May 15, 1904 Republished from The St. Paul Enterprise, June, 12, 1917

(From the Pittsburgh Gazette, 1904.)

Portland, Ore., May 15 – Pastor Russell of Allegheny, Pa., spoke twice here today to large and attentive audiences. The afternoon topic was "The Oath-Bound Covenant," from Heb. 6:17-19. The evening text and discourse follow: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." – Psa. 30:5

"The night of weeping" mentioned in our text began with the disobedience of our first parents in Eden when they brought upon themselves – and in a general way upon all of their posterity then in Adam's loins – the death sentence because of sin. The dying processes which began there and which increasingly persist in our race are the fruit of the original sin, augmented by individual transgressions against the divine standard of righteousness. The result is woe, woe, woe – mental weakness, difficulties, troubles, moral deflections, bringing pain and sorrow to the individual as well as to his friends and neighbors, and physical weakness, disabilities, diseases – all culminating in the pronounced sentence, "The wages of sin is death."

Some one may perhaps say, all do not weep; some are very joyous, very hilarious, go to the theaters, go to the ball rooms, to various public entertainments. See what joy and happiness there is in the world. See how some know nothing about the weeping in the present time. Not so, we answer. God is teaching the world a great lesson respecting the "exceeding sinfulness of sin;" and while all may not receive the lesson in the same manner nor with the same celerity, nevertheless its weight is felt by every creature to some extent, sooner or later. The Apostle Paul truly wrote of the world, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together – waiting."

The most gay, the most hilarious, the most buoyant of spirit know something at least of this "groaning" which has come to all mankind. They resolve for the time at least they will not think of the sorrowful side. They would drown the sorrows in pleasure but cannot succeed. An aching heart and an aching body are frequently masked by a smile or by boisterous hilarity. There is mental, moral or physical difficulty in their families, in their households, in every individual, and the Scriptures well declare that "each heart knoweth its own bitterness."

It is perhaps well that we all learn to some extent to cover our sorrows and bitterness of heart, our disappointments in life, from the world. The poet has well said:

"Go bury thy sorrow, the world has its share; Go bury it deeply, go hide it with care. Go bury thy sorrow, let others be blest; Go, give them the sunshine; tell Jesus the rest."

Were it not for our constant contact with sorrow, trouble, death, to what extent might the fallen nature go? As it is, surrounded by death, surrounded by suffering, with sorrow and trouble impinging upon us at every turn in life, how absorbed the great mass of mankind are in the interests of the present life, how willing many of them are to sacrifice principle and every noble interest and instinct in their endeavors to acquire fame, etc. – even though continually reminded that these can be theirs at most and at best for but a few short months or years. Evidently the experiences permitted by the Lord to come upon mankind are, under present conditions, none too severe to give them the needed lesson – that sin bears an evil fruitage and must ultimately be destroyed if peace and joy and righteousness and divine favor and eternal life are to be properly granted to mankind.


Bible students will recognize the figure of night as one common to the Scriptures when describing matters and affairs in connection with "this present evil world" in which sin abounds, in which the "curse" or death-sentence rests upon humanity, in which the "prince of darkness" is the "prince of this world." [NS88] (John 14:30 All are familiar with the statement of the prophet that "darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people" (Isa. 9:2), which is tantamount to our Lord's expression that "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." (1 John 5:19)

Not only is this figure of darkness and night, trouble and weeping presented to our attention as the present lot of humanity in general, but the Lord's people, the consecrated, the saintly, are referred to as sharing with the world many of the experiences of this night time, yet as possessing something which in a measure offsets the darkness and gives them a measure of light – the divine favor and the divine revelation of the good purposes of God yet to be accomplished for the world of mankind. Thus the apostle, after speaking of the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain, mentions the church also, saying, "We ourselves also groan within ourselves – waiting," but not for the same things for which the world in general waits. Rom. 8:23 The prophet gives a pictorial suggestion of what it is that differentiates the condition of the church so largely from that of the world, saying, as the representative of the church prophetically, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, a lantern to my footsteps." (Psa. 119:105)

The Apostle Peter corroborates the Prophet David, saying of the church, "We have a more sure word of prophecy to which we do well that we take heed, as unto light which shineth in a dark place until the day dawn." (2 Pet. 1:19)

Our Lord corroborates the same thought, saying of Himself, of His own ministry, "The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:5) again He spoke in reference to His faithful followers of this Gospel age, the royal priesthood, saying, "No man should light a candle and put it under a bushel, but rather on a candlestick, that it may give light unto all that are in the house," and "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Here we have the same thought of the prevailing darkness – the darkness which hateth the light, which is in opposition to the divine will and arrangement – the darkness of sin and selfishness and meanness of the fallen human nature. How true are these scriptural declarations, these scriptural pictures, to the facts as we see them all around us today! How few in the highest, fullest, truest sense of the word are "children of the light," lovers of truth and righteousness and purity and goodness – devoted to these and opposed to everything that is unrighteous, impure and sinful. We see in fact all about us that the candle light and lamp lights which the saints are holding up in the world are powerless to overcome the great mass and density of darkness and of sin which oppose purity and absolute righteousness on every hand. The experiences of the past and of the present leave no room to hope that the Lord's people ever could completely dispel the darkness of sin, ignorance, prejudice, superstition, selfishness, etc., from the world. They could never bring about that glorious condition of things which the Lord taught us to hope for, namely, that God's will should be done on earth as it is done in heaven. This same thought is presented in all the pen pictures of the Scriptures portraying this subject; the density of the darkness is portrayed, the feebleness of our lights is shown in the illustration, and the hope held out is that God in His due time will dispel the darkness of the night by causing the "sun of righteousness to arise with healing in its beams."


Who is this sun of righteousness whose arising will scatter and dispel all the powers of darkness and vanquish them forever? What power is this that is likened to the sunlight in comparison to a light of a lamp or a tallow candle's feeble flicker? It is the Lord – the Messiah – the great King so long promised – the King of glory. But can we expect so much from the second coming of the "man Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all?" No! The man Christ Jesus gave Himself; His sacrifice was complete and forever! He is the man Jesus no longer. He is now the Lord of glory, not only far above man's plane and condition, but, as the Scriptures declare, "far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named."

As the man He suffered for our sins – "for the sins of the whole world."

He was made flesh, as the Scriptures tell us, for this purpose – "for the suffering of death – that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." Heb. 2:9 Having taken the human nature merely for that purpose, and having accomplished that purpose in His death on Calvary – having given Himself as the "man Christ Jesus," a ransom for our sins, He is now a New Creation, a New Creature, raised to this newness of life by the divine power in His resurrection. He is now the Lord of glory, "now the Lord is that spirit."

He, whose coming as Messiah the world awaits, is the one whose glory is pictured by John the Revelator as shining like the noonday sun. He is the same one who revealed Himself but a moment to Saul of Tarsus, who was blinded by the sight, which he describes as above the brightness of the sun at noonday. These are pictures of the Lord's present glory which the natural eye cannot see without a miracle such as was wrought for St. Paul. We do not wish to intimate that the Lord himself [NS89] will shine out to the whole world with a literal brightness such as Saul of Tarsus beheld. No. That is described as being a miracle. St. Paul says of it: "Last of all He was seen of me also as of one born before the time."

