Warm Christian greetings. It should be noted that we as Christians never strive to attack. We strive for the Truth rather than against people—and there lies the big difference. We have determined to actively resist and teach against any false doctrines that are deceiving those among the Lord’s people. Doing so presents us with a unique problem. When a person (specifically elders or study leaders) teaches a false concept or doctrine, it rarely has anything to do with himself. Generally, the heresy can be clearly singled out and countered without having to necessarily address the brother who teaches it. For instance, if someone denies the “ransom for ‘ALL'” or teaches that the Lord is not present, or rejects the restoration of Israel or even Pastor Russell as “that Servant”, it’s easy to counter such claims with the Truth, without attacking the particular men teaching these errors. But consider! What if the heresy is inseparable from who and what a brother says that he is? What if the matter is also at the core of who a Christian worships? Do we say, ‘I can’t dispel this kind of false teaching because if I do I would also attack its author’? The reasoning might continue, ‘I know that this brother is deceiving thousands, but I can’t address his error, or try to help those he is deceiving, because I would also be attacking him, not just his heresy.’ The problem could go further. If a brother claimed to be a special servant of God, must we give him a ‘free pass’ because, in dispelling such an outrageous idea, we would also appear to be attacking the brother making the claim? What if someone stated that God had revealed to him that he was a special messenger? Can we not question—prove—him? What if he asserted himself to be Christ? The question looms even larger. You see the point? Consider when Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal, did he attack them? No! God inspired Isaiah to ‘Cry aloud and spare not!…Show My people their sins!’ (58:1). We are doing just that—and it will soon be evident that one of the greatest sins the brethren are committing lies at the heart of watering down the Harvest Message. We are under no illusion. This website will evoke attacks against us personally. However, as consecrated Christians, we strive to lay down our lives for the Lord and the Truth. Our my job and YOUR JOB, is to help the brethren and other Truth-seekers. If we can help even one, even at some personal expense, it is well worth it!
The apostle John repeatedly taught the importance of both Biblical truth and godly love. To understand the identity of the true Church, it is vital to recognize which of these is the foundation for the other.
The larger, well-known churches of this world are comprised of millions of “believers”—people who believed in and talked about Jesus. No doubt, many of them are sincere. They also talked much about “Christian love.” Many are the sermons given about “Jesus” and “love”. This describes the diet served every week from pulpits in tens of thousands of churches, around the world.
Of course, these are both critically important topics! The Bible has hundreds of scriptures that refer to our Lord and the importance of demonstrating godly love. But I see that many people have a hollow love, and that few really believed what Christ taught. No real love is evident in their lives.
They have the Lord’s name on their lips but the truths that He taught is not evident in their lives. Lots of talk about love, but little, if any, being practiced in their lives.
John has been called the “Apostle of Love,” because he spoke about this subject much more than all the other New Testament writers combined. A quick glance in any concordance, will confirm this. What is not realized is that he also wrote more about the importance of “truth” than all the other New Testament writers combined. John could have easily been known as the “Apostle of Truth”! A superficial look at his writings could leave you wondering if he wrote about anything other than these two subjects. Strangely, despite John’s dozens of references to the importance of truth, this emphasis is ignored by almost everyone!
In God’s infinite wisdom, He knew that He could not have one apostle stress truth and a another stress love. This would have left the impression that people could “choose their favorite apostle,” depending upon whether they felt truth or love deserved greater emphasis. (It was this very kind of division that plagued the Corinthian brethren – 1 Cor. 1:10-14.)
“Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them that are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized into the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus and Gaius.”
The result is that each group would feel superior to the other because it has the “more proper” emphasis. Many today feel that they merely need to stress “love”—and without explaining the Bible definition—with little emphasis on correct doctrine. Those that think this way have a well-honed set of passages they use in an attempt to establish their position.
The Role of Love
Two of the most frequently quoted scriptures come from John. Both speak about love. John 3:16 states:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
People who know little—or nothing—about the Bible usually know of these verses.
John 13:34-35 states:
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another.”
It is easy to see, from just these two passages, why so many believe they are Christians if they just “have love”—all the while feeling no need to be concerned about truth. Notice the phrase, “By this [love] shall all men know that you are My disciples.” It is true that an outward demonstration of love does make an important impression on people. In a selfish, unhappy, confused world, people practicing genuine love—do stand out from all those around them!
A basic question arises. How does Christ know if you are His disciple? We are not asking how men know, but how Christ knows. John also answers:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Did you notice the phrase “IF you continue in My word, THEN are you My disciples…”? This is a key point! “Continuing in [Christ’s] word”—remaining free of error—signifies to Christ that we are His disciples.
This is what Christ looks for!
The Role of Truth
Holding to the truth would never be a sign to men. People are usually turned off by what true Christians believe:
“because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
1 Cor. 2:14 tells us that the truth is not attractive to anyone not called by God . However, seeing people show genuine concern for one another turns no one off and is attractive to all. Anyone who doubts this, may attempt to “cast” a few “pearls” at someone (Matt. 7:6). Watch the reaction. Then try showing love to them when they don’t expect it. The lesson will be learned.
Consider that True Christians are led by the Holy Spirit—the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:13). This same Spirit of truth “will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit will lead all those who are truly consecrated into the knowledge of real godly love. Galatians 5:22 reveals that love is a “fruit of the Spirit.” Romans 5:5 explains that such fruit is possible in a Christian’s mind only because God’s Spirit has put it there.
Romans 13:10 states, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” 1 John 5:3 adds this, removing all doubt:
“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.”
It will be clear to others that you have love, because they will see you fulfilling God’s laws toward your fellow man. Understanding real Christian love—what it is—how it is expressed—its relationship to law—its part in being the light of the world—is in itself also a great truth!
Let’s now carefully examine an important verse:
“He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
Pause and consider this before continuing. Verse 5 speaks about people who claim to be Christians—to “know Him”—but who neither keep the commandments nor have “truth” in them. The world is filled with professing Christians who claim to “know Jesus in their heart” but who have no interest whatsoever in understanding the Divine Plan as outline in the Bible. Now, focus carefully on Christ’s words (vs 5)
“But whoso keeps HIS [Christ’s] word; in him [that person] verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him.” (vs 5)
Real love cannot be perfected in those who are not keeping Christ’s word—His recorded instruction—the truth. The true love of God is only perfected in people who ARE doing this!
Remember John 8:31.
“If you continue in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.”
We must always “continue in” or “keep” God’s word. No wonder our Lord taught,
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4).
The Greek word for “keep,” tereo, means “to watch or to guard (from loss or injury) by keeping the eye upon…to detain in custody.”
Will you determine to keep the truths of God’s Word in your “custody”?
Will you “guard” it from “loss or injury”?
Are you convicted about keeping your “eyes” continually upon it?
Remember, when we consecrated and became disciples of Christ, we were “sanctified” by that Word of truth (John 17:17). Only in this way can you first become and then remain Christ’s disciple!
Remember! Truth is the umbrella that stands over love. Love springs from truth—not the other way around! It is no coincidence that Matthew 22:37-39 says,
“love your neighbor as yourself,” afterwards says, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
We didn’t wake up one day and decide “I’m gonna love God”, no, we learned the Truth, when about His Plan of Salvation, and fell in love with the heavenly Father.
Certainly, no one who rejects God or His truth love Him. Therefore, genuine love for “neighbor” will also be absent.
Many Churches Claim to Have “Love”
What about all those who emphasize the importance of love and having a “relationship with Christ”—while in ignorance of God’s Truths or while neglecting or abandoning the ones they may have? Can love be “perfected” in them? The Bible says that this is impossible! (Recall 1 John 3:4.) The only thing such people and organizations “perfect” is the ability to talk about love. So says God! While many have honed “love speak” into a fine art, this is nothing more than empty talk!
These are the ones who talk of “love” and “Jesus,” while demonstrating no real love of God and no real knowledge of the true teachings of Christ. How you love someone you don’t really know? At best it’s a superficial love. When there is doctrinal disagreement within their ranks,
Augustine has been credited with coining the phrase: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” In actuality, Rupertus Meldenius, a German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, coined the phrase in a tract published in 1627.
In any event, today this thought still echoes, even among the brethren. They say: “we must agree to disagree. Love is primary. Doctrines and opinions about Bible truth is secondary. Let us all just have love. Let us submerge our differences under ever more love.”
It’s a nice gesture, the problem with this thought is that, in the end, this breeds more division and doctrinal confusion and a complete disregard and neglect of doctrinal truth. This wrong premise puts the “love” cart in front of the horse. The true Christian continues in truth and then is able to walk in love. Remember, real love, springs from first having the truth! John stated that he “rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you [them], even as you walk in the truth.” Seeing this within fellow Christians was John’s greatest joy (3 John 3-4).
How Love, Truth and Blessings Work Together
There is a final, important, related point. What role do blessings and growth play within the formula of truth and real Christian love? Do their presence—or absence—tell the true Christian anything?
1 John 3:18 states, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” John explains that this gives Christians confidence toward God in their prayers, while eliminating the conscience problems that hinder them. Now verse 21: “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” Answers and blessings flow from obedience, pleasing God and application of His truth: “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (vs. 22).
This principle is made plain through paraphrasing three verses. Let’s notice. Isaiah 58:13-14 explains that Israel was promised wonderful blessings if they kept the Sabbath properly. Malachi 3:8-10 shows that they were also promised great blessings—but only if they tithed faithfully. Exodus 15:26-27 directly connects the promises of good health and healing to full obedience to God’s commands. These and many other verses containing promises show that the Christian can know when he is in harmony with God. Conscience problems vanish when people follow all of God’s commands and instructions.
God’s people must recognize and never forget that a real Christian’s path is not easy or pain-free. However, if our ways please Him, God will continually give blessings and growth. This becomes a sign to us of His happiness and pleasure with us. When blessings, fruit and growth are continually lacking, God is not pleased! We know—either way.
First, belief and continuance in the truth tells Christ who His disciples are (and real love will always be evident anyway). Next, love tells people who Christ’s disciples are. Finally, blessings, fruit and growth tell the individual Christian whether he or she is pleasing God and continuing in His Word.
If I were the adversary I would speak endlessly of love and “Jesus,” while de-emphasizing right doctrine—Christ’s teachings—truth!—and their connection to growth and blessings. If this is what you are hearing, beware!
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” What does it mean? Is there any substance to the idea that truth which is initially proven can be reproven? What if “reproven truth” differs from original truth?
No Bible teaching is more certain than the fact that to understand God’s Truth one must be called of God! Our Lord said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. . .” (John 6:44). While it is true those who sincerely seek God may find Him, this, too, is contingent upon God’s mercy and upon His purpose for each individual (Matthew 7:7, Romans 11:7). Whether one is ever called and chosen —depends on God (Acts 2:38–39).
Paul said, “. . .we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the knowledge of God’s Truth comes by divine revelation. Truth does not come by “scholarship,” superior human intelligence, or “research.” These may aid in Bible understanding—but without the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit leading the individual to perceive spiritual concepts, they are of little value. Many brilliant theologians and philosophers today are as much in ignorance of the real meaning of God’s Word as are those who have never been exposed to it. Bible truth is revealed! It comes only by divine revelation!
Jesus said, “. . . many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Those who are chosen are chosen “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (II Thess. 2:13). God’s Spirit, working on their minds and setting them apart, leads them to perceive and believe what they hear or read. They are called to a knowledge of the truth which they believe and practice (II Thess. 2:14).
Those called understand and apply the rules of Bible study. They know all Scripture is inspired (II Tim. 3:16). They know the Bible does not contradict (John 10:35). They know all Scripture on a given subject must be put together in order to fully understand doctrine (Isa. 28:9–10). They realize no scripture of the Bible is of any private interpretation (II Pet. 1:20). Their minds are fully capable of proving what the Bible says. But they know this is only a part of proving God’s Truth.
Truth Is Absolute
Divine truth is absolute. It does not change. The same truth applies to all generations. The standard never alters. The truth revealed yesterday is the same truth today. There is no progressive revelation in the sense that “new insight” invalidates original truth. “New insight” adds to and complements that which precedes it (II Pet. 3:18—”grow” is auxano, meaning “increase or add thereto”).
Pastor Russell wrote:
“A new view of truth never can contradict a former truth. “New light” never extinguishes older “light,” but adds to it. If you were lighting up a building containing seven gas jets you would not extinguish one every time you lighted another, but would add one light to another and they would be in harmony and thus give increase of light: So is it with the light of truth; the true increase is by adding to, not by substituting one for another.”
“New insight” never contradicts or disagrees with original truth. To say truth is subject to change is to say there is no such thing as absolute truth. If this is true, God’s Word is meaningless. Those who advocate doctrinal changes on the basis of “new insight” and “scholarship” have repudiated truth persay. If truth can be altered, it was never truth in the first place! Original, revealed truth cannot be altered.
Those who call themselves Christians — while advocating doctrinal changes — are in effect admitting they were never Christian, because the basis of true Christian doctrine is divine revelation (I Cor. 2:10)! Jesus said that revelation could never change (Mark 13:31)!
Truth Absolute to Every Individual
Furthermore, divine revelation is absolute to every individual. The idea that what is truth is truth for that individual only, is not sustained in Scripture. The Bible says there is one faith and one faith only (Eph. 4:5)! There is no allowance for each individual to decide for himself what truth is. Man is going to be judged on the basis of God’s Word, not on the basis of what he thinks God’s Word is (John 12:48). Truth, therefore, is not individualistic truth. It is absolute truth which applies the same way to each individual.
Since divine truth is spiritual, it can come only from a spiritual source. That spiritual source is God’s Spirit. Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Spiritual truth, as well as full spiritual understanding, is divinely revealed (I Cor. 2:10). It cannot be ascertained through physical means! It is only by the Spirit of God that the hidden things of God are made known (I Cor. 2:11). The natural man cannot receive them (I Cor. 2:14). Therefore, proving God’s Truth begins with the understanding that through God’s Spirit one can understand truth. But this comprehension is only the initial step.
Proving Means Practicing
After the individual Christian is called, recognizes the call, accepts the knowledge revealed to him and is baptized, he must put to practice that truth. He must walk worthy of his calling (I Thess. 2:12). While the truth generally comes as a result of hearing others preach God’s Word, it is plain to the true Christian that what he heard was indeed the Word of God (I Thess. 2:13, II Thess. 2:13–14, John 10:4). While the same message applies to everyone, the true Christian knows what is said has been revealed to him specifically. When Peter said, “. . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. . .” (Acts 2:38), he was saying that spiritual truth must be applied individually! He did not say spiritual truth applies to each individual as he interprets it. Rather, truth applies to each individual as God specifically reveals it. Thus, each individual —called of God—must live up to what is revealed to him!
