Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
"WORLD THAT WAS," "PRESENT EVIL WORLD" AND THE "WORLD TO COME"
BY PASTOR C. T. RUSSELL
NOBODY THINKS of disputing the statement that we are living in a most wonderful day. The history of the world during the past century fills us with amazement. The wildest dreams of the "Arabian Nights," "Aladdin’s Lamp," and other fanciful imaginations come far short of what we have seen—what we are seeing, handling, using, enjoying, daily, hourly! How difficult it is to realize that there are people living in the world to-day who have witnessed the progressive development of nearly everything that goes to make up modern life!—steamboats, railroads, steam railways, electric railways, automobiles, the telegraph, the telephone and thousands of wonders along the lines of conveniences, utilities and wonders in chemistry.
What Does all this Mean?
There are but two ways of accounting for this wonderful condition of things which surround us. Darwin’s Law of Evolution was conjured up as a solution of the mystery. With no other thought before their mind to combat this, his theory of Evolution spread rapidly with general acceptance amongst the educated, and, of course, therefore, amongst the uneducated. It has become the standard explanation of the schools, and is even represented in the intellectual food of the primary grades. But thinkers are beginning to query the theory of Evolution, and to point out that, instead of a progressive evolution being the rule in nature, the very reverse seems the truth. Mr. Darwin’s pigeons, developed carefully along selected lines, did, indeed, reach a high degree of specialization; but the same broods of pigeons, released from human assistance and care, instead of going onward and upward, went backward—devoluted. The same principles are seen to operate with all the lower animals: horses, dogs, cats, poultry, etc. These same principles hold good in the vegetable kingdom. Human care and energy have produced wonderful results in fruits, grains and vegetables. But is it not true that in all of these developments there is a constant tendency to retrogression? Thinkers are beginning to realize that the past century has not developed abler minds than any previous century and admit, indeed, that to-day we have few who will compare with the old masters in art, music, poetry, philosophy. Whom have we to-day to compare with Shakespeare, the Psalmist David or the Prophet Job? In depth of reasoning, whom have we to compare with Plato and Socrates, not to mention St. Paul? And what great Law Giver ever made so deep an impression upon humanity as did Moses!
If the theory of Evolution be expected to demonstrate itself as a theory, should we not find a gradual progression from a monkey (Adam) to present-day intelligence, instead of what we do find—great intelligence far in the past and a sudden flare-up of intelligence all in one century? Besides, do we not find that the most intelligent and best educated men of our day have had little or nothing to do with the great inventions and discoveries which make our day phenomenal? Do we not, on the contrary, find that philosophers are fewer than ever,
OV145 and that the wide-spread increase of knowledge with the masses is merely a parrot-like repetition of what they have been told and concerning which they have little real knowledge?
A More Satisfactory Explanation
The other explanation of the phenomena of our day is the Bible one. God’s Word teaches a progressive development in the Divine Plan of the Ages, which is the very opposite of Mr. Darwin’s Evolution theory. The Bible outlines to us an Epoch lasting from creation to the flood; another, distinctly separate, lasting from the flood to the coming of Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom—the Messianic reign of blessing promised throughout the Scriptures. The Bible also shows that this Epoch from the flood to Messiah has three subdivisions marked by distinctly different Divine dealings with humanity:
(a) The Patriarchal Period;
(b) The Period of Jewish Favor;
(c) The Christian Period. The Bible tells that man was created perfect—"upright"—in the image and likeness of his Creator. It teaches that in his perfection and harmony with God he was not subject to sickness, pain, excessive labor, sorrow and death, but was specially cared for under Edenic conditions. Nevertheless, knowing that, in his inexperience, Adam would fall into disobedience, God left the world in an unfit, undeveloped, unmatured condition—except the specially prepared Paradise Garden. Condemned to death for their disobedience, Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden that their death penalty might be worked out as convicts, and that they and their race might learn something of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. The downward course was swift and culminated in the flood. That first Epoch had its special lessons for angels and