Overland Monthly / OV044 - The Divine Program (IX. The Millennial Kingdom)
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OV44 THE DIVINE PROGRAM IX—The Millennial Kingdom
BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor Brooklyn Tabernacle
AS IS WELL-KNOWN, the basis of the word Millennium is Mille, which signifies a thousand. For long centuries, God’s people have looked forward to times of refreshment, when the curse imposed upon the world because of Adam’s sin would be lifted by reason of the Redeemer’s sacrifice. It has been the theory that he who redeemed mankind is to come a second time, not as a sin-offering, as at the first, but as the great Deliverer, to release mankind from sin and death conditions, and to restore the willing and obedient to close harmony with God, and, indeed, to all that was lost in Adam. Those "restitution times" or years, as St. Peter says, have been declared by "all the holy prophets since the world began." (#Ac 3:19-21.)
In other words, as the heathen have had their theory of a coming Golden Age, the Israelites had the direct assurance of God that such a period of general world-wide blessing would surely come. This hope was associated with Israel’s anticipation of worldly greatness under the Head Shepherd, the expected Messiah. Foundation for the hope lay in the Divine promise to Abraham, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Israel hoped and prayed for the fulfillment of this promise, which meant special honor and exaltation to them, as well as refreshment to others. They understood that Messiah would come first, and that it would be under his direction and ministration of affairs that his Kingdom would be established—in their nation for the blessing of all nations. These ancient hopes of Israel will shortly have realization very nearly as anticipated. The difference is that Messiah, instead of being one person, is to be composed of the chosen "little flock" of one hundred and forty-four thousand selected in part from Israel in the end of their age, and, since then, the remainder from all nations. As soon as this great Mediator shall be completed his work will begin—the New Covenant will be sealed between God and Israel, and Messiah, Head and Body, will be its Mediator. (#Jer 31:31; #Ro 11:1,27,31.)
The blessing will extend to all nations, in that all nations will be welcome to become "Israelites indeed" and sharers in the blessings of that New (Law) Covenant. As they thus come into line with the Divine provisions, they will, as foretold, become children of Abraham. As it is written, "Abraham, I have constituted thee a Father of many nations." But the chief hope of salvation for the Millennium is usually based upon the statements in Revelation 20th, which assure us that in the end of this Gospel Age the Divine power will restrain Satan, hindering the further deception of humanity during that period. Meantime, Christ will take unto himself his great power and reign—control, order, rule, bless. This same period is elsewhere called "the day of Christ" —the epoch during which The Christ, Head and Body, shall hold the sway of earth. (#Re 20:4-6.) The same period is referred to by St. Paul in #1Co 15:22,23, when telling us that, "as all in Adam die, so all in Christ will be made alive," but, he assures us, "every man in his own order," for he, Messiah, "must reign until he shall have put all enemies under his feet"—until he shall have subdued everything that is not in harmony with the divine arrangement. The suggestion of Revelation that not only Satan shall be bound for a thousand
OV45 years, but that the Church shall reign with Christ, etc., is in full harmony with what we know respecting the Lord’s dealing with our race in the past. If we count the six thousand years as six days of evil—six days of the reign of sin and death—and then speak of the thousand-year "day of Christ" in which righteousness shall reign unto life eternal, we thus have in mind the week of seven-thousand year days. And a week, a cycle of sevens, stands for completeness. It might be urged that as Sin and Death reigned for six thousand years the reign of righteousness and light for a period of one thousand years would be insufficient for the uplift of humanity. But we hold to the contrary that it is abundantly sufficient and really what might have been expected. Some of us with the light of Present Truth, being by the grace of God transformed by the renewing of our minds, can well realize a great work accomplished in our own hearts in ten, twenty or thirty years; and we wonder what marvelous transformations might be effected in mankind during a hundred years or a thousand. We remember that the work of grace in our hearts has had our willing co-operation and that we thus have much advantage over such of the world as might prove unwilling and rebellious. But we remember also that we now are in conflict with oppositions from the world and from the Adversary, and that the Divine program is that neither of these oppositions shall hinder the progress of mankind up the highway of holiness toward the mark of human perfection during the Millennium. To rightly understand the condition which will prevail during the Millennium we must keep distinctly in memory the fact that there will be two Kingdoms, a heavenly, invisible one, and an earthly, visible one. Our Lord and his Church, his Bride, will be like unto the angels, spirit beings, and their rule or dominion will be only through the earthly Kingdom class, their earthly representatives. As the "kingdom of darkness" now operates through the servants of sin along lines of ignorance, superstition, sin and death, the Kingdom of Light will operate through earthly agencies, in harmony with its principles of righteousness, truth, knowledge, etc. Thus the assurance of the Scriptures is that during Messiah’s Kingdom nothing shall be permitted to hurt or do injury, but on the contrary, it shall cause the light of the knowledge of the glory of God to fill the earth.—#Isa 11:9; #Hab 2:14.
