God's Glory in the Heavens
"The reverence of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom." Only the foolish say in their heart, "There is no God." "Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge." "The heavens declare the glory of God."--Psalms 111:10; 14:1; 19:1,2
An appreciation of the infinite Power of the Creator and of our own littleness should make us teachable. The study of Creation is the "Key of Knowledge." Using this Key we begin to realize that the only worthy ambition is to co-operate with our Creator's beneficient designs respecting His Creation.
The planets of our System compared with our Sun are as nothing. Imagine the Sun's diameter that of a large flour barrel: Jupiter would compare as a small orange, Earth and Venus as peas, and Mercury and Mars as raspberry seeds.
The Sun is three hundred thousand times the size of our Earth. A train at thirty miles an hour could go around the Earth in one month, but three hundred and forty years would be required for it to travel the circumference of the Sun.
Our day and night are the result of the Earth's rotation on its own axis, while its motion around the Sun marks our year. Planets nearer the Sun have shorter orbits, and hence, shorter years, while remote ones have longer years. A year on the planet Mercury would equal three of our months. On Neptune, farthest off, a year equals 164 of Earth's years.
Yet our Sun is only one of the fixed stars, of which the most up-to-date astronomical methods estimate there are one hundred and twenty-five millions. Around each of these fixed stars undoubtedly revolves a planetary System like our own. Thus reckoned, there are one thousand million worlds. Even this is not the limit. If we should stand upon the farthest and dimmest star, we should no doubt from there see as many more beyond. We are appalled at the greatness of the Universe.
The zodiacal signs illustrate various sections of the heavens, visible at different seasons.[PD2]
The First Day or Epoch
The Genesis account tells nothing about the formation of the Earth itself. It says, "In the beginning the Earth was--without form and void"--shapeless, empty. There were neither mountains nor valleys, trees nor shrubs, rivers nor oceans, but the Earth was. How long before that it had been created, is not stated. The account of the Days of Creation given in Genesis relates not to the construction of our globe, but to the ordering of it for human habitation.
There are various theories regarding its formation. We follow the one most closely harmonizing with the Bible. It is called the Vailian theory. It assumes that Saturn's rings and Jupiter's belts illustrate Earth's development as a planet.
The Earth was once molten, as indicated by the igneous rocks of the Azoic period: so called by scientists, but not discussed in the Bible. When the Earth was molten, its water and minerals were thrown off a great distance in gaseous form. As these cooled and took shape, they constituted great rings at a distance from the Earth.
Gradually the motion of the rings became different from that of the Earth in proportion to the distance from the center of gravity. These rings of water and mineral gradually approaching the Earth would be kept off by centrifugal force, particularly strong at the equator. The "brooding" of Holy Energy developed a light, probably resembling the Aurora Borealis--not sunlight. The Sun did not appear until the Fourth Day.
"Let there be light! and there was light." Thus, briefly, is summed up the result of the 7,000 years, styled the First Day. Not that God's Word would not have been sufficient for any miracle, but because He prefers to work out His glorious designs along natural lines.--Genesis 1:3.
There are scientists who claim that the Earth still has one ring about it, an electrical ring which, falling, will in a few years destroy fermentation, microbes and parasites, and greatly assist plant and animal life.[PD3]
The Second Day or Epoch
The expressions "evening and morning" and "day" cannot be understood to signify twenty-four-hour days, for neither Sun nor Moon was visible until the Fourth Day. The Earth was swathed in impenetrable darkness.
The word "day" applies to any period, or Epoch, as for instance, the "Day of temptation in the wilderness"--forty years. (Psalms 95:8.) Note again, that we read of the "Day of Christ," evidently referring to the thousand-year Day in which Messiah is to be King over all the Earth. (Isaiah 2:11.) In the common affairs of life we use the word "day" similarly, when referring to Caesar's day, Napoleon's day, etc.
We follow the theory that each of the Seven Days of the Creative Week was a period of seven thousand years. This, seven times seven thousand, equals forty-nine thousand (7x7,000=49,000) years, ushering in a grand Jubilee Epoch.
As one after another the encircling rings of water and minerals approached the Earth they would spread out like a great canopy, but would not be permitted to fall upon the Earth because of the circumambient air, referred to in Scripture as a "firmament." Saturn's rings have not yet fallen.
God made the firmament in the second, or Palaeozoic Day, and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. (Genesis 1:7.) The strongly mineralized waters above the Earth, held off by the "firmament" and centrifugal force, greatest at the equator, gradually concentrated at the two poles, where later they broke and then reached the Earth, forming layer after layer of mineralized earth deposited by the water which rushed from both poles toward the equator.--Genesis 7:11,18.
These rings, or belts, of water and minerals followed each other as great deluges upon the Earth--perhaps thousands of years apart. The Deluge of Noah's day was the last, of pure water only, heavier minerals being attracted first. Hence minerals are generally under several layers of shale and soil.[PD4]
The Third Day or Epoch
"And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land of the Earth appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He seas. And the evening and the morning were the Third Day."
The beautiful simplicity of this statement might mislead us into thinking that the gathering together of the oceans and the erection of mountains were works of magic. While Divine operations are all great and wonderful, they are usually accomplished by reasonable methods, called the "course of Nature." And Nature's course must be marked out by Nature's God.
The ring theory of Cosmogony is that several rings had precipitated themselves upon the Earth during this Third Epoch-Day. These, according to the Divine intention, so increased the pressure on the crust of the Earth as to cause it to buckle or wrinkle. These depressions became ocean beds, and the upheavals became mountain ranges. Thus was the work of the Third Day accomplished. The waters were gathered into seas and oceans, the dry land was upheaved and began gradually to drain off in preparation for vegetation. This draining must have required a long time.--Genesis 1:9,10.
We need not assume that all the continents as we now know them were thrown up on the Third Epoch-Day. In all probability the American continent was thrown up much later than were Europe, Asia and Africa. Earthquake disturbances in our day have changed the surface of the land. They give us a reasonable conception of how the Divine command was executed on the Third Day, preparatory to Earth's vegetation.
Appropriately we next read: "And the Earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit." That is to say, vegetation began on the Third, or Carboniferous Day, though it did not reach its perfection until after the light of the Sun penetrated. There are grasses and other vegetation which prosper best in darksome shades.[PD5]
The Fourth Day or Epoch
"And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night."
It is not necessary to suppose that the Sun and the Moon were created after our Earth. Instead there is a much more reasonable way of viewing the matter. The Sun, the Moon and the Stars were created long before, but had never, up to this time, cast their light upon the Earth because of the impenetrable veil which canopied it.
The appearance of the Sun and the Moon on the Fourth Day implies that another ring broke at that time and precipitated its great mass of water and mineral upon the Earth. Great gullies were washed between the mountains.
The atmosphere, heavily charged with carbon, was very favorable to the development of plant life.
It is supposed that the Earth still had considerable heat in its crust, that oceans were warm and highly carboniferous, and that the air was surcharged with carbon to the extent that no breathing animal could have existed. But those very conditions were extremely favorable to gigantic growths of vegetation.
This giant vegetation presumably passed into a condition resembling that of the peat-beds of our day. These beds of incipient coal afterwards came under great pressure, as one after another the rings of Earth came down in deluges, burying vegetation under slimy deposits. Our coal-fields are the result.
We are not to assume that the Sun and the Moon shone on the earth then as now. But they were discernible even through heavy banks of fog and carbon-laden atmosphere. The influences of the Sun and the Moon were necessary to prepare for higher forms of plant and animal life.
We may as properly lay stress on the word rule as on the word made in this text. God caused the Sun to rule the day and the Moon to rule the night. Besides, symbolically, it is claimed that the Moon represents the Law Covenant rule, and the Sun the New Covenant rule.[PD6]
The Fifth Day or Epoch
The carboniferous qualities of the water and the atmosphere having been absorbed into the cretaceous organisms of the sea, which formed beds of limestone, and into the rank vegetation which went to form the coal beds, the atmosphere of Earth began to be pure enough to permit life in breathing animals. To this period, therefore, belong the amphibious developments of animal life, such as the crocodile and other animals which can live either on land or in the water. Birds belong to this period, and in the latter part of it appeared the great Mammoth and the Sloth.
The conflict between Evolution and the Bible has been sharp. evertheless, unnecessary friction has been generated.
Only in respect to man does the Bible declare a special, direct creation of God. The statements of Genesis in respect to the lower creatures rather favor something along the lines of specialized Evolution. God said, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the Earth." (Genesis 1:20,21.) This is exactly in harmony with our scientific findings that the beginning of life came from the waters, and later extended to the birds, and later to land animals.
The Darwinian theory has disappointed those who swallowed it without a sufficiency of demonstration as to its truth. (1 Timothy 6:20.) Recent demonstrations show that every mixture of species and kind, even where partly successful, means a reversion to the original standards within the third or fourth generation in plants, flowers, fruits and in animals.
The correct thought would seem to be that under Divine supervision various orders of creation were brought to a state of development and a fixity of species, not to be turned aside nor thereafter altered. Not one suggestion is offered respecting human evolution from a lower creature; but quite the contrary. The Bible furnishes merely a basis for faith, "that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped."--2 Timothy 3:17.[PD7]
The Sixth Day or Epoch
As the carbon-laden atmosphere became more pure, vegetation became less rank. The animals changed correspondingly. The heavy-boned Sloth and Mammoth gave place to less bony varieties of animals, common today.
The specialization in the case of man's creation is shown in his vast superiority over the lower animals. The first man, Adam, was an image of his Creator, the highest type of fleshly or animal being. That image of his Creator consisted in his moral and intellectual likeness. It is difficult to judge from present human conditions all that is meant by God's image, because we have no sample of perfect humanity for comparison. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" in which Adam was created. (Psalm 8:5.) Sin and Death have reigned and the Godlikeness has been lost. All need Restitution.
It was toward the close of the Sixth Day, or approximately forty-two thousand years from the time of beginning the ordering of Earth, that God created Man.
The image of God from this standpoint would mean a human being thoroughly in tune with the Infinite One, one that would have no unrighteousness nor iniquity in him. Adam's transgression was not the result of ignorance, nor of pure wilfulness. It was the result of temptation, which his limited knowledge accentuated. His responsibility was for the knowledge he possessed. He knew that he was disobeying God.
When thinking of man in the image of God, we instinctively look back to "The Man Christ Jesus," "holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners," and like the first Adam, whose penalty He came into the world to meet.--1 Cor.15:22.
"After Our likeness let him have dominion." Adam's dominion over the lower animals was like God's dominion over the Universe. Angels, although in God's image, do not have a Godlike dominion over creatures of a lower order. Man's dominion, overthrown by sin, is to be restored by Messiah's Kingdom.--Acts 3:19-21.[PD8]
The Seventh Day or Epoch
In this presentation, we are following a line of thought which seems to be growing in acceptance among Bible students. We are living in the Seventh Creative Epoch, or Day-- that began where the Sixth Day closed, after God had created Adam in His own image and likeness.--Genesis 1:26,27.
God there rested from His work--from creating. He foreknew the permission of Sin and its dire effects upon humanity. He foreknew the steps He would take in providing ultimately a Redeemer for the race, and that the Redeemer would select a little company of believers, figuratively styled the Bride of Christ. To this Redeemer and His Bride, God intended to give the dominion, control of Earth. God purposed that Messiah's Kingdom of Righteousness should eventually uplift the willing and obedient from Sin and Death conditions.
God rested from His work of creating in that He did not actively employ His Power to overthrow Sin and uplift mankind. God rested the matter in the hands of the Redeemer, Jesus, to be accomplished through His sacrifice for sins and His glorious Reign for the release of mankind from Sin and Death. The Church, God's new creation of this rest period, is Heavenly, not earthly.--2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 3:1; 4:1-4.
It is claimed that, according to the Bible chronology, six thousand years from Adam have already passed. If so, the thousand years of Messiah's Reign, which is to close the great Seventh Epoch-Day, is near at hand.
According to this beautiful theory, the work of Messiah in His thousand-year Reign soon to begin will complete the Creation. Not only will the race be brought to human perfection, but incidentally man will have obtained the needed experience in respect to good and evil. Meantime, also, the Earth will be gradually coming to a state of perfection--Paradise restored world-wide. Both human perfection and the perfection of the Earth were fittingly represented in Eden, when Adam was in his Maker's image--a King.[PD9]
Mother Eve Created
As the Creation of Adam was at the close of the Sixth Day, the Creation of Mother Eve is indicated as having been accomplished in the beginning of the Seventh Day. However we view the matter, the first pair were created approximately in the beginning of the Seventh Day or Epoch, which is now nearly completed. Mother Eve was merely a portion of Adam separated from him for a special purpose--for the propagation of a race. Adam possessed originally in his own person the qualities masculine and feminine which subsequently were divided between him and his wife, when she was taken from his side.--Genesis 2:21-23; 1 Corinthians 11:8.
Adam for a time was alone in Eden, finding no congenial companionship in the beasts and the birds. Mother Eve was his mate, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Their very difference of quality and disposition made them the more companionable to each other, because each found in the other the desired complement. They twain were one; neither one was complete without the other. The feminine qualities of Adam's perfection he still possessed--in Mother Eve.
Adam was the father of the race and failed to give it life. Jesus is to become its second father, the Second Adam, through whom everlasting life may be attained.--1 Cor. 15:21.
Eve was associated with Adam in the sin and disobedience which brought the penalty. So the Elect Church, the Bride of Christ, when completed, glorified, will be His Joint-Heir in His Kingdom, and His associate in the "regeneration" of the world during His Messianic Reign.--Romans 8:17; Matthew 19:28.
Another suggestion has been offered: Jesus declared that those who attain to that resurrection will neither marry nor be given in marriage. As Adam originally possessed all the qualities of character, masculine and feminine, so humanity, when fully restored to the image and likeness of God, will re-attain perfection of individuality. Sex divisions will then be no more. Earth will be filled with sufficient population.--Luke 20:35,36.[PD10]
Mother Eve Beguiled
The New Testament bears out the story of Genesis, of Mother Eve's deception, and that Father Adam yielded to disobedience through her influence. St.Paul declares that Adam was not deceived, and that he therefore had the greater responsibility. The Scriptures everywhere portray that it is through Adam's disobedience that the condemnation passed upon his entire race. He was its responsible head. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men."--Romans 5:12.
The Bible account tells of Mother Eve's thirst for knowledge, and of Satan's taking advantage of this, beguiling her into disobedience. We need not suppose that the serpent spoke audibly; rather, as we say, "Actions speak louder than words." It is probable that the serpent spoke in this manner.
God had authorized our first parents to freely eat of all the fruits of Paradise except of the species called "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." It was forbidden for a time as a test of their loyalty. The eating of the fruit of this tree, they were forewarned, would bring upon them the curse--the Death Sentence. The serpent ate of various fruits, and seemed especially fond of the forbidden fruit. Observation proved that the fruit did not kill the serpent, and the inference drawn by Mother Eve was that God had forbidden the use of the very best tree in Eden. Her conclusion was that God had a selfish motive in forbidding the use of that fruit; that He feared His creatures would become as wise as Himself.
Mother Eve did not broach these suspicions to her husband. She would eat, acquire the knowledge God was withholding, and then assist Adam to it.--Genesis 3:6.
Adam realized the seriousness of Eve's disobedience. He thought of the long days before he had her companionship. Now, he would be lonely again. In desperation Adam determined to join Eve in the Sin and its penalty. Adam's death was a slow suicide! His dying lasted 930 years.[PD11]
Expulsion From Eden
The Word of God must stand, whether it be the word promising Eternal Life or the sentence of Death. There is no variableness with Him, neither shadow of turning. The curse, the Death Sentence, foretold by the Lord, was executed, but not instantly. Adam was not stricken lifeless with a thunderbolt. From the very beginning God foreknew all, and had planned the redemption of Adam, Eve and their children. To this end Jesus came and "died, the Just for the unjust." As a result ultimately the curse of death will be removed. "There shall be no more curse"--no more dying, sighing, or crying, nor any more pain.--Revelation 22:3; 21:4,5.
All of us were told, and many of us believed fully, that the penalty of Father Adam's disobedience was eternal torture, in which all of his posterity must share, except a few--the saintly, the Elect. Told that this was the teaching of the Bible, we accepted without proof.--1 Thessalonians 5:21.
Now Christian people examine their Bibles more carefully. They find that the curse, or penalty for sin, is a totally different one. "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23.) "The soul that sinneth it shall die." This penalty of death has rested against Adam and his family for six thousand years. It has brought sorrow, sighing, pain and trouble; it has blighted our lives mentally, morally and physically.--Romans 5:12.
It is this curse of death that was pronounced against Father Adam, according to the Genesis account, and also according to the New Testament. "Accursed is the earth for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring fourth unto thee. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread until thou return unto the ground from whence thou wast taken, for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return." It is from this curse that Jesus redeemed us by dying, the Just for the unjust. It is from this death-curse that Messiah rescues all by a resurrection from the dead. "By man came death, by man also the resurrection of the dead."--1 Corinthians 15:21.[PD12]
No children were born to Adam and Eve in Eden. They labored with sweat of face for quite a time before their first-born came. Doubtless he was birth-marked with a jealous, unhappy disposition. Toil conduced to fretfulness in those who knew a happier lot in Eden. Fault-finding with each other, resentment against the Creator, discontent with their lot, probably marked their offspring--Cain. The world has since been under a "reign of Sin and Death."
Daughters also were born to them, and later another son, Abel, of a very different disposition from their first-born. The experiences of life may have mellowed their hearts. They remembered an intimation of hope connected with their sentence; namely, that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. Abel's disposition indicates that he had a contrite heart, and desired to please God. If parents realized to what extent mental conditions affect their offspring, all would strive to bestow favorable birth-traits on their children.
Years passed. Cain and Abel were inspired by the promise respecting the Seed of the woman, and the hope for recovery by Divine favor. They approached the Lord with offerings to receive a blessing. Abel's sacrifice of animal life God accepted, because it typified the necessity for Jesus' death as the basis for forgiveness of sin. God's rejection of Cain's offering teaches that without shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins. Cain should have procured an animal for acceptable sacrifice, in obedience to the Divine will. Instead, he allowed anger, malice, hatred, and strife to burn in his heart, and became a murderer.--Genesis 4:5-8.
St. Paul says that Abel's blood cried to God for justice against Cain. But Jesus' blood cried to God for mercy on the sinner. Every injustice cries to God for justice. By a special covenant, Jesus and His Elect Church lay down their lives sacrificially for Adam and his race. (Romans 12:1.) The "better sacrifices" completed, Restitution follows.[PD13]
Abel the First Martyr
The word "martyr" signifies witness, and is particularly used in reference to those who witness to the Lord's cause faithfully, at the cost of suffering or death. Abel has the distinction of being God's first martyr. It is very remarkable that nearly all the martyrs have suffered at the hands of "brethren." Thus Jesus and the Apostles received their persecution chiefly from Jewish brethren, sharers of the same blessed hopes and promises. (John 16:2,3.) How strange that it should be thus!