for men, which we need not here discuss. A new Epoch, Age or Dispensation, mis-translated "world," then opened. Again, Noah and his family, all in harmony with God, were planted, but the downward tendency of sin soon manifested itself, and in but a short time the plague of sin was again raging. Next, language was confounded, and the race scattered as different nations over the face of the earth, each to demonstrate how, under various conditions, sin (selfishness) would still blight every division of the race—some more, some less; some in this respect, some in other respects. As a result, many of our race have fallen to great depths of degradation, mental, moral and physical—some have descended almost to the brute, and, by virtue of a greater intellectual power, become worse than brutes. In permitting this reign of sin and death, God from the very beginning knew what He was doing, and was intent on giving to all of His intelligent creatures a great lesson concerning the exceeding sinfulness of sin. He made no fiery hell of everlasting torture for His creatures, but He did allow them to make for themselves in the present life awful and distressing conditions—mental, moral and physical. But all the while, and from before creation, He purposed a glorious outcome to His Plan, most beneficial and helpful to all of His creatures, who were or who would later become harmonious with His Divine arrangements. The lessons permitted through the reign of sin and death, individually and collectively, we are assured, will result gloriously to the obedient, while the wilfully disobedient will eventually be destroyed in the Second Death, from which there will be no recovery; for, as St.
Peter says, They shall perish like brute beasts.—
Lessons of the Jewish Age.
God dealt with the Jews differently than with any other people. First, He permitted them to go into slavery that it might be manifest that He had chosen a superior race. Under Divine discipline, and actuated by hopes based upon Divine promises, Israel became a wonderful people, whose influence
OV146 has extended to all parts of the earth. Still held by the Divine promises, the Jews have not amalgamated with other peoples, and, although poor and persecuted and outcast, they have neither been destroyed from the earth nor degraded to the level of the heathen. The Divine promises not only selected special representatives of the Jewish race for a share in a future work of blessing the world, but, as we have seen, the Divine promises have maintained the Jews as a race on a high plane of civilization.
Next the Christian Age
The Christian Age has accomplished a double work, also. It has selected a saintly few, called in the Bible "the elect," who are to be associates with Messiah in His glorious Kingdom. It has also exerted a wide influence throughout Europe and America over the civilization of the nations which it touches. It has been an enlightening and liberating influence amongst them in every sense of the word, even though the "elect," the saintly, are few, and even though the unsaintly may, by the liberty and intelligence emanating from Christianity, be more powerful factors of evil than if they had remained without enlightenment—in barbarism. Whoever can discern what we have here pointed out realizes that the Divine promises have been uplifting and enlightening influences in the world. Nevertheless, because of sin, depravity and selfishness, the true light of the Divine promises has not benefited the masses, mentally, morally or physically, as it would have done had it been received into good and honest hearts. As it is, the influence of Gospel enlightenment and the spirit of liberty operating in an unregenerate and selfish heart, are about to bring to the world a most awful time of trouble and anarchy.
Were it not for the promised intervention of Divine power we could hope for nothing, for we see about us what the Bible foretold, an increasing selfishness, which ultimately will array the world—"Every man’s hand against his neighbor."—
Divine Plan Consummated
The Bible explains the phenomena of our wonderful day by pointing out that we are living at the time when another great Dispensational change is due to take place. We are living in the close of six thousand years of sin and death, and in the dawn of the seventh thousand, which is to be a thousand year Sabbath Day. In it, Messiah, as the great Antitypical Priest, King, Law-Giver and Judge, will give the whole world of mankind a judgment or trial for life everlasting or death everlasting.
The great Judge (Jesus) has Himself laid the foundation for this in that, by His own Death, He is enabled to cancel the sentence of death which came upon Father Adam and His race, and to give them a fresh trial for life everlasting under the glorious provisions of His Messianic Kingdom. In that trial all the difficulties and experiences of the present life may prove helpful instructions in righteousness.
