When you die—will you go to ‘hell’? Should you fear it? It’s a concept not much brooded on in our secular society. Certainly, if you go to the average Christian funeral service you’re not likely to hear the officiating minister tell us that the loved one is ‘roasting in hell’. But it does form a worrying thought for many—Christian, non-Christian, secular. And it is burned into the theology of most religions. Let’s examine ‘hell’ from the Christian Bible’s view-point.
In the Scriptures we are presented with four words for hell: sheol (Hebrew), hades (Greek), ge’henna and tartaros (Greek). It is important for understanding that we note the differences.
In brief, sheol (Heb) refers simply to the grave, as does hades (Gk), while ge’henna is what most think of as a ‘burning fiery place where the wicked go’. Tartaros, used only once in Scripture, refers to fallen angelic beings. First we will examine what happens to man when we die.
When We Die
We die, then we are buried or cremated –but then what? The vast majority of mankind assumes that life persists beyond death, that abiding in us is an ‘immortal soul’ which passes on to some state of ever-living existence. So we may return in another form (Hindu belief) or, as in Christianity or Islam, go on to ‘heaven’— or, if wicked, to ‘hell’. It is an almost universal belief, but it is a distortion of the Biblical teaching on the nature of man and his destiny beyond the grave.
Mankind, says God’s revelation through the apostle Paul, is ‘…of the earth, earthy’, (I Corinthians 15:47-49)—echoing the revelation given to Adam: ;…God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’ (Genesis 2:7). And (obvious to all!), our ‘earthy’ part dies and decays.
Made from earth’s elements, however, we are also animated by the ‘breath of life’ from God (the ‘spirit in man’)—and made in God’s image (ch 1:26-27).
The tradition of burial is widespread, the most common means of disposal of human remains throughout time. In the Hebrew texts the word for grave is sheol (hades in Greek)— often translated (KJV) as hell. It is where people go to ‘sleep with the fathers’, a place of silence, of inactivity: ‘… there is no work, or planning, or knowledge, or wisdom, in Sheol, there where you go’ (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
It’s a place where ‘…the dead [in sheol] do not praise Jehovah, nor do any who go down into silence’ – Psalm 115:17. And ‘…[man’s] breath [Heb. ruach—spirit] will go out, he returns to the earth; his thoughts perish in that day’ (146:4).
Matthew records that ‘…Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit’ (Matthew 27:50). Remarkably, we find that he, too, was then, for three days and three nights, in ‘hell’—hades: ‘…[David] spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul [psuche] was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption’ (Acts 2:31, Psalm 16:10).
In other words, our human spirit is inert, inactive when in isolation from the physical body. In Bible-speak it is asleep. The body without the human spirit is dead and will decay to ‘dust’, but when united with it becomes ‘…a living soul [Heb. nephesh]’ (Genesis 2:7).
But they will be re-united, body and spirit, raised from among the dead: ‘…O God, who is like You, who has shown me great and evil distresses. You will turn me; You will make me live; and You will bring me up from the depths of the earth’ (Psalm 71:20). And, ‘…You will not leave My soul in Sheol’ -16:10).
[‘Soul’ (Gk. psuche, Heb nephesh) is our life as functioning human beings, animated by the human spirit. The soul dies (Ezekiel 18:4,20; Matthew 10:28)]
In sum, the human spirit departs the body at death and ‘…shall return to God who gave it’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The assumption, then, is that there’s a secure spiritual ‘vault’ (called sheol— translated ‘hell’ in many Bibles) where all human spirits are retained in God’s care until their resurrection when Jesus Christ ‘calls’ them to either a spirit or a physical body (John 5:28). Remember, they have no consciousness, so are not praising God in Heaven (Psalm 115:17).
All, then, who die are parted from their God-given human spirit and are at rest until resurrected—R.I.P. Both the ‘good’ and the ‘wicked’ share the same fate. They all ‘rest in peace’. So what of the concept of a ‘fiery hell’ where the wicked are tormented forever?
A Fiery Hell
Such a condition will exist! But be ready for a surprise. It has never, to date, existed. Yet Jesus speaks quite clearly of ‘…the fire of hell’ (Matthew 5:22 etc), and gives some dire warnings for transgressors. But it is widely misunderstood.
As we have seen, the ‘soul’ decays to its elements, and following death the human spirit is ‘asleep’, inert. No matter how wicked your life may have been—when you die you will not be facing the ‘devil’s pitchfork’, or being roasted and tormented for ever.
The ‘hell’ referred to (Gk ge’henna) draws its symbolism from the Valley of Hinnom—a literal valley just south-east of Jerusalem—a very real place, and Jesus may have been looking into it as he spoke!
This valley was the municipal rubbish dump for the city. Waste was incinerated there, along with the dead bodies of animals and executed criminals. The prophet Isaiah refers to it: ‘…they shall go out and see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against Me; for their worm shall not die, nor shall their fire be put out; and they shall be an object of disgust to all flesh’ (ch 66:24).
Those worms, by the way, are the maggots which devoured unburned rotting flesh and vegetation. They didn’t ‘die’ but continually reproduced. The fires were ‘unquenched’ because they burned only as long as there was fuel.
So—a very real place, and symbolic of the future disposal of those who will in the end spurn God’s offer of salvation through Jesus the Christ: ‘… you shall tread under the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day which I am preparing, says Jehovah of Hosts’ (Malachi 4:3).
And doubtless some may end up there!
It is almost universally believed that God delights in casting into hell, into this ‘Lake of Fire’, those who oppose Him, where they will throughout an eternity be tormented and in agony. That is a gross misunderstanding of the purpose for which He has created mankind.
Whatever His awesome plans for eternity, God’s focus on this planet at this time is to ‘prepare a people for Himself’. He is not concerned to provide a sweet resting place, an eternity of bliss, for those who do what He says. His focus is to select a family of like-minded (His mind!) men and women who have been prepared by Him throughout this physical life—to reign with Him for ever.
By the end of this present earthly phase of God’s plan everyone who has ever lived will have been presented with the opportunity to become part of the Plan. It is a free and open choice, freely entered into. Surely few will reject!
But what if they do?
Fate of the Wicked At the end of history every human being who has lived will have been confronted with the Gospel, with the opportunity to become a member of the divine Family—to participate in the divine plan for eternity. All who have become children of the Father will have acquired a Spirit body by virtue of God’s indwelling holy Spirit.
Our planet is then about to be consumed in flames: ’…But the heavens and the earth now, having been stored up by the same Word, are being kept for fire to a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men’ (II Peter 3:7).
‘…the sea gave up the dead in it. And death and hell gave up the dead in them. And they were each judged according to their works. And death and hell [Gk hades] were thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire’ (Revelation 20:13-15).
For these it means death—not eternal life in hell! Said Jesus: ‘…God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish [be destroyed], but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Not death, but life.
Our Saviour adds: ‘…fear Him being able to destroy both soul and body in Hell [Gk.ge’henna)’.
Because the unrepentant are in the end ‘…cast into the Lake of Fire’ doesn’t mean they were at that moment still alive! Speaking of those whose growth in Christ is stunted Jesus, comparing them to branches of a vine, says they are cut off and dried up—ie, by analogy, killed. No longer fit for purpose they are then burned (John 15:6, Malachi 4:3).