Similarly, during this Gospel Age, Christians have suffered martyrdom at the hands of fellow Christians. Thus the Scriptures foretold, saying, "Your brethren that hated you and that cast you out, said, "The Lord be glorified. But He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed."Every martyr, in proportion to his faithfulness, will ultimately receive a crown of life, while all persecutors will ultimately be ashamed.
The reign of Sin and Death continued for four thousand years before God sent His Son into the world to be its Redeemer and Deliverer. The Redeemer will set it free from bondage to Sin and Death, but He could not do so unless first He paid the death penalty--dying, the Just for the unjust. During those four thousand years vague promises were given from time to time. But no start was made to fulfil them until Jesus appeared. Even those vague promises were confined to the Jewish nation. Outside nations, the Gentiles, received no promises of relationship to God. They were condemned sinners, and no hopes were held out to them. As St. Paul says, they were without hope--"being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."--Ephesians 2:12.
For six thousand years, according to St. Paul, we have had a reign of Sin and Death. Christians are still praying for the blessed Day of Messiah, for Satan's binding. Then blessings will displace sin, sorrow and death.--Revelation 21:4.[PD14]
Sorrow and Mourning Begun
The first death in Adam's family must have cast a great shadow. The hope centered in the Divine promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head was temporarily snuffed out. Shortly after, Seth was born. His name indicates that his parents hoped that he would be the man promised of the Lord--not seeing that the promised One would be the Messiah, who would come long afterward, and for whose work the world still waits.
Although we speak of this as the first death, we must not forget that from the Divine standpoint Adam and his race were already dead, in that none can regain everlasting life except through the Redeemer's work of Sin-Atonement.
At present the population of the world consists of sixteen hundred millions, ninety thousand dying every day.
It is undoubtedly fortunate for our fallen race that we cannot appreciate deeply the sorrows and difficulties of others. Each individual, each family, has about as large a share of sorrow as it can properly bear. Indeed, the poet, realizing the folly of unrestrained grief, has well sung,
"Go bury thy sorrow,
The world has its share,
Go bury it deeply,
Go hide it with care."
Hope, joy and peace come to us through the Divine promise that the time is coming when there shall be no more sorrow or dying, no more sin or pain. For Messiah's Kingdom shall conquer Sin and Death and cause God's will to be done on Earth as fully as it is now done in Heaven.--Matthew 6:9,10.
Our experiences with Sin and its penalty should make us all sympathetic. We should do nothing to add to the sorrow of others, but everything to relieve. The words of Jesus touch this chord of sympathy, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." There is no rest for the weary of heart except in union with Christ.[PD15]
Sons of God, Daughters of Men
Long before man's creation, angels were created, yet sin was unknown until Adam's day. The beginning of sin, according to the Bible, was in the Garden of Eden. Lucifer, an angel of very high rank, had long cherished in his heart ambitious designs. If opportunity ever offered he would show God and the angels his grand schemes. His thought is expressed by the Prophet: "I would ascend above the stars [angels], I would be as the Most High"--an Emperor.When Lucifer beheld the first human pair, he was tempted to try his experiment. They were a new order of beings in God's moral image. They had procreative powers, which no angel possessed. Their offspring filling the Earth would be his subjects, through whom he would work out his ambitious schemes. Thus Lucifer became Satan--God's opponent.--Isaiah 14:12-14.
All the holy angels were bewildered. His was the first rebellion against the Almighty's laws. No punishment followed, and the angels queried whether or not God was able to enforce His laws. Centuries rolled on; the human family was wasting; God's penalty, "Dying, thou shalt die," was gradually being enforced. Satan realized that his kingdom of dying subjects would make but a poor showing ever. He conceived a plan to outwit God and develop a new order of beings--hybridized humans, infused with superior vitality.
The angels possessed a God-given power of materialization. They could appear in human bodies resembling those of men. The Bible attests this. (Genesis 18.) The angels were permitted contact with the fallen race to prove whether they could bring mankind back to God.--Hebrews 2:5.
The record of Genesis 6:2-5is that the "sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair, and they took unto themselves wives of all they preferred." Thus the angels became the fathers of a new race, distinct from Adam's. The record is that these were giants, physically and intellectually--"men of renown," who filled the Earth with violence.[PD16]
While the Ark was Preparing
The disloyal course of the angels apparently continued for centuries without any outward manifestation of God's ability to check them. Thus all the holy angels were tested, and all who chose "were disobedient in the days of Noah."--1 Peter 3:20.
Noah's family was singled out as exceptional, in the statement, "Now Noah was perfect in his generation"--implying that few or no others were perfectly generated--of pure Adamic stock. (Genesis 6:9.) Noah's family, therefore, included all the uncontaminated--only eight persons. They, by Divine command, built the Ark, and thus witnessed to the world the Divine intention respecting a Deluge.
Noah's message respecting a Divine judgment by a Deluge seemed ridiculous. Until the Deluge there was no rain. The last of the great "rings" which then flooded the Earth was of pure water. For centuries it was spread out over the firmament. The whole Earth was a great hothouse. There were practically no changes of seasons, nor storms, because the great water canopy preserved it in perpetual Summer. Of that period we read: "For as yet there was no rain on the Earth." (Genesis 2:5.) Noah, the preacher of righteousness, was mocked and considered a fool because of his faith in God's Word, just as others of the Lord's people at various times have been mocked by those who lacked faith, and are yet mocked.
Finally, the Deluge came. "The fountains of the great deep [canopy] were broken up." The breaking of the canopy precipitated millions of tons of water at both poles, forming two great tidal waves, covering the Earth for a great depth, deepening the ocean beds, and throwing up additional mountains.
The cradle of the world is supposed to have been in Armenia. Geology tells us that the land of that vicinity was at one time a quiet settling pond, as evidenced by heavy alluvial deposits. In this vicinity the Ark floated, and by Divine protection landed on Mt. Ararat its precious freight for the world's new start.[PD17]
The account of the fall of the angels from being sons of God to be demons helps us to understand why God decreed the Deluge to wipe out all of the human race except Noah and his family. We perceive that God from the first intended to deal only with Adam and his family. The giant sons of the fallen angels (Nephilim) came into being contrary to the Divine will; hence, properly, no provision was to be made for them. They never had a right to life, nor will they have a resurrection. On the other hand, all of Adam's posterity, redeemed by Jesus' death, must be recovered from death, with full opportunity to secure everlasting life.
After the Deluge, the demon angels dematerialized--resumed their spirit conditions. St. Peter and St. Jude reveal the penalty inflicted upon them. "Those angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation [spirit condition], God restrained under chains [restraints] of darkness, unto the Judgment of the Great Day."--2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
The liberties of the fallen angels--demons--were restrained. They are unable to use deceptions in the light--unable to materialize as formerly. Note, however, that the limitation "unto" implies that when the "great Day of Wrath" shall come, these fallen angels will be permitted to materialize and become potent factors in the strife. Other Scriptures indicate that these fallen angels will have much to do with the great "time of trouble" with which this Age will close, and in which Messiah's Kingdom will be inaugurated.
These fallen angels were cast to tartarus--our Earth's atmosphere. Satan, a cherub-angel of higher rank, is styled the Prince of Demons. They are not in some far-off place stoking fires, but keep as close to humanity as possible. Not permitted to materialize, they seek to obsess, to demonize by clairvoyance and clairaudience. Mankind would properly resent them if their true character were known. They therefore personate the dead, communicating through spirit-mediums.[PD18]
The End of That Age
In the Scriptures, the expression "End of the World" is frequently used. St. Peter tells us that the world came to an end in the Deluge. It was not the Earth which came to an end; merely that order or condition of things which prevailed prior to the Deluge ceased there. A new world, a new order of things, was there ushered in. This is in strict accordance with the proper translation of the Greek. The common translation unfortunately has deceived many. We would better read "End of the Age"--not End of the World.
Ages may end and be succeeded by other ages, but the Bible declares that "the Earth abideth forever;" that "God formed it not in vain; He formed it to be inhabited." It has never been thoroughly habitable, nor has it ever been inhabited, in the proper sense of the term. The work of Messiah's Kingdom will be to make God's footstool glorious, and fit for those restored to His favor. His further work will be to uplift man and restore him to all that was lost in Eden and redeemed at Calvary. He will destroy only the incorrigible.
In the new order of things started by Noah and his family, God allowed humanity to have its way and to work out its own schemes without Divine interference, except in extreme cases. He allowed the world to learn lessons, while He carried out His own great Plan, of which Redemption is the center, and Messiah's Kingdom the circumference, for the recovery of mankind from their fallen estate.--Romans 5:12-14.
The development of God's Plan has been long from the human standpoint, but not so from the Divine, for we read: "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday;" and again, "A day with the Lord is as a thousand years." During six of these thousand-year Days, in which He rests or desists from interfering with the world's affairs, God has permitted a reign of Evil, but His arrangements are complete whereby Messiah, the Redeemer, will fully restore all the willing and obedient to all that Adam forfeited.--Acts 3:19-22.[PD19]
The Rainbow Pledge
When Noah and his family came out of the Ark, they acknowledged God by offering to Him a sacrifice, and God pledged the Rainbow as a sign that He would never again destroy mankind by a flood of waters. A rainbow was never seen before that time, for the reason given in the Bible; there had been no rain. Furthermore, the Sun's rays did not directly strike the Earth, but merely through the canopy, with much the same effect as that of a hothouse.
Many changes were brought about by the removal of the canopy--rains, floods, droughts, thunder-storms, tornadoes, extremes of heat and cold. These things were impossible under the canopy. Noah's intoxication is accounted for along these lines. The juice of the grape had not previously fermented. Hence Noah could not have known of its intoxicating effect.
With the collapse of the watery envelope, came the extreme heat of the tropics and the extreme cold of the polar regions, before the ocean currents modified them.
The change must have been almost instantaneous. We have proofs of this. In northern Siberia an antelope was found imbedded in ice. It had green grass in its stomach, which proved that its death occurred suddenly while it was feeding. Similarly, a mastodon was found imbedded in ice with food between its teeth. Thus is demonstrated that the poles were once as equable as the temperate zone, and that in a moment came such a change as could be brought about only by the breaking of the canopy. The great glaciers and heavy ice of the Arctic regions, formed thus suddenly, have existed for centuries. The water did not all congeal into ice, but like a tidal wave carried great glaciers and boulders across the North American continent, and Northwestern Europe, as scientists have clearly traced. They cut through hills with such force that they have left their mark for all time. Equatorial currents, the Gulf Stream and the Japan Stream have since thawed out much of the polar ice.[PD20]
Demigods of Greece and Egypt
Long have the learned wondered what foundation Grecian Mythology might have had. Now, taking heed to the sure Word of God, we perceive that the angels who materialized before the Flood were the gods of Mythology, while their offspring, the giants, were the demigods. The suggestion may well start a flood of reflection in thinking minds.
Egyptologists have been astonished by their findings in the tombs of the Pharaohs. In some of these, historic tablets have been found, tracing the ancestry of the Pharaohs apparently back to Creation--the first Pharaoh--Adam. But these tablets show so many more generations than the Bible record that Egyptologists lose all faith in the Genesis account. They become Higher Critics, discount the Bible record and pin their faith to the Egyptian tablets. They confess, however, that these tablets vary, and more or less contradict each other. Concededly, the most accurate is THE ABYDOS TABLET, found in the sepulchre of Seti I.--probably the Pharaoh who made Joseph his Prime Minister and who is supposed to have died about 120 years before Moses was born.
The chief fault found with this Tablet is that it is not so lengthy as some of the others. Nevertheless, Pharaoh, Seti I., preserved this Tablet for us with great care. He sank a shaft sixty feet deep through solid rock. At that level his masons cut out the stone staircase on which THE ABYDOS TABLET is portrayed. An exact copy of it is to be found in the British Museum. At considerable expense and with difficulty we have secured the photograph of it, which we here present. Our object is to show that this best of Egyptian records fully corroborates the Genesis account.
This list of Pharaohs is shorter than the others because it omits the names of gods and demigods. It is the complete Egyptian record of the purely human line of rulers back to Adam. Furthermore, these omissions occur at the appropriate place--at the time of the Deluge.[PD21]
Adam (Mena) was Pharaoh I
THE ABYDOS TABLET fully agrees with Genesis and is often corroborated by the Greek and Egyptian historians, Herodotus and Manetho. It shows Adam as the first Pharaoh, and Noah the twentieth, while the intermediate eighteen correspond with Genesis with remarkable accuracy. Mena's wife was Shesh--Hebrew, Isha--woman. Her first son was Pharaoh II.--Greek, Teta-Khent--guilty one; Hebrew, Kanighi; Latin, Athos; English, Cain. The tablet for Abel represents him as the non-resistant one.
THE ABYDOS TABLET shows the same order as Moses (Genesis 4-6), giving first the line of Cain down to Jabal, who was Kakan. At that time, evidently, the gods and demigods began to fill the Earth with violence. Seti's list omits the names of these. All demigods were destroyed in the Deluge. Noah is next in order with a regal title. But since he was not of Cain's family, THE ABYDOS TABLET there goes back, mentions Abel and Seth, and Seth's line just as given in Genesis (untitled), down to Noah. These all, as Pharaohs, have their royal ovals, but no supertitle. After Noah (Nofru), Pharaoh XX., the line runs through his son Ham (Chamu Chufu). Appropriately Noah's other sons are ignored; for Shem and Japheth went to Asia and Europe, while only Ham went to Egypt.
Thus wonderfully is the Bible being vindicated by the very inscriptions once supposed to contradict it.
Moses was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." Besides this, he was Jehovah's Prophet, and so certified by Jesus. Although Moses lived two thousand years after Adam, history connected up very close to his time, see diagram.
Lines drawn to scale, showing overlapping of Adam's 930 years, Methuselah's 969, Shem's 600, Isaac's 180, Levi's 137, Amram's 137 and Moses' 120. The overlapping periods were respectively 243 years, 68 years, 50 years, 40 years, 58 years and 31 years.[PD22]
The Tower of Babel
Years after the Deluge, the world began to be populous. The narrative handed down by Noah and his sons was more or less forgotten, and the bow of promise lost much of its significance. Losing confidence in God, the people began the construction of the Tower of Babel, which was to save them in spite of God from any flood of waters of the future. Alas, how short-sighted, like others who possess much worldly wisdom! The Scriptures deprecate such lack of faith among Christians, and attempts to protect themselves and their earthly interests, leaving God and His Plan out of their calculations. Some today ignore God after this manner, saying, Trust not in the Lord for the things promised. If you wait for God to do for you, nothing will ever be done. In other words, we are living in a day when faith in the Divine will and in the Divine Plan and promises seems to be on the wane.
God settled the matter by confounding the language and scattering the people so that they could not co-operate in further foolish undertakings. The Bible refers to this, saying, "He hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him."
The diversity of languages is one of the most remarkable things in the world--an effectual barrier to prevent mankind from combining for the accomplishment of their own purposes, selfish or sinful. It has delayed the great Day of Wrath.
Now the language barriers are breaking down, and we find the tendency of humanity to re-unite. Unions and Trusts are being built by the Rich and the Poor--each for self-protection. The rule of kings and princes is threatened by the growth of common language and intelligence in the masses. Had these barriers been removed two thousand years ago, similar results would have come too soon, according to the divine purpose which is shaping Earth's affairs in preparation for Messiah's Kingdom, which will bless the entire human family.[PD23]
Abraham God's Friend
Abraham became the friend of God by his manifestation of faith, when in response to God's invitation he left his own country and wandered in Canaan. By this obedience he became heir of the Promise, "In thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the Earth be blessed." St. Paul explains (Galatians 4:23,24.) that Abraham's wife represented this Covenant, or Promise. Sarah's barrenness corresponded to the long-deferred coming of Christ in fulfilment of the Promise. Isaac typified Messiah, the Heir of the Promise. Isaac's bride, Rebecca, typified the Elect Church, the Bride of Christ and His joint-heir in the Promise.
St. Paul says that Hagar typified the Law Covenant made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, and that the nation of Israel was typified in Ishmael. (Galatians 4:25.) As Hagar and Ishmael were cast off when Isaac was born, and had almost perished, so the Jewish people have been cast off from Divine favor for eighteen centuries, and today are nearly famished. As the angel of God pointed to the fountain of water, and Ishmael was revived, so God's message now is pointing the Jews to a spring of water; their Zionistic hopes are reviving.
The sacrifice of Isaac typified the sacrifice of Christ, necessary in order for Him to become the Spiritual Seed of Abraham with power to bless the world.
The servant sent to call Rebecca, the bride of Isaac, is beautifully explained to represent the work of the Holy Spirit in calling the Church to become the Bride of Christ and His associate in the great work of blessing Israel and all the families of the Earth.--Acts 3:19-26.
Rebecca's return with Eliezer represents the Church's journey during this Gospel Age to meet Christ, the Bridegroom who will receive her at His Second Advent. Abraham typified Jehovah God, through whose promise the blessing of all the families of Earth will come. This promise has been the hope of Israel for thirty-five centuries.--Galatians 3:29.[PD24]
The Destruction of Sodom
The Sodomites possessed a very rich valley and comparatively avoided that feature of the curse declaring that bread must be won by sweat of face. These conditions were conducive to the selfishness and sin which the Bible charges--"pride, fulness of bread and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy; and they committed abominations; therefore I took them away as I saw good."--Ezekiel 16:49,50.
God saw good to make the destruction of the Sodomites an example of the fate of sinners--death, not everlasting torture, St. Jude says. Jesus declares, "Fire came down from God out of heaven and destroyed them all."--Luke 17:29.
But the Bible teaches that the Sodomites are not hopelessly destroyed--that God's mercy through Christ includes the Sodomites, sinners though they were. Jesus Himself, as well as the Prophet Ezekiel, declares that at His Second Coming in His Messianic Kingdom He will give a trial, or judgment, to the world in general, to all who do not have an opportunity in the present life. The Sodomites will then have opportunity to hear of God's grace, to accept and rejoice in it.
Jesus declared that in that glorious Epoch the condition of the Sodomites will be more tolerable than that of the people to whom He preached at His First Advent. The reason for this He explains, saying that if the Sodomites had been granted the same opportunity afforded the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes; wherefore, in the future testing time, "it will be more tolerable for them" than for people who heard and rejected the Message.--Matthew 10:15; 11:21-24.
Ezekiel's prophecy (16:49-61) is most explicit. It declares Restitution and blessing for Israel, and incidentally mentions that the Sodomites will receive favor from God at the same time--under the New Covenant, under Messiah's Kingdom. "There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea."[PD25]
Melchisedec, Priest and King
Melchisedec was a priest of God, and at the same time King of Salem (peace). Abraham acknowledged him and paid him tithes. God prophetically declared through the Psalmist, that Messiah would be a Priest of the Melchisedec order, forever.--Psalm 110:4.
The Jews overlooked this prophecy and thought that everything of a priestly character in connection with God's Plan would be fulfilled through the Aaronic priesthood, which was merely typical. Their expectancy of the Messianic Kingdom and glory blinded them to His work as a sin-atoning Priest.