The earthly agents of Satan and the other fallen angels (the present powers of spiritual control) are evil men and evil women and the whole array of sin and error, superstition and anarchy. Many of these agents of sin are themselves deceived and know not whom they serve. Nevertheless, as the Scriptures declare, "His servants ye are unto whom ye render service." The servants of the Kingdom of God, on the contrary, will be glad, willing, intelligent servants of God and righteousness, as we shall now show. The Scriptural presentation is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets, together with others who developed similar faith and character, in the period preceding our Lord’s First Advent, will constitute the earthly phase of the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Paul calls our attention to this in Hebrews 11, and declares that "all these died in faith, not having received the things promised to them"—earthly inheritance, dominion—and "that they without us should not be made perfect." In other words, the church of this Gospel Age must first be exalted with her Lord to the heavenly dominion before the Ancient Worthies will be called forth from the sleep of death to full human perfection, to constitute the earthly representatives of the Heavenly Kingdom and its laws and regulations. Moreover, each of these Ancient Worthies will in himself be a pattern or sample of perfect manhood—of all that the race as a whole may attain to by obedience to the laws of the Kingdom and its uplifting influences. The bringing forth of the Ancient Worthies from the tomb to instantaneous perfection will be, as the Apostle explains, because of their having stood certain trials and testings of faith, which brought to them the Divine approval as worthy to be used as the earthly seed of Abraham, in the great work of Messiah—the blessing and uplifting of all the families of the earth. Those Ancient Worthies were once
OV46 styled the "fathers." But as the Scriptures point out through the further development of the Divine Plan their relationship to Christ and the Church will alter. As we read, "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth." (#Ps 45:16.) In other words, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David, et al., were the forefathers of Messiah according to the flesh; but Messiah’s sacrifices of the flesh and his attainment by resurrection to the Divine nature—gave him a valuable asset of human rights, which he is at liberty to dispense to humanity. The giving to men of those human rights, earthly restitutions, includes the giving of life rights: thus the Mediator became "the age-lasting Father" of the whole world of mankind—or so many of them as ever shall attain to eternal life.—#Isa 9:6.
The Ancient Worthies will receive this earthly life or restitution to human nature in common with the world; hence they, as well as all the remainder of the human family, will occupy to Messiah the relationship of children, offspring—those who receive life from Messiah at his expense—and the result of his sacrifice of himself. The superiority of the Ancient Worthies in station and honor and ruling power above the remainder of mankind will be based upon the fact that they will be perfect men, while the remainder of the world will be imperfect. As we have already seen, their instantaneous resurrection to perfection will be the result or reward of their fidelity to the Lord under severe trials during their time of contact with sin. As we have already seen, the world of mankind will experience gradual resurrection from death conditions to life conditions. First will come the awakening, "Every man in his own order," and then during the thousand years a gradual raising up (resurrection) out of degradation and sin and imperfection, to righteousness and perfection in proportion as each individual shall heartily avail himself of the knowledge and opportunity which he will then possess. All who refuse to progress will die the Second Death.
