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The Church's Hope--The World's Hope


The Church's Hope--The World's Hope

By Pastor Russell, of Brooklyn and London Tabernacles and New York Temple

"That by two immutable things (His Word and His Oath), in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the Hope set before us; which Hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil."-- Hebrews 6:18,19.

THERE is but one Hope set before the Church, says the Apostle in our text--the Hope presented in the Gospel of Christ. It is very important, then, that as Christians we understand what Hope is. Once we had such confused ideas respecting our Heavenly Father and His glorious Plan that we could not understand what constituted our Hope. Many supposed it was a Hope set before a few and a threat set before everybody else--the threat of endless torment. How we misunderstood "the God of all Grace and the Father of Mercies!" Now we can see that there is a glorious Hope for all who will come to love righteousness and hate iniquity, although the world's hope is not the Christian's hope.

The Hope set before the Church is the hope of reigning with Christ, as His joint-heirs, His Bride. (Romans 8:17; 1 John 3:2; 2 Peter 1:4.) It is the hope of attaining the Divine nature. This hope has been held out in advance of the blessings which will be proffered to the world later. The Church has no part in the hope of the world. But we have the admonition of our Lord and of His Apostles that we "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." We are enjoined to put off the works of darkness--anger, malice, hatred, strife and all other works of the flesh and of the Devil--and to put on meekness, gentleness, patience, brotherly kindness, love--the fruits of the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit.-- Hebrews 12:14; Galatians 5:19-23.

First Intimation of Church's Hope.

The first intimation that God would raise up a class who would roll away the curse from Adam's race was given to Abraham. God said: "Abraham, I will call you My friend because of your faith." He could not call Abraham His son; for there could be no sons of God amongst the fallen race, because all were condemned to death in Adam. Not until the death sentence should be lifted from Adam's posterity could any of them become sons of God. Therefore, there were no human sons of God from Adam's day until our Lord Jesus came to earth a Man. He was the first human son of God after Adam. But since the time when our Lord died a Sacrifice for human sin, a special class of humanity have been given the great privilege of becoming sons of God, as St. John tells us.--John 1:12.

But God said to Abraham His friend: "I have a Plan by which to bless the world." The Almighty was the very One who had placed the condemnation of death upon the world. The great Judge had determined that man was not worthy of everlasting life. Two thousand years after He [OV428] had pronounced that curse, the Eternal One declared that it should be rolled away; for when He promised that a blessing should come to mankind, He implied that the death penalty should be removed.

It required great faith on Abraham's part to believe God in this matter. But he felt that in some manner God would roll away the curse. Put yourself into Abraham's place, and you will realize how remarkable this was. He knew that the death penalty was upon the race. After God had said that mankind should die, it was not easy to see how He could reverse His own sentence and declare that man should live! Would He say one thing at one time, and then two thousand years later say another? For a time there must have been great perplexity in Abraham's mind. But he appreciated God's promise.--Genesis 12:3; Romans 4:3.

And now, four thousand years after Abraham's time, we are proclaiming that same great Promise; for it has never yet been fulfilled. God promises to bless the whole world through Abraham's Seed. That Seed, the Apostle Paul assures us, is Christ and His Church. (Galatians 3:8,16,19.) The hope of being this Seed is the great Hope to which St. Paul refers in our text and its context.

Abraham's Two Seeds.

This Hope is based upon a comprehensive Promise; first, that the world was to be blessed; second, that this blessing was to come through Abraham's Seed. God showed that there would be two different seeds of Abraham; for He said, "Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the seashore"--a Heavenly and an earthly seed, though the Heavenly was to be the Seed of blessing. --Genesis 22:15-18.

Four hundred and thirty years later, God said to the children of Israel, in substance, "You know that I promised your Father Abraham that through his Seed I would bless the world. As his natural seed, are you ready to have that Promise fulfilled in you? If I bring you up out of Egypt, will you appreciate My will and do it?" And they replied: "We will." Then the Lord said: "I will give you My Law. If you cannot keep My Law you cannot be proper teachers and blessers of the world. I have promised to bless all mankind, and I will do it. As the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are you ready to be heirs of that Abrahamic Promise?"

You remember that Moses read the Lord's Message of the Law to the people; and that they heard the blessing that should come upon them if they would keep the Law, and the condemnation that should come upon them if they failed to do so. Then the people said, "All these things will we do."-- Exodus 19:1-8.