They saw not that Messiah is to be one of many members. Jesus is the Head and the Elect Church the Body of the Melchisedec Priest. Christians are deeply interested in the Messianic Reign; also in the fact that to become members of that Royal Priesthood means a participation with Jesus in the sacrifice of earthly life, as St. Paul exhorts, in Romans 12:1.
The declaration that Melchisedec was without father or mother, without beginning of days or end of years, has puzzled Bible students until recently. The interpretation is now quite satisfactory and simple: Melchisedec was without father or mother in the priesthood. He did not inherit this priesthood. He was without beginning of days and years in respect to his office, in that no record was made when his priesthood began, nor any provision made for a successor. In these respects he typified Messiah.--Hebrews 7:1-4.
Melchisedec is supposed to have been one of the Shepherd Kings who invaded Egypt and built the Great Pyramid, covering twelve acres, known for ages as one of the Seven Wonders of the world--about 2170 B.C. Astronomers tell that its measurements indicate the length of the year, the weight of the Earth, the distance to the sun, etc. Its interior passages represent human history--Downward, the course of sin and death; Upward, the Law Age, the Gospel Age, the Kingdom glory of the Church, and Human Restitution.[PD26]
Job's Adversity and Restitution
The story of Job, Prophet of Uz, a contemporary of Abraham and Melchisedec, is full of interest to Bible students. Not only the facts, but their typical significance, interests us, when we learn that Job's experiences represented the fall and rising again of humanity.
Job was wealthy, honored and prosperous. Suddenly disaster came upon him. A bolt of lightning struck the house where his sons and daughters were having a birthday party. They were all killed. Then he lost his sheep, asses, goats, camels and herds. Under the stress, he lost his health and broke out with boils from head to foot. Next he lost his friends, who declared that all this meant his utter repudiation by God. Finally, his wife turned against him and said, "You are cursed of God; I wish you would die!" Poor Job wished the same and prayed, "O that Thou wouldst hide me in Sheol [the tomb] until Thy wrath be past; that Thou wouldst appoint me a set time and [in resurrection] remember me." (Job 14:13.) Messiah will fulfil this prophecy.
All of this loss of health, strength, friends and wealth taught Job valuable lessons. Similarly, poor humanity is learning important lessons of its need of Divine care.
Under God's providence Job was restored to prosperity, health, etc. He got back just as many children, twice as many oxen, sheep, camels and asses. Bible students tell us that it ultimately will be so with humanity, according to the Bible; that the curse of sin and death will be removed--that instead the blessing of God will flow down upon the human family for a thousand years, giving back life to all who have gone down into death, and multiplying the blessings of the Earth more than double. This lesson is further illustrated in Israel's Jubilee Year, when all debts were canceled and the people returned to their original possessions. (Leviticus 25:13.) This typed the period referred to as the "Times of Restitution."--Acts 3:19-23.[PD27]
Seeking a Bride for Isaac
Bible students seem well agreed that Isaac represents Christ. As Abraham gave his son Isaac, in whom centered the promises, to be sacrificed, so the Heavenly Father gave His Son, Jesus, to be the Sin-Offering for Adam and his race, and received Him again from the dead, as Abraham figuratively received Isaac.--Hebrews 11:17-19.
Isaac's bride, Rebecca, typified the Church of Christ, which is to become His Bride in the resurrection, at His Second Coming. The correspondencies are remarkable. If Isaac represented Jesus, then Abraham would represent the Heavenly Father, and Eliezer, the servant, sent to get the bride, would typify the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
The custom in olden times respecting marriage differed from the custom of our day. God evidently arranged that Jewish customs should illustrate spiritual things. Thus, instead of Isaac's seeking a bride, Abraham sought a bride for him, sending by Eliezer. Thus the picture is complete, as Jesus declared, "No man can come unto Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him"--invite him.--John 6:44.
As Rebecca was found with the sheep, watering them, so those called to be the Bride of Christ are usually found, not in fellowship with wolves, but with the Lord's sheep. Moreover, Rebecca and the sheep were found at the well, symbolically representing the desire of the Little Flock class for the Water of Life--the well representing the Bible.
Rebecca was found serving water to the flock, representing well those whom Jesus would select for His Bride class. He is seeking, not for those who would lord it over the sheep, but those who feed, refresh and serve them.
The blessing upon Rebecca was, "Be thou the mother of thousands of millions." (Genesis 24:60.) To some Bible students this implies that the Church of Christ will mother in regeneration the millions of Adam's race, as the glorified Redeemer will be their "Everlasting Father."--Isaiah 9:6.[PD28]
Jacob's Ladder Dream
Whatever uninspired writers have said in condemnation of Jacob, the inspired writers of the Bible say nothing in special condemnation, but much in his praise. His faith was specially commended.
Jacob was the acknowledged heir of the great Covenant God made with his grandfather Abraham. This promise was considered so important, and faith in it so necessary, that God subsequently confirmed it by His oath. Divine Wisdom indicated beforehand that the blessing would not come through Ishmael, but through Isaac.--Genesis 21:12.
St. Paul states that this Divine decision was made before either Jacob or Esau had done anything bearing upon the choice. God simply foreordained that the blessing should come through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and later through Jacob's family, the children of Israel.--Romans 9:11,12.
Esau loved pleasure and sport. Jacob, his twin brother, born a moment later, loved the Abrahamic Promise, and counted all earthly possessions as nothing in comparison to the gaining of that prize. Both men were hungry one day; Jacob had prepared himself a feast, but instead of giving one half to his brother, he offered him the whole of it in exchange for his inheritance in the Promise made to Abraham. Esau gladly accepted, esteeming the food more precious than a promise which seemed likely never to be fulfilled.--Genesis 25:31-34.
Jacob's mother, knowing Esau's lack of character, concluded that Jacob, having purchased the birthright, might properly impersonate Esau and obtain the blessing. She knew that it would mean to him loss of home and risk of life. Fleeing from home Jacob lay down at night by the way, and had the dream of a ladder reaching from his headstone clear up to Heaven, with angels ascending and descending. The dream represented the fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant, in which Jacob was deeply interested, the reestablishment of peace and fellowship between Heaven and Earth.[PD29]
Joseph's Coat Identified
Jacob had become a patriarch, the father of twelve sons, the younger two of whom were Joseph and Benjamin. The elder ten kept the flocks. Joseph went to them as his father's messenger to learn of their welfare, and to take them delicacies. His brethren hated him through jealousy, sold him into slavery in Egypt, and took his elegant coat of many colors, bedraggled it in the blood of a kid and the dust and brought it to their father. Jacob identified it as Joseph's; and heart-broken he cried bitterly, "I will mourn for my son Joseph until I join him in Sheol." (Genesis 37:35.) Sheol is the Hebrew word for tomb.
This is the first use of the word Sheol in the Bible. Sheol is the only word translated hell in the Old Testament, Common Version. All scholars now admit it really signifies the tomb, the death-state. Jacob did not think of his beloved son as having gone to a Sheol of eternal torture, nor did he have the thought of joining him there. Jacob knew of no such place as Dante and others describe.
The explanation is simple. In old English literature the words "hell," "grave" and "pit" were used interchangeably, as in the translation of the Old Testament. Sheol is translated grave and pit more times than it is translated hell in our Common Version. Its equivalent in New Testament Greek is Hades, also signifying the tomb, the grave, as all scholars agree. Jesus was in Hades, Sheol, but was raised the third day by Divine Power, from the tomb, the death condition.
The translators of the Revised Version Bible refused to translate these words, Sheol and Hades, by our English word Hell, because the gradual change of language has attached a totally different meaning from what it originally had--the grave. See marginal readings of Psalms 55:15; 86:13.
The learned translators, however, could not agree to render these words grave and tomb, and left them untranslated. Compare versions and margin of Isaiah 14:9,11.[PD30]
"My Gray Hairs to Sheol"
Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt, was under Divine supervision. His trials and difficulties worked for his development and faith. God ultimately honored him in Egypt with a position second only to Pharaoh. In harmony with his dream, there were seven years of plenty, and then seven years of drought and famine. Acting under the guidance of his dream, as the king's agent, Joseph stored up wheat enough in the first seven years to carry the people over the famine. Thus Joseph was their savior--life-giver.
Joseph was a type of Jesus who, rejected by His brethren, the Jewish nation, was exalted by the Heavenly Father to be next to Himself in glory and power. Joseph was the life- preserver, bread-giver, to the Egyptians. Jesus is yet to be the life-preserver of the world of mankind during His reign, giving the willing and obedient the Bread of everlasting life.
The famine affected Jacob's family. The ten sons went to Egypt to buy wheat, and knew not Joseph as Pharaoh's prince. Joseph asked if they were not spies, and inquired about their family matters. Then he gave them wheat, telling them that the famine would continue, and they would need more wheat, but that if they came again, and hoped to receive it, their younger brother Benjamin must come with them to prove their story. Benjamin was Joseph's full brother.
When the time came to journey to Egypt for more wheat, Jacob refused to let Benjamin go, until the others refused to go without him. He then said, Take the lad; but if you do not bring him back to me alive, it will mean my death; it will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol--the grave.
This is the second occurrence in the Bible of the word Sheol, which really signifies the tomb, but is mistranslated hell thirty-one times in our Common Version. It is the only word rendered hell in the Bible for 4,150 years after Adam's fall. Hades is the New Testament equivalent for Sheol. See St. Peter's quotation of Psalm 16:10in Acts 2:27.[PD31]
Joseph and His Brethren
In due time Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. After speaking sternly to them he made them a feast, sending them portions from his own table. They were astonished and fearful, wondering what the kindness signified. Then, sending away the Egyptian servants, Joseph made himself known to his brethren, assuring them of his forgiveness, and that God had caused all of his trying experiences to work out for his good, and that he was glad to be the saver of their lives as well as the lives of the Egyptians, under the Providential guidance which sent him to Egypt.--Genesis 45:4-8.
It is assumed by Bible scholars that if Joseph typically represented Christ and His Church, exalted to Kingdom honors, so Joseph's brethren would represent the Jews, and the Egyptians represent the remainder of mankind. If this be true, it tells us that neither Jews nor Gentiles have aught to fear from the glorious exaltation of Messiah. On the contrary, the Glorious One who was crucified, premeditates a great "feast of fat things" for the whole world, including his brethren, who sold him to be crucified.--Isaiah 25:6.
The strength of Joseph centered in his knowledge of the Divine Promise made to Abraham. Surely a knowledge of God's Plan seems indispensable. Trust in God was the secret of faithfulness in all the worthy ones of the past. The same principle still holds true. It seems true, as sometimes charged, that lawlessness is growing in proportion as Higher Criticism destroys faith in the Bible and its promises.
When later the Israelites moved into Egypt, we see the faith of Joseph manifested in his dying request. He said, "God will surely visit you and bring you out of this land [Egypt] into the land [Canaan] which He sware to Abraham." He was solicitous that his bones be carried with the Israelites into Canaan. (Genesis 50:24,25.) Joseph's various experiences seem to Bible students to typify those of Jesus and His Church--in suffering and in subsequent glory and honor.[PD32]
At the Burning Bush
Moses showed himself great in every sense of the word. As an infant, Moses was placed by faithful parents where an Egyptian princess found him, amidst the bulrushes of the Nile, and adopted him. Safe in the midst of his enemies, he received an ample education in "all the learning of the Egyptians." The honors of the Egyptian Court were his, but he was too patriotic to enjoy them while his kinsmen suffered severe persecutions. Intent upon helping his brethren, he slew an Egyptian taskmaster. He was disappointed that his brethren did not appreciate his endeavors to aid them, but reported him as a traitor to Egypt.
He fled to Midian, and was gone forty years. Then God's time having come, he was sent to deliver his people Israel; but by now he was timid and feared his inability. By Divine command, Aaron became his mouthpiece, and the message was carried to Pharaoh that Israel must be let go. This commission to Moses was given at the burning bush--a bush which apparently was all aflame, yet not consumed. The Lord's messenger used this means for communicating the Divine message in an impressive manner, and to give him courage and confidence in his mission.
The truthfulness of the narrative is confirmed by Jesus. Certain Sadducees, denying the resurrection, sought to entrap Him, inquiring whose wife a woman would be if during her lifetime she had had seven husbands. Jesus in reply defended the doctrine of the resurrection. He declared that when God said to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," this surely meant that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were to be resurrected. The Sadducees denied the resurrection and all future life. On the contrary, God's word at the mouth of the angel proved that there is to be a resurrection of the dead. God thus spoke of things that were not as though they already were. "All live unto God" in the sense that in Christ He has provided for the reawakening of all, "in due time."[PD33]
The Passover Instituted
Time and again Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh with God's message, "Let My people go!" Time and again plagues were given as a punishment for refusing to let them go. Time and again Pharaoh declared that if the plagues were stopped he would let them go, and time and again he broke his word. The Scriptures say, "And for this very purpose God raised Pharaoh up, that He might show forth His Power through him." This is interpreted to mean that God could have brought another prince to the throne of Egypt. He favored this particular Pharaoh because of his wicked self- will, obstinacy and selfishness.
The Scriptures declare that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart. The explanation is that it was the goodness of God that hardened Pharaoh's heart. Divine goodness and generosity were shown in the removal of the various plagues as soon as Pharaoh promised to do right. This, instead of inciting him to love and obedience, led him to a greater obstinacy. He determined, as he had passed through one plague after another, that others could not be much worse. He paid dearly for his defiance.-- Exodus 4:21;7:3;14:4.
The tenth plague was the crisis. All the first-borns of Egypt died, but the first-borns of Israel under the sprinkled blood were safe. Thus God pictured the "Church of the First- borns," now being "called" out from the world. After glorification by the First Resurrection they will be the "Royal Priesthood," Spiritual Levites, for the blessing of all Israel, and through Israel, all the families of the Earth.
Bible students hold the Passover night to have typified this Gospel Age of nearly nineteen centuries, during which the spirit begotten ones, the church of the First-borns, are to be passed over, or specially saved, and made partakers of the Divine nature and associates in the Messianic Kingdom for the blessing of the later born, during Messiah's Reign. The blood sprinkled on the door-posts typed faith in the blood of Christ.[PD34]
Israel's Wilderness Experiences
Israel was taught lessons of faith in the wilderness. God sent them Manna. It came in the night in very small grains. It required time and patience to gather and prepare it. Not only was it a necessity, but it corroborated the Divine sentence, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, until thou return to the ground." Labor has been one of our most valuable lessons. Without it our race would have sunken still lower. Countries in which labor has been a necessity attest this by their greater intelligence.
Jesus explains that He Himself is the antitypical Manna, or Bread from Heaven, of which we must partake if we would have everlasting life.--John 6:48-58.
The conspiracy of Korah and his associates against Moses' leadership resulted in their all going down alive into the pit (Hebrew, Sheol), the tomb. So all opponents of Messiah will perish in the Second Death.--Acts 3:23.
God sent Israel a miraculous supply of quail. Our Common Version permits the inference that quail fell around the camp several feet deep. This is pointed to by critics as absurd. The correct and reasonable thought is that quails, wearied from flight across the Red Sea, flew within a few feet of the ground, where Israel easily captured great quantities.
The lesson of the Smitten Rock is noteworthy. When the people were famished, Moses smote a rock in the name of the Lord, water gushed out and the people were refreshed. St. Paul says that this was prophetic of Christ who by His death supplies the Water of Life, which is for all--Israelites indeed.
A plague of "fiery serpents" attacked the Israelites. By Divine direction Moses made a serpent of brass and raised it up. The Israelites were directed to look to that serpent for healing. The "fiery serpents" represent Sin, inflicting death. God has provided life for the sin-bitten world through the crucifixion of Christ. He was treated as a sinner, in order that sinners might be freed from sin and death.[PD35]
The Law Covenant at Mt. Sinai
Moses served as mediator between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai. The people there covenanted to keep the Divine Law. God promised that if they could do so, perfectly, they should have everlasting life. Furthermore, they could then comply with the sacrificial conditions of the Seed of Abraham, typified in the offering of Isaac, and inherit the Promise, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the Earth be blessed."-Deuteronomy 5:1-6;Genesis 22:18.
The people eagerly accepted the arrangement, saying, "All these things will we do," not realizing the full import of the Law. Jesus explained it to mean, to love God with all the heart, mind, soul and strength, and one's neighbor as one's self. Imperfect, like all mankind, the Jews could not keep this perfect Law. Unworthy of life, they could not redeem others; hence could not bless other nations.
When they became discouraged, God assured them that later He would make a New, or more favorable, Covenant with them through a greater than Moses, who would help them out of their fallen condition and fit them to be the channel for the Divine blessing to men.--Jeremiah 31:31; Malachi 3:1-3.
In due time Jesus came, the promised Messiah, not in glory as they had expected, but in a lowly condition, to die for Sin. "He came unto His own [nation] and His own received Him not"--they crucified Him. (John 1:11) Nevertheless, Jesus began His work of selecting Spiritual Israel, the Spiritual Seed of Abraham. He accepted first the loyal Jews. (Romans 11:7.) Still there were not enough to complete the foreordained number of the Elect. Consequently the Call to be the Elect Abrahamic Seed was extended to the Gentiles. For more than eighteen centuries He has been gathering the Elect Spiritual Seed of Abraham, the holy from every nation and sect. When complete, these, the "Bride," or "Body" of Christ, will be God's channel of blessing to all the families of the Earth, in harmony with the Promise made to Abraham.--Galatians 3:29.[PD36]
The Typical Tabernacle
God foreknew the Israelites would be unable to fulfil the Law Covenant, and although He gave minute instructions respecting the Tabernacle, and the sacrifices to be offered therein, yet it was only for the lessons it would convey to us. The Tabernacle, in its Court, Holy and Most Holy, in its furniture, priests and sacrifices, illustrated the most important features of the Divine Plan.
St. Paul informs us that the bullock of the sin-offering on the Day of Atonement typified Jesus in the flesh. The killing of the bullock represented the sacrifice of Jesus, begun at His baptism. In His sacrificing, Jesus was also the antitypical High Priest. The offering of incense on the Golden Altar represented Jesus' heart endeavors in doing the Father's will.
Carrying the blood into the Holy represented the consecration of the antitypical priest, the veil thus symbolizing the death of his will, because of which he is accepted as a New Creature. The High Priest passing under the veil typified The Man Christ Jesus pouring out His soul on Calvary, laying down in death the body which God prepared Him.
The High Priest sprinkling the Mercy-Seat typified Jesus, in Heaven itself, offering to Justice, first His own sacrifice, and then His Church's sacrifice. Nothing could be done with the blood of the Goat (the Church) till the blood of the Bullock (Christ Jesus) had made it holy and acceptable.
The High Priest washing and dressing in the Court represented The Christ complete, changing from the "Body of humiliation" to conditions of glory and power. Clad in his robes of glory, the High Priest represented Messiah, empowered to bless mankind.--Exodus 28:2; Philippians 3:21.
Aaron blessing the people typified Messiah at His Second Advent blessing all who will become true Israelites during the Messianic Reign. The people shouting and falling on their faces represented recognition of the end of the reign of Sin and Death. Their arising represented resurrection.[PD37]
Crossing the Jordan
Finally, after their wilderness journey of forty years, the Israelites were brought to the Jordan, and shown where they were to cross over under the leadership of Joshua. Moses meantime, after blessing Joshua, had died in Mt. Nebo.--Deuteronomy 4:21,22;9:1;32:48-52;34:5,9.
