Upper Sandusky, Ohio, March 24, 1907


Pastor Russell preached to a large congregation here this afternoon in defense of the Bible, taking for his topic, "To Hell and Back." We report his evening discourse from the text, "And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way and others cut branches from the trees and spread them in the way. . . saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" Matt. 21:8, 9.

Today is the anniversary of our Lord's triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem on an ass, after the manner of the Jewish kings. It is celebrated by many Christian people as Palm Sunday, because, as our text recites, palm branches were spread before the ass on which our Savior rode, as a mark of honor and respect.

The narrative calls attention to this fact, stating that it was to fulfill the prophecies of centuries before that Israel's king would offer himself to them on an ass. Thus we read, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! shout O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." (Zech. 9:9) Our Lord had come from Galilee to Jerusalem to attend the great feast of the Passover, which He knew and foretold His disciples would be His last. His words on the subject were: "The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again" (Matt. 17:22, 23). Before Jerusalem He tarried over the Sabbath day at the home of Lazarus whom He had previously raised from the dead the brother of Martha and Mary. Their Sabbath ending at sundown, they had a special feast that evening, Jesus being the guest of honor, His disciples also participating.


Meantime, numerous people of Jerusalem had heard of His arrival. Their interest and curiosity were aroused because they had heard of the miracle of the awakening of Lazarus after he had been dead four days, and they had curiosity to see the man thus restored to life and the great Prophet or Teacher who had restored him. No wonder, then, that a considerable number came out to Bethany. The multitude caught the enthusiasm of the occasion, and without any suggestion from the Lord they began to acclaim Him, Hosanna! Hosanna! as we would say today, Hail! Hail! or Hurrah! Hurrah! They went forth, they declared their belief in Him as the Son of David the long-promised King of David's line, the Messiah who was to restore the kingdom of Israel and through Israel to bless all nations, as the representative of Jehovah. This is the signification of the words of our text.

What did this all mean? Why did Jesus thus present Himself as though He were the Jewish king? The answer of the scriptures is that this was in fulfillment of the prophecy that He came to the Jewish nation and proffered [HGL359] Himself as the Messiah and King long promised and waited for. Unless He had thus presented Himself there could have been no special rejection of Him as the king. The offer was necessary in order to show good faith on God's part, and to show the unreadiness of the Jewish nation for the blessing God had provided and promised. God's promise to Israel was that when Messiah should come they should be the specially favored nation, and that if they were ready and willing He would accept of them and help them as His people, in conquering the world, in establishing His law, and thus in blessing with a rule and reign of righteousness all the families of the earth. Now is the day of their visitation, as the scriptures declare, and in order to bring that to a climax the Lord made the formal presentation. The incident of our lesson shows that the people in general would have been quite ready to exercise faith.

On another occasion, some time before, we remember that Jesus perceived that the disposition of the multitudes would have been to take Him by force and make Him a king, but He withdrew and departed elsewhere. It must have appeared to the disciples on this first Palm Sunday that finally Jesus was about to allow the people to have their way and make Him a king, and that He would even assist in the arrangement.


Even amongst those who had come through interest and curiosity to Bethany were some of the religious leaders, who, sensing the enthusiasm of the multitude and hearing their cries of "Hosanna" to Messiah were greatly vexed and spoke to Jesus' disciples about it, that they shall call the attention of Jesus to the matter, that it was sacrilegious to call Him Messiah and to hail Him as a king. To the surprise of all Jesus declared that if the multitude should hold their peace the very stones would cry out, because the Prophet Zecharias, moved by the spirit of God, had prophesied long before (Zech. 9:9) respecting this very day and these very events which were transpiring, and had said, "Shout, O daughter of Zion, behold thy King cometh unto thee!" It was necessary, therefore, that a shout should be made proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah; it was necessary that some of the leaders of the people should hear that proclamation in order to increase their responsibility.

True, it was the unlearned who constituted this multitude, but Jesus Himself had testified that it was out of the mouths of such babes and sucklings is knowledge that God had ordained praise. With all their ignorance of the divine plan and of the law and the prophets, the masses were in better condition of heart to receive the Truth than were the leaders and teachers and doctors of divinity of the time. The latter had wandered far from the simplicity of the divine message through giving heed to the traditions of the ancients and various speculations of their own. It was these same representatives of the religious and ruling class who, noting the spirit of the multitude, deliberated together as to how they should put Jesus to death and Lazarus also. What could influence those educated and able and outwardly religious people to such a wrong course? We reply that they were influenced by a kind of loyalty and patriotism to sect, party, nation; they perceived that the growth of influence on the part of Jesus would mean the weakening of the institutions that they had labored to establish.

