The Editor recognizes a responsibility to the Master, relative to what shall appear in these columns, which he cannot and does not cast aside; yet he should not be understood as endorsing every expression of correspondents, or of articles selected from other periodicals.
TERMS: – Fifty cents a year, postage prepaid. You may send paper money to the amount of two dollars, by mail, at our risk. Larger amounts may be sent by Drafts, P.O. Money Order, or Registered Letter, payable to C. T. RUSSELL.
Foreign Postage being higher, our terms to foreign subscribers will be 65 cents a year. Please send us no foreign money or postage stamps, as we can make no use of them. Remittances may be made by Foreign Postal Money Orders.
This paper will be sent free to any of the Lord's poor who will send a card yearly requesting it. Freely we have received and freely we would give the truth. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat – yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." And you that have it – "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently – and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." – ISAIAH 55:1,2.
The Swedish tract fund reached such a sum as to justify the publishing of a sample copy of the TOWER in the Swedish language, to be used as a tract, among the Swedish and Norwegian Christians, here and in Sweden. The notice in our last issue, that we were ready for lists of addresses of religious Swedes and Norwegians, brought to us many responses, and we will be mailing sample copies to the same, about the time you receive this paper. Whether there will be in the future, a regular edition of the TOWER in Swedish, will depend upon the interest awakened amongst that people by these sample copies and upon the supply of needful means for the additional expense involved. It is in the Lord's hands and we cannot doubt that He will overrule it to his own glory and the blessing of His Swedish Saints.
It cannot fail to give pleasure to each one who has contributed even "two mites" to the fund which published these sample copies, that they have helped to preach the "glad tidings of great joy" among over 20,000 Swedish brethren and sisters. All who appreciate the "good tidings," seem to feel as did the early church, that it is a thing so precious, so good, that they cannot refrain from declaring it.
Though our Father is rich and will not permit a single one of his saints to go hungry for the bread of life through the unfaithfulness of any of us, yet if we do not improve the privilege granted us, of ministering to the saints, the loss will be ours. While we rejoice to see that some of the consecrated are growing in grace by the exercise of this talent of distributing to the (spiritual or temporal) necessities of others, we fear that some are depriving themselves of this blessed privilege and means of growth in grace. We have no disposition, nor do we intend this as fault-finding. We mention it as an aid to self-examination. May the Lord help us all, to faithfully judge ourselves, regarding the fulfillment of our covenant.
We shall not beg for Jehovah for he is rich; he says, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine," "and the cattle upon a thousand hills." Hag. 2:8; Psa. 50:10. Yet while so rich, he has deposited a little here and there, more or less, with us; giving us the control of it. Then he leaves his own work, the very things in which he is interested most, measurably dependent on us, in order that we might have the privilege of using the means intrusted to us in ministering to the necessities of the saints and being thus co-workers with God.
Are we not right in saying that this is a great privilege? Are we not right too, in supposing that few appreciate highly enough their stewardship? Do we always remember Jesus' words? "He that receiveth you receiveth me, ...and whosoever shall give to one of these a cup of cold water only, shall in no wise lose his reward. Matt. 10:40-42. Do we always remember that the Lord as represented by every saint who is a member of His body, is still to be found, still to be ministered to? Let us remember too, that the real members will seldom ask, except of the Father, because they possess the spirit of their head – the spirit of trust which looks to their heavenly Father for whatsoever he sees best, to send, and by whomsoever he sees fit to send it. But how great is the privilege of being fit and used in Jehovah's service.
If it is a privilege to feed and clothe the "earthen vessel," how much more blessed is the privilege of feeding the spiritually hungry with "the bread of life," and clothing them with the "wedding garment" of Christ's righteousness, by scattering the truth. God has so ordered matters – inventions, etc., that to-day the greatest influence and the most forcible preaching, is done through the medium of the printing press. Thus, for instance, each copy of the TOWER contains about eight sermons, and these are brought before an average of about 20,000 readers at each issue, the majority of whom have "an ear to hear," which is not the case with the ordinary congregations of nominal Christians. Thus the TOWER under the Lord's blessing, is able to spread the truth more widely than 200 traveling preachers could do.
We call your attention to this matter so that you may appreciate more fully, the lever of power within your own grasp, for the spread of truth. Some, are recognizing and improving these latter day advantages in one way and some in another. Some call together companies of their friends and neighbors and read them a discourse; others write to us for sample copies, which they loan to such as seem to have an "ear." Others, endeavor to introduce the TOWER among Christians, as a regular preacher. [R548 : page 1]
The present issue of the Swedish paper, will we hope, help to open the Lord's storehouse, to the hungry of that people. This is well, but let us not stop, while others are crying for "bread." Our German brethren and sisters are still in want, because of the famine (Amos 8:11) and it is our happy privilege to be among Jehovah's agencies in answering their prayer – "Give us this day our daily bread." Let us give the "meat in due season." Freely we received, let us freely give to others the heavenly food – manna. "Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing." Matt. 24:46.
To this end, we propose that while we shall still remember the regular Tract Fund and the Swedish Fund, we shall give some special attention to the German Fund. It will be remembered that this fund was started some time ago and then permitted to rest until the Swedish Tract-paper should be issued. Now we are ready, so far as in us lies to preach the glad tidings to our German brethren and sisters also. The German Fund contains about $25. When it grows to about $300. we shall begin to make a start, in this direction.
Though it is right enough that those who preach the gospel should live by it – or be supported by it, (1 Cor. 9:11-15,) we are glad, that the "Chief Shepherd" has so arranged for us that we are not thus supported. Rather, we labor working with our own hands, that we might not be chargeable to any, but might have the privilege of helping, together with all saints, in supplying the lack, both temporal and spiritual, of others. (1 Cor. 4:12.)
For this reason we may freely speak to you of this privilege, with the less danger of being misunderstood. And yet we realize that many of our readers will feel, if they do not express it, a wish that the TOWER would confine itself to teaching "The love of God," "Restitution," etc., and occasionally touch upon and condemn profanity, or intemperance and not talk so much, of entire consecration, sacrifice, and self-denial. To this we reply, that the mission of the TOWER is specially to the "little flock" – to aid those who are consecrated, to sacrifice. To those of its readers who are fully consecrated, its words of counsel, reproof, and exhortation are directed. Of those who are not consecrated, and who are therefore not running for the prize of the "high calling," we should not expect so much, though such, if they give even a cup of cold water, shall in no wise lose their reward, when the time for rewarding comes. (Matt. 10:42.)
With the Lord, it is not His poverty, but his desire to give us an opportunity of being co-workers with him, that is the cause of the seeming poverty of many of his saints and of his treasury. So, we can heartily say to you, that our interest in this question of your sacrifice, is a desire to see the truth spread and saints fed, but chiefly, for YOU WHO HAVE CONSECRATED; lest you should fail to perform your sacrifice. We even fear that a false modesty on our part, has been an injury to the flock over which our Lord hath made us to some extent "overseers." We have for some time, seen the necessity of sacrifice on the part of all who would win the great prize, and though we have repeatedly set forth the necessity of entire sanctification of mind and body; our time, reputation and money – all: That this death to earthly things as symbolized in our water baptism is absolutely essential to our becoming joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 8:17.) Yet we have realized all along that selfishness – love of self, its ease, honors, etc., so powerfully counteracted the clear teachings of the Word, that it had but slight practical effect.
We desire to do our duty and to warn the flock against selfishness, our most iminent danger – our greatest enemy. (Ezek. 33:6,7.) Each one who is running the race for the great "prize of our high calling" should look the issue fairly in the face, and ask himself the question, What am I sacrificing? I have time, money and influence, some of each: am I so arranging my affairs that as large a proportion as possible of these, is used directly in the Master's service? How much of my influence have I sacrificed, in an attempt to honor and advance the truth? How much sacrifice – self-denial, have I made, in ministering to the saints and others, either the earthly or the heavenly food and clothing? How much of my time has been sacrificed from self and spent for the good of others – doing good unto all men as I have opportunity, especially to the household of faith?
We must not attempt to excuse ourselves, by saying that we know of none of the saints that are starving or naked, else we would help them; and if the Lord's treasury should become bankrupt, we would then come forward, and contribute. This is an old excuse and evasion suggested by our adversary. Let us remember that if we wait for such opportunities we will never find them. God will never allow his treasury to be bankrupt; He will never allow his saints to starve. Our experience in this matter corroborates that of David (Psa. 37:25,26.) "Yet have I never seen the righteous (saints) forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful and lendeth; and his seed is blessed." The Lord's children, and work will get along without us; but alas what a loss of opportunity and blessing, we should sustain. "Take heed that no man take thy crown." If we fail to use our privileges, some more worthy will enjoy them and receive the reward.
To be a sacrifice at all, it must be a willing offering and not one forced from us by extraordinary circumstances. Let no man who thus gives time, money, or influence, consider that he offers a sacrifice.
But some one who has considerable, willing to justify himself, may inquire, How much should I give, of my time, money and influence? Possibly you made a mistake – a common one however – for if you are running for the high calling, you should rather have asked, "How much may I use for myself?" If you gave yourself and all, to God, then none of the things you have are your's but God's; and you are his agent or steward, to spend all as you understand to be His will, regardless of your own preferences for self.
How much you ought to spend, on yourself and family, how much you should spend on the poorer, and how much you should spend in spreading the truth, are weighty and important questions, which we must leave each steward to decide for himself; merely suggesting Paul's advice, that in all these matters your aim should be to provide things "decent." You should attempt to do for the poor so as to have them "decent;" yourself and family should be "decent;" and the cause of truth should be supported on the plane of decency; but on none of these have you a right to waste the Lord's goods, by extravagance. [R548 : page 2]
The warp in our "earthen vessels" is such, that do the best we may, we shall probably find self, more and better provided for than our poorer brother, or the work of our Father. Knowing this to be our disposition, and seeing how it differs from that of our Father as displayed by our Elder Brother, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9), we should be constantly on our guard; and while beholding his image (his disposition) as in a mirror we should see to it that we are being changed, daily and hourly to the same image, from glory to glory – by the spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18.)
But does another say, "I have nothing to give!" Alas my brother, then you are indeed in a bad condition. If you have nothing to give, then you cannot sacrifice anything. Then you may as well reckon yourself out of the present race for the great prize, for all who attain that goal are sacrificers, and have something to offer. (Heb. 13:15,16 and 1 Peter 2:5.)
But are you sure – very sure, you have nothing? search carefully for none were "called" to this honor, to whom one talent or more, had not been given. If you have hidden yours, so that neither you nor others can see it, we urge you to dig it up quickly and make the more active use of it, lest the King should speedily finish his reckoning with the servants, and instead of saying "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" to thee, should say "wicked and slothful servant."