A further example is the fate of Ananias and his wife, who ‘…lied to God’. They fell down dead and then their bodies were disposed of. (Acts 5:1-11).
The Spirit Kingdom
Hell (Gk ge’henna) is the final cleansing of Earth of all that ‘…comes short of the glory of God’. Every human being will have by that time been given sufficient opportunity to become part of the Kingdom of God. A period of physical life during which they will be presented with the same Gospel now open to mankind. ‘I call Heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, that you may live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19
One of Satan’s most potent weapons is compromise. The word “compromise” means “to reach an agreement by concession” (Webster). Satan has always wanted God’s people to compromise the truth with error. When Satan can get us to compromise, he knows he can destroy the church and cause us to lose our calling.
In the first century, Satan tried to compromise the truth of the gospel with Judaism. The Judaizing teachers taught “except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). The apostles and elders at Jerusalem said that they “gave no such commandment” as was being taught by the Judaizers (Acts 15;24). The Apostle Paul said that he did not compromise with these false teachers “an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” ( Gal. 2:5). There were those in the church at Pergamos who held to “the doctrine of Balaam”, which was the doctrine of compromising with sin, and it certainly did not please the Lord (Rev. 2:14).
The devil is busy in the church today promoting the doctrine of compromise. Elders and members are falling for his lethal weapon, and we are seeing a drifting away from the truth which we have fought so hard to restore and maintain.
There are those who want to place some matters of doctrine within the scope of Romans chapter 14 so that fellowship can exist with those who teach and practice doctrinal error. Romans 14 is dealing with personal liberty in matters of indifference, NOT doctrinal matters.
Brethren, there is no middle message between truth and false doctrine. There is but ONE body of doctrine which is truth (John 7:17; 8:32). This body of doctrine is called “the faith” (Acts 6:7; Jude 3); “the doctrine of Christ”, (II John 9); “the truth” (John 8:32); “the gospel” (Rom. 1:16); “sound doctrine” (II Tim. 4:3; Tit. 2:1); and “one faith” (Eph. 4:5). This body of doctrine can be understood and obeyed alike (Eph. 5:17; 3: 3- 4; Matt. 7:21; John 7:17).
No one can teach “another gospel” without being accursed of God (Gal. 1: 6 – 9) — He will not tolerate either adding to or taking from this body of doctrine (Rev. 22: 18 – 19). God intended that His people be united upon His Word (John 17: 20 – 21), that they “all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among them” (I Cor. 1:10).
Satan has brought compromising “false unity” among God’s people, and many have fallen for the compromise — it is called “unity-in-diversity”.
This expressing, “unity-in-diversity”, is a contradiction of terms. “Unity” means “the state of being one; concord; agreement; harmony” — it is the very absence of diversity; “diversity” is “the state of being diverse (different)”, and is opposed to unity. To “dwell in unity” is to dwell together without differences (I Cor. 1:10); diversity is to dwell together with differences. Unity is brought about by individuals accepting the word of God (John 17: 20 – 21); diversity is had by agreement to get along in compromise with false doctrine. Unity forbids division (Eph. 1:10; 4: 1 -6); diversity acknowledges and encourages division. Unity can only be had by the removal of the teaching and practice of error (Rom. 16: 17; Tit. 3:10; II John 9 -11); diversity opens the floodgates for all kinds of error and teaching. Unity fulfills the word of God (John 17: 20 -21); diversity makes sincerity and the conscience the authority instead of the gospel. Unity is had by doing the will of God (Phil. 1:27; John 17: 20 -21); diversity is had by the compromise of convictions and disregarding differences. Unity excludes error (Eph. 5: 11; II john 9 – 11); diversity is an effort to smooth over false doctrine (error) without removing the error. The word of God is the foundation of unity (John 17: 20 – 21); diversity has at its foundation liberty of opinion in doctrinal matters.
There is to be no compromise or fellowship with those in error (Eph. 5:11; Rom. 16: 17 – 18; II John 9 – 11; I Cor. 5: 1 – 8). There can be no compromise with denominationalism (II John 9 – 11), with instrumental music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16); with the use of human institutions to do the work of the church (the church is sufficient to do its own work, Acts 14:23); with those who teach that one can divorce his/her mate and remarry without the cause of fornication (Matt. 19:9; Luke 16:18); with social drinking (I Pet. 4:3); or with worldliness in general (I John 2: 15 – 17; Gal. 5: 19 – 21).
Brethren, there can be no compromise or fellowship with those in error if we want to be pleasing to God (Eph. 5:11; Rom . 16: 17 – 18; II John 9 – 11; I Cor. 5: 1 – 8). Let us all be alert to the difference between Bible unity and religious diversity of opinions as a means of “false unity”. “Unity-in-diversity” is the devil’s compromise — don’t fall for it!
“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.”
“Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.” — 1 Cor. 4:5.
THE TEACHING of the Apostle here is parallel to that of our Lord in his parable of the wheat and the tares. (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43`.) When the zealous servant in the parable inquired, “Wilt thou then that we go and gather them [the tares] up?” the Lord answered, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the Harvest; and in the time of Harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.”
All through the Gospel Age the wheat and tares have grown together, and only the Lord, who could read the hearts, could distinguish between them with unerring precision. But both the Lord and the Apostle, in the above Scriptures, indicate a difference in the time of Harvest, and show that it will then be possible for the faithful saints to judge also. With this thought in view, they are told to “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.”
THE DAY OF THE LORD HAS COME
And now the day of the Lord has come: we are now living in the days of the parousia (presence) of the Son of Man–“the Lord of the Harvest,” “having on his head a golden crown [Divine authority] and in his hand [in his power] a sharp sickle”–the sickle of “present truth,” the clear unfolding of the “Word of God [which] is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword …and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12; Matt. 9:38; Rev. 14:14.) And he is sending forth such “laborers,” “angels” or “messengers” into this harvest as he sent forth into the harvest of the Jewish Age, viz., his consecrated and faithful disciples, bearing the Harvest message–the now fully revealed Plan of God and its appointed times and seasons.
The Truth thus sent forth is doing its appointed work. Like a magnet, it gathers to itself all who have an affinity for it. Thrust it in wherever you will, it will invariably accomplish its work of finding the loyal and faithful. And we can readily judge, from this affinity for the magnet, who are at heart true and loyal and faithful to the Lord. “My sheep hear my voice,” said the Master, “and I know them, and they follow me;…for they know my voice [they are able to recognize his voice of Truth]; and a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.” (John 10:27,4,5.) Again he says, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.“– John 12:48.
THE TRUTH IS DOING ITS SEPARATING WORK
Thus, in this last day, the Harvest of the Age, this day of the Lord’s invisible presence in the world, the Truth concerning the Divine Plan, which he has been revealing since 1874, and which is now being widely testified for the sealing of the elect, is doing its separating work; and the saints, who understand the present situation and watch with interest the progress of the harvest work, can see clearly where the lines of judgment are drawn between the faithful and the unfaithful. And often with astonishment they mark the divisions which the Truth makes when some prominent church-member, whom they had always judged to be faithful and true, manifests no affinity for the Truth, but turns from it and hugs the error more tightly than ever; or, when some other one, touched by the power of the Truth, awakes to earnest self-sacrifice in its service.
