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The Divine Program--Great Day of His Wrath



XII. The Great Day of His Wrath


Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle

OVER AND OVER again the Bible tells us of a great day of wrath impending upon the world--a day of general settlements of accounts--a "day of fierce anger of the Lord," a "day of wrath," a "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation."

Various are the descriptions of this day of trouble. It is also described as a whirlwind of devastation; as a flood of destruction; and as a fire consuming everything before it. It is located at the end of this age, as a dark cloud on the dawning of the new dispensation. In it will come, first, trials upon the Church, the saintly; and secondly, the tribulations of the world in general. A description of some of these judgments and trials has been misunderstood by some to signify eternal torment, because their symbolical character is not fully recognized.

In evidence that these statements respecting the "fire" are symbolical, we quote one passage. We read in Zephaniah 3:8, "Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy." We could not find a passage to more distinctly tell of the trouble and fire of that day: but notice that it is the fire of God's anger and not literal fire. Notice again, that after the fire shall have burned itself out --after the great conflagration of trouble --mankind will still be in the earth--and will be blessed. The succeeding verse says: "Then will I turn to the people a pure message, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." Thus briefly are we shown the result of the terrible burning. The day of wrath will come in a financial, political, social and religious convulsion, in which the present earth (social order) will pass away with a great commotion, and the new heavens (spiritual powers), and the new earth (social arrangement) will come into permanent control under Emmanuel's Government. The confusion, jargon, Babel of the present, so bewildering to humanity, will give place to the pure message of Divine Truth, emancipating the world from the grievous errors which have intoxicated and bewildered it. Severe will be the cost in the destruction of prevalent institutions, but the results will be well worth it all.

So vivid are the descriptions of this day of wrath that "Second Adventists" have built upon them the theory that the earth will be burned to a cinder and require a thousand years to cool off, at the end of which Christ and the Church, they say, will return to earth and make Paradise out of the ashes. Nor are Adventists alone guilty of this misinterpretation; nearly all the creeds of Christendom mention this great day or epoch with which the Gospel Age is to end, and describe it as a period of literal burning of the earth.

The proper interpretation of the matter is, that these various descriptions are symbolical, instead of literal. They describe God's time of reckoning with the world, in which Justice in many respects will be squared and retribution demanded of those who have knowingly transgressed the laws of righteousness, or who had sympathized with and profited by such doings on the part of others. This is the "day of vengeance" mentioned in the Bible, respecting which the Lord says, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Rom. 12:19.) Nor will the recompense coming upon the generation then living be merely for its own injustices [OV59] and failure to apply righteous principles. Evidently the Lord intends to hold the present generation responsible for the transgressions of preceding times, because, instead of properly reprobating the past and denouncing the doctrines and practices of the "dark ages," the present generation has measurably re-endorsed them and maintained them in their creeds, although, present advantages considered, there is no excuse for this.

Amongst the injustices and inequities for which the Lord will require an account are the atrocities of "the dark ages," when for conscience sake men and women were tortured and many of them burned at the stake. In Scriptural language the blood of the martyrs still cries for vengeance, and the present generation will, in the great day of trouble, be required to make amends. To some this may appear an injustice on the part of the Divine Government, yet we may be sure that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and that when we come to see the matter clearly, all lovers of righteousness will be able to endorse his course.

If it be granted that the persecutions of the dark ages were done in a considerable measure of blindness, darkness and superstition, it may also be admitted that in the light of present opportunities the honest-hearted have no excuse for continuance in those theories and superstitions, but have every opportunity for coming to the light of the knowledge of the glorious Gospel, and to an intelligent understanding of the teachings of God's Word. These responsibilities are being shirked by the majority, while many who do see clearly are derelict as respects their duty, and unwilling to take their stand for the Truth and against the error, because of what it would cost them in the way of honor of men and position and "bread and butter."

These principles operated similarly in the end of the Jewish Age, and we are in this argument clearly following leadings of the great Teacher, who said to the Jews in the harvest time of their age that God would require of that generation all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from the time of righteous Abel. "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar."--Matt. 23:35.

The generation addressed by our Lord had much advantage every way over all its predecessors, and failed to profit thereby. As he said to them, "Ye garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." (Matt. 23:29,30.) Nevertheless, our Lord and the apostles were treated worse by them than were the prophets by their fathers. How terrible was the visitation of Divine judgment upon the Jewish nation is well known to all familiar with their history. The record is that nearly 2,000,000 perished at the siege of Jerusalem after the internecine war or period of anarchy. Those experiences which befell Natural Israel and resulted in the utter overthrow of that nation in A.D. 70 were, perhaps, the most awful experiences which ever came to any nation. They were a type or foreshadowing of the still more terrible experiences which are to come upon Christendom--Nominal Spiritual Israel-- in the "harvest" time of this age. It is not for us to seek to combat with the world to hinder this impending trouble, this day of wrath. Indeed, the Scriptures assure us in connection with the announcement of this day of trouble that "none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand."-- Daniel 12:1,9,10.