On this occasion, a stupendous miracle permitted the Israelites to pass through the bed of the Jordan into Canaan, the waters being cut off. Everything was so well timed by the Lord that when the Priests stepped up to the waters, bearing the Ark, and their feet touched the outer edge, the waters began to subside. The Priests advanced as the waters subsided, and stood in the midst of the river Jordan until all the hosts of Israel had passed over.--Joshua 3:3-17.
Infidelity has scoffed at this incident as an impossibility, but recent research shows that the miracle did take place, and the means which the Lord adopted for it. Be it understood that every miracle, from the Divine standpoint, is simple enough. Yet God, even in miracles, usually operates along the lines of natural means. It is now ascertained that the waters of the Jordan were cut off some miles above the place of crossing, at a place called Adam. There a great hillside slid into the river, filling its bed and causing the water to back up, forming little lakes. Gradually it cut its way through. It was then that the Israelites passed over Jordan "dry shod."
Antitypically, the crossing of Jordan would represent the fact that God's people now pass from death unto life, through faith in the blood of Jesus. The new life begun, they walk by faith, they live by faith, and by faith they fight the good fight, in the name of the Lord and under His guidance. And the name Joshua means Jesus, Savior, Deliverer.
Respecting the types and prophecies of the past the Apostles tell us that the Law was a shadow of better things coming after, and that those things were written for the special instruction of the Church.--Romans 15:4; Hebrews 10:1.[PD38]
Joshua's Long Day
There was some foundation for the Bible narrative of Joshua's long day. Some Bible students claim that the language of the Hebrew text teaches that the day was dark, that the Sun did not shine at all--an extremely unusual thing for Palestine. The enemies of Joshua were Sun worshipers, and the darkness of the day foreboded that their Sun- god was eclipsed. In the narrative, the immense hailstones killing so many seems quite in line with this interpretation-- that the day was dark instead of light--that the obscurity of the Sun and the Moon was really a great phenomenon, which Joshua made use of to discomfit the foe, commanding the Sun and the Moon to stay hidden!--Joshua 10:11-14.
The other explanation is equally logical. It assumes that the Sun was visible during the day, and that heavy clouds refracted the Sun's rays unusually late in the evening--until the Moon rose, so that there was no time without light.
Either explanation is satisfactory. It is quite unnecessary that any stumble over this Bible narrative.
The triumph of Gideon's little army over a host, typified the final victory of Christ and His followers over the hosts of Sin. The broken vessels represented self-sacrifice to let the light shine out--the trumpets the Gospel Message--the sword God's Word. Of Gideon and his brethren it is written that each looked like the son of a king. Christ and His followers all are Godlike in character.--Judges 7:16-25;8:18.
Jephthah's daughter was not sacrificed in death as a fulfilment of her father's vow. She merely took the vow of perpetual virginity and figuratively became dead to the world after spending a brief season with her virgin friends. The Bible is simple and reasonable when understood.--Judges 11:30-40.
The overthrow of the Midianites by Gideon's band and Jephthah's dedication of his daughter to the Lord in perpetual virginity, belong to the period of the Judges, of whom Joshua was first.--Acts 13:19,20.[PD39]
David Anointed By Samuel
The story of the selection of David, the shepherd boy, to be King over Israel, is full of interest for both old and young. The Prophet Samuel, who did the anointing, was guided specially of the Lord. Samuel himself was dedicated to the Lord in his youth. When the time came for him to anoint a successor to King Saul, all the sons of Jesse passed before him. They were a fine family, and he was expecting one after another to be the proper one, but God guided him otherwise. David, the lad who was with the sheep, was not thought of until all the others had been scanned in vain; then David was brought, and the Lord indicated that this was the one to be anointed.--1 Samuel 16:1-13.
The story of David is of special interest to us because his name signifies Beloved, and because he typified The Christ-- Jesus and His faithful brethren, the Church, God's specially beloved, the Elect, who are to inherit the Messianic Kingdom.
David was anointed long years before he became king. So Christ received the anointing of the Holy Spirit at His baptism, and the Church recieved the anointing at Pentecost--long years before the Messianic Kingdom's establishment. The trials and testings of David were to prepare him for his office as king. And likewise the trials and difficulties of The Christ, Head and Body, fit and prepare them for the Kingdom.
In typical Israel, the priestly office was kept distinctly separate from the kingly office, but in Christ the two offices combine. This was illustrated in the double office of Melchisedec, who was a priest upon his throne, or a royal priest. Similarly, The Christ, Head and Body, will be the antitypical Royal Priesthood, to reign for a thousand years. This is in harmony with St. Peter's statement, "Ye are a Royal Priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." It agrees with the statement that those who share in the First Resurrection will be kings and priests unto God and reign with Christ a thousand years.-- Revelation 20:6;5:10; 1 Peter 2:9.[PD40]
King Saul's Life Spared
King Saul was the first of Israel's kings. He was tall, head and shoulders above his brethren, and from the human standpoint was rather ideal. He had considerable wisdom, too. Indeed, that was his failure. He overlooked the fact that his Kingdom differed from all other kingdoms, and he attempted to rule after the manner of other kings. In the case of Israel, God declared Himself King, and the person upon the throne was really His representative, and should be guided by Him in everything. Because David at heart was anxious to do all these things, and very repentant whenever he learned that he was wrong, he was spoken of as "a man after God's own heart." His heart was right.
The anointing of David was kept a secret, but Saul nevertheless began to see that God's favor was with David, and that the people of Israel loved him, especially after he delivered them from Goliath, and won a number of battles. King Saul selfishly desired that his own family should be perpetuated upon the throne, and hence he was bent upon destroying David. He made him an outlaw, and on every occasion sought to kill him, and thus thwart God's purpose.
David, on the contrary, on two occasions had King Saul's life at his disposal, yet did not take it. In this he was a man after God's own heart. God had caused him to be anointed, and would give him the throne. Until God's time should come, David would wait. In sparing King Saul's life, David acted in harmony with the Lord's will: "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My Prophets no harm." King Saul was God's anointed, and it was for God to depose him and to give the throne to David in His own time. And He did.
How valuable it would be to all of us to learn this lesson of patience and waiting upon the Lord, for Him to direct in His own time and in His own way. This was the spirit of Jesus: "Not My will [as a man], but Thine [Father Divine], be done."--Luke 22:42.[PD41]
The Fate of the Amalekites
King Saul, never seemed to enter into the spirit of the Lord's commands. He always manifested self- will; even when given special directions through the Prophet Samuel, he deviated and was reproved.
One failure of King Saul was when called upon to slaughter the Amalekites and drive them out, he did not fully obey. He spared the king, etc. Many have thought it strange that God would give such commands as this and others similar. The most satisfactory explanation is that the whole world is under the death sentence, and that it makes very little difference whether they die by pestilence, famine, or sword. The wickedness of the Amalekites is declared to have come to its full, just as with the Sodomites. The decree was extermination.
Had the slaughtered people, as we once thought, gone to eternal torment, the matter would have been most horrible. However, the entire aspect is changed when we recognize that God's provision for the Amalekites as for the Sodomites is a resurrection, secured by Christ's death. As we have already seen, the Sodomites are to have the privilege of returning to "their former estate," and to human perfection. So all who do not receive a knowledge of God in the present life are to have that opportunity during Messiah's Reign.
Another illustration along this line is that of Sennacherib's army, which was smitten by the angel of the Lord in one night, probably by a sand-storm.--2 Kings 19:35,36.
Gross misconceptions of God's character and the Bible teachings accumulated during the Dark Ages, when the Bible was not in existence so far as the masses were concerned. Bibles were very expensive and possessed only by the few; besides, very few could read. They did not know that the worship of an eternal torment deity is the worship of Moloch, which God specially condemned. The dawning light of a New Age shows us God's character of love and illuminates the Bible, making its teachings most reasonable.--Proverbs 4:18.[PD42]
The Witch of Endor
We have already noted that the fallen angels at the time of the Deluge were barred from further materialization. Since then they have sought otherwise to influence humanity. Few would communicate with them if they knew their real character; hence they represent themselves as being our dead friends and relatives. As such they attempt to communicate with the living through "mediums," who are deceived, else they would not serve as "mediums" for demons.--Isaiah 8:19;Deuteronomy 18:9-12.
In olden times these mediums were called witches, wizards, necromancers. They had "familiar spirits," or were familiar with the spirits who were disobedient in the days of Noah.
God had forewarned Israel against these evil spirits and their mediums. He said that no such mediums should be permitted to live in the land of Israel. They might operate amongst nations not under Divine care, but God's representative, Saul, was commanded to put to death all such.
When King Saul got out of fellowship with God, who refused further communications, he turned for advice to a witch at Endor, and asked her to awaken Samuel the Prophet, who meantime had died. The evil spirits impersonated Samuel easily enough, and the witch gave the King messages in his name, whereas Samuel was dead and could not give or receive messages. King Saul saw nothing; he merely received an answer from the witch, who said she saw and heard Samuel.
The evil spirits have some way of knowing much respecting the future. But anybody under the circumstances might have known the fate to expect for Saul and his army. The King himself knew what to expect. It was this that troubled him and led him to seek the witch, contrary to the Divine command. It is not for a moment supposable that God and Samuel, having refused to communicate with the King, would change and permit a witch, condemned by the Divine Law, to overrule the matter.--1 Chronicles 10:13,14.[PD43]
The Prophet's Reproof
There is one thing about the Bible distinctly different from every other book--its honesty. Although David was king and his own family succeeded him for generations, nothing prevented the full details of his misdeeds in respect to Uriah and his wife. The wrong is as fully exposed as though the King had been a menial of the lowest class.
The Prophet of the Lord was sent directly to the King by Divine command. He made a parable showing the injustice, and asked what would be the just decision. King David was angry, and asked the name of the unjust man that he might be punished. God's Prophet fearlessly declared, "Thou art the man!" Humbly, the King confessed his sin to the Lord. He had already seen his horrible mistake, but its portrayal intensified the wrong. He wept and prayed before the Lord in sackcloth and ashes for forgiveness.
In this respect David was a man after God's own heart. Every time he was overtaken in a fault and snared by his own weakness, he confessed, reformed and sought forgiveness.
God accepted King David's penitence and restored him to His favor; but this did not prevent his suffering punishment for his wrong course. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth."-- Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11,12; Hebrews 12:5,6.
The honesty of the Bible is exemplified in both the Old Testament and the New. We are told of Abraham's mistakes-- "the friend of God." We are also told the faults of the Apostles. The noble St. Peter was so overcome with fear that he denied his Master three times with oaths. We are told of St. Peter's dissembling before Jews and Gentiles. We are told that St. Paul, the Apostle that took the place of Judas, was once the cruel Saul of Tarsus, who authorized the stoning of St. Stephen, and was very injurious to the early Church. Of St. Peter and St. John we read: "They were ignorant and unlearned men." No other book in the world manifests so great honesty or deserves the same confidence as the Bible.[PD44]
Solomon in All His Glory
As King David, who was after God's own heart, loyal to Him, represented The Christ in earthly trials, afflictions and victories, so King Solomon typified the Church glorified. Whereas King David's reign was full of wars, King Solomon's had none. He was not only a prince of peace, but was a wise, rich king, who builded the Temple of Jehovah.--1 Kings 4:24;6:1;10:4,23,24.
King Solomon's fame spread abroad through the then civilized earth. The Queen of Sheba, who came to see for herself, declared that the half had never been told. Jesus referred to this visit of the Queen of Sheba, saying that she came from a great distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Thus she put to shame the people of Palestine, who disregarded the great Teacher of superior wisdom, a greater than Solomon.
Evidently our appreciation of values depends much upon the eye. So the eyes of our understanding must be opened before we can truly appreciate spiritual things. Thus Jesus said to His followers, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear."--Matthew 13:16.
Already we see many of the inconsistencies of the past. No longer would a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury condemn to the flames Sir John Oldcastle because of episcopalian differences. Our eyes, both Catholic and Protestant, have opened and are still opening. What we evidently need is that the eyes of our understanding should be opened widely that we might see the lengths and breadths, the heights and depths of the love of God. God is pleased to open the eyes of only a small class at the present time; namely, that class which turns from sin and makes a full consecration to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Their eyes shall be opened that they may see the King in His beauty, even by the eye of faith, looking through the telescope of God's Word. "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord," the followers of Jesus are "changed into the same image, from glory to glory."--2 Corinthians 3:18.[PD45]
The Temple of the Lord
We have already noticed that the Tabernacle represented God's temporary residence with the Israelites. Later on, the Temple was substituted for the Tabernacle. Thus God indicated that He would later abide permanently with His people.
King David, as we have seen, represented Christ during this Gospel Age. He collected the materials for the Temple, but was not permitted to build. The lesson is that the Divine arrangement complete is not to be established by Christ in the flesh, but by the Christ of glory, represented by Solomon.
The Temple of Solomon was destroyed in B.C. 606, but later on King Herod, who was not a Jew, but a descendant of Esau, favored the Jews by building a great Temple which was in its grandeur in Jesus' day.
Those Temples were merely typical of the greater Temple which St. Paul and St. Peter declared to be the Church. "The Temple of God is holy, which Temple ye are;" and again: "Ye are built up a Holy Temple, a habitation of God through the Spirit." St. Peter declares all of God's faithful saints to be Royal Priests, living stones in the Temple of God, through which, eventually, all the world shall have access to God.
The stones of Solomon's Temple were shaped at the quarry before being brought to the Temple site. Likewise its beams were prepared in advance. The workmen put together the Temple "without sound of hammer." Every piece was so thoroughly fitted that no force was necessary.
This typified the building of the antitypical Temple, the preparation of the Church in the present life and their construction by and by as God's Spiritual Temple, by resurrection power. This is the meaning of the trials, chiselings and polishings which all true Christians must receive. The resurrection change will bring all these living stones together without force or compulsion. Then the glory of the Lord will fill the true Temple and the New Dispensation will begin.[PD46]
Elijah and the Priests of Baal
Ahab, King of Israel, misled by his queen, Jezebel, perverted the religion in God's typical Kingdom. The ordained worship in the Temple was neglected and image worship established. The faithful Prophet Elijah reproved King Ahab, and was compelled by the wicked Queen Jezebel to flee into the wilderness, where ravens fed him for three and one-half years.--1 Kings 17:5,6.
Finally, by God's direction, Elijah reappeared and challenged the priests of Baal to a public test as to which god could answer prayer, Jehovah or Baal. Whichever god would accept the offering by fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, should be acknowledged as the true God. The Israelites saw the fairness of the proposition, and Baal's priests could not avoid the issue. Elijah gave them the preference. All day long they agonized, cut themselves with stones and cried to Baal to accept the offering and vindicate his cause. Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry a little louder! Baal may be sleeping! or perhaps he has gone on a journey!
When the evening came, Elijah gave his test. First of all he had water carried and poured over all the altar and the sacrifice, that there should be no mistake; lest any one might think of any concealed fire. Then Elijah prayed to God to vindicate His cause. Fire descended from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, licking up even the water in the trench. When the people saw this they gave a great shout and declared, "Jehovah, He is God!"--1 Kings 18:30-39.
Bible students claim that Elijah represented the True Church, Queen Jezebel a false religious system, Ahab the governments of Earth. The time of Jezebel's persecution, when Elijah hid in the wilderness and there was no rain for 1260 days, represented 1260 years of spiritual drouth (538 A.D. to 1798 A.D.), when the antitypical Jezebel's power to persecute to death ceased.--Revelation 12:6,14;13:5.
Elisha, Elijah's successor, restored the Shunammite's son.[PD47]
King Zedekiah Blinded
God promised King David that the Messianic Kingdom should come through his line, and for several centuries no king reigned in Jerusalem except David's posterity. The last was King Zedekiah. Of him God declared through the Prophet (Ezekiel 21:25-27), "O thou profane and wicked prince, whose time is come that iniquity should have an end! Take off the diadem, remove the crown; this shall not be the same. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, until He come whose right it is, and I will give it to Him." This was another way of saying that there would be no more kings of David's line until Messiah. This has been fulfilled during the long period of 2519 years from then until now. All later kings were tributary, and none of David's line.
When God took His Kingdom from Zedekiah, He told him through one of the Prophets that he would be carried prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; and by another Prophet that he would never see Babylon. Both prophecies came true, for Nebuchadnezzar caused his eyes to be put out when a prisoner, and in that condition he went to Babylon.
But God's promise to David, "Of the fruit of thy loins shall a king sit upon thy throne forever," was not broken. The message to Zedekiah merely indicates that the throne ceased to be recognized of the Lord, and would thus remain until Messiah's Kingdom.
But the First Advent of Jesus did not fulfil this prophecy; for, although Jesus is the Messiah, He has not yet entered upon His Kingly office. Jesus began His service as a Priest-- "He offered up Himself." His offering continues these nineteen hundred years. Since Pentecost He has been accepting and offering as His members such as present their bodies living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1.) These joint-sacrificers are promised, as "members of the Body of Christ," a share in the Messianic reign of a thousand years, for the blessing of Israel and the whole world.--Revelation 20:6.[PD48]
Jerusalem Desolated Seventy Years
Nebuchadnezzar, after blinding King Zedekiah, deported him and the people to Babylonia, and utterly destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple with fire. The Bible says that the city lay desolate for seventy years.
Those seventy years of desolation of Jerusalem are Scripturally declared to have been a punishment upon the Israelites for not properly keeping their Jubilee years, which God had appointed them. Every fiftieth year was to be a Jubilee year, when all debts expired and all property was to be returned to its original owner--typifying the coming "Times of Restitution." (Acts 3:19-21.) But the Israelites, like all other peoples, were selfish. They knew that this observance would mean loss. Hence they kept these Jubilee Sabbaths very imperfectly for awhile, and gradually discontinued them.
God explains that the seventy years' desolation following the taking of the Israelites into captivity was a substitute for the whole number of Jubilee years. This we read was, "to fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths; for so long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years."-- 2 Chronicles 36:21; Jeremiah 25:11.
Bible students reason that if the entire number of Jubilees was to be seventy, and if the Jubilee cycles were forty-nine years each, then seventy cycles from the time the Jubilees were instituted would mark the beginning of the Antitypical Jubilee--the "Times of Restitution." This they reckon somewhere about the year A.D. 1874. Many hold that we are living in the time when the Antitypical Jubilee is being inaugurated; mankind will return gradually to all their rights and privileges for a thousand years. The present social unrest is incidental to the great change. We are living in the beginning of the New Era. Growing intelligence is bringing emancipation, and shortly the Messianic Kingdom will multiply the blessings and wipe out the curse.--Revelation 21:4,5.[PD49]
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Interpreted
Daniel, a young Israelite taken captive to Babylon with others, later became God's Prophet. King Nebuchadnezzar had an impressive dream which on waking he could not recall. His "wise men" could not help him. Finally Daniel, guided by the Lord, told both the dream and its interpretation.--Daniel 2:1,5,26-30.
