LV. May/June 1972 No. 3
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, ... " - Acts 2:1.
DURING the space of forty days following his resurrection our Lord Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples by many infallible proofs, speaking with them of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. At length the time came for him to take his last leave of them and ascend to the Father. Just before doing so, he gave them final instructions. They were to return from Olivet to Jerusalem, there to remain until they had received the Promise of the Father. "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Instead of perplexing themselves with questions as to when the Kingdom was to be restored to Israel, they were to expect an outpouring of the holy spirit which would fit them for the ministry -- that ministry in which angels would fain engage -- of carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth. "Ye shall receive power, when the holy spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1: 8).
*For many of the thoughts and suggestions presented in this article, we gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to David Baron. His able work, "Types, Psalms and Prophecies," has been at our elbow throughout its preparation.
They had not long to wait. When ten days had passed; as soon as the day of Pentecost had fully come, the promise of the Father was fulfilled. (Acts 1:1-12; John 15:26; John 14:17, 26; Acts 2:1).
ISRAEL'S SEVEN FEASTS
The Feast of Pentecost was one of the seven "feasts" or "appointed seasons" or "holy convocations" of Israel, all of which occurred in the first seven months of their ecclesiastical year (Lev. 23:4, margin). First came the Feast of Passover, on Nisan 14. Next came the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days. On the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 16, the Feast of Omer, or presentation to Jehovah of the Sheaf of Firstfruits, took place. Fifty days thereafter came Pentecost, the very word "pentecost" meaning fifty. The remaining three festivals were all appointed for the seventh month, and were, respectively, those of Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.
THE FEAST OF PASSOVER
Not only are the details of the ceremonies observed at these seven holy convocations full of meaning, but the order in which they took place is significant, revealing the sequence in which the various stages of God's great plan of redemption were to unfold themselves. Readers of this journal are well aware that the passover lamb was a type of our Lord Jesus. Indeed, in our "Memorial" celebration, we are reminded of this by the Apostle: "Christ [Jesus] our Passover [Lamb] is sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7).
THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
We see, too, how this first feast stands related to the second as cause to effect, for if the paschal lamb sets forth the anointed Jesus as our Passover Lamb slain for us, in order to bring us pardon, peace, and new life, the feast of unleavened bread was designed to prefigure the holiness of that new life. From the moment the paschal lamb was slain, the Jew had to put away all leaven (type of sin) from his dwelling, and we read: "Whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel" (Ex. 12:15). So it is in the spiritual reality which the type prefigures. It is Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away our sins and brings us pardon and reconciliation; but associated with this truth is another: "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2:19); or, as the Apostle, with the Old Testament type in mind, expresses it, "Christ [Jesus] our Passover [Lamb] is sacrificed for us, therefore [or, "so that"] we should keep the feast" -- the feast, namely, of unleavened bread, the bread of sincerity and truth.
THE SHEAF OF FIRSTFRUITS
In the feast of Omer, or the presentation of the first sheaf of ripe barley to God, there is no doubt Israel was taught to acknowledge God's power and bountifulness, and thus by a representative "firstfruits" to consecrate to him the whole harvest. All the Jewish festivals were in connection with the natural seasons of the year; with the harvests which God gave unto his people; with the outward blessings with which he surrounded them. But here too the earthly and visible is the symbol of greater and deeper spiritual realities. There is another harvest field for the first ripe fruit of which the Lord of the harvest (Jehovah himself) had long been waiting; a harvest of which Christ Jesus was the firstfruits. "Now is Christ [Jesus] risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). It was on the third day after the Lamb of God was slain (after the corn of wheat which was not content to abide alone, but fell into the ground and died, that it might produce much fruit, John 12:24), that he arose again, and stood forth as the Branch of Jehovah for beauty and glory, and as the fruit of the earth for excellency and for comeliness to his redeemed people (Isa. 4:2, margin). In him we see a glorious new federal Head of our race, coming forth out of the earth, a Sheaf waved from the earth unto' God. Furthermore, when after his resurrection he ascended to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God (John 20:17), it was not only to be accepted for us (Lev. 23:11); to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24); but also, as the pledge and earnest of the harvest to follow -- of the resurrection to life eternal of the whole family of the redeemed of earth.
THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
But before this great harvest of earth's redeemed ones should be reaped, another "firstfruits" was to be presented. Thus St. James writes: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18). In the glorious vision, St. John identifies these "firstfruits" as "an hundred forty and four thousand" standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, "having his [the Lamb's] Father's name written in their foreheads." "These," writes St. John (Rev. 14:1-5), "were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb."
To this gracious feature of our Father's plans and purposes the Feast of Pentecost pointed.
"And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meal-offering unto Jehovah. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave-loaves of two tenths parts of an ephah; they shall be of fine flour, they shall be baked with leaven, for firstfruits unto Jehovah" (Lev. 23:15-18, A. R. V.).
In the light of the two New Testament Scriptures just quoted (James 1:18 and Rev. 14:5) this second "first-fruits" is seen to be full of typical and prophetic significance. The preparation and presentation of the loaves are doubtless emblematic of the Church, and set forth that part of God's Plan which has been in process during this Gospel Age, and which is now, we believe, about to be consummated. The true Corn of Wheat having fallen into the ground and died, it brought forth much fruit, and the result, as set forth in this type is bread -- two loaves which are waved and presented to Jehovah -- for not only is our Lord Jesus the true meal-offering in whom the Father ever finds delight, and who exhibited in the earth the habits and ways of heaven, but his people, his Ecclesia, also are constituted a new meal-offering unto God, that in them, too, traits of heavenly character might be found, and that so, the earth, sown with seed from the harvest field of spiritual Israel, might produce an abundant crop, to our Lord's and the Father's glory.
"TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH"
Two or three significant points in connection with this "new meal-offering" as a figure of the Church, call for our reverent notice. First, in contrast to the Omer, or Sheaf of Firstfruits, presented on the 16th of Nisan, the "Bikkurim" (as this second firstfruit is called) consisted of two loaves.
Of the duplicate character of the emblems two explanations are worthy of special notice. One is that suggested by Brother Russell, as follows: "The two loaves . . . represented the two classes of the consecrated--the overcoming 'little flock,' and the 'great company' of the consecrated servants of God who do not make the 'high calling,' theirs by overcoming the world as they might and should do" (Reprints, R1289, R2271, R5191). The other explanation, presented by David Baron, is that which interprets the type as intended to set forth the two formerly irreconcilable elements - Jew and Gentile - made one in Christ.
