Overland Monthly / OV020 - The Divine Program (V. Redemption from the Curse)
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OV20 THE DIVINE PROGRAM V—REDEMPTION FROM THE CURSE
BY C. T. RUSSELL
PASTOR BROOKLYN TABERNACLE
This is the fifth in the series of articles by Pastor Russell of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Interest in these articles goes on apace, and the press generally is giving the arguments of Pastor Russell considerable attention. Letters containing comment of different kinds continue to pour into this office, all of which tends to show that the series of articles is awakening general interest.—THE EDITOR.
AS IN OLD English the word evil was frequently used in respect to things unwholesome or hurtful, as well as things morally bad, so also the word curse was used more frequently than now in respect to calamities and the unfavorable condition resulting from the Divine sentence against sin and sinners. We have noted that the evil or unsatisfactory conditions prevailing amongst mankind are the results of the Divine curse or sentence. We have seen that a great mistake was made in the dark ages in the assumption that the curse or sentence against sin was one of eternal torment; that on the contrary it was a just one, a death sentence; that the Creator declares that the life and blessings given to his creatures were forfeited forever because of disobedience under trial, and that all of Adam’s posterity share his curse or sentence in a natural way—because he could not give to his children more than he possessed himself. We have seen that the mental, moral and physical imperfection prevalent in the world is all directly or indirectly the outworking of the death sentence on account of which, as the Apostle declares, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain," "waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God" and the blessings which God has promised shall come to all the families of the earth through the "elect" Church, after its glorification as the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.—#Ro 8:19,22. Keeping in mind the scriptural use of the word curse, in its broad signification attaching to every quality of mind and body, we now come to the consideration of what the Bible teaches respecting the redemption from that curse.
We find the intelligence of the world hostile to the thought of redemption and specially hostile to the thought of redemption through the precious blood of Christ.
We believe that their hostility results from their having the wrong standpoint of view. Their opposition unconsciously perhaps associates itself with the erroneous thought that man was cursed to eternal torment on account of Adam’s sin; and that redemption from the curse would signify God’s purchase of a handful of mankind out of eternal torment. Human intelligence would assent to no such proposition of (1) injustice and cruelty, and (2) a commercial barter in the name of Justice and Love. But this is not the Bible presentation of redemption, and those who hold this view should lay it aside, should rid their minds of it, that they may approach the subject from the standpoint of God’s Word and not from
OV21 the standpoint of the superstitions and terrors of the dark ages.
Divine Justice Inexorable.
When we view our Creator as the Supreme Judge of the Universe and acknowledge him absolutely perfect in Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power, we can see that there could be no appeal from the decisions of this Supreme Court, and furthermore that this court could not reverse or set aside its own decisions. For instance, granted that the Divine Law is that no creature may have eternal life except upon the terms of absolute obedience to the Divine Law of righteousness; granted also the Scriptural proposition that Father Adam, under a fair trial in Eden, was disobedient and came under the sentence or curse, "Dying thou shalt die," it will be conceded that no relief could reach his case except through a Redeemer, a substitute. That is to say, man having lost his life rights and been sentenced to death justly, the Great Judge could not justly reverse that sentence. He could not declare his original sentence an unjust one. He could not declare Adam worthy of eternal life, nor could he excuse him and forgive him, and yet preserve the laws of the Divine Empire inviolate. For God to break his own laws and to cancel his own sentence, even once, would establish such a precedent as would mar our confidence in his unchangeableness. For instance, if God could lie, and, after having pronounced a death sentence were to revoke it and clear the guilty one, the changeableness thus manifested would call in question the Divine Wisdom which pronounced a sentence which it subsequently desired to cancel. It would call in question Divine Justice. For if it were right to sentence Adam to death, it would be wrong to cancel that sentence and to give him eternal life. The difficulty with us in reasoning on such a subject is, that we, yea, all mankind, acknowledge fallibility—liability to err; hence very properly we know very little or nothing of Justice in its last analysis, which would be fitting only to the Supreme Judge. For four thousand years God exhibited to mankind and to the angelic onlookers his unwavering Justice—in that he permitted the reign of sin and death to proceed uninterrupted and practically unchecked. Even the giving of the Law Covenant to the one nation of Israel worked no cessation of the sentence "Dying thou shalt die." Sin and death still reigned from Moses until Christ, and the nation of Israel under its Law learned still more thoroughly the lesson that fallen, depraved humanity could not keep God’s perfect Law and hence could not, under the Divine arrangement, make any claim for life eternal. Then came the time for God to accomplish in another way the seemingly impossible thing of maintaining the dignity and Justice of his Supreme Court, and, at the same time, providing a way by which members of the condemned race might be released from the penalty of original sin.