He was seen of the apostle as the church, born in resurrection power, will ultimately see Him, as the Apostle John explains – "We shall see Him as He is, for we shall be like Him." (1 John 3:2)

Because being like Him, spirit beings, sharers of His glory, the church will not suffer as did Saul of Tarsus when he saw the Lord before the time. In such a manner the world will never see the Lord – never see Him as He is. The promise so to see Him is only for the church. To the world it is said: "Yet a little while and the world seeth Me no more." (John 14:19)

Neither would it be to the advantage of the world to thus see the Lord, and to have their physical eyes injured, as were the eyes of Saul of Tarsus. As in the Scriptures referred to, that which constitutes the present time a night time is moral darkness, a darkness of ignorance, prejudice, sin and selfishness, so likewise correspondingly the light of the new dispensation does not mean a physical light, but a moral, intellectual, enlightening influence which will pervade the whole world and bring the light of knowledge and truth to every creature. That glorious morning now near at hand is the millennial morning of joy referred to in our text. Our Lord refers to its sun in Matt. 13:43, saying: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."


We have spoken of the Lord and His kingdom and the reign of righteousness which it will inaugurate as being the great sun of this new dispensation, but, blessed thought! Glorious anticipation! The Lord's faithful ones from Pentecost to the end of the age – the royal priesthood, the "bride" class, the "body" class, the "living stones" for the glorious temple – are to be "joint heirs" with the Lord of glory in this kingdom, and therefore to be parts of this "sun of righteousness," which is to bring enlightenment and blessing to mankind in general. No wonder the apostle speaks in ecstasies of such a hope as the "high calling," the "heavenly calling!" No wonder he exhorts us to "lay aside every weight and every besetting sin and to run with patience the race set before us," that we might attain unto such a glorious inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. (1 Pet. 1:4)

No wonder that he counted all earthly things but loss and dross that he might win Christ (win a place in the anointed, a membership in His body, in His bride, the glorified church), that he might be found in Him, that he might have a share in His resurrection to glory, honor, immortality, the divine nature. No wonder he rejoiced to count all other things unworthy of comparison, and was glad to suffer with Christ that he might also reign with Him. The same prospect, the same inducements, the same hopes, the same reasons for fidelity, belong to the elect even yet, and will be ours until the election is complete, the sufferings of Christ ended and the glories of the kingdom begun. The privilege of participation as integral members of the sun of righteousness that is to arise upon the world with healing in its beams is granted to those who in this Gospel age have been justified by faith and obedience and sanctified through the Spirit and tested and found faithful in letting their lights so shine before men as to glorify the Father. Our Lord was the first of these: His indeed was a great light in the darkness. The apostles were brilliant lamps, burning brightly and showing forth the praises of Him who hath called us from darkness into the marvelous light. The faithful all the way down have been light-bearers before the world, and it is in keeping with the divine character as well as the divine word that these should be honored in the future with the privilege of showing forth the divine glories in divine power and majesty when the due time shall come. The matter is so stated by our Lord in the parable of the wheat and tares. He pictures the wheat as the children of the kingdom and shows how the adversary sowed tares so as to almost swamp the wheat; how both were to grow together until the harvest time; how the harvest, in which we are now living, would be the time of separation, and how the wheat would all be gathered into the garner – into the heavenly state or condition. Then follows the forceful picture to which we refer – "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father; he that hath an ear let him hear."

The apostle presents the same thought under another figure to which we have already referred. After telling that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain during this night time, he intimates that they are waiting for something – they know not what. We know, because we have the lamp, God's Word; they are waiting for the kingdom, "for the manifestation of the sons of God" in kingdom power and glory. We, the church, on the contrary are waiting for adoption, for transference from present unfavorable conditions to the promised glorious conditions which the Father hath promised to them that love Him – "Now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be (how wonderful, how glorious, are the blessings the Father hath in reservation for us), but we know (and it is satisfactory to us, it satisfies every query) that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as [NS90] He is."

His manifestation will be in conjunction with the manifestation of all the sons of God, the enthroned royal priesthood, under Him their high priest, the captain of their salvation. But what of the morning of joy? Will it not be a morning of weeping and sorrow to all except the glorified church? Oh, no! Praise God! The promise is to the contrary – it is to be a morning of joy to all of the world of mankind. At present, under the prince of this world, the prince of darkness, they are blinded to the goodness of God and the glorious features of His character – some more grossly blinded than others. But with the morning of joy comes the binding of Satan, that he shall deceive the nations no more for the thousand years. (Rev. 20:2)

The pictures, though different, correspond. Christ, the prince of righteousness and truth, coming in power, beginning His foretold reign of blessing, means the restraint of Satan and his power, symbolized by the great chain and the bottomless pit. In the other picture, the sun of righteousness rising, the darkness of sin and ignorance and prejudice disappear proportionately; and, as these disappear, the sorrow and sighing, the mourning and the trouble causing them also to fade away, until ultimately, in the noontide of the millennial age, the true "knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth as the water covers the great deep" – not a vestige of darkness and superstition, ignorance or sin shall remain, and consequently, not a particle of sorrow or weeping or pain or trouble, which have endured throughout all the night of sin from the time of Father Adam to the close of this Gospel age. Mark how the Lord presents this matter and assures us of these results through the Prophet Isaiah, foretelling the glories of the Millennial kingdom in which the New Jerusalem government will be established among men, exercising its power through the earthly Jerusalem, speaking through its appointed ministers. He says: "Behold I create new heavens (spiritual ruling powers) and a new earth (society reorganized); and the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind in the sense of being longed for – the new heavens and new earth will be so vastly superior). But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create (in the new order of things); for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and joy in my people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, neither the voice of crying. There shall be no more thenceforth an infant of days, neither an old man who hath not filled his days; for one dying an hundred years old will be as a child – a sinner an hundred years old he shall be accursed (sentenced to death)." Isa. 65:17-20 The purport of this is that under the new condition of things that propagation of species will cease and none will die except for wilful sin, and not even then without having a full, fair opportunity with corrections and chastisements, and this for an hundred years. The one thus cut off as a sinner because found wilfully disobedient to the laws of the kingdom after an hundred years of disciplinary testing, will be but an infant, but a child – but, obedient to the laws of the kingdom, he might live at least until the close of the millennial period – until the great searching of hearts which will take place at the dose of the millennial day, to demonstrate those not only outwardly, but at heart loyal to God and the principle of righteousness which he represents .We are not informed as to the proportion of the ones who will stand this final testing, but are assured that it will be a general trial or test that will come upon the people that dwell upon the face of the whole earth. It will fully and thoroughly demonstrate those loyal to the Lord and those willing to obey and those who are disobedient. The latter class shall be completely destroyed, that the former may all be received into the eternal fate of blessedness following the millennium.


The Lord describes the millennial blessedness again through the same prophet in somewhat similar language. The entire 35th chapter describes the millennial kingdom conditions and closes with the words, "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

"The man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time," so we know who are meant by "the ransomed of the Lord" – all men. In what way will they return? Let the Apostle Peter answer us: He says "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Jehovah), and He shall send Jesus Christ, whom the heavens must retain until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began."

This returning mentioned by the apostle – returning to the former estate. The whole world, that has fallen into sin and death, sorrow and trouble, during this night, is to have the glorious opportunity in the morning of returning to God, to harmony with Him, and to all the blessings of God that were lost through father Adam's disobedience, through the fall, through the curse, the sentence of death. Mark the Lord's word again through the same prophet, referring to the same glorious time of blessing in the morning, recorded in Isa. 25:8. Here the [NS91] kingdom of God is not symbolized by a city, neither by the sun of righteousness, but by a mountain – the usual figure or symbol throughout the Scriptures representing the strong foundations of government in the world. The Lord through Prophet Daniel foretells that a little stone, the church, now being taken out of the mountains of earth without hands, shall in due time be used of God in smiting Satan and the kingdoms of darkness which he has established in the world through his blinded votaries. After telling about the smiting, the prophet foretells that the stone is to "become a great mountain (kingdom), and fill the whole earth."

