Overland Monthly / OV322 - Imminence of Christ's Kingdom
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OV322 Imminence of Christ’s Kingdom
Pastor Russell’s Answer to Those Who Doubt the Possibility of the Early Establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom—to Those Who Say that First Elijah, the Prophet, or Teacher, shall be Sent of God and Recognized in the World.
By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"Behold, I will send you Elijah, the Prophet, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord; and He shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."—#Mal 4:5, 6.
KNOWING that we are teaching the imminence of the establishment of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom, some are inclined to doubt the possibility of its establishment until first Elijah, the prophet, or teacher, shall be sent of God and recognized in the world. We are queried on the subject, What do you believe respecting Elijah? In what direction should we look for the promised Elijah? We reply that no human being fills the picture, the demands, the requirements of the prophecy. The fulfillment must be looked for on a much larger scale, a much grander scale.
John the Forerunner of Jesus.
In order to gain a comprehensive view of the matter, we look back to the Lord’s First Advent, and there see John the Baptist doing a work in the Jewish Church, introducing to it Jesus in the flesh. Jesus said of John the Baptist, "This is the Elias, if we can receive it." (#Mt 11:14.) That is to say, John the Baptist was acting among the Jewish household of faith in the power and spirit of Elijah, who was to follow. His relationship to the future Elijah, the greater Elijah, was very similar to the relationship of our Lord Jesus to the greater Christ. By this, we mean that our Lord Jesus at His first advent presented Himself to the Jews as the Messiah, knowing in advance that He would be rejected by them; knowing that He would be crucified; knowing that He would be raised from the dead on the third day, and forty days later would ascend up on high to appear in the presence of God on our behalf; knowing that He would be absent from the world for more than eighteen centuries; knowing that in this interim the Holy Spirit would select from both Jews and Gentiles a "little flock" to constitute His associates in the Kingdom—a little flock as the Bride of Christ, or otherwise known as the members of His Body, of which He is head; knowing that when the full number of members had been selected the second advent would take place, accompanied by the glorification of The Christ, Jesus and His members, and followed by the establishment of the "Kingdom of God under the whole heavens," blessing all the families of the earth.
Our understanding is that the work of John the Baptist at our Lord’s first advent was merely a foreshadowing, or illustration, of the greater work of the
OV323 greater Elijah, whose ministry is to introduce the second advent of Christ and the church in glory.
We have seen that John the Baptist served the purpose of Elijah to as many of the Jews as were "Israelites indeed"—so many of them as could and did receive Jesus as the Messiah; but the work of John was far from accomplishing the great things predicted of "Elijah, the Prophet," mentioned in our text. Nevertheless, in every particular there was some measure of likeness between John and the true antitypical Elijah. For instance, he failed to establish unity and harmony in Israel as respects the relationship of the people to their God; he failed to do a mediatorial work except for a few. The masses were not prepared by his message, and as a consequence there came upon that typical nation a judgment of the Lord, a time of trouble such as they had never previously had. This foreshadows also the fact that the antitypical Elijah will similarly fail to establish peace and harmony and righteousness and relationship between God and man in the earth, and that consequently this Age will end, as did the Jewish Age, with a Time of Trouble.
The Church in the Flesh is Elijah.
We wish to lay before your minds a word-picture of the great Elijah mentioned in the text. It is the Church in the flesh this side the veil—even as the church in glory the other side of the veil—is The Christ. We make the statement first and give the demonstration of its truthfulness afterward. Christ in the flesh, the Apostles in the flesh and all the faithful of the Lord’s people throughout the Gospel Age during their earthly career and their living representatives now in the world are fulfilling the work ascribed to Elijah. They have been endeavoring to bring about harmony, reconciliation and fellowship between God and His people. God Himself has laid the foundation of the reconciliation in the sacrifice of His Son, and the Apostle declares that He has made us "able ministers" of His Word, as though God did beseech men by us to be reconciled to Him. Our Lord Jesus began this work while in the flesh, and He personally was the Head of this great Elijah, His Church in the flesh, which during nearly nineteen centuries now has been laboring together under His supervision to bless the world, to reconcile the world for so many as were willing to hear and to heed.