An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth.
This line of strict Justice the Lord inculcated in his Law given to Israel to assist them in understanding the great principle of Justice underlying the Divine conduct.
The lines of the same Justice extended taught that a man’s life is the penalty for a man’s life. Thus our Lord prepared us to see how "he could be just, and yet be the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus," and release such a believer from the death sentence which came upon all through Adam’s sin. We do not claim that the method which God adopted for dealing with our race was the only one open to him, but we do claim that the fact that Divine Wisdom selected this method of dealing with Adam’s race is an assurance that in some respects, at least, it is the wisest method, the best adapted to the Divine purpose of developing the race and testing its members and their worthiness for life eternal—and also the best method for exhibiting the various qualities of the Divine character to angels and man. Jesus was the world’s Redeemer, and the entire process by which he accomplished that work is scripturally styled redemption. It includes the satisfaction of Divine Justice as respects original sin and the penalty imposed upon it. It includes also indirectly the Redeemer’s work
OV22 of lifting the redeemed out of their sin and death condition—up, up, up to all that was lost in Eden and to all that was purchased back for them at Calvary by the Redeemer’s sacrifice of himself.
Holy, Harmless, Separate from Sinners.
The exactness and particularity of Divine Justice was exemplified in the fact that God could not and would not accept as a redeemer any member of Adam’s race.
Even if one of them could have been found willing to sacrifice in behalf of the others he would have been rejected; because, as the Scriptures declare: "No man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him." (#Ps 49:7.) To human judgment this would have settled the entire matter and marked man’s condition hopeless as respects redemption and a future life. But man’s extremity became God’s opportunity. What man could not do for himself God arranged for him—he provided a Redeemer, "The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," Jesus Christ the Righteous. But our sense of justice cries out that it would be wrong for the Creator to compel one of his creatures to die for another or others. God’s Word sustains this thought and assures us that no such injustice was practiced; that while the Heavenly Father planned a work of redemption, our Lord Jesus was in no sense of the word forced or compelled to sacrifice himself to carry out the Divine Program.
There was another and a better way by which to reach the results desired. God could have created another man Adam, and could have allowed him to redeem the first Adam and then could have rewarded him with life on a higher plane of being. But what assurance would there have been that another newly created Adam would have done better than the first? The logic of the situation shows us that there would have been two races of sinners to deal with instead of one. But behold the Divine Wisdom which offered this service, for humanity to the noblest, the chiefest of all the Heavenly Court!—the Logos, the Beginning of the creation of God!—the Beginning of all creation!—#Joh 1:1; #Re 3:14. With the proposition properly went a promise of reward; and so we read that "for the joy that was set before him," our Lord Jesus endured the cross, ignored the shame and redeemed us by the sacrifice of himself; "wherefore God hath highly exalted him and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess." Thus did God reward him who was already the beginning of the creation of God, the Logos, making him the Prime minister of the Celestial Empire, Associate in the Throne and Partaker of his own Divine, immortal nature. Our Lord says: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."—#Re 3:31. Every step of the Divine Program is interesting and instructive. The offering of the opportunity to make the greatest sacrifice and to perform the greatest service was made to the chiefest of the heavenly hosts. Had he declined the privilege, the offer might have been tendered to a subordinate—to Gabriel or others of the heavenly host. Being accepted by the Logos, the proposition went no further. He delighted to do the will of the Father—even to humbling himself unto Death, the death of the cross.
Humbled Himself Even Unto Death.