Daniel explains that this mountain represents the kingdom of God – the kingdom for which we pray, Thy kingdom come, that Thy will may be done on earth as in heaven. Dan. 2:35, 44 We quote the prophecy of Isaiah already referred to: "In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy (swallow up, put away) in this mountain the covering of face (the shame) that is over all peoples, and the veil (ignorance, superstition, etc.) that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory (forever), and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of His people shall He take away from off all the earth. Jehovah hath spoken it." – Isa. 25:6-8

Our Lord, in the great revelation He sent to His church after He had ascended upon high, reiterates this promise of the coming morning in which He, as the Son of Righteousness, will dispel the noxious vapors of ignorance and prejudice, and all the darkness of sin and trouble, and the curse, which is upon the world. The special declaration is that "There shall be no more curse" – God's special sentence against sin and sinners will be entirely removed. The ground for this was laid in the great sacrifice which our Lord gave – which He finished on Calvary. This intervening time is granted as an opportunity for the selection of a little flock from amongst men to constitute the bride, the lamb's wife – a little flock, who, under the inspiration of the divine message and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, will develop the character likeness of God's dear Son (Rom. 8:29).

These are granted the privilege of filling up of being associated with our Lord in the sufferings of this present time – their little sacrifices, not worthy to be mentioned, and of no value of themselves, are counted in with the great atonement sacrifice of Christ, and the lifting of the curse, the application of the great atonement to the world in its blessing, waits until these shall have been selected. Thus seen, the groaning creation is waiting for the shining forth, in kingdom glory and power, not only of the great Son of God, our Lord, but also of those sons of God whom He is "not ashamed to call His brethren," and that are to be participators with Him in the glories that shall be revealed, and in the dispensing of the blessings that shall lift the curse and bless all the families of the earth. Note the reference to these matters in our Lord's promise that in the new heavens and the new earth conditions, when the New Jerusalem shall have come down from God, and the kingdom has been established amongst men, God will thus through His appointed way establish His kingdom, and through His appointed sons of glory, God will wipe away all tears from off every face, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things shall then have passed away. Death shall thus have been swallowed up in victory, a blessed opportunity coming to every member of the race, a blessing which will be made perpetual, eternal, to all those who will receive it upon the Lord's terms of obedience – all others being cut off from all life in the second death. It is the great privilege of the Lord's faithful ones to anticipate the joys of the "morning" – by faith in and obedience to their Lord and His word. Even in this "night" of sorrow and weeping, when the whole creation is groaning, these have a hope that is an anchor to their souls, sure and steadfast;" and they have the "lamp" of the divine word upon their pathway which enables them to rejoice in tribulation and brings them peace that passeth all understanding while pressing toward the mark for the great prize. Verily "Songs in the night He giveth."

Only a little while to spread the truth abroad, Only a little while to testify for God, Only a little while, the time is fleeting fast, Only a little while, earth's sorrows all are past.


June26, 1904 Republished from The St. Paul Enterprise, June 5, 1917

All that are of the Truth will Love the Truth; Contrariwise – the Truth will be Repellant to All who have not its Spirit

(From Pittsburgh Gazette, 1904.)

Philadelphia, June 26. – Pastor C. T. Russell of Allegheny, Pa., addressed large audiences twice here today. His afternoon topic was, "God's Oathbound Covenant With Abraham and What Its Fulfillment Will Mean to All Nations."

The evening discourse was from the text, "For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thess. 2:11, 12. In full it was as follows: The Scriptures everywhere emphasize the truth – that the divine revelation, in its purity and simplicity, is the power of God by which he is, at the present time, appealing to those who have an ear to hear and the desire of heart for righteousness. But to suppose, as most people would be inclined to interpret, that by our text the apostle meant to say that all who do not receive the truth in its purity and simplicity would on that account be damned to an eternity of torture, would be to greatly misunderstand the apostle's meaning and the entire spirit of the gospel. Such an understanding of our text would not only imply the torture of the heathen, who have no knowledge of the divine truth, but would include also the great majority of Christian people whose perceptions of truth are surely rather vague and largely mixed with errors and traditions of men which have come down from the Dark Ages. Our Presbyterian friends have one view of the truth, recognizing an election according to divine favor and through a knowledge of the truth. Our Methodist friends hold a different view and deny all election, holding that, as God is no respecter of persons, the Presbyterian or Calvinistic view must be in error. Roman Catholics declare that, election or no election, God's only provision for salvation is through their church and its apostolic succession of authority. Our Episcopalian friends agree with much that the Romanists say on this subject, but hold that the Romanists have departed from the purity of the faith, and that the Episcopalians have the only pure and proper line of apostolic succession and are, therefore, the only proper church of the Lord, membership in which is essential to salvation. Our friends of the Disciple denomination call out that all the foregoing friends are in serious error, that the proper thing is "baptism for the remission of sins," and that unless they get their sins remitted by an immersion in water their views of election, free grace, church relationship and apostolic succession are all in vain – "Ye are yet in your sins" and subject to the penalty of sin – which they say is eternal torment. Our Baptist friends call aloud that they agree to a considerable extent with the pronouncements of the Disciple denomination, except that they do not understand that baptism is for the remission of sins – that, to their understanding, sins are remitted merely upon the exercise of obedience, of faith in the great redemptive work of Christ. But, say they, after your sins have been forgiven in order to be saved you need to become members of the Church of Christ, and the only door into the Church of Christ is the door of baptism – immersion; whoever, therefore, comes not through this door is not a member of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and cannot participate in its salvation – is consequently lost – damned. Now, dear friends, let us imagine a sincere seeker after truth listening to all this babel of confusion, this strife of tongues. We can only imagine him saying in bewilderment with Pilate of old: "What is truth?" With truth so mixed with error and confusion as to cause perplexity to the great mass of the most intelligent and advanced Christians, and then to understand our text to mean that whoever does not believe the pure truth will be damned to an eternity of torture, is to suppose something too unreasonable to discuss. It must be evident to every one of you that there is something about our text which is not generally understood.


The most prominent difficulty, which we take up first, is this word damned. That word, as at present used, totally misrepresents the apostle's meaning. The revised translation is preferable here; it uses the word [NS93] "condemned" instead of the word "damned."