The dream and its interpretation interests and concerns us today as much or more than it did Nebuchadnezzar. In his dream the King saw a great Image; its head was gold, its breast and arms silver, its belly and sides brass, its legs iron, and its feet iron intermingled and smeared with clay. Then the King saw a Stone cut out of the mountain without hands and hurled at the feet of the Image. The Image fell, ground to powder, and the wind carried it away. Then the Stone grew until it filled the earth.--Daniel 2:31-35.
The Divine interpretation of this dream, given through Daniel, explains that the head of the Image was the Babylonian Kingdom, the breast and arms the succeeding Medo- Persian Empire, the belly and sides of brass the Grecian Empire, which followed, and the legs the succeeding Roman Empire. The feet represented the "Holy Roman Empire" and its successors; the iron of the feet the civil power, the clay intermingled and smearing over the iron pictured the ecclesiastical power of our day. Thus seen, we are living in the days of the ten toes, or divisions of the Image.
The Stone represents God's Kingdom, which the clay on the feet of the Image imitated. The Stone represents God's Elect Church, gathered out from Jews and Gentiles, and from every nation and denomination, to constitute Messiah's Kingdom. Shortly, this Kingdom will be established in power and great glory, and the kingdoms of this world will disappear as by magic. Messiah's Kingdom will then grow until it fills the whole earth, and brings all things under its control, every wilful sinner being cut off in the Second Death.[PD50]
Daniel's Dream-Another View
Between Zedekiah and Messiah, there has been a long period of time. During this period God gave a lease of government to the Gentile Kingdoms, represented in Nebuchadnezzar's Image. That lease of power to rule the world as best they could was to last for "seven times"--seven symbolic years, each day of which (lunar time) would represent a year. Thus "seven times" would mean seven times three hundred and sixty, that is, 2520 years. That period is apparently due to expire in 1915. In other words, very soon the Gentile lease of Earthly Dominion expires. Then the due time will come for Messiah's Kingdom to begin its reign. This seems to explain present social unrest.
The same facts presented to King Nebuchadnezzar, God showed under different symbols to the Prophet Daniel. Instead of a great Image, Daniel saw great Beasts. This means that the Gentile governments, so grand to worldly men, appear beastly from the Divine viewpoint. Surely we can agree to this as we look over the bloody pages of history; the world has been under beastly rule, even though the best it was able to provide for itself--and though much worse conditions could be imagined--for instance, Anarchy.
The first beast of Daniel's dream, a lion, represented Babylon; the second, a bear, Medo-Persia; the third, a leopard, Grecia-- the four heads representing Alexander the Great's successors, four generals. The fourth beast represented the Roman Empire. Its ten horns corresponded to the ten toes of the Image. The horn that had eyes and was crowned, is believed by many to represent ecclesiastical power enthroned amid political power.
A judgment scene was shown to Daniel, in which all these governments were disapproved, and the dominion taken from them and given to One who appeared like unto The Son of Man. The Kingdom given Him was a perpetual one, that all should serve and obey Him; and all beastly governments were destroyed.--Daniel 7:13-27.[PD51]
King Belshazzar's Feast
Pride overbalanced Nebuchadnezzar's judgment, and, in the plain of Dura, he was led to erect a great image of himself as Earth's Ruler, to which all people were required to bow down in obedient reverence! If the people could regard him as a god, they would be the more sure to obey him. But among them were three Hebrews who refused to bow the knee. Their religious scruples were not respected. It was enough that they were defying Emperor Nebuchadnezzar. A great furnace was heated seven times, or as hot as possible, and into it the three servants of God were cast. The men who threw them in inhaled flame and died. Nebuchadnezzar and his lords, looking over toward the furnace, saw the three unhurt and with them One like unto the Son of God. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the God of the Hebrews and commanded all the people to worship Him. Although God's people today may be subjected to fiery trials, they will probably not be literally burned in a furnace. Nevertheless, God's power can keep their hearts in every trouble.
It was after this that Nebuchadnezzar became insane and beast-like lived upon herbage, seven years, after which his reason was restored and he gave glory to God.
Later on came Belshazzar's Feast, the handwriting on the wall and the fall of Babylon, when the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, represented in the Image by the silver, and by the Bear in Daniel's vision, took possession of the dominions once ruled by Babylon. Cyrus' army turned aside the Euphrates, marched in through the river-bed and captured the city supposed to be impregnable.
Babylon is the symbolical name in Revelation for a great Ecclesiastical System. Its fall is described as accomplished through the drying up of the symbolical river Euphrates, that the way of the Kings of the East might be prepared--a Royal Priesthood, of which Christ is the Head. The river represents people and wealth.--Revelation 17:15.[PD52]
King Darius and Cyrus
Daniel the Prophet ranked high with King Darius for his integrity. His associates hated him because he prevented graft. They knew of no way to get hold of Daniel except on account of his religion. They urged upon King Darius the influence that would accrue from announcing himself the only one to be worshiped. They urged that this would impress the people, make them more loyal to his government. They got a decree issued that anybody worshiping any other god than Darius should be thrown into a den of lions. Then they spied upon Daniel and convicted him. It was a Medo-Persian law that royal decrees could never be ignored. Hence, although King Darius was very sorry to know of his most faithful officer being caught, he was unable to change the arrangement. His only hope was that Daniel's God might do something for his deliverance.
Daniel was cast into the den of lions, but in the morning was brought forth safe. Then those who had thus entrapped him, by the King's command were cast into the den of lions, the same as Daniel, and devoured.--Daniel 6:14-24.
At the end of the seventy years of the desolation of Jerusalem, God stirred up the heart of Cyrus, who then was on the throne, to issue a proclamation giving liberty to all Israelites to return to Palestine. He also gave money, and decreed that the vessels of the Lord's House, which had previously been taken, should be restored. Approximately fifty thousand Israelites returned--so few out of the many taken into captivity. The zealous, full of faith in the Abrahamic Promise, returned, rebuilt the city, and, in Ezra's time, the Temple. The others had become worldly-minded and interested in Babylon. Thus God separated the dross of Israel to prepare them for Messiah. Yet the "Israelites indeed" were few compared to the whole, when their day of visitation came.
The romantic story of Queen Esther, wife of King Ahasuerus, follows the period of King Cyrus' decree.[PD53]
The Valley of Dry Bones
Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones, which came together, were clothed with sinews, and then with skin, an exceeding great army, is supposed to represent the resurrection of the dead. But this conjecture seems to be erroneous. The Prophet declares that this picture represents the revival of Israel's Hopes. First the dry bones of hope, then sinews of strength, and finally comeliness and completion. We read, "This is the whole House of Israel, which say, Our hope [of again becoming a nation] is dried; we are cut off from our parts."--Ezekiel 37:1-14.
The fulfilment of this prediction seems to be in progress now amongst the Jewish people. Only a short time ago they had no hope; then came Zionism, the dry bones of hope for amelioration from suffering, but without any faith in the Abrahamic promise. Later, we see the Jews growing in trust in the Abrahamic promise and coming together with strength, wealth and faith. The time is evidently not far distant when their national hope will be rehabilitated and they shall rejoice again as a people.--Isaiah 40:1, 2; Romans 11:25-33.
The Scriptures tell about the resurrection of the dead; that it will not be the body which dies that will be resurrected. The body returns to dust. In the morning of Messiah's Reign, God through Him will grant each of Adam's race "a body as it hath pleased Him." The saintly few will share in the First Resurrection, to glory, honor and immortality, the divine nature, far above angels. Then will come God's blessing upon the world, to give them Restitution--earthly bodies. It is manifestly much easier for God to give as He purposes, a new body, than, as we once surmised, to gather each atom of dust from every quarter to restore it as the same body. Not a passage of Scripture mentions the resurrection of the body, but many passages mention the resurrection of the soul, which will be awakened and given a new body, earthly for the earthly class, Heavenly for the Heavenly class.--1 Cor. 15:37-40.[PD54]
The Logos Made Flesh
The Jewish nation, failing to keep the Law Covenant of Sinai, failed to make good as the Seed of Abraham fit to bless the world. Then the due time came for God to provide Messiah-Redeemer and Deliverer for Israel and all peoples. He would become flesh, of Abraham's family, fulfil the Law Covenant terms, and then by self-sacrifice would become Abraham's Seed on the Spirit plane, able to succor all who would come to the Father through Him.
In St.John's Gospel (1:1-5) Jesus in His pre-existent condition is described as the Word of God, or Logos, "The Firstborn of all Creation."--Colossians 1:15.
Ancient kings addressing their people sat behind a lattice, in front of which stood a representative who uttered the king's message to the people. Such representative was called the Logos--the king's word, or mouthpiece. The illustration is forceful, beautiful, when applied to God's Only Begotten Son, through whom God speaks to humanity--to the Church now, to the world shortly, through the Messianic Kingdom.
The literal translation of John 1:1throws much light upon a subject hitherto dark. "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with the God, and the Logos was a God; the same was in the beginning with the God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not one thing made that was made. The Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father." Jesus tells us the same thing in other language, saying, "He was the beginning of the creation of God." (Rev. 3:14.) "He was the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega." (Rev.21:6.) The thought is clear; Jehovah God directly created no other being than the Logos, and Him very great and in the likeness of Jehovah. How distinctly, yet briefly, all this is stated by St. John!
Next in the Divine Program was the annunciation to Mary, then, the greatest event of history, the birth of our Redeemer.[PD55]
Tidings of Great Joy
Only as we associate the Babe of Bethlehem with the Logos by and through whom all things were made, do we get our mental focus respecting Jesus. His life was not from Adam, through Joseph--a forfeited life. It was a transferred life. The Logos, who was rich in spirit privileges, glory and honor, "for our sakes became poor [The Man Christ Jesus] that we by His poverty might become rich"-- that mankind might be redeemed from the curse--the Death Sentence and all it includes of sorrow, pain and alienation from God. "A body hast Thou prepared Me for the suffering of death!" The death of a spotless One was necessary as a Ransom-price for Adam and his race.--1 Timothy 2:6.
No wonder the angels rejoiced to announce to the shepherds the Logos made flesh--the Babe of Bethlehem. "Fear not! Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people!" Few have analyzed the Message, few have seen how comprehensive its scope. It is for Jews and Gentiles--sinners all--"all people." Only a few have yet had opportunity to get this great joy; but the Redeemer promises that He will yet be the True Light to lighten every man that cometh into the world.--John 1:9.
"For unto you [mankind] is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Ah! the meaning of that word Savior! It means Life-giver! The right to live had been lost--all are dying. The Life-giver came to provide life everlasting for the dying race. Thank God for a Life-giver, a Great One, able to save unto the uttermost!--Hebrews 7:25.
The "Peace on Earth, good-will to men" prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, but it is nearing. The birth of the Babe was one step toward it; the death on the cross was another; the glorious resurrection and ascension of the Logos again to the Spirit plane were other steps. The selection of the Church as Messiah's Bride is another, nearly completed. The Messianic Kingdom will complete the blessed prophecy.[PD56]
John the Forerunner
The work of redemption began with Jesus' consecration to death at 30 years of age, symbolized by His baptism. There He who was made flesh for the purpose, gave Himself to be a Ransom-price for all, to be testified to all in due time. The humbling of the Logos to take human nature, the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, and the years of development afterward, were incidental. Similarly, the work of John the Baptiser was a preparation. His mission was the announcement of Jesus as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." He reproved sin and exhorted to righteousness as necessary to all who would receive Messiah and be received and blessed by Him as sharers in the Kingdom He would establish.
John preached, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! Repent ye!" Only the Israelites indeed, without guile, received Messiah, and became associates in His glorious work. John's Baptism was the washing away of sins against the Jewish Law, and was intended only for Jews not wholly faithful.
John's Baptism symbolized cleansing from defilement, and was preached to the Jews, and was applicable to them only. Gentiles were excluded. How could they repent and get back into covenant relationship when they had never been in relationship? The Jews, still under the covenant made with them at Sinai through its mediator, Moses, had relationship with God, for, as St. Paul says, they "were all baptized into Moses, in the sea and in the cloud." Every Israelite in heart relationship with God through Moses, was transferred from Moses, to Christ, and needed no additional baptism into Christ, because already accepted in Moses, the type of Christ.
When the call began to go to the Gentiles, several at Ephesus believed and were baptized by John's Baptism, as though they had been Jews. This was a mistake. At St. Paul's word they were rebaptized, into Christ's death. Gentiles needed to be baptized directly into Christ's death.--Acts 18:25; 19:3-5;Romans 6:3;11:17-25.[PD57]
The Baptism of Jesus
When Jesus presented Himself to John at Jordan to be baptized, it caused surprise. John declared, I have more need to ask You to baptize me! You have no sin to wash away! Jesus did not explain the matter. He merely said, "Suffer it to be so now." He thus intimated that He was not following John's baptism to wash away sins, but that His baptism had another special meaning, which He did not disclose. St. Paul explains to us that Jesus' baptism symbolized His full consecration of His life to God as a sacrifice, even unto death.--Hebrews 10:5-9.
Jesus afterward indicated that His entire ministry was a fulfilment of the consecration made at thirty, when He was baptized. It symbolized His immersion into death--yielding His life to the service of God. At the close of His ministry, He said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50.) The next day, on the cross, He cried, "It is finished!" His baptism into death, begun at Jordan, was there completed.
In this matter the followers of Jesus copy Him. They are baptized into His death, and thus into His Body, the Church. (Romans 6:3.) This baptism into The Christ company, or Body, will not be completed until the last member shall have passed into death. Then the baptism of Christ as a whole will be finished. Then beyond the veil, by the First Resurrection, the entire Body will receive glory, honor and immortality and be joint-heirs with Jesus in the Kingdom then established. "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign."
As Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens [higher things] were opened to Him. Heavenly Truths became clearer. He could understand the "deep things of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10.) This enlightenment came by the receiving of the Holy Spirit. So His followers received a measure of the Spirit, begetting them as sons of God, joint-heirs with Christ. They also are illuminated.--Hebrews 10:32.[PD58]
Gospel of the Kingdom
For more than sixteen centuries Israel had waited and prayed for the coming of Messiah's Kingdom to exalt them, and to bless the world. The announcement that the Kingdom was at hand was a good Message--or Gospel.
But not enough Jews were in condition of heart to be Israelites indeed, worthy to share with Jesus in the glorious service of His great, long-promised Kingdom. "He came unto His own [people], but His own received Him not"--they crucified Him. But to as many as received Him [few] He gave the liberty, or privilege, of becoming sons of God, of passing from the House of Servants, under Moses, to the House of Sons, under the Headship of Jesus. This was effected at Pentecost, by the begetting of the Holy Spirit.--John 1:11-13; Heb. 3:1-6.
Not enough worthy Jews being found, the Kingdom offer was withdrawn from them, and for nineteen centuries God has been completing the foreordained number from saintly Gentiles. Outward signs and the prophecies demonstrate that the Kingdom was not set up then, and did not begin to bless the world. Instead, all the unready of Israel were broken off from Divine favor for a time, while the Call to the Kingdom was sent to the Gentiles, to take out of them a people to complete the foreordained "Body of Christ." (Romans 11:1-7,11,12.) Holy, saintly characters from every nation have been gathering for nineteen centuries, until now the number is nearly complete and the Kingdom about to be established.
When, therefore, the election of the Spiritual Seed of Abraham shall be accomplished, this Gospel Age will end. Then will begin the Messianic Age, in which Christ and the Church shall reign in spirit power.--Revelation 5:10;20:6.
Then the blindness of Israel will be removed, and the blessings of the New Dispensation will come to them, and through them to all the families of the Earth, as God promised. That the Church is the Spiritual Seed of Abraham, to bless Natural Israel and the world, is clearly shown in Galatians 3:16,29.[PD59]
Parables of the Kingdom
Jesus' parables chiefly relate to the Kingdom. Some of them show how the Jews failed to become heirs of the Kingdom, and how the Gentiles came in for a share. Others show the Kingdom class suffering violence during this Age as a part of their preparation for the Kingdom glories. "The Kingdom of Heaven [class] suffereth violence." The violent have dominated it by force for centuries.
The parable of the King's Son shows that the Jews had the first opportunity for joint-heirship with Messiah in His Kingdom. Then the Gentiles received the invitation. And these, not many wise or learned, have for eighteen centuries been prepared for Messiah's Kingdom. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?"--1 Corinthians 6:2.
In the parable the "Wedding Garment" represents a faith relationship with God through Christ's merit. The one who discarded it was cast out of the Bridal Company. This prefigures the fate of all who reject the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ in atonement for their sins. They will be forced out of the light of Present Truth--into the "outer darkness" of the world. By and by they will realize their loss of the Kingdom with chagrin--weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Pearl of Great Price illustrates the Kingdom's priceless value--it is worth its cost--our all.
The Wheat-field parable of the Kingdom represents the Church during this Age. The wheat, almost choked out by tares of error, yet finally ripened and gathered into the Heavenly garner, will be the Sun of Righteousness to usher in the New Day of Messiah's Kingdom.--Matthew 13:43.
The parable of the Talents represents how each consecrated disciple of Jesus is a steward of his own talents, and that according to his faithfulness will be his share in the Kingdom. Faithfulness in using the few talents of the present will bring great opportunities for blessing the world in the next Age. "I will make thee ruler over many things."--Matthew 25:21.[PD60]
The Prodigal Son
The Scribes, Pharisees and Doctors of the Law were the Elder Brother of the Prodigal Son parable. Publicans and sinners, careless of spiritual privileges, were the Prodigal, estranged from their Father's House. Jesus shows God's attitude toward the returning prodigal. For such He provides a "feast," a blessing which all may share, if they will. Those who received Jesus' Message included not many great, wise or noble, but chiefly penitent prodigals.
The parable of Dives and Lazarus illustrated the same lesson. The Jewish nation was Dives, the Rich man. His table, his spiritual food, the promises of God, was abundantly supplied; his raiment, fine linen, represented justification, effected through the typical Atonement-day sacrifices. His purple robe represented, symbolically, the fact that he was identified with God's Kingdom, purple being a symbol of royalty. Lazarus represented the hopelessness of the sinners and Gentiles, who hungered for a share in the promises to Abraham, but who got only "crumbs" until Israel's rejection.--Matthew 23:38.
The Poor man's sores represented a sin-sick condition; the dogs which licked them represented the sympathy of Gentile "dogs." This was illustrated in the Syrophenician woman whose daughter Jesus healed. She was not a Jewess, and therefore Jesus at first refused to aid her, saying, "It is not proper to take the children's bread and give it to dogs." But she pleaded: "Yes, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the children's table." Jesus gave her the crumb.
The Rich man, the Jewish nation, died to his great blessings. Nationally he fell asleep in Hades, and awaits reawakening. But personally the Jews passed into a great time of trouble, symbolically represented as fire, for eighteen centuries.