Both of these explanations appeal to us as having merit. It would be interesting to learn if the author of either was acquainted with the writings of the other or whether their respective conclusions were reached without each having the benefit of an exchange and consideration of each other's views. As to this we have no information. However, while we may not know with certainty just why the loaves were two in number, we may profit from the lessons to be found in both of the interpretations suggested. Certain it is that we need Brother Russell's reminder that in the "little flock," to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the Kingdom, only overcomers will be found, and if we frequently pause to meditate on this exhortation, it will stimulate and energize us to "gird up the loins of our mind," to "run with patience the race set before us," to give diligence to "make our calling and election sure" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; Luke 12:32; 1 Pet. 1:13; Heb. 12:1; 2 Pet. 1:10).
IN CHRIST THERE IS NEITHER JEW NOR GENTILE
The other interpretation, too, is not without its valuable lessons, expounding, as it does, the truth so long kept hidden. For this secret of God, which could not have been known apart from revelation, namely that the Gentiles should be partakers of the same promise in Christ, with the Jews -- made "fellow-heirs and of the same Body" -- was not made known in other ages and generations unto the sons of men, as in the New Testament it is revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the spirit (Eph. 3:5, 6). As a matter of fact, until Christ broke down the middle wall of partition, and consecrated a new and living way for both Jew and Gentile through the veil of his rent flesh, no Gentile, even if he was circumcised, and became a proselyte, and surpassed the most pious in Israel in piety and learning, was ever received on terms of absolute equality, and regarded as altogether one with the congregation of Israel. For two thousand years the knowledge of God and the ordinances, of true religion were confined exclusively to the land of Israel. The nations of the earth, with few exceptions, having rejected the opportunities which had been granted to them, were left to reap the consequences of their own apostasy, and given over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:18-32). God's mercies in the meantime were richly lavished on the Jews; they were the chosen depositories of these mercies - the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, all pertained to them (Amos 3:2; Rom. 9:4).
But with the present dispensation, the "spirit dispensation" as the Gospel Age is rightly called, a new order of things commenced. In Christ, that is to say, in the Christ Company, the anointed company of consecrated believers in Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but all are one body. As the Apostle elsewhere declares: "He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; . . . and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:14-18).
As the two Pentecostal loaves combined to make up one offering and were waved as one in the presence of God, so the believing Jew and the believing Gentile, washed in the same precious blood, sanctified and indwelt by the same spirit which teaches both alike to cry, "Abba, Father," and presented by the one great High Priest, are made equally acceptable, and are consecrated as one offering to the service of God.
Writing on the same truth in connection with the exposition of Rom. 11:15, 16, Brother Russell has himself observed: "Oh, the rich depths of God's wisdom and knowledge! How useless for us to try to discover his dealings except as he is pleased to reveal his plans to us. His doings are all mysteries to us except as we are enlightened by his spirit. Who knew this gracious plan, so much beyond human conception? Who helped the Lord to arrange such a plan, think you? This is not human wisdom. God only could be its author. A Jew would never have planned to graft in Gentiles to share the chief blessings of the promise. A Gentile never would have arranged the original stock and branches Jewish and himself a favored graft. No, the plan is clearly of God ... to him be the glory forever" (Reprints, R5533).
(To be concluded in next issue)
- P. L. Read
"His praise shall continually be in my mouth." - Psalm 34:1.
IN PSALM 116, the Psalmist tells of blessings he had received from the Lord. Realizing his responsibility to manifest gratitude in some way, in Psa. 116:12 he asks, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" Then in Psa. 116:13-14 he answers in the way that you and I answer if gratitude and the desire to do God's will are uppermost in our hearts: "I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people."
In former ages as in this age, it required faith to recognize one's debt to God; for, as did Moses, we likewise must "endure, as seeing him who is invisible." Only a "faith that works by love" can prove the heart's devotion; faith itself constitutes the evidence of the unseen realities. Therefore faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), is highly regarded by him as being the evidence in us of a relationship to himself that is not possible to one who must have physical proof of his existence.
To a large extent God's blessings are the common things of everyday life, and are apt to be taken as a matter of course. The enumeration of his blessings would include everything that we have, are, and enjoy. The spark of life we possess is only a remnant of that perfect life which Adam enjoyed, but let some sickness or accident threaten its loss and we will go to any length in trying to preserve it. Our body members and functions may be greatly impaired; but how much we enjoy being able to hear, to feel, to see, to smell, and to use our hands and feet in the many things of daily life necessary to our comfort and happiness. How many ever stop to think that every temporal blessing, and everything that is good in life's experiences, has come to us from God: not very many, we feel sure, considering mankind as a whole. Furthermore, not many realize the significance or the greatness of the blessing bestowed upon us in our ability to look ahead, to hope and plan for the future. The realities of the life to come, which we can now visualize only by faith, based on the promises of God's Word, far surpass anything we have seen or imagined. Paul, quoting from Isaiah 64:4 says: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9). Can we contemplate the innumerable blessings received, and the grace divine in making such ample provision for our eternal welfare and happiness, and not desire to make some return in service, in obedience and loyalty to show appreciation for the same?
"What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me"? Suppose that we put the question in a slightly different form, and ask: "What do I have that I can render unto the Lord that will be acceptable to him?" A similar question was asked in Israel by the Prophet Micah (Micah 6:6, 7), when, in showing the futility of their tithes and offerings as a means of pleasing God, and after recounting some of God's blessings to them, he says: "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" God had been very meticulous about these offerings in the making of types. But Micah shows that they were of no value as evidence of personal worthiness on the part of the Israelites. Likewise, all that we possess in time, talent, and means, would be of no value to God; for he is rich, he does not need our mite.
"MY SON, GIVE ME THINE HEART"
But there is something which we can render unto the Lord that he will value very highly -- something that will mean more to him than would untold wealth if we had it to offer -- and that is the sincere love and gratitude of our hearts, made manifest in service, loyalty, and obedience to the extent of our ability. Through one of his messengers God says to us: "My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways" (Prov. 23:26). If love and gratitude are the motivating characteristics that prompt us to dedicate ourselves and all we possess to the doing of God's will, even though it be little in material value, it is precious in his sight, and through the merit of Jesus it is accepted as a perfect offering.
In types under the Law, God made it plain that blemished and imperfect offerings were not acceptable. Therefore when we offer ourselves in a full consecration unto Gad, our sacrifice can be approved by him only through the merit of our great High Priest, whose blood makes our offering holy and acceptable. God's acceptance of our consecration has resulted first, in our being baptized into, Christ through the anointing and begetting operation of his spirit, which was preceded by the drawing and enlightenment of the spirit (John 6:44, 45).