Levels of Truth
Revealed truth, therefore, does not differ from one individual to another in the sense of variety, but only in the sense of quantity. To each individual, then, truth is not a matter of diversity but rather of measure (Rom. 12:3). The more knowledge and understanding one has, the greater the responsibility placed upon him (Luke 12:47–48). At any given moment of time, each individual must live up to the truth revealed to him. Thus, when referring to spiritual truth in its application to individuals, we are referring to levels of truth. We are never talking about variations of truth. Truth does not vary from individual to individual, but the level of understanding each person has at a given moment of time does! Spiritual babes obviously cannot comprehend and apply what older, mature Christians can (I Cor. 3:1). But they must grow in knowledge and understanding until they, as mature Christians, reach a level acceptable to God (II Pet. 3:18, Eph. 4:12–15).
Thus, spiritual growth is the acceptance and practice of new revelation! Paul said, in Philippians 3:15, that God continually reveals what needs to be known to help His true children grow spiritually. But this new revelation never contradicts previous revelation! If new revelation contradicts previous revelation, then one or the other is incorrect. Either it is the old, or it is the new. If it is the old, then truth was not revealed initially. If it is the “new” that is incorrect, then what is called “new revelation” is obviously error. In order to be true revelation, “new light” cannot contradict that which was previously revealed. New revelation will augment or add to previous truth, but will never oppose it. One cannot change a belief and claim “new insight” as justification—unless it can be proven there was no divine revelation initially. Either the old is wrong, or the new is wrong. Both cannot be divinely revealed, nor can both be correct, there is no such thing as “old light”, for God does not reveal error. God reveals only truth! Those who believe doctrinal changes can be justified on the basis of “new revelation” should ask themselves if what they previously believed was revelation also.
Character Proves Truth
Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” How is it possible to prove anything without first trying it out? Common sense tells us the definition of “prove” demands a test! The Greek dokimazo used in I Thessalonians 5:21, means “to put to the test, to prove by testing.” Suppose you purchase an item which carries a guarantee. The product is warranted to perform a certain service. How does one tell if the item will perform according to promise? Obviously, by trying it out!
It is one thing to read the manufacturer’s promise of what the product is supposed to do, as opposed to testing the product to see what it will do. One can never know what a product will do until he tests it.
Why should the Truth of God be any different?
The Greek dokimazo and its cognates, often translated “prove” or “proof” in the King James Version, demonstrate clearly the meaning of “prove”—”to put to the test.” It is even translated as “experiment” in II Corinthians 9:13. It means to prove a matter by putting it to the test! Dokimee is translated “experience” in Romans 5:4.
Proving God’s Truth means putting it to practice in one’s life. “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:10) can be accomplished only by obeying God’s Word and observing the results in one’s life. This requires a change of mind and attitude which, in turn, leads to a willingness to perform spiritual service—rather than conforming to the desires of this fleshly life (Rom. 12:1–2).
It is only then that one is able to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Make no mistake about it—one is not righteous unless he practices righteousness (I John 3:7). Likewise, one has not proven God’s Truth until he practices it. When he practices God’s Truth until it becomes habit, he has built character. Character cannot be built without two considerations. First, one must be able to distinguish right from wrong; and second, one must always choose the right in opposition to the wrong.
When God reveals spiritual truth to the individual, the first step is underway in the process of character building. But without the second necessary step, there can be no character. One can agree with what is right, but that does not build character. And it does not prove the truth. One must put the revealed Truth of God to practice in one’s life before any character can be built, and before truth is absolutely proven. The day is coming when every man’s work will be made manifest (I Cor. 3:12–15). It is then that all will know whether those who professed Consecration really believed it. Those who believed and proved it put it to practice in their lives!
Trials Enforce Truth
God allows trials or tests to befall His children. The reasons should be quite clear. So valuable are trials that James wrote, “. . . count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas. 1:2–3). He then added, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive a crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (v. 12). Peter wrote, “. . . greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6–7). These apostles knew the purpose of trials. They knew trials enforce and build character in the life of the overcomer. They knew tribulation and trials were not intended to destroy character, but to help in the character-building process. But they also knew this could be accomplished only as each individual was able to act as a free moral agent. This is why, in the early Church, there was not the kind of enforced regulation that began to be practiced in more recent years.
For example: after the death of the Pastor in 1916, those who readily accepted the doctrinal changes—which were different from what they first believed—had never exercised true free moral agency in the character-building process. They did not prove what the Bible said. They did not prove where the Lord’s people were. But they did not prove God’s Truth by living according to their own personal convictions. They allowed the Organization to regulate their lives, actions, and convictions to the point where they were willing to accept anything they were told! Proving God’s Truth—by the kind of personal participation required to build character—did not take place in the lives of most of the brethren.
Many of those who left the organization, left because they were disillusioned with the leadership. Many among them were not convicted of God’s Truth, so they readily accepted the doctrinal changes advocated by the various leaders of the schisms. Those who remained in the organization after the doctrinal changes merely accepted what was taught—because they had been led to believe the Organization was now “God’s chosen vessel”, “Jehovah’s visible organization” on earth. And those who left AFTER the doctrinal changes, did so with much of that baggage in hand. In neither case was the necessary conviction present to hold fast to the Truth.
Many were led to believe the Organization as a “divine channel” had the right to “change doctrine” and that these changes were “new light.” But what these brethren were not told was that these doctrinal changes were brought about to sustain the lifestyle of some in the leadership, who wanted to continue unscriptural practices. It never occurred to many at the time that the acceptance of these changes was the rejection of what had been Truth for some forty years!
Thus, the doctrinal confusion we witness today among the Lord’s people—a trial necessary to test His people—became the stumbling block for thousands who had never developed the necessary character to endure trials (Deut. 13:3). Had God’s people exercised free moral agency on their own—without the kind of pressure forced on them by the Organization—they would have been able to withstand the assault of Satan. But they didn’t. This trial—the enforcement of character and conviction—became the means for thousands to stumble and to reject divine revelation!
Must Prove Self in Relation to Standard
“Proving the truth” means not only coming to understand doctrine as revealed by the Holy Spirit, but also putting this truth to practice in one’s life. Thus, the basis for conviction is the unchanging standard of God’s revealed Word! “Proving the truth” means proving self in relation to that standard. “Proving the truth” never means changing, or attempting to change, that standard! It is not our responsibility to challenge the truthfulness of God’s Truth. It is not possible to legitimately change revealed doctrine. Original truth cannot be “reproven” when doctrine is being changed. If one has the conviction and faith to believe that God did reveal truth, then further study substantiates it. If one does not believe truth is divinely revealed or never had the conviction to develop living faith in relationship to it, then “reproven truth” will indeed differ from original truth. But it will not be legitimate! It may be called “truth,” and arguments may be advanced to make it seem plausible—but it will not be truth!
Doctrinal changes cannot be the result of divine revelation if truth is revealed initially. For example, If the doctrinal changes made by Paul S.L. Johnson, the DAWN and other brethren are legitimate, then God never revealed truth in the first place! But God did reveal truth. It is impossible for Him to lie (Titus 1:2). Therefore, He revealed truth! If we assume God left the church in error during the forty years of Pastor Russell’s ministry, then Jesus was derelict and professing Christians of the world were right all along! But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would guide His followers into all truth (John 16:13). If Jesus did not keep His promise, then we have no Savior! The blessings and growth the Lord’s people enjoyed during the Pastor’s ministry did not diminish until doctrinal changes were made. God does not make mistakes! It is human beings who make mistakes—and the biggest mistake of our time period is the attempt to change revealed doctrine under the guise of “new insight.”
“Proving the truth” means living it! As a result, two things are accomplished: (1) The self is proved in relationship to the unchanging standard of God, and the results are clearly seen in the individual’s life; (2) one proves whether he is called or not. Paul said those who are reprobates are those who have failed to exercise the Spirit of God in their lives (II Cor. 13:5). They did not live up to their calling.
As long as there was doctrinal agreement among the brethren, the majority did not forsake the doctrine. But the moment a choice which seemed legitimate was made available, thousands could find no reason for remaining loyal to original truth.
The question: Were they ever convicted in the first place? Obviously not!
Had they proven themselves in relation to the unchanging standard of God, and had they really seen the results of God’s Way in their lives, they would not have been so eager to change. Those who jumped on the “bandwagon of doctrinal changes” have lost for the most part, the purpose and meaning of life. Ecclesia meetings and conventions have become largely a social involvement, to which personal conviction and faith no longer have significance. Most brethren would now readily accept any new doctrinal change, no matter how bizarre for the sake of unity. Those who think they wouldn’t change have no idea how badly damaged their character and convictions really are!
How Can You Know?
Can the Consecrated really know if they are following God’s Truth and living according to it? Let Jesus give the answer! “. . . My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:16–17). This text states those who are willing to obey God will have no trouble understanding the true doctrine! Here again, we see the necessity to put God’s Truth to practice in one’s life in order to confirm its meaning. Jesus said one can know the truth by living it!
But knowing is not merely thinking one knows. Those who agree with true doctrine but do not put it to practice do not really know the truth. They think they do, but during a time of trial they would soon yield to temptation. One who thinks he believes a doctrine—but does not practice it—does not really believe it. For those who really believe a doctrine practice it.
In the acquisition of knowledge there are those who drink in knowledge and there are those who gargle it. Those who agree with doctrine intellectually—but do not put it to practice—are the garglers. They do not really take the truth into their lives. They play with it for a time, then eventually discard it. They do not really believe it and they are not really convinced. They do not know the truth! It is by experience only that one can truly know. It is one thing to know by instruction—and another to know by experience. When God said of Adam and Eve, “. . . Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil. . .” (Gen. 3:22), He was referring to man’s experience in sin. Adam and Eve had now learned by experience, what sin was—and the results were disastrous. Knowing is knowing by experience. Those who experience God’s Truth—by living it—are the ones who really know it. There is no other way!
Faith in God’s Truth
A manifestation of God’s spirit is faith (Gal. 5:22). Paul said that without faith it is impossible to please God. Whoever comes to God must believe in His existence, as well as in His Word (Heb. 11:6). God’s Word is the Bible. When one is called and his mind is opened to Bible truth, he must not only believe the Bible to be God’s Word—he must also believe the truth revealed to him from the Bible. And Christ is that Word personified. We are Christians when that same Word lives in us. The Christian must have faith in the revelation of doctrine. The Christian who does not manifest faith in the revealed doctrine of God is like a wave tossed on the sea. He does not know what to believe! Spiritual stability means believing and adhering to the true doctrine (Eph. 4:14). In order to have any basis for his faith, one must have faith to believe God reveals true doctrine.
The Christian must have faith in the faith!
There is only one faith (Eph. 4:5). Unless the Christian comes to know that faith—believes and practices it because he knows it is the revealed truth—he has no real spiritual foundation! The exercise of faith in the Christian life, means believing and putting to practice that doctrine originally proven to be God’s Truth. The Christian must have confidence in the truth. He must not allow anyone to subvert the faith and conviction he has in that truth. He must maintain confidence and belief in the divine revelation! If he believes the Bible to mean what it says (and it says God reveals truth by divine revelation), the true Christian will not be swayed by those who would have him believe otherwise. Faith in the faith is a manifestation of God’s Spirit and is a proof of true Christianity!
Truth Revealed Once Only!
In conjunction with divine revelation is the realization that truth is revealed only once! The Truth of God, which encompasses the entire message of salvation, applies once only to each called and chosen son of God. After that, it is the responsibility of each “called out” Christian to hold fast to it. Jesus Christ was not sacrificed repeatedly to allow those who fall away to return again and again. Jesus Christ was sacrificed one time—and one time only (Rom. 6:10, Heb. 7:27; 9:26–27; 10:10; I Pet. 3:18). Therefore, His shed blood applies to each Christian one time only! One cannot accept that shed blood, repent, live God’s Way, and then later repudiate it with the idea he can return to God any time he likes.
The truth is: Once one turns from God’s Way and the truth revealed through divine revelation, it is impossible to return! This is what Paul said in Hebrews 6:4–6. Paul said it was impossible for those who fall away to come to repentance again. This is because the shed blood of Christ applies only once to each individual, and the divine revelation of this truth comes once only! The unpardonable sin is unpardonable because the individual who rejects divine revelation—revelation which leads to a knowledge of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ—is never given revelation again!
When Jude admonished the brethren to contend for the faith once delivered, he knew it was the faith delivered one time only. It would not be revealed again (Jude 3)! God’s Truth cannot be treated lightly! Those who have accepted doctrinal changes are tampering with the very Truth of God! They are on dangerous ground! Of course, many do not know what they are doing. They assumed they have the prerogative to change doctrine. This is true only if that doctrine was not revealed! But if, indeed, that doctrine was revealed—then what has transpired with regard to doctrinal changes, has been the rejection of that revelation! Paul said this is a dangerous step—on the way to the unpardonable sin (Heb. 6:4)!
Requirements in Proving
In relation to “proving the truth,” there are certain requirements. We prove the truth by living according to the divine standard of God, given by revelation. This is not accomplished by agreeing only. This is accomplished by putting it to practice. It is only by living the Christian experience that one can know the results of God’s Way of life. This is the only way each called and chosen servant of God can truly know! This is the only way the Christian can prove the truth!
Understanding the Bible is one thing, but putting it to practice is another matter entirely. Character cannot be built on the basis of knowledge alone. Character can be built only by being forced to make a choice. The man who refuses to act on divine truth has already made a choice. Indifference is a negative response! Indifference accomplishes nothing. But understanding God’s Truth, and putting it to practice in one’s life, does. It is one of the requirements of proving the truth!
The truly consecrated will be living up to that truth to the best of their abilities. They will not be perfect, but they will not attempt to change doctrine in order to sustain questionable lifestyles. They know revealed doctrine does not change and they know they must live up to it.
“Proving the truth” never means to question, to challenge, or to change revealed doctrine. Those who feel they had a right to do so are saying “That Servant” never had the truth initially. We prove it by living it! We prove its value in our lives by the benefits derived. Without putting it to practice there is no way to evaluate the results. But obedience to the truth must be done by a willing desire on the part of each Christian. Obedience is of little value if done through fear, peer pressure, the desire to belong, or by being “carried away” by the charisma of an individual. For the most part those who accepted doctrinal changes proved—by their willingness to change—they did not have the proof of God’s Truth in their lives!
“Proving the truth” never means that you, as an individual, can decide its validity. God has already decided that! The only prerogative you have is to decide whether or not you will obey. If God gave you the right to decide its validity you would be superior to God! We know better than that. Yet, when doctrinal changes were foisted upon the brethren under the guise of “new light,” a committee did indeed, set itself above God. God’s Spirit—as a source of inspiration to lead us to truth, as well as a source of power by which to overcome—was rejected. The doctrinal changes brought about by the Organization were an abandonment of the high standard of righteousness which Christ said Christians must eventually attain.
Truth is a revelation—given only to those called of God. Initial receipt of that truth is a miracle in itself.