God designed that the whole world should come to a knowledge of the fact that no fallen human being could possibly keep the letter of the Divine Law; for it is the measure of a perfect man's ability. But He dealt with the Israelites just as though they could do it. They had typical sacrifices. For sixteen hundred years they tried to keep that Law; yet year after year they failed to do so, and hence they failed to be the Seed of Abraham which was to bless the world. As St. Paul shows us, "By the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified in God's sight." (Romans 3:20.) God was merely teaching them, and through them all of His intelligent creatures, that it is impossible for sinners to justify themselves in His sight. Therefore, it was impossible for any of them to bless the world.

Then, in due time, God sent forth His First-Begotten Son, the Logos, His great Mouthpiece. To Him the Father had made the proposition that if He would become a man, live awhile on earth amongst sinners, and accomplish a great work for mankind, He should afterwards be received back to greater glory than He had before He undertook this mission.

The Son knew that if the Father [OV429] had anything to make known in His Plan, it must be for good. So we read that "the Logos was made flesh," and "for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame." (John 1:14; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 2:8-11.) Jesus was born a descendant of Abraham, through the Virgin Mary. He kept the Jewish Law inviolate, and thus proved Himself worthy to be that Seed who would bless the world. He died to redeem the race--"the Just for the unjust." He rose again, qualified for the great work of the world's deliverance. To Him is given all power in Heaven and in earth.--Matthew 28:18.

The Bible tells us that the salvation of the world is waiting until our Lord shall take unto Himself His great power and reign. God has been holding this salvation in reserve for over 1800 years, during the selection of the Church, the Bride of Christ--the work of the Gospel Age. Before the Church He has set this great Hope of being associated with our Lord Jesus, of constituting with Him this Spiritual Seed of Abraham, which is to bless all the families of the earth. For this reason our Lord is first delivering the Church class. This hope of being the Seed of Abraham is "the hope set before us in the Gospel," of which our text speaks. "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's Seed, and heirs according to the Promise."

God has still in reservation the work of blessing the world, and this great work of a thousand years. But it is now almost due to begin. The promised Spiritual Seed is about completed. Under them the earthly seed--the faithful worthies of previous ages, who will be raised from the dead, and Natural Israel, who will be restored to divine favor--will ere long be ready to cooperate; and then the world's uplift will begin.

Our Anchor Sure and Steadfast.

In the dream which God gave to Nebuchadnezzar, there was a stone taken out of the mountains without hands, and it became a great mountain that filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31-45.) This stone represented Christ's Kingdom. The power which has taken this spiritual Stone out of the mountain--the world--is simply the hope inspired by God's Promise to Abraham. Some of us have heard the Call to follow Christ, and have responded. (Matthew 5:6; 11:28; 16:24.) The Word of Christ has entered into our hearts. Our minds, our aims, our ambitions--everything--are being transformed, are being set on Heavenly things.--Romans 12:1,2; Colossians 3:1-3.

How precious is this Hope! It is indeed "an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast." By this expression St. Paul suggests the picture of a ship at anchor during a storm. So in the storms of life the child of God has a firm anchorage. This Anchor of Hope takes hold even upon the things within the veil.

The basis of our hope is the Word of God. If we let go of our Hope, we are letting go of everything. The "hour of temptation" is now upon the whole world; and a still greater stress is coming. (Revelation 3:10.) All the more, therefore, shall we need our Anchor of Hope, of faith. Through the Prophet the Lord points out that He is about to "do His work, His strange work, and to bring to pass His act, His strange act." (Isaiah 28:21.) The world will not be able to understand it. As they see the trouble extending everywhere--to all governments and institutions--and realize that it will terminate in anarchy, they will say, Where is God? What is coming to this Great Babylon that we thought was about to bless the world? What is about to happen to us?

The Unsanctified Heart Selfish.

We are now living in the Day when the light is shining more brightly than ever before, and when the darkness is gradually disappearing. We whose eyes of understanding have been opened to see the hope for mankind, see that blessings are soon to be showered [OV430] upon the world during the Messianic Kingdom.