"THE FELLOWSHIP OF HIS SUFFERINGS"
Then secondly, in coming into Christ we are figuratively decapitated, for he becomes our head; if faithful unto death, we are of the class seen by John under the altar (Rev. 6:9; 20: 4). Thirdly, we are given the great privilege of participation in his suffering and death (Rom. 8:17; Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 2:11, 12). The death we die after coming into Christ could not be for our own sins, nor because of the sin of Adam, for the death of Jesus has satisfied that penalty (Rom. 8:1; Heb. 2:9). Paul says: "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" His was a death of sacrifice on account of sin. "If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection . . . For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:3-11). Whatever interpretation we may give to portions of this text, it is clear that we share the experiences of our Lord, partaking of his death and resurrection.
By keeping the law Jesus acquired the right to human life and inheritance, and in accord with the purpose of God he will use this right to purchase redemption for Adam and his progeny. In reward; for his willingness to sacrifice himself in rendering full loyalty and obedience to the doing of the Father's will, Jesus has been given the Father's own nature and fullness, and has been exalted far above all else in Creation. Jesus knew that his Father always rewarded faithfulness but seemingly he did not know the extent of the Father's reward for himself, for he prayed to be restored to his former position, but instead was exalted far above what he had been.
During the three and a half years that he was proving his right to be man's redeemer, Jesus was also being developed and fitted spiritually to be a merciful High Priest (Heb. 2:10, 17, 18). But the really astounding thing in this beneficence of God is that the body members of Christ are to become joint-heirs with him in the great reward given him by the heavenly Father. If our faith is strong enough to lay hold of this gratuitous grace of God and to run with patience the race that is set before us, then God will deal with us as sons.
In coming into Christ, a fourth thing that occurs is the relinquishment of all earthly hopes of inheritance. Our sacrifice which takes place prior to our becoming the blessers of mankind was pictured by the Levites, who relinquished their opportunity of inheritance in the land of Canaan that they, in replacing the firstborn of Israel, might be used of God as priests and helpers of the priests to minister to their brethren (Num. 8:5-19). A fifth thing that occurred when we were baptized into Christ, was the beginning of a development as "new creatures," with spirit life and the hopes of a heavenly inheritance as our prospect, instead of the earthly blessings we would have received as men. This was a radical change and is one of the "all things that have become new" to us (2 Cor. 5:17).
A sixth thing that came to us, was a change in our abode. While as human beings we still occupy the same body, and may continue to live in the same house, city and country, yet our abode has changed to where the mind of the new creature is, dwelling in intimate spiritual relationship with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6, R.S.V.), for we are delivered from "the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col. 1:13). "For our citizenship belongs to the heavens, out of which we are awaiting a Saviour also, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to his body glorious, in accord with the operation which enables him to subject even the universe to himself" (Phil. 3:20, 21, C.V.). These human bodies are not transfigured. It is the Body of the Christ as a whole, that is conformed to the Head.
'TAKE MY LIFE AND MAY IT BE LORD, ACCEPTABLE TO THEE"
In an acceptable consecration we commit all that we have unto the Lord; we cannot reserve a single earthly -right or possession, for Jesus says: "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33). God does not deprive us of the use of these bodies, these wills, or the earthly things that were once recognized as belonging to us. He makes us stewards, servants that must give an account to him for the way in which we use them (Luke 16:1-11). As regards the things of this world we all, like Paul, "have nothing, yet possess all things" (2 Cor. 6:10). Having committed all unto the Lord, we will not attempt to direct ourselves but will look to our Head for direction. Some criticize the narrowness of this view, and admittedly it is narrow, for Jesus said: "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14).
Our Lord knew that it would be difficult for us to carry out our covenant of sacrifice, for he also found it difficult, and said: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished" (Luke 12:50). Realizing how his powers of endurance were taxed we might hesitate to consecrate and subject ourselves to the wiles of the adversary, who is adept in using the weaknesses of our flesh to trap and discourage us; but we have a power on our side that is equal to any emergency. The Psalmist recognizing this says: "I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord." Help through our Lord Jesus Christ is always available, and if we rely upon that help, we will be able to stand and to expect that victory will attend our strivings.
In the Father's sight we are dead as human beings from the moment our consecration is accepted and our induction into the body of Christ through the operation of the holy spirit is accomplished. But in actual experience the flesh is only reckoned dead, and we find it to be very fearful of the fiery trials that consume it; therefore it must be securely anchored (Heb. 6:19). But what are the cords that will hold it? Will fear of consequences be effective? No! We have seen what a vain cord this has proven to be in the preaching of eternal torment. Will a sense of duty, a full knowledge of doctrine, or even faith and hope in themselves, be strong enough to keep the sacrifice on the altar? No! The only cord strong enough to hold the rebellious flesh in subjection to our covenant, is Godlike love. Faith and hope are also essential to the binding, but "It is the love of Christ that constraineth us." It is love that constitutes the tie that cannot be broken.
"Now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
- John T. Read
"What shall be the sign
of thy presence [mistranslated "coming"],
The signs of the full end of the Age are to be looked for in three special directions or sources. These are:
In all these directions the signs of the complete end are described. The Apostle Paul gives what is probably the most significant sign ... as indicating the change of the Kingdom class. He says: "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25). When it becomes apparent that the truly orthodox of the Jewish people get their eyes open to see that Jesus Christ is their Messiah, and come to an understanding of what is referred to in the Scriptures as the "hidden mystery," that of gathering out the joint-heirs of the heavenly Kingdom from among the Gentiles, which is clearly stated to be the special purpose of God for this Age, during the period of Jewish blindness -- then, and not until then, will the Age reach its full end. Those who will live to witness that may know that the Kingdom in all its power and glory will be ushered in immediately. We believe that some Christians may possibly witness some of the events and developments leading up to and in close proximity to that time.
- R. E. Streeter, Rev. Exp. Vol. II, pp. 627, 628.
THE LONG JOURNEY LIES BEHIND
We are in the position of travelers, approaching a large and to them unknown city, at the end of a long railway journey. They are aware of the distance to be traversed, of the stations to be passed on the way, and of the time required for the transit. The milestones have long shown them that they are rapidly nearing their goal; the time the journey was to occupy has elapsed, and they have observed that the station just passed was the last but one. Yet the terminus in the strange city may have several distinct platforms, separated from each other by short distances; the train may draw up at one or two before it comes to a final stand at the last: they are ignorant of the exact localities in the great metropolis, and hardly know at which station they will be met by their expectant friends. Still they have no hesitation in making their preparations for leaving the carriage, and in congratulating each other with a glad "Here we are at last!" They would smile at the man who should dispute their conviction, though they may be unable to decide whether it will be five minutes or ten, or only two or three, before they actually reach their destination. It is a mere question of minutes and miles; if one platform is not the right one, the next may be; at any rate, the long journey lies behind, the desired goal is all but reached.