Lazarus also died to his condition of disfavor, and found himself in "Abraham's bosom"--a child of Abraham. Thus the Gentiles have become Abraham's Seed, and heirs of the Spiritual part of the Abrahamic Promise.--Galatians 3:29.[PD61]
Not Dead But Sleepeth
When Jesus found the mourners bewailing the death of Jairus' daughter, He put them forth, saying, "The maid is not dead, but sleepeth." Then He awakened her. Man does not die the same as beast. Although death to man and beast is cessation of life, yet to man God has given precious promises of a future life by a resurrection. There are numerous assurances that mankind shall be restored from death to receive things promised. Therefore the Scriptures speak of man as not dying, but merely falling asleep. The unconscious sleepers are all promised an awakening in the Resurrection Morn. Jesus declared that all in their graves shall hear His voice and come forth--some to a life of eternal reward, for present faithfulness; others to a trial, or judgment, to determine their everlasting destiny.--John 5:28,29R.V.
Jesus awakened Lazarus, whose sisters were Martha and Mary, at whose home He frequently stopped at Bethany. When Lazarus was seriously sick, the sisters sent Jesus the message, "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick." To their surprise he allowed Lazarus to die. Mentioning the matter to His disciples, He said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth," and later, "Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." Jesus said not a word about the dead going to Heaven, purgatory or hell, as was once believed. See John 3:13;11:13,14; Acts 2:29-35.
This word sleep has long been used as symbolical of death. "Abraham slept with his fathers," and his fathers were heathens. St. Paul refers to "those who sleep in Jesus," and tells us "We shall not all sleep," referring to those who remain alive until the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom, and the First Resurrection--at the beginning of His Reign.
These sleep neither in Heaven, purgatory nor a hell of torment. The Bible declares, "They that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake," some to shine as stars, and others to be in contempt and shame, until they have demonstrated their repentance and loyalty.--Daniel 12:2.[PD62]
Capernaum "Cast Down to Hell"
Capernaum, the scene of the majority of Jesus' mighty works, is now marked merely by a ruin. In it we see fulfilled Jesus' prophecy, "Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be brought down to hell"-- to Hades--the tomb. Symbolically that city was lifted to heaven in privilege as being the Master's own city during His ministry. Its great privileges meant great responsibility, and hence Jesus told them that if the same mighty works done in their midst had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented. He said, "In the Day of Judgment, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you."
The Day of Judgment is undoubtedly the thousand-year Day of Christ's Reign, in which judgment, or trial, will be granted to the world, to separate "sheep" from "goats"-- to determine those worthy and those unworthy of everlasting life. That glorious Epoch will be a blessed Day of privilege, light and grace, in which all the darkness of sin will vanish. It will be "more tolerable" for those who sinned without light than for those who enjoyed great privileges and opportunities.
Bible students are coming to see that the Day of Judgment has been greatly misunderstood. It has been thought of as a time of condemnation, instead of which it will be a period of testing, to see who, under trial, will be found worthy and who unworthy of everlasting life, which Jesus died to secure for all of Adam's race desiring it on God's terms.
The first Judgment Day was in Eden. Father Adam because of disobedience was sentenced to death. For six thousand years his race has been under that sentence. Jesus died to release all from that sentence, and to grant to all an opportunity of everlasting life. Only a faithful few, an Elect class, have yet been blessed. Their judgment, or trial, is in advance of the world, that they may be with Jesus judges of the world during the world's trial, or Judgment Day--the thousand years.--1 Corinthians 6:2; Acts 17:31.[PD63]
Sheep and Goats Parable
This parable pictures the Kingdom conditions after the Church is glorified and the Kingdom established. It will begin fulfilment "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him." All nations, including those now asleep in death, will be on trial before Christ's Judgment Seat, to determine their willingness or unwillingness to come fully into harmony with God, and to receive the Divine blessing of life everlasting, or, contrariwise, to be destroyed in the Second Death.
Those developing the wayward, goat-like disposition will pass to Messiah's disfavor, represented by His left hand. At the close of the Millennium, the separation will have affected the entire human family, and have brought all into one of two classes. One class will be rewarded with "the gift of God, eternal life." The other class, unworthy, will get the punishment which God has provided, namely, destruction--kolasin, cutting off from life. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."
Their destruction is symbolically represented by fire, and was illustrated by the fires in the Valley of Hinnom (mistranslated "Hell"), in which the garbage of Jerusalem was destroyed. The Valley of Hinnom (Greek, Gehenna) was once quite deep. Only dead carcasses were put into it, including those of very vicious criminals. It symbolized hopelessness--annihilation. Jesus used Jerusalem as a figure of the New Jerusalem. This valley--Gehenna--prefigured the Second Death, from which there will be no redemption--no recovery.
Gehenna was earlier called Tophet. When Israel became idolatrous, the image of Moloch was erected there and children were roasted alive in the arms of the image--sacrifically-- devilishly. Good King Josiah defiled it for garbage purposes.
Our pious fathers provided worse idols for us--Creed-idols! To these we were taught to sacrifice millions of heathens, and non-elect infants. But their day is gone! Thank God! Saner views of God are ours, and a truer interpretation of the Bible.[PD64]
Kingdom Work Illustrated
Not only did Jesus and His disciples preach about the Kingdom, and teach about it in parables, but the mighty works which Jesus did were intended to foreshadow the still greater work to be accomplished by His Kingdom during His Millennial Reign.--Matt.4:23; Isa. 35:5,6.
This is intimated by the words, "These things did Jesus and manifested forth His glory." In other words, the works of Jesus were foregleams of the work of His Glorious Kingdom. Many of His mighty works were done on the Sabbath for the same reason. As the six days in the week represent toil and travail, the result of sin, so the seventh day represents the Millennium, "the rest of the people of God," secured to all who accept it through the merit of Christ's sacrifice.
The turning of water into wine represented how the plain things of the present time, the simplicity of present Truth, will yet be transmuted by the Lord into the joys of the Kingdom, at the Marriage Feast in glory.
The cleansing of the lepers represented cleansing from the leprosy of sin. The one who returned to give glory to God represents the fact that only a "little flock" appreciate the favor of sins forgiven during this Age.
The healing of the sick represented the great fact that all diseases (mental, moral, physical) will be healed by Messiah, the "Good Physician," Royal Priest, typed by Melchisedec.
The opening of the blind eyes and of the deaf ears represented the greater fact that in due time the eyes and ears of understanding of all mankind will be opened, and God's glory will be appreciated. "All flesh shall see it together."--Isa.40:5.
Our Lord's Transfiguration on the Mount was another illustration of the Kingdom. His disciples knew not whether it was a reality or a vision, until Jesus said, "Tell the vision to no man until The Son of Man be risen from the dead." Later, St.Peter declared that what they saw in the holy mount represented Messiah's Kingdom.--2 Peter 1:16-18.[PD65]
Hosanna in the Highest
Toward the close of Jesus' Ministry He came to Bethany, to the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary-- the same Lazarus whom He had awakened from the sleep of death. Mary chose this opportunity to anoint the Master's feet with Precious Ointment, which He declared was an anointing for His burial.--Matthew 26:12.
The next day He sent for an ass and rode thereon into Jerusalem, after the manner of Israel's kings. When Jesus came in sight of Jerusalem, He wept over the city, exclaiming, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, but ye would not! Now, I say unto you, Your house is left unto you desolate! Ye shall see Me no more until that day [of Messiah's glory] when ye shall say, 'Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!'" (Matthew 23:37-39.) Meantime the Kingdom is not abandoned, merely delayed. Messiah's Bride will be only partly Jewish. "Israel hath not obtained" the coveted chief favor; but the Elect obtained it.
The multitude caught the spirit of the occasion, that Jesus was the promised King, and hailed Him as Messiah. They scattered clothing and palm-branches before Him, implying that the best of Earth was not too good for One so great. Meantime, they shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" The long-promised Messiah of David's line! "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah!"--Matthew 21:9.
The Pharisees, who did not believe, thought the procedure sacrilegious, and told Jesus to stop the shouting. Jesus replied that the Prophet Zechariah (9:9) said, "Shout," and therefore there must be a shout. "If they should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out." God had declared it; there must be a shout; the prophecy must be fulfilled.
Cleansing the Temple of money-changers and merchants followed our Lord's triumphal entry into the city.[PD66]
The Cost of the Kingdom
The Bible surely tells us that the way to the Kingdom is difficult and narrow, that the cost of being disciples of Jesus is self-denial and cross-bearing. Many wonder that the promises are thus restricted and not to all who strive to do right, without faith or self-sacrifice.
The parable of a camel creeping through a Needle's-eye illustrated how the rich must unload their wealth if they would prepare to share the Kingdom. The little gate in the larger one was called a "Needle's-eye."
Bible students now explain that difficulties are attached to the gaining of the Kingdom because God desires a very choice little company for that glorious position. He has made the trials so severe that only the saintly will avail themselves of the opportunity to gain the Kingdom.
The young ruler asked Jesus: "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus referred him to the Law, which promised eternal life to any Jew who would keep it. The young man replied that he had done his best, but still was dying. Jesus loved him for his good endeavors, and pointed him to a new way to life everlasting, by self-sacrifice as His disciple. Additionally he might become a joint-heir with Jesus in glory, honor and immortality.--Mark 10:17-25; Romans 2:7;8:17.
Two dear disciples asked to sit next Jesus on the Throne of His Kingdom. The Master replied, Are you able [willing] to drink of My cup of self-denial, self-sacrifice, ignominy and shame? Are you able to be baptized into My death--to self- will, to cutting off from every earthly privilege, if such be God's providence for you?--Matthew 20:22; Mark 10:35-38.
Those loving disciples answered that they were ready for anything, with the Master's help. He assured them and us that He will furnish trials and assistances, and that if faithful to the end, we shall have a crown of life. But the honors and glories of the Kingdom will not be determined by grace, but by Justice.--Matthew 20:23; Revelation 3:21;2:10.[PD67]
The Memorial Supper
Five days after Jesus rode on the ass, offering Himself as Israel's King, came the Passover, typical of the passing over of the Church of the First-borns.
Jesus was the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. In order to do this, He must be the Passover Lamb. St. Paul says, "Christ our Passover is slain, therefore let us keep the feast." Jesus ate the typical Passover lamb with His disciples. Then He took unleavened bread, and fruit of the vine, as representing His own flesh and His own blood, and instituted an antitypical Passover Supper.
Jesus' followers were to do this in remembrance of His death as the antitypical Lamb. He said, "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of The Son of Man, ye have no life in you." Of course, the outward performance would be nothing except as it would symbolize heart experiences. In their hearts, Jesus' followers must realize that His death is the Ransom- price for the sins of the whole world; that without it there would be no everlasting life. Such believers constitute the Church of the First-borns, who pass into life in advance of the world--in the First Resurrection.--Revelation 20:6.
St.Paul shows a still deeper meaning to the Memorial Supper. All the followers of Jesus are represented in the One Loaf that is being broken, and as sharing in the One Cup of suffering, shame, ignominy and death. (1 Cor. 10:16,17.) Only such will be members of His glorious "Body," the world's "Prophet like unto Moses."--Acts 3:19-23.
The disciples neglected to wash each other's feet or even the Master's. Jesus performed the service as a lesson in humility-- not as a ceremonial. The spirit of the lesson is that we render each other any service possible, as "members" of Christ.--Acts 9:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27.
After the Supper, Jesus with the Eleven went to Gethsemane, where Judas betrayed Him to the officials with a kiss. Then followed the memorable closing scenes of our Lord's life.[PD68]
"Ecco Homo!"--Behold the Man!
Early the next morning Jesus was led to Pilate and charged with Treason against the Emperor in asserting Himself a King. His accusers were the foremost Jews. Pilate realized the malice of the charge, to secure the death of an inoffensive person. Learning that Jesus was from Galilee, he sought to rid himself of the responsibility by sending Him to King Herod. But Herod would have nothing to do with Jesus. He had heard of His miracles, and feared. After Herod's soldiers had mocked Jesus, He was returned to Pilate. His accusers insisted that if Pilate should let Him go, that would prove disloyalty to the Roman Emperor.
Pilate sought to release Jesus, and to satisfy the clamor, ordered Him to be scourged. But this did not satisfy the mob, which cried, "Crucify Him!" Finally, Pilate, placing Jesus prominently, exclaimed, "Ecce Homo!"--Behold the Man! You have no other Jew His equal! Would you crucify Him? The mob cried the more persistently, "Crucify Him!" Nothing is more heart-hardening than religious errors.
Jesus was not the mob's ideal of a king. Had He been coarse, vulgar, a boaster, He would have been more nearly their ideal of a person likely to lift their nation from under the Roman yoke, and to become conqueror, like Alexander the Great. The world looks with a measure of reverence upon Jesus, but still He is far from the human ideal. Neither are the footstep followers of Jesus the world's ideals. They with Jesus are counted peculiar. As St. John wrote, "As He is, so are we, in this world"--despised as respects human ideals.
Humanity fails to realize that God's purpose in Christ and His followers has been to prepare them by meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering and love for the glorious work of Messiah's Kingdom, to bless all mankind. Present experiences are necessary, the Bible declares, that this Royal Priesthood may be, later on, a sympathetic Priesthood in respect to mankind.--Hebrews 2:10;3:1;5:8-10;12:11.[PD69]
The Dying Thief's Hope
Pilate washed his hands in the sight of the people as expressing his innocence of Jesus' death; then he gave the necessary orders for the execution. The Roman Government expected him to be absolutely just in respect to Roman citizens; dealings with others were to be conciliatory.
Two thieves were crucified at the same time, one on either side of Jesus, over whose head was charged the crime for which He was crucified: "Jesus, the King of the Jews." Few deaths are so painful as crucifixion.--Matthew 27:37.
One thief made sport of Jesus, saying, If you are God's Son, the Messiah and King, prove it by coming down from the cross. If Jesus had saved His life, He could not have become the King and Savior of the world, because only by His death could the Death Sentence against Adam and his race be met. Jesus died willingly a sacrificial death.
The other thief defended Jesus, saying that He had done nothing amiss, whereas they were receiving a just penalty.
After this defense the penitent thief turned to Jesus, saying, Lord, if You are a King and ever come into Your Kingdom, remember this poor thief--do something for me! Jesus replied, Amen! i.e., So be it--as you ask! Although I seem to have not a friend in Heaven or Earth, yet I say unto you this dark day, You shall be with Me in Paradise. My Kingdom will be established. Under its influence Earth will become a Paradise. You shall be rewarded there.
The misplacement of the comma in our common English Version has thrown us all astray. Evidently Jesus did not go to Paradise that day, because Paradise is not yet established. Furthermore, three days after, when He arose from the dead, He said to Mary, "I have not yet ascended unto My Father." St.Peter tells us that He was dead and that His soul was raised from the dead on the third day. (Acts 2:31.) "All people" are to be blessed by Messiah's Kingdom, but penitence prepares for quicker blessings and fewer "stripes."[PD70]
"Quickened in Spirit"
Because still natural men, the disciples could not comprehend spiritual things--until Pentecost. It was necessary, therefore, that Jesus' resurrection should be humanly demonstrated. Only believers could receive the Pentecostal illumination. They must believe, and know also that He is no longer a man, but again a spirit being.
The third day after Calvary the women who carried embalming spices found the sepulchre empty. Mary met Jesus, but knew Him not, for He appeared as a gardener. Jesus revealed Himself by His voice. He said, "I have not yet ascended to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." The news spread. St. Peter and St. John were amazed, and both ran to the sepulchre. They saw nothing but the vacant tomb and the folded clothes.
Later the same day, two of them journeyed to Emmaus. They were conversing eagerly when Jesus, in another form, unrecognized by them, joined them. He quietly explained to them the types and prophecies which foretold Jesus' death as man's Redeemer, saying, "Thus it behooved Messiah to suffer and to enter into His glory." Telling the experience afterward they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked with us by the way and opened unto us the Scriptures?" At their evening meal, He revealed Himself, and vanished.
The same evening many of them were gathered in the upper room discussing the remarkable events of the day, the doors being shut, yea, bolted, for fear of the Jews. Suddenly while the doors were still shut, Jesus appeared in their midst, still differently. This time He appeared like His former self. Even this affrighted them, though He told them that what they saw was flesh and blood, and proved it by eating. He was no longer the fleshly Jesus; in His resurrection He returned to the spirit condition. (1 Corinthians 15:44.) But, He had power to materialize, as the holy angels (and Himself, before made flesh) had done.[PD71]
St. Thomas the Doubter
On the following Sunday, Jesus again appeared--in the upper room--St. Thomas being present. He had rebuked his brethren for being too easily convinced that they had seen Jesus, and said that he would not believe unless he felt the print of the nails and the spear wound.
Jesus appeared again in a body like that of His humiliation, with the marks of the spear and the print of the nails. He urged Thomas to be convinced, but told of still greater blessings for those who without those proofs were able to fully believe.--John 20:26-29.
The Bible tells that Jesus is no longer flesh, but a spirit being, since His resurrection. As St. Paul declares, the Church must all be changed, because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." We must all be changed that we may be spirit beings--like Him, which surely means that He is no longer flesh. He was "put to death in flesh, and quickened in spirit," writes St. Peter.--1 Peter 3:18.
Jesus appeared to His followers three times on His resurrection day, and five times more during the succeeding thirty-nine days--briefly. This was a part of the great lesson that Jesus was no longer dead, and no longer flesh--that He is "highly exalted."--Philippians 2:9; John 6:62.
Saul of Tarsus caught a glimpse of the risen, glorified Jesus, unveiled by flesh, shining above the brightness of the sun at noonday, and the brief glimpse cost him his eyesight. If Jesus had thus appeared to His disciples during the forty days after His resurrection, they would have been alarmed, bewildered, unable to comprehend the matter. St. Paul refers to his glimpse of Jesus, saying, "He was seen of me as one born before the time." His words are explained to mean that all of God's people, the Church of the First-borns, are to be born into spirit conditions by their resurrection. Thus changed they will see Messiah as He is, in His great glory. But Saul saw Him before the time.--1 John 3:2.[PD72]
The Pentecostal Rest
Pentecost, the fiftieth day, was the Jubilee day, as the fiftieth year was the Jubilee year. The fiftieth day followed a Sabbath Day cycle (7x7=49), as the Jubilee year followed a Sabbath Year cycle (7x7=49). As the antitype of the Jubilee Year will usher the world into the glorious rest in Messiah's Kingdom and in the New Covenant relationship with God, so the antitype of the Jubilee day ushered believers into a rest of faith at Pentecost. So St. Paul explains, "We who believe do enter into rest." All truly Christ's are enabled to keep a Sabbath rest of faith and trust all the time, not merely on the Seventh Day, or on the First Day. Every day to them is a rest by faith in Christ's sacrifice--a Sabbath to the soul--foreshadow of Heavenly Rest.
None could enter into this true Sabbath rest, until Jesus had opened the way. His death was necessary as man's Ransom price. His resurrection was necessary to enable Him to apply that price on our behalf. He ascended on High, there to appear in the presence of God as the Advocate for His disciples. He imputes His merit to cover their imperfections, and to make their sacrifice acceptable to God, that they may suffer with Him and be glorified with Him. For the faithful there remaineth a rest, still more complete--to be attained in their resurrection "change."--Hebrews 4:3, 9, 11.
