Overland Monthly / OV049 - The Divine Program (X. The Kingdoms of this World Supervised)
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OV49 THE DIVINE PROGRAM X—The Kingdoms of this World Supervised
BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle
THE CIVILIZED portion of the world, about one-fourth, according to population, is styled Christendom, which signifies Christ’s Kingdom. The coined gold and silver of Christendom bears similar witness to God as the recognized ruler of earth. Upon our own coins we read "In God we trust." Upon the British coins we read that the King or Queen, whose image it bears, reigns over the kingdom or empire by the grace of God; and so with the German, the Russian, the Austrian and other coins. These legends have so long prevailed that they attract little notice and rarely are questioned. However, as soon as we begin to exercise the gray matter of our brains on the subject, we are in trouble. We ask, Are the great armies of Christendom maintained as a protection against the heathen world? Are the great navies for the repulsion of heathen foes? Are the mighty Dreadnaughts costing approximately $10,000,000 each for construction and millions more for maintenance, necessary for the protection of these Kingdoms of God against the heathen kingdoms not yet subjugated to his law? The answer comes: No! all these armaments and military preparations by land and by sea and through the air and under the sea are costly methods used by Christian nations to protect themselves from each other! We ask: How long has it been thus? Is this a new field of ungrounded fear that has seized upon the world? The answer is: No, it has ever been thus: for fifteen centuries the nations of Europe have been calling themselves "Christendom," yet their lands have been soaked with Christian blood, in fearful carnage, Christian nation fighting against Christian nation by every devilish means and missile conceivable, inventible, is the customary thing. What we now have is superior to what we had in the past, merely because the inventive genius peculiar to our day has had its influence along martial lines, as along the avenues of peace. The situation is inexplicable, except from one standpoint—the Bible standpoint—the Divine Program, which solves this and every other mystery and query. From this standpoint, the explanation is, that Christendom is laboring under a great delusion. It is not Christ’s Kingdom. Instead, according to the Scriptures, the civilized as well as the uncivilized portion of mankind are under the secret domination of "The Prince of this world"—Satan. The great Adversary has deceived the world, putting light for darkness and darkness for light. Whereas, through the prophets and apostles, and by our Lord’s own words, the hope of the world centers in the establishment of the Divine rule or reign of Righteousness, yet the time for the fulfillment of those gracious promises and ardent hopes is still future. It is still appropriate for God’s people to pray, after the example given us by our Redeemer in the words, "Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." The hope of the early Church, voiced in this prayer, should still be the hope of God’s people. They should all know that the reign of Sin and Death, which has prevailed on earth for these many centuries, will continue to prevail until the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and great glory.
When he shall "take unto himself his great power and reign," he will put down sin and error in their multitudinous forms and establish righteousness
OV50 and Truth, peace, love and joy. And this glorious event, the Second Coming of Christ in Kingdom glory, must await the Divine "due time," when the elect Church shall have been completed, tested, proven, found faithful, glorified. This is the thought before the Apostle’s mind when he graphically declares, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now...waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." The great Son of God, Captain of our Salvation, and all of his brethren under him, soldiers of the cross, are soon to be glorified together on the spirit plane by the First Resurrection, as a Royal Priesthood—a Priest with regal power.
A Masterpiece of Deception.
Fidelity to our subject demands that we inquire how, when and where this deception was foist upon God’s people and the entire civilized world. Who fabricated this story, that the nations of the civilized world are the kingdoms of Christ? The answer is, that this great deception is from Satan, our great Deceiver, of whom the Apostle said, "The God of this world hath blinded the minds of all them that believe not." It is safe, also, to assume that to some extent this great Adversary has partially blinded the minds of believers. This is the sentiment in the prophecy, "Darkness covers the earth; gross darkness the heathen." Again the Apostle says, I pray God for you (The Church) that your eyes being opened, ye may be able to comprehend with all saints the length and breadth and height and depth, and to know the love of God, which passeth all understanding (#Eph 3:18.) The intimation here, again, is that the opening of the eyes of understanding of Christians is gradual and proportionate to their saintliness and holiness of heart. That the deceptions of Satan are world-wide and include all classes is set forth in the assurance given us that when he shall be bound by Christ for the thousand years of his Millennial reign, it will be that "he shall deceive the nations no more until the thousand years are finished." In seeking for the truthful answer to the query, we must not feel aggrieved if, perchance, we find that our own ancestors were amongst those whom Satan deceived and who ignorantly became his servants and tools in the establishment of the thought that the civilized kingdoms are the Kingdoms of Christ—"Christendom."