- H. Grattan Guinness, Approaching End of the Age, pp. 480, 482.
"A little cloud . . . like a man's hand." - 1 Kings 18:44.
ELIJAH had been answered by the "God of fire"; had vindicated the name of the Lord; had converted a nation in one day. Now there awaited the fruit of that conversion - the ending of the pitiless drought of three and one-half years. He has ascended to the top of Carmel and casting himself down upon the earth, with bowed head, prays. His young lad attendant reaches the highest point of the long ridge of the mountain and, instructed, looks out over the wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea. The boy gazes in the hope that the Prophet's earnest prayer may bring down the long-desired rain. The sun had sunk into the western sea. But after the sunset there followed the long white glow so common in the evenings of Eastern countries. Six times the youthful watcher went up and looked, and six times he reported: "There is nothing." The sky was still calm.
But at last out of the far horizon there arose a little cloud, the first that for days and months had passed across the heavens. It was no larger than an outstretched hand; but it grew in the deepening shades of evening, and quickly the whole sky was overcast, and the forests of Carmel shook in the welcome sound of those mighty winds which in Eastern regions precede a coming tempest. The cry of the boy from his mountain watch had hardly been uttered when the storm broke upon the plain, the rain descended, and the nation was delivered from its sufferings.
Here we have one of those parables of nature which, can be applied in many directions. It expresses the truth that often out of seeming nothingness, there arises the very blessing most desired.
"There is nothing." So it would seem as we look at the small materials with which we have to carry on the conflict with the great powers of nature. "There is nothing." So we say to ourselves when in the blank desolations of sorrow we look on the work that lies before us, feeling alone in the world. "There is nothing." So we think as we look into the vast expanse and see no visible trace of its eternal Maker and Ruler. There is the infinite space, and nothing, as far as we can see, beyond it. There is the perplexity and misery of mankind, and nothing to relieve it. We say, "O that thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down!" and no voice answers us. The silence of God oppresses our spirits.
But courage! Look up, despising not "the day of small things" (Zech. 4:10), for though we may indeed have searched "six times in vain, a "little cloud" even now appears in the heaven of human affairs. "The great events of history" says an acute French writer, "like the mysterious personages in old romances, come through a door in the wall which no one had noticed." And the greatest, unrecognized by mankind (Luke 21:35) is before us. To one divine event, slowly it may be, and uncertainly it may seem, but still steadily onward, the whole creation moves. "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry." "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him" (Heb. 10:37; Rev. 1:7). "The Kingdom. of God is at the doors" (Matt. 24:33; Luke 21:31).
Not to the world only, but to each one of us, "the night is far spent, the day is at hand." Young and old, our time is passing away; we are every one of us drawing nearer to that day when we must face the judge of all mankind. God knows that we all have need of mercy-of his infinite mercy. Everyone who knows his own heart, knows how welcome is any thought that softens the severity of that judgment. How gladly we trust that the love which was manifested in Christ Jesus is indeed boundless, and overflows. "God be merciful to me a sinner" must be the prayer even of the best and purest of men.
We are all of us, young and old, beset more or less by the sophistries, the systems, the schools, the parties, which time and circumstances, which past ages or our own age, have cast up around us, and beside us, before us, and behind us. We are involved in their meshes, we walk in the grooves which they have made for us. We feel it a duty to go on as we have begun, walking round and round our own small circles, seeing only but a short way in advance, thinking much of what lies close before us, little of what lies 'beyond us. Yet none of these things of themselves constitute the whole or the essence of Christianity; Christ is still the pattern of his Church, he is the "little cloud" on the horizon, the harbinger of unnumbered blessings soon to fall upon suffering humanity.
Brethren in Christ, the Truth -- take hope! A new day is dawning; a new order draws nigh! "Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13). Put far from you "childish things," set your feet firmly in the "way of God," and take earnest heed to the words of the Apostle to his "son" Timothy: "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them" (1 Tim. 4:15).
To feel that there is a work before us to be done - to feel that God is with us, and that the world and the things of earth have no power to turn us from our purpose -- to have fears, and hopes, and pleasures, and pains, of which the worldly man knows nothing -- to feel that God in Christ has forgiven us all that is past, and henceforth bids us joyfully serve him in newness of life -- to have within our hearts that divine faculty of love which alone will outlast the great change of death -- to show forth in our characters some trace, however slight, of "the mind which was in Christ Jesus" -- this is to become a new, heavenly, unearthly creature which will survive when all else shall wax old and perish; which will have its abiding place in that "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:13).
- W. J. Siekman
"Behold, he cometh with
clouds; and every eye shall see him,
IN WHAT way will they "see" him; by natural sight or spiritual? In past ages such a question would not arise; the belief then prevalent that our Lord was resurrected in his fleshly human body made it the logical conclusion that he would return in that same body and hence would be seen of men by natural sight. We know today that our Lord was resurrected from the dead in the glory of spiritual nature, a glory that cannot be sensed by natural eyes, and that the human body buried in Joseph's tomb became no part of his present being. It follows therefore that, unless at his return he "materializes" in human form as did the angels in Old Testament days, and as he did himself upon certain occasions between the time of his resurrection and that of his ascension, he must be invisible to human sight, and the fact of his return must be dicerned by other evidences, and he be "seen" therefore by what we call "spiritual sight."
It is not sufficient, though, thus to dismiss further consideration of this Scripture, for the word here is that "every eye shall see him." Some have pointed out that the word is not horao which is said to have the meaning of "discern," but opsetai, which is said to mean the seeing with the natural sight, and hence that the text should be taken literally despite the considerations which have just been expressed. Now in fact both words, horao and opsetai, and their variations, in the New Testament, have both uses, to "see" with the physical eyes and to "see" mentally. Since this is a rather important point, a few instances of the word which is rendered "see" in the text under consideration are given here in order to establish the matter.
In the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint):
And in the Apocrypha:
From these instances -- there are others -- it should be clear that the word is not used necessarily to mean "seeing" with the physical sight; it does on occasion indicate "seeing" with the mental sight, and it does not follow, therefore, that the use of opsetai here teaches that Jesus at his return will be visible to mankind.