No saint has so little, that he has nothing to spend, for the glory and honor of Him who did so much for us. And, in this connection it is well that we should remember, that the less we have, proportionately greater is the sacrifice when we give. Jesus showed his appreciation of amount and motive, for when the rich were casting into the Temple treasury, He saw a poor widow cast in two mites and said that she had sacrificed more, than all the others. (Luke 21:3.) The two mites principle applies to influence and time as well as to money. Be assured that if you have been led of the Lord to consecrate your all, you surely have a way before you to perform, for it is written: "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13.)
The true principle of sacrifice, seeks not the poorest and leanest part of our sacrifice to offer before the Lord, but the fat – the freshest hours, the choicest talents. Let us learn more and more to economize time and money, so that much of it may be directly used for His glory.
Now, with an exhortation that you shall read carefully Paul's words to the saints at Corinth – 2 Cor. 8 the chapter and especially the ninth chapter; marking carefully verses six to twelve; we feel that we have discharged a duty toward you and shall leave the matter with you, praying that the Word of God which is sharper than any two-edged sword, may [R549 : page 2] in this as in all things, be toward you living and powerful; piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul (the human nature) and the spirit (the new nature): Thus enabling you to separate and judge even the thoughts and intents of your own hearts. (Heb. 4:12,13.) And, the very God of peace shall work in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, while you let the same mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord.
MR. RUSSELL: – Dear Bro.: – I enclose pay for the "Variorum Testament, the balance is for the Tract Fund. It is only a trifle, but I will have to be content with sending a little at a time, and hope that it may be more the next. But I can never hope to pay for what you have sent to me. It was through these publications that I was brought to know of the priceless prize, that it is even my privilege to run for. It found me a poor, overburdened, discouraged woman, although loving my Lord, still afraid to trust him. But I was looking and longing for His coming, and praying for light, and it came through your tract "Food for thinking Christians." God sent it. I always receive these papers as from him. I have tried to interest others in them, but have found none in sympathy with me, not even my husband and children; and I have so longed for them to enjoy these things with me. But still I find even here a great joy; my Master was alone; did he not long for those he loved to understand and sympathize with him? I pray for my loved ones as he did for his. I am trying to sacrifice my life and all I have to Him, but find it a daily struggle to overcome. THE TOWER always sends me to my Bible, and, O what wonders, what comfort, what joy I find. I don't get time to read anything else. Excuse me for writing so long a letter, but it tells so little. My love and prayers are with you.
DEAR FRIENDS: – As a humble servant I am still trying to distribute and promote the truth, and am oftentimes refreshed by meeting from a very unexpected direction those who seem fully prepared to receive the good news. I had the pleasure of meeting some such the other evening and we were so much interested in the glorious subject, that we were surprised to find it near midnight when we finished. But I more often meet those who seem both deaf and blind to such blessed truths; this, formerly was very discouraging, but with increasing light and a more correct understanding of God's plan, I can but sympathize with and pity them, and am often reminded of our Saviour's prayer on the cross, for with their minds thus darkened they know not what they reject, or in so doing what they are losing. I have been thinking of forming a Bible Class, for searching the Scriptures in connection with the WATCH TOWER, as a help to the few who are willing to receive the light. It is a cheering thought to me, that I am entering my spiritual work, at about the same mature age as did my Saviour, and may I ever prove a vigilant and faithful servant is the continuous prayer of my heart.
Please send me anything you have on hand for distribution, as I think I see some new chances for doing good. You will find enclosed something for the Tract Fund – hope I can send more the next time. Yours in faith,
DEAR SIR: – You will permit me, though a stranger, to say that I have received knowledge for both head and heart that years of searching had failed to accomplish, and so with the hope of seeing others freed from sectarian darkness, I, too, will be glad to be counted among those who are helping to distribute the meat in due season. I know whom I trust now, thanks be to God. The "Food", came just when I had lost hold, because there was nothing to hold me in the churches – for I searched Baptist, Methodist, Free Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian denominations till I became satisfied that the Lord had something better for me to find: Then "Food" came – it seemed accidentally – but now I see it was providentially. Let me heartily thank you – or rather thank God for giving you the ability to open the way to the light. Great is the surrounding darkness and we are desirous to have others see their way clearly. If you can send us some reading matter, we can drop it into good soil. A dear old child of God left our house in great sorrow and perplexity of mind last Sunday evening. He has been a deacon in the Baptist church for thirty years. Said he, "O, I have studied these matters until I just find, that the more I give my mind to these things the less I know; and now I just know nothing and have made up my mind to let it go, for God will bring it out all right; and what can I do but wait God's own good time. When we get over there, we will see face to face." I endeavored to persuade him to expect the mystery to be explained. Said he: "O bring me anything. I want the best the Lord gives. I know God is love and I hate this "Hell doctrine!" The minister in a little church here, is in a quandary: he is a thinking man, only he is in the "iron bedstead." Please send reading matter, if possible, – these two at least feel their need.
Yours in Christ,
DEAR BROTHER IN JESUS: – Since writing you on the 26th ult. I have received "Food for Thinking Christians," and I beg to say that I never in all my life read any book with the same relish. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." I have got such a blessing from it that it is like a new conversion to me. I cannot tell you, how it has filled my soul with rapture and thanksgiving to God. I am sure it will bless all who read it. It contains much I have not been in the habit of hearing or seeing, before, and still the same was in the Scriptures before me for my searching out, as you have done. There is a great depth of truth through the whole book, and it is written in a way that even those who have not studied their Bible much will be able to grasp the most of its precious teaching, and also, I trust, make them, as it has done with me, fall down on their knees and thank God. I wish you to send me the TOWER regularly. I am only a poor man in this world's wealth, but I have faith in God. I cannot in my present circumstances, say how much I will be able to give towards the Lord's work during the year, but you shall receive according as he prospers me: However, I enclose my small mite for the present. Trusting you will be enabled to still carry on the good work you are in, by our Heavenly Father moving the hearts of those who have plenty, to give of their abundance, also those who have less, to give in proportion. I see from your paper, and the book I have referred to, that I will be more able in the future to preach the Gospel than I have done in the past; and also to correct some things wherein I can now see plainly from Scripture that I was wrong in. But I taught according to the light I had.
Your brother in the Gospel,
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – "Food for Thinking Christians" received and read; it is now going the rounds of the village as a great curiosity. Some denounce it as the work of the devil, as did the Jews the miracles of Christ; others say its dangerous doctrine, it antagonizes their Church creeds; others rejoice that the "glad tidings of great joy" can be made so plain. To me I believe it a great blessing, for I now read the Bible ten times more than ever before; partly to see if these things are true, partly to see what more can be found with this new light; and because the more I know of God and his Word, the more I love him.
To say that I heartily thank you for this little book is but a feeble expression of my gratitude, and while I do not yet endorse all of your teachings, I am anxious to know what more you have to say in harmony with them, and take this opportunity to ask you to send me the "Tabernacle Pamphlet."
May God assist you in reflecting the true light. Yours in the love and search of the truth,
DEAR BRO. RUSSELL: – Allow me to call you Bro. and thank you for your kindness in sending me a copy of "Food for Thinking Christians," and two copies of the WATCH TOWER. Your favor is greatly appreciated. The pamphlet I have studied, and read to others, and talked the subject over with still others, with varying results. Some, with myself, value it highly as supplying a want long felt. It treats on subjects which I have long thought about, and desired to understand. It is more valuable to me than its weight in gold. A dear old mother in Israel, a confirmed invalid and not far from the river, with her son who is an Elder in our church and his wife and mine (five persons), delight to meet together to read it and converse about it. Another Elder and his wife say I have got hold of a dangerous doctrine; yet they are good people, but the Food is too strong for them. Others cannot understand its teachings at all, but cling to hell-fire and brimstone.
But oh, what a glorious subject it is to those who can appreciate it, and the more we study it the more interested we become. I have been talking with some of the brethren and I see that I can form a class of interested inquirers after the truth.
I have started a spirit of inquiry. Please send another copy of Food for Thinking Christians for the dear old mother before mentioned, she has my copy and can hardly allow it to leave her. We should dearly love to hear preaching on the subject. We belong to the Christian or Campbellite church, but at present are without preaching, our pastor having left for more profitable pastures.
In the last chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians are these two sentences: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," and "Every man shall bear his own burden."
It is a burdened world. Every shoulder has its load, the carrying of which often becomes exceedingly tiresome. This is so far true as to make the invitation of Jesus, "Come unto Me, all ye that are heavy-laden," a universal invitation.
There are real loads, and there are fictitious burdens. There are some things which a man ought no more refuse to bear than a ship should refuse to carry its freight. He was made to carry just such burdens. It is unmanly to strive to shirk them. But, sometimes, people take on themselves that which there is no need for them to bear: and then they make great complaints against fate, or God, or whatsoever or whomsoever they suppose to be at the head of universal affairs.
Their contiguity exposes them to the suspicion of being contradictory. In one breath the Apostle teaches us to bear one another's burdens, and in the next breath tells us that every man shall bear his own burden.
There are two things to be noticed here. One is, that whereas we have the same English word in both sentences, in the Greek there are two different words. In the first quotation the word translated "burden" means that which tires; in the second, it means that which loads. Whatever makes a man grow weaker and weaker is the first kind of burden. Whatever is needful to carry – such as a soldier's kit, or a ship's freight – it is the meaning of the second kind of burden.
Moreover, we are to consider the occasion of the employment of these phrases. A Christian man is overtaken in a fault, through some infirmity of character or temperament. He is not to be thrown away, therefore, any more than a brave soldier who has not the strength to carry his heavy knapsack and gun must be thrown out of the ranks, simply because, for the reason, he is too weak to bear his burden. His comrades must come up and restore such a one, in the spirit of meekness; for that comrade, spiritual as he is, and strong now, may sometime hereafter become tired, by either an increase of what he was carrying, or a decrease of his strength. Now the stronger comrade must assist the infirmities of the weaker comrade, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Those who are spiritual ought to be considering their Christian brethren all around them, to see how they can help the weak; but every Christian man ought, as far as possible, to bear his own burdens and discharge his own duties so as to throw nothing on his brother. The burden ought to be sought by the stronger; it ought not to be shirked by the weaker. If there be burdens which I cannot bear, and have no neighbor to assist me, then I have a comfort which is afforded me in Psalm 55:22.
Silent, like men in solemn haste,
Girded wayfarers of the waste,
We pass out at the world's wide gate,
Turning our back on all its state;
We press along the narrow road
That leads to life, to bliss, to God.
We cannot and we would not stay;
We dread the snares that throng the way,
We fling aside the weight and sin,
Resolved the victory to win;
We know the peril, but our eyes
Rest on the splendor of the prize.
No idling now, no wasteful sleep,
From Christian toil our limbs to keep;
No shrinking from the desperate fight,
No thought of yielding or of flight;
No love of present gain or ease,
No seeking man or self to please.