“Judge nothing before the time.” How could we have judged before this time as to whose hearts were loyal and true? But now, in this day of the Lord’s presence, when the magnet of Divine Truth makes manifest those who have and those who have not an affinity for it–those who refuse to recognize the voice of the “Good Shepherd,” and will not follow his leading, and who flee not from the voice of strangers, but hearken to and follow them–it becomes our duty, as well as our privilege, to judge who is on the Lord’s side and who is against him; for, says the Master, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” — Matt. 12:30.
“JUDGE NOTHING UNTIL THE LORD COME”
“Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come”; but then let your spiritual senses be exercised in observing and marking the heretofore hidden things which the Truth, in its effects, is bringing to light. See how it is bringing to light the hitherto covered deformities of the various creeds. Where is the intelligent Calvinist today who would not like to bury his creed sea deep, and forever hush this wrangle that has been exposing its deformity for a few years past? And where is the intelligent Arminian that is not trembling lest his turn may come next?
Everything is being dragged to the light, whether men are willing or not; for every hidden thing must be revealed. And not only the hidden things of creeds and systems of error and iniquity, but also the hidden things of individual character; “for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”– Luke 12:2,3.
Ah! it is the day of reckoning with the Church, and “the Lord hath a controversy with his people.” And this controversy, this reckoning, is not merely with the Church-nominal in its great sectarian branches; but in a special sense it is with those who have escaped from the bondage of error and sectarianism, and who, because faithful to their consciences and the truths brought to their attention, have been served by the Master with “present truth” as “meat in due season” (Luke 12:37), and who have been permitted to enter into some of the “deep things” of God’s Plan.
THE CHURCH’S JUDGMENT NOW–THE WORLD’S NOT
The world has not yet come into its judgment; its reckoning is yet future; but ours is now upon us. We, to whom the testimony of Divine Truth has been borne, before whose mental vision the whole Plan of God with all its specifications has been spread out and carefully explained, now stand on trial, yea, under the final tests of that trial, which is either to prove or disprove our worthiness to enter into the promised reward of the faithful. Many, as predicted (Psa. 91:7), are proving unworthy, and some still stand.
And among those whom we fellowship and bid Godspeed as faithful brethren in Christ, it is our duty to judge as to whether they are still faithful when the magnet of Truth makes their judgment so manifest in this day of the Lord; for it is written (2 John 10,11), “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed; for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Here is a responsibility with reference to our endorsement of another which we cannot ignore and still be faithful; and except we judge of one’s course by his fidelity or infidelity to the Truth, we shall be endorsing error quite as often as Truth. It is our privilege to know the Truth and to hold it firmly and to be faithful to it to the end, and if we so abide and walk in the light we will quickly know when one has turned away from the light into darkness, and will be able to render wholesome counsel and warning to such, and to help those who still retain enough of the spirit of meekness to accept the proffered assistance.
But, if such a one still pursue the path of darkness and call it light, thus deceiving himself and others, we cannot further endorse him and be guiltless. To do so is to add our influence in some measure, at least, to the error and in opposition to the Truth, and thus we become partaker of his evil deeds.
“IN THE LAST DAYS PERILOUS TIMES SHALL COME”
The necessity for this careful discrimination and jealous guarding of the Truth in these last days is very manifest, both from the warnings of the Scriptures and from observation of their fulfilment. “In the last days,” says the Apostle, “perilous times shall come.” (2 Tim. 3:1.) Why? Because the Prince of darkness will make every possible effort to retain his power and dominion; and ignorance, error and superstition are his strongholds. He first used all his power to keep men in ignorance and to foster superstition. But now God’s due time has come for knowledge to be increased (Dan. 12:4), and the Millennial dawn is breaking; and not only the Church but the world is now waking up and beginning to think.
So the policy of Satan at present is to devise plausible counterfeits of the Truth, whereby to entrap and mislead those who have been making progress in the knowledge of the Divine Plan. As, in the beginning of our Lord’s ministry at his first advent, Satan’s efforts were concentrated upon the one object of causing him to stumble, thereby to nip the Divine Plan in the bud; and as during the Gospel Age the consecrated members of the Body of Christ have been specially opposed and beset by him, so now his efforts are concentrated specially upon the last members of that Body, “the Feet of him,” who are running the race for the prize of the high calling. It is for this cause that so many new and plausible forms of error have been brought forward within this Harvest period.
SATAN USING EVERY EFFORT TO STUMBLE THE FEET OF HIM THAT PUBLISHETH PEACE
Satan is using every effort to thwart God’s Plan and to stumble the Feet. And God even more than permits this: he encourages it by sending these strong delusions of Satan among his professed followers–at the same time assuring all who at heart are faithful to his Word and to their covenant of self-sacrifice that they need fear no evil, for he will be with them and uphold them though a thousand fall at their side.
Ever since the Plan of God has been made manifest to the saints, the delusions of error have been rapidly multiplying. This was foretold by the Apostle who, referring to our Lord’s second coming, said, “And then shall that wicked [the Man of Sin] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the bright-shining of his presence, whose parousia [Christ’s presence] is with [or accompanied by] the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the Truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they might all be condemned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” — 2 Thess. 2:8-12.
One after another the deluded ones who have fallen into the various snares set for their feet have become active advocates of the several causes they have espoused since they departed from the Truth, and are advanced by the Adversary as teachers, angels or messengers of new light. They never seem to realize that they have gone into darkness, but imagine they have made great strides of progress in the light. This is because they have been overcome by the strong delusions of this evil day. They verily mistake the darkness for the light, the error for the Truth. But, though they be cast thus into the outer darkness of the world and of the nominal professor, thank God, we can now see that by and by the shining forth of the Sun of Righteousness in the Millennial morning shall open all the error-blinded eyes to the full and glorious Truth, though too late to assist any to win the great prize of joint-heirship in the Kingdom.
THE STRONG DELUSIONS SHALL CAUSE THE UNWORTHY
TO BELIEVE THE UNTRUTH
However, none are ever permitted to be thus overcome who have not in some way been unfaithful to the Truth and hence unworthy of it. Upon all such God has said he would send the strong delusion, so that they shall believe a lie. The Truth being designed for those only who are worthy of it–the elect–all others are bound to lose it. But it is impossible to deceive the “very elect.” God will keep them by his mighty power because of their faithfulness and loyalty to him.
The Lord distinguishes between the nominally elect and the finally elect, and so should we. Not all who have accepted of the Redeemer’s favor of justification from guilt, and have heard and accepted the high calling to joint-heirship with Christ in his Kingdom and glory, will attain that great prize. All such have entered the race as now the nominally elect, and all such are eligible to membership in the glorified Church as the finally elect; but in order to gain that prize they must fulfil the conditions specified when they entered the race–when they in Christ’s name and merit made a covenant with God, to sacrifice themselves in his service. In no other way can they make their calling and election sure.
“LET HIM THAT THINKETH HE STANDETH TAKE HEED LEST HE FALL”
It is this nominally elect class that is being tried now; and God is now making manifest the secret counsels of the hearts of his people. He puts us all on guard, too, saying, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall”; and telling us to take heed that no man take our crown.