The next thing to consider is the thought in John's mind when he wrote the words. What did he intend to convey? What is the understanding that the holy spirit sought to impart to us through John's ready pen?
The verse stands by itself; it has no direct connection either with the preceding or the succeeding verses. It is an ecstatic outburst, as it were, on John's part using the language of the Old Testament. He had written his greeting, a greeting of grace and peace from the Father, the Son, and the angelic host as represented by the archangels, (the "seven spirits before the throne"). He had gone on to extol the One who has both saved us and made us kings and priests, and having concluded this greeting with a deep-felt "Amen" (v. 6), it is as if a new thought strikes him and he exclaims, "Behold, he cometh . ," seeing the ultimate end of all that he had witnessed in vision on Patmos. We should take the verse as being, not a bald, sober statement of physical fact, but a rhapsody of praise for a forthcoming event expressed in familiar Scriptural terms. The words of this verse are repeated from the sayings of Jesus and the utterances of the prophets and it is to those origins that we should turn if we would rightly understand the text.
The memory immediately in John's mind must have been the reply of Jesus to the High Priest, recorded in Matthew 26:64. John was present at that scene (John 18:15) and heard the words. "Hereafter ye shall see (opsontai) the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." That declaration was in turn a direct reference to Daniel 7:13. "One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven ... and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him." Now that verse in Daniel, in common with the whole of the chapter, is quite clearly symbolic; we do not expect that the Most High will seat himself upon an earthly throne and superintend the burning of a literal ten-horned beast! Neither do we expect that the Lord Jesus will literally be brought before a throne of fire in order to receive his Kingdom. And Jesus knew that this was symbolic when he alluded to this wellknown belief before Caiaphas. John knew too when he quoted the words in Revelation 1:7, and there was no doubt in his mind as to the reality of that Coming even though he knew himself to be describing it in terms that were symbolic.
But John's thoughts had ranged further back than the time of Daniel. He had the golden visions of Isaiah in mind, visions in which the same word opsetai is used for the same event. He was thinking of Isaiah 40:5 -- "And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see (opsetai) it together," and of Isaiah 52:8 - "For they shall see (opsontai) eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion." (This latter Scripture refers to the "Watchers" coming as it were "face to face" with the returning Lord, and not, as is sometimes suggested, to the harmony of believers on doctrinal matters at the "Time of the End." "They shall see, eye to eye, the Lord returning to Zion" is the way Margolis translation has it, and this is the thought both of the Hebrew and the Greek of the Septuagint.)
Quite instinctively John associated with these Scriptures another theme, that upon which the prophet Zechariah dwelt when he said (Zech. 12:10) -- "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son." John had already associated that Scripture with a limited fulfillment at the time of the Crucifixion (John 19:37); now he associates it with a greater fulfillment. Not only would the "Watchers" as in Isaiah 52:8, see the Lord returning to Zion; not only would "all flesh," all the world, as in Isaiah 40:5, see the glory of the Lord revealed; not only would the wicked who had risen up for judgment, as in Daniel 7, see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, but those who in John's sight were the furthest of all removed from God -- "they also which pierced him" would experience this same realization of his Return for judgment and conversion. None can escape the Coming of the Son of Man! All are to be brought before him that he might separate them as a shepherd divides between his sheep and his goats (Matt. 25:32). Just as in Zechariah there is a worldwide mourning for an only son so in John's ecstasy he foresaw that "all kindreds of the earth shall wail over him" (not "because of." The word is epi and the thought that of mourners wailing over a dead beloved one.). The correspondence between Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7 on this point is exact.
It should be clear then that since the "seeing" in the Scriptures which gave John his inspiration for this verse in Revelation is not physical, but metaphorical, John is hardly likely to have intended his words here to be interpreted to mean physical sight. "Behold," he says, in the language of his beloved Scriptures, "he cometh with clouds and every eye shall see him:' He knew that the "seeing" in those texts was with the mental sight and it is reasonable to conclude that in alluding to those texts he applied the same meaning to them.
A further confirmation of this viewpoint is the fact that if "they that pierced him" are literally to witness his coming in the clouds of heaven they must be resurrected before the Second Advent takes place. Such a thought is out of harmony with all that we know of the Plan. The Lord comes, first, to raise his own faithful ones. After that, and after he has presented the risen Church before the presence of the Father with exceeding joy, he will be revealed, with his Church, in glory to the world. And only after that will the General Resurrection commence and "they that pierced him" be awakened from the sleep of death to stand before the great White Throne. They will not, they cannot, physically witness his return to earth; but they will "see" him then in exactly the same way that we, now, see, "eye to eye," the Lord returning to Zion.
- A. O. Hudson, Eng.
"The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you." - 1 John 2:27.
THIS subject is of momentous interest to the Lord's people. Their anointing is the means used to transform them from the natural into the spiritual. Without that miraculous agency, none born in the flesh could possibly reach a world invisible to human eyes, for: "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither can corruption inherit incorruption." This gift can neither be purchased by money nor good deeds.
It is granted in fulfillment of God's foreordained design and intention: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (1 Cor. 15:50; James 1:16-18).
Let us consider Adam relative to this matter. First of all there was this difference between him and the animals about him. He was so mentally equipped that no question arose in his mind with regard to the existence of a supreme intelligent Creator. Even so he could not grasp the conditions prevailing in the spiritual world. Consequently, there was but little companionship with the messenger which contacted him from above. This subjection to earthly conditions -- though so congenial and beautiful -- would have been the portion of Adam's progeny as a whole, had not God devised a plan whereby he would bring many sons unto glory (Heb. 2:10).
THE ANOINTING OF JESUS
From Adam we come to Jesus where vital truth is centered. Born of the Virgin Mary, he grew up a carpenter in Nazareth. His mind and body resembled Adam in perfection, but with this difference. Adam lived in a place completely congenial to his makeup. Jesus, on the other hand, found himself in a troubled, dying world beset by sin and ignorance. With the sacred records before him, he began to absorb all that had been outlined by Moses and the Prophets. The result was an inward urge to put things right and which burst into a flame during the ministry of his cousin John. Coming to Jordan, the language of his heart was: "In the volume of the book it is written of me! I come to do thy will, O God! A body thou hast prepared me!" Symbolizing by water immersion the sacrificial death of his perfect humanity, the heavens were opened and the holy spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove and a voice was heard saying: "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased" (Luke 3:21-23; Heb. 10:5-10).