Under Jesus' direction, the Apostles, His followers, were not to begin their work until they received the Pentecostal blessing--the Holy Spirit--the evidence of their acceptance as sons of God. The only thing they did during that time before their own acceptance, was the choosing of a successor for Judas' place; but evidently God never recognized their choice. In His own due time God brought forth St. Paul to be the twelfth Apostle--one of the twelve foundation stones of the New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:14.) The error of supposing Apostolic Succession in the Church's bishops was a costly one. It led to many grievous errors.[PD73]
Only The Twelve were specially ordained to Apostleship, to be mouthpieces of Jesus to the Church. Their decision would bind on Earth the things bound in Heaven, and loose on Earth things loosed in God's sight. Even these did not receive the Heavenly Father's sanction until Pentecost, when they received the Holy Spirit. Scripturally, no one is authorized to preach or teach except he has received the Spirit of God. And every one who has received that Spirit has Divine authority to preach, wholly irrespective of earthly ordinations.--Isaiah 61:1.
This we are told is the import of the prophetic words respecting Jesus the Head and the Church His Body: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, for He hath ordained Me to preach good tidings to the meek." All who have received that Divine anointing, have the Divine commission to preach the good tidings. Whoever has not received that Heavenly authority cannot be a Divine ambassador.
In fulfilment of Jesus' words, "I give unto you the Keys of the Kingdom," St. Peter symbolically used two Keys in connection with the Gospel: the first Key on the Day of Pentecost, to open the door of invitation to all Jews to become members of the Body of Christ, the Church, through begetting of the Holy Spirit. Three and a half years later he used the other Key and threw open the door to the Gentiles. Cornelius was the first Gentile admitted to membership in Christ.
Thousands of the holiest Jews by obedience to God's command came yearly to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost. Thousands thus were attracted to the Pentecostal preaching and carried their blessing and enlightenment throughout the world.
There will yet be a second Pentecostal blessing. Only the special servants and handmaids of the Lord share the first and attain the Kingdom. Under Messiah's Kingdom God's Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. They will see that of which their ancients prophesied.--Joel 2:28,29; Acts 2:16-18.[PD74]
God's Chosen Vessel
Of St. Paul, Jesus said, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My Name to the Gentiles." (Acts 9:15.)
He is first brought to our attention as one of those who consented to the death of St. Stephen. Subsequently, he went about "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord."--Acts 9:1.
When we see the power of the Truth in its transforming influence upon the human mind, we are amazed. Yet we should remember that God never coerces the free will. In St. Paul's "conversion," Jesus merely showed an honest man wherein he was wrong, and what privileges he would have in connection with a Divinely-directed course.
St. Paul became the successor of Judas. There were to be twelve Apostles of the Lamb--a crown of twelve stars on the Church's brow--and twelve foundations to the New Jerusalem, and in them were the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. We are sure St. Paul's name is amongst them. This is in accord with the testimony that he was not one whit behind the very chiefest of the Apostles, and was more abundant in visions and revelations than they all. Matthias was chosen before Pentecost and was never recognized by God.
St. Paul is the most prominent amongst the Apostles, all of whom were glorious characters, especially chosen of God for His special service. Like the other Apostles, St. Paul had nothing to say respecting an eternity of torture for anybody. He declared that those ultimately found unworthy should "be punished with everlasting destruction." It is St. Paul who especially set forth that Jesus must come a second time, and then must reign until He shall have put all enemies under His feet. Through this noble mouthpiece Jesus sent us particulars of the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the "change" of the Church at Christ's Second Coming, the character of Antichrist, etc. If St. Paul's Epistles were omitted, how great would be our ignorance on many subjects![PD75]
God's Covenant with Abraham gave assurance that all the blessings God purposed for mankind would come to them through his posterity. The Jews were the natural seed of Abraham, and properly to them belonged the promises. But when all Jews possessed of the faith of Abraham had been privileged to come in with Jesus and become His joint-heirs in the Messianic Kingdom, then God through St. Peter used the second Key to the Kingdom. He threw open the door of opportunity to the Gentiles, that they might become fellow-heirs with the Jews in the Messianic Kingdom.
Three and a half years after Pentecost the angel of the Lord appeared to Cornelius. He told him that now God was ready to accept his prayers and his devotion. He told him to send for St. Peter at Joppa. From him he would hear "words" necessary to be believed in order that he might be fully accepted of God and receive the Holy Spirit.
Three messengers were sent to fetch St. Peter. Meantime God prepared the Apostle. He was told that what God had cleansed he should not consider any longer unclean. St. Peter associated his dream with his visitors, and promptly went to Cornelius' home. He found Cornelius and his family devout and ready to hear. He proceeded to tell them the true story of Jesus: His death, His resurrection, the call of the Church to be His Bride class--proving their worthiness by loyalty and faithfulness even unto death.
While St. Peter was speaking, these consecrated people, drinking in the Message, fully accepted the terms of discipleship. Then God gave a manifestation of His acceptance of them by the gift of the Spirit, such as was common to all Christians at the beginning of this Age. St. Peter, astonished, then said, If these have received the Holy Spirit, who can forbid them water baptism, which is only a symbol of their consecration to be dead with Christ? Here Gentiles first began to be grafted into the "Olive Tree" of Romans 11:17.[PD76]
The Church at Antioch
Gradually the Gospel Message found hearing ears amongst the Gentiles, but fewer in number. The Law training of the Jews had been God's special blessing to them, preparing some of them for the Gospel. The first Church in which Gentiles seemed to predominate in numbers was at Antioch. Barnabas, Silas and others were prominent amongst the brethren there, and later St. Paul. It was at Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. Many Christians wish that no other name had ever been accepted.
The Antioch Church, according to the Bible record, had very simple arrangements, similar to those practiced by Jesus and the Apostles. Forms and ceremonies had not yet entered, to crowd out the simplicity of Christ with mere forms of godliness. They met for growth in grace, knowledge, love and to assist each other in the narrow way. When fairly under way in their studies, they partook of the missionary spirit, and authorized and financed a mission which was conducted by St. Paul and Barnabas. Other missions were also conducted, as recorded in the Book of Acts.--Acts 13:1-5.
Not long after this, the terrible persecutions of Nero and Diocletian came upon the Church. These Roman Emperors found diversion and relief from ennui in the horrible tortures they inflicted upon the inoffensive followers of Jesus, whose mission in the world is merely to "do good to all men as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith," and to prepare themselves and each other for association with their Redeemer in the coming Kingdom.--Galatians 6:10.
Why did God permit persecutions? The answer is that testings of faith and loyalty to God are as necessary to Jesus' followers as they were to Himself, and for the same reason-- to develop and crystallize character. These corresponded to Jesus' own persecution and crucifixion. Thus He explained, saying, "It was necessary that The Son of Man should suffer and enter into His glory." The Elect walk in His steps.[PD77]
Berean Bible Students
The little gathering of believers at Berea is famous amongst God's people by St. Paul's declaration: "They of Berea were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things [which St. Paul preached] were true." (Acts 17:11.) They were but a little class, yet their faithfulness to God's Word caused them to be known as Berean Bible Students. The early Church met not in costly temples, nor did their elders and deacons have rich robes of office, nor did the services consist of showy display. They simply gathered as children of God, begotten of the one Holy Spirit and inspired by the One Faith once delivered to the saints. They gathered as the brethren of Jesus, that they might be under His direction and care as the only Head of the Church--as He declared, "One is your Master even Christ, and all ye are brethren." They met to study the Message of Jesus and the Apostles.
Bible students in our day have much advantage over these. We have convenient cheap Bibles, ability to read them, and good lights such as our forefathers never thought possible.
Bible students today are encouraged also when they consider that the Bible distinctly teaches that when men shall be running to and fro, and world-wide knowledge shall be increased, then the Wise Virgins, the Lord's people, will understand certain features of the Divine Plan previously kept hidden by Divine intention. They perceive that we are in this day of running to and fro by every means of conveyance, and that free schools, compulsory education, etc., are bringing the foretold increase of knowledge. These things mark the time for the wise of God's people to understand the Bible. How needful for this special light, when so many are falling away from all faith in the Bible, under the teachings of so- called Higher Criticism, which denies that the Bible is the Divinely inspired Message of God! (Daniel 12:1-10.) We should not only awake, but "put on the whole armor of God."[PD78]
All Christians claim that there were erroneous doctrines taught in the past which cannot be supported in the clearer light of our Day. All rejoice in the spirit of greater amity spreading amongst Christians of various denominations-- Catholic and Protestant. How did Christianity get into such a befogged condition that followers of Jesus thought they were honoring God in torturing their fellow-men? With great unanimity, Bible students seem to be reaching the conclusion that the difficulty started in the doctrine of Apostolic Succession--the doctrine that Bishops of the Church were Apostles, inspired in the same sense as The Twelve.
Pope Pius X realizes that the people no longer regard the Bishops as inspired authority and successors to the Apostles in office. Evidently himself dissenting, he has recently commanded that Roman Catholics be instructed to study the Bible, thus to come under the influence of the teachings of the inspired Twelve Apostles. All are gradually seeing that The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb (St. Paul taking the place of Judas) are the only Divinely inspired authorities of the Church.
The Church, after the death of the Apostles, not having the conveniences of Bibles and education, looked too implicitly to their Bishops, or Pastors, and without authority accredited them with Divine inspiration similar to The Twelve. After two hundred years the mistake was partially recognized, and an attempt was made to rectify it, but in the wrong direction. It was found that the different Bishops taught widely different, contradictory doctrines. It was realized that these contradictions were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Emperor Constantine (not baptized) called the Nicene Council of all the "Apostolic Bishops," at Nicea, A.D. 325. About one- third, 384, came. These were commanded to decide on a Creed. They wrangled for months. Then the Emperor decided and the Nicean Creed was the result. The Emperor's edict was that all not consenting to it should be exiled.[PD79]
"The Holy Roman Empire"
Gradually the name of Christianity spread among the peoples of Europe, without its Master's Spirit. The name "Christian" became popular. In the day of King Charlemagne, the title, "Holy Roman Empire," was established. The significance of the title is illustrated by a famous picture in the Chapter House at Florence, Italy. It shows the Emperor and the Pope seated side by side upon a throne, and descending from each by steps, the various officers of the Empire; on the Emperor's side, generals, etc., and on the Pope's side, bishops, the clergy, etc. Some claim this as a public acknowledgment of the marriage of the professed Virgin of Christ to Civil Power, in the Book of Revelation styled harlotry.--Revelation 17:1-5.
The basis of the alliance was the doctrine which then obtained, that the Second Coming of Christ as the Messiah to rule the world for a thousand years was thus fulfilled. The claims set forth were that it was the Divine intention that Christ should be represented in the earth by the Papacy, and that His government should be carried on through earthly princes. This condition of things prevailed in Europe for centuries. In the Sixteenth Century the Reformation movement sprang up. These daughters of the Church of Rome married earthly power, and started "Holy Empires" of their own.
This entire theory and its Systems received a severe blow when Napoleon Bonaparte took the Pope a prisoner to France. The spell of sacerdotal rule was broken. In September, 1870, Victor Immanuel took possession of Rome--a fatal blow.
Bible students are generally agreed that Church and State union is contrary to the spirit of the Bible, an error of the Dark Ages; that the Church of Christ is not to reign with the princes of the Earth, nor to be married to them, but to wait for her marriage till the Second Coming of her Redeemer, to be united with Him in the First Resurrection. Then she shall reign with Him forever.--Revelation 19:7;20:6.[PD80]
Crusades and Crusaders
The name Christian had become popular in Europe. Nearly everybody was recognized a Christian unless he disavowed it and claimed to be a Jew. The drowsy spell was broken by what some would term a fanatical outburst of fervor, which claimed that Christians should wage war on the Turks, Jews and others. The Crusades made their mark in history. Under the spirit of the time, thousands of the noblest of their day traveled hundreds of miles by land and sea to fight for the Cross against the Crescent. It was considered specially grievous that Jerusalem was under Moslem control, and thousands of lives and fortunes were spent in "Crusades to deliver the Holy Sepulchre from the Infidel Turk."
From our present-day standpoint and clearer perception of things, people generally style the Crusades an outbreak of foolishness, wasted effort, manifest ignorance and bigotry. But perhaps Christians today have something equally foolish and irrational. The human mind will be active in some way. The folly of others is easier to recognize than our own.
Some day it will be owned that Christendom today is as foolish in some respects as in the days of the Crusaders. Do not the great kingdoms of earth style themselves divisions of Christendom (Christ's Kingdom)? Are they not building great Dreadnaughts that cost a fortune for every discharge of their cannons? Are they not drilling vast armies, and equipping them with costly implements of war? For what purpose? Either because they have evil designs upon the other so-called Christian nations, or that they distrust the others. How foolish this shall yet appear!
How much better it will be when the Word of God is fully accepted, and when its spirit of Justice and Love will govern the world! Then the wealth and energy wasted in Crusades, Dreadnaughts and armament will be used to the general betterment of the people. Only Messiah's Kingdom can restore man to God's image and make God's footstool glorious.[PD81]
Huss, Wycliffe, Tyndale Etc.
The lessons of the past should never be forgotten. But we should cover with a broad mantle of charity much of its wickedness. The Church early lost the inspired Message, and unconsciously adopted the error that the teachings of the Bishops were the equivalent in authority of those of the Apostles. Through this broad channel grievous errors swept away precious truths. Lord's Old Roman World declares, "In the Second Century there were quiet bishops, intrepid martyrs, who addressed their flocks in upper chambers, and who held no worldly rank. The Third Century saw the Church more powerful as an institution. When Christianity, in the Fourth Century, became the religion of the court, it was used to support the very evils against which it originally protested. The clergy, ambitious and worldly, sought rank and distinction. They became lazy, arrogant and independent. The Church was allied with the State, and religious dogmas were enforced by the sword of the magistrates."
Fortunately there are always advanced thinkers on all lines. Such are generally considered fools, and persecuted. In reality they are the greatest benefactors of mankind. Huss suffered for his faithfulness to the Bible. Wycliffe and Tyndale were persecuted. Tyndale's Bible was burned publicly by high ecclesiastics, in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, London.
Later on, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, once associated with the Roman Hierarchy, but subsequently with the English Hierarchy, were publicly burned, because of their change of faith. In the light of today we see less difference between the two Hierarchies. Both Catholics and Protestants agree in condemnation of the atrocities of the past, perpetrated in the name of our Redeemer, one of whose titles is "Prince of Peace," and who admonished, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Thank God! Our mental eyes, with clearer light, see greater lengths and breadths and heights and depths of Love Divine![PD82]
Luther, Zwingli, Melanchthon
Nobody today believes that Martin Luther stepped so fully out in advance of all others that he could be said to have grasped the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. Even Lutherans cut two of his Ninety-five Theses, but wishing to keep the number the same they divided two others. All agree, however, that about the time of Luther, civilization took a step forward. Catholics are better Catholics today, and Protestants better also.
Dr. Luther was the head of a Catholic College for the instruction of German youth for the priesthood. He had heard about the Bible, but like others for thirteen centuries before him, he trusted in the decisions of the various "Apostolic Councils" of the Church--the various promulgated Creeds. These he believed to be Biblical.
But one day he chanced to see a Latin copy of the New Testament. His curiosity led him to read it. He was amazed at its simplicity. He wrote the Pope, suggesting the calling of a Council to ascertain whether there had been a gradual digression from the Bible. The Pope did not take the suggestion kindly. Luther was branded a heretic, unfrocked, excommunicated. This treatment only convinced him the more of the difference between the Bible methods and teachings and the modern ones. He began to write tracts which he scattered all over Germany, amongst the comparatively few people then able to read--in any language. Gradually, through much tribulation, the Bible became more prominent.
Those holy, honest-hearted Reformers only partially comprehended the Bible. Much of the smoke of superstition and bigotry still affected their mental eyes. Nor have we gotten out of the fog yet. Thank God, however, Bible study is reviving, influencing people of every denomination. Let us remember that only the few of old were able to read. A Bible cost a fortune. It was thought useless because of erroneous trust in Bishop-Apostles and their Creeds.[PD83]
Tetzel Selling Indulgences
About the time that Martin Luther began to study the New Testament and was amazed at its simplicity-- when he was grasping the great Bible Truth of justification by faith--he encountered Tetzel. The effect was to convince him the more that great errors had gradually crept into the faith and spirit of the Church. Tetzel was selling Indulgences under the Pope's authority. The proceeds were to be used in completing St. Peter's Cathedral at Rome.
Tetzel may or may not have exceeded his authority, but the record is that he preached, not the merit of Christ's sacrifice, but the power of the Pope, and of himself, his agent, saying, You have friends in Purgatory, suffering there for various sins. The Pope has the power to release them; I am his agent. Those who donate to this fund drop their money into this box, assured that the moment they do so their friends will be released from Purgatorial suffering.
Catholic though he still was, and a believer in Purgatory, Luther could not tolerate such a commercial proposition as that the grace of God should be purchased with money. He denounced Tetzel vigorously.
So far as we are aware, the public sale of Indulgences has been stopped in most civilized lands, but until recently in Mexico many Church tables were spread with Indulgences, specifying various sins and crimes, and bearing fixed prices.
Protestants, and some Catholics, have assumed that these Indulgences are permits to sin. The Church of Rome, however, claims that they never issue permits to commit sin, but merely so much remission of Purgatorial sufferings.
Amongst Bible students today, there seems to be a growing conviction that the Bible teaches that there is no consciousness in death--that the awakening moment in the Resurrection Morning will connect up with the dying thought. The proof- texts for Purgatory they apply to saints in this life, to the world's "stripes" in the next Age, and to the "time of trouble."[PD84]
The Holy (?) Inquisition
Catholics and Protestants are inclined to call the doings of the Inquisition very unholy. Facing the facts charitably, we remember that it belonged to a less favored day. With enlightenment, thank God, has come a keener sense of the Justice and Love which Jesus inculcated: "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake."--Matthew 5:44; Mark 13:13; Luke 6:27.
The Law given Israel at Mt. Sinai expressed merely Justice in its command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." How seriously indeed portions of God's Word were overlooked in the persecutions of the Inquisition! Not only was there no love nor sympathy, but Justice in every sense of the word was violated. Thank God for the light of a better day!
There is in the human heart a treacherous disposition to do evil, if only an excuse for it can be found. As the Jews found an excuse for crucifying Jesus, stoning Stephen, etc., so the Inquisitors found an excuse for their persecutions. Like Saul of Tarsus, they thought they did God service. Matters have changed greatly, but persecution is still practised along different lines--ostracism, slander, boycotting. The Bible refers to this, saying, "Your brethren which cast you out said, The Lord be glorified! But He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed."--Isaiah 66:5.
The mob spirit, the lynching spirit, is but a less legal form of "The Holy Inquisition." A Chicago Methodist Episcopal minister, angered at Prof. Farson, is quoted by the Indianapolis News and the New York Tribune as saying: "If I had the power I would skin that man, salt his hide and tack it on a barn door." The secular editor of the News says, "If such a violent outbreak was made by one who preaches the Gospel of Peace, what may we not expect from the sons of Belial?"