How great is the responsibility of our present position before God, the great Judge of all hearts! He has shown us special favor in revealing to us the wonders of his Plan and in setting before us the grand prize of our high calling. Thus far we were counted worthy of those favors and eligible to the prize of joint-heirship with Christ. How worthy have we proved ourselves since receiving this knowledge? Have we received it with meekness and humility and with a gratitude which manifests itself in active service of the Truth–in proclaiming it to others and in defending it and standing by it nobly in the midst of all the reproaches hurled against it? Have we refused to compromise the Truth to any extent to avoid its otherwise inevitable reproach?
If we are not thus jealous for the Truth we are not worthy of it, and one of the deceptions of this “evil day” will surely number us among its victims; for it is in this time of the Lord’s presence that Satan is to work so mightily, with great power to deceive, with signs of success and with lying wonders of error. His various schemes will have great success, in comparison with which the success of the Truth will seem small; for with these, as with Gideon’s band, it will be a time of sifting, and “who shall be able to stand?”
But let those who stand girt about with Divine Truth fear nothing; the Lord is permitting these delusions that they may serve his own wise and benevolent purposes in the separating of the worthy from the unworthy, and for the manifestation of those who are at heart loyal to him and to his Truth.
“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.”– 1 Pet. 1:7.
FAITH has in it the two elements of intellectual assurance and heart reliance. The former is faith in the abstract sense; the latter is its concrete form. It is in this latter, fullest sense we read that, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” (Rom. 10:10.) Both the head and the heart–the intellect and the affections–are necessary to that faith without which it is “impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6); though many fancy they have faith when they have only one of its essential elements. With some it is all emotion; with others it is all intellectuality; but neither of these can stand the tests of fiery ordeal: they must abide together if they are to endure to the end and be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
An intellectual grasp of the fundamental principles of divine truth–viz., of the existence of a personal, intelligent God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and of his purpose and plan of redemption through his only begotten and well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ–constitutes the foundation of faith; while trust and reliance to the extent of his promises, upon the personal God who is the author of our being and who, as a Father, invites the implicit confidence and love of his children, make up the superstructure of our faith.
The trial of our faith to which the Lord and the apostles refer is therefore a trial, not only of our intellectual recognition of divine truth, but also of our heart reliance upon God. In both respects every true child of God will find his faith severely tried, and, as a soldier of Christ, let him not fail to be armed for the conflict. If an attack is made upon the intellectual foundation of our faith we should see to it that we have a, “Thus saith the Lord,” for every item of our belief. Let the Word of God settle every question, and let no human philosophies, however ingenious, lead us into the labyrinths of error; for if the foundations of faith become unsettled, the superstructure cannot stand when the winds and the floods of adversity and temptation beat against it. Doubt and fear will cause it to tremble, and when it is thus weakened the vigilant adversary will surely send a blast of temptation against it, and great will be the soul’s peril.
Let us, therefore, look well to the foundations of our faith–study the doctrine and get a clear intellectual conception of every element of divine truth which the inspired Word presents to the people of God; let us become rooted, grounded, settled, established in the faith, the doctrines of God, and hold them fast: they are the divine credentials; and let us give earnest heed to them, lest at any time we should let them slip.– Heb. 2:1.
But having the doctrines clearly comprehended as foundations of faith, we need also to look well to the superstructure of heart reliance, which is really in greater danger from storms and floods than are the foundations, being more constantly exposed. The Apostle Peter tells us that a tried, proved faith, a faith that has stood the tests of fiery ordeal and come off victorious, is very precious in the sight of God. That is, that every time we pass through a conflict and still retain, not only the truth, but also our confidence in God and reliance upon his promises in the dark as well as in the light, our integrity of heart and of purpose, and our zeal for truth and righteousness, our characters have grown stronger, more symmetrical and more Christ-like, and hence more pleasing to God, who is thus subjecting us to discipline for this very thing.
Therefore, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Pet. 4:12,13.) It is worthy of notice here that special reference is made, not to the tests of intellectual belief brought about by the presentation of false doctrine, but to reproaches and persecution for Christ’s sake, either for adherence to his doctrines or conformity to his righteousness; for, the Apostle adds, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” He warns us to take heed only that we suffer not as evil-doers, “Yet,” he says, “if any man suffer as a Christian [that is, either for Christian principles or Christian doctrine], let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
The Prophet Daniel also says that particularly in this time of the end, “many shall be purified and made white and tried;” and Malachi (3:2,3) compares the trials of this time to the “refiner’s fire” and to “fuller’s soap,” which are designed to refine and purify the Lord’s people. The Apostle Paul urges that we fight the good fight of faith, and patiently endure afflictions to the end. (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:3.) And many are the words of consolation and blessed comfort offered by the Psalmist and others to the tempest-tossed and suffering people of God.–See Psa. 77:1-14; 116:1-14; 34:19; 31:24; 2 Thes. 3:3.
Are you then, dear brother or sister, hard pressed on every side with temptations to doubt that God’s protection, love and care are yours, that his precious promises belong to you? have you grown discouraged and disheartened? do the foes seem too many and too strong for you? do the reproaches come with crushing weight, and do the clouds hang heavy over your seemingly defenseless head? Ah, it is just here that faith must claim her victory! Is it not promised, “This is the victory that overcometh,… even your faith?” It is your faith that is on trial now. In the calmer days when the sun of favor shone brightly upon you, you were quietly laying the foundation of a knowledge of the truth, and rearing the superstructure of Christian character. Now you are in the furnace to be proved: summon therefore all your courage; fortify your patience; nerve yourself to endurance; hold fast to your hope; call to mind the promises, they are still yours; and “cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.” “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,” “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him,” and faith has gained her victory. Then in due time the Lord’s hand will be recognized in making all things work together for good to you according to his promise. This proof of your faith, says Peter, is more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire. <1822>
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!
It’s a fact and one supported by Scripture, that when a person sets out to serve God he is going to meet with a great deal of trouble, and this trouble will be in addition to any that he may meet with in the ordinary course of life. This being so, he must consider if he will be able to stand against the apparently overwhelming pressure of persecution and trouble. He might put it somewhat in this way—”If I take up this service and swear allegiance to God, shall it be only to fall under the fiery trials that shall come upon me!”
This question may be answered by another—”If there is additional pressure brought against me, shall I not receive additional protection against it?”
If we look to the Scriptures we shall soon find that for all who decide to serve Him, God has made ample provision in every way. Even in the natural order of things when a man offers bis service to the King, after the first necessary steps have been taken the man is accepted and sent off to camp where he receives his equipment. So with the Christian: after the first necessary steps have been taken, he is accepted; and, taking up the new mode of life, he receives his equipment. It is to this equipment that I wish particularly to draw your attention; and if we look at Eph. 6:13-17 we shall see that part of this equipment is a whole protective armor—
“Wherefore take unto you the whole amour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”—Eph. 6: 13-17.
There is no room here to doubt the completeness of the armour, and seeing that we live in the evil day we do well to take heed to the Apostle’s exhortation and take unto ourselves this armour of God.
The Girdle of Truth
First we have the girdle of truth. What is truth? Is it fully able to sustain? and is it perfect in its
working? The Scriptures abundantly declare that truth is one of God’s attributes; that being so, truth is unlimited. One of the most important truths to take is in 1 Tim. 2: 3-6—
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come Unto the [accurate] knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time .”
These are very definite statements. “There is one God.” Both the Old and the New Testaments
agree on this. In Deut. 4: 35 we have the word of God through Moses—
“The Lord he is God, there is none else beside Him .”