The Deception Gradual and Logical.
Those who claim that the present condition of things was concocted by priests and knaves who premeditated the deception with which we have since been struggling are mistaken. Those who elaborated these views were undoubtedly as honest and sincere as ourselves. They were the victims of circumstances, and, more particularly, the victims of the great Deceiver’s plot whereby he continually lay in wait to deceive the Lord’s people, as St. Paul foretold. (#Eph 4:14; #2Co 2:11.)
Truly the Apostle has declared that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood," but with wicked spirits in influential positions. —#Eph 6:12.
The method by which the Adversary misled our forefathers was a cunningly deceptive one. A century after the Apostles fell asleep in death, persecution was still raging, and the looked-for Second Coming of Christ to glorify his Church, and to establish her as his Bride and joint-heir in his Kingdom, to bless the world, had not yet come. The strain of tribulation was telling upon the hopes of the Church. There were queries as to whether or not a mistake had been made in the understanding of the promises respecting our Lord’s Second Coming, the end of this age and the inauguration of the New Kingdom Age. Now was the time for the Adversary to gradually and persistently work in the erroneous thought and becloud and obscure the Truth and cut off the Church from the real Scriptural hope and give to her another hope, through which the great Deceiver could more particularly lead her astray on other doctrines and practices. The subtle suggestion was that it was not the Divine intention that Christ should come a second time in the flesh. This conclusion was quite correct; but to it was added the further suggestion that Christ intended that his faithful followers under his direction should first convert the whole world—should first accomplish all
OV51 the work of the Millennial Kingdom. The further suggestion was, that the Lord himself would not participate in this Millennial reign, except through a substitute or vicar, who would represent him in all the work of the Kingdom and fulfill all the prophetic promises of blessing the earth, uplifting mankind, etc. At the same time, the dominion of earth was so manipulated by the Prince of this world (God not interfering) that the persecutions of the Church by the civil Government of Rome ceased; and the Roman Government gradually decayed. At the same time, formalism, going hand in hand with worldly prosperity, lifted up the Church nominal in the eyes of the world and in its own eyes. Gradually the Church seemed to be nearing the point where she could reign over the kings of the earth. The Church’s power increased as the civil power weakened, until finally the Church nominal was the mightiest organization in the world. Then possessed of the reins of spiritual control, she asserted her authority, and told the civil kings of the earth that her superior control was as the representative of God and his Kingdom, which it was foretold would rule the world. She called upon kings to recognize her authority and to conduct their kingdoms in accordance with her decrees. She threatened their princes and nobles and kings that, if they did otherwise than obey her commands, she would exercise her suzerain authority. She told the civil kings of earth that if her commands were not obeyed she would inform their peoples that they were no longer bound to support them, and would indicate others to be their rulers instead—others who would hearken to the voice of the Church, to the voice of Christ speaking through the Church. Meantime, slowly, gradually, artfully, under the great Deceiver’s seductions and temptations, the simplicity of the apostolic order was lost, or, rather, it was merged into a larger system, believed to be necessary, and in Divine order, for the new conditions prevailing. The Elders of the various congregations of the Lord’s people, the pastors and teachers, were no longer styled overseers or bishops, but this term was applied from a loftier standpoint of one commissioned to have an apostolic oversight of many congregations. Gradually, too, a still higher order was recognized, called archbishops or higher bishops, and still another higher order styled cardinals. And to perfect the system, a Head was demanded by the Church—an elected Head, called a pope, a papa, a father. Whoever occupied the office of pope was recognized as the personal representative of Christ, so that similar honor was demanded for the popes as was recognized as due to Christ; and the pope’s ex cathedra utterances were recognized as the infallible utterances of Christ.
He was styled "the vicar of Christ," or Christ’s substitute on the throne of earth. In the triple crown worn by the popes, emblazoned with jewels, was his title, Vicarius Filii Dei, Substitute Son of God. When we remember that all this came about gradually, during a period of long centuries, we cannot wonder that our forefathers in all of these arrangements verily thought that they were doing God service and fulfilling his will, as foretold in the prophecies. We cannot, therefore, chide or censure them specially for accepting and handing down to us this wrong theory, that then and there God’s Kingdom was set up in the world. Rather we must sympathize with them and with ourselves and be the more on guard against the deceptive influences of our Great Adversary, Satan. So that, while getting rid of some of those errors, we may not be misled by our foes into other pitfalls and snares. Our only safety is, as the Scriptures point out, in a closer walk in the footsteps of our Redeemer, in humility, in love, in devotion to God and to each other, waiting for the true Kingdom of God’s dear Son, the promised Kingdom, which shall be established at his Second Coming. That Kingdom shall bless all the families of the earth; that Kingdom shall put down all sin and disorder and bring in everlasting righteousness, and, to the willing and obedient, everlasting life.