It was not prophesied that Elijah would have success. On the contrary, the mere statement that if his labors were not successful in bringing about reconciliation this "curse" would follow, implies the probability of the latter. Other Scriptures, other prophecies, show us most distinctly that the Lord had foreknown and foretold through the prophets that the great Time of Trouble would surely come. Note, for instance, the words of Zephaniah, the prophet: "Wait ye upon Me, saith the Lord, until I rise up to the prey, for My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them Mine indignation, even all My fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy"—the fire of Divine anger, the just punishment for the wrong course taken by those who had been so highly favored of the Lord in respect to knowledge of the divine character and plan. This figurative declaration of the intensity of the trouble with which this present age will terminate, and which will inaugurate the new dispensation, fully agrees with the statement of our text, that if Elijah’s message went unheeded, did not succeed in converting mankind, then a curse, a great trouble, would be sent upon them by the Lord, with the view to teaching them the necessary lesson which they would not learn otherwise.
That the curse, the trouble, the fire of that day, will be effective and will yield blessed results is distinctly shown by the same prophet, Zephaniah, for through him the Lord immediately adds: "Then will I turn unto
OV324 the people a pure language (a pure message), that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent." (#Zep 3:8,9.) The scourging, the curse, the time of trouble, the symbolic fire, will accomplish for mankind in short time what the message of Elijah failed to accomplish.
A Time of Trouble.
Daniel the prophet (#Da 12:1) also refers to this "curse," or time of trouble with which this Gospel Age will end. He speaks of it as "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation," and tells us that it will occur at the second coming of Christ, when He shall "stand up," assume authority in the beginning of His reign. The same thought is given us in Revelation, where we are distinctly told that our Lord will take unto Himself His great power and reign, and at that time the nations will be angry and God’s wrath will come upon them, and that they shall be broken in pieces as a potter’s vessel under the rule of Messiah’s "iron rod" of inflexible justice. (#Re 11:15-18.) The Apostle Paul also notes the coming of this "curse" as a sure thing, and declares that our Lord, at His second advent, shall be revealed "in flaming fire, taking vengeance" —symbolic fire, it is true—a symbol of the destructive force which will be exercised against everything that shall oppose the laws of Messiah’s Kingdom. Again he tells us: "The fire of that day shall try every man’s work of what sort it is."—#2Th 1:8; #1Co 3:13.
The Apostle James, also guided by the Holy Spirit, foreknew that the Elijah class would not be successful in its endeavor to bring about a reconciliation, and that the result would be a "time of trouble." The Apostle Peter also tells us of this great curse which shall come upon the world in the end of this Gospel Age because of the failure of the mission of "Elijah" —because the antitypical Elijah, the Church in the flesh, fails to establish righteousness and love on the earth, fails to bring about reconciliation.
As we look out into the world we are surprised how little has been accomplished by the Lord’s faithful followers. Their work has merely gathered the Elijah class and witnessed to the remainder of the world. And this, indeed, was all the Lord intended for this age, as various Scriptures show us. He foreknew the meagreness of results that would follow all our efforts.
Every Man’s Hand Against His Neighbor.
We do, indeed, see a spread of the humanitarian sentiment throughout the world. We are glad to note that a larger number of people than ever before possess some measure of sympathy for one another, evidenced by the hospitals and public homes and public schools and infirmaries, etc. Nevertheless, if we were to credit all these to purely Christian sentiment we should probably err. On the contrary, we are bound to assume from the knowledge we have on the subject that a measure of selfishness runs through all these various benevolences.
As for the hospitals, there is more or less pride on the part of medical men in connection with their establishment; and as for their support, it comes largely through the public purse—through the appropriations of the State Treasury; and as for the benevolent sentiments which lie back of such appropriations for buildings, maintenance, etc., we are not to forget that the politicians who vote the moneys pay comparatively little of the taxes, and that they are influenced in large measure by a desire to curry favor among a majority of their constituents, and to some extent by architects and builders, who hope to make some profit out of the contracts, and by some who hope to obtain for themselves positions of influence or advantage in connection with the administration of benevolences.
OV325 Thus, while wishing to give all proper credit for the benevolent spirit of our times, which is very great, we see that it would be a mistake not to notice that selfishness also has a hand in the benevolences. Besides, we live in a day when many wealthy people have more money than they know what to do with, in a day when some who profess Buddhism and not Christianity, are giving millions for the endowment of schools, the building of libraries and supplying church organs. We must remember that the mental organization of the natural man contains the organ of benevolence and also the organ of approbativeness, and to such it would be but the natural thing to use money in such a manner as would bring comfort or advantage to others and honor to himself.
But as we look out over the world, we not only see that it is not converted after nearly nineteen centuries of the preaching of the Gospel, with more or less admixture of error, but we see what is still more discouraging as respects the conversion of the world, namely, that the one-fourth of the human family, accredited with being of Christian faith, furnishes probably nine-tenths of all the murders, suicides and crimes of every character committed in the world.