The redemption was not accomplished by the Logos as a spirit being. It was not a spirit being who was to be redeemed, but an earthly being, Adam. Hence the first step of our Lord, the Logos, was the leaving of the riches of the heavenly condition and humbling himself, debasing himself to the lower plane or state of the human nature. But although that was a great stoop, it was not the sacrifice for sin. As the Scriptures declare, it was "the Man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."—#1Ti 2:6. Just how the spark of life was transferred from the heavenly one to the earthly one may be beyond our power to explain or even fully to comprehend, but, all the same, it is a part of the Divine Revelation and fully consistent with and necessary to the Divine Program. The Scriptures show that it was because this spark of life came to Jesus, not from an earthly father, not from human stock, but as a transferred
OV23 life, that our Lord Jesus was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." At another time we may indicate just how and why it was possible that he could be born perfect and yet have an imperfect mother. This is the Scriptural proposition, and can be shown to be in fullest harmony with the scientific laws governing progeny.
The Man Christ Jesus
In consistent harmony with every other feature of the Divine Program he was made flesh, "came into the world to save sinners" by the sacrifice of his life, "the Just for the unjust." He did not make that sacrifice until thirty years old, because it was not a child who had sinned and was to be redeemed, but a man. Promptly on attaining the age specified in the Law, Jesus consecrated his life, renouncing all except the divine promise of reward. He symbolized that consecration to death by baptism in water at the hands of John the Immerser. It was then that he received the anointing of the holy Spirit, which constituted him the Anointed One—the Christ—the Messiah. The same anointing constituted his begetting of the holy Spirit as a New Creature to the Divine nature. Thenceforth for three and a half years he was sacrificing his humanity, which was consecrated to death and reckoned as dead and was "dying daily," while his New Mind or Will, begotten of the holy Spirit, was developing day by day. The outward man was perishing, while the inward man (the spirit begotten new creature), was being renewed during the three and a half years of his ministry.
The end of the duality was reached at Calvary, when, as a man, he died once for all and forever. There the manhood which he consecrated and reckoned dead at Jordan became actually dead, and the New Creature, begotten of the holy Spirit and developed during his ministry, was "born from the dead" on the third day by resurrection power from on high. The work which the Father had given him to do had been performed, and he who had humbled himself to the human condition, "even unto death, even the death of the cross," was highly exalted and made partaker of the Divine Nature—glory, honor and immortality. He was put to death in the flesh; he was quickened in spirit; he was sown in death an animal body, and raised in resurrection a spirit body; sown in death, dishonored, numbered with the transgressors; raised in resurrection glory. We see that our Lord’s glory of person was attained at resurrection, but his glory of office he has not yet fully assumed. He awaits the selection of the "elect" Church to be his Bride, his "joint-heir" and Associate in his throne in the Millennial Kingdom for the blessing of the world. It is written that he shall "see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied." He is not yet satisfied, however, nor will he be, thank God, until by his Millennial Kingdom reign he shall have triumphed over everything opposed to righteousness and shall have delivered from the power of sin and death so many of the human family as under full light and opportunity will be glad to obey him and experience his uplifting power in that glorious epoch of his reign. The Bible abounds with accounts of the wonderful blessings which will accompany his reign of righteousness, assuring us that the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth and reach every individual; that all the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears be unstopped; that the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God; that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, and that all who neglect to come into the fullest harmony will die the Second Death, from which there will be no recovery.—#Ac 3:23.
Bought With a Price—A Ransom.
The Apostle writes, "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price." (#1Co 6:19,20.) Listen to St. Paul again, "He gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (#1Ti 2:6.) There is one feature of the subject seen by remarkably few, even by few Christian Bible students; namely, how the one sacrifice of our Lord Jesus could redeem the world of mankind numbering thousands of millions. In their confusion some have suggested that our Lord suffered as much in connection with his earthly ministry as was due to all mankind as a penalty for sin. Some even go to greater absurdity in claiming that all the sufferings of the thousands of millions of Adam’s race to all
OV24 eternity in hell would have been less than our Lord’s sufferings during his earthly life. We sympathize keenly with the poor souls whose minds can accept such nonsense. And we sympathize with intelligent worldly people who, disgusted with such nonsense, turn away from Christianity entirely. The Scriptural view of the matter is very simple and very reasonable. Its presentation is that Father Adam alone was placed on trial for life; that he alone failed: that he alone was sentenced to death, and that the payment of Adam’s penalty to Justice would effect not only his release, but also that of all his children, who share in his condemnation—"born in sin and shapen in iniquity." Hence, how beautiful and simple is this Biblical philosophy!