No sorrow for the loss of fame,
No dread of scandal on our name;
No terror for the world's sharp scorn,
No wish that taunting to return;
No hatred can to hatred move,
And enmity but kindles love.
No sigh for laughter left behind,
Or pleasures scattered to the wind;
No looking back on Sodom's plains,
No listening still to Babel's strains;
No tears for Egypt's song and smile,
No thirsting for its flowing Nile.
What though with weariness oppressed?
'Tis but a little and we rest.
This throbbing heart and burning brain
Will soon be calm and cool again;
Night is far spent and morn is near –
Morn of the cloudless and the clear.
'Tis but a little and we come
To our reward, our crown, our home!
Another year, or more, or less,
And we have crossed the wilderness;
Finished the toil, the rest begun,
The battle fought, the triumph won!
We grudge not, then, the toil, the way;
Its ending is the endless day!
We shrink not from these tempests keen,
With little of the calm between;
We welcome each descending sun,
Ere morn our joy may be begun!
After our Lord's resurrection and ascension, the little company of a hundred and twenty disciples, according to the Master's command, were together awaiting the descent of power from on high – the Holy Spirit. While waiting they very properly spent the time in prayer and in searching of the Scriptures, and while thus engaged (Acts 1:13-26) Peter found that passage in David's prophecy which mentions the appointment of another to the office of Judas the betrayer of our Lord; and calling the attention of the company to it he said: "Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled ...which David spoke concerning Judas who was guide to them that took Jesus, for he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.... It is written in the book of Psalms, "Let his habitation be desolate and let no man dwell therein, and his bishopric let another take." [R550 : page 3]
Commenting on this, Peter urged that it was their duty to select one of their number to be a successor to Judas, saying, "Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. Peter's counsel seemed good to all the disciples, and accordingly they appointed two whom they esteemed the most proper persons, and asked the Lord to make a choice between them, agreeing to cast lots, and to accept the one on whom the lot should fall as the Lord's choice of an apostle to fill the place of Judas.
Now, though Peter and the rest of the disciples were very zealous and anxious to do the Lord's will, they evidently made a great mistake. In the first place, all that they were told to do was to tarry, to wait at Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. In the second place, their human judgment was unwittingly attempting to direct the Lord, even before they were baptized with the Spirit; and not only so, but to limit his choice to one of two disciples. It was just like impetuous though zealous Peter to make such a proposition, and the erring human judgment of the balance of the disciples to approve and accept it. But the Lord, knowing their hearts, simply ignored their error, and let time prove to them that he was abundantly able, without their assistance, to make his own choice and to direct his own work.
Of Matthias, on whom the lot fell to be an Apostle, we never hear afterward. He was with them at Pentecost, and was one of the hundred and twenty who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but his record ends there. The special mission of the Apostles is clearly defined in Acts 1:8 – our Lord's last words before his ascension: "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
While this, in a general sense, applied to the whole company of those early disciples, and while in fact by their faith and example, as a company who had actually seen the Lord both before and after his resurrection, they have been witnesses to all the world; yet in the strictest sense, it applied to those specially chosen as public teachers and witnesses; and those same twelve Apostles still speak through their writings, and shall continue to do so until the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth.
Since to be an Apostle was to be a witness of the Lord's resurrection, none could be Apostles except those who had seen Jesus after his resurrection, hence the eleven felt confident that the one for Judas' place should be chosen from the company present, but Jehovah had another plan and was preparing an instrument of his own choosing in the person of Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus? The disciples would never have thought of him. He was the most noted and dreaded persecutor of the church known to them, not only in Jerusalem, but pursuing them even unto strange cities; neither had he seen the Lord after his resurrection. Nevertheless Saul of Tarsus was a chosen vessel of the Lord, to bear his name before the Gentiles, and kings and the children of Israel; (Acts 9:15) and his after course gave full proof of his Apostleship. Though Saul was not among those who saw our Lord as he appeared – in the flesh – after his resurrection, this was no barrier to God's plan under which he was "chosen from his mother's womb" to be an Apostle. Hence we read, "Last of all he was seen of (by) me also." (1 Cor. 15:8.) While the other Apostles saw Jesus as he appeared after his resurrection, in various human bodies, Saul saw him as he is – a glorious spiritual body shining above the brightness of the noon-day sun. The effect of the personal glory of the Lord as seen by Paul, was to strike him blind, and only by a miracle was his sight restored.
As Paul saw Jesus – a glorious spiritual being – so all the little flock shall see him when born of the Spirit – in the resurrection. As at their conversion and consecration, they are begotten of the Spirit, in the resurrection they are born of the Spirit. When we see him "as he is," it will not have the effect on us that it had on Paul, for he saw him "as one born out of due time" (more properly before the time); but we (and Paul also at that time) shall see him as he IS, for we shall be changed and be spiritual and glorious beings like him, being fashioned like unto his glorious body.
In view of the benefit to be derived from such an example as Paul, it would be well to note in what a marked way the Lord gave proof of his calling. Some at the present day, in looking back to the early church, appear to think that they, unlike the church of to-day, moved along very smoothly, and that because they had actually seen the Lord and heard from his own lips, there was little or no trial of faith, and no differences of opinion among them; that having the Apostles directly appointed of the Lord and present with them, their teachings were all received without doubt or questioning; and, in short, that all was harmony, save the trials that came from the outside world, from those who did not profess to love or follow the Lord Jesus.
But this we find is far from the facts in the case. Immediately after the baptism of the Spirit at Pentecost, all were of one mind and full of hope and joy – "And the word of God increased, and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7.) And many gladly received the word and were baptized – as many as three thousand in one day. These were genuine conversions too, and not the result of excitement and impulse, for they continued steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and gave evidence of a spirit of sacrifice. Such were added to the Church daily. (Acts 2:41-47.)
While rejoicing in the truth, the fierce persecutions from without, only served to more firmly unite them in love and sympathy, and in defense of the truth against a common foe. But soon difficulties arose among themselves. Some began to "depart from the faith once delivered to the saints," to be "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ," and their evil influence was great.
It was in the very beginning of the outcroppings of error, that Paul's clear teachings and manifest leadings of the Spirit marked him as the very chief of the Apostles, a teacher of teachers, the special mouth-piece of the Lord.
Immediately after his conversion, Paul began to preach the Gospel, traveling from city to city, principally among the Gentiles, preaching the remission of sins through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, to all that believe on him both Jew and Gentile. As a result of his labors, little companies of believers were gathered in almost every place he visited. For a time he was encouraged by their faith and zeal, but the time of trial came to every one of them, testing every saint's fidelity to his consecration. The trial came not only to the Church in general, but to the Apostles also, and here we see Paul's clear faith and bold self-sacrificing zeal defending the entire Church against the assaults of error.
In his preaching, as was characteristic of him, without fear, neither soliciting the favor of men, he presented the truth in clear and unmistakable terms. It was clean cut and pointed so that all understood just what he meant. He taught that all, both Jew and Gentile, might be justified simply and only by faith in Christ; that the sacrifice of Christ as a substitute for us, fully met all the claims of the law of God against us, and that therefore we have life through him; that since Christ had thus made a full end of the claims of the law against us, there is now to believers no condemnation and no necessity for observing the ceremonies of the law heretofore enjoined upon Israel, and that in fact to longer observe those typical ceremonies by which Israelites had vainly thought to justify themselves, would now be wrong, and would indicate a lack of full faith in the ransom through Christ Jesus.
The other Apostles at Jerusalem as yet did not seem to see this matter so clearly, for they and the church at Jerusalem still adhered to some of the law ceremonies – circumcision, etc. – and when the Gospel went to the Gentiles they at first thought that they should be circumcised. Neither did they for some time seem to realize the force of their commission that the Gospel should go "to the uttermost part of the earth" – to the Gentiles. They had grown in grace and knowledge less rapidly than had Paul, being more or less retarded by the force of their surroundings and of old ideas.
After a time certain persons went out from Jerusalem to the various Gentile churches, teaching contrary to Paul, that they should be circumcised and obey the law of Moses, while Paul had taught them that they were justified by faith in Christ "without the works of the Law." To counteract Paul's teachings, these Judaizing teachers evidently sought to cast discredit on his authority as an Apostle, claiming that he was not really an Apostle, that the real Apostles who were appointed by the Lord were all up at Jerusalem.
On account of this difference of opinion the churches were more or less unsettled in their faith. Some evidently began to say, We don't know after all whether this Paul is any authority; it seems that he was not one of the twelve of the Lord's appointment, and we don't know that he has any right to teach differently from all the other Apostles at Jerusalem, that we ought not to obey the Law of Moses.
As this error began to spread among the churches, Paul began to find it necessary for the truth's sake to not only [R551 : page 3] oppose the error and re-affirm and prove the truth, but also to prove to the Church that he was as much an Apostle, chosen of the Lord, as were the others.
To the church of Galatia he wrote: "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him (Paul) that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another Gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ." But now let me tell you; "Though we (Paul and his associates) or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that we have preached,...and ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:6-9.)
And let me say further, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me, is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (vs. 11,12.) I Paul am an Apostle, not of men, neither by man's appointment, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from the dead. (vs. 1.) You heard of me in times past how I persecuted the Church of God and how I wasted it and how zealous I was for the tradition of my fathers. (vs. 13,14.) [And he verily thought he did God's service. Acts 26:9.] But when it pleased God who from my birth called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, but went forth at once to preach the faith which once I persecuted. (vs. 15,16,23).
To prove to you that I received my commission and authority direct from the Lord and not from them which were Apostles before me, let me tell you that I did not go up to Jerusalem until three years after my conversion; and then I went to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days; but other of the Apostles saw I none save James, the Lord's brother. (vs. 17-19.) Then fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation – the Lord sent me – not to learn of them, but to communicate unto them that Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles. (Gal. 2:1-2.) The other Apostles, fettered in a measure by the Judaizing influences around them, and not making sufficient progress in the knowledge of the truth, Paul was sent by the Lord to strengthen and assist them. But to show that he did not go about it boastfully he says, I communicated "privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run in vain (v. 2), lest I should fail to have them see the depth and fulness of the Gospel revealed to me."
When Paul went to Jerusalem he was cordially received of the Apostles and elders and the church at Jerusalem. Though they had one of their own choosing to fill the place of Judas, and though they did not seem to understand his selection and peculiar course in preaching to the Gentiles, yet recognizing in him the spirit of the Master, and hearing how he had been owned and blessed, and of his devotion, zeal, and self-sacrifice, they had enough of the spirit of Christ in them to accept and receive him gladly, and they soon began to realize that he was the Lord's choice. They saw that the Gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto Paul, as the Gospel of the circumcision was committed unto Peter, (for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the Apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in Paul toward the Gentiles) and when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto Paul, [R551 : page 4] they gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. (vs. 7-9.)