Verse 39— “The Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.” Deut. 6: 4—“Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord .”
In Mark 12: 29 we have Jesus Himself quoting these words in answer to one of the scribes—
“And Jesus answered him: The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”
These will suffice to show that there is but one God. “And one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The Apostle has certainly given us very plain language in these verses. Heb. 8: 6 bears out the fact that Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant. Speaking of Jesus as a” high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec the Apostle says—
“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”—Heb. 8: 6.
“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament Tor covenant.”—Heb. 9: 15.
“And to Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant.”—Heb. 12: 24.
So far we have got two links in the girdle of truth. I t would take far too long at present to detail to any extent the whole amount of truth we can obtain, but this will give us a start; and in further examining the armour we shall find a good deal more of truth will make an appearance.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
Take now “the breastplate of righteousness.” One of the first texts we come across is Rom. 3: 10—
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” Consider this for a moment. Of all people there is not one righteous, and we may well enquire how shall we put on this breastplate of righteousness ? How is it obtained? Can we attain to it ourselves? That we cannot attain to it by any works of our own is quite clear. Look at the case of Abraham—
“For what saith the Scripture! Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”—Rom. 4: 3.
This is the only way in which we can obtain righteousness; it is imputed unto us through our belief in God—
“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”—Bom. 4: 23-25.
“We are justified by faith”, the Apostle says in Rom. 5: 1. If we believe God, we must believe that His Son died for our sins and was raised for our justification. In Rom. 5: 8, 9 and 3: 21-24 the Apostle explains this justification through Jesus in a very excellent manner—
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Christ Jesus unto all them that believe; for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
In verse 21 the Apostle says that there is now no need of the law to show forth the righteousness of God by demonstrating, as it were, the unrighteousness of those that were under the law. The law was but a shadow of good things to come, and witnesses with the prophets to the righteousness of God, in that he has provided a way of escape for us from sin by faith in Christ Jesus. Not that we can altogether cease from committing any sin at all; we cannot do that entirely,
because of the weakness of the flesh which lusteth against the Spirit; but as far as in us lies we must be dead to sin, and if so be that at any time we do sin, provided that we sin not wilfully, we do not come under the penalty of death (as was the case under the law). Under the terms of the New Covenant we can apply for forgiveness through Christ Jesus, in whom we have not only our Mediator, but also an Advocate with the Father.
Feet Shod with the Gospel of Peace
The gospel of peace brings forth more of the truth as related to ourselves and to others. In speaking to the disciples on one occasion shortly before he was betrayed, Jesus said (John 14: 27)—”Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Again, in Phil. 4: 7, Paul says—”And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Now we know that whereas we were once enemies of God, Christ hath by His sacrifice arranged the way by which we may be reconciled to God; therefore we, having accepted this means of reconciliation, are no longer enemies but children. “We live in peace with God; and, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to manifest the fruit of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance. The wisdom that is from above is first
pure, then peaceable; says the Apostle James.—Eph. 2: 11-18; Gal. 5: 22, 23; Jas. 3 : 17, 18.
We have the peace of God in our hearts, therefore we should manifest peacefulness in all our actions. To this we are exhorted in Rom. 14: 19—”Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” These things that we should follow after and seek to attain to as much as possible are well laid out in the Scripture; for instance, after speaking of various evil things Paul says:—
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”— 1 Tim. 6: 11.
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which’ no man shall see the Lord.”—Heb. 12: 14.
“Flee also youthful lusts’; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”—2 Tim. 2: 22.
That is to say, while first in harmony with God’s people, we shall as much as in us lies follow peace
with all men, and we should carry to them the gospel of peace.
“We have ceased from our own works of unrighteousness, and we have undertaken the works of God; and, and peace of God” as stated in Heb. 4: 9, 10—
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he hath also ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefor to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”
This rest will not be limited to the present life, but if we continue in the works of God now until the close of this life, and are accounted by the grace of God worthy, we may certainly expect that we shall be given greater powers in the next life, and continue in the works of God, having entered into eternal peace and rest.
There is a far broader view of the gospel of peace than,we have seen as yet, which will extend over the whole people, when “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord \s.” (Psa. 22: 27, 28.) This is- corroborated in-—
“Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: All nations shall serve him.”—Psa. 72: 11.
“Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; ami shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.”—
Psa. 86: 8-10.
All the kindreds of the nations with the kings shall remember, and turn, and serve, and worship God. This being so, they will all enter into harmony and peace with each other and with God.
The Shield of Faith
Without the quality of faith we cannot accomplish anything; we might have a very good knowledge of God and His purposes, but that would not be of any benefit if we had no faith. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We must believe and obey what we have been permitted to learn from the Scriptures, and this belief of and obedience to what we cannot see constitutes faith. The effect of faith on the Christian is very apparent when we consider that—
By faith we are the children of God.
By faith our hearts are purified.
By faith we are sanctified.
By faith through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness.
By faith we shall live.
Armed with the shield of faith we are able to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” The evil day is the day of trouble and temptation, the day in which one is in the most danger of doing evil. We do well to watch ourselves and check our actions. (For) Even a child is known by his doings. Whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. (Prov. 20: 11.) So we must be careful to keep under, to purge out, such things as pride, anger, hatred, envy, talebearing, lying, idleness. A few of the Proverbs will show us the effect of these evils and their contraries— “When pride cometh, then cometh shame; but with the lowly is wisdom.”—Prov. 11: 2.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”—Prov. 15: 1.
“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”— Prov. 10: 12.
“Let 0ot thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all day long. (Or, a better translation has it) but let it envy in the Lord all the day long.”—Prov. 23: 17.
“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”—Prov. 11: 13.
“Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.”—Prov. 12: 22.
“Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger. He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.”—Prov. 19:-15, 16.
“Be ye kind one to.another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”— Eph: 4: 32.
We have now seen quite a good deal concerning the armour of God, and there can be no doubt about its being able to sustain and keep safe those who receive it even though the day is evil. That the truth is also quite perfect in its working is directly stated in Psa. 19: 7-9
“The doctrine of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul: The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: The judgments of the Lord are truth, and righteous altogether.”— Psa. 19: 7-9.
The Helmet—the Hope of Salvation
The helmet is another important piece of the armour. It is the hope of salvation, and this hope must rest on a sure foundation. The basis of salvation is very elearlv set out in Rom. 10: 9; 1 Cor. 15: 1-4; 1 John5:9-12
” T h a t if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt bo saved.”
“Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
“If we receive the witness of men the witness of God is greater: for this is the, witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the “Son of God hath the witness in himself; he’ that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because b.9 believeth not the record that” God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life .”
After one recognises the need of salvation and receives through the blood of the New Covenant forgiveness and life, he receives also the gift of the Holy Spirit—”Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”—1 John 4: 13.
To become actual partakers of the promises of the life to come we must be faithful and overcome in this life. if we do this successfully we shall become joint-heirs of Christ in the Kingdom, to rule and to reign with Him a thousand years, and help forward the great plan of God for the blessing of all the families of the earth, and so to bring to its culmination in peace and glory the most perfect will of God. Shall we not with this grand prospect in view, of so wide a salvation of so great glory, be faithful and overcome? Let us take unto ourselves the whole armor of God, and keep it shining bright, so that we may stand in the evil day. May the God of all grace keep, strengthen, and sustain us by Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Weapons Offensive
We have just been hearing from the previous speaker how necessary it is for the soldier to have an armour on, and also what a splendid and effective one has been provided for all who are engaged in this glorious fight, with which to defend ourselves.