The Divine Revelation respecting the time of trouble is only to a portion of the world--the Church; for her admonition, her instruction, her guidance, "that the man of God may be thoroughly furnished" and that "ye, brethren, should not be in darkness," when "that day shall come as a snare on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth." (1 Thes. 5:2-6; Luke 21:35.) This article, therefore, is not expected to be appreciated by the general reader, except in the sense that some may be amused with what they consider to be the folly of giving heed to the predictions of the Word of God.

The Scriptures indicate most distinctly that the trouble of this "day of wrath" will be anarchy--"every man's hand against his neighbor." It is quite true, on the contrary, that the tendency of our day [OV60] is in the very reverse direction, away from individualism and in the direction of unions, trusts and combines. This is manifest in every direction--ecclesiastical, political, social and financial. And just such a tendency of confederacy or federation is distinctly brought to our attention, for, as there were giants in the earth before the flood, so there are to be giant institutions and systems before the great time of trouble breaks into cataclysm. The Scriptures say to the Lord's people, "Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid." --Isa. 8:12.

No one of observation has failed to note that while unions of capital and labor are in progress, there is a distinct dividing line on one side of which are the rich trusts and the kings and their armies, financial, religious, political; on the other side are the masses. Both parties are aggressive. Both are growing in numbers and in strength daily. Both are becoming more than ever determined that they are in the right, and both are more than ever realizing that the trial of their strength in the mighty conflict cannot be far distant. The Scriptures alone foretold these conditions and the outcome. Neither party will give in.

The conflict will be the most severe of the world's history--the more so because both parties at the beginning of the struggle will feel confident of the justice of their cause, and of their strength, and of the sureness of their victory. Hence the conflict will be to the knife, and the knife to the hilt. Peaceable means on both sides will be expected to conquer, but both parties being governed by pure selfishness, judgment will be beclouded and the results will be awful beyond description. Those committed at first to peaceable methods in their disappointment and desperation will become anarchistic. The result will be that the organized system of civilization which now prevails will work its own destruction at the very moment when, in many respects, it will appear to be reaching the climax of prosperity. It will thus furnish an everlasting lesson for men and angels of the destructive tendency of selfishness, the outgrowth of sin. And while it is termed "the day of the Lord's wrath," it would appear to be the natural outworking of violation of Divine Law, rather than a direct interference by the Almighty in human affairs.

The Scriptures tell us that God hardened Pharaoh's heart by promptly hearing his prayer and releasing him from one after another of the various plagues or chastisements which he brought upon himself. In other words, the goodness of God, which should have guided him aright, produced the reverse effect, hardening, instead of softening his heart. So it appears to be in our day. The Lord during the past century has been lifting from the eyes of mankind a veil of ignorance. He has been permitting to shine in upon the human mind great intelligence, previously kept secret. The result is inventions of every kind, bringing to humanity comforts, luxuries, conveniences and wealth beyond the fondest dreams of avarice, and discounting the tale of Arabian Nights, as the arc light discounts the tallow dip.

What might be reasonably expected of God's creatures under such favor, such blessings, from his hands?--what reverence; what faithfulness; what generosity toward fellow-men; what contentment; what peace; what inquiring after the will of God; what endeavor to do his will and to glorify him in body and in spirit! But have these blessed conditions existed in any considerable measure? Alas, no! The very contrary conditions have resulted. Discontent, irreverence, unfaithfulness, selfishness, are more prevalent to-day than ever before. Instead of inquiring, What shall I render unto the Lord my God for all his benefits? the scientific world are endeavoring to get rid of the Almighty entirely, --his personality. These savants tell us--that all we have received is the result of natural processes--that nature is our God; that an intelligent Creator was not even necessary; that the first part of protoplasmic life was generated from the alkalies of the sea, and that man is merely the highest development thus far of this evolution of matter--that he needed no God; had no fall into sin; needed no Redeemer from sin and no Millennial Kingdom with restitution powers to uplift him. Practically all the college-bred--professors and graduates, hold to this godless theory--this theory that we need no intelligent, [OV61] supreme Creator, but a blind force in operation--that all speculation respecting Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power are foolishness; that each cranium makes its own God according to its own development in these qualities. In other words, man is his own God. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." --Psa. 14:1.

It should not surprise us that where the professors lead the public will follow. Hence, under the guidance of the colleges and pulpits of the land gradually, inch by inch, cautiously, faith in God and in the Bible as his Revelation are gradually being undermined. In this fact centers the horrible atrocities which will soon envelop Christendom; just as, a century ago, atheism in France led to the reign of terror there. And, by the way, the French Revolution is significantly intimated in the Bible to be a foreshadowing of the worldwide terror soon to be expected.

That God foreknew present conditions and foretold them more than two thousand years ago is clearly shown in the statements of Daniel 12. The prophet had received a message for the people of Israel, which was plainly explained to him, but very interesting details, not pertinent to his nation, but to the end of this age, were withheld from him. He prayed earnestly for them and got the answer from the angel, "Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the the time of the end many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased...and the wise shall understand ...and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation."