After his private interview with the various Apostles referred to in ver. 2, we read of the public conference of the Apostles and elders and the church at Jerusalem. (Acts 15.) Peter's speech (vs. 7-11) shows how he was convinced that not only should the Gospel continue to be preached to the Gentiles, but also that faith in Christ the Redeemer, without the works of the Law, was all that was necessary for justification either for Jew or Gentile, reminding them of the fact that God had given the Holy Spirit to the uncircumcision as to the circumcision, making no difference.
James' speech (vs. 13-21) was to the same effect. And the result of the conference was expressed by letter to the various churches (vs. 22-29) commending to them their beloved brother Paul and the truth he had been preaching.
But to return to Paul's experience in withstanding error and proving his apostleship, he shows that he was soon met with a new difficulty. Doubtless his visit to Jerusalem and the harmony of spirit and of faith greatly comforted and cheered him, but it seems that notwithstanding the decision of the Jerusalem church as a whole in this matter, there were a few who were determined to hold on to the error and to exert their influence in advancing it; and their influence was felt in retarding the progress of truth even among the Apostles at Jerusalem. After a time Peter came to Antioch, and at first he very properly treated the Gentile Christians there as brethren, on equal footing with Jews; but afterwards when some of these came down from Jerusalem, not wishing to offend them, he separated himself from the Gentiles and ate with those who still adhered to their Jewish customs, for under the law a Jew might not eat with Gentiles. Very soon Peter's example had its effect on Barnabas and other Jews in the church at Antioch, who before that, had been led to see that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, but that all are one in Christ Jesus.
This aroused Paul's righteous indignation, and he withstood Peter to the face, because he was to be blamed for thus acting deceitfully, and he says – right before them all, I exposed his deception and let them know that he had eaten with the Gentiles before they came, and that though he now wanted to appear to be in harmony with their ideas, he had been acting to the contrary by living as do the Gentiles – eating with them, etc. (Gal. 2:11-21.)
Thus, he says, I had to contend for the faith in Antioch, and now (chap. 3) "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the spirit are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (vs. 1-3.) As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL THINGS which are written in the book of the law to do them." But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident. Our only hope then, is in that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us – our substitute. (vs. 10-13.)
Thus with much reasoning did Paul seek to re-establish the faith of the Galatian church, in the breadth and efficacy of the ransom, and in the reliability of his teaching as an Apostle truly called of God to minister unto them. He then exhorted them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, and not be again entangled with a yoke of bondage.
But these difficulties did not end with the Galatian church. Paul also found that the Corinthian church had been beset by these false teachers, and that as a consequence their faith in his Apostleship and teaching was somewhat shaken. He therefore found it necessary to write to them; for, said he, I fear lest by any means your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:3.) Now if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit which ye have not received, or, in short, if they present another entirely different Gospel, better than that you have received, ye might do well to hear them (v. 4); but these do not pretend to bring you a different and a better Gospel, but rather to pervert the Gospel ye had received of us. "Such are false Apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (as a messenger of truth). Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works." (vs. 13,15.)
Now as to my Apostleship, I reckon that I was not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostle. But though I be unpolished in speech, yet not in knowledge, as you have had opportunity to know. (vs. 5,6.) Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you. (chap. 12:12.)
In further proof of his Apostleship, Paul speaks of the special revelations he received which the other Apostles had not received. One very notable one is referred to in chapter 12:2-4. He was caught away to the third heaven – Paradise – the new Millennial epoch – and saw things so vividly, that he could not tell whether physically, or merely mentally, absent from surroundings. This vision showed him more of the length and depth of God's loving plans for his creatures than he had ever before known; in fact more than was then DUE to be known, and for this cause said to be "unlawful to utter;" i.e., the vision was for his own personal instruction and not to be made known to the Church in general, because not yet due time.
It seems evident that Paul saw clearly the very same things shown to John in symbolic visions – called Revelations – the present unfolding of which (because now due time) is shedding such an effulgence of light upon the entire word and plan of our Father.
But though not permitted to tell or utter the deep things seen, it yet proved a blessing to the Church, for Paul's mind being thereby clearly and strongly guided into truth, he was enabled to write so powerfully and so clearly on every point of Christian doctrine, that his letters are the tribunals before which all error is uncovered and reproved. The glories of that great revelation or vision doubtless tinged and guided the [R552 : page 4] expressions of every letter and every discourse, and are now helpful in the understanding of the opening symbols of the "Revelation" by John.
Truly, as Paul said, he was "not a whit behind the very chiefest of the Apostles," for he had more abundant revelations of God's plan than they all. But of these he did not boast, though he referred to them as special proofs of his calling, and for the strengthening of their faith. Neither did he boast of the greater work he had accomplished over and above the others in making converts, and in establishing churches. But, he says, "Most gladly rather will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake." (Chap. 12:9,10.)
But, he says, you Corinthians have thought me a fool for glorying in these things, but you ought to have commended me, for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest Apostles, though I be nothing; (it is Christ in me.) (v. 11.) You doubtless, thought I sacrificed the dignity of the office of an Apostle by the things which I suffered for your sake. "Have I committed an offence in humbling myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the Gospel of Christ freely?" I have taken wages of other churches to do you service. (Chap. 10:7,8. [should be 11:7,8 - site Editor]) (He also labored with his own hands rather than be chargeable to those who had not yet come to appreciate the value of the Gospel and its ambassador. (1 Cor. 4:12.)
"Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also," but I will glory in the things I have suffered. "In labors I have been more abundant, (than the other Apostles) in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak and I am not weak? who is offended and I burn not? The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ which is blessed forevermore knoweth that I lie not. (10:18-31 [should be 11:18-31 - site Editor].)
Surely Paul gave full proof of his ministry and Apostleship, which consisted not only in proclaiming the glad tidings, but also in defending the truth against the assaults of the adversary to overturn it. We find him also exhorting Timothy to preach the word without fear of men, to be instant in season and out of season, (when it suited his convenience and when it did not,) to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine," telling him also that in his own first endeavor to withstand false doctrine, no man stood with him, but all forsook him. "Notwithstanding," he says, "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear." He also warns Timothy against Alexander the coppersmith, saying, "He did me much harm, of whom be thou aware also, for he hath greatly withstood our words." (2 Tim. 4:2;14-17.) As we thus view his record, from his conversion to the end of his life, we must say that Paul was not only the greatest Apostle, but, next to our Lord, he is the most perfect model of a self-sacrificing spirit that shines on the sacred records. Without doubt his great usefulness, as well as his knowledge of God's plan, was due to the fact that with such persevering effort, he carried out the consecration he had made.
While, as we have seen, the other Apostles did not grow so rapidly in grace and in knowledge, because more or less fettered by former ideas, and because at first they did not have an eye so entirely single to the glory of God as did Paul, yet we would not be understood as underrating in the least, the authority of their writings, which beyond all doubt were divinely inspired, and probably frequently beyond their own understanding. Neither would we desire to under-value the piety and zeal of any of the Apostles. Impulsive Peter seemed to gain more self-control, and later we find him boldly and freely endorsing the teaching and course of his "beloved brother Paul." (2 Pet. 3:15.) We find him also afterward warning the Church against false teachers who would privately endeavor to subvert the fundamentals of the Gospel, even denying that the Lord bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction, saying that many would follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom, the way of truth would be evil spoken of. (2 Pet. 2:1,2.)
We also find John writing to one of the churches and to the "beloved Gaius," warning them against the evil influence of Diotrephes, who, "loving to have the pre-eminence among them," received not the Apostles, speaking against them with malicious words; and having gained influence over the church in that place, cast out those who received the Apostles. (3 John 9:10.)
We also find Jude writing to the churches warning them against certain men who had crept in unawares, turning the grace of God into self-exaltation, taking advantage of the spread of truth to add to their own influence and apparent wisdom, and introduce their own false teaching. He wrote to put them in remembrance of things which they already knew, but from which they were in danger of being turned aside by these false teachers, exhorting them to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints;" and while he would have them shun the evil influence of these he exhorts the Church to make a difference between these wilful enemies of the truth, and those weak saints who had been partially overcome by them – "pulling them out of the fire" (destruction) to which their course was tending.
Though all the Apostles were not so prompt in self-sacrifice as was Paul, time and discipline proved and polished them, and enduring hardness as good soldiers, they are ensamples as well as Apostles to the flock. May all the dear flock consider well the examples and divinely inspired teaching left us, that we also may war a good warfare, and so run as to obtain that to which we also have been called. Let us learn from these examples, that those who most thoroughly lose sight of self and become lost in Christ, and in the seeking and doing of his will, will be most clearly taught and most abundantly used of the Master. Paul was the chief of the Apostles because he sacrificed more, and with greater promptness than the others: "Whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." – Psa. 9:17.
This statement of the Lord recorded by the Psalmist, we find without any qualification whatever, and we must accept it as a positive fact. If the claims of "Orthodoxy" were true this would be indeed a fearful thought. Hell, to them, means a place of unmitigated woe, where untold millions of human beings writhe in anguish, tortured by literal fire or the gnawing of conscience, which, say some, is even worse. Under this fearful sentence they see the vast majority of mankind hastening, as they believe, to their dreadful doom; yet feeble indeed are the efforts put forth to rescue them. Babylon still has plenty of time for social enjoyment and festivity, which according to their belief should be spent in an almost frenzied endeavor to save the perishing. And she still has plenty of money to spend in gratifying the pride of life and the lust of the eye which might be applied to the same purpose; but instead, witness her costly temples of fashion, her grand organs, her costly apparel, her contempt of the poor, her greed of gain and strife for worldly honors.
But let us look at the true meaning of the word hell, into which God says he will turn the wicked and forgetful nations. We find that it is the translation of the Hebrew word sheol, which simply means the state or condition of death. There is not in it the remotest idea of either life or torment; and no scholar can by any manner of twisting or turning make it to mean anything else. Suffering of any kind would be impossible where there is no consciousness, no life. The Psalmist says, "In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave (sheol) who shall give thee thanks?" (6:5.) And again it is written: "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave (sheol) whither thou goest." (Eccl. 9:10.) The corresponding Greek word is hades, which also means the state or condition of death, and no other can properly be attached to either. Every minister, unless he be very ignorant indeed, knows that this is true: and ignorance on this subject is in no wise excusable in these days when books are so plentiful and so cheap. But still they go on preaching this false idea of hell, which is nothing short of a slander against the character of God, as though they were still enveloped in the ignorance of the dark ages. This very text which we are now considering, is quoted and preached from over and over again by men who ought to know, and many of whom do know the true meaning of the Hebrew word sheol, and who nevertheless in their attempt to uphold the [R552 : page 5] frightful doctrine of eternal torture, knowingly pervert this Scripture. [R553 : page 5]
Well, you inquire, How, then, did this idea first originate, and then obtain such universal acceptance? We answer, that it originated with Papacy, and was a part of her scheme for raising money from her ignorant and deluded subjects. Papacy taught that this place of torment was prepared for all who did not seek the protection of THE (Papal) Church. All heretics were sure to go there; while those of THE Church not counted worthy of heaven, were permitted to tarry in purgatory, there to suffer reformatory punishment, which might be shortened and relieved by the liberality of their friends in securing the prayers of the priests.