What about the necessity of proving that way? Most people have falsely assumed Acts 17:11 requires them to determine—prove—the veracity of God’s Word. Such a concept is totally unscriptural. Acts 17:11 states, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Were the Bereans “checking out” the veracity of God? Obviously not! Let us carefully note. They “received the word with all readiness of mind. . . .” How does one receive the truth? By revelation!
Compare Acts 8:14, I Thessalonians 1:6, I Thessalonians 2:13, and II Thessalonians 2:10. In Acts 8:14, the apostles in Jerusalem learned that Samaria had received the Word of God. How did they receive it? Carefully read the story of that miracle, in verses 1–12.
Through the inspired preaching of Philip, those of that geographic area were made recipients of God’s great blessing to man. They received it because God gave it. In I Thessalonians 1:6, the Thessalonians became followers of the apostles and of Christ because they received the Word! How? Through the Holy Spirit. Notice the last part of the verse. In I Thessalonians 2:13, Paul makes this point clear. We read,”For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” Note very carefully, they did not receive it as the word of men—but as the very Word of God. Now, let us be honest! If one receives the Word of God, will he feel compelled to check the veracity of it? Not at all. That is how we would treat the word of men. But in the case of the Thessalonians, they received it not as the word of men.
Continuing our comparison, let us consider the last text listed above. II Thessalonians 2:10 states, “. . . with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth. . .” What is the problem encountered by those who have lost their way? They did not receive the love of the truth! What truth? The one and only truth which those called of God receive by revelation. That truth accepted by faith—the faith once delivered.
Note again Acts 17:11. The Bereans received the Word. Did they not search the Scriptures to see if those things heard were so? Indeed! But what does it mean? The word “searched” is the Greek word anakrino. This same word is used three times in I Corinthians 2:14–15. Paul was inspired to write: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” The order of spiritual understanding is obvious. The natural man cannot receive God’s Truth. He cannot understand spiritual things. Therefore, God must first call. Then, after the call the truth is given. Once it is given the spiritually-oriented man understands.
From the above principles it is very easy to understand Acts 17:11. The called of God residing in Berea received the Word of God. It was accepted. They were now capable of understanding the recorded Word—the Bible. This process cannot be reversed. That is, natural man with a carnal mind cannot choose to read God’s Word, understand it and then—from this basis of understanding—evaluate (prove) God. To accept such an idea simply implies that physical man can understand God’s Word and is capable of evaluating God.
Therefore the conclusion of the matter is this: Let us shore up our faith in that way initially revealed. To fail this responsibility is to reject the Spirit—the very means by which the truth was sent to us and we received it.
The Christian Continues to Prove
The process of “proving” God’s Truth must continue throughout life. The converted servant of God must live God’s Way continually. He must constantly evaluate himself in the light of the true doctrine—checking himself daily (II Cor. 13:5, I Thess. 5:21). This is an individual matter between each Christian and his Creator (Gal. 6:4). The Christian must constantly, through study, drink in of God’s Word (II Tim. 2:15). And he must pray regularly (I Thess. 5:17).
This process must continue until the servant of God dies, or until the return of Jesus Christ—whichever occurs first. Those who die in Christ look forward to the resurrection. What a glory awaits them! This is because they accepted the Truth of God when it was revealed to them and they held fast for the remainder of their lives. It is this process—and this process only—which builds character. Any other way is an attempt to “enter in through the back door,” which Jesus said was impossible (John 10:1). It is those who recognize the Truth of God revealed to them—and who continue to practice it the remainder of their lives—who really prove the truth!
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures; and said unto them, Thus it is written.”–Luke 24:45,46
THE expression, “Thus saith the Lord,” is used over 400 times in the Bible plus many similar expressions such as “It is written,” or “The word of the Lord came unto me,” or “I, the Lord, have spoken it.” They call attention to specific statements, messages and lessons from God. It is as though the prophet, or other spokesman, is telling us:
“Now hear this! What I am going to say now, is not merely my opinion, or of my own wisdom, but thus saith the Lord; it is God speaking; these are his words.”
This is a wonderful expression and full of meaning for Bible Students. We have a reverence for God’s word and a “Thus saith the Lord” is the end of all controversy with us.
It seems so very simple, doesn’t it? All we have to do is to prove everything by the word of God. All we have to do is to accept what is in harmony with that word and reject that which is not. But it is not as simple as that. If it were, everyone would understand the truth and there would beno false doctrines. But there are false doctrines, hundreds of them. Each one is claimed to rest upon the word of God.
For every false doctrine many of which are hideous in the extreme, there is a purported “Thus saith the Lord.”
Let us consider some of these and the scriptural passages which it is claimed support them. Afterward we will prove that these doctrines are indeed scripturally false.
False Doctrines in Christendom
First we have the incredibly cruel and God-dishonoring doctrine of eternal torment. Here are some of the scriptures upon which this repulsive doctrine is based:
“And he shall be tormented with fire, and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.”–Revelation 14:10,11
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” –Matthew 25:41
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever.”–Revelation 20:10
“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”–Matthew 18:8,9
These are perfectly good scriptures–“Thus saith the Lord!”—and they seem to clearly teach eternal torment. But do they? Is that what the Lord is really saying?
Another prominent false doctrine of Christendom is that of the Trinity. God is claimed to be triune, the union of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three persons in one God. One expression of the creed is this:
“That we worship one God as Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substances; for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one; the glory Equal; the majesty Co-eternal.” All of this double-talk, or triple-talk in this case, is based upon this text:
“For there are three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”–1 John 5:7
“Thus saith the Lord!” say the Trinitarians. As a further proof that Jesus as a member of the Trinity is equal with God, they cite Paul’s words:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”–Philippians 2:6
“What more proof do you need?” they say. “Thus saith the Lord!” It is also taught in the nominal churches, in all good conscience, that there is no future probation, that salvation is in this life only, that the world will have no future chance for life. This narrow conception of the plan of God, is based on 2 Corinthians 6:2: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Thus saith the Lord!” they say. “It is even repeated for emphasis: `NOW is the accepted time, NOW is the day of salvation.’ Can there be any doubt of what it says? Those who are not saved now are eternally lost.”
These are only three of the hundreds of false doctrines taught today. Each one is conscientiously claimed to be firmly based upon a “Thus saith the Lord!” To one unfamiliar with the divine plan, the claim appears true. But it is not as simple as that. To determine what the Lord is really saying we must often dig beneath the surface. We must analyze, divide, compare, and assemble: “Here a little, and there a little.” We must interpret and coordinate. We must apply certain inflexible rules and guides. When in doubt, we must consider the preponderance, or weight of evidence. We must also arrange scriptures chronologically and not confuse one age with another.
Above all, we must remember that the scriptures declare God’s plan. We must learn to think from God’s standpoint according to his plan. His plan is not subject to change at our whim:
“The Lord of Hosts hath sworn, saying, surely as I have thought, soshall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”– Isaiah 14:24
We must learn to think like he does. “Come now, and let us reason together,” he says. We must be filled with his spirit of truth and approach the scriptures in that spirit –humbly, prayerfully, and reverentially, fearing greatly to misinterpret, and perhaps mislead and stumble others. The penalty for stumbling others is extremely
severe. This is the great Creator’s word we are dealing with, his sacred word which is not to be handled carelessly and flippantly. This is not for fun; it is serious. As we read in Isaiah:
“Thus saith the Lord: the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool … For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord. But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”– Isaiah 66:1,2
In order to understand what God is saying, we must study God’s word topically, in orderly steps. As we read:
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Order my steps in thy word.”–Psalms 119:105,133
God has not given us an understanding of his word to satisfy idle curiosity. It is given to us for a purpose, for the development and completion of the church, the body of Christ. As Paul said to Timothy:
“All scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable … that the man of God may be perfect [or complete], thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”–2 Timothy 3:16,17
This being the case, we are expected to pursue our studies in a methodical and workmanlike manner to be approved by God as we are told:
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”– 2 Timothy 2:15
The Diaglott says, “Rightly treating the word of truth.” The interlinear is, “Cutting straight the word of truth.” This is what we must do to ascertain what the Lord is really saying, what he is really telling us, that “Thus saith the Lord!”
A Checklist for Interpreting Scripture
I have formulated a list of tests that may be applied to interpretations of scripture to help determine its real meaning. You may think of other tests also. Does it square with the ransom? Is it in accordance with the divine plan? Is the scripture correctly translated? Is it spurious in whole or in part? Does the proposed interpretation comport with God’s character? To what age or time does the scripture apply? To what class of persons does it apply? Is it merely historical, having already had a total fulfillment? If already fulfilled, does it have a secondary application or fulfillment to come? Is it literal or symbolic? Does it have a typical significance? Does its context vary its apparent meaning? Is it intended to be ironic or sarcastic rather than literal? Does it employ an archaic idiom not in use today? Is its correct application suggested by partially fulfilled prophecies? Does it teach something by inference? Is the subject really what it appears to be? Are the events given in correct chronological order or has the order been purposely altered or reversed to prevent understanding before the due time? Does incorrect punctuation alter the true meaning? Does the scripture conflict with other scriptures on the same subject? Is there another scripture, or another witness, to confirm the proposed interpretation? Let us go back and review the scriptures that were cited to support certain false doctrines. Let us apply some of these tests to determine what the Lord really says. Let us thus prove that these doctrines are not, in fact, supported by a “Thus saith the Lord!,” although they may appear to be.
Consider the scriptures that are used to teach eternal torment. Do not think that a study of such scriptures is too elementary. Although convinced the doctrine of eternal torment is false, many mature Bible Students cannot readily explain the scriptures used to support the doctrine. Consider the first:
“And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever, and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.”–Revelation 14:10,11
First we ask, “Does the proposed interpretation comport with God’s character?” No it does not. There are numerous scriptures which teach that love is one of the principal characteristics of God. Here is just one:
“God is love. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.”–1 John 4:8,18
Because God is love, he is incapable of torment. To torment anyone is entirely foreign to God’s character. It is contrary to his thoughts. He simply wouldn’t think of it; itis an abomination to him. This is confirmed by Jeremiah where God denounces those who sacrificed their children by fire to pagan gods:
“They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.”–Jeremiah 19:5
“And they built the high places of Baal … to cause their sons, and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech, which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination.”–Jeremiah 32:35
Eternal torment does not comport with God’s character of love. Another characteristic of God is justice: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne” (Psalms 89:14), or as Moffatt renders it: “Thy throne rests upon equality and justice.” Does eternal torment comport with God’s character of justice? Is it just to impose an eternity of torment for the sins of only a few brief years of this present life? Is it equitable? Of course it is not! It is a grossly disproportionate punishment.
The penalty for sin was announced at the beginning in Genesis 2:17 as simply death: “Thou shalt surely die” is what God said. This is what Adam was to expect if he sinned: nothing more than death. Would it be just for God to announce the penalty as death, then after the sin had been committed to rudely surprise the sinner by amplifying the penalty to an eternity of torment? Such a thing would be most unjust. Thus it does not comport with God’s character in this respect either.
Does the proposed interpretation square with the ransom? It does not. Jesus came as a man to assume the penalty for sin. If the sentence upon Adam was eternal torment and Jesus took Adam’s place, Jesus must be tormented forever which we know is false. The sentence for disobedience was simply death; Jesus died to pay the penalty as the ransom.
Is eternal torment in accordance with the divine plan? Emphatically no. The plan provides for the restoration of mankind to perfection and harmony with God. A restitution of all things was spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:21) Eternally tormenting a large segment of humanity is incompatible with this. Since we are told that “all the wicked will he destroy” (Psalms 145:20), God will certainly not keep any of the wicked alive in torment. On the contrary 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says plainly that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction.”
Now we apply another test which indicates that direction we must take to determine what the scriptures really do teach. “Is it literal or symbolic?” The scripture is obviously highly symbolic. Revelation is a book of symbols. As we read in the first verse of the first chapter, the “things which were shortly to come to pass” were signified, or SIGN-ified, unto John. They were given in signs and symbols. The entire 14th chapter is replete with symbols. There is a “lamb,” a symbol of Christ, standing on “mount Zion,” his heavenly kingdom. There is “thunder,” a symbol of controversy, and the “harps” of Bible testimonies sing a “new song,” harmoniously declaring the glad tidings of restitution. There is a “throne,” a symbol of authority and rulership. There are “beasts” and “elders” and “virgins” and “angels,” all having symbolic significance. Then in verse 8 we are told that “Babylon,” a great city, is fallen. This too is a symbol.
“Babylon” means “confusion” and is a symbol of the nominal church as a whole. So the prophecy refers to the time of the Lord’s casting off of the nominal systems, removing His favor from them. Then in verse 9 a “beast” and his “image” are mentioned. Bible Students concur that this symbolizes the papal system and a so-called Protestant Federation, Protestants who no longer protest. In regard to this “beast” and its “image” we find a remarkable interpretation of the prophecy written in 1897 by Pastor Russell. It reads as though it were a comment on yesterday’s news reports concerning the ecumenical movement. We quote:
“We find in Revelation a prophecy of a special combination of influence by which Protestant denominations will be unified, and, though separate, yet be brought into cooperation with Papacy, in a manner that will give both of them increased powers, and deceive many into supposing that the new combination will be God’s instrumentality for doing the work predicted of Messiah; and that it is thus his representative.”- Studies in the Scriptures, volume 4, page 581.
With this background we are able to deal with the true meaning of this scripture:
“If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire, and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever, and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.”–Revelation 14:9-11
Here more symbols are brought into the picture: the “mark” or identification of those in harmony or sympathy with the beast or his image which is applied on the “forehead” indicating a mere intellectual assent, or in the “hand” implying a more active cooperation. These shall drink the “wine of the wrath of God” out of the “cup of his indignation” which indicates that such feel the manifestation of God’s displeasure, being compelled to drink a bitter dose. Do you see how full of symbols the book of Revelation is? To take these symbols literally would be extremely foolish. Jesus is not aliteral lamb, a literal beast is not worshipped, it does not have a literal image. Literal marks are not made on literal foreheads and hands. These are all symbols which, when correctly interpreted, beautifully represent profound truths and tell of tremendous events to come.
Verses 10 and 11 say that those who worship the symbolic beast and his symbolic image shall drink of the symbolic wine of wrath from the symbolic cup. From this point forward the teachers of eternal torment insist that symbolisms cease and that the remainder of the text must be taken literally, that the words “he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone” and “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” is exactly and literally what it says. But is this reasonable? No, it is entirely unreasonable. There is no justification for such a view. On the contrary, a fair and reasonable person must conclude that because of all the other symbols and the highly symbolic nature of the entire book, these expressions must be symbolic and not literal.
Those who insist on a literal interpretation of this portion of the text are in a further difficulty. The text says that the torments takes place “in the presence of the Lamb.” If the torment with fire and brimstone is literal, so must the lamb be also: an animal, the young offspring of a sheep. By what reasoning can you say that the one is literal and the other is not? Both occur in the same sentence. If one is literal, so is the other.