But there is something more to be considered; and that is, all those who take part in this fight of faith have not,only to defend themselves from attacks by the enemy, they have also (to use a saying that we are all familiar with at the present time) to “take the offensive,” and with all our armour on carry the war right into the enemy’s ranks.. To do that we must not only have ourselves shielde’d with the armour, but. must use the weapons that are provided for all good soldiers of the King. And these weapons are to be used both when we are attacked by the enemy and when we do the attacking.
The weapons that are provided for the soldiers are very powerful and effective, and indeed they would need to be when we consider what a very subtle enemy we have to fight against, who is ever on the alert to try and deprive us of this faith, which means so much to us, which Paul enjoins Timothy to so earnestly engage in, and which he himself throughout his Christian life so bravely fought and won.
In Eph. 6: 17 we have mention of one of the weapons that we are to use—”The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” A sword is a weapon with a very sharp edge, and it would be of no use to a soldier unless it were sharp—either to defend himself with, or to attack the enemy. Hence the sword of the Spirit would represent something very sharp and cutting.
Heb. 4: 12 gives us a good description of how sharp the Word of God is, still using the symbol of the sword—” For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Nothing could be mope penetrating than that.
Having been told that we are to take this weapon and make good use of it, the first thing we must do is to learn how to use it; for one who is ignorant of how to use a weapon would have no chance against an expert on the enemv’s side.
In modern warfare men are trained in the use of the weapons they are to handle. It would not be of any use to put a man in charge of, say, a big gun such as the nations are using at the present time, if he had no knowledge of it. These men make a study of that gun, they set themselves to learn all its different parts, and how they are fitted and used. In short, they learn all they can about it, so that they can* use that gun with the best effect. And so it is with the. soldiers of the Cross. They must get acquainted with the Scriptures; they must believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures as spoken of*bv Peter (2 Pet. 1: 21), and also by Paul (2 Tim. 3 : 16)— “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” Having begun there, they must set themselves to have a thorough knowledge of the word of God. It is only by so doing that we will be able to use the sword of the Spirit in the most effective way.
Our Lord is a beautiful example to us in the way He defeated the devil, who came to Him with temptations in the wilderness. Our Lord answered him every time by reference to the Scriptures—” it is written”—and the devil had to leave Him. We also should so study the Word of God that we may be able to resist and defeat the enemy by our knowledge of the Word.
That knowledge of the inspired Word is very necessary is shown to us in John 14: 26, where our Lord said that the Holy Spirit would “bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” The Holy Spirit could not bring to our remembrance things which we had never known. But how often have we proved these words when delivering the message of glad tidings. The text of Scripture that we had read instantly comes to our mind, and we are enabled to use it to the best advantage. Our Lord constantly answered the Pharisees and other Jews by referring to the inspired Word, and so silenced them.
The Sword turned Inward
Not only must this sword of the Spirit be used to drive off the enemy that attacks us from outside, it must also be turned in on the enemy that is within. In Heb. 4: 12, already quoted, the Word of God is referred to as being “sharper than any two-edged sword,” and as ” a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” We know that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17: 9), the heart being looked upon as the centre of our being. We read that “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. 10: 10), and it is in the heart that there is- the danger of one of the most subtle enemies we have to contend with getting a footing, that is, unbelief; for once let unbelief get uppermost, and our faith is gone.
The 3rd and 4th chapters of Hebrews deal largely with that particular enemy, which overcame the Israelites in the wilderness; and we are told to ‘ ‘ take heed lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief (Heb. 3 : 12), and also 4: 11, 12—”Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.” So we must use this weapon, and let it penetrate right to the inmost recesses of our heart, and cut and destroy everything there that would endanger our faith.
The Prayer Weapon
Prayer is another valuable weapon, and is an absolute necessity to the believer if he hopes to win in the fight of faith. It is a powerful weapon, as we heard— . “Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees.”
The child of God is too weak in his own strength to do battle with the enemy of his soul, whose purpose is to wreck if possible the faith of that one; but with the weapon of prayer the believer has no need to fear; for our Heavenly Father, to Whom we look for strength, is well able to keep us and help us to resist the onslaughts of the Evil One. But the Lord will be enquired of, and it is by prayer we enquire of the Lord.
Our blessed Saviour had recourse to prayer very often in His earthly life, and if our Lord, Who was perfect and holy, had need of it, how much more we, who are so very imperfect and prone to fall into sin, have need to use it. Our Lord taught us to pray that we might not be led into temptation, but might be delivered from evil, and also He specifically enjoined His disciples to “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. “—Matt. 6: 13; Mark 13: 38.
We see, then, that prayer is a safeguard against falling when the adversary assails us with his temptations, one of which is to make us falter in our faith, and, if possible, overthrow us completely.
We can all look back in our experience in the faith and remember how at times our feet came nigh to slipping, and doubts and fears alarmed us. We felt our strength gone, as the opposing forces of evil closed in on us, but we remembered that God our Father was very ready and willing to help all those who sought His aid, and that we could come boldly to the throne of mercy and find grace to help in time of need; and by doing so, by using this weapon of prayer, the opposing forces fell back, our faith was strengthened, and we were enabled to continue in the good fight.
It is by prayer that we keep ourselves in the love of God—”But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God.”—Jude 20, 21.
Prayer to Assist Others
Not only have we to make use of prayer for ourserves, but also for others, that they also may be enabled to continue in the good fight. Our Lord set us the example when He prayed for the disciples; so we ought to pray for one another.
The Apostle Paul, in his epistles to the Church, often asked that the brethren would pray for him, and he told the Colossian brethren that he never ceased to pray for them. He was very eager that they might all stand fast in the faith. He knew the value of prayer, and so exhorted them all to pray without ceasing. If we are to kill the influences of the evil forces around us, we must keep our minds in the attitude of prayer.
It does not matter where we are, in our homes, at our daily occupations, riding in trams or trains, there can always be communion between our hearts and God. It is in this way that we can render harmless all the darts of the evil one.
It is said that electricity travels at the rate of 17,000 miles a second. That is marvellously quick travelling. But sincere, earnest prayer travels-quicker than that to the Throne of Grace; and when we appeal for help to resist the evil one the help comes at once. Let us then, dear friends, avail ourselves of this most powerful weapon.
Another weapon often alluded to in the Scriptures is the arrow. Arrows have very sharp points, and, when shot out of a bow, can pierce very deep. In Psa. 45: 5 we read—”Thine [that is, God’s] arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies, whereby the people fall under thee.”
What are these arrows? We know it does not mean literal arrows or darts, such as were used in ancient warfare; therefore they must have a symbolic meaning.
Psa. 64: 3 gives an explanation of the meaning of “arrows.” It is speaking of the workers of iniquity— ” Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: that they may shoot in secret at the perfect.”
In verse 7 we read that “God shall shoot at them [the wicked] with an arrow: suddenly shall they be wounded.” As arrows in the hands of the wicked are said to be bitter words, that they hurl at the believer to wound him, we can depend upon it the arrows of the Lord are sharp and piercing truths that will sink deep into the hearts of the people who are against Him.