No other doctrine of the Romish Church ever did so much towards holding her captives in the bondage of fear, and increasing her revenues. The Protestant Churches in emerging from Romanism, rejected the doctrine of purgatory, but retained the worse doctrine of eternal torture in hell. Though the increase and spread of knowledge has proved it to be false, yet like Papacy, finding it to be such a powerful agent in binding her subjects, and exacting her revenues, she is loathe to part with it; and since reasoning and enlightened minds are beginning to question this dogma, her policy now is, to put the brakes on reason, and to hurl her anathemas against investigation. If this bondage of fear were once broken, and God's children relied entirely on His Word, these great systems of Babylon would soon dissolve.
If we substitute the true meaning of the word sheol, our text will read: "The wicked shall be turned into the condition of death, and all the nations that forget God." This we believe; but who are the wicked? In one sense all men are wicked, in that all are violators of God's law, but in its fullest sense the wicked are those who, with full knowledge of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the remedy provided for their recovery, wilfully persist in sin and refuse the remedy.
As yet few, only consecrated believers, have come to a knowledge of God; the world knows him not and the nations cannot forget God until they are first brought to a knowledge of him. The consecrated have been enlightened, led of the Spirit through faith, to understand the deep and hidden things of God, which, though expressed in his Word, appear only as an idle tale and foolishness to the world, but which to the consecrated believer reveal the glory of God's character.
But, as we have hitherto seen, it will not be so in the age to come, for then "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Isa. 11:9.) Much that we now receive by faith will then be demonstrated to the world by sight. When he who has ransomed man from the power of the grave (Hos. 13:14) begins to gather his purchased possession back from the prison-house of death (Isa. 61:1.); when the sleepers are awakened under the genial rays of the Sun of Righteousness, they will not be slow to realize the truth of the hitherto seemingly idle tale, that "Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man."
We have also seen by previous investigation, that the gradual ascent of the King's Highway of Holiness in that age will be easy and possible to all, when all the stones – stumbling blocks – shall have been gathered out, and straight paths made for their feet. It is in that age that this text applies. Those who ignore the favoring circumstances of that age, and will not be obedient to the righteous Judge or Ruler – Christ – will truly be the wicked. And every loyal subject of the kingdom of God will approve the righteous judgment which turns such a one again into sheol – the condition of death. Such a one would be unworthy of life, and were he permitted to live, his life would be a curse to himself and to the rest of mankind, and a blemish on the work of God.
This will be the SECOND DEATH, from which there shall be no resurrection. Having been ransomed from the first or Adamic death (sheol) by the sacrifice of Christ, if they die again on account of their own sin, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins." (Heb. 10:26.) "Christ dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." (Rom. 6:9.) This second death should be dreaded and shunned by all, since it is to be the final end of existence to all those deemed unworthy of life. But in it there can be no suffering. Like the first death, it is the extinction of life: in fact it would not be called a second, if it were not like the first. The work of Christ is to destroy the Adamic death.
It is because mankind had, through sin, become subject to death (sheol, hades) that Christ Jesus came to deliver us and save us from death. For this purpose Christ was manifested, that he might destroy death. (1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14.) Death is a cessation of existence, the absence of LIFE. There is no difference between the condition in the first and second deaths, but there is hope of a release from the first, while from the second there will be no release, no return to life. The first death sentence passed upon all on account of Adam's sin, while the second death can be incurred only by wilful, individual sin, and can come only upon those who have first been released from the first death – either reckoned or actually released.
That this last proposition is true is evident, since a man cannot lose his life (die) twice, without having it restored once in the interim. The world will in the next age have existence actually restored to them by resurrection, and then, unless obedient to the favorable arrangements of that time, will merit and receive the second death, or death a second time. (Compare Ezek. 18:2-4 and Jer. 31:29,30.) During this age only those can be liable to the second death, who first by faith in Christ have been justified and reckoned as free from the Adamic death. These can become liable to the second death by sinning willfully, counting the blood of the covenant wherewith they were sanctified a common thing. (Heb. 6:4-6 and 10:29.)
But the application of our text belongs to the coming age, when all shall be set free from sheol or hades, for saints and sinners all go into sheol now, and this scripture indicates that, in the time when it applies, only the wicked shall go there. And the nations that forget God must be nations that have known him, else they could not forget him; and never yet have the nations been brought to that knowledge, nor will they until the coming time, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth, and none shall need to say unto his neighbor, "Know thou the Lord," for all shall know him from the least to the greatest of them. (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34.) Again, we find that the Hebrew word shub, which in our text is translated turned, signifies turned back, as to a place or condition where they once were. They once were in sheol, and were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and will be brought out of sheol; but if then they are wicked, they, and all who forget God, shall be turned back to sheol.
In the dark ages, when Papacy held control of men's consciences and few dared to think, one method which she practiced to supply herself with money was the sale of indulgences. The indulgence was a permission to sin and yet be free from its consequences. Like all great evils it came in gradually, and at first consisted in the forgiveness of sins and remission of the penalty to all who would fight the church's battles – holy wars as they were called – waged against all within her reach whom she deemed "heretics" and infidels. Heretics included all classes of Christians who differed from and did not support Papacy. Infidels were those who disbelieved in Christianity, such as the Mohammedans. Against these she waged her wars, and those who engaged in them and died in battle were sure of heaven, no matter what their previous course of life had been. This cancellation of sins was offered on account, not of repentance and faith in the ransom, but for what they termed the "good work" of slaughtering the church's enemies in the crusades, etc. Thus indulgences got under headway.
Afterward succeeding Popes and councils became still more bold, and argued that if they had a right to remit sins for service to the church, they had also the right to remit them for money for the church, and, if right for the living, it was right also for the dead. By and by they went still further and concluded that if they had a right to remit past sins for money, they had the same right to remit, or excuse, or grant indulgence for sins of the future.
We could not object to this course of reasoning if its premise or starting point were right. If Papacy had one of these rights, we must conclude that she had the others also. But what right has any man to consider any sin cancelled except upon the conditions God lays down – not works, not money, but faith in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Some of these indulgences expressly mentioned the very sins which might be committed. Some mentioned the number of years that the torments of Purgatory would be shortened to the indulged one. Of Pope John XII. it is recorded that he granted "ninety thousand years of pardons for deadly sins" for the devout repetition of three prayers written in a chapel in Rome.
It was the sale of these future indulgences for money which awakened and aroused a few such honest souls as Luther and gave rise to the Reformation movement, called Protestant, because of their protests and objections to this and other evils recognized in Papacy.
The crisis was reached when Julius I. and afterward Leo X. published indulgences [R554 : page 5] to those who should contribute money to the erection of the world-renowned St. Peter's cathedral at Rome, commenced A.D., 1506. The collecting of these funds from the sale of indulgences was committed to monks of the "Order of St. Dominic," among whom was the notorious Tetzel. According to Luther's account they sold indulgences in the streets, market-places and taverns, teaching that every contributor, if he paid on his own account, opened to himself the gates of heaven, and, if on account of the dead, he instantly liberated a soul from purgatory.
Tetzel traveled in state from town to town, bearing the official document or "bill" of Leo X. on a velvet cushion proclaiming to the credulous multitudes: "Indulgences are the most precious and sublime of God's gifts; this red cross has as much efficacy as the cross of Jesus Christ. Draw near and I will give you letters duly sealed, by which even the sins you shall hereafter desire to commit, shall be all forgiven you. There is no sin so great that indulgence cannot remit. Pay, only pay largely, and you shall be forgiven. But more than all this, indulgences save not the living alone, they also save the dead. Ye priests, ye nobles, ye tradesmen, ye wives, ye maidens, ye young men, hearken to your departed parents and friends who call to you from the bottomless abyss: – 'We are enduring horrible torment; a small alms would deliver us, you can give it, will you not?' The moment the money clinks in the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory and flies to heaven. With ten groshen you can deliver your father from purgatory. Our Lord God no longer deals with us as God – he has given all power to the pope."*
"Our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on thee;...and absolve thee by the merits of his most holy sufferings. I, in virtue of the Apostolic power committed to me, absolve thee from all ...excesses, sins and crimes, that thou mayest have committed, however great and enormous they may be, and of whatever kind....I remit the pains thou wouldst have had to endure in purgatory....I restore thee to the innocence and purity of thy baptism, so that at the moment of death, the gates of the place of torment shall be shut against thee, and the gates of Paradise open to thee. And if thou shouldst live long, this grace [favor – indulgence] continueth unchangeable till the time of thy end. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. The brother John Tetzel, commissary, hath signed this with his own hand."
A scale of prices was so fixed as to draw heavily from the rich and yet not overlook and miss the pennies of the poorer. For instance, the royal crime against the laws of the Church, of marriage with a first cousin cost $5,000, while the terrible sin of wife-murder or parricide cost only $20.
The advantage of Papacy in the promulgation of the doctrine of eternal and purgatorial torture is here manifest, and truly they left no power of eloquence unused to prove those awful doctrines, one of which – the worst – Protestantism has resolutely held on to, and as a sweet morsel refuses to give it up, though found contrary to God's character and Word.
No wonder that such deep depravity brought its own overthrow, so that even the church of Rome subsequently found it necessary to condemn it at the council of Trent. But even yet the same principle is in force, though more carefully guarded.
When Protestantism first stepped out it was upon the platform of "Justification by faith," and not by money, prayers or works. However, as we have seen heretofore, the lines of protest are gradually disappearing, and in many ways many of the sects are closely approaching a likeness of their mother. Even in this matter of "Indulgences" we find the spirit of the mother in the daughters. Not that they go to the same extent of depravity in the matter: that would be impossible, for the Father of lies is too crafty to attempt to deceive men in so open a manner in this enlightened nineteenth century, but it is, nevertheless, a fact that indulgences are sold for money in Protestant churches in very many localities.
It is so changed now, that a membership in the so-called churches is reckoned a passport to heaven. And memberships may readily be gained by those who are far from being saints, if they bring influence and money into the church. And even though they be known to be guilty of crimes against their church creeds, or worse, against the laws of God and men; if they have money which can be drawn from to build or furnish a little "St. Peter's," or to clear a church already built, of debt, they are unrebuked and continued in membership with all its implied rights of heavenly rest and happiness at the end.