So we have established beyond the shadow of a doubt that the torment by fire and brimstone of the worshippers of the beast and his image is symbolic. What then does it really mean? We turn to Revelation 18:4 which also refers to the fall of Babylon, the nominal church systems of confusion: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
So the scripture under consideration simply means that all who remain in Babylon, either in spirit or in name, are in opposition to the word of God. Those who do not “come out of her” will be subject to torment and vexation so long as they are worshipping creeds, doctrines, and organizations of men. The remembrance of this distress is shown in the smoke of torment and it will never be forgotten. Those who are finally brought out of these systems will forever remember how they were tormented. They will have learned an everlasting lesson.
The next text cited as a proof of eternal torment is Matthew 25:41:
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is from the parable of the Sheep and Goats and describes the fate of the disapproved ones at the end of the Millennial age. Is there anything in this scripture to indicate that those in the fire are preserved alive? Have you ever heard of a preserving fire? Of course you haven’t. Fire always destroys and consumes. Fire is a symbol of destruction; everlasting fire is a symbol of everlasting destruction, the second death, from which there is no resurrection. Notice that in this case it is fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels. We know exactly what is going to happen to the devil: “That through death, he [Jesus] might destroy him that had the power of death; that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) This confirms that fire means destruction.
This explanation also applies to Revelation 20:10: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night, for ever, and ever.” Brimstone, or sulfur is one of the most destructive elements known. When paired with fire it symbolizes utter destruction. The torment “for ever and ever” means this punishment is everlasting.
Now we consider the next text:
“Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee. It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.
It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”–Matthew 18:8,9
These are the words of Jesus. Did Jesus advocate self-mutilation? Obviously not. He healed men, he restored their hands and feet and eyes. We must conclude that symbolic terms are being used here.
The scripture simply and powerfully teaches that itis better for a Christian to cut off and eliminate from his life things as dear to him as a hand, foot, or an eye if such things would prevent him from making his calling and election sure. Such eradication would be better than to fail of his calling and lose his eternal existence in the second death.
As we have previously seen, everlasting fire means everlasting destruction. “Thus saith the Lord!” Thus we have determined what the Lord really says. The correct interpretations fully satisfy us. They square with the ransom, they are in full accordance with the divine plan, and they comport with God’s character of justice, wisdom, love and power. They cause us to love and praise God.
Consider the scriptures cited to prove the false and confusing doctrine of the Trinity: that God is three persons yet one God.
“For there are three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; . . . and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth.”–1 John 5:7,8
This scripture certainly appears to be an unanswerable argument to support the doctrine of the Trinity, but since it is so contrary to reason–and we know God to be eminently reasonable–we suspect something is wrong with the translation. Let us examine the scripture in the original language. The Diaglott is an excellent authority for this purpose. There we find the text omitted and a footnote as follows:
“This text concerning the heavenly witness is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the fifth century. It is not cited by any of the Greek ecclesiastical writers; nor by any of the early Latin fathers, even when the subjects upon which they treated would naturally have led them to appeal to its authority. It is therefore evidently spurious; and was first cited … in the latter end of the fifth century; but by whom is of no great moment, as its design must be obvious to all.”
It seems that we must be on the alert for forgeries too! This is not a “Thus saith the Lord.”
Then we have Philippians 2:6 which says of Jesus, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” This appears to say that Jesus was equal with God and did not consider it wrong to be so, that he did not consider such equality as robbing God of anything. Again we sense something is wrong and ask, “Is this scripture correctly translated?” Going back to the original Greek, we find that the King James Version has added one small word and omitted one small word, completely reversing the meaning of the text. Thus the expression “thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” should read, “thought not by robbery, to be equal with God.”
Accordingly, the Diaglott correctly renders the text: “Who, though being in God’s form, yet did not meditate a usurpation to be like God.” Here Jesus, the humble and obedient son of God, is contrasted with the arrogant and disobedient Satan, who is quoted as saying:
“I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.”–Isaiah 14:13,14
Thus instead of proving the Trinity, the correct translation of Philippians 2:6 disproves it.
Let us get the correct perspective on this subject. Although Jesus did say, “I, and my Father are one” (John 10:30), he prayed on behalf of his disciples, “That they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). How was he one with the Father? He was one with the Father as he wants us to be one with him: one in mind, purpose, sympathy, love, and good works–THE SAME CHARACTER. That’s why he could say, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
In other words, “I am patterned after the Father; I am a model of Him. I have the same characteristics.”
Thus understanding the subject of the Trinity we are spared such absurdities as God himself being out of conscious existence at the conception of Jesus, that the child Jesus was God, that the man Jesus prayed to himself, that his agony of prayer in Gethsemane was farcical, that his desperate cry on the cross “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” was mere play-acting, that God died on the cross, and that he resurrected himself.
Finally the doctrine of the Trinity does not square with the ransom which requires the sacrifice of a perfect human life in the place of Adam. Nor is it in accordance with the divine plan which places Jesus in the future role of mediator between God and man, an impossibility if he is God.
“For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”–1 Timothy 2:5
No Future Probation
Let us consider the scripture upon which is based the false doctrine that there is no future probation, that salvation is in this life only, that the world will have no future chance for life:
“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”–2 Corinthians 6:2
Here again the interpretation does not square with the ransom. Since Christ died for all, all must have an opportunity for life, all must be saved from death. This is God’s provision:
“Who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.”–1 Timothy 2:4
In this life only a few have had an opportunity for salvation. Countless millions have lived and died without even having heard the name of Christ. So they must first be saved from death in a resurrection on the earth, then be brought to a knowledge of the truth of God’s wonderful provision for them.
Is it in accordance with the divine plan? No, it is not. A future probation is plainly taught by Acts 3:21 which tells of the “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” So the interpretation given this scripture is obviously incorrect since it denies the testimony of all God’s holy prophets since the world began.
What does it really mean? Again we look closely at the original language and find an error in translation which makes all the difference. Instead of “the” accepted time, and “the” day of salvation, it should read “an” accepted time, and “a” day of salvation. There is a day of salvation now, and a day of salvation to come. These two salvations are contrasted by two scriptures:
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it.” –Matthew 7:14
This describes the present narrow way of sacrifice taken by the church of Christ. Only a few, a “little flock,” are separated from the world. This class, “by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life.” (Romans 2:7) This is a difficult and restricted salvation with the correspondingly high reward of the divine nature. Isaiah tells of the other salvation to be offered to all the remainder of mankind during the Millennial kingdom:
“And a highway shall be there, and a way; and it shall be called, The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”–Isaiah 35:8
This is the way to human perfection and eternal life on earth to all the willing and obedient. It is a different and easier way. What a wonderful plan! Not the gloomy prospect of the vast majority of mankind unsaved and eternally damned, but the delightful prospect of everyone saved from death and then given an opportunity, under ideal conditions to attain restitution, a glorious resurrection. This truly comports with God’s character and is in accordance with his plan.
How to Know What’s True
We find that it is not always easy to determine whether a certain interpretation of scripture is a “Thus saith the Lord” or not. While most scriptures are plain, many require careful analysis and the application of certain tests before the true word of the Lord on the subject may be ascertained.
There is one quick and easy test that includes and overrides all the others. This test is available only to the initiated, those to whom Jesus referred when he said:
“It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”–Matthew 13:11
This comprehensive test is suggested by one of the last acts of Jesus just before his ascension:
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures; and said unto them, Thus it is written.”–Luke 24:45,46
How did he “open their understanding”? Did he perform a miracle whereby his disciples automatically understood without the exercise of their reasoning faculties? I don’t think so. I think he opened their understanding by opening the divine plan to them. He gave them an outline of God’s plan of salvation. He told them of the fall, his death as a ransom, his resurrection, the call of the church, their work of preaching the gospel of the kingdom to come among all nations. This is confirmed by the context. Then and only then could they understand “Thus it is written” or “Thus saith the Lord.” Once they knew the master plan, all the prophetic utterances of the past fell into place. They now fitted, dove-tailed, harmonized, and made sense to the disciples. As Jesus said in verse 44:
“These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you; that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.”
What is the supreme and all-embracing test to be applied to scriptural interpretation? It is the question, “Is it in accordance with the divine plan?”
Someone may say, “We seem to be going around in circles. You imply that we must understand the divine plan before we can interpret the scriptures. But how can we understand the plan unless we first interpret the scriptures?” Good question. We answer by asking another question. How did the disciples of Jesus back there know of the divine plan? Jesus told them. “Then opened he their understanding,” the text says. We know of the plan because he has done the same for us. He has also given us, the harvest church at this end of the age, an understanding of the divine plan of the ages.
Through his wonderful providences and the rich endowment of the Holy Spirit, the Lord has enlightened and stimulated the minds of certain servants, particularly one special servant. He has caused books to be written which present the plan clearly and accurately.
Today there is no excuse for the consecrated to be ignorant of the plan. We have the incomparable, topically arranged, six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures; we have the Reprints a veritable treasure-trove of Bible truth, we have Tabernacle Shadows a dramatic pantomime of the plan, we have the Berean Manual containing Bible comments and teacher’s helps which are the very essence of spiritual wisdom. There are other instructive books as well. All these are the Lord’s provision. Let us avail ourselves of them fully. To do otherwise would be ungrateful and unthankful.
So let us thus keep the plan always fresh and vital in our minds. What will be the result? If we do this, we will know the divine plan of the ages so thoroughly that any wrong interpretation of scripture will instantly alert us. It will ring a bell. We will recognize it to be false because it is not in accordance with the divine plan of the ages which we have been taught and know so well.
“Thus Saith the Lord!”
“For we are not ignorant of his devices.”–2 Cor. 2:11. AS WE PROGRESS toward the consummation of the Harvest, it should not surprise us that in every way the Adversary becomes more persistent in his attacks. Opposition to the Divine Plan of the Ages is on the increase everywhere. Slanderous misrepresentations are so unblushingly made as to carry a measure of conviction with them, to the injury of the Cause we serve. What Satan cannot do against the Truth along the lines of logic, the Bible and common sense, he seeks to do through slanderous misrepresentations of all who take their stand on the side of Truth; and his opposition is incurred usually in proportion to the activity of the servants of the Truth. This opposition is to them a trial of faith and of patient endurance. It tests their loyalty to God, to the Truth and to the brethren. It becomes, likewise, a test of brotherly love to the household of faith. It does a sifting or separating work. “The Lord your God proveth you.”– Deut. 13:3. The same line of attack furnishes special trials for the church nominal–both wheat and tares. It gives opportunity for exhibitions of envy, anger, malice, hatred, strife, evil-surmising and evil-speaking. Thus many are being tested and their love of unrighteousness is being shown. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20.) The thorn and brier classes, however closely affiliated with religious things, are not Vine branches. They do not bear the fruit of the Vine, but contrariwise are injurious to the Lord’s people. “The poison of asps is under their lips.” Some of them are courageous enough to make lies; others, less courageous, love the lies and are mean enough to circulate them. The advance of the Day of the Lord will ultimately reveal the true situation. Some will have shame and contempt, while others will shine as the stars forever and ever. All who have the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly-kindness and love–will be tested, too, along these same lines. The Lord’s will for such is that they should deepen and broaden their characters along all these lines in proportion as contrary temptations assail them. Thus more and more will they become copies of God’s dear Son, and the trials will assist in making them meet, fit for the Kingdom. ACCUSER OF THE BRETHREN Another of Satan’s devices is to discourage the Lord’s faithful disciples who are seeking to know and to do His will. The more conscientious they are, the more subject they will be to Satan’s suggestions of unworthiness, rejection, condemnation, Second Death. God permits this as a test or trial to faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” To be developed, faith must be tried with opposition. The more our faith is developed, the more pleasing in the Father’s sight we shall be. He would have our faith in Himself implicit, unwavering. The Adversary, on the contrary, would destroy our faith. Sometimes he attempts this by misrepresenting God’s character as unloving, unjust, unkind, and sometimes by exaggerating our weaknesses and failures, to cause us to cease striving for the goal of Divine approval. He would have us give up in despair. Persons who have been obsessed by evil spirits tell plainly that first of all the spirits personated God and His angels, advised prayer, etc. Afterwards they gave evil suggestions. By and by they gave both good and evil suggestions. The evil suggestions entertained, they would next condemn the individual for having entertained them. Finally all pretense would be dropped, and the individual would be told that he had sinned away all Divine favor and was wholly at the mercy of the evil spirits. Then would come suggestions of evil deeds or of suicide, the endeavor being made to drive the individual to a full surrender of his mind, his will, in order to full possession and mental unbalance. The only remedy for persons in such a deplorable condition is that they exert their will power to oppose all such false suggestions. Nothing is so helpful under such circumstances as correct knowledge of the Divine teaching respecting God’s Love and the abundance of His merciful provision in Christ. Persons in this condition should be encouraged to cast themselves fully and unreservedly at the foot of the cross in the spirit of their minds–in fullness of consecration. Then in proportion to their faith they may lay hold upon the Lord in prayer for complete deliverance from the Adversary’s power. We know of no other way to get rid of the evil spirits. There are also cases where the obsession has taken place and where the Adversary seems to be able to exercise an evil influence upon the mind, causing doubt, fear, alienation from the Lord. Generally “sin lieth at the door”–some violation of the soul’s covenants with the Lord. Such are in danger of great gloom, loss of faith, trust–everything. The cure for their case is a knowledge of God’s real character–His great Love and sympathy exercised through the Lord Jesus Christ and made available through Him to all who give their lives in full consecration. Faith should triumph, or the light of joy and blessing will die. “According to your faith be it unto you,” is the Divine rule. Those who will not exercise the faith will never be acceptable to the Father for membership in the Kingdom class. Such must wait for the next Age and have different experiences. The Little Flock, the Elect ones whom the Lord is now choosing, must all be faith-full. “THE WICKED ONE TOUCHETH HIM NOT” The Apostle John declares that a certain course of conduct is possible in which the Adversary would be unable to touch us. (I John 5:18.) The picture brought before our mental eyes is that of a charmed circle, within which God’s people may come. This circle is not a fence, but merely a line of light, which can easily be overstepped. On the inside of that circle is the Lord’s favor. The very center of it is the Lord Himself, the Head of the Church. The exhortation of the Scriptures, the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and the providences of the Lord, all encourage His followers to press close to Him–“Nearer, my God, to Thee.” Outside the charmed circle are the powers of evil. These are sometimes allowed to touch the earthly interests and temporal affairs of the children of the Light; but the demon influence is not permitted to really touch the New Creatures in Christ inside this circle. Over that line they cannot exercise their influence. But alas! lured by the world, the flesh and the Devil, some of the saints at times go too close to the line, perhaps pursuing some fleshly bait or golden bauble or earthly honor. Such the Adversary is ever ready to lay hold of, to drag them out into the darkness of sin, doubt, despair–further and further away from the Lord. The lesson of this picture to all Spirit-begotten children of God is, “Abide in Him,” “Abstain from all appearance of evil,” “Draw near unto God,” “Press onward and upward,” “Take heed to yourselves,” “Forget the things that are behind,” “Mortify your flesh,” and earthly desires and ambitions, Keep close to the Master, that “the Wicked One touch you not.” But we again remind any who may be touched by the Adversary and temporarily ensnared that God is full of loving-kindness, that His mercy endureth forever, for all those who desire to live in harmony with Him. While it is true that the nearer we get to the separating line, the nearer do we come within the range of the Adversary’s influence and power, and the weaker becomes the power of the Truth, the Spirit of the Lord, in our control, nevertheless, there is joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and the Lord will welcome the strayed sheep, even though He temporarily allow trying experiences. Ultimately to the returning one these experiences will prove valuable lessons, safeguarding against any further tendency to stray or to dally with earthly things. <5144>
“For this cause God will send them a strong delusion [literally, a frenzy of delusion]; that they may believe a lie–because they had not pleasure in the truth.”– . Thess. 2:11.