The anointing then received, was dynamic! It so affected Jesus that he wished to be alone in the wilderness. Even natural food was waived aside. He became intensely absorbed in the sacred things which had been so long stored in his mind. Eventually he was able to formulate into one harmonious whole, all that had been prophetically recorded concerning his person and mission. The hitherto hidden meanings of type and shadow, now dovetailed exquisitely. There was seen a symmetrical plan which was so satisfying that he determined to be faithful unto death. Overcoming the wiles of Satan to tempt him to another path, he there and then set his face towards Jerusalem, which, with its temple and sacrifices, betokened his own great sacrifice upon which depended the salvation of the world (Heb. 12:2).
THE SPIRIT DISPENSATION
It is in this light that we see the importance of the anointing. Without it, Jesus could never have understood God's mind and purpose. The same thing applies to his followers. Without this aid, no human being -- no matter how great-hearted or talented -- could comprehend, let alone traverse the way that Jesus went. This was illustrated by the Apostles. How limited and naturally-minded they were, when with him in the flesh. That amazing happening which occurred on the day of Pentecost, made all the difference. They were animated and transformed in a way which astounded themselves and others (Acts 2).
We are reminded that the spirit of God works in various ways. Coming spasmodically upon the Old Testament Prophets, they were moved to record things which they only dimly understood. Though so greatly blessed, these ancient worthies were really servants in advance to the family of priests who would be instructed in the things they had recorded for their particular benefit. The anointing of saints, however, was vastly different. Among other things it brought about the spirit of sonship whereby trustfully and affectionately they would cry: "Abba, Father!" An intimate union arose which they alone could comprehend. Among themselves, a relationship resulted of the highest possible order, surpassing even human relationships. Collectively there was "one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one baptism [even unto sacrificial death after the example of their Leader], one God and Father." It was a oneness pictured by Aaron who was anointed with an oil reserved only for the Priesthood. Upon no others must it come. Moreover those who would dare to make anything like it, would be "cut off from the people" (Ex. 30:22-33; Eph. 4:1-5).
THE ANOINTING OIL
Israel's priestly anointing therefore had a spiritual significance. The oil comprised Myrrh, Cinnamon, Calamus, Cassia, and Olive Oil. Myrrh is a balsamic gum possessing curative, antiseptic, and stimulating powers. It proclaims the spirit of high intelligence, reminding us how our Lord went about doing good, healing the sick, and imparting wisdom wherever he went. Cinnamon, being pleasantly aromatic and carminative, represents the soothing and comforting aspects. The same may be said of Calamus and Cassia which are likewise aromatics. These are the things used in connection with an oil which was pressed out of the fruit of the olive tree. Possessing in itself nutritive and lubricating virtues, its value was thereby greatly augmented. From all this, we can more readily understand the meaning of the words Jesus addressed to those present in the synagogue at Nazareth: "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bound, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:16-21).
THE CHRIST COMPANY
The word "anointed" in New Testament Greek is kristos from which Christ is derived. The Scriptures declare that Christ is a composite company with Jesus as the head. A human body is used to portray this aspect (1 Cor. 12). This was foreshadowed in the person of Isaac. He was the only son of Abraham's wife Sarah; the child of promise, destined to inherit all that Abraham had; a wonderful picture indeed when viewed in the light of Romans 8:17. The great love which Abraham possessed for his son, was likewise emblematical. Then there is that dramatic feature of Abraham offering his son upon the altar of sacrifice. True this initially pictured Jesus, but we cannot overlook those repeated statements concerning "suffering with him and being dead with him." These are the things which lend emphasis to the knowledge that "we brethren, as Isaac was, are children of the promise." The complete oneness is likewise indicated by the words: "He saith not, unto seeds, as of many; but of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ . . . and if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:16, 29; 4:28, 31; 2 Tim. 2:11, 12).
Another type of a human being illustrating the same truth, is that of Aaron as a single unit. It gives indication that precisely the same kind of anointing-with all its benign and goodly qualities -- which came upon Jesus, extends also to those who follow in his steps and who have been predestinated in him before the world was. Betokening the complete unity of mind and heart of the whole Christ, the pleasant balsamic oil falling upon the head of Aaron, ran down to the skirts of his garments (Psalm 133; Eph. 1:2-8).
THE PRACTICAL LESSON
Let us now approach that which is essentially practical. We learn that it is one thing for God to bestow this greatest of all gifts: one thing to map out providential leadings; and another for the recipient to gladly and gratefully respond. One may do this for awhile until temptations arise to spoil the fruit. We are told that we are "partakers of Christ i f we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." If, after being anointed, one begins to nurture doubts and fears, or cultivate the weeds of harsh criticism and discontent, this would be disastrous. While ever ready to bless, the Lord does not coerce the will. All, therefore, who slothfully return to their former questionable besetments, are inviting destruction. They are not reciprocating the love of the Infinite One (Heb. 3:4-6; 6:4-9; 10:26-31).
We cannot question God's righteous judgments, but it is a comforting thought to know that numbers who lose their official priestly anointing and who nevertheless still retain a measure of the holy spirit, are given experiences designed to help them to a realization of their vital needs. This brings to light the Great Multitude class as pictured by the Levites who though not priests, had no inheritance in the land. So this company, having given up their human prospects, are to be raised in the spirit realm. They will minister before the throne and not upon the throne (Rev. 7:9-17; Ps. 45: 14, 15; Cant. 8:8, 9; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 5:4-7; Deut. 10:8, 9).
A WORD OF EXHORTATION
Finally a personal word. We are nearing the gates of the celestial city. Wise are we, therefore, in the light of the anointing, to examine ourselves. Happy are we if we look up and, calling to mind the encouraging words of the 103rd Psalm, trust completely in his tender mercies and the sustaining grace centered in Christ Jesus. Dropping all party spirit, let us worship the Lord in "singleness of purpose." With so grand and glorious a prospect before us:
- Frederick Lardent, Eng.
JUST as Scripture distinguishes between the saved and the lost, and between different classes of the one and of the other, so it also distinguishes between the future portion of the Church of Christ, that of the Jewish people, and that of the nations of the earth. Too many in their thoughts of the future leave out this last; the destiny of the Church of this dispensation figures so largely in their anticipations, that they seem almost to forget that "the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world," and to lose sight of the blessed prospect that, not only is the present Church to be saved out of the ruined world, to become the Eve of the second Adam, but that the ruined earth itself is yet to be renewed, and to become the happy home of saved nations, who participate in the results of redemption.