The fault, however, is not to be charged entirely to mistranslation, but rather to a gradual change in the English language. In olden times the word "damned" did not necessarily and uniformly carry with it the thought of demons and pitchforks, flames and eternal torment, but rather the thought of condemnation. Take an illustration of this outside the Scriptures: Shakespeare causes one of his characters to make the remark that another "was damned with faint praise. His meaning is evident to all – that it is possible to speak words of praise and commendation in such a manner as to imply condemnation instead of an approval. This is the thought which should be attached to the word "damned" where. ever it is found in the Scriptures. It signifies that the person or thing or class referred to has had some measure of trial, and has not passed it successfully and has been condemned. Nor should we have the thought either that condemned signifies utter loss, for it has not such significance. We do indeed speak of a man being condemned to the gallows for a crime, but the thought of condemnation attaches with equal force to every member of a class at school who on examination fails to pass it. Those who pass at all, either with first honors or lower ones, are all approved as fit for the next step of education, but those who fail to pass are all condemned as unfit, as disapproved in connection with the matter for which they were examined. Another point to be noticed particularly in the examination of our text is that it has no reference whatever to the world of mankind in general. When it says "that they all might be damned" – condemned – it is not referring in any sense of the word to a condemnation of the world, but solely to a class in the church that in the end of this age shall fail to pass the divine inspection, fail to graduate, fail to attain the class honors of Christ's millennial kingdom to which the whole church of this present time has been called. We have on previous occasions called attention to the fact that this Gospel age is not the world's day of judgment or trial, but the church's day of discipline and testing. We have also called attention to the fact that the Scriptures are written not to the world, but to the church – to those who have heard the voice of the Lord, and, hearing, have left the world to become the Lord's people. Convince yourselves of the truthfulness of our statement by examining the opening paragraph of each of the epistles. They are addressed to the saints, to the faithful, to the believers, and not in any sense to the world. And these epistles do not discuss the politics or interests or matters of the world, but simply and solely the interests of the church, of the saints, of the consecrated believers, of the household of faith. It is true, however, that the apostles recognized the fact that a great falling away was to occur in the church, by which the standards of truth and righteousness would be greatly lowered and Christian ideals greatly disturbed; and that, while outwardly the numbers of professors would greatly increase, the "saints" still would be the small minority, still the "little flock."


The context shows that in the words of our text the apostle had reference to a sifting out which would occur in the end of this Gospel Age, a separating of the true church, the saints, from the general mass of merely nominal professors who draw nigh to the Lord with their lips, while their hearts are far from Him – those who have a form of godliness, but in their lives show that they have not its power, have not its spirit. The apostle, in verses 13-17, makes clear that he was not accusing the Thessalonian Church of needing such a drastic sifting and separating process. He recognized that its members were begotten of the truth and sanctified by the truth, were being polished and prepared for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ – the kingdom. In the preceding context he has shown that the great falling away was hindered for a time, but would ultimately prevail, as had been declared through the prophets. We, from our standpoint of today, can see how thoroughly his prediction was fulfilled – what a dreadful falling away the church of Christ had into ignorance and superstition – under the deceptions of the adversary, whose work our Lord referred to in His parable of the wheat and the tares. "An enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat" – false doctrines producing false or imitation Christians and generally swarming and confusing the interests of the true wheat. In the parable the Lord declares that the wheat and the tares should grow together in the general nominal church system, elsewhere called Babylon or confusion, because of its mixture of truth and error, wheat and tares – until the end of this age, and then He would cause the separation to take place and would gather the wheat into the garner of the kingdom and condemn tares to be burned, that the entire field might be cleansed and made ready for a new sowing of the pure seed. In our text the apostle has in mind this very harvesting process, by which the wheat and the tares are to be separated in the end of this age. Our Lord declares that the tares shall be bound in bundles, and that the wheat shall be separated from these bundles and be gathered together into His garner. Our text shows that the sickle which will reap the harvest of [NS94] this age will be the sick of truth; and the same picture of the same great event is given us by our Lord in the symbolical book of Revelation, when, picturing our time, He says: "I looked, and behold a white cloud, and on the cloud I saw one sitting like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hands a sharp sickle. And another messenger came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, "Send forth the sick and reap, for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat upon the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped." Rev. 14:14-16

This sickle of truth, dear friends, the Lord is now thrusting here, there, everywhere, for the purpose of gathering, not the tares, but the wheat. All that are of the truth will love the truth, will be attracted to it; contrary-wise the truth will be repellant to all who have not its spirit. Thus the Lord is fulfilling His prediction through the prophet, "Gather My saints together unto Me, saith the Lord those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." – "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up My jewels." Psa. 50:5; Mal. 3:17


But there are two sides to the question; there is not only a gathering of the jewels or in the other figure the reaping of the wheat, by the sickle of truth, but, contrary-wise, there is another work to be progressing simultaneously among the tares. And here I must pause to say that to my understanding there are a great many fine, noble people among the tares who have neither part nor lot with the wheat, because they are not of the same nature, not begotten of the truth, not adopted into the family, not members of the elect class. The tares are begotten of error – false doctrine. They are not entirely to be blamed for this, nor are they to have any eternal torment as a consequence of it. The adversary, using human instrumentalities, has sent forth a perverted gospel in the name of the Lord, has sowed tare seed in the Lord's wheat field. He has declared the Lord our God a great tyrant, who has prepared an eternity of torture for all who will not become identified with His cause in this present time. Under these misapprehensions of fact thousands upon thousands, millions, have given a nominal assent to Christ and made profession of loyalty to Him which they have never really meant. They have become sham wheat, imitation wheat, tares; they have become professors who draw nigh with their lips while their hearts are far from the Lord. They are not entirely to blame for this, neither are they to profit by it. The fact that they have been making false professions as a result of false doctrines received does not make them fit for, neither entitles them to a place in, the kingdom class. The Lord has not hindered them from associating with His saints, nor has He hindered them from using the name and claiming that they are members of His church, but all the while the apostle's words have been true, "The Lord knoweth them that are His," and He equally well, all the while, has known them who were not His, who were merely deceived tares. The tares have received a certain amount of advantage from their attempt to imitate the wheat. It has made some of them more respectable than they otherwise would have been, and thus they have had full compensation for any self-denials which their tare conditions have involved. The Lord, who knoweth His own, might indeed choose them out without in any sense of the word making them manifest to the world and distinguishing thus between the wheat and the tares, but His plan is otherwise. In the harvest of this age the separating shall be effected and be manifested to all, to the intent that all may thereafter profit by the lesson – to all eternity.


When the apostle in our text declares that God shall send them strong delusions that they may believe a lie, that they all may be damned, He is speaking of this tare class, the imitation wheat class, and of the means which the Lord will use to separate them from His true ones in this harvest time. The statement, "He shall send," in so far as it would imply God's active cooperation in evil doing, would give the wrong thought, for the Scriptures, everywhere declare that His work is perfect, that there is no unrighteousness in Him. Hence this part of our text must be understood as signifying that the Lord at this time will be willing that strong delusions should come upon the nominal church for the purpose of testing, sifting, separating the wheat from the tares. So far as we are able to understand from the Scriptures, the great adversary is ever and always the agent in the propagation of evil – active to the extent that divine providence permits His activity, as is implied in the prayer which our Lord taught us, saying: "Abandon us not to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Only as we are delivered from the machinations and deceptions of the evil one can we hope to stand at all against the "wiles of the devil ," of whose devices, as the apostle says, we are not ignorant. But the Lord is willing to deliver the righteous, and to some extent, in their interest, has spared also the tare class throughout this gospel age, and allowed both to grow together until the harvest time. Now, however, in the harvest time, the order of [NS95] divine procedure will be changed to suit the circumstances; the wheat, the saints, will be specially protected, specially cared for, while the tares, the nominal Christians, will be exposed to the baneful influences of error. The apostle's thought here is much in line with his statement respecting God's procedure with the world in general in ancient times, as he mentions the same in Rom. 1:24-26, 28-32. He here declares God also "give them up" because they "changed the truth of God into a lie."

"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind."

This, we may be sure, would be the uniform procedure of our Heavenly Father, of whom the apostle declares, "God tempteth no man."