Is the World’s Conversion Hopeless?
We are not claiming that this is the result of Christianity; we are not claiming that the false teachings of the sects favor any of these misdoings. What we do claim is that these facts prove that the knowledge of the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, affects favorably only a small proportion who come in contact with it, and that among that favorably affected portion a comparatively few are saints, who in their earthly life are members of the great antitypical Elijah, whose lives are devoted to the promulgation of the Gospel, and doing all in their power to turn men from sin to righteousness, to harmony with the Lord.
Those who tell us that the world is rapidly being converted and that soon the Lord’s Prayer will be fulfilled, which says, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven"—these dear friends are surely closing their eyes to the plain facts of the case. Can they not see that if God’s will were done as fully in all parts of the earth as in the most moral and law-abiding cities in the world—the condition would still be far from that described in the Lord’s prayer? Is God’s will done in any city as it is done in Heaven? Surely not! If the Elijah-class, the Church in the flesh, could accomplish such a conversion of the whole world as would bring all to the condition of the citizens of any community, the world would still be in the very condition which would call forth the great curse, the Time of Trouble, as necessary to the ushering in of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.
But not only so: Cast your mind backward to where the Gospel first was preached.
Look at Jerusalem; look at Antioch; look at the cities of Asia Minor, at Corinth, at Rome, where the Gospel was first successfully planted, and what do we see? We see that almost every spark of true religion, true Christianity, has died out in all these places. What, then, could we hope for in respect to the world in general? If we could establish Christianity in every quarter of the globe, in every city and town and village and hamlet, not only would they still be far from the condition mentioned in Our Lord’s prayer, but we have no assurance of their remaining even in that moderate condition for any length of time.
No; what we need is the Second Coming of our Master and the establishment of His Kingdom, not only in great Glory, but also in great power—the forcible establishment of righteousness in the earth. The world will need what the Lord has promised for that glorious Millennial Reign, namely, that full assistance will be granted to all who will then desire it—full Restitution power to lift up again out of
OV326 sin and degradation, mental, moral and physical, and to bring back to original perfection all who will.
Elijah in Prophecy.
Not directly, but indirectly, Elijah is shown in the New Testament to have been a type of the Gospel Church, his experiences typifying our experiences. For instance, he was persecuted because of his fidelity to the Truth. The Church also experiences such persecution.
Elijah’s principal persecutor was Jezebel, the wicked Queen of Israel, who is mentioned by name as the type of the enemy of the saints. (#Re 2:20.) As Jezebel’s persecuting power was exercised through her husband, the king, so Papacy’s persecuting power was exercised through the Roman Empire to which she was joined.
As Elijah fled from Jezebel into the wilderness, where he was miraculously nourished by the Lord, so the true Church was led symbolically into the wilderness of isolation, but was miraculously sustained by God and her life was not permitted to be utterly destroyed. As Elijah was three and one-half years in the wilderness—and during that time there was no rain and a great famine prevailed—so the Church was three and one-half symbolic days, or 1,260 literal years, in the wilderness condition, during which time there was a spiritual famine and thirst because of lack of Truth, the Living Water, the Bread of Life.
As Elijah, at the close of the three and a half years, returned from the wilderness and manifested the errors of Jezebel’s priests, so the true Church at the close of the 1,260 years again came into prominence, since which time a great blessing of refreshment has come to the world, and Bibles at the rate of millions of copies every year are spread broadcast.
King Ahab and his people at first rejoiced that Elijah and his God were honored, but the spirit of Jezebel remained unchanged; she again sought Elijah’s life, and he again was compelled to flee into the wilderness. So with the corresponding blessings here: the world in general does not recognize the Lord’s hand in them. The Jezebel principle and spirit, not only in Papacy, but also in Protestantism, will doubtless, as soon as the Federation now proposed shall be effected, persecute the Lord’s true followers, the Elijah-class, and cause them again to flee into the wilderness, as did Elijah their type.
As Elijah’s career ended by his being taken from the earth, so when the saints shall all have been changed from earthly to heavenly conditions, this will be the end of the Elijah-class. Its work will have been accomplished in its own development and in the witnessing it has done before the world. How it has witnessed, and what its Message in the world has been, and what its work as the Christ on the other side of the veil will be, we leave for consideration at a later time.
YET nerve thy spirit to the proof, And blanch not at thy chosen lot.
The timid good may stand aloof, The sage may frown—yet faint thou not.
Nor heed the shaft so surely cast, The foul and hissing bolt of scorn; For with thy side shall dwell at last The victory of endurance born.