As the unblushing indulgences of Papacy aroused the indignation of unfettered minds three centuries ago, so this modern phase of indulgence is arousing the contempt of the saints and of the outside world. But here, as there, good is resulting, for men are coming to see that while a membership of the true church, "whose names are written in heaven," is a sure guarantee of eternal life, etc., membership in earthly institutions, called churches, is a totally different matter.
Some are asking the question, while others are asserting that he is not present, that those who are teaching the presence of the Son of man are drawing largely upon their imagination; that there is no good ground for believing that Christ is now actually upon the scene of action among men.
Prejudice is very strong, begotten of early teaching and strengthened with years of training; so we may not expect to apprehend the truth all at once, nor expect our friends will do so. To expect it would be to expect something different from the general experience of [R554 : page 6] mankind. So we must be patient and wait for the seed to grow and bear fruit.
Then, as to whether he is or is not present, let us ask first, Is it time to expect him? That is, is the time for his second advent, toward which the prophecies point, fulfilled? Is it generally supposed by those who study God's word closely and carefully, and have His spirit, (others could not understand,) that the time has arrived when he should be expected? Has there not been special inquiry and expectation regarding his second coming, similar to that which existed at his first coming? Has not the time toward which the prophecies were supposed to point arrived and passed?
We think that not a few who would not like to follow out such an admission to its conclusion, would yet feel constrained to answer the above questions in the affirmative. (See "Times and Seasons," "The Jubilee Cycles and the Two Dispensations," in Day Dawn, [out of print]; also, "How will Christ Come?" in "Food for Thinking Christians"; and the forth-coming "Millennial Day Dawn.")
For those who have read or shall read the articles referred to, and who yet are troubled with the words of the angel as recorded in Acts 1:11, we subjoin a few thoughts.
When we say that Jesus' presence is a spiritual and personal presence, though invisible, we are asked if he was not a spiritual being at the time when the men of Galilee stood "gazing up into heaven?" And we answer, yes; but it was not his spiritual nature which they saw, and whatever it was, whether the very same body that was nailed to the cross, or another that resembled it, though the former is probable, it was brought into service at this time simply to convey to their minds the evidence that he was alive and had power over death, having risen from the dead. That this was the case, and that they did not see his spiritual being, is evident from what Jesus said to the disciples (Luke 24:39), "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have; so it was the flesh and bones which they saw, and we think this is indisputable evidence that, as a spiritual being only, he would be invisible to natural eyes, and this is farther verified by the fact that he WAS invisible most of the time during his forty days' stay upon earth after his resurrection. Why not doubt his presence then simply because he was invisible?
Several times during that stay he became suddenly visible and again invisible in their presence. His object, then, in giving us evidence that he had risen from the dead, was at that time fully accomplished and is now no longer needed.
We see that his occasional visible manifestations during his forty days' stay were exceptions, and that as a rule he was invisible. There was a declaration that he would "so come in like manner" as they had seen him go, but there is no statement that he would be seen again in like manner, as in those exceptional cases. But, says one, If he come in like manner, why can he not be seen in like manner? Let us illustrate. Suppose your friend leaves his home at noon, riding in a carriage; he says I will return in like manner as you see me go. He returns in the early morning before it is light, and you are asleep, Has that any connection whatever with his manner of return? Certainly not; neither is it necessarily implied in this passage that he would be seen again in like manner.
But what have we? We have the express declaration of Christ himself that "If any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not." Why? Because false Christ's and false prophets will arise, and they will be visible and will deceive many. If he were to appear to the natural eye, surely [R555 : page 6] there would be no harm in believing it, and instead of warning us to not believe it, we should expect to be exhorted to believe it, and to give good heed to those who should announce, Lo, here is Christ.
But his answer was in harmony with the question (verse 3), "What shall be the SIGN of thy coming?" (parousia, presence. See E.D. and R.V. margin; also Rotherham's translation, which reads, "And what the sign of thine arrival and conclusion of the age.") What sign would be needed of Christ's presence if he were visible? Surely the natural man could ask for no better evidence of his presence than to look upon him, but the child of God at this hour requires, and is furnished with better evidence than that, for modern science and invention can deceive our eyes, but the sign of his presence is such that God's children can rest with unshaken faith in it, and the enemy cannot wipe it out. After narrating the course of events which were to precede his coming, he says: "Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, behold, he is in the desert; go not forth; behold, he is in the secret chamber (materialized), believe it not." After narrating events still farther, up to the time of his presence, he says (30th verse), "And then shall appear (the glorified human body of the crucified Redeemer? No) the SIGN of the Son of man in heaven." Ah! then only those who can understand the SIGN would know of his presence; for it is not a sign that he is soon to come, but a sign of his PRESENCE.
But, says one, it says, "Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven." But it is not at the same time, nor it is the word idou, as in Luke 17:23. The root word is horao; to discern, i.e., they come to apprehend, to recognize the fact that he is indeed present; in no other way do we see how it can be made to harmonize with the preceding statements.
Now, let us read: "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and THEN (still farther on) shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall (finally) see (recognize) the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven;" all of which was understood at the first by those who could read the sign.
The troublous times cause them to mourn, and doubtless they discover that sin is the cause of all the trouble, and this would lead them to investigate, and thus finally they are led to desire as well as to recognize him.
Now let us notice the concurrence of some of the events at the time of his presence. The good news will have been "preached in all the world for a witness, and then shall the end (of the age) come," (heko, be here.) Has that been done? If not, then the end of the age has not arrived, and Christ is not present. Let such as doubt look up the evidence and see if this was not accomplished some few years ago.
There is an intimation given in the 48th verse that an evil servant will be saying, "My Lord delayeth his coming." This would not be likely to be said until some one had said he had come, nor would it be delay until after he was due to come. Both of these statements are now being made by two parties. One party says he is present, another says he delayeth to come; and they who deny his presence, smite their fellow servants, because they declare his presence.
In the 50th verse we are told that "the Lord of that servant shall come (heko, be here) in an hour that he is not aware of. In 2 Peter 3:10 we read: "The day of the Lord will come (heko, be here) as a thief," and in 1 Thess. 5:4 it is said: "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief." Again in 2 Peter 3:4 we are told of a class who will be saying, "Where is the promise of his coming, (parousia, presence. See R.V. margin, E.D., also Rotherham's Translation and Young's Concordance,) for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." You say Christ has come and is now present? Pooh! The idea! Simply ridiculous! Why, everything is just as it always has been!! I don't see any difference. Don't the Bible say that he will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory? Yes; and don't it say that every eye shall see him? Nonsense, then, to say he has come when nobody has seen him!
The elements are already taking fire, the friction between the contending moral and social forces is so great. The morning of the day of the Lord is cloudy, and thick darkness vails the face of nature, and only those who have light can see, and not until high noon will every eye be able to see (perceive, understand) that he is present; and when "every eye" sees him every one will be holy, "without which no man shall see (horao, discern) the Lord."
"Without faith it is impossible to please God." – Heb. 11:6.
"Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." – Rom. 10:17.
A clearly defined understanding of faith will show the theory of Theologians, who assert that God is now trying to save the world, to be not only at variance with his word, but also totally opposed to his attributes – wisdom, power and love. All wise, his plans are arranged for the accomplishment of his purposes; all powerful, he knows no such feeble word as trying to save, but can do whatsoever he will, and his will is, love to mankind. "He so loved the world." Therefore, Jesus, his representative, "shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied."
The word of God declares faith, a necessity to harmony with the mind of God; and its reasonableness will be apparent, when it is seen that it could not be other than impossible, to be at peace with God without it; and not only so, but it will then appear beautiful in its simplicity, as part of the grand plan of the ages, for the gathering together in one all things under Jesus.
Faith in any creed or system of religious teaching, not wholly founded on Jesus, as the purchaser, or redeemer, and expression of God, is a delusion. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), therefore, there is no other way to God. "No man cometh to the Father, but by me" – Jesus; no other truth concerning him – "He hath declared him;" no other through whom and by whom life is provided, "Neither is there salvation in any other – for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12.) "By grace (favor) are ye saved, through faith" in Jesus; – "faith toward (or in) our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21) is the unquestioning acceptance by belief in, and conformity of life to God's plan for the redemption of the world, as revealed in Jesus.
There is no merit in faith; it is not righteousness; nor does it justify us; but we are justified through faith, and it is "counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:5.) It is "precious faith" to those who are the called according to his purpose, because it takes hold of and appropriates the "exceeding great and precious promises" of his word to them, having obtained an "inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that is in me" – Jesus. (Acts 26:18.) These are the sons, or "children of God; and if children, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, (to the inheritance of a world,) if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Rom. 8:17); that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. (James 1:18). But if the Church be a "first fruits," there must of necessity be a great ingathering after the Church – "the mystery of God, should be finished"; otherwise it is no first fruits, nor could it be said in any sense, "that we should be to the praise of his glory who first trusted in Christ, (Eph. 1:12), if the world will not trust in him when the Church – "the body of Christ" – is completed. And not only so, but God hath for this very purpose "raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7.) All this comes within the range of "faith in Christ." To those who recognize this in God's word, it becomes part of that faith, without the exercise of which, it is impossible to please God.
Again, the purport of Jesus' prayer for those who should believe and have faith on him in the Gospel dispensation, conveys the same idea: "Neither pray I for these (disciples) alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us; that [when they are made one] the world may believe [in the next dispensation,] that thou hast sent me." (John 17:20,21.) "For he hath purposed in himself that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth. Eph. 1:10.
The love of God was manifested in giving his Son, not to redeem a few, as Calvinism would have us believe, but to redeem a world; for he commendeth [R556 : page 6] his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8.) "He died for all." (2 Cor. 5:15.) He gave himself a ransom for all. (1 Tim. 2:6.) "My flesh I (Jesus) give for the life of the world" lost in Adam; therefore there shall be a "resurrection of the just and of the unjust" – "the resurrection of judgment" – trial.
"God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16.) And we love him, because (we believe) he first loved us. (1 John 4:19.) Nor could God recognize as children those who do not love him; and they cannot love him without faith, for it is not possible for a child to love a father in whose word he has no confidence; therefore, "without faith it is impossible to please God." Nor can any man ever come into harmony with the divine will without faith.
Arminianism, in claiming that the heathen who have not heard the Gospel, are saved by the natural law of conscience, are in direct conflict with God's word, which declares it "impossible." Will God save those who do not please him? By no means, and they cannot please him without faith. No man ever has, or ever can be saved, either by the law of nature – conscience – or by the written law. Paul declares he was chief of sinners in all good conscience, and if he could be the greatest of sinners in good conscience, how can there be hope for any by obedience to conscience?