He merely abandons to the tempter, or to the evil – preferred course, those who choose the wrong way. As He gave over the world of mankind in general, as shown in the discourse in Romans, so in the harvest of this age, as shown in our text, the Lord will give over or abandon to temptation all in the nominal church in our time, and will give His special aid and special attention only to those who are at heart loyal to Him. In various Scriptures the Lord intimates that He is represented by His word, His doctrine, and our text is one of these instances. Those who love the Lord surely will love the truth, His message, will love it in its simplicity, will desire it in its purity, will be ready to lay down their lives for the truth. Those who love not the truth, but prefer error, thereby show that they are not of the particular class whom the Lord is now seeking out – that they are not begotten again of the spirit of the truth. Note the terseness of the apostle's statement: "They received not the love of the truth that they might be saved."

The intimation is that even if these had gone so far as to get the truth itself abstractly, if they did not love it, if it was not to them the most precious thing in the world, they would be counted unworthy to retain it, if it was not the most precious thing in the world, they would be counted unworthy to retain it in this harvest time and would be deprived of it. "For this cause, God shall send them strong delusions" – to take the truth entirely from them – that as they preferred the error they might have the error – might believe a lie, untruth. The object is stated, that they all might be condemned – that all professing Christians thus preferring error to the truth, taking pleasure in the error and not in the truth, might be manifested as not being Christians at all, but merely imitations – not wheat at all, but merely tares.


We see then that the lesson of our text and various parables of our Lord respecting the end of this age, as well as many other testimonies by the apostles, all indicate that the end of this Gospel age will witness such a shaking among Christian peoples as has never before been known. It will differ from other shakings, too. The persecutions of the church in bygone times may properly enough be considered as shaking and siftings, but the siftings with which this age will close will be the most momentous of any the church has ever known. Our Lord, speaking of it, says, "If it were possible even the elect would be deceived," but this will not be possible because the Lord will uphold them, will shield them, will guide them through His providences, through His word, through His servants. These will have an ear for the truth, and will hear the message and will recognize the Master saying of the lapping time by which the present age will merge into the Millennial age: "Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand in that evil day." Eph. 6:13 This is the shaking time mentioned by the apostle in Heb. 12:26-28. He is discussing the events connected with the close of the Gospel age, declares that now the voice of the Lord, the voice of the truth on every subject, shall shake the whole earth – society in it's every department. And not only so, but it shall shake the heavens, the spiritual institutions of this present time – that everything unsound, untrue, imperfect, unstable, may be utterly, completely removed, to the intent that the unshakable things, the verities, may remain. The apostle points out that that true church, sifted and separated from all false professors, will constitute this kingdom of God, which will thereafter under the headship of Christ, the great King, dominate the whole world, bringing blessings to every creature and glorious opportunities for righteousness and general uplift to the image and likeness of God. The same shaking time, we recall, is referred to prophetically in the ninety-first psalm, where a suggestion is given as of the wide difference between the whole number of those professing to be the Lord's people and those who are His real friends – between the nominal and real church, for the prophet declares: "A thousand shall fall at Thy side, ten thousand at Thy right hand."

A thousand to one shows a large discrepancy between professed followers of Christ and those who are truly His and who shall never fall, but unto whom shall be administered an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1:11


Some of these strong delusions are here now, and the Lord's true people ought to be able to discern [NS96] them. In calling attention to these be it noted that we shall not on this occasion depart from our usual custom of making no personal attacks – of speaking evil of no man. It is necessary, however, that we call attention to the errors, and part of our object is to shield, to assist, to protect from these delusions those who may at heart be loyal to the Lord. By the Lord's grace we have been permitted to assist some such, and we thankfully await further privileges and opportunities at His hand. We note spiritism as one of the prominent deceptions of our day, one that already has wrecked the faith of many, and that, we believe, is destined to sift out many more. Spiritism flourishes because of the errors which prevail among Christian people. Were the latter not blinded by these errors, spiritism would be powerless to do them injury. One of these errors is that Christian people of nearly all denominations have accepted heathen philosophies instead of and in contradiction to the word of God on the subject of man's conditions in death; human philosophy says that the dead are more alive than they ever were previously; the Bible declares, "The dead know not anything," and that their hope is in a resurrection from death at the second coming of our Lord; And if there be no resurrection from the dead our hope is vain, Christian faith is vain, and all that have fallen asleep in Christ are perished. Eccl. 9:5; 1 Cor. 15:14-18. The Bible points us for hope to the Lord Jesus and His declaration that He has the keys of death and of the grave – that is, that He has the power to call forth the dead and that in due time He will exercise this power. (Rev. 1:18)

The Bible gives us the Master's own words, saying: "Marvel not; for the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth." John 5:28-29 The Bible's testimonies from first to last are consistent, harmonious. It starts out with the declaration of Adam's perfection, life and harmony with God in His image and likeness; it talks of his disobedience and his fall thereby under the sentence of death – the loss of all life – it points us to Jesus as the One who bought the world by giving His life in exchange for that of Adam, through whom all lost life. It tells us that as a result of this redemption Jesus has become the life-giver to the world, and that none can obtain life except through vital union with Him, "He that hath the Son, hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life."

Thus Jesus is God's appointed channel by which the world may obtain reconciliation, restitution, life everlasting, or, refusing it at His hand, their portion will be the second death, without hope of recovery. In accord with this is our Master's word, "I am the resurrection and the life."


Our text speaks of a class who loves lies – who prefer the untruth. And so scores have indicated to us their preference for the untruth rather than the truth on this subject. They admit that all the circumstances and conditions seem to favor the scriptural statement that the dead are really dead – that the dead know not anything – and that their only hope will be the resurrection; but, say they, we prefer to believe it otherwise – we prefer to think of them as being more alive then ever, etc. We answer, you must take your choice; if you love the untruth better than you do the truth, it evidences the fact that you are not begotten of the spirit of the truth. Such mark themselves as the very class whom the apostle refers to in our text, saying: "They received not the love of the truth" "for this cause God shall send them strong delusions that they should believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" – untruth. To these already prejudiced in favor of the untruth, already preferring to believe the contrary of what the Scriptures teach, to these strong delusions have come, and others are still coming. The great adversary, Satan, with his associated company, spirit beings, fallen angels, is ready to help these to prove the error which they wish to have proven. Their communications are through mediums who have "familiar spirits."

The spirits personate the dead, speak for them, describe scenes and incidents and give names. They sometimes tell secrets, supposed to be known only to the dead and to the one seeking communication. More and more they are obtaining power to materialize, to take forms resembling those of humanity, resembling those whom they personate, whether old or young. Thus those who love the lie rather than the truth have "strong delusions" which becomes to them almost irresistible. Already careless of the divine message, and willing rather to have their own way than the Lord's word, they become less and less interested in the Scriptures and more and more interested in spiritism. Their faith in the Lord wanes more and more, until under this delusion, they gradually come to reject the scriptural teachings entirely, especially as respects the atonement, the point attacked by all errors – the citadel of Christian faith. Faith in the atonement of Jesus having gone, all of the Christianity that was previously possessed is gone. That person has fallen, that person is no longer one of the Lord's people, because those who deny the ransom of Christ deny the very hub, the very center of the divine plan. Their confidence in Christ is gone; He is no longer their Savior and they are no longer His [NS97] people.