Notice this prophecy carefully. Its statements are beautiful in their simplicity; yet the present day cannot be better described in the same number of words. The first item marks our day of rapid transportation and those traversing sea and land in every direction--"running to and fro." There never was such a day before. Less than a century ago there was not a steam engine on earth--not a railroad train, nor a rail. Suddenly, as if touched by magic wand, railroads cover the civilized earth and humanity rushes pell-mell in every direction, as if solely intent upon the fulfillment of this prophecy, of which the majority are in total ignorance.

Nevertheless the great Christian astronomer, Newton, studying this passage long before railroads were thought of, declared his belief in its fulfillment, surmising that a mode of transportation would be discovered which would carry people safely at the rate of "fifty miles an hour." Here we see the wisdom of the man who takes heed to the Word of God. Correspondingly we see the folly of the man who neglects God's Word; for the great Voltaire, making light of the Bible, called attention to Sir Isaac Newton's comment, and called him a "poor old dotard," misled by that foolish book, the Bible. The contrast is accentuated when we remember that Voltaire died only a few years before the locomotive was invented, while the Christian philosopher was dead nearly three centuries.

Note also that the second feature of this prophecy has been fulfilled with equal carefulness. A fever of general education has broken out in the world--public schools have been established in all parts of Christendom. Not only is education now supplied free of charge, but as though to assure a fulfillment of this prophecy, education has been made compulsory by those who know not that there is such a prophecy. Who will tell us that these matters are purely of chance? If they be of chance, then, indeed, "truth is stranger than fiction."

We come now to the third feature: "The wise shall understand"--not the worldly-wise; but those of whom the Scriptures say, "Not many learned; not many great; not many rich; not many wise hath God chosen" to be of his elect Church. Most evidently the intention here is to mark out those of the church who are wise toward God--"the wise virgins." These, and these only, may fully understand the present situation, the time in which we are living, the fulfillment of these prophecies and their culmination in the great time of trouble, "the day of vengeance," with which this age will end, giving place to the new dispensation under Emmanuel's Government.

Next we note the fourth feature of prophecy, "There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a [OV62] nation." This fits our topic exactly. We had already portrayed some of the troubles coming and their cause. Here we simply note their connection with the other parts of this prophecy. As world-wide education came as a result of the intermingling of peoples by interchange and traffic and aroused ambition, so the general education of the world is preparing it for the cataclysm of trouble. The world's greatest blessing--knowledge--is becoming its greatest bane. The education that should be bringing all mankind more peace, pleasure, joy, appreciation of the Creator and of each other is producing the reverse effect --discontent, which soon will reach its more aggravated form. Selfish ambition will soon work its own destruction.

In view of these things, what is the Scripture counsel to the saintly and to the world in general? To the former it is, Have full confidence in God, and let patience have her perfect work; wait upon the Lord. Have confidence that his methods are best in every way. Seek the heavenly kingdom--seek to make your calling and election sure at the sacrifice of every earthly interest. To others who have some ear to hear, the message is, "Seek righteousness, seek meekness. It may be that ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger."--Zeph. 2:3.

During the past year the Overland Monthly has been running a very instructive series of articles by C. T. Russell, Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, New York. These articles have created widespread attention, calling forth columns of newspaper criticism in a way which seems most remarkable. As a writer, Mr. Russell's books have enjoyed a larger circulation than any English work. Of his work entitled "Studies in the Scriptures," the average output is two thousand three hundred copies for each working day. We regret the records of 1909 are not yet complete, but in 1908 seven hundred and twenty-eight thousand, four hundred and seventy-four volumes were sold.

Since publication, three million five hundred and thirty-four thousand volumes have been circulated. Last year, in addition to these there were three hundred and eight million pages of his tracts circulated. In all literature the Bible is about the only book that has had a larger circulation.

The Chinese Almanac printed at the Imperial Press has a circulation of eight million. The Bible is way ahead of this. One society having circulated over one hundred and seventy million copies. But in American literature, Mr. Russell stands first. In the literature of the world, the order would probably be as follows: The Bible, the Chinese Almanac, the "Studies in the Scriptures," "Don Quixote," "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Hubbard's "Message to Garcia."

I ALWAYS go to Jesus,
When troubled or distressed;
I always find a refuge
When I with Him can rest.
I tell Him all my trials,
I tell Him all my grief;
And while my lips are speaking
He gives my heart relief.

When full of dread forebodings,
And flowing o'er with tears,
He calms away my sorrows,
And hushes all my fears.
He comprehends my weakness,
The peril I am in,
And He supplies the armor
I need to vanquish sin.

When those are cold and faithless,
Who once were fond and true,
With careless hearts forsaking
The old friends for the new,
I turn to Him whose friendship
Knows neither change nor end:
I always find in Jesus
An ever faithful Friend.

I always go to Jesus;
No matter when or where
I seek His gracious presence,
I'm sure to find Him there.
In time of joy and sorrow,
Whate'er my need may be,
I always go to Jesus,
And Jesus comforts me.
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