If man possessed the necessary ability to obey the law, and thus through the law become righteous, Jesus need not have died: "For if righteousness come by the law, then is Christ dead in vain, i.e., died to no purpose; but, instead of its being a means through which he could become righteous, it became, because of man's weakness and inability to fulfill it, a means whereby he could realize his helpless and hopeless condition in God's sight. For what things soever the law saith, it saith to them (all the world except those in Christ) who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom. 3:19,20.)
It is apparent, that "all the world" includes not only those who have the written law, but also those who, not having the (written) law, are a law unto themselves:...their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing" them; (Rom. 2:14,15), thus making "all guilty." "There is none righteous, no not one." Jesus said: If a man loves me, he will keep my commandments.
It is evident, therefore, that the billions of men who never heard "the truth" could not have faith in it, and could not rejoice in it, and consequently cannot have known God, and how could they love him? The carnal (depraved) mind is enmity against God, it is not [R556 : page 7] subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so then, they that are in the flesh (depraved) cannot please God." None are exempt from the condemnation of law. God hath concluded (shut up by law) them all in unbelief that he might have mercy on ALL. (Rom. 11:12.) Not, however, by saving them in ignorance; provision has been made by Jesus' ransom whereby God can be just and the justifier of him that believeth. But how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard? for faith cometh by hearing...the word of God. Because Jesus by the grace (favor) of God tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), the "good tidings of great joy ...shall be to ALL PEOPLE" (Luke 2:10) in order that they may have the requisite faith.
Only a comparatively small portion of the race has heard the "tidings" in this life, and, if they do not hear, when raised from the dead, the promises of God never could be fulfilled, but we are assured he "will have all men to be saved (from the consequences of Adam's sin – death) and to come into a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:4.) In no other way can God's word, and God's dealings with mankind be reconciled. Think of the ignorance, of the "only name" in this enlightened day, as shown by the most recent statistics of the population of the globe, which we append, classified according to religious creeds:
The Protestant missionary societies claim that they are able to reach 100,000,000 of this vast host of heathens, which would leave a balance of about 900 millions who have never heard the name of Jesus.
Think you, in view of these figures, that God is now saving the world by faith? If he be, this is a sad showing. Only one hundred and twenty-four million Protestants, of whom about twenty millions are said to be members of Protestant churches, which includes hypocrites and deceived persons. Truly the whole world is either apostate, Christian, Mohammedan, or heathen. If we accept the teaching called "orthodoxy," we must reject God's character or word, but we are safe in concluding erroneous that which conflicts with God's word, character, and our reason. In what contrast with this do we find the Bible doctrines, that the church is now being selected from among mankind, and, when made partakers of the "divine nature," shall be God's instrumentality in causing "the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth!" How sublime the thought – how Godlike the provision for all his intelligent – that all may have a chance to come to knowledge of and harmony with Him.
The history of Elijah the prophet, called in the New Testament Elias, is one full of interest to us, not only because it is a history of a courageous and faithful servant of God, but because we believe that he was also a type, and that, through the medium of his life, God has given us illustrations of some of the deep things of His word.
"Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." (Mal. 4:5,6.)
This was a prominent prophecy in the mind of the Jews, and they therefore expected that before Messiah should come, Elijah would first appear and prepare them. This matter was thrust at the early disciples who believed in Jesus, and truly Jesus' answers gave them but little light on the real significance of the prophecy; probably because it was among the many things he had to tell them which they could not yet bear.
"His disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the Scribes that Elias [Elijah] must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly SHALL FIRST COME and restore all things. But I say unto you that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." (Matt. 17:10-14.)
But when in another place Jesus says of John: "IF ye will RECEIVE IT, this is Elias which was for to come," (Matt. 11:14,) it causes us to consider: What had their receiving or rejecting of John's work to do with the matter? Would not John the Baptist (great as he was) and his ministry of six to twelve short months, confined in influence to a very small part of little Judea, be a rather small fulfillment of the great work, etc., prophecied of Elijah? It surely would. Then, again, was it to be Elijah resurrected that the prophet meant? No; but we think the prophecy referred to the coming of another faithful reprover of sin, such as Elijah was in his day, one ready to denounce popular and respected sin and sinners, as Elijah did the priests of Baal in his day. With this thought, we see how John, indeed, exercised the same godly boldness in reproving sin in his day. Thus he rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees, the great religionists of his day, saying, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt. 3:7.) And as part of Elijah's work was to point out the true and acceptable sacrifice of Jehovah, so it was a part of John's work to point out the antitype of those sacrifices, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29.)
This begins to look more reasonable, but is it in harmony with the Scriptures? We answer, yes; thus it was foretold in the announcement of John's birth: "He (John) shall go before him (Jesus) in the spirit and power of Elias... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17.) This, evidently, is the significance of this prophecy – that before the coming of the [R557 : page 7] great and dreadful day of the Lord some power or agency would be raised up, which would act as a bold teacher to arouse those in a proper condition.
But still the question arises, Was John's ministry sufficient to fulfill all the predictions concerning the Elias? Do not Jesus' words: "Elias truly shall first come and restore all things," seem to indicate a greater work than John accomplished? What if John the Baptist stood for or represented a multitudinous Elijah, as Jesus stood for and represented a multitudinous Christ, of which he was the head and his church glorified the body?
This, we believe, is the proper solution of the matter. We have seen heretofore that the Christ of power and glory, foretold in Scripture, is not only Jesus Christ, but all those, also, who being justified by his sacrifice have become joint-heirs with him, and fellow members of the same body, over which Jesus is the head, God blessed forever. (Eph. 1:22; Rom. 9:5.) So it does not surprise us that as John, in the bold and noble spirit of Elijah, introduced and made ready the way of Jesus at the first advent, so a greater than John – a company whom he represented – in the same bold Elijah spirit, will prepare the way for the reception of the glorious and complete Christ.
Then, the Elias (John) and the Christ (Jesus) failed of a full accomplishment of the restoring and reigning foretold of the Elias and the Christ; but the Elias and the Christ complete shall fulfill all the prophetic predictions.
To be brief, we understand that Elijah and John represented the true and faithful witnesses of this Gospel age, whose testimony and labors, under the blessing of God, shall prepare the way for the reign of the glorified church and its glorious head, by making ready a people prepared (the "little flock") for the Lord. (See Luke 1:17.) As John, in the spirit of Elias, in the end of the Jewish age called attention to Jesus, and thus prepared those who heard to receive Jesus and be exalted at Pentecost to the higher spiritual plane, so here, the Elijah class will in the end of this age call attention to the present Christ, that those prepared of the Lord to be exalted to glory may be made ready.
But if we look backward and compare the life of Elijah with the history of the true church of overcomers, we shall see such a marvelous coincidence as will convince us of the correctness of our supposition that he was the type, and the church the real Elijah. That the comparison may be the more readily made, we place some of the leading points of similarity in the history of Elijah and the church in parallel columns.
|Elijah persecuted for righteousness' sake.||The Saints suffer for the truth.|
|His principal persecutor was Jezebel, the wicked Queen of Israel, who is mentioned by name as the type of the enemy of the saints.||Their principal persecutor was the apostate Church of Rome, which claims to be a "queen" and ruler over spiritual Israel. (Rev. 18:7.)|
|Jezebel's persecuting power was exercised through her husband, Ahab, the king.||Papacy's persecuting power was the Roman Empire, to which she was married.|
|Elijah fled from Jezebel and Ahab, into the wilderness, to a place prepared of God, where he was nourished. Fed by the ravens and by the widow. (See 1 Kings 17:5,9.)||The true Church fled into the symbolic wilderness – or condition of isolation – to her place, prepared of God, where she was miraculously sustained. "The earth helped the woman." (See Rev. 12:6,16.)|
|Elijah was "three years and six months" in the wilderness, and during that time there was no rain, and a great famine was in the land. (James 5:17; 1 Kings 17:7, and 18:2.)||The church was three and a half symbolic years (a day for a year – 1260 literal years) in the wilderness condition, during which there was a spiritual famine because of the lack of truth – the living water. (Comp. Rev. 12:6; 11:3; Amos 8:11.)|
|When Elijah returned from the wilderness, the errors of Jezebel's priests were manifested and the true God honored, followed by copious rains. 1 Kings 18:41-45.)||At the end of the 1260 years the power of the truth and its witnesses was manifested (1798 A.D.), and since then the truth has flowed out and is deluging the world at the rate of millions of Bibles every year.|
|The king and the people at first rejoice and Elijah and his God are honored, but the spirit of Jezebel is unchanged and she still sought Elijah's life, and he was again compelled to flee to the wilderness. (1 Kings 18:40,45,46; 19:1-4.)||The teachings of the Bible have brought such blessings that the empires of earth recognize the Lord's hand, yet they have almost gone back to the principles of Papacy (Jezebel), with so-called "Protestant" sects, and the saints are again compelled to flee for the preservation of their spiritual life, and are again in the wilderness condition.|
|Elijah's career ended by his being taken from the earth.||The saints will be changed from earthly to heavenly beings.|
These are striking coincidences, and we believe are not accidental, but with Jesus, we believe that to those who could "receive" John's testimony, he to such filled the office or work of Elias, which the church more fully accomplishes.
The expression, "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers," is a peculiar one, and the sense of the Hebrew is even less clear; but we have it repeated by the angel as recorded by Luke 1:16, in a manner which makes it plain – "to turn the hearts of fathers to children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous." In a word, to restore harmony between Israel and "the fathers," (the patriarchs, etc.) and, in the fuller sense, the world whom Israel typified or represented, shall come into a condition of harmony and peace with God, similar to that of the "fathers."
When in the foregoing prophecy it is said: "He shall turn the hearts... lest I come and smite the earth with a curse," (Mal. 4:5,6,) it apparently teaches that the mission of Elijah would be successful – that he would turn the hearts. But looking at the ministry of John the Baptist, and also at the ministry of the church, we find that neither SUCCEEDED in turning any considerable proportion of men to the Lord. This seeming discrepancy causes us to look again at the word of the Prophet, and looking more closely, we find that it is a CONDITIONAL statement. If Elias succeeds, the earth will not be smitten with a curse, but if he succeeds not, the curse will come.
This harmonizes exactly. If John had been heeded in the Jewish church and had succeeded in turning that institution to the Lord, so that they had recognized the present Saviour, then that Jewish church would have received Him and He would have exalted it; but, on the contrary, they (as a church) rejected the teaching of Elias, rejected the greater one whom he announced, and, as a consequence, they as a people received THE CURSE mentioned by the prophet. Their polity was overturned in utter destruction. Now let us look at the larger fulfillment. Representatives of the Elijah class – the saints – have rebuked sin and censured sinners, and professing Scribes and Pharisees, and sought to turn the people, and finally announced the presence of Christ; but now as then, there are few turned so that they recognize the presence which they had expected so differently. And here, as in the Jewish prototype, the rejection of the Elijah message brings the curse mentioned by the prophet – the overthrow both of the church (nominal) and also of the civil powers to which she is wedded. This curse or wrath of the "Day of the Lord" has already been shown as commencing A.D., 1878, lasting 37 years, to 1914, A.D. – as the curse upon the nominal Jewish church was of 37 years' duration, from A.D. 33, where Jesus gave them up and left their house desolate, till the utter destruction of their city and nation, A.D. 70.