Another of these delusions of our day, gradually creeping over the whole Christian profession, is the doctrine of evolution, which usually goes hand in hand with higher criticism, which is but another name for the infidelity, disbelief in the Bible as the Word of God. This delusion is sweeping from their feet thousands and hundreds of thousands who could not be touched or in any wise influenced by spiritism, because of a different mental caliber and makeup. This strong delusion has already swept from their standing in Christ many of the ablest professing Christians in the pulpits and in the pews, and this wave of infidelity garbed in Christianity, this strong delusion of Satan draped in a garment of light to deceive, is rolling rapidly over the entire Christian world. Well may we ask with the apostle, "Who shall be able to stand" – "in this evil day." Eph. 6:13 Look again at our text, note how faithfully the apostle is pointing out the difficulty of these evolutionists and "higher critics."

They received not the truth in the love of it; they neglect the Word of God, they preferred science, "falsely so called;" they preferred Platonic philosophy, with its teachings that the dead are alive, and that some of them are in glory and others in torment everlasting. They reject the scriptural teaching respecting the nature of man, his fall, his penalty, his redemption and his coming restitution through a thousand-year resurrection by judgements. They leaned rather to their own understanding and preferences. What they wanted to believe of these subjects led to much wrestling of the Scriptures, and finally, disgusted with their own twisted conceptions of the book, it has led them to a repudiation of it in every sense of the word except in name. They still select their texts from the book, though they generally preach far enough away from the context, and indeed many of them would use the book no more were it not that it still has an influence upon the "common people," who are slower to accept their higher critical and evolutionary theories, but who, nevertheless, are useful in making up a crowd as well as in the taking up of a collection. These evolutionists and "higher critics" do not believe in the fall of man from the image of God into sin and its penalty, death – they could not so believe and be evolutionists, etc. Consequently they do not believe in a redemption from the fall, for how could man be redeemed from a fall if he never had a fall?

Consequently they do not believe in Jesus as a Redeemer. Consequently they do not believe Him at all, in the scriptural sense of the term; for it is as Redeemer that the Scriptures set forth our Lord as an object for our faith – that Christ died for our sins and that He rose again for our justification – that as by a man (Adam) came sin and death, by a man (Christ) should come redemption, righteousness and life everlasting to as many as would receive the favor properly. Not being believers in Jesus, as the world's Redeemer who bought us with His precious blood, these evolutionists and higher critics are not in any sense of the word Christians, according to the scriptural definition of that term, no matter how moral and exemplary or well educated or noble they may be. We are not saying, for all this, that they are eternally lost or that they will have an eternity of torture or anything of the sort. God forbid. We are merely pointing out that these are under the influence of one of these strong delusions of the end of the age, which is manifesting them to be separate and apart from the church of Christ. They are in danger of falling from faith, for they have already fallen from the faith "once delivered to the saints."

The mighty wave of this "strong delusion" is sweeping more and more rapidly over the whole professing church of Christ, and it comes mainly from its pulpits, from those who are trusted and supported as shepherds by a too confiding flock, who, instead should give more earnest heed to the things which they have heard from the divine word itself and less and less attention to the "traditions of the elders." Mark 7:3, 8, 9


It is the same with Spiritualists – only, as a rule, spiritism deals with a less intelligent class, though two of the royal families of Europe are claimed to be under its spell. At first it is merely the amusement, the entertainment of communicating with dead friends, that attracts; but later a spirit of self-conceit would spring up to congratulate yourself that God and the holy spirits passed by those who seem to be greater and nobler and purer, and deigned to speak to you and communicate with you. The spirit of pride thus engendered is called "Spiritual uplift."

Subsequently, if you are of a conscientious turn and really inclined to morality, there will be revelations and communications purporting to come from Christ, and you will be instructed to pray, and certain trivial matters will be held up to you as woeful crimes. But the whole tendency will be toward immorality, sensuality, darkness. Progressing, you will find yourselves deceived by messages that will come to you. You will be led into temptation, possibly into sin, immorality; and if then your heart hungers for righteousness and you seek to escape, the next [NS98] operation of these demons personating the dead would be to assure you that you have already lost all opportunity for return to the Lord, that you had committed the unpardonable sin, etc., and might just as well give up all attempts to return to holiness, purity, etc. It is commendable to the instincts of many that, although believing a lie and preferring it to the truth, they nevertheless instinctively dread spiritism, and realize that in some sense of the word it is demonism, though the particulars they do not understand because they have neglected the study of the Word of God. In conclusion, dear friends, let us not be too sure that none of us are in danger in respect to these strong delusions which are to make so thorough a sifting and separating of wheat from tares in this, the harvest of the Gospel age. Let us heed the prophetic words of the apostle when he said: "Take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand in that evil day."

Let us study the word more carefully than ever, and not only let us study it, but let us also apply it to ourselves. As the apostle intimates, let us put on the whole armor – the helmet of salvation, an intellectual covering, a knowledge of the divine plan; also the breastplate of righteousness, an appreciation of the covering that is provided in and through the merit of our dear Redeemer's sacrifice; let us take the shield of faith, full confidence in the wisdom and power of our God and full trust in His word; let us take the sword of the spirit, too, the word of God. Let us learn how to use the word of God skillfully for our own defense, for defense against error, for the defense of all those who shall come in line of our influence; and let us put on finally the sandals, the gentleness, the patience, which are the preparations which the gospel gives for our work through life as valiant representatives of the Lord and His truth, beset by all the trials and difficulties of the narrow way in which we follow our Master.

July 15, 1904 Republished from The St. Paul Enterprise, July 17, 1917


The Words of Our Master: "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." John 3:7

(From Pittsburgh Gazette, 1904.)

The crowded condition of the Bible House chapel yesterday made it extremely warm notwithstanding the good ventilation. There is some talk of other arrangements for those Sundays on which Pastor Russell is at home. The Pastor said: We choose for our text today the words of our Master, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." (John 3:7)

Our Lord addressed these words to Nicodemus, a ruler of Israel, who was above the average in piety, and was considerably impressed with what he had heard respecting the Lord's teachings. He desired a personal interview, but being prominent he came at night, that the common people might not be encouraged thereby and that the ecclesiastical leaders might not be offended. Similarly there are people today hindered, as was Nicodemus, by their station, education, reputation, etc., from taking a stand for the truth. Their riches and reputation are hindrances to them. How hardly shall they that have riches and who love the honor of men be able to adjust themselves to the conditions imposed by the Lord's dealings in this present time! Their worldly wisdom and prudence are their stumbling blocks. It is not our thought, however, to specially discuss Nicodemus. We want to understand our Lord's meaning of our text. It must be as true today as it was at the time of the utterance, and you and I and all of the Lord's people, and all who desire to become the Lord's people, are as vitally interested in the Master's terms as Nicodemus could possibly be. Years ago our Methodist friends had almost a monopoly on this term "born again," the expression being considerably avoided by Christians of other creeds. However, all the creeds of Christendom acknowledge the necessity for regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and this is the same thought that is conveyed by the words "born again."

But while the necessity for regeneration is thus acknowledged, we note with deep regret that the doctrine is generally ignored in all the pulpits of [NS99] Christendom – neither the words nor the thought of regeneration as necessary to acceptance with the Lord, are kept before the people – not even the Methodist brethren continue to make prominent the doctrine under their favorite term, "born again."

Why is this the case? We are sure that none will claim that the Gospel has in any wise changed within the last 50 years, however much the appreciation of it has changed. If acceptance with God in our Lord's time and 50 years ago was only upon the terms of regeneration of heart, and if no change in the Gospel has since occurred, this doctrine should be as precious and as important as it ever was in the eyes of the Lord's people. Why has it dropped out of sight?