Both Protestants and Catholics Deceived.
We are not to think of this matter as being a deception upon the Catholics merely.
Indeed, in former days we, represented by our forefathers, were practically all Catholics. When the so-called
OV52 "Reformation" took place in the fifteenth century, those who then protested, represented by Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon, Calvin and others, accepted the same general teaching, namely, that God’s Kingdom was established in the earth and was to conquer the world. These reformers merely disputed that the pope and his associates were the Head of the Church and representatives of Christ. Certainly Luther did, even if it were but jocularly, say of himself, "Here goes the German pope." Henry VIII, as the Head of the Church of England, surely set himself forth as the Head of that religious system or Church. Surely in similar manner, the Czar of Russia is the Pontifex Maximus of the Russian or Greek Church. The "Reformation," therefore, was not a recognition of the deception which Satan had forced upon our forefathers, but, instead, it meant a splitting of the one so-called Kingdom of God, Papacy, into numerous Kingdoms of God, or sects, which between them recognize the various royal families of Europe. The root evil still persists to this day. It is high time that, in the light of our day, we should see clearly that all the so-called kingdoms of Christendom are merely "kingdoms of this world," which, deceptively and under delusion, are claiming to be the kingdoms of God’s dear Son.
Only those who recognize these facts are properly prepared to appreciate and to rejoice in the prospect of the soon-coming of the Kingdom of Christ and its reign of Righteousness under the whole heavens, in fulfillment of the Word of the Lord "by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." —#Ac 3:19-21.
Present Conditions Foretold.
Looking back we find in Daniel’s prophecy delineations which prophetically foretell in brief outline the history of the world empires, showing us what has been; what is, and what is to come; portraying the fact that all the "kingdoms of earth are kingdoms of this world," and that the great Kingdom of God’s dear Son will be established upon the ruins of present institutions. The ruin of present empires is clearly indicated as due in the near future, and as coming to pass as the result of increased knowledge and increased ambition, operating in conjunction with the selfishness of fallen human nature. Of that "day of wrath," its character and its place in the Divine Program we shall have more to say anon.
God’s Kingdom in Israel.
True, there was a time when God had a Kingdom or dominion in the world, as we read David, King of Israel, "sat upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord." And "Solomon sat upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord, in the room of his father David." But that Kingdom is not the one for which we wait and for which we pray, "Thy Kingdom come." That was merely a figure, a picture in some respects of the coming Kingdom. David, the beloved Prophet, represented typically The Christ; and Solomon, the wise, the rich, the great, typified Messiah and his Kingdom in other respects. When the time came to abolish the typical Kingdom of Israel, the Lord indicated that his promise that Messiah should sit upon the throne of Israel would nevertheless be fulfilled, though the delay would be considerable. To the last regular king successor to David’s throne the words were addressed, "O thou profane and wicked Prince whose time has come that iniquity should have an end! Remove the diadem! Take off the crown! This shall not be the same! I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, until he comes, whose right it is, and I will give it unto him." That Davidic crown has been overturned ever since. No rightful heir of David has ever worn the crown. The nation was under other rules and subject to other empires until its final destruction in A.D. 70. For instance, the Herods of our Lord’s day were not Israelites, but of the family of Esau, and even then they had only a provisional Government, the real control being vested in the Roman Emperor. The lesson then is, that when Messiah’s Kingdom shall be established, it, under the terms of Israel’s New (Law) Covenant, shall be established with Israel and not with other nations. All nations will then approach the Lord by coming under the terms of his grace, and mercy embodied in that New (Law) Covenant,
OV53 which will then operate towards Israel. All peoples, when exercising faith and obedience to the regulations of the Millennial Kingdom, in so doing will become "Israelites indeed," circumcised in heart and be counted children of Abraham, as it is written, I have constituted thee a father of many nations. The facts, then, are that Zedekiah’s crown, removed six hundred and six years before Christ, has not yet been accepted by Messiah. His dominion has not yet been established in the earth! The long intervening period of twenty-five hundred and fifteen years marks a period in which God has had no Kingdom in the earth, no special dominion of an outward kind, such as mankind could recognize, and such as they have been called upon to honor and obey. Notice further, that God had stated to the Jews that if they would be disobedient to his Divine arrangements, he would punish them "seven times" for their sins. This is repeated over and over again. The "seven times" may properly be understood to be seven years (symbolical) three hundred and sixty years long. The seven times thus reckoned would total twenty-five hundred and twenty years as Israel’s period of Divine disfavor without a king. We have seen that twenty-five hundred and fifteen years of this period have already elapsed, and thus five years remain before they can have earthly dominion. As the time draws near, what do we see—the Jews and the whole civilized world standing up and looking to Palestine and requesting for reinstatement as a nation. (This same presentation has been set forth orally and in print for more than thirty years: long enough before the Zionist movement.) Their hopes will be more than realized, but not entirely in the manner anticipated. The Kingdom that is coming to them at the close of their period of waiting will be a blessed Kingdom—that of Emmanuel the seed of Abraham, Messiah.