However, the work of Elias – the church glorified – will be successful. "He shall restore all things"; hence, while the curse comes and overturns much, it shall not be "utterly" cursed and forever destroyed, because the exalted Elijah – Christ – shall put down all opposition and then restore and bless.
The two characters, Elijah and John, are both needed to fully illustrate the closing work of the saints. The circumstances of the close of John's career, combined with those of Elijah's, seem to fill out the picture completely. According to John's experience, we should expect that as his reproval of Herod for having an unlawful wife (Luke 3:19), led to his imprisonment, so here, the reproval of the church and world for their unlawful union, provokes the displeasure of both and leads to the ostracizing (beheading) of the faithful reprovers.
Then, too, John died, but Elijah was taken to heaven, and thus they two represent the last class of the saints. The moment of the death of the flesh, will be the moment of translation to the new nature.
Before translating Elijah, the Lord arranged that he should prepare and instruct his successor, and sent him to Elisha as such. (1 Kings 19:16). So, if we have found Elijah to represent the overcomers, the "Bride" or "Body" of Christ, we might reasonably infer that Elisha is the representative of those who shall succeed the overcomers, as the Lord's mouth-piece on earth; hence our interest in his career.
From the time of his call to be the successor, Elisha followed Elijah. The latter expected to be translated, and the former did not, but knew that Elijah was to be. On the route, Elijah went to various villages apparently expecting to be taken at each, and seemingly an effort was made to test the interest of Elisha by inviting him to tarry behind; [R558 : page 8] but he evidently represents a persevering and faithful company, for he would not be discouraged nor leave Elijah.
There are some things which seem to indicate that these various stopping-places to which they went, but at none of which the desired translation occurred, represented or foreshadowed various points in the time-proofs where, with the then imperfect views of the plan, order, etc., it was thought the translation of the saints might be due. As these various stoppings were, doubtless, a test of the faith of Elijah and Elisha, so, doubtless, these time-points have served to test, and separate, and leave behind, all not properly belonging to the Elijah and Elisha classes.
The translation took place when all those stopping-places were in the past, and at no definite or fixed point. "It came to pass, as they still WENT ON and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder: and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11). So, also, it is now: all those time-points are in the past; none of them were times of translation, and we are going on without any definite points of expectancy, and the two classes are now communing together of the work, and now it is that we believe the change is taking place; that is, some are from time to time being "caught up" – "changed" from human to spiritual beings – with the Lord; as men dying, like John, as new creatures, translated the same instant to the heavenly or spiritual condition. (Psa. 82:6,7; Rev. 14:13).
We have heretofore shown the Scriptural teaching that the overcomers, or Elijah class, will be a "little flock," and that there is also developed another class – "a great company" – and this last seems to be represented in part by Elisha. While Elijah remained, Elisha was merely a disciple and not a teacher, but in view of his work, as Elijah's successor, a double portion of Elijah's spirit – energy, force, power to teach, etc." – was to be upon him, upon certain conditions, viz.: "If thou shalt see me taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but, if not, it shall not be so." (2 Kings 2:10.) And we are informed that, to see this, will be a "hard thing." The significance which we attach to this is, that it will be a very difficult matter, even for those expecting the event, to see [recognize] the change of the Elijah class. Since "ye (the saints, the Elijah class), shall all die LIKE men," it will be only by close affiliation and an opening of the eyes of the understanding, and the exercise of implicit faith in the promises, that these will be able to know of the glorious, spiritual rapture which occurs in the instant of death. In view of this fact, how transparently pure and faithful must be the life of each member of that Elijah class. Absolute perfection need not be expected while we have this treasure in imperfect earthen vessels, but perfection of purpose, aim and effort, should be manifest to those about us, that when we are taken they may know it. "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure." (1 John 3:3.)
Only such as do recognize the change of the Elijah class, can fill the teaching position. The "sons of the prophets" (theologians) will disbelieve; but upon this class who shall see, a double portion of the Elijah spirit comes. No wonder if this class becomes awake to the grandeur and importance of their work, when they realize the establishment of the kingdom – the glorifying of the Elijah class. And this is shown in type. Elisha received the double portion of Elijah's spirit, and if he be, as we judge, a type of the second company, its career will be a grand and glorious one.
Filled with the Spirit while mourning his loss, he returned, smiting the waters with Elijah's mantle in the name of "the Lord God of Elijah, so that even the sons of the prophets [nominal teachers] recognized his power, saying: "The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha" – yet they believed not that Elijah was taken; thus illustrating how the world (including the nominal church) will be as ignorant of the glorification of the true church, the body, as it was of the glorification of our head at the commencement of this age.
Thus far we have been merely fitting the testimony of God's word with the records of the lives of these men; and the harmony is so great as to forbid our regarding them as anything less than designed types. But, should we look into the future and attempt to read the progress of the Elisha class, from his acts we would be upon less firm ground; hence, we merely suggest that possibly Elisha's healing of the waters with salt in a new cruise cast into the spring, may mean that the channel (river) of truth will be cleansed and purified at its very fountain by new dispensational truth being cast into it, by the Elisha class. (2 Kings 2:19-21.) The increase of the widow's pot of oil until every available vessel was filled by which her sons were saved from bondage (chap. 4:1-7), may represent the increase of the spirit so that every ready and emptied vessel shall be filled – the pouring out of the spirit upon all flesh. (Joel 2:28.) The healing of the mess of pottage for the sons of the prophets, so that they ate of it unpoisoned, may represent a healing of the food of theologians and the putting of an antidote into their poisonous mess. (2 Kings 4:38-41.) The increase of food for the people (verses 42-44) may represent a feast of truth for the people. The healing of Naaman's leprosy may represent the healing and restitution from the blight of sin of which leprosy is a symbol. To be made clean, will require not ordinary washing, but a seven-fold or perfect washing in the God-appointed place, and will require faith, as also saith the Scriptures.
If our application be correct, we should understand the Elisha class to belong to the spiritually begotten family and not to the human, hence at their death the change from human to spiritual conditions would also take place. There seems to be an intimation of this in the record of Elisha's death. (2 Kings 2:12; 13:14.) Of him the same words were uttered which he had used concerning Elijah's taking, viz.: "O, my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof."
In view of the statement: – "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man" (John 3:13), some have wondered in what sense Elijah "went up into heaven." In reply, we suggest that the atmosphere, the air, is sometimes called heaven: thus the expression – "fowls of the heavens." Into the air heavens Elijah certainly went: where, we are not told, and it would be useless to surmise – of his death we are not told; indeed, since we see him to be a type of the changed saints, it would have spoiled that type had his return to earth or his death, been recorded; and yet we are sure that "death passed upon all men," and hence had dominion over him, and he could not have been free entirely from its grasp anywhere, until Jesus had given the ransom price.
Moreover, we may know that Elijah did not go to the heaven promised the saints, because not being begotten of the Spirit – not being a new creature – he was still a human being. [Jesus was the first begotten to the spiritual – new nature and the Leader and FORE-RUNNER of all who enter the heavenly or spiritual condition.] And as a human being, we cannot but suppose that Elijah would have been as uncomfortable out of, or away from this or some world, as a fish would be out of its element.
And in harmony with this reasoning, from known Scriptural teaching, is the above statement: "No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven." In harmony with this thought also, are those other Scriptures: "No man hath seen God at any time," and "Whom no man hath seen nor can see." (1 Tim. 6:16.) Only those who, during this Gospel age, change their nature from human to spiritual, shall see him as he is, because they shall be like him who is the express image of the Father's person. Men can only see God as manifested through his works and revelation. [R558 : page 8]
The transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of three of his disciples is a point of interest to many, not because they see its lesson and significance, but because they do not see them. We read that there "appeared" to the disciples, Moses and Elias talking with Jesus. (Matt. 17:1-9.) Jesus was transfigured [changed in appearance] – his face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light. A bright cloud overshadowed and surrounded them, and a voice out of the cloud said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." "And when the disciples heard it they fell on their faces and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, be not afraid. And when they had lifted up their eyes they saw no man, save Jesus only."
We might wonder and speculate about how Moses and Elijah came to be on that mountain, how the disciples, who never saw either of them, could know them, etc., etc., but all such speculation is set at rest by Jesus telling the disciples that they had seen a vision. "As they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: "Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead." (Matt. 17:9.) To the disciples the vision seemed a reality, just as to John at [R559 : page 8] Patmos, the various visions recorded in Revelation were clear and distinct, but Jesus certainly knew all about it, and we will rest on his testimony that it was a vision.
To think otherwise would involve the contradiction of sundry plain Bible statements; for instance, Jesus was not yet crucified, hence had not risen from the dead, and we know that he is the "first-born from the dead." But if Moses had been resurrected, then Jesus was not the first. The case of Lazarus and others brought back to a measure of life, we have heretofore shown is not called resurrection, because they were not entirely delivered from the power of death – but died again.
But let us see, if we can, what lesson was taught or what important truth was illustrated by this transfiguration scene or vision. Doubtless in that way we shall see a reason for the presenting of Moses and Elijah in the vision.
Peter, who was one of those present on the occasion, mentions it in his letter long afterward. He says: "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his MAJESTY. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And this voice we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount." (2 Pet. 1:16-18.)
We understand Peter to tell us then, that the transfiguration vision was an illustration or presentation in vision of the "majesty" and "power" of his (parousia) presence, [here translated coming]. It is, then, to be understood as representing the establishment of The Kingdom at Jesus' second presence. Therefore, from our standpoint, it is an illustration of the present time, in which Jesus is present and the kingdom being established. Moses, we have seen, represents the human element of the kingdom: ("Moses, verily, was faithful in all his house as a servant." Heb. 3:5.) while Elijah, as we have just been seeing, has stood for, or represented the entire Gospel Church – the spiritual – the house of sons. Elsewhere we have seen that there will be these two classes in the kingdom – an earthly and a heavenly – over all which and the orderer of both phases, will be Jesus; and this fits perfectly with the vision – Moses and Elias, with Jesus in the midst, transfigured and shining.
So now, in his presence, we not only see the evidences of the spiritual kingdom in the harvesting and sifting of the wheat, but also preparation being made for the establishment of the earthly or perfect human phase of the kingdom. This is no cunningly devised fable, and was not only shown to Peter and others in vision, but "we have also a more sure word of prophecy," which bears the same testimony, "whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." (2 Pet. 1:19.)
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