The reason is that Christian people have been doing more thinking of late than they did formerly – they have been using their reason more, and their faith is more logical than it once was even though it be less scriptural. They reason that if only those who are born again are to secure eternal life – if only those regenerated by the Holy Spirit and who bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, are to be saved from an eternity of torture – then will not only the entire heathen world but almost the entire bulk of Christendom be lost, eternally lost. Their love for their neighbors and friends and general sympathy for the heathen and for all mankind, backed by a certain amount of timidity on their own account, lead them to prefer not to believe this doctrine not to believe the Master's words, "Ye must be born again."

They prefer to believe almost everything outside of the most positive devilishness will eventually pass muster and secure eternal life and glory. They prefer this thought on their own account as well as generously on behalf of friends and neighbors. True, these friends would not openly deny the Master's words. Even secretly, even in their own hearts, they do not like to deny the words of Him who spake as never man spake. But from preference they pass by these and others of the Master's testimonies respecting discipleship and its requirements of crossbearing, etc., and prefer to think upon other statements of Scripture which do not so particularly mark the narrowness of the way and the fewness of those who find it. They encourage themselves to think that they are becoming broader minded and larger hearted, and that somehow or other there must be some mistake in the matter, for they are certainly not more generous of heart than was the Master Himself. Here we see the mixture of truth and error and how it confuses. It is surely true that none of the Lord's people are more generous-hearted than the Master Himself – "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

But the statements respecting the narrowness of the way and the necessity of being born again to enter the kingdom are equally true. How, then, can the seeming inconsistency be harmonized? How could the Lord eternally torment all except those who walk in His footsteps in the narrow way – the comparatively small number even amongst Christians who have been "begotten again" by the Holy Spirit? There is just the difficulty in the minds of the majority of the Lord's people; the unscriptural theory that eternal torment is the wages of sin confuses their judgment upon this subject as upon almost every other religious topic. We must first learn to take the Lord at His Word, and when He tells us that the wages of sin is death we must not wrest and pervert the Scripture and delude ourselves into thinking that death means life, and then that it means torment, flames, devils, pitchforks, etc. After we see that the wages of sin is death, that "the soul that sinneth it shall die," we are relieved of one great difficulty that stood in our path. From this standpoint we can see that if only a few were ever born again, if the great majority of mankind lost all and suffered the extreme divine penalty against sinners, it would mean not their torture, but their everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord – and the glory of His power – the second death, without hope of a recovery, resurrection, etc.


If, additionally, another difficulty be removed from our minds, it will help us still further. This second difficulty is the misimpression which has gone abroad amongst Christian people that the divine plan of salvation will be finished at the second coming of our Lord. The scriptural teaching is the very reverse of this, namely, that only a special class – the little flock, the body of Christ, the heirs of the kingdom, the Bride, the spiritual class – are now being selected. The Scriptures teach that the second coming of our Lord and the association of His church with Himself in the kingdom, power and authority and rule, will begin the great blessing of the world of mankind, of the masses, "every creature."

How many Scriptures we could quote in support of this if time permitted! We content ourselves with reminding you of the Apostle Peter's words respecting the matter: "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord and He shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached unto you: Whom the heavens must receive (retain) until the times of restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:19-21)

Take another scripture on the subject from [NS100] the Apostle Paul's writings. He declares: "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now – waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God" – the glorified church of which Christ is the Head, the kingdom of God's dear Son, who is to bless the whole world with knowledge and assistance and restrain Satan and every evil influence. Whoever will study his Bible from this standpoint will gain the light necessary to a full appreciation of our Master's words in our text. Such as do this will see clearly that the special class which the Lord is selecting from amongst the world during this Gospel Age must all be born again in order to be members of the kingdom – they must all be born of the Spirit because, as the Master explains in our context: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," and "Flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."

Hence those who would constitute the kingdom of heaven class must be born of the Spirit – must become spirit beings by regeneration.


The birth of the spirit will usher the church of Christ, by the first resurrection, into the spirit condition. In other words, the birth of the spirit is the resurrection. We quite agree with our Methodist brethren of olden times that this expression, "Ye must be born again," has to do with the Lord's people in the present life as well as in the resurrection – that the new life to which we will then be born fully and completely has its beginning in the present life when we are begotten of the holy Spirit or regenerated, as many of the creeds express the matter. There is no conflict between us on this point, but we call attention to two facts which, rightly appreciated, throw great light upon this subject.

(1) A birth may be said to have a beginning and a completion: the beginning is the begetting, the end is the birth, the interim is the period of gestation and quickening, form development, making ready for the birth. No child is ever born that was not first begotten.

(2) This transaction of birth, which begins at begetting and culminates at the birth, in the Greek language, in which the New Testament Scriptures were written, has but one word to represent both the begetting and the birth. Take your Greek Testament or your Greek-English Concordance and you can readily prove to yourself what I say. You will find that the Greek word "gennao" is sometimes translated beget or begat and sometimes born – about an equal number of times each way – once it is rendered "conceived" (Matt. 1:20), and likewise once rendered "delivered" (John 16:21).

The translators of our common version seemed not to have been sufficiently critical in dealing with this word, and in numerous instances have translated it born when they should have translated it begotten; in numerous other instances they have rendered the word begotten when they should have rendered it born. The difficulty arises in transferring the thought from the one language to the other. Whenever the word "gennao" is used figuratively respecting the beginning of the work of grace in the heart it should be translated begotten or begetting; and whenever it refers to the completion of this work of grace, in the resurrection, it should be rendered birth or born. We are begotten of the Spirit in the present life with a view to our birth of the Spirit in the resurrection. Hold this thought respecting the meaning of the word "gennao" while we investigate further the significance of our text, Ye must be born again."

Remember that the preaching of our Lord and the apostles in the end of the Jewish age was "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you."

The Jews had been waiting for the coming of Messiah and His establishment of the kingdom for many centuries. Their expectations were based upon God's promise to Abraham, confirmed with an oath. Messiah must come through the Jewish nation. These were settled facts. When, therefore, Nicodemus and others of his time heard of Jesus and the claim that He was the Messiah, and when they knew something of His wonderful teachings and works, queries were awakened in their minds as to whether or not these things were true, and it was to investigate this matter that Nicodemus visited Jesus on this occasion. He recognized Jesus as an inspired teacher, and yet everything connected with His claim of Messiahship seemed so unreasonable, so unlikely, that he could not think of becoming His disciple unless the matter were more clearly demonstrated to his mind. The conversation was probably much longer than narrated in the Gospel, which gives merely the pith of our Lord's discourse. Nicodemus was perplexed as to how God's kingdom could come without earthly riches, without soldiers, etc., to break the power of the Roman yoke and to master the world. Our Lord gave him an entirely new thought when He told him that the kingdom of heaven would be so different from what he was expecting. He told him plainly that "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God;" the kingdom of God will be a spiritual one, and all who will be members of it will be spirit beings, as invisible to mankind as are the angels at the present time. The Apostle Paul emphasizes this matter further, saying, "Flesh and blood cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

We who expect to enter the [NS101] kingdom must be all "changed." – 1 Cor. 15:51.