More and more it is impressed upon my mind that the numbers of humanity who love righteousness and who prefer it to unrighteousness are very considerable. The major part of the world would rather do right than wrong, provided it did not cost sacrifice to do right. If the world were in a healthy, normal condition, it would not cost sacrifice to do right. It should be easier to do right than wrong, and it would be if things were as they were originally. When God created our first parents, it was easier for them to obey than to disobey; and when the Divine Kingdom shall introduce the New Order, it will become easier to do right than to do wrong.

As the days go by, we see still more clearly the glorious hope of the groaning creation, groaning now in weakness, sin and bondage to death. After the Church is delivered, the groaning creation is also to be delivered, set free from the bondage of sin and death into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19-22.) Mankind will have the same opportunity for life that Adam had at first. But they will have the advantage of Adam, in that they have had six thousand years' experience under the degradation of the fall, during which the world has been learning the exceeding sinfulness of sin and their need of Divine assistance.

The Present Outlook.

Yet with all the experience of six thousand years behind us, the world to-day is plunged into the most terrible war ever known. Each nation imagines that God is with it. The spirit of anger, bitterness and hate is spreading everywhere, notwithstanding there are blessings, comforts and conveniences to-day such as the world never even dreamed of before. These blessings are coming because we are living in the dawn of the New Dispensation. But the fact is apparent that people are being injured by the wealth and other favors of our day. We have an increase of education far above any previous time. And what is the result? It is being used to defraud and overreach fellow-men. It is being utilized to destroy men's lives. In another century, if present conditions were permitted to continue, it would be worse.

Light and knowledge entering the heart that is unsanctified, unconsecrated to God, merely increase the power to do evil. Through sharpened intellectual perceptions the increase of ability operates along the lines of selfishness. The only ones ready to receive aright God's favors and to profit by them are those who have yielded themselves to God, who have renounced their own wills and have accepted his will. Upon these the blessings of God have a sanctifying effect. Increased knowledge adds to their power for good.

We are glad that we have given our hearts to God, and that our eyes of understanding have been opened to see more and more the lengths, breadths, heights and depths of God's Justice, Wisdom, Power and Love. How refreshing this is to our hearts! It is good to be so near to the ushering in of the New Dispensation; for our Anchor of Hope is grounded firmly in God. Soon He will deliver Zion-- "when Morning appeareth!"

Trouble Precursor of Coming Glory.

Upon the battlefields of Europe there is now being sacrificed the flower of the strength of every country embroiled in war; and the war spirit is spreading. In every country engaged in this mighty conflict the death list is piling up prodigiously. Homes are being devastated; wealth is being consumed. Revolution and anarchy will be sure to follow. Of this time our Lord Jesus declared, "Except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the Elect's sake they shall be shortened." (Matthew 24:21,22.) Then "the desire of all nations shall come." Through Messiah's Kingdom [OV431] shall be granted the peace, prosperity and blessing for which the poor world have so long hoped, and striven in vain to bring about through their own efforts.

Thank the Lord that He has given His people to know what is to follow this dark night of trouble. What a blessing He has granted in the knowledge that there is a golden lining to the black clouds now gathering thick around humanity! Let us not dwell too much on the coming trouble, however. Rather let us point men to the time beyond. Let us tell them that God has a great blessing in store for all the families of the earth. Let us show them how comprehensive is the Bible Hope. It will be a sad day for the world when the plowshare of trouble shall go in deep; yet the experience will prove to be a blessing. When mankind shall see everything beginning to collapse, then they will begin to realize that there is no hope except in God, then they will be willing to be taught. Then they will say, "Lo, this is our God! We have waited for Him, and He will save us!-- Isaiah 25:6-9.

1 PETER 5:7.

HOW strong and sweet my Father's care!
The words, like music in the air,
Come answering to my whispered prayer--
He cares for thee.

The thought great wonder with it brings--
My cares are all such little things;
But to this truth my glad faith clings,
He cares for me.

Yea, keep me ever in Thy love,
Dear Father, watching from above,
And let me still Thy mercy prove,
And care for me.

Cast me not off because of sin,
But make me pure and true within,
And teach me how Thy smile to win,
Who cares for me.

O still, in summer's golden glow,
Or wintry storms of wind and snow,
Love me, my Father: let me know
Thy care for me.

And I will learn to cast the care
Which like a heavy load I bear
Down at Thy feet in lowly prayer,
And trust in Thee.

For naught can hurt me, shade or shine,
Nor evil thing touch me, nor mine,
Since Thou with tenderness Divine
Dost care for me.
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