The narrowness which sees nothing but the salvation of the Church of this dispensation is born of human selfishness, and not of Divine love; it is founded not on the teaching of Scripture, but on tradition and prejudice. The Bible in this [the Book of Revelation], its last revelation on the subject, plainly teaches that while the peculiar glories of the Church are hers, and hers alone, that while the special privileges of the natural seed of Abraham belong to Israel, and to Israel only, that there is yet a blessed future awaiting mankind also under the gracious government of Immanuel; that one of the effects of the completed work of Christ will be to place the saved nations of the eternal Kingdom in a restored paradise, completely delivered from the tempter, and so established in righteousness that the Holy One can take up his abode among them for ever. "He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
The salvation of the Church of this dispensation is not the whole result of the death of Christ. There is to be in addition the establishment for ever of a kingdom of God, in which his will shall be as fully done by men on earth as it is now done by angels in heaven. The consummation, for which we daily pray, is destined to come at last; and holy and happy service, without a flaw and without an interruption, is yet to be rendered to God, not merely by the glorified saints of the new Jerusalem, but by redeemed nations on the earth, who walk for ever in the light of the celestial city.
Such is the sublime vista of the future of our race, and of our earth in the eternal ages, with which Scripture closes.
-- H. Gratton Guinness, Light for the Last Days, pp. 617-619.
It is this portion that God has elected to give to the human race. And what a glorious portion! Close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that yet prevail on account of sin, and picture before your mental vision the glory of the perfect earth. Not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. There sickness shall be no more; not an ache nor a pain, nor any evidence of decay -- not even the fear of such things. Think of all the pictures of comparative health and beauty of human form and feature that you have ever seen, and know that perfect humanity will be of still surpassing loveliness. The inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. Such will earth's society be; and weeping bereaved ones will have their tears all wiped away, when thus they realize the resurrection work complete (Rev. 21:4).
And this is the change in human society only. We call to mind also that the earth, which was "made to be inhabited" by such a race of beings, is to be a fit and pleasing abode for them, as represented in the Edenic paradise, in which the representative man was at first placed. Paradise shall be restored. The earth shall no more bring forth thorns and briers, and require the sweat of man's face to yield his bread, but "the earth shall [easily and naturally] yield her increase." "The desert shall blossom as the rose"; the lower animal creation will be perfect, willing and obedient servants; nature with all its pleasing variety will call to man from every direction to seek and know the glory and power and love of God; and mind and heart will rejoice in him. The restless desire for something new, that now prevails, is not a natural but an abnormal condition, due to our imperfection, and to our present unsatisfactory surroundings. It is not Godlike restlessly to crave something new. Most things are old to God; and he rejoices most in those things which are old and perfect. So will it be with man when restored to the image of God. The perfect man will not know or appreciate fully, and hence will not prefer, the glory of spiritual being, because of a different nature, just as fishes and birds, for the same reason, prefer and enjoy each their own nature and element most. Man will be so absorbed and enraptured with the glory that surrounds him on the human plane that he will have no aspiration to, nor preference for, another nature or other conditions than those possessed. A glance at the present experience of the Church will illustrate this. "How hardly," with what difficulty, shall those who are rich in this world's goods enter into the Kingdom of God. The few good things possessed, even under the present reign of evil and death, so captivate the human nature that we need special help from God to keep our eye and purpose fixed on the spiritual promises.
That the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, is an exception to God's general plan for mankind, is evident from the statement that its selection was determined in the divine plan before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 5), at which time God not only foresaw the fall of the race into sin, but also predetermined the justification, the sanctification and the glorification of this class, which, during the Gospel Age, he has been calling out of the world to be conformed to the image of his Son, to be partakers of the divine nature and to be fellow-heirs with Christ Jesus of the Millennial Kingdom for the establishment of universal righteousness and peace (Rom. 8:28-31).
This shows that the election or choice of the Church was a predetermined thing on God's part; but mark, it is not an unconditional election of the individual members of the Church. Before the foundation of the world God determined that such a company should be selected for such a purpose within a specific time -- the Gospel Age. While we cannot doubt that God could have foreseen the action of each individual member of the Church, and could have foreknown just who would be worthy and therefore constitute members of that "little flock," yet this is not the way in which God's Word presents the doctrine of election. It was not the thought of an individual predestination which the Apostles sought to inculcate, but that a class was predetermined in God's purpose to fill the honorable position, the selection of which would be upon conditions of severe trials of faith and obedience and the sacrifice of earthly privileges, etc., even unto death. Thus by an individual trial, and by individually "overcoming," the individual members of the predetermined class are being chosen or accepted into all the blessings and benefits predetermined of God for this class.
- Charles T. Russell, The Divine Plan of the Ages, pp. 191-194.
This was the title of a tract written many years ago by the eminent Bible scholar, J. B. Rotherham, translator of the Emphasized Bible. Evidently an Episcopal minister believes that at least one creed should be ended without further delay. We refer to Rector Charles Lester Kinsolving, Pastor of the Church of Our Savior, Pasco, Washington. In a sermon he declared: "Hell is a damnable doctrine-responsible for a large measure of this world's hatred. According to this doctrine, God, who commands us to love our enemies, plays the hypocrite by damning his enemies. This in turn stimulates the hatred of God by people who abhor hypocrisy - and it gives sanction to our hatred of certain selected enemies."
Needless to say, Pastor Kinsolving came under immediate criticism from those who hold he is departing from the doctrines of the church. However, not everyone so holds, as Time reported:
"Said School Principal Woodrow Epp: 'What Kinsolving said is, in my opinion, completely compatible with what I thought was the Episcopal Church."'
And again: 'Bishop Russell S. Hubbard of the Spokane district ... agreed that Kinsolving's preaching had been 'within the allowable latitude of the church.' Says Kinsolving: 'I held this belief throughout my theological training [Church Divinity School of the Pacific] ... I came into the priesthood to preach the truth as I see it, because I believed this is one of the few churches in which it could be done. And I'd keep on preaching it if I had to preach on the sidewalk."'
Commenting editorially on this "Trouble about Hell," The Restitution Herald observes: "It is high time that ministers of the gospel were examining the doctrines of men, handed down from one erring generation to the next and given stability only by the passing of time and the unwillingness of many to investigate established traditions. It is time for preachers and teachers of the gospel to examine the popular theories of heaven, hell, trinitarian gods, immortal souls, and other dogma foreign to God's Word.
"There will always be those, of course, who will attach to such a seeker for truth the stigma of having forsaken the teachings of the councils, the fathers, and the established church. The truth seeker, however, will be satisfied with nothing less than the authority of the Bible."