Some people are of the opinion that God being a God of love, they can go on and do as they like, and God will not punish them; but Psa. 7: 11-13 says— “God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, He will wbet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against his persecutors.”
And, as we have previously seen, they are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies. We should never be guilty of using the arrows of the wicked; that is, bitter words spoken in malice to wound each other. The arrows we are to use are words of divine truth—from the inspired Scriptures —which will pierce the hearts of those who try to oppose us in our war against evil, and perhaps be the means of bringing them to see their error and turn them from their wickedness into the way that will lead them unto God.
Not Carnal Weapons
Now, although we have been talking about warfare and weapons, such as swords and arrows, it is explained in 2 Cor. 10: 3-6 that—”For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal., . . .”
The nations at the present time are warring after the flesh; that is, they arm themselves with carnal weapons, such as tremendous guns, and call to their aid all that science can do for them in getting deadly weapons with which to destroy human life and property.
They array themselves in great armies against each other, in order to obtain a victory over the nations opposing them.
But look at what it says in 2 Cor. 10—Our weapons are not carnal, not the weapons that the nations are using; and our weapons are not used by us to destroy human life and property. Yet they are “mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”
“What are these strongholds that the Sword of the rit and prayer can pull down? In Eph. 6 it is stated that—”We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against . . . the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” and there is no doubt that they are veritable strongholds of evil forces. But we can be confident that our weapons are able to penetrate even there, and Tender those evil forces powerless to conquer the -child of God, who wields these weapons.
Then again what a stronghold unbelief is. It dates back to the very beginning of the human race.
When God said, ” I f thou eatest of the forbidden tree thou shalt surely die,” and Satan said, “Thou shalt not die,” our first parents did not believe God, and so they died.
Unbelief started there, and has continued right down the ages, and everyone who takes up arms in this glorious fight of faith will have that enemy to overcome. It behoves us to make good use of the Word of God and prayer, as only by these means can we hope to get strength to conquer.
Verse 5 goes on to say that the weapons are mighty in “Casting down imaginations,” or reasonings, as the marginal reading has it. We see that arguments are very prevalent in the present day, such as higher criticism, which tries to undermine the faith of the believer in the inspired Word of God, and is one of” the high things that exalteth itself as a fortification against the knowledge of God. But no matter how strong these fortifications are, the weapons that the soldiers of God are provided with are mighty through Him to the pulling down of them.
And this is not all, as the end of the 5th verse says —they are able to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” What a marvellous victory that is; even our very thoughts made captive to Christ! How wonderfully kind is God, Who has provided us with His blessed Word, so that we need have no fear as to the result of our fight, if we only use the weapons in the manner that He has laid down for us to do!
We must be very careful throughout all our warfare, to see that nothing is done in the spirit of hatred or vain-glory with which earthly nations carry on their warfare. We are “not to war for any earthly glory or reward, but what we do must be done for the glory of God, and in the spirit of love to one another, with the view of helping all we can some other believer to fight on to the end against all the powers of wickedness that are arrayed against God, knowing that a rich reward, promised by the Captain of our salvation, awaits the conqueror—with which no earthly glory can be compared; and that is, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as “I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”—Rev. 3 : 21.
God grant that this may be the portion of each one of us!
Do you know that…
The Jewish People are Jehovah’s Witnesses?
The name, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Witnesses of Jehovah, however else used, is a scriptural concept. But to whom did the Lord give this title? Has the Lord instructed Christians to be witnesses for Jehovah, or witnesses for Jesus? There is not a single New Testament scripture that calls Christians the witnesses of Jehovah. On the other hand, the New Testament commissions Christians to be the ‘witnesses of Jesus’ (Acts 1:8; Revelation 20:4) and the ‘ambassadors of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). The commission given to Christians by Jesus was that they should be his witnesses in all the world by preaching the Gospel (Matthew 24:14).
But the Jewish people witnessed for Jehovah in a different way. It was not because Israel preached God’s Word that they were called His ‘witnesses.’ Rather, it was because God revealed His glory to others by the miraculous manner in which he dealt with them.
In three instances in the Old Testament God said to Israel, ‘Ye are my witnesses.’ These three times are to be found in Isaiah 43 and 44. In these two chapters, Isaiah establishes five historic facts concerning who are the ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah.
The ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah… Were delivered from the land of Egypt (Isaiah 43:3) Offered animal sacrifices to the Lord (Isaiah 43:23) transgressed the Law Covenant (Isaiah 43:24,25) Are forgiven for the Lord’s sake (Isaiah 43:25) Are being regathered from all over the world to the Holy Land (Isaiah 43:5,6) These five stated identifications are true only of one people, the Jews! Therefore, it is clear that the Jewish people, the ‘ancient people,’ ‘my chosen’, are the real ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah (Isaiah 44:7; 43:20).
But in case anyone concludes that the Jews have long since forfeited this title, the last scriptural assertion concerning the ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah was a prophecy that is only now in the process of fulfillment. The Jewish people are being regathered from all over the world to the Land of Israel. Their regathering has been motivated not only by religious fervor, as some might have expected, but this does not matter. The Bible reveals that after the Jews are regathered in their Land, then the Lord will bring them through experiences that will gradually increase their faith and enkindle a true religious vitality that will reach their ‘inward parts’ and fit them for their special role in God’s Kingdom on earth (Isaiah 2:1- 4).
How Are the Jewish People the ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah? The Jewish people are the ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah from two standpoints. First,God has revealed His power and glory by the miraculous manner in which He has dealt with them (Isaiah 43:9- 12). God delivered them from Egypt, led them through the Red Sea, sustained them in the wilderness, led them through the River Jordan, gave them the land of Canaan, and made them a nation. During their chastening and dispersion, the phenomenal preservation of the people of Israel over the centuries as a distinct and homogeneous people among nations is itself a miracle of history. They have left blood- stained footprints of martyrdom in every nation they have trod. Neither persecution, nor famine, nor any other force was able to cause them to be assimilated. However, after 2,000 years, contrary to every pattern of history, they are re- established in their homeland, an independent nation. Surely the Lord’s power and glory has been witnessed through this people!
The second way they are the ‘Witnesses’ of Jehovah is how their history proves the validity of God’s Word- the Bible. Every detail of their history has been prophesied and fulfilled…or is in the process of fulfillment. Their original establishment as a nation, their destruction as a nation and dispersion as a people, their regathering, the circumstances of their regathering, their future role, all were prophesied in the Bible. All this detailed fulfillment is an extraordinary witness to the immutability of God’s Word. Therefore, these arethe reasons why the Lord has said of the Jewish People, ‘YE ARE MY WITNESSES, SAITH JEHOVAH.’ Promises to Christians, and to the Jewish People The ‘JWs’ today, like other replacement, theology- believing Christians, do not see any special future for the Jews.
However, ‘from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:28,29 NAS). Since God promised that the Seed of Abraham would inherit the Land and bless all the families of the earth out of Jerusalem (Genesis 22:18,19; Jeremiah 32:41; Isaiah 2:2,3), what right have any Christians to annul this promise? These blessings were never forfeited. These promises are ‘forever’ (Amos 9:14,15). If we say God has cancelled his promises to the children of Israel, what confidence can we have in His promises to us as Christians?