EVIDENTLY these words of the Apostle were a prophesy concerning the present harvest time. Doubtless they apply primarily to the Church and will later apply also to Babylon and the unregenerate world. “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”
Paul does not specify what lies will be believed and which truths will be unappreciated. We might particularize to some extent, but we believe that a disloyal condition of heart may be meant which would apply to every form of truth and correspondingly apply to various lies.
Is it not a fact, that a mind may become generally indifferent to principles of honesty in respect to thoughts and reasonings? And would not such a mind be very open to erroneous conclusions? Would not this apply to all the affairs of life, so that unkind, uncharitable thoughts would be entertained without an honest endeavor to sift them and to give the one accused the benefit of every doubt? Is not this generally the case amongst men and women to-day?
We believe that such injustice lies at the bottom of nearly all the troubles of the Church and the world. Few but the saintly are just–not to say merciful and generous in their interpretations of the words and deeds of others.
And now according to this prophesy we are come to the time when God will test all–or allow Satan to test the whole world with a “frenzy of delusion”! What may we not expect in the way of hasty and irrational conduct inspired by these delusions! Some may be so exercised in respect to the Truth–new and old; others may be influenced thus in respect to their personal, social and political affairs.
It is this frenzy that is precipitating trouble, religious, financial and social, and leading on to the anarchy which is shortly, according to the Bible, to envelop and swallow our civilization in the indescribable time of trouble which will precede the reign of righteousness.
The saints, the consecrated, will not escape from this testing. Who will be able to stand? Some seem to be under the strain already. Let us pity them and do all in our power to succor them. But our chief concern should be ourself–that we may each maintain and increase our “spirit of a sound mind.”
What then should be our course if we would stand the test successfully?
We should not only square our every act and word with strictest justice, but beyond this we should scrutinize our every thought and “bring every thought into subjection to the will of God” as expressed in Christ. Love, do you say? Yes! in its proper order, “Love is the principal thing.” But Justice must come first to be in line with the Divine precepts. “Just before generous” is an old and a very true adage. After learning to think justly of the words and acts of others we are prepared with a proper mental foundation to think generously–lovingly.
The Scriptures say not in vain that “A false balance is an abomination unto the Lord.” (Prov. 11:1.) And this balancing applies as truly to mental as to physical dealings with others. Whoever does not love righteousness; yea, whoever does not hate inequity, is surely in danger of being frenzied by delusions in this evil day. Surely Satan and the fallen angels under him are being granted extraordinary power to tempt God’s people and later on the world, to cut loose from all moderation in a frenzy of error on one subject or another with one person or another. Let us be forewarned and “watch and pray lest we enter into temptation.”
“Your Adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith.”– 1 Peter 5:8,9.
THE Authorized Version of the New Testament makes frequent use of the word devil, and leaves the impression that there are many devils; but this thought is not borne out by the Scriptures in general. In the New Testament two Greek words are thus translated, daimonion and diabolos. Of these two words, the first should be properly rendered “demon”; and the second “devil.” The demons are the unclean spirits, the familiar spirits, the fallen angels; while the Devil is Satan. The term Satan signifies adversary, opponent; for the Devil is the opponent of righteousness and of Jehovah.
Whoever has failed to discern that there is a Devil is all the more liable to come under the influence of this great, malevolent being, who is portrayed in the Scriptures as the greatest foe to God, to men and to righteousness. St. Paul speaks of the “wiles of the Devil” and warns the Church that her warfare is with “wicked spirits in the heavenlies.” (Eph. 6:11,12, margin.) He also mentions “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and intimates that it would be impossible for us really to contend with him; for he is too wily, too wise for us.
There is an evil influence constantly exerted in the world, operating against truth, righteousness and purity, and therefore operating against God. The Scriptures inform us that this influence is exerted by the Devil, Satan, who was once a holy angel. It was by permitting pride and ambition to gain control of his heart, that Satan became an opponent of God and of righteousness.– I John 3:8; I Tim. 3:6; Isa. 14:12-14.
Although mankind cannot see Satan, yet he can see them, and by means of mental suggestion can gain control of them. He has a variety of ways by which he exercises his influence. The most potent way is through human agents–using one person against another. His favorite method of operating is by putting darkness for light. This he does by making the good appear evil, the true, false, and the right, wrong.
St. Peter tells us in our text that Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The lion has a very stealthy walk. On his feet are soft cushions, which enable him to come very near to his prey before his approach is recognized. It is said that, at this point, when the beast is about to spring upon his prey, he roars so loudly that the victim is paralyzed with fear and thus is easily caught.
Satan, the Adversary of the Church, is strong and lion-like, vigilant and fully awake. As the Apostle Paul declares, he seeks to use every opportunity against us. He lies in wait, seeking to devour us. Although he is alert, yet he never approaches us with a roar, but creeps stealthily upon us in some unlooked for place or time, to devour us, to overcome us, to crush out our spiritual life, and particularly to destroy our faith in God. As those whose ears are trained to detect the footfalls of the lion will hear his steps, while those who are unfamiliar with his habits will not hear the slightest sound, so may we, whose ears the Lord has opened, and whose eyes have been anointed with the eyesalve of consecration and submission to the Lord’s will, be of quick perception to recognize the approach of our arch-enemy and to resist him. Let us stand, clad in the full armor which the Word of God supplies, and in His strength wielding the Sword of the Spirit.
St. Paul shows that the most subtle attacks of the Adversary are to be expected through human agencies. Satan works in the hearts of the children of disobedience; and the more honorable they are, and the more closely identified with the Lord and His people these children of disobedience may be, the greater service they may render to the Adversary. For this reason, Satan presents himself as an angel of light, and not as a messenger of darkness; for well he knows that error and sin will repel the children of light.– Eph. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4; 11:14,15; Eph. 6:11,12.
Satan uses various methods against those whom God is seeking and calling. As an angel of light, he has done much harm. His constant endeavor is to lead the people of God astray from the Lord and from their covenant of sacrifice. While we know that God is able so to succor His people that the Adversary could not touch them, yet His providences inform us that this is not His way. He permits Satan seemingly to gain a great triumph over the Lord and His people; but in no way does this seeming interruption affect the Divine Plan of the Ages.
By this we do not mean that God is co-operating with Satan and his evil work. God is testing His people, by permitting those conditions that make the way so narrow that only the faithful will walk perseveringly to the very end. All others will sooner or later fall out of the way.
PROPER METHOD OF RESISTANCE
The Christian’s warfare is a fight of faith. St. James’ statement, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7), does not mean that we are to battle with him in order to confound him. Whoever thinks that he is able to battle alone with Satan surely must possess great self-conceit, or else must overestimate his own ability and underestimate that of the Adversary. In any contention, Satan would surely gain the victory.
Malice, envy, hatred and strife, the Apostle says, are the kind of works which Satan supports and into which he endeavors to lead mankind. (Gal. 5:19-21; I John 3:8.) His methods are deceptive. His suggestions come along the line of pride and self-conceit. The mental suggestion, “You can do it; you are a person of great ability; do not be afraid; show people what is in you,” has led to the downfall of many.
In order to deceive the children of light, Satan transforms himself into an angel [messenger] of light; for well he knows that he would not deceive them, if he were to present himself as a representative of sin. Ever since the fall of Adam, the Devil has sought to entrap mankind. Particularly for the past eighteen centuries, he has been endeavoring to introduce error into the Church, in order to produce false Christians–Christians who would be a detriment to the cause of Christ. Evidently he has had much to do with formulating the creeds of Christendom.
The Lord’s people are to resist the Devil by not allowing his seductive arguments to have weight with us. We have the sure word of prophecy and the instructions of our Lord and of His Apostles; and if we love the Word of the Lord, we shall seek to be guided by it. “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that Wicked One toucheth him not.”– I John 5:18.
The experience of our Lord in the Wilderness affords a good example for all the people of God to follow. He did not seek to keep up the controversy, the discussion with the Adversary; but when the evil thought was presented, He promptly resisted it. Satan was well versed in the Scriptures, portions of which he presented with a view to misleading our Lord into taking a wrong course. Jesus did not say to the Devil, “Merely because that is a Scripture, I yield to your argument.” On the contrary, He immediately thought of the principle involved, and showed the Adversary wherein he was mistaken. When prophecies were quoted out of order, our Lord made very positive statements to that effect.
This course is a very good one for us to follow. If one of the Lord’s people should be drawn by Satan into a discussion about some Scriptural text, and if he should recall, or if another brother should suggest, a text which would answer right to the point of discussion, he should decide, “The Scripture which tells me to ‘resist the Devil’ is the proper guide to my course of action. I will not stop to discuss what I do not understand.” Thus he would “resist,” and at the same time rebuke the Adversary.
St. Paul urges the Lord’s people to put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to withstand the wiles of the Devil. His statement seems to imply that none will be able to withstand Satan without Divine aid. The Apostle points out the fact that these are the days when the whole armor of God will be necessary. (`Eph. 6:13-18`; `Rev. 3:10`.) The question may be asked whether those only who are furnished with the whole armor will be able to stand. The answer is that the Lord is supervising the affairs of His people and that He will see that all who are putting their trust in Him shall have opportunities for putting on the whole armor of God.
Many devote to frivolity the time which they could employ in putting on the armor which God has provided for His people. The Lord is so arranging the matter that such will not be able to withstand the darts of the Adversary; for He wishes none to stand in this evil day except those who are thoroughly consecrated to His will. To these He will render assistance, so that all things shall work together for good to them. His grace is sufficient to carry all through who have come to a knowledge of Him and have made a consecration to Him. This grace may be supplied through the Scriptures, through reading matter, through a service or through a hymn; but the protection will be along the lines of the Truth. When we lose the Sword of the Spirit, we lose our only protection against error.
THE LESSON OF CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S WISDOM AND LOVE
The Adversary’s method of attack is well illustrated in the fall of our first parents. Mother Eve should have resisted the suggestion which came to her through the serpent–that God had forbidden that which was for their highest interest in life. She should have said, “I will not entertain such a thought; for to do so would be disloyal to my Creator.” When the suggestion to eat came to Father Adam, apparently the thought came also, “You may as well join with her in the partaking of the food. It will be better to die together, for there will be no pleasure in life without her.” Adam stopped to reason on the matter, but he did not have a sufficiency of knowledge to permit him to do so successfully. He should have said, “God knows; He arranged it. What He has said is enough for me. I will be true to Him, and trust the results to His Wisdom and Love.”
Obedience is the lesson for us to learn from the experience of Adam and Eve. We have not a sufficiency of knowledge with which to reason on some subjects, even if our reasoning faculties were fully developed. Consequently when a suggestion of evil of any kind is made, our only proper course is to say, “No! The Lord our God has said that we must not touch it, lest we die.” Mother Eve allowed reasoning to come in and thus was persuaded. We should profit by her mistake. A proper confidence in God and a recognition of our own lack of wisdom should decide us immediately. There should be no controversy. We should say, No!
Evidently God is seeking those who are in this attitude of mind. Christ and the Church have been called for this very work of bringing mankind back to perfection of character. Many times the Divine Plan may not seem to us to be the wisest course; and if we should not learn the lesson of absolute trust in the Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power, we could not trust God in everything. The Father seeketh such to worship Him as will do so in spirit and in truth, and who have perfect confidence in Him as the One who is all-wise and all-loving to direct and guide their affairs. Those who do not learn this lesson of trust, will not be fit for the responsibilities to be put upon the glorified Church. Let us learn this lesson and be very positive in our endeavors to be in harmony with God.
Faithfulness in trial will develop the overcomers. The Lord does not wish to have in the Little Flock any who are disloyal in any sense of the word. They may be weak in many of the essentials of character, but they are all loyal to God. The Lord is seeking those who will remain loyal under trials and difficulties, and thus develop characters pleasing to Him. These are not alarmed at Satan’s onslaughts, which are seen to be an occasion for an increase of faith; for greater is He that is on our part than are all that are against us!
In Pilgrim’s Progress this inability of the Wicked One to touch the faithful people of God is very beautifully pictured. While walking in the narrow way, Christian beheld two lions; and for a moment he was terror-stricken. Christian studied the situation and decided to go forward. When he came near the lions, he found that they were chained. So it is with our adversaries. They can do no harm to the children of God. Although they may roar, yet they cannot injure the New Creature.
The New Creature may develop even when the outer man is perishing. Satan succeeded in having the chief priests and Pharisees cause the death of our Lord; but this was the very means by which He entered into glory. In His dealings with our Lord the Father has given us an illustration of His dealings with us. So we may know that even if Satan should appear to get the victory over us, these “light afflictions” will, as we are told, “work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” — 2 Cor. 4:17.
We know that we have no power with which to oppose Satan. None is sufficient for these things except the Lord. But He is greater than are Satan and all his angels. We are looking forward with the eye of faith to the things that are unseen. So it behooves us to be steadfast, immovable, full of faith, and therefore able to meet whatever the Father permits to come upon us.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”– 2 Tim. 3:12.
GODLINESS represents in general the condition of righteousness, opposition to sin, as God is opposed to sin–a condition in harmony with justice, as He is just; generosity and kindness and love, as He is generous and kind and loving. There are kind, generous and noble characters in the world who are not Christians. These may have more or less of opposition from others who are evilly disposed–as darkness always opposes light; yet these noble people exercise moderation in their righteousness–they are not righteous overmuch. They do not go to an extreme in their religion, as it is sometimes expressed. These fine characters might occasionally get some persecution, politically or otherwise; but even the enemies of such would have respect for them.
But the Apostle in our text limits persecution to “those who live godly in Christ Jesus.” What is the difference between living godly and living godly in Christ Jesus? We answer that because of their special relationship to Christ Jesus, God’s people have a special enlightenment. They see more clearly the principles of God’s Justice. They have a more exacting rule by which their lives are governed. Others do not see these deeper things of the Divine Plan and the special arrangement God has made with the Church.
Those who are “in Christ Jesus” have an intelligent knowledge that they have entered into a Covenant of Sacrifice. They realize that they are not to compromise their religion in any way; they are not to compromise with sin, nor with the world. They must uphold the principles of righteousness, even to the detriment of their own earthly interests.