Over the hill and across the brook Kedron and through the gateway Jesus and His disciples and the cheering and proclaiming multitude passed, and the record is that the city was moved a great commotion was experienced throughout the city. The procession drew up to the Temple. Jesus alighted, and, backed by the crowd of people who recognized Him as the mighty Prophet Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee, who cleared the Temple of the money-changers and trades-men who were using as a place of merchandise the sacred building which had been consecrated to the worship and service of God alone. In doing this our Lord did only what every Jew was fully commissioned to do He was not a violater of the Jewish Law, but an upholder of it. It would be a different matter if He were living today, when the execution of the law is put into the hands of the officers, others not being permitted to participate.


It was on the occasion of this ride to Jerusalem and before they had entered the city that the procession stopped, and Jesus, looking over the sacred city, wept, saying, "O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall see Me no more until that day when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."

The test was past, the fact that a few of the populace had hailed Jesus He knew meant nothing; all knew that it signified nothing of accepting Him as the King, that the power really lay in the hands of the educated, wealthy, influential scribes, pharisees and doctors of divinity.

There was a blindness upon them as a people, they knew not because they were not in the right attitude of heart to rightly understand and appreciate and grasp the glorious promises God had given them; and our Lord's words intimate what the Apostle also confirms, namely, that the blindness was increased at this time. It was only to a few, a minority of that people, that the Lord said truly, "Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear." The great mass even of those who shouted Hosanna, were blind and deaf so far as any real understanding was concerned. But what is the signification of that word, "until" - "Ye shall not see Me more until that day." What day? Ah, there comes in a part of the scriptures designated the "mystery." The apostle explains that although Israel was there blinded and turned aside and rejected from God's favor, this rejection and blindness would not last forever, but would be set aside when another peculiar feature of God's plan had been accomplished. What other feature was there to be accomplished? The scriptures answer that God, foreknowing that Israel according to the flesh would not be ready or fit to be His Kingdom class, to constitute the bride class foreknowing that only a few, a remnant of them, would be fit for such a position, declared in advance the blinding and stumbling of the masses of the nation as a whole. St. Paul calls attention to this, referring to the [HGL360] Prophet Isaiah's words, "Though Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return." Isa. 10:22.


Our Lord and the apostles both pointed out that the few of the Jews of that time who accepted Jesus constituted the nucleus of the holy or spiritual Israel, which the Lord then began to accept. The apostle's words on the subject are, "He came to His own and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He liberty to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, begotten not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12, 13.) But as there were not enough of those Jews to constitute the elect, the foreordained number, the bride of Christ 144,000 the Lord instructed and guided beyond the boundaries of the Jewish nation, so that the message of His grace during this Gospel Age has been extended in every direction throughout the world, with a view to finding others amongst all nations, peoples, kindreds and tongues who will have the same spirit and disposition of loyalty and faithfulness that was manifested by Israel's remnant first selected. It has required all of this Gospel Age to seek out this Little Flock, to gather them out and the work is not yet completed, although we believe that very shortly it will be that very shortly the last member of the elect body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, will have been found, instructed and tested, and prepared for the marriage for the union with Christ in the first resurrection, according to the glorious promise of His word.

Meantime, as a remnant of Israel was gathered out of a large nation more or less in sympathy with them, so in the sending of the message to other nations multitudes were more or less attracted into more or less sympathy with the message and with those being selected. As a whole, however, this little flock had found its experiences the same as did that little company to whom Jesus ministered and to whom He said, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (John 15:18, 19)

As amongst the Lord's followers at that time there were not many very noble, great, wise, according to the course of this world, so it has been also with the class selected from other nations during this Gospel Age; the truth of God's message has not appealed to many of the worldly great or wise and not to many altogether.


Some of us perhaps were astonished when first we read the apostle's expression, "And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is my covenant with them when I shall take away their sins." (Rom. 11:26, 27) We were taught our theology not from the Bible, but from the creeds which were formulated in more or less of the smoke and darkness and confusion of the "dark ages;" we were taught that when the church had all been selected, elected, saved, then a besom of destruction would fall upon the earth and upon all the remainder of its population, and worse than this that they all would for all eternity be under the control and dominion of fire-proof demons who would torture them.

How different the apostle's statement which clearly is that, as soon as the gospel church shall have been completed, the Great Deliverer will come forth for the blessing first of Israel and subsequently of all nations. It is this same apostle who elsewhere explains to us the mystery, secret that this elect church of this gospel age, the overcomers of the Jewish nation and of all the nations, gathered by the Lord and called His jewels, are to be members of the Great Messiah, members of the Great Deliverer, members of the Great Prophet, Priest and King. In the figure our Lord and Redeemer is the Head of the church, which is His body, and all of His faithful ones faithful unto death shall be counted in as members of that spiritual ecclesia which, glorified in the first resurrection, will be like the Lord and, with Him, be sharing His glory as members of His body and under His headship, the Deliverer of the world.