That baptism for those wishing to follow in the footsteps of Christ is a scriptural admonition is not debated. What is debated among various Christian denominations is who should get baptized and for what purpose. Many denominations believe in infant baptism, which we believe is unscriptural.
In any event, a long standing tradition within the Watchtower movement is to ask a few questions to those desiring to get baptized as an outward symbol of their consecration to the Lord and His will.
In the days of Pastor Russell, two simple questions were asked:
Have you repented of sin with such restitution as you are able, and are you trusting in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins and the basis of your justification?
Have you made a full consecration of yourself with all the powers that you possess–talent, money, time, influence–all to the Lord, to be used faithfully in His service, even unto death?
The candidate was then told “On the basis of these confessions, we acknowledge you as a member of the Household of Faith, and give to you as such the right hand of fellowship, not in the name of any sect or party or creed, but in the name of the Redeemer, our glorified Lord, and His faithful followers.”
After the death of Pastor Russell and prior to the year 1985, the questions asked to baptismal candidates did not change much, although they were slightly revised. An example of the questions asked are found in the February 1st 1945 Watchtower:
Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? and have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from Him and through his Ransomer Christ Jesus?
On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption, have you consecrated yourself unreservedly to do the will of God henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God’s Word as His holy spirit makes it plain? (page 44 – Subheading “Questions”)
These same questions were asked of baptismal candidates in 1970 (See Watchtower 1970 pg. 309 par. 20.)
We believe that these questions are proper and in line with what both the prophet John the baptizer and Christ Jesus admonished their followers to do, “Repent, because the Kingdom of Heaven draws near!” – Matthew 3:2; 4:7
However, as the years have gone by and the leadership behind the Watchtower have taken unto themselves certain privileges that rightfully belong to Christ Jesus, they have made drastic changes within the organization. Abusing their authority, and having ursurped the authority of Christ. By their actions they have asserted equal status with Jehovah God Himself. Yet, these changes came subtley and unnoticed by the rank and file members of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Some may ask for an example, and to that we ask, let’s take a look at the baptismal questions and how they have drastically changed since 1985. There is no need to reproduce the original questions as they are quoted above, we do well to look at the new questions asked of baptismal candidates since 1985.
On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?
Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in association with God’s spirit-directed organization? (Watchtower June 1, 1985 pg. 30 par. 3,4.)
You will notice that the original questions and there slight revisions placed emphasis on one being a sinner and in need of a redeemer, that redeemer being Christ Jesus as a means of salvation. A simple and plain stated fact. Scripturally sound.
However, the new questions, (post 1985), are drastically revised. While emphasis in recognizing ones sinfulness in need of repentance is stressed, the atoning blood of Jesus is not. Instead, the emphsis is in recognizing ones association with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. As they are the “spirit-directed organization” mentioned.
Therefore, The candidate is NOT baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, but in the name of the Watchtower, Bible and Tract Society. As there is no emphasis in whom to confess ones sins in order to gain forgiveness, there is no emphasis on accepting Jesus as one’s personal savior, the ONLY name by which we gain salvation. Acts 4:12
While the candidate is led to believe that he is repenting of his sins and dedicating his life in the service of Jehovah, he is in fact doing the opposite, that is dedicating his life in the service of man, the Watchtower leadership. Yet the Watchtower states that “Baptism validates a solemn agreement made with God.” (Watchtower April 15, 1987, page 12)
So we ask, why the change? What prompted the Watchtower leadership to change the questions to their current status? We believe that the new questions are out of character and unscriptural to say the least. The Society states they were changed for simplification but for what purpose?
“Recently the two questions addressed to baptismal candidates were simplified so that candidates could answer with full comprehension of what is involved in coming into intimate relationship with God and his earthly organization.” (Watchtower April 15, 1987, page 12)
An “intimate relationship with God”? Where is that stated in the questions? There is nothing said of one’s intimate relationship with God. Yet, there is stated, one’s intimate relationship with the spirit-begotten organization.
We may ask then to what is baptism a dedication? Let’s look at the Watchtower to gain some insight:
“A Christian, therefore, cannot be baptized in the name of the one actually doing the immersing or in the name of any man, nor in the name of any organization, but in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit. This shows, among other things, that Christianity is not a denominational affair, that sects have nothing to do with it. “Does the Christ exist divided? Paul was not impaled for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.”—1 Cor. 1:13-15, NW”. (Watchtower July 1, 1955, page 411)
One would think the leadership would reread that issue of the Watchtower or perhaps reread the July 1, 1955 issue, (pg. 411 par. 15)
“We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicate ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself. This makes dedication a very personal relationship between us and Jehovah.”
Yet, the questions state the opposite, instead of a personal relationship between “us and Jehovah” it is a personal relationship between “us and the spirit-directed organization” namely, the Watchtower Society.
Objection is often raised even by some sound in the faith-regarding the exposure of error as being entirely negative and of no real edification. Of late, the hue and cry has been against any and all negative teaching. But the brethren who assume this attitude forget that a large part of the New Testament, both of the teaching of our blessed Lord Himself and the writings of the apostles, is made up of this very character of ministry-namely, showing the Satanic origin and, therefore, the unsettling results of the propagation of erroneous systems which Peter, in his second epistle, so definitely refers to as “damnable heresies.”
Our Lord prophesied, “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Within our own day, how many false prophets have risen; and oh, how many are the deceived! Paul predicted, “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch.” My own observation is that these “grievous wolves,” alone and in packs, are not sparing even the most favored flocks. Elders in these “perilous times” will do well to note the apostle’s warning: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the holy Spirit hath made you overseers.”
It is as important in these days as in Paul’s-in fact, it is increasingly important-to expose the many types of false teaching that, on every hand, abound more and more. We are called upon to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” while we hold the truth in love. The faith means the whole body of revealed truth, and to contend for all of God’s truth necessitates some negative teaching. The choice is not left with us. Jude said he preferred a different, a pleasanter theme-“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3, 4).
Paul likewise admonishes us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). This does not imply harsh treatment of those entrapped by error-quite the opposite. If it be objected that exposure to error necessitates unkind reflection upon others who do not see as we do, our answer is: it has always been the duty of every loyal servant of Christ to warn against any teaching that would make Him less precious or cast reflection upon His finished redemptive work and the all-sufficiency of His present service as our great High Priest and Advocate. Every system of teaching can be judged by what it sets forth as to these fundamental truths of the faith. “What think ye of Christ?” is still the true test of every creed. The Christ of the Bible is certainly not the Christ of any false “-ism.” Each of the cults has its hideous caricature of our lovely Lord. Let us who have been redeemed at the cost of His precious blood be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” As the battle against the forces of evil waxes ever more hot, we have need for God-given valour. There is constant temptation to compromise. “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” It is always right to stand firmly for what God has revealed concerning His blessed Son’s person and work. The “father of lies” deals in half-truths and specializes in most subtle fallacies concerning the Lord Jesus, our sole and sufficient Savior.
Error is like leaven of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died. Exposing error is most unpopular work. But from every true standpoint it is worthwhile work. To our Savior, it means that He receives from us, His blood-bought ones, the loyalty that is His due. To ourselves, if we consider “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” it ensures future reward, a thousand-fold. And to those “caught in the snare of the fowler”-how many of them God only knows-it may mean light and life, abundant and everlasting.