flock of God against the encroachments of the enemy. If he had so done, as an unfaithful steward he would have lost his stewardship.
Though Peter was a noble soldier of the cross and fellow servant in the Lord, Paul “withstood him to the face” when on one occasion he “dissembled” or acted in a two-faced manner in dealing with Jews and Gentiles. (Gal. 2:11-13) Evidently the rebuke was accepted in the spirit of meekness; note the sympathy and love existing between the two. (2 Pet. 3:15) On another occasion, Paul faithfully warned the Church against many who had become “the enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Phil. 3:18)
To the objection, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” we reply: Exercising human judgment in condemning others is wrong; but applying the judgment of God as expressed in His Word is right. We are in fact commanded to do so, and the various descriptions of evil deeds, false teachings and seducing doctrines, are given that we may judge, “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
It is therefore the duty of every child of God to judge what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false. We are cautioned against judging by standards other than the Word of God – condemning by our own or any other human authority. That Paul judged according to God’s Word and taught the Church to do the same is very clear. (1 Cor. 5:3; Gal. 2:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Cor. 6:2-3) Note also Paul’s prayer: “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” (Phil. 1:9)
In 1 Corinthians Chapter 4, we see that Paul’s faithful efforts to build up and establish the Church in purity of doctrine and life were often misunderstood and unappreciated. This is very apparent from his statement: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.” (1 Cor. 4:3-4) Speaking of his labor and suffering for them, he went on to say: “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.” (1 Cor. 4:14)
Jesus said: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) Paul says: “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Rom. 12:9)
Dearly beloved, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Rom. 12:10) “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:2)
(Reprint 663. Edited for clarity and length.)
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