Nicodemus had never heard of a spiritual kingdom. He was looking entirely for an earthly one, and hence inquired how a man could ever be born again of his mother after he was old – failing totally to realize our Lord's meaning. Answering him the Lord pressed the subject further, explaining that begetting and birth of the flesh produced a fleshly being, while begetting and birth of the spirit would produce a spirit being. (Verse 6.) Nicodemus was slow to grasp the thought and our Lord proceeded to give an explanation of His teaching. Still Nicodemus could not comprehend the thought of a spirit being; to him it seemed as though an invisible spirit being would be nothing. Our Lord then gave an illustration of the matter, which we paraphrase and elaborate in line with His words, thus: The wind bloweth where it pleases; you cannot see it, but you can hear the sound of it. You can note its power as it slams a door or uproots a tree, but because it is invisible and intangible you can neither tell whence it came nor whither it goes. So is every one that is born of the Spirit. All those constituting members of the glorified kingdom class will be spirit beings. "born of the Spirit," invisible as the wind. They can go and come, and mankind cannot know whence they come nor whither they go. They will be present among men with full power, full control, but invisible to men. This, Nicodemus, will be the character of the kingdom of God, so different from what you have expected. This is the kingdom which I am now announcing, and if you and the nation of Israel would be a member of it, marvel not that I say unto you, ye must be born again to become spirit beings; and in order to be thus born again in the resurrection you must be begotten again now; for none will ever be born of the Spirit who is not first begotten of the Spirit.


In harmony with the foregoing, note the fact that our Lord was declared to be in His resurrection "The first-born among many brethren," and "the first-born from among the dead."

His brethren, the church class, the little flock of this Gospel Age, will all be born in His spirit-likeness in the first resurrection, as it is written, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Rev. 20:6)

Our Lord's resurrection is referred to three other times as a birth from the dead, but our common version has beclouded the thought by giving the word begotten instead of born. These instances are in Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5. These are quotations from the Psalms, and that they refer to our Lord's resurrection is evident from the apostle's explanation in Acts 13:33. Our Lord was begotten of the holy Spirit at the time of His baptism, and the new spirit creature there begotten was born at His resurrection. Likewise His followers are begotten at the time of their full consecration, and if the new creature prospers the time of "quickening," of activity in the Lord's service, even in this mortal body, will be discernable; and if the growth in grace and knowledge and love – in the divine likeness, continue the result will surely be in each case a birth of the spirit – to the new nature, in the "first resurrection," described by the apostle, saying: "It is sown in dishonor; 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. 15:43-45 If now we have the matter clearly before our minds, let each make a little personal inquiry of himself.

(1) Have I heard of the grace of God in providing through the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of my sins and for the sins of the whole world? Have I believed this and accepted the divine favor? Are my sins forgiven? Am I thus justified by faith before God?

(2) Have I heard the great Gospel message that divine favor is yet to reach every creature through Him who loved us and bought us with His precious blood? Have I heard of God's purpose to gather from among mankind a company of holy ones, who love righteousness and hate iniquity, and who are glad to follow in the footsteps of their Redeemer in sacrificing earthly interest that that they may become participators with Him of the heavenly nature and its inheritance, the kingdom?

(3) Have I heard that this selection of a class began with the Jews, and include from that nation all who are Israelites indeed; and that these not being enough, according to the divine arrangement, the opportunity to come into this kingdom class and be joint heirs in it has been extended to so many from amongst the Gentiles as might have the hearing ear and the obedient heart? Has this invitation come to me and have I heard in the sense of accepting the same?

(4) Do I now understand from the Master's explanation of the subject that all who will be sharers with Him in the Kingdom must be, like Him, sharers of the "divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4) and spirit beings, and that in order to be a spirit being and to participate in that resurrection to spirit nature I must now be begotten of the holy Spirit, and must then be chastened and developed and fitted for the spirit conditions? [NS102]

(5) Have I accepted the conditions? Have I consecrated my justified self wholly and unreservedly to the Lord for time and for eternity – including all that I possess of time, talent, influence, everything?

(6) If I have thus done, if I have received a begetting of the Spirit, if I can, therefore, count myself a new creature in Christ Jesus, to whom "all things have become new," am I living to the extent of my ability even in the present life in accord with the new mind, the new nature? Am I thus developing it at the expense of my old nature? Am I thus making my calling and election sure?

(7) Have I before my mind the hopes and ambitions which the Lord enjoined upon His faithful through the apostle, saying: "Set your affections on things above and not on things of the earth," "for your citizenship is in heaven."

Am I living for the flesh, or am I living for the spirit? Am I ignoring the interests of the spiritual existence which, if faithful, I shall enter upon in the resurrection birth, or am I neglecting these and in danger of becoming a castaway so far as this great kingdom privilege is concerned, in my endeavor to grasp the transitory things of this present life, which are not worthy to be compared with the glorious things which the Lord has in reservation for them that love Him?


In what we have said, and, indeed, throughout the New Testament, the regeneration of the church is the topic, because this Gospel Age is chiefly intended for the development of the little flock, the bride class, the kingdom class. Nevertheless, the Scriptures point out that those of the world who would attain eternal life in the next age must pass through experiences somewhat like those through which the church is now passing; in other words, the world must be born again or regenerated – not, however, to spirit nature, as in the case of the church, but regenerated to human nature. When the apostles asked the Lord what they should have as a reward for their loyalty to Him He answered: "Ye that have followed me in the regeneration shall sit upon 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel." (Matt. 19:28)

In other words, those who now follow the Lord through evil report and through good report in "the narrow way," those who are now begotten to the spirit nature will by and by be born of the spirit and be exalted to share with the Lord in the throne of the world, and this will take place "in the regeneration" – in the time when the regeneration of the world will be the great matter in hand, the great and all-absorbing work of the thousand years of Christ's millennial kingdom. O Lord, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven."

Regeneration signifies to generate again – to give life a second time. Father Adam was the first life-giver or generator of our race. What life we have enjoyed came to us in God's providence in a natural way through Adam as our father or generator. But by reason of sin Father Adam failed to give us everlasting life, hence we have of him only the dying and imperfect conditions of the present time. Our Lord Jesus became man that He might redeem Father Adam and his family and his estate. He bought the whole with His own precious blood. Our Lord Jesus, is, therefore, by a divine arrangement, the owner, the Master of the world. So far His purchased possession is practically untouched, unrecovered. In the divine plan only a special class has yet been reached – a mere fragment of the whole. Thousands of millions of the race are still in the great prison-house of death, and He who bought them has the right to bring them forth from the tomb, to make known to them the terms upon which they may have eternal life and to render them such assistance as they may need in returning to the perfection of human nature lost in Eden by the first disobedience. Thus we see that what Adam, the first father of the race, attempted to do and failed of doing, Christ as the second Adam or Father of the race proposes to accomplish – for so many as will profit by their experiences in sin and death, for as many as will accept eternal life upon divine conditions clearly understood and made thoroughly possible to them. It is in harmony with this that the prophet declares that our Lord Jesus eventually shall be called not only "the Prince of Peace," but also "the Everlasting Father" – the Father who gives eternal life. Thus the whole world of mankind, except those who will be destroyed in the second death, will eventually become children of Christ by regeneration, by rebirth – not born of the Spirit to a spirit nature, but a return or restitution to perfect human nature – to all that was lost, with a superb amount of knowledge and blessing superadded. While the saved, the regenerated of the world, will be properly classed as the children of Christ, the church of this Gospel Age is not so classed. We are not begotten of the Spirit by our Lord Jesus, but by the Heavenly Father; and so we are told that we shall be children of our Father in heaven; and so the apostle again declares: "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath begotten us."

And so our Lord Himself recognized the matter, saying to His followers: "I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." – John 20:17.

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