Evidences multiply that the mob spirit, the Inquisition spirit is growing. All should be on guard.[PD85]
Calvin and Servetus
In Geneva, Switzerland, there was dedicated in 1912 a monument bearing the following inscription: "In memory of Michael Servetus--victim of religious intolerance of his time, and burned for his convictions at Champel, on September 27, 1553. Erected by the followers of John Calvin, three hundred and fifty years later, as expiation for that act, and to repudiate all coercion in matters of faith."
Thus have the followers of John Calvin demonstrated to the world that they have progressed far beyond the teachings of their leader in the spirit of true Christianity--the spirit of Justice, of Love. Calvinists deserve congratulations on their progress, from all Christians--Catholics and Protestants -all of whom have been making similarly good progress during the intervening four centuries. None now would justify Calvin's course in sentencing Servetus to be burned.
Others burned at the stake usually had the fuel piled at their feet. The flames were inhaled with the smoke, and the victim was speedily unconscious to suffering. For Servetus Satanic ingenuity arranged the burning fagots at a distance. He literally roasted alive, in horrible torture, nearly five hours --in the name of God, of Jesus, of Righteousness, Truth, Justice, Love, Christianity and Civilization.
It seems remarkable that only now we are realizing that a man so deficient in the spirit of his Master as to murder his brother, should not be an accepted teacher of the Word of God and its spirit. Only now are Bible students realizing that Brother Calvin was not the inventor of the doctrine of Election, but merely of the doctrine that all the non-elect would suffer everlastingly. Now we see that the terms, "the Elect," "the very Elect," are Bible terms! and that those who make their calling and election sure, will be glorified in the First Resurrection. Now we see that the Elect will be associated with Jesus in His Kingdom, which will bless the non-elect-- "all the families of the Earth."--Galatians 3:29.[PD86]
The Wesleys Mobbed
Regret as we may the multiplied sects of Christendom, we must look upon them all with sympathy. The establishment of each, marked a further endeavor to get nearer to God and the true Light. The Wesleys returned to the simplicity of the early Church in preaching, Class gatherings, Bible study, etc. Naturally they were opposed by Churchianity. Cattle were driven amongst the worshipers to interrupt their meetings; they were mobbed. Similarly, Baptists, Presbyterians and others have had their experiences of persecution, hindering Bible study and worshiping of God according to their consciences.--2 Timothy 3:12.
"What manner of persons ought we to be?" As we note the bitter persecutions of the past, and the "narrow way" of all who follow Jesus only, we should the more forgive arrogance and bigotry. All should turn away from human traditions and everything contrary to the Bible.--2 Peter 3:11.
Christian people in all denominations are reaching this conclusion, and studying God's Word without creedal spectacles, in Bible classes, or in their homes.--2 Timothy 2:15.
Wesley uncovered another precious Bible truth. He declared Calvin's doctrine impossible for his acceptance, as Calvinists now do. Brother Wesley's theme was Free Grace, and his favorite text, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and whosoever will may come and take of the Water of Life freely." His heart was broad and loving, but the real breadth of Grace Divine was not then seen. He did not discern that his beautiful text relates to the blessing of the non-elect during Messiah's Reign; that the Church will not become the Bride until the marriage, at our Lord's Second Coming. Soon after, the Spirit and the Bride will bid all mankind partake of life everlasting.
Now we see the connecting link between Election and Free Grace. God's Election of a saintly Kingdom class is the work of this Age. The Elect in glory will in the next Age extend God's Free Grace to all.--Romans 8:28,29; Revelation 22:17.[PD87]
Our Modern Temples
Great Temples, or Cathedrals, have been erected throughout the civilized world. Their founders doubtless were inspired more or less to emulate Solomon and Herod in their great Temples of the past. No fault need be found with these from some standpoints. All the circumstances being equal, it would be a shame for Christians to meet for Divine worship under conditions inferior to those of their homes. In many instances, however, the people who have donated the money for the erection and upkeep of these buildings have been extremely poor, and have been cajoled into the expenses by misleading sophistries.
In the days of Jesus and the Apostles, it was not considered "Christian work" to raise money for Church purposes. Today money-raising is the ideal "work for Jesus." The Apostles taught that the real work of the Church of Christ is not to build up costly edifices beyond their means, involving them in debt, but to build themselves up in the most holy faith. "The Temple of God is holy, which Temple ye are," "if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you." God's people are the living stones under Divine supervision, being shaped and polished for places in the Glorious Spiritual Temple. Through that antitypical Temple, God will send His blessings. The removal of the curse, and the wiping away of all tears, will follow.
While using these modern Temples, let us not forget that they are not the real Temple, or Church. It is composed of the saints of God, who day by day are seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in the service of the Truth, "doing good to all men as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith." If inclined to criticize our forefathers for building costly Cathedrals while neglecting the Bible, let us remember that coming generations may make similar or worse comments on us for building scores of costly Dreadnaughts for injury to our fellows. With what shame we will look back upon our own faults! The thought should make us humble.[PD88]
Rejected and Despised
Christ is here in contrast with the rich, the learned, the religious and the irreligious of our day--"Christendom." The Holy Spirit gives "the spirit of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7.) To sacrifice present interests for eternal ones is wise. Is it any wonder that artists represent the world as wealth-mad, glory-mad, pleasure-mad?
The Christian Herald of a somewhat similar picture, says: "This allegory--which a critic has aptly called 'A Painter's Sermon'--is applicable to conditions in every part of the civilized world. It is a picture to study and to ponder over, that the full import of its teaching may be understood."
The Christian Commonwealth of the same, said: "On either side passes the heedless crowd. A prominent figure is a priest, proudly conscious of the perfection of the ritual with which he is starving a higher life. Over the shoulder of the priest looks a stern-faced divine of very different type, and, Bible in hand, he turns to look at the Divine figure. The startled look on the face of a hospital nurse in the foreground is very realistic. So absorbed is the man of science with his test-tube that he never glances at the Christ at his side. One of the most striking features is that of a false beauty, hurrying from one scene of pleasure to another. In the background stands an angel with bowed head, holding the cup which the world He loved to the death is still compelling the Christ to drink."
The passers-by represent the non-elect, whose only hope lies in the Kingdom of Messiah. The Elect in this picture are represented in the person of the suffering Savior--members of the Body of Christ, the Church. "He that despiseth you despiseth Me." These faithful members of the Body of Christ are not confined to one denomination, but constitute the saintly ones of every church and outside of every human system. They are the "Wise Virgin" class, being fitted by ignominy for the Heavenly Kingdom, and its great work of blessing humanity--the non-elect.[PD89]
Daniel in the Critics' Den
A master of art has given us a picture which well represents the attitude of the Higher Critics toward the Book of Daniel and its wonderful prophecies, which more clearly than any others point out our day, its present experiences and what is to be expected. Of course, in discrediting Daniel and the Prophets, and the Psalms of the Old Testament, these critics really discredit Jesus and the Apostles. These Higher Critics of all the great colleges have undermined faith in the Bible as the Word of God, and thus undermined all faith in a personal Creator with many.
These critics have little to say against Him who spake as never man spake; but the discerning minds of our day perceive that as Jesus and the Apostles quoted Daniel and the Prophets as Divinely inspired, the discrediting of the one is the rejection of the other. How could we rely upon the testimony of Jesus and the Apostles respecting other matters, if they erred respecting the prophecies of the past?
The condition of Christendom today is truly deplorable; and although we can see how it has come about, it seems almost impossible to restore a faith once lost. Only the very honest-hearted may we expect will be recovered. Their deflection had its start with the impossible thought that all except a handful of humanity must suffer to all eternity at the hands of fire-proof devils, because God thus foreknew and arranged matters from before the foundation of the world. They cast away the Bible because of the erroneous view that it is the foundation of all these various religious errors.
This unbelief advances like a mighty wave, and its influence is sweeping away all hope respecting a future life. It is preparing the world for anarchy. The wonder is that the great and rich, supporting colleges which thus teach, do not realize that they are bringing anarchy upon the world.
Even now, Labor, like the blind giant Samson, is groping for the pillars whose fall will overthrow present conditions.[PD90]
"Many Shall Run To and Fro"
Everybody knows that stimulated by printing there has been a greater development of knowledge along every line within the past century than during the preceding fifty-nine centuries. Everybody knows that the telegraph, telephone, wireless, electric lights, gas lights, steam railroads, electric roads, machinery, conveniences, etc., of our day were all unknown a century ago.
But although we know this to be true, it seems almost incomprehensible to the rising generation. These things have come so gradually that few realize that they are foregleams of the great thousand-year Day of Messiah's Kingdom in which the curse will be fully removed, and instead the blessing long- promised of God will be outpoured upon humanity abundantly.
The Bible declares the coming glory of Earth, when God shall make the place of His feet glorious, when the whole Earth shall be a Paradise of God. Our great scientists, who give no heed to the Bible, testify that present attainments are as nothing to what is just at hand.
God describes our day in Daniel's prophecy, saying, In the Time of the End (of this Age), many shall run to and fro; knowledge shall be increased; the wise shall understand... and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.--Daniel 12:1-10; Matthew 24:21.
Are we not in the midst of the running to and fro which this prophecy predicted? We must, therefore, be living today in the period designated the Time of the End--the time in which this Age will gradually close and the New Age will gradually dawn with greater blessings. The first locomotive was built only ninety years ago. Now, in every land, multitudes are running to and fro, whose grandfathers probably never traveled fifty miles from their birthplace. Surely no prophecies could be more accurately fulfilled than this one.
Who but God could have known and foretold this marked peculiarity of our day? Jesus quoted a part of this prophecy.[PD91]
"Knowledge Shall Be Increased"
Daniel not only declared that our day would be marked by running to and fro, but also gave another indication: "Knowledge shall be increased." Surely we have this fulfilment also. Instead of plowing with a crooked stick, we have up-to-date steam-plows which accomplish a hundred times the work. Contrast writing upon stone and upon parchment, laborious and expensive, with our modern printing. Contrast the beginning of printing with today!
No printing establishment in the world better illustrates the perfection of this art in our day than does the U.S. Government Printing Office at Washington. No library better illustrates modern learning than does the Congressional Library. Today the learning is not confined to the great, the wealthy, or the few; it is general. The Schools of the civilized world are full, and thus, too, knowledge is increasing.
How wonderful that God foreknew all these things and foretold them through Daniel's prophecy twenty-five centuries ago, saying, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased!" Here we have it! We are evidently in the Time of the End mentioned, and well we may rejoice in the oncoming New Age! No longer do we hold that the world will literally end, and with a combustion which will reduce it to a cinder. We are ready to believe God's Word--that He created not the Earth in vain, He formed it to be inhabited-- to be the Paradise home of humanity, regenerated under Messiah's Kingdom.--Isaiah 45:18.
Year by year we see the Earth preparing for full inhabitation. Recent earthquakes closed some and opened other channels of the Japan Stream, affecting the climate of Alaska and the Arctic zone remarkably. Gradually the glaciers in the form of icebergs are running out and dissolving in the more Equatorial waters. Gradually the Earth is preparing to blossom as the rose. Gradually the curse will be removed and the blessing of God will be substituted.--Isaiah 35:1.[PD92]
"A Time of Trouble"
Daniel's prophecy has one prediction not yet realized. He declares, "There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation." Jesus confirmed this prophecy and added the words, "No, nor ever shall be." If a great time of trouble must come, it is comforting to know that it will be the last of its kind. And this evidently will be because its lessons will be so severe as to make no repetition of them necessary. Furthermore, according to the Bible, upon the ashes of that time of trouble Messiah's Kingdom will be established with full power and glory, to accomplish His great work of human blessing and uplift from sin and death. Christ will reign! Satan will be bound!--Revelation 20:1-4.
The prophecy declares that while men are running to and fro and knowledge is increased, the wise of God's people will understand the Divine Plan as never before. "The Mystery will be finished." The seals will be broken. The dawn will appear. Jesus' Parable of the Virgins applies to the end of this Age. It declares that amongst God's people (all Virgins) there will be some "foolish." Only the "wise" will "trim their lamps," examine the Bible, and "understand."--Matt.25:1-12.
We need not detail the coming trouble. Everybody sees it. It will be a battle between giants--on the one side financial giants, trusts, etc.; on the other side gigantic labor organizations. Both parties are preparing. Both parties expect to fight to the finish. Both parties expect to win. Both parties will be disappointed, for both will lose. The Bible predicts that the result will be most terrible--anarchy--"a time of trouble such as never was!" We can but imperfectly surmise the details of the trouble, but the Scriptures imply that it will include social, financial, political and religious institutions. The anarchy of the French Revolution, and the anarchy which overthrew the Jewish nation, A.D. 70, are Scriptural illustrations of what may be expected soon. The Bible counsels Meekness and Justice as safeguards.--Zephaniah 2:3.[PD93]
Catholic, Militant, Triumphant
Catholic signifies general, inclusive. It cannot properly be applied to any church except "The Church of the First-borns, written in Heaven." (Hebrews 12:23.) The latest thought of Bible students is that the names Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, are not catholic, but are names of divisions. Likewise the terms Church of England, Church of Germany, Greek Church, Church of Rome, are sectional names and not properly termed catholic.
The term, Church Militant, signifies the Church at War. It was the wrong thought when the Church undertook to war with carnal weapons, either against nations or against heretics through the nations. She has no commission for such a warfare. It will be hers, eventually, to "bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron, and to execute the judgment written. This honor have all His saints." It will be hers eventually, when glorified, to sit with Christ in His Throne, and to exercise dominion over the nations, and to break them in pieces as a potter's vessel. (Revelation 2:27.) But all this will be beyond the First Resurrection, in her Heavenly inheritance of Glory, Honor and Immortality.
The Church's warfare in the present time is to "fight a good fight of faith." It is an individual warfare in which the consecrated members of the Church must stand their ground, and do their battlings by the assistance of the Captain of their salvation, and the support of His Word. The brethren may greatly assist one another, building one another up in the most holy faith. Those who are faithful unto death will receive a crown of life, and a share with their Redeemer in His Kingdom.
The Church Triumphant will be invisible to men because changed in the First Resurrection and perfected on the spirit plane. As St. Paul declares, "We must all be changed, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God." It will operate through earthly representatives, the Worthies of the past--Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the Prophets.[PD94]
New Heavens and New Earth
Many of the precious teachings of the Bible are conveyed in symbolic language. Indeed all language is pictorial. Thus the "Heavens" are the higher, or ecclesiastical and spiritual powers connected with the present order of things, while the "Earth" is the lower, or social order of things. In Bible usage, the mountains of "earth" represent the great governmental strongholds, while the sea represents the restless class which secretly or openly desires to engulf society. Thus the Bible tells that the "Heavens" and the "Earth," or spiritual and social conditions which were before the Deluge, perished there, and a new order of things, social and ecclesiastical, sprang up, which still persists. The present order, ecclesiastical and social, is called the world, or Dispensation which now is. It is also called "This present Evil World," because evil holds supremacy. The Scriptures promise that there shall be a new "Heavens" and a new "Earth" (ecclesiastical and social), and we are assured that therein will dwell righteousness.--Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13.
St. Peter describes the passing away of the present ecclesiastical Heavens and social Earth in a great fire, once misunderstood to refer to a literal burning of the Earth. The Divine assurance is to the contrary, that "the Earth abideth forever," that God "formed it not in vain, but to be inhabited." The "fire" of this passage is evidently the same symbol frequently used in the Bible. It represents the trouble, destruction, which will completely overwhelm the present ecclesiastical and social order in anarchy.--Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21.
The new spiritual Heavens of the future will be Christ and the Church in heavenly glory and power. As God's promised Kingdom, it will rule the Earth, blessing and uplifting the non- elect of every nation, people, kindred and tongue. The new Earth will be the new social order which will come into being at that time, under the direction and guidance of the new Heavens--the Messianic Kingdom.--Matthew 6:10.[PD95]
Earth Restored, Perfected, Complete
Pursuing the thought with which we started, we perceive that the Seventh Creative Day, or Epoch, will be a period of seven thousand years. Under Messiah's glorious reign that last thousand years' Restitution work will bring Earth to the condition originally designed by God! It will complete the creation of Earth, and of mankind as a race of God-like rulers of Earth's affairs. Man, having tasted both Good and Evil, and having chosen Good, will be granted life everlasting. The disobedient lovers of Evil will be destroyed in the Second Death.--2 Peter 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
It is not in the power of human tongue or pen to portray the glorious perfection of the earthly Paradise condition. The most glorious qualities of mind and heart known amongst men must of necessity be imperfect as compared with the perfection of God's image as it will be restored in all the willing and obedient--the unwilling and disobedient being destroyed.
Already we see beginning the Restitution blessings promised in prophecy. Yet we are only in the beginning of the thousand years in which, under Messiah's guidance, God's Wisdom and Power will undoubtedly work miraculous changes in a natural way. It is refreshing to all hearts and to Christian faith to know that as the Prophet declared, "The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose," "and in the wilderness shall waters break out," so these things are beginning to be experienced. In the far Western parts of the United States, and in Mesopotamia, the land of Abraham, human ingenuity, engineering feats, etc., are working miracles. Divine Wisdom is behind them, just as Divine Power is now blessing all of Earth's affairs, and making the world most wonderfully rich.
If human skill is able to produce such beautiful fruits and flowers as are now manifest on every hand, what may we not expect will be the condition of the perfect earth when the "curse" shall be fully removed by the glorious Redeemer? Surely it will be "the desire of all nations."--Haggai 2:7.[PD96]
Hallelujah Chorus and Ages to Come
With the close of the thousand years of the Messianic Kingdom, the great Mediator will deliver over the Kingdom to the Father. (1 Corinthians 15:24.) The Father will not receive the human family to eternal life without first giving them a test along the lines of strict obedience to His will. Satan will be loosed for a little season to demonstrate who are absolutely loyal at heart and not merely obedient for the sake of policy. Those who then fail, will be destroyed with Satan in the Second Death. (Revelation 20:7-9.) Thus the earth will be absolutely cleansed. Then every creature in Heaven and Earth will exclaim, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the Throne and unto the Lamb forever!" (Rev.5:13.) Then there shall be no omomckness or dying. The former things of sin and death will have passed away.--Rev. 21:4.
Nor will the glory of Christ and the Church end with the restoration of mankind. Not only do the Scriptures tell us that unto Christ every knee shall bow, both of things in Heaven and things on Earth, but "That in the Ages to come God will show the exceeding riches of His grace and His loving kindness toward us [the Church] in Christ Jesus."
As God made not the earth in vain, but to be inhabited, this same principle doubtless applies to the other planets of our solar system, and to one thousand millions of other worlds of which Astronomy tells us. They are all to be peopled, and the things learned in the sin-experience of our Earth are to be their instruction. It is the Divine decree that the Logos shall be the honored agency through whom all creative work shall be accomplished in the future, as in the past, and His Church, His Bride, will be with Him in all His glorious hereafter. Truly ours is a Great God, worthy of worship, obedience, love. Only the foolish can say in their hearts, "There is no God." "Who shall not reverence Thee, O Lord...when Thy righteous acts are manifest!"--Revelation 15:4.