2520 Gentile Times 2520.
But now behold! When the crown was taken from Israel in Zedekiah’s day 2515 years ago, God declared through Daniel the Prophet that the dominion of the earth under certain limitations would be left in the hands of the Gentiles, and that they.would rule the world until those times or years would be fulfilled. Our Lord Jesus called attention to this prophecy and foretold that "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (#Lu 21:24.) As Jerusalem is still thus trodden down of the Gentiles, it is evident that the "Gentile times" are not yet filled full. In God’s revelation on the subject to Daniel and to Nebuchadnezzar, he indicated that the Dominion of the Gentiles began with Nebuchadnezzar, the great image of Gentile power, and that this image would control was shown in brief. Nebuchadnezzar’s Government was the Head. Following it came the universal empire of the Medes and Persians, Cyrus being one of these.
Next in turn came the Empire of Greece, Alexander the Great being its principal representative. Next in turn came the legs of iron, representing the strength of the Roman Empire; next in turn came the feet and toes of the image, of iron and clay mixed, representing the rule of Christendom, a commingling of the civil power as represented by the iron, and the ecclesiastical authority, as represented in the clay.
The whole period of the domination of this great image was symbolically pictured in the seven years of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness, at the conclusion of which he praised the God of Heaven and acknowledged him as the Emperor and Ruler of earth. The madness of the man is a fitting picture of the madness of the universal Gentile Governments and the carnage which they wrought in the earth. The seven years or seven times, namely, twenty-five hundred and twenty years, correspond exactly to Israel’s "seven times." Thus we see that "the times of the Gentiles" will be fulfilled and they will lose their empire, at the same time that Israel’s seven times of tribulation and down-treading will terminate, and they shall come into favor and association with Messiah and his Kingdom.—Daniel 2 and 4. In conclusion, we may all thank God that the Divine Program contains a blessing for humanity under a heavenly rule and Government, for their uplifting out of sin and death conditions, that is far
OV54 more hopeful, far more blessed, than anything that we have at present or that could possibly come to us through the Governments which ignorantly style themselves the Kingdoms of God, the Kingdoms of Christ—"Christendom." We are not in this finding fault with these earthly Governments. On the contrary, we believe that poor humanity in its fallen condition is doing as well as it can do. It is struggling against the world, the flesh and the Adversary and against the ignorance, superstition, etc., in which they were immersed and against their own weaknesses and imperfections of mind and morals and selfishness. God would have humanity learn the lesson that our very best efforts to rectify the great disaster of sin and death, which came upon us through Father Adam’s disobedience, must prove futile. Our help cometh from God.
Thank God for the provision for our assistance—that it has already been made by the death of Jesus, who died the Just for the unjust, that he might bring back to the Father in due time, through this Kingdom of Righteousness, all who will. We rejoice, moreover, that the Church now being called out to joint-heirship with their Redeemer in that Kingdom is to be so highly honored and used in connection with the great Divine Program, and we exhort all those who have heard the "call" to accept it, and all those who have accepted it to strive to "make their calling and election sure."
IS IT FOR ME?
IS it for me, dear Savior, Thy glory and Thy rest?
For me, so poor and humble, Oh! shall I thus be blest?
Is it for me to see Thee In all Thy glorious grace, And gaze in endless rapture On Thy beloved face?
Is it for me to listen To Thy beloved voice, And hear its sweetest music Bid even me rejoice?
A thrill of solemn gladness Hath hushed my very heart To think that I may really Behold Thee as Thou art; Behold Thee in Thy beauty; Behold Thee face to face; Behold Thee in Thy glory And rest in Thine embrace.