The godly not in Christ Jesus–those who have a measure of Godlikeness–may indulge in a great many things that would not be wrong for the world–not sinful, not immoral, not unkind. With the Christian, however, all of his time, talent, influence, money, are consecrated to the one service, according to what he understands to be the Lord’s Word and the spirit of that Word. The worldly man who is righteous might feel perfectly free to give of his money for various causes and purposes, that would be reasonable and proper in themselves; while the Christian would ask himself, What is the Lord’s will, the Lord’s way?
THE CHRISTIAN STEWARD RESTRICTED
The Christian is restricted in his use of money; for he always considers as to how the Lord would have him use it. The Christian uses his money for the preaching of the Gospel and the publishing of it in various ways; while other people might use their money for large benefactions and endowment of colleges. The Christian would reason: There are many opportunities for people to get education along earthly lines, and I believe the Lord would have me as His child to use His money to help people get spiritual education.
Likewise in the use of his time; the natural man might say, We will have a certain evening for attending a good opera. We will not go to any disreputable place, but we will spend a certain amount each season on the opera. Or, we will be patrons of art and music and literature. We must adopt a course that will win the approval of society. That will be the wise thing to do. But the Christian says, My time, my money are consecrated to the Lord. I am His steward, I can use these in a better way. A worldly man may be a patron of art and spend a thousand dollars–or ten thousand dollars–on a single painting, because he wants art to flourish. Or he might buy a fine piece of sculpture to adorn his home, but this is not the course for me. I must consider the Lord’s will for me as His servant.
The Christian has limitations which the worldly do not have. But we are glad for all good men and good women, who can be good and noble even though not in Christ Jesus. We are glad to esteem them. There are noble people in the world. There are some godly ones outside the Church, godly to a certain degree; and they are likely to come to see something of the Truth, if they are really noble characters. The godly of this world will get a blessing in the Restitution time. Every godly thing that they have done, every act of generosity, will get its reward. And by cultivating their higher sentiments, they will have fewer steps to retrace.
SPECIALLY GODLY ARE SPECIALLY PERSECUTED
The persecutions which come to the godly in Christ Jesus are special persecutions. We are not to expect much of this from the Body of Christ. A man is not expected to use his fist to strike his own eye, nor is it to be expected that one hand will injure the other hand. It may be that the skin on one hand is rough, and will sometimes scratch the other one. But we cannot be members of the same Body and persecute each other. Persecution is something that is intended and pursued, or followed up. Persecution is not merely one act or one word–it is a succession of unkind words and acts with a view to punishing some one for adhering to an opinion or course of conduct.
So persecution comes from a certain class called by Jesus the world. But the class that Jesus called the world are those who had a form of godliness, but did not have the power thereof. Christianity has its counterfeits, as has money. So the Apostle speaks of a class who would take the name of the Lord upon them and misuse that name. And there are people in the world today who do not know the difference between the genuine and the counterfeit–between Truth and error–and who do not want to know, and who keep out of the way of being told. They somehow know that there would come a certain measure of condemnation to themselves if they recognized the real facts and did not act in accordance with them.
They are not all bad people by any means. There are very many good people among the tares; but there is no real wheat among the tares–no real nutriment. But these tares pose as the Church of Christ; the tare systems pose as Christianity. And from this class usually come the persecutions. They try to crowd out the wheat, or to choke it and make it unfruitful. It was so in our Lord’s day. Those to whom the Lord referred as persecutors were not the Gentile world of His day, but the worldly ones of the Jews–those who were not fully consecrated to the Lord, but who thought they were.
Nicodemus was a fine character, and Gamaliel was a fine character–and so were a great many who did not become Christ’s disciples at all. Evidently many were seeking after righteousness; as, for instance, the young man who came to the Lord and asked Him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The Lord answered, “Thou knowest the commandments.” The young man said, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth up.” He was a noble character, and Jesus looking on him loved him, even though he was not a disciple. And Jesus said to him. “One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up thy cross, and follow Me.” But he went away sorrowful. He did not want to become a member in Christ Jesus. He did not want to give everything to the Lord. He was very rich–“had great possessions,” and he preferred to hold on to his wealth.– Mark 10:17-22.
There were others who went through many of the forms and ceremonies, and who kept the various admonitions of the Law, and its feasts and fasts; but they were not the “Israelites indeed in whom was no guile.” And later they became the persecutors of Christ and those who walk in His steps of sacrifice.
PROFESSED CHRISTIANS PERSECUTORS
And so those who live godly in Christ Jesus have their persecutions, not so much from the worldly class as from professing Christians. There is a class in Churchianity today that has a great deal of pride and self-satisfaction. They are upholding a large institution. If anything seems to be inimical to that institution, they are wrathful and wish to persecute. Some say respecting those who proclaim Present Truth and who live saintly lives as followers of Jesus Christ: If we let these people alone and let them teach these things, all that we have been upholding for centuries will crumble. Did not Luther hand down Truth to us? Did not Calvin give the Church Truth? Have we not the teachings of Wesley? No, no; we will not have these “new doctrines”!
But we see that these people are persecuting the Truth and its representatives because of misunderstanding. We should have a great deal of sympathy and not feel specially angry with them. This does not mean that we should be glad of persecution–no persecution “for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous.” (Heb. 12:11.) But if we know that we are suffering for righteousness’ sake, then we know the Spirit of God rests upon us. It is those who know that they suffer for Christ’s sake, and who take it gladly because it is the will of God, that may rejoice, because the persecution is working out in them blessed effects. Let us then
“Be still beneath His tender care,
For He will make the tempest cease;
And bring from out the anguish here,
The afterward of peace.”
“THE LORD YOUR GOD DOTH PROVE YOU”
Why does God permit His people to suffer? Why does He not shield those who are His from suffering, just as a loving parent would shield a child? The Scriptures reply that it is because God is working out a great Plan that will eventually bring blessings to all who will do righteously; for God wishes to show the evil effects of sin, its deteriorating effects. God’s purpose is that after the Six Days of Sin and Death are ended, in the Seventh Day there shall be a blessing for the whole groaning creation. “Jehovah God will wipe away tears from off all faces.”– Isa. 25:8.
And there is a particular reason why God should permit persecution to come upon His consecrated ones. “The Lord your God doth prove you,” test you. Why? What is He proving? We profess to be His loyal children. We profess to be laying down all that we have. And now “the Lord your God doth prove you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”– Deut. 8:2; 13:3.
How much will you endure? How patiently will you endure? To what extent will you endure? Those who will endure most, and endure most patiently, will give evidence of the best character. And those who demonstrate the best character will have the highest positions in the Kingdom. Each will get a position according to his faithfulness. But as star differeth from star in glory, so it will be in the Kingdom. He who fights the greatest fight against his own nature and demonstrates most the love and zeal of his heart, such is the one who will have a high place.
The Apostle, in another illustration, represents our present experiences as a racecourse; and exhorts that we lay aside every weight and every besetting sin, every weakness of the flesh, and every earthly ambition, that we may run with patience the race set before us in the Gospel–that we may attain unto the mark of the prize; and that having done all we should stand–faithful at that mark, complete in Christ. (Phil. 3:13,14; Heb. 12:1; Eph. 6:13) This gives us the thought of a racecourse, with its first, second, third and fourth quarter-marks, and the besetments and difficulties and oppositions and allurements en route, and of ourselves starting into this race, desiring to attain the mark of perfect Love–knowing that unless we do attain that mark we will not be copies of God’s dear Son, and cannot, therefore, in the largest sense please God; and hence cannot be joint-heirs with Jesus in the Kingdom. The whole racecourse is Love, from gate to finish. As we enter the gate it is with grateful Love toward God for his favor toward us in Christ, in the forgiveness of our sins. It is this duty-love which at the beginning leads us to present our bodies living sacrifices. We say to ourselves that if God has done so much for us, we ought to show our appreciation: Christ laid down his life on our behalf, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
This ought-to, or duty-love, is quite proper, reasonable, true, but it is not sufficient. It must in turn lead us on to a still higher kind of Love, and by the time we have run to the first quarter-mark, we still have duty-love, but beyond it have attained a love of appreciation. We learn better to appreciate divine Love–to see that God’s Love was in no sense of the word selfish, but the outworking of his grand, noble character. We come to appreciate something of divine justice, divine wisdom, divine power, divine love; and as we behold these qualities of our Creator we come to love them, and thenceforth we practice righteousness, not merely because it is our duty, but because we love righteousness.
Pressing along the racecourse still further, we attain to the second quarter-mark, and find that by this time we have not only learned to love righteousness, but proportionately are learning to hate sin; and we find in our hearts a growing sympathy with the divine program of rolling back the great wave of sin which has submerged the world and brought with it its wages of death. This second quarter-mark begets in us an energy, a “quickening,” an activity for righteousness and against sin.
Our Love is growing, and we press along for the third quarter-mark. By the time we reach it, our duty-love, plus love for the principles of righteousness, has extended, not only to the divine character, and included dislike for every wicked thing doing injury to mankind, and contravening the divine character and plan, but at this mark we have attained a position of broader sympathy for others–we begin to share God’s sentiment, not only of opposition to sin, but also of love for, and sympathy with, all who are seeking the way of righteousness and holiness. By this time we are able to recognize the brethren in a somewhat different light than ever before. We can now see them as New Creatures, and differentiate between them and their mortal bodies, whose imperfections are obvious to us. We learn to love the brethren as New Creatures, and to sympathize with them in the various weaknesses, misjudgments, etc., of their flesh. So keen becomes our Love for them that we have pleasure in laying down our lives on their behalf–daily, hourly, sacrificing our own earthly interests or pleasures, or conveniences, giving of our time, our influence, or what-not, to assist or serve them.
But still we press along the line and toward the “mark,” for there is still a higher Love than this which we must attain –the fourth and last quarter-mark–“the mark of the prize.” What Love is this? How can it be greater than self-sacrificing love for the brethren, in full devotion to God and to the principles of righteousness and Love? We answer that still greater Love is the kind which the Lord has stipulated, when he says that we must learn to love even our enemies also. It was while we were enemies, aliens, strangers from God through wicked works, that “God so loved the world”; it was while we were yet sinners that he gave his Only Begotten Son on our behalf. This is the standard of perfect love, and we must not stop short of it. Whoever would be accepted of the Lord as a member of the New Creation in glory must attain to this love of enemies.
Not that he is to love his enemies as he loves the brethren, for this is not the pattern set us–God does not love his enemies as he loves his sons, his friends; and Jesus did not love his enemies as he loved his disciples. But God loved his enemies so as to be ready and willing to do for them whatever could be justly done; and Jesus loved his enemies so that he was heartily willing to do good to them–he bears no enmity or grudge toward them in return for their hatred, but is ready to pour out upon them in due time his Millennial blessings, that they may all come to the knowledge of the truth, and that even those who pierced him may look upon him and weep when God shall pour upon them the spirit of prayer and supplication, in due time. (Zech. 12:10) We must have the love for enemies which our Lord describes, saying, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44) We must let no bitterness, animosity or rancor of any kind dwell in our hearts. They must be so full of Love that not even an enemy could stir up in our hearts an evil or malicious sentiment.
Oh, what long-suffering and brotherly kindness is implied in such an attainment of character as would find nothing, even in an enemy, to stir it to malice, hatred or strife! And this is the “mark” for which we are to run, as New Creatures. We have professed appreciation of this spirit of Love; we have professed devotion to it; we have consecrated our lives in accord with its principles; and now we are being tested to see to what extent our professions were truthful. The Lord very graciously gives us time to run this race, to develop this character. “He knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust.” Nevertheless, it is essential to us that we conform to these arrangements if we would be joint-heirs with God’s dear Son, as members of the New Creation.
Our Lord Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, did not need to run this race; did not need to develop these various features of Love; for being perfect he had these in perfection at the beginning of his career. His testing was whether or not he would stand firmly by these principles, characteristics, would continue to love God and righteousness supremely, and continue to love the brethren so as to lay down his life for them, and continue to love his enemies so as to delight to do them good; whether he would stand firm at the standard of perfect Love. We know how he demonstrated his loyalty to Love in all its degrees, in that he laid down his life, not only for his friends, but also for his enemies, who crucified him. This experience also must be ours. We must attain to the standard of perfect Love in our hearts even though in our flesh we may not always be able fully to express the sentiments of our hearts.
Some may run the race very quickly–passing one after another these quarter-mile marks, they may speedily reach the position of perfect Love. Others imbued with less zeal, or looking less intently to the Author of our faith, make slower progress in the race, and for years content themselves with duty-love, or perhaps go a little further to love of the divine character and the principles of righteousness. Remarkably few have gone beyond this to attain further the love of the brethren, which would make them rejoice in self-denials, if thereby they might serve the household of faith; and still fewer have gone to the point of perfect Love–love for their enemies, which would not only refrain from injuring them, by word or deed, but additionally would delight in their blessing. If the Lord has been very patient with us, giving us abundant opportunity to reach the “mark,” we should rejoice in his compassion, and should be the more energetic now to attain to the “mark of the prize,” remembering that the time is short, and that nothing less than this character of perfect Love will be accepted of the Father in the New Creation.
As our Lord was tested at the “mark” of perfect Love, so all of us are to be tested after we reach it. We are not, therefore, to expect to reach that “mark” merely with the last gasp of life; but as quickly as possible. The measure of our zeal and love will be indicated to God and to the brethren by the speed with which we attain to this “mark.”
The Apostle’s words, “Having done all, stand” (Eph. 6:13), imply that after we have reached the “mark” of perfect Love there will still be plenty of trials for us–trials of faith, trials of patience, trials of all the various elements of Love. The world is not a friend to grace, to help us onward in the right direction; Satan is still our Adversary, and will be able to stir up plenty of opposition–to force us back
from the position attained. This is our testing. We must hold fast to all to which we attain; we must “press down upon the mark” until it shall cost us our earthly life–laying down our lives in God’s service for the brethren, and in doing good unto all men as we have opportunity. “Faithful is he who called us,” who promises us succor and every needed assistance in this way. His grace is sufficient for us. 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Cor. 12:9
This Law of Love, we have already seen, is the law of the angelic sons of God also–their obedience to the divine will and their harmony with each other being all based upon it. And although during the Millennial age laws and ordinances, regulations and exactions, will be laid upon the world of mankind to bring them forward under the blessed arrangements of the Millennial Kingdom, nevertheless those who, at the close of the Millennial age, shall be accounted worthy of life everlasting, we may be sure will have reached beyond mere obedience to laws and requirements –will have written in their hearts the original Law of God, obedience, and the Law of Love, which is a part of the divine character. These restitution sons of God, on the human plane, then accepted of him, will also all have this spirit of Love, without which it would be impossible for them to be pleasing to God; for he seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth. Thus we see that while heaven as well as earth must have a law, and must require obedience to it, yet the divine standard of obedience is so far superior to our earthly and imperfect ideas and standards that the one word, Love, expresses the entire Law of God to which all of his sons on every plane of life will be subject. How wonderful and how glorious is the character and plan of our God! Love is the fulfilling of his Law, and we can conceive of no higher Law than this.