In this connection, may we be permitted to once again draw the attention of all, to the booklet "What Say the Scriptures About Hell?" A condensed version of an earlier work bearing the same title, this 40-page booklet confines itself to an examination of every text in the Scriptures in which the word hell occurs. This digest makes it possible for an ever-widening circle of searchers after divine truth to discover that the Scriptural teaching on the subject reveals a God of love and mercy. Booklet is free on request.
"As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time." - Daniel 7:12.
How are we to understand this text?
The vision given to Daniel which he records in chapter 7 is of four beasts which, it was revealed to him, symbolized four kings (Dan. 7:16, 17). Students of the Scriptures have long understood these beasts to represent the four world-governments - the only four mentioned by name in the Word of God - Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome (Dan. 2:38; 8:20; 8:21, and Luke 2:1). These four, as history shows, succeeded each other without any gap and, as the prophecies show, are to occupy the entire interval from Daniel's day to the establishment of the Kingdom of God.*
*See "The ABC of Bible Prophecy" booklet - free on request.
The foregoing is very generally understood. Not so general, however, is the understanding that the first three beasts continue alive long after they lose their dominion. Nevertheless this is clear from the language of Daniel 7, verse 12. As each beast in turn is conquered by its successor, its dominion is taken away but its life is prolonged.
Just when the lives of the first three beasts come to an end is not stated. The implication is that this occurs when both the dominion and the life of the fourth beast are terminated (Daniel 7:26, 11).
This view, furthermore, agrees very well with the parallel prophecy recorded in the second chapter of Daniel. When the stone struck the image in the feet, "then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together" (Dan. 2:35).
In Daniel's vision it is probable that these four beasts emerged from the sea one after another, each in turn being vanquished by its successor. Eventually, however, all four must have been present to his view at the same time since, while the dominion of the first three had been taken away, their lives had been prolonged. How is this distinction between the life and the dominion of the beasts to be understood, as it relates to the four world-empires symbolized?
To us it seems that there is only one satisfactory explanation. It lies, as has been pointed out by an able writer, in recognizing "that prophecy regards the four empires as being as distinct in territory as in time: as distinct in geographical boundaries, as in chronological limits. They rise in a definite sequence; the supreme dominion of one does not in point of time overlap the supreme dominion of the following one, nor is the territory of a former 'beast' or empire ever regarded as belonging to a later one, though it may have been actually conquered. Each has its own proper theatre or body, and the bodies continue to exist after the dominion is taken away. This is distinctly stated, both in connection with the fourfold image and with the four beasts. In the first case the stone falls upon the clay and iron feet only, but the iron legs, the brazen body, the silver breast, and the golden head, are all by it 'broken to pieces together.' Now the empires represented by these have long since passed away. They (as universal empires) cannot therefore be 'broken to pieces' by the Second Advent. But the territory once occupied by them is still existing and still populous, and exposed to the judgments of the day of Christ just as much as Rome itself.
"Similarly we read that the three earlier beasts did not cease to exist when the fourth arose. 'Their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time' (Dan. 7:12). That is to say, the first three empires are regarded as coexisting with the fourth, after their dominion has ended. This proves that they are regarded as distinct in place as well as in time. They continue to be recognized as territorial divisions of the earth after the disappearance of their political supremacy." - H. G. Guinness.
Many years before Guinness, this had been clearly seen by the world's great mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton. In his "Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation," he wrote: "All the four beasts are still alive, though the dominion of the first three be taken away. The nations of Chaldea and Assyria are still the first beast. Those of Media and Persia are still the second beast. Those of Macedonia, Greece, Thrace, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt are the third beast. And those of Europe on this side are still the fourth beast. Seeing, therefore, the body of the third beast is confined to the nations on this side of the river Euphrates, and the body of the fourth beast to the nations on this side of Greece, we are to look for all the four heads of this third beast on this side of the Euphrates, and for all the eleven horns of the fourth beast among the nations on this side of Greece; and therefore, in the breaking up of the Greek empire into four kingdoms, we include no part of Chaldea, or Media and Persia in these kingdoms, because they belong to the body of the first two beasts. Nor do we reckon the Greek empire, seated at Constantinople, among the horns of the fourth beast, because it belongs to the body of the third."
This principle of identifying governments not only chronologically but geographically -in accordance with the territory originally occupied -- is helpful in reaching a proper understanding not only of this prophecy but of others. As above noted, it has proven a safe guide in the identification of the ten horns (or kingdoms) of the fourth beast (or empire) which must "none of them be sought in the realms of the third, second, or first, but exclusively in the realm of the fourth, or in the territory peculiar to Rome, and which had never formed part of the Grecian, Medo-Persian, or Babylonian empires." It is a principle, moreover, which should not be forgotten in seeking to identify the power symbolized by the "king of the north" (Dan. 11:40).
There is yet one other point which ought to be mentioned ere we close this discussion. It is this: Not only is each world-government regarded in the prophecy as distinct in territory and in time; each is shown also as existing before its predecessor falls. Medo-Persia existed before it conquered Babylon. Greece came into existence before it challenged and overcame Medo-Persia. Rome existed before it vanquished Greece. Has this point any special significance? Indeed it has. It suggests that before the dominion of Rome is taken away--before the beast is slain and its body given to the burning flame, the fifth world empire comes into existence.
However, this thought, that the fifth world-empire comes into existence before the overthrow of the fourth, is more than a suggestion; much more than a strong probability based on the fact that each of the others is shown as existing before the fall of its predecessor. It is specifically stated in the Scripture. It is "in the days" of these kings, not after their days, that the God of heaven is to set up his Kingdom (Dan. 2:44).
Brethren, unless we greatly err, the God of heaven has for years been in the process of setting up this Kingdom. For more than half a century the "judgment has been sitting" and his dominion (the dominion of the fourth beast in its "little horn" stage) has been in the process of being taken away. What yet remains? We answer: "To consume and destroy that dominion unto the end." Immediately thereafter will occur that which is described by the words: "I beheld even till the beast was slain and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame" (Dan. 7:26; 11). And then? Ah! then -- the Kingdom will be given to One like the Son of Man; and the people of the saints of the Most High. That Kingdom will not pass to a sixth world-empire. It will be everlasting (Dan. 7:14, 27).
- P. L. Read
The Annual Meeting of the Pastoral Bible Institute, due to be scheduled for Saturday, June 3, is being postponed for some months, possibly until next year.
We are making this early announcement so that Institute members, who might wish to participate in conventions now being planned by Associated Bible Students in various parts of the country to be held during the summer months, will know that they need not reserve the June date for the Institute's Annual Meeting.
Further particulars will be announced later.