The Day of His Preparation.
As already seen, the world has been for more than a century in what is termed "The day of his preparation"—for the Millennium, the time in which the Lord’s blessings will fill the earth. The wonderful inventions of our day are already making the world rich. But what will a thousand years of progress signify in the way of accumulated wealth? If, as inventors assure us, we are merely on the edge, as it were, of still more wonderful inventions and devices for human comfort, what may we reasonably expect the world will have before the close of the thousand years of Christ’s Millennial reign? If present inventions are but preparations for that glorious day, and the work of imperfect men, what may we not expect in the day itself at the hands of a growingly intelligent race and under the special supervision of the Ancient Worthies perfected in human nature, and under the further supervision of the great Messiah, Prophet, Priest, King, Judge and Mediator for the race? If any are disposed to fear that the great wealth of the world at that time would inure to the comfort and blessing of only a wealthy few and not to the general prosperity of the race, let such reflect upon the fact that the great Messiah, Emmanuel, has given us assurances, not only in his own character and teaching, but also directly through the prophets, that he will lay righteousness to the line and justice to the plummet. Let such remember, also, the distinct promise that he will remember the poor and needy. Note the prophecy: "He shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the needy children, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. In his day shall the righteous flourish, and an abundance of peace." (#Ps 72.) Let us remember, also, the figurative promise of the Scriptures respecting the Millennial Day, that "every hill shall be brought low and every valley exalted." Let such remember also the Scriptural assurance that "the meek shall inherit the earth;" that "the righteous shall be exalted and that evil-doers shall be cut off." Surely there is abundant evidence that during the Millennium the blessing of life will be justly, unerringly distributed. The Divine promise is that the great King will lay justice to the line and righteousness to the plummet and sweep away all
OV47 the refuges of lies. The high ones will all be brought low and the lowly ones will be exalted. This will mean more than a fulfillment of socialist dreams. Their well-meant scheme is a thoroughly impracticable one; first, because if they could effect such a change as they desire, it would be only a question of time when the selfishness of the human heart would re-distribute the wealth of the world much after the manner of the present; secondly, their view is impracticable because the wealthy and favored class, believing that they are justly possessed of their wealth, would see the streets run with blood rather than permit distribution of their wealth and special privileges.
We are not discounting the benevolence and goodness of the wealthy, but neither are we discounting the innate selfishness of all classes. The Divine program has taken into consideration every feature of the situation in its providence, and the results will be glorious. The wreck of the present social system in anarchy, shortly, will teach humanity the necessary lesson that it cannot trust itself under present conditions. The help necessary must come from the Lord. The new Kingdom will be a strong one and its judgments, its decisions, its rewards, its punishments, will be world-wide.
The righteous will be blessed with the true comforts of life—health, strength and earthly blessing. The unrighteous will be made to feel the unprofitableness of their course—that the way of transgressors is hard. Gradually, this system of rewards and punishments—or, as the Scriptures put it, these "judgments of the Lord"—will teach the right lesson of the sinfulness and undesirableness of sin in its every form and of the blessedness of righteousness and equity, "when the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth and the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."—Isa..26:9. The condemnation of Divine Justice will be lifted immediately at the beginning of the millennium, when the great Mediator shall apply the merit of his sacrifice on behalf of the world (as he applied it to the household of faith at Pentecost.) Nevertheless the "curse," the imperfections, the blemishes, of humanity and the earthly home will be gradually recovered. The promise of the Lord that the whole earth shall be brought to a Paradise condition will be gradually effected during the thousand years, just as human restitution to Adamic perfection will be gradually attained. The blessings which will then prevail, the comforts, the leisure, will be for all, because all will be rich and under the supervision of the Millennial Kingdom. This leisure will not be permitted to be used for sinful or depraved pleasures, but merely in accord with the highest interests of all. Love, joy and peace will be the characteristics of that time. By the close of the Millennium God’s will shall be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven, and every human creature shall have attained to full perfection—the rebellious being cut off in the "Second Death."