It was to this same event that our Lord referred in the words already quoted, "Ye shall see me no more until that day." "That day" is the "day of Christ" the Millennial Day, in which the Messiah, Jesus the head and the church His body, shall constitute the royal priesthood, the prophet of the Lord, for the blessing and uplifting of Adam and all of his race, redeemed through the precious blood. The work of grace toward the world begins with Israel just where it left off. The nation to which our Lord declared, "Your house is left unto you desolate" - "until that day," the apostle explains is to be received back again into God's favor when that day shall come after the gathering out of the elect spiritual Israel in the interim. Mark how the apostle proceeds to point out to us that the future blessing to Israel is coming, not because of their worthiness, but because of God's grace and goodness, and in harmony with His promise to their fathers.


When our Lord at His second advent shall offer Himself as king to Israel and to the world, it will be under very different circumstances from those of the Palm Sunday we are considering. At that time it was His intention, in harmony with His foreknowledge, to permit the blindness to remain with Israel and to permit them in their blindness to crucify Messiah. The apostle explains this saying, "I wot that in ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." (Acts 3:17) It was a part of the divine plan that Christ should die for the sins of the whole world and that He should be crucified, "wounded in the house of His friends" by the very people to whom He was closest by ties of flesh, and through the precious promises of the law and the prophets. But at His second coming no such purposes are to be served. He comes to reign in power and great glory not, however, with an earthly glory, visible to the natural eye, but with a glory and dignity and honor similar to that which we give to the Father.

At His second advent, according to the scriptures, He will be revealed to the Jews, but not in the flesh, not to their natural vision. In the awful trouble of the "day of [HGL361] wrath," which in a few years will be upon the world, Israel will bear a serious share. It will not only be the time of the world's trouble, but, as described in the scriptures, "The time of Jacob's trouble," but "he shall be saved out of it." The Lord will reveal Himself in connection with that deliverance, so that the eyes of their understanding will open. The apostle intimates that the salvation which is to come to Israel is a salvation from their blindness, in which they have been for more than eighteen centuries unable to recognize Messiah. He assures us that their blindness shall be turned away- "all Israel shall be saved" from their blindness. "All the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped." Thus "Every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him" see Him as we see Him now, we whose eyes of understanding have been opened, we who are no longer blind.

Ah, yes! the opening of the eyes of the mind is a much more important work than the opening of natural eyes, and the seeing with the eyes of the understanding is much more valuable, much more precious, than any sight we could have with our natural eyes, and it is this seeing with the eyes of our understanding that is the great blessing of God that is coming to Israel and the whole world. They shall not see Jesus in the flesh because He will not be in the flesh. He took the flesh for a purpose, for the suffering of death, but He will take it no more. At His first advent they saw him in the flesh, but He then testified to them saying, "Yet a little while and the world seeth Me no more" (John 14:19) with the natural eye.


Our Lord declared to the Jews, "Ye shall see Me no more until that day when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." "That day" is surely coming. Prophesied for centuries, it has been on the way but cannot arrive until its "due time." It is the great day of Christ mentioned so frequently by the apostles and the prophets a thousand year day. It is the last day of which we read in the scriptures, the last of the week, the seventh. In divine providence there were to be seven great days, a week of seven thousand years, connected with the fall of man and his restoration to divine favor. The first of these days was the day of the fall Adam's day. Adam lived 930 years and did not quite live out his day, and died under the curse because of disobedience. For five successive great days of one thousand years each, Adam's posterity has since been battling with the conditions of the curse in themselves and in each other weaknesses mental, moral and physical. Born in sin, shapen in iniquity, some have plunged more rapidly than others downward, while others have striven a little to stem the tide of sin and death, but none have succeeded.

In due time, in the fifth day of this great week, Messiah appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He paid the penalty of father Adam, and thus redeemed him and all of his posterity; He waited through the remainder of that fifth day and all of the sixth gathering His elect, His bride, His joint-heirs for the kingdom, and in the close of the sixth day all things are ready for the establishment of the kingdom, which marks the beginning of the seventh "last day" of the great week the "day of Christ" the day in which Messiah, head and body will reign over the affairs and interests of mankind, supervising all their matters, causing all things to work together for good that all may come to a clear accurate knowledge of the truth, that all who will may be delivered from the bondage of corruption and restored during those "times of restitution" to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by the precious blood.

This day of Christ, in the early dawn of which we are already living, will be the great Palm Sunday, for a palm is a symbol of victory, and the record is that Messiah shall bring forth judgment unto victory. His day, therefore, will be a day of victory, a day of judgment, a day of disciplining the world, a day of correcting it in righteousness, a day of blessing the faithful and of punishing with stripes of correction the wayward, until at the close of His Millennial reign every member of our race shall have had full opportunity to return to harmony with God and to perfection of being. Some of us realize the situation in advance. Some of us already are strewing palm branches in the way of this glorious King of righteousness, so long promised and now about to take His sceptre and reign. Some of us delight to shout already that His kingdom is nearly at hand. Hosanna to Him that cometh in the name of the Lord! To Him whose kingdom is a righteous kingdom, in accord with the great principles of righteousness, and whose blessing is to extend to every creature for their uplift, and who ultimately will purify the world by destroying in the second death all who deliberately and willfully reject the grace and goodness of God manifested through the Messiah.

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