We have dealt with the subject thus far in the abstract. We want now to notice that the New Creation, while still tabernacling in the flesh, and subject more or less to its weaknesses, oppositions, etc., are to regulate themselves, their conduct toward each other and toward the world, by this Law of Love, the New Commandment, which the Lord gave rule.
Gold, as we have already seen, is a symbol of that which is divine; hence, the Golden Rule is the divine rule. This is really a rule of Justice rather than of Love. The nearest approach to this Law of Justice that the natural man can now appreciate–the very highest standard known to the natural man, is “Thou shalt not do unto thy neighbor that which thou wouldest not have thy neighbor do unto thee.” This is negative goodness, at very most; but the Golden Rule which no others than the New Creation can at present appreciate, or even understand, is of a positive kind–“Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you.” This is positive goodness, but merely Justice. If members of the New Creation fail at times to comply with every feature of this Golden Rule, the simple law of Justice, it must be to their serious regret and chagrin unless they are merely “babes” in the new way. And if any violation of this rule brings pain and regret, it is a sure sign that the violation was not wilful, not of the heart, not the New Creature’s violation of principle, but, at most, a violation connived at or stumbled into by the flesh, contrary to the desires of the spirit or intention. However, in proportion as the new mind is alive toward God, and zealous to do his will, in that same proportion it will be quick, alert and energetic in guarding the “earthen vessel” in which it resides. It will put on the armor of God, that it may be able to fight a good warfare against the weaknesses of the flesh. It will insist that if an error has been committed, either in word or deed, a restitution, with good interest, shall, if possible, be quickly rendered: that thus the “earthen vessel,” finding itself opposed and put to shame, may become less active in its opposition to the new mind.
This divine law affects the New Creature’s relationship to God. He recognizes the meaning of the expression, “Love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy being, with all thy strength.” He finds no room for self here, except as self shall be fully in accord with God. This affects his relationship with the brethren, for how could he love God, whom he has not seen (except with the eye of faith), if he does not love the brethren who have God’s Spirit and whom he has seen with the natural sight? (1 John 4:20,21) As he learns to consider carefully in his dealings with them, to do for them and toward them as he would that they should do for him and toward him, he finds that it effects a great transformation in life; that this is not at all the rule or law under which he himself and others have been accustomed to live, to think, to act, to speak.
He finds that as he would like brethren to act kindly toward him, and speak gently to him, so he should speak and act kindly and gently to them. As he would like to have them be patient with his imperfections and weaknesses, and to draw the mantle of charity over these human defects, so he should do toward them. He finds that as he would not like to have the brethren speak evil of him, even if the evil were true, so he should be kindly affectioned toward them, and “speak evil of no man,” but “do good unto all men,” especially to the household of faith. As he would not like to have others expect of him more than he could reasonably do, so he would not expect of others more than they could reasonably do. The same principle would operate also in respect to the world and its affairs. The whole course of life is thus gradually changed; and, as the Apostle suggests, this change comes in proportion as we “behold the glory of the Lord”– in proportion as we come to appreciate and learn to copy the grandeur of the divine character ruled by this Golden Rule of perfect Justice, coupled with abounding Love.
As our new minds, new wills, begotten of the holy Spirit, develop, they are gradually “changed from glory to glory” of heart quality; and thus changed in our hearts, our minds, our wills, our intentions (and so far as possible also outwardly), we become fit or “meet,” according to the divine promise, for the great and final resurrection change, when that which is sown in weakness and corruption shall be raised in power and glory, a spiritual New Creation–the Christ of God. Various good and helpful advices, admonitions and suggestions are given us by the apostles and repeated and indorsed by various of the brethren, as profitable for reproof, for correction, etc.; but the Law, the blessed Law, under which the New Creation is placed, is a Law of Love, surpassing the Golden Rule. Rightly appreciated, it would mean that many things now done by the New Creation would be done no longer; and many things now neglected by them would be performed with zeal and assiduity.
The Perfect Law of Liberty
If any were at first disposed to think of the New Creation as being left of the Lord too free, without proper restraints and rules, they undoubtedly experienced a change of mind as they came to see the lengths and breadths and general comprehensiveness of this Law of God, briefly summed up in this one word, Love. “A law of liberty,” the Apostle calls it (Jas. 1:25); but God makes this law of liberty applicable only to the New Creation, begotten of his Spirit. It could be applicable to no others. Others are still under either the Mosaic Law, as servants not fit for “the liberty wherewith Christ makes free” the sons, or else they are under the condemnation of the original law–the condemnation of death, and as condemned sinners are still treated as strangers, aliens, and foreigners, who are without God and who have no hope in the world–they do not even know of the grace of God which bringeth salvation eventually to the world in general, but which at present has been manifested only to a comparative few, the great mass being hindered by the Adversary from hearing the message of divine love and redemption. He blinds the minds and stops the ears of the majority of mankind with doctrines of devils, etc. 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Tim. 4:1
Liberty is not for the evilly disposed, as society witnesses when it imprisons them; and so the perfect Law of Liberty is not appropriate to the evilly disposed, but to the well disposed —to the perfect. The world will not be left to a Law of Love during the Millennium, but will be ruled with Justice and Mercy under a law of obedience to the Kingdom. Not until the close of the Kingdom (when the wilful evildoers shall have been cut off in the Second Death) will the race– proved perfect and fully in accord with the divine standard –be put under the Law of Liberty–Love, and its Golden Rule. So long as they are minors they will be treated much as servants. (Heb. 13:17) The New Creation, now under the Law of Liberty, is so dealt with because to them “old things have passed away, all things have become new”–they now hate sin and love righteousness and use their liberty, not as an opportunity to gratify the flesh, but to mortify it–not to revel in sin, but to sacrifice earthly interests in cooperation with the Lord in putting away sin and ridding the world of it and its wages of death. Those begotten again to this new spirit or disposition–the Spirit of God–and who have become pupils in the school of Christ to learn of him and walk in his steps–these, and these alone, can be safely put under the Law of Liberty. And if they lose the spirit of their adoption, they cease to be sons, cease to be under this Law of Liberty.
Those who now learn to use the liberty wherewith Christ makes free–those who by consecration come under this perfect Law of Love, and who, under it, lay down their lives for the brethren and for the truth’s sake, and for righteousness’ sake–these faithful ones will be counted worthy to be the Lord’s agents and joint-heirs with his Beloved Son in the great work of blessing the world. And how necessary this qualification for their work–how necessary it evidently is that those who would be the teachers and helpers and judges and rulers of the world–thus blessing all the families of the earth during the Millennial age–should develop to the full and be tested in this qualification of Love, in order to be merciful and faithful Royal Priests!
“Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unfaithful is nothing pure; but both their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to have known God, but by their works they renounce Him, being abominable and disobedient, and to every good work worthless.” “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” — Titus 1:15,16; Proverbs 4:23.
OUR first text is an extremely severe arraignment. The context seems to imply that the Apostle Paul was addressing some who were identified in a sense with the Cause of God, but whose doctrines and manner of life were in conflict with the Message of the Gospel. Whether he referred to unbelieving Jews or to those who had at least outwardly become followers of Christ we may not be sure. He was referring, at any rate, to those who professed to have known God, whether they knew Him through the Law or through the Gospel. The language seems to imply that these were fault-finders. They could find fault with everything –nobody could do anything just right, no doctrines were right. We have all met people of this character– people who see nothing pure, nothing good, anywhere, and who are denouncing others all the time.
The Apostle’s statement is very strong, very forceful –“Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unfaithful is nothing pure.” We understand him to mean by these words, not literally that the pure could find nothing that is impure, nor that the impure could find nothing pure, but that this is true in a broad, general way. Those who are themselves pure can see righteousness in the Divine Law and in the Divine arrangement. They can see the true, pure hearts of God’s sincere “little ones,” in spite of the weaknesses of their fallen flesh. But the unfaithful become defiled, their consciences become perverted, so that they are unable to see anything or anybody in a proper light. They have permitted ill-natured thoughts to enter the mind and lodge there–suspicions, evil surmisings, such as, “Every man has his price. Every man can be bought. There is not one that is honest”; and all that sort of thing. They have been more or less judging others by themselves.
Not only the minds of such become corrupted, seeing nothing pure, nothing good, nothing right, in others; but their consciences become defiled. At first the conscience of such would to some extent reprove them. But gradually, if they yield to this wrong heart attitude, their consciences become corrupt and hardened, so that they do not realize that they are prevaricating, misjudging, do not see how unjust, impure and blind they have become. “They profess to have known God,” says the Apostle–knowing something in an intellectual way about His Plan and Word–“but by their works they deny Him.” Their works are contrary to God’s Word, which instructs that all should seek to do all the good they can, to see all the good they can, and to give generous judgment to others.
FAULT-FINDERS, ACCUSERS OF THE BRETHREN
These defiled ones deny God, renounce Him in their works–as St. Paul declares, they are “abominable, and disobedient” to God, walking contrary to His instructions. This is surely an abominable thing to do–after knowing the Lord to go in an opposite direction, and set His counsel at naught. Such are “to every good work worthless.” They do not accomplish anything good, but the very opposite; yet they find fault with everybody else.
The Apostle is not saying here that such have necessarily become immoral and vile in that they have become delvers into all kinds of sin and vice. We are not to read into his words anything that is not there. But he does say that so far as any good work is concerned they will defile it, injure it. Better would it be that they keep away from the Lord’s work entirely. They have allowed the bitter spirit to work in them until everything takes on the color of their own minds. They do not recognize to what an extent they are unjust, unrighteous, in their thoughts, their words, their conduct. They are injurious to every good work.
There are lessons of warning here for all of us, lest we should be led astray by the spirit of the Wicked One and become mere fault-finders, accusers of the brethren –not giving our time, our hands, our feet, our tongues, to doing good, to blessing and upbuilding the brethren, but rather to tearing down. In proportion as any one does this, he is worthless, yea, worse than worthless, to the Lord and to His Cause.
NECESSITY FOR GUARDING THE HEART
“Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life,” exhorts the Wise Man. The thought embodied in this exhortation is of the utmost importance. Truly these are words of wisdom! As the heart is perhaps the most important organ of the human body, so the word “heart” is here used in a figurative way to represent the center of the affections of the human mind. The implication is that the heart needs keeping. There are many things to distract, to draw away, to lead astray. Not only the burden of business, but also the trend of the world in general and of our fallen flesh, tend to lead the heart away from righteousness, from the service of God, from purity, love and kindliness toward others.
The great Adversary also gives his assistance in attempts to thus mislead. The heart–the will, the affections –of every human being should be loyal to God and to righteousness. It was made so originally. As the magnetic needle turns to the pole, so the human heart should turn to the Lord. Anything to the contrary represents a sinful, distorted, perverted condition. But as a matter of fact, sin has become firmly implanted in the fallen human nature. During these long centuries of sin many people have striven to keep their hearts right with God. But after getting right, the majority fail to abide in that condition, to keep their heart in God’s love, to keep it from going into wrong avenues, from getting into the wrong condition.
We often have difficulty in managing our bodies. There are appetites of the flesh that need constant watching. The tongue needs continual guarding. While we are to watch all these things carefully, yet the most important thing to watch is the heart; for all our evil tendencies have their mainspring there. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth evil things.” We should be ever alert to see that our heart is kept pure, true. If we find impurities there, they should be prayerfully fought against and made right. We should keep our minds filled with that which is pure, worthy, Godlike.
As children of God we have learned that the only way to have our hearts right with our Father is through the Lord Jesus Christ. We have come to God through Christ and thus become His sons, receiving His Holy Spirit. Then we have a new influence, a new fountain, opened in the heart, which changes its current, which sweetens its outflow. Thenceforth we love righteousness and hate iniquity. If there is any variation from this at any time, we should see that we are promptly brought back into alignment with the Spirit of the Lord. We need to keep our heart continually under inspection, so that we may abide in close fellowship with the Father and with our Lord Jesus.
“For out of it [the heart] are the issues of life,” declared Solomon. From this organ–the heart–the blood is pumped out to all parts of the body. The body is thus dependent upon the heart for its strength, its vitality, its very life. The body would be dead if the heart did not continually propel the blood through the system. So the issues of our bodily life are going forth from the heart every day, yea, every moment. It is either issuing little life or much life each day. So it is with the seat of our affections–so it is with our will. All who come in contact with us day by day are influenced for good or for evil by the spirit we manifest. It is highly important that all our conduct in life should be under the proper direction of a pure heart–one that is carefully watched and kept under inspection, so that today as we go forth, a good issue shall flow out from our heart to others. Thus the Lord will be pleased with us, and will count us “dear children.” Thus shall our minds and consciences be kept undefiled.
THE FINAL ISSUE–LIFE OR DEATH
But there is a further sense, a vital sense, in which the issues of life are from the heart. God has informed us that though He sentenced our race to death, He has made provision for a future and an eternal life for all. And the conditions on which any may have this eternal life are set forth in the Scriptures. They tell us of certain things that must be done. To us who are called and accepted now it is important that we do all we are able to do, because by nature we have sin entrenched in our flesh. Like all of Adam’s race, we are imperfect by nature through his fall; but the Lord informs us that if we become His children He will judge us by the heart–by our will, our intention, our desire, our efforts. Therefore when we are thinking of the glorious prize, we are to remember that the ultimate issue of this matter, the final decision, will depend altogether upon how we have fulfilled the conditions. It is as in a court, where a jury is sworn in to decide what the verdict shall be–whether in favor of one party or the other party. There will be an issue in our case, a decision, from which there will be no appeal.
The world will be on trial in the next Age, but the Church of Christ is on trial now–from the time they are begotten of the Holy Spirit. The new life is on trial. Our new heart is before the bar of Divine judgment. That new heart, then, needs keeping very carefully, since connected with it are the issues of eternal life or eternal death. Our hopes are not dependent on a perfect body; some may have a sick body, some may have a naturally amiable disposition, and others not. But our old bodies are reckoned dead from the moment we become New Creatures, and the New Creature is responsible for the control of the body to the best of its ability. These new hearts are to be kept loyal to God, to the principles of righteousness, truth, equity–loyal to our Covenant. If we fail properly to cultivate Christlike character, if we fail to keep in attunement with the Lord, then we shall never develop as New Creatures in Christ. And when the decisive testings come, we shall be found wanting.
The Lord has promised to give the blessing of glory, honor, immortality, joint-heirship with Jesus, to those who during the Gospel Age attain His character-likeness. And that character-likeness to God will demonstrate our loyalty to the principles of righteousness and to the Divine will. In the case of our Lord Jesus, He was willing, glad, to sacrifice everything to do the Father’s will. So must it be with all who would be counted in with Christ. The issues, the results, of our life are here. God says to us, as followers of Christ, as His professed disciples, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose life that ye may live.” Life is the blessing; death is the curse. All through the Bible this thought is maintained–that the gift of God is His blessing of eternal life, and that “the wages of sin” is the curse of death–not torment.