The loss incurred through Adam’s transgression will have been fully retrieved. The race, so far from being injured by the experiences of sin, will really have been blessed; because of their greater appreciation of Truth and righteousness and their experiences under the reign of sin and lessons that will be learned during the Millennial period of reclamation from the influences of the curse. All refusing these gracious provisions, after trial, the Scriptures assure us, will be utterly, hopelessly destroyed in the Second Death.—#Ac 3:23.
When the Mediatorial Kingdom of Christ shall have accomplished its design of blessing all the families of the earth, by uplifting of the willing and obedient out of sin and death conditions, that special and provisional Kingdom will terminate. As the Apostle says, Christ shall give up the Kingdom to God and he will be all in all. Meantime by his Millennial Kingdom he shall have put down sin and all opposed to the Divine Government and everything in opposition to the highest interests and welfare of the race. Love and mercy having done everything possible, their utmost, for the race during the Millennium, the regenerated race will be handed over at its close to strictest Justice. Thenceforth, no allowance will be made for imperfections, because no imperfections will exist.
Ignorance and superstition having been done away with, destroyed,
OV48 Divine Law, absolute Justice, will be enforced.—#1Co 15:24,28. The Scriptures, properly enough, then, show us that immediately following this turning over of the Kingdom by Messiah to the Father, the reign of Mercy, giving place to the reign of Justice, will be followed by a period of trial to the race. For a brief period, Satan will be loosed, and an opportunity for sin will be permitted, with a view to testing the loyalty of those who had been rescued from the reign of Sin and Death. A conspiracy of self-will against agents of Divine authority will be permitted—to test, to prove, all dwelling upon the face of the whole earth, whose members will then be as the sands of the seashore—innumerable. How many of these will succumb to the temptation and thereby prove their hearts disloyal, is not stated. But all who do thus yield to the temptation will be accounted worthy of the Second Death and will be utterly destroyed. By such strenuous tests the Lord will prove, test, the hearts of men and blot out of existence all who with full knowledge and opportunity to the contrary still entertain any disloyalty to the principles of truth and righteousness. It is because of these strenuous tests which will be applied to every creature that the Lord is able to guarantee to us that "there shall be no more sighing, no more crying and no more dying," because there shall be no more sin. There may be some unwilling to believe in the Millennial Kingdom, because unable to grasp by faith so remarkable a Divine supervision of human affairs for the uplifting of our race from sin and death conditions. These are not to be specially blamed, for, as the Apostle says, "All men have not faith." (#2Th 3:2.) All men, however, who have faith to believe in the Divine promises can realize the justice as well as the love and mercy connected with the Divine scheme of redemption. It began with our Lord’s giving himself as a.ransom for all, to be testified in due time. It has continued during this Gospel Age in the selecting of the "little flock," the "jewels" to be Messiah’s associates in the work of the Millennial Kingdom. It will operate during the Millennial Age most gloriously, and the results will be all that can be desired. Then shall come the time when every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth shall be heard praising and honoring the great Prophet, Priest and King, whose righteous dealings will finally have been made manifest, and whose creatures will have been brought to the highest degree of blessing—the "little flock" on the heavenly plane, mankind on the earthly plane, and the incorrigible to Second Death—destruction.
LET me take heart! the present scene shall soon be o’er; The clustering clouds shall hide the sun at noon no more.
The tears now dropping from mine eyes shall be forgot; And joys, undimmed by sin and misery, my lot.
The storm now sweeping through the troubled sky be past; The longed-for morning without clouds arise at last.
The hindmost shadow soon shall utterly depart; Then let me watch and wait, and hopefully take heart.