How thoroughly it is confirmed by the Apostle’s words, "By a man came death, by a man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive. But every man in his own order." (#1Co 15:21-23.) Viewed from this standpoint, God’s method in permitting sin to enter by the one man, and allowing his condemnation to pass upon the entire race, was in order that the sacrifice of one man, "holy, harmless and undefiled, separate from sinners," should fully satisfy the claims of Justice. What a masterpiece of economy, combined with Justice and Love, is thus brought to our attention! To catch the full force of the matter, we should see that if one hundred, instead of one, had been tried and failed and been condemned to death, Divine Justice must have required a hundred Saviors.
If a thousand had been tried and condemned a thousand Saviors would have been required. If a million had been tried and condemned, a million Saviors would have been requisite. Let us behold, then, the Wisdom of God in permitting the entire race to share the condemnation of their father, that they might also share in his redemption through the one Redeemer. No wonder the Apostle, noting these things, inquires, "Who hath been God’s counsellor?" Who suggested to the Almighty such infinitely wise arrangements? We have discussed merely the broad, basic plan of redemption which will be available to all mankind through the Resurrection and the Millennial Kingdom; there is a still higher plane of redemption and a superior resurrection for the church, first. The glorious results at the consummation will be a world of humanity perfect in the Divine image and likeness, fully tried and tested and proven to be lovers of righteousness and haters of iniquity and worthy, under the Divine arrangement, to enjoy life eternal under most favorable conditions—the unwilling, recalcitrants, all being destroyed in the Second Death "like brute beasts."—#2Pe 2:12.
His Loving Kindness Toward Us.
Every feature of the Divine Plan is wonderful and gracious, but most wonderful of all is that of the Divine provision for the Church of this Gospel Age. St. Paul beautifully notes this, and declares (#Eph 2:6,7) that throughout ages to come God will show forth the exceeding riches of his grace and his loving kindness toward us who are in Christ Jesus—members of "the Body of Christ, which is the Church."
Here again the Divine character is shown by a procedure quite contrary to anything men could have expected, and yet superlatively grand in its merciful condescension and its strict justice. Those who now accept Christ as their Redeemer and Instructor, who turn their backs on sin and fully consecrate their lives, thoughts, words, deeds, to the Lord’s service are accepted by the Lord as members of Christ, over whom he is the Head. This means that such as now willingly, gladly, joyfully take up their cross and follow after their Redeemer, suffering for righteousness’ sake and laying down their lives in the service of Divine Truth and its servants, will be granted a share with the Redeemer in all his glories and honors of the Millennial Kingdom—and more than this, a share with him in the highest of all spirit natures—Divine nature.—#2Pe 1:4. It is this elevation of the Church that the Apostle designates "Our high calling of God in Christ," and exhorts us to attain to at any and every cost.
It is this great honor that our Lord compared to the pearl of great price—of great value, to obtain which one is well justified in selling
OV25 all that he has that he may obtain it. Hence, also, the Scriptures represent that only through great tribulation shall the "little flock" enter the Kingdom—obtain this great prize. And our Lord declares, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way (which leads to this superlative life now offered), and few there be that find it." The redemption through the blood of Christ is general, for all the world. The salvation secured is alike to all—the privilege of return to human perfection and earthly inheritance, etc.
The advantage accruing to the Church of this Gospel Age is the privilege of sacrificing those earthly rights and blessings secured by Jesus’ death—sacrificing them in the service of the Lord and thereupon in turn receiving heavenly blessings, spiritual life and glory.
IF WE ONLY UNDERSTOOD
COULD we draw aside the curtains That surround each other’s lives, See the naked heart and spirit, Know what spur the action gives—Often we would find it better, Purer than we judge we would; We would love each other better If we only understood.
Could we judge all deeds by motives, See the good and bad within, Often we would love the sinner All the while we loathe the sin.
Could we know the powers working To o’erthrow integrity, We would judge each other’s errors With more patient charity.
If we knew the cares and trials, Knew the efforts all in vain, And the bitter disappointments—Understood the loss and gain—Would the grim external roughness Seem, I wonder, just the same?
Would we help where now we hinder?
Would we pity where we blame?
Ah, we judge each other harshly, Knowing not life’s hidden force; Knowing not the fount of action Is less turbid at its source.
Seeing not amid the evil All the golden grains of good, Oh, we’d love each other better If we only understood.