So to the Christian the issue of our life here on earth is life eternal, if we are faithful. Failing to gain the life eternal, we shall go into death–the Second Death; for if we are disloyal to the principles of righteousness and to the opportunities granted us in this trial for everlasting life that has come to us in the Gospel Age, there remains no future opportunity for us. These words apply to those who have really become children of God, who have tasted of the “heavenly gift.” How important, then, to keep our hearts true, loyal, undefiled!
FINAL ISSUE OF LIFE DIFFERING IN DEGREE
Amongst those in whose cases the issue will be everlasting life, there will be different ranks, as regards the degree of honor and blessing. As the Apostle pictures it, “For star differeth from star in glory; so also is the resurrection of the dead”–so it will be with those who have a part in the First Resurrection. Some will have a brighter glory in the Kingdom than others. We might say that there will be various issues–greater honor and less honor. As elsewhere shown in the Scriptures, there are two classes who will gain everlasting life on the spiritual plane of being. Many will be of the Great Company; some will be of the Little Flock, the Bride of Christ. Some will attain the highest plane, immortality; but more will get life similar to that of the angels, on a lower spirit plane.
So we see the wisdom of the Scriptural exhortation that the heart needs constant attention, because there are such important, vital issues in respect to it. And we see the wisdom in warning of the danger of permitting the mind and the conscience to become defiled and impure. Some might say, “I will be very careful about every word I speak.” Very well so far. But to keep the tongue would not alone be sufficient to give eternal life; for the heart might be quite different from the tongue in some cases. One might be able to speak very smoothly, yet have a deceitful, impure heart. Again, one might say, “I will watch my body, and not sin with it.” But that would not be enough. We must get down to the source. The Lord is looking at the desires, the intentions of the heart, in His people. This needs special watching, because the heart is the battle-ground, so great are the issues from it–life or death. If life, then we desire that we may have the highest place that God is willing to grant us. And it is ours by meeting the conditions.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-11
Many are the strange questions that have been aroused by religious thought, and many are the answers that have been received; speculative, philosophical, scientific, superstitious answers besides the authoritative answer which comes only from the Bible. The Bible gives us an answer such as we cannot get from any other source. The above question has puzzled Christians from the days of our Savior, but the answer can come only from His Word.
The reason we can stand here and take this question as a topic is not because we are wiser than others, for others have been more wise and learned than we; nor because we are better than others; nor because we have a new revelation, for God’s people are furnished with all that is necessary from His Word. Some may ask:
“Why can you get the answer from the Bible, while others more wise than you could not?”
Because it was not the due time then for men to get it. The question with Israel under the Mosaic law with its sacrifices was: “Why did God require the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin?” This stream of blood, from Adam to the end of the Jewish age was as a bloody finger pointing to the sacrifice of Christ (Isaiah 53:7). When Luther came it was not because he was wiser or better than others that he saw So much truth, but because God saw that he was a fit man to be given the truths then due.
Prophecies have to be fulfilled when the due time comes (Luke 19:40). We are now living in a time when certain truths that have been covered are being brought to view, because the due time has arrived, and he is making known these truths to those who are in the right attitude of heart. (Daniel 12:4; Habakkuk 2:2,3; Jeremiah 23:18-20) We are living in the time that was foretold, the “Time of the End.”
This may mean a test to some here. How many of us have faith in the Bible? (Luke 18:8.) Some say that there is much faith in the earth.
Many have faith in the church, and minister, and creed, but very few have faith in the Bible. We should be in the attitude to say: “If that is the truth and testimony of God’s Word, then it is a secondary matter what our fathers and mothers believed. We will abide by God’s Word and be faithful and loyal to it.”
It seems that the great God who created the Universe is thoughtful of all the interests of his people. All their needs have been supplied as far as He has seen good. We need food for the nourishment of our bodies, and beautiful things for our eyes, and sweet sounds for our ears. If He would provide these for us, would he not also provide things for our minds concerning the future? If we had been living before God gave His people a Bible, and He had told us that
He would give man His revelation in a book, we would have looked forward to it eagerly, and with pleasant anticipation, and we would wonder what kind of a book it would be, A man who writes a book tries to make his subject as plain as possible, So that his meaning can be easily understood. We might conclude that if God wrote a book, He would make it So plain that none could fail to understand. We might expect that it would be So wonderful, that it
could not be written by man, but by angels; that He would put a halo around it, So all would know that it was His book; that it would have a miraculous power which would heal the sick; and if anyone should say anything against it, he would drop dead instantly; and that all might be born with a Bible, and be able to understand it. When we turn to our text we answer: “No!” That is the kind we would have thought, but God has given a Bible very different from that, as different as could possibly be. Instead of angels writing it, poor imperfect men wrote it.
The only halo it has is a very dusty one. Instead of curing diseases, it has no healing power. None drop dead for talking against it, but if one had eloquence enough, a few hundred dollars might drop into his pocket. God might have put a preaching pocket on his Bible So that the missionaries, when they might need money, could open one and find all the money they want. Instead if this we find many begging money for missions all over the world.
Millions do not even know that there is a Bible, and those who have it do not know what it teaches. If all could unite on one interpretation of the Bible how few would not know about it. There would be no room for infidelity. He could have made His Bible So plain that one could not get more than one meaning from it. How easily the world could be converted; it would not be a question as to whether one had a Bible, but whether he would live up to it. It must be because the Bible which we have is the best kind of a Bible, better for us than the miraculous kind would have been. It is a mistake to suppose that God is not interested in the conversion of the world. (2 Peter 3:9; Matt. 10; 29-31.) He is far more interested in it than the missionaries themselves. Why then did He not give us a simple Bible? The reason for its obscurity must be that men have failed to grasp the heavenly Father’s plan
and purpose for this Gospel age. He showed that there would be some misconception and misunderstanding of Him and His plan. It is the grasping of the plan that enables us to answer the question.
The Jews could not be saved by the Law, So it took courage for Peter and Paul and others to stand up and say they were no longer under the Law. It was the same with Martin Luther, and the other reformers. It was hard for them to say that they had been mistaken. In Acts 10, we are told that Peter was called to partake of what was unclean. The sheet was let down three times. The disciples were unclean in the sight of the Jews, because they believed what the Pharisees thought was contrary to the Law. This was the first letting down of the sheet.
It was let down in the days of the Reformers, with some truths then. It has now come down the third time with things that have been hidden until this harvest. The reason God has given us a Bible so hard to understand is that is not the work of the Bible in this age to convert the world of mankind. We know this, because the world is not converted, this outside of Bible evidence (Acts 15:14-17). If such were God’s purpose then the Bible did not accomplish its work, but failed. God has not tried to convert the world. He does not have to try, because He is omnipotent (John 12:37-40). If they had seen these things clearly and had understood they would have believed, but that was not God’s purpose (Matthew 13:10-17; 11:23; 10:5,6; Acts 16:6,7; 1 Peter 1:10-12). God did not intend that they should never be converted, for the work of the church is the conversion of the world, but this has not yet begun, nor will it be accomplished in this age (2 Timothy 3:1,2; 2 Peter 3:3,4; Matthew 24:37; Isaiah 6:9-12; Daniel 12:1; Zephaniahh 3:8-13).
The “Time of Trouble” is foretold in the Bible under many different figures. This age at the second presence of Christ, is to end with the Time of Trouble, a time of great distress and sorrow.
It does not mean the destruction of this planet, for the earth shall blossom as the rose. (Isaiah 35:1,2; Genesis 8:21,22; Ecclesiasties 1:4; Isaiah 45:17,18; Genesis 13:15; 15:18; Acts 7:4,5). The present order of things will be destroyed, and a new order of things established. God’s Word will continue to be misunderstood until this age is over (Zephaniah 3:8,9), then the obscurity of God’s Word will be removed (Isaiah 25:7; Haggai 2:7).
God has purposed the conversion of the world, but not during the past 1900 years. The reason why He has given a Bible So hard to understand was that his plans might be hidden from all but the meek and lowly of heart, until the due time came for all to know. Our Lord was glad that these things were hidden, and thought just as the heavenly Father did. He was not anxious that the Gospel should go to the Gentiles until the due time. One truth has not been concealed that is that the sacrifice of Christ provided the only means whereby we may return to God’s favor.
There are three classes of people who go to the Word of God: 1— A class who see in it many strange things hard to understand, and they give the whole matter up. 2—Some who realize that they will have to do some digging, that the nuggets do not lie on the surface; but they find these things unpopular and keep them to themselves. 3-Those who care not for unpopularity, and who cling to the truth even if it costs sacrifice. Because the Bible is difficult to understand it is possible to distinguish between those who love the Lord on the surface and those who love Him deeply. The apostles would not have had sufferings and afflictions and battles with the world if they had preached popular truths. It was the same at the Reformation; Luther boldly stood up for the Truth and for Christ and suffered for it. The obscurity of the Bible helps to show how much we love the Father and Jesus. If the Jews had known Him they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory, their hearts were not ready to receive Him. Yet they were not guilty to the last degree, but were measurably blinded.
“I wot that through ignorance ye did it” (Acts 3:17). Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). There would not be any crosses if the obscurity of the Bible did not help to make them.
Many are called but few are chosen; the way is narrow and but few find it. The obscurity of the Bible has tested the faith of Christians as nothing else could. It shows forth the measure of charity which we possess. Why are believers persecuted today? Because they proclaim truths contrary to orthodoxy. We do not wish to make others believe as we do. Shall we injure another because he differs with us, in order to make him believe as we do? If we do, then we have been tested and found deficient in love. We should be kind, charitab- Leviticus to all even if they do not believe as we do.
God chooses a little class because he is interested in all, for the church, a “Little Flock” (Luke 12:32) is to be God’s instrument for the blessing of the world (Genesis 26:4; Galatians 3:16,19), but not while she is in the flesh (1 Corinthians 15:50). Many can see that the Bible declares that perilous times shall come in the last days, men will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, and they cannot harmonize these statements with their belief that the world must be converted before His second coming, or presence of Christ. It is not the apostles who were in error, there will be perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1,2), and afterwards a better day will be ushered in.
In Isaiah 29:11 it is declared prophetically that the vision of all things (Leeser) is become as the words of a sealed book. Men have turned things upside down, as was foretold (v. 16). Men say that the conversion of the world must come before the second presence of Christ, but the Bible states the opposite (Isaiah 40$). “His reward is with Him and His work before Him.” (The reward for the church, his work is the conversion of the world.) The day in which the world is to be converted is the Judgment Day, to begin with the second presence of Christ.
It is not a 24-hour-day, but as shown in 2 Peter 3:7,8, it is a 1,000 year day. The absurdity of a 24-hour day for that work is evident. It is supposed that the Lord will set up his throne at Jerusalem, and judge the world assembled before him. The people from Europe and Asia would arrive too late unless they were miraculously caught up. John Wesley said he thought it would be a 1,000 year day, as that was the opinion of many of the early fathers.
*(Moreover, the life of each person must be read and judgment passed upon it, and thus the decisions would have to be given at the rate of 1,000 per second.) What now stands in the way of the conversion of the world? 1—Satan puts evil thoughts and desires into men’s minds. Hence, if the world is to be converted Satan must be bound. 2—The missionaries now lack power and means to accomplish the work. The heathen governments interfere. It will not be So in that day, for the entire world will be under the control of Christ and the Church. 3—Suitably trained missionaries must be chosen. Men have thought that they could chose and train them, but only God could do that, and instead of a three years’ training it takes all of a consecrated life-time. 4—Ignorance, darkness, confusion prevail now, and there are So many false doctrines; but in that day the knowledge of God will fill the earth, and all will know Him. The book which is now So obscure will then be opened. Will God give a new Bible? No.
We now have the old Testament exactly as the Jews had it, but to us it is not obscure, for God has taken the obscurity away. So then God will remove the veil that is before the face of all nations, and the passages now So dark will then be clear. The way will be made So plain that even a foolish man will not err therein, but now the Bible is So obscure that even the wise men stumble at it. The Day of Judgment is called the morning, when the Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in his beams; the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father. When he appears we shall be like him (Malachi 4:2; Matthew 13:43; 1 John 3:2).
Some say that it will be too late then, but God is never too late. Billions have died without seeing that day, but these shall be awakened (John 5:28). Jesus is the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9). The light will enter their hearts also. (1 Timothy 1:4). “God will have all men to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth.” The general belief puts it the other way about; that men must come to a knowledge of the truth and then be saved. But the Bible says that men are first to be saved (saved from the Adamic curse, and from sin) and then they will receive a knowledge of the truth.
God is now selecting His missionaries. Who of the missionaries of this day ever thought of bringing forth the dead to convert them? Yet the missionaries whom God is now selecting will do this; they will convert not only man, but the wild beasts as well. (Isaiah 11:9) And even the desert shall bloom. What missionary could ever do this?.Then all will be saved? No. Psalms 18:44; 66:3. As soon as they hear of him they will obey him, but with his enemies it will be only a feigned obedience (see margin). With some of these latter, as they see the goodness of God and the blessings of righteousness, this feigned obedience will change to heart obedience. But others will refuse to obey at heart. Isaiah 26:10, “Show favor to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness. In the land of uprightness will he deal falsely.”
Some will thus show that they are wicked at heart. For such there will be no excuse. There will then be no inherited weaknesses, and none will suffer for the sins of others; it will no longer be said that “the fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:27-30) Will it then be a second chance? No. In one sense all have had a trial, for we were all in Adam when he fell, but that was not an individual trial for us. In that day all will be dried individually. Yet none who have ever had a full opportunity (except Adam and Eve) will ever have another one (Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-29). A full opportunity means one that is broad and complete, such as few have had. Those who have had 1/2 or 3/4 of a chance in this age will receive the other 1/2 or 1/4 of it then; God is no respecter of persons. We remember that in the vicinity of Boston there is a man sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. Just before he was born the mother used to watch the sights in her husband’s slaughter-house, and when born he inherited a thirst for blood. Can one say that this man received a chance in this life? Such as he will get their first chance in the next age, when those who submit to that righteous rule will gain a glorious eternity.
No passage in the Bible states that all the saved will spend eternity either in heaven or on earth, as many suppose one or the other; but there are a great many passages which prove that part of the saved will spend eternity in heaven, and other verses show that part will spend eternity on earth. Both are true, and both classes will be fully satisfied with their respective abodes. Today the earth is imperfect, and yet men are loth to leave it, and they fight death with all their will power. Then the earth will be glorious and beautiful, and man will be fully satisfied.
The Gospel has not been preached in this age to convert the world, but “to take out a people for his name.” But in that day all shall know the truth. God’s Word shall prosper and accomplish that whereto He sent it.