That glorious epoch will not merely be for those living at that time when the reign of righteousness will begin, but will include all the twenty thousand millions of our race who have gone into the tomb from Adam’s day until now. "There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust"—the just will be the elect few of the Jewish Age, and the other elect few of this Age. The former will come forth to human resurrection; the latter to participation in the Divine nature, as members of the great Messiah, under the headship of Jesus, composed of the saintly of English and French, Jews and Swedes and all nationalities. The former will come forth to earthly perfection and to have fulfilled in them and through them the Divine promise, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." The seed of Abraham will thus be a double—a heavenly and an earthly—"as the stars of heaven and as the sands of the sea."
OV147 The blessing to come to the world will be the release from the dominion of Satan, who shall be bound for that thousand years, and instead of the ignorance and superstition fostered by his reign of darkness, will come to mankind the true light of Divine Truth. "The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His Beams."
Darkness, sin, pain, sorrow, death will all flee from the world in general. Only wilful rejectors will receive stripes, and these, proving unavailing, will be destroyed in the Second Death. Thus, eventually, as the Bible declares, the whole earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of God, and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, of those both in heaven and in earth. And there shall be no more sighing and no more crying and no more dying—because the former things of sin and death will have passed away; because the Divine Plan will have reached its culmination. The elect "little flock," "the Church of the firstborns," will be like unto the angels but more glorious, partakers of the Divine nature. The world of mankind, uplifted out of sin and death conditions will not only have a world-wide Paradise for their everlasting home, but themselves will be perfect, in the image and likeness of God.
Foregleams of the Millennium
The Bible teaches that the Divine blessing will wipe away all tears; sorrow and sighing shall flee away gradually and forever during the Messianic reign. The Scriptures imply that wonderful blessings will prevail amongst men. So great an inventor as Mr. Edison, without realizing that he corroborates the Scriptures, tells us that the world is on the eve of most stupendous developments, by which her thousands of millions will be fed, clothed and housed most luxuriously and at a trifling expenditure of energy. The real explanation of the wonders of the past century is that God Himself is lifting the veil from the human mind and permitting us to peer into matters previously kept secret for man’s good, that he might toil with sweat of face until due time for liberation would come. The Scriptures speak of the present as the "day of His preparation"—preparation for Messiah’s Kingdom and the world’s blessing—preparation for the wind-up of the present evil world (age), and for the inauguration of the world (age) to come, wherein dwelleth righteousness." —
The Scriptures not only foretell, but point us to the time and to the influences that will produce these conditions. Twenty-four hundred years ago it was written that various features of the Divine Program were closed up and sealed until the time of the end—until the closing of this Christian Age and the opening of the New Dispensation. That Epoch, called "the time of the end," began in 1799. We have already been in it one hundred and eleven years. The Prophet tells how we may know, saying of it, Many shall run to and fro; knowledge shall be increased, and there shall be a time of trouble.—
The running to and fro, the commingling of peoples of all nations, has waked up the world and given it new conceptions of life and energy. We are still in this time of running to and fro. As a result of this intercourse, knowledge has been increased—made general. The world is pouring out streams of treasure for the enlightenment of the race. Education is compulsory in all civilized lands, and this same spirit is taking hold of the heathen.
China has already decided to educate her people in the English tongue, and for years the schools of India have been turning out a million graduates a year in English studies. Will this rushing to and fro and this increase of knowledge bring the millennium as a natural result, as some have hoped? Nay, verily. Knowledge is.a dangerous thing, except for those who are perfect. And all mankind, through the fall, are imperfect. Comparatively few have even what the Apostle terms the spirit of a sound
OV148 mind. To all others, knowledge has dangers. In the past, many have been willing to do wrong who knew not how to make it pay. To-day the whole world is keenly alive to methods and opportunities for violating the Golden Rule in the interest of personal advantage. As a result of knowledge, the world would be a terrible place to live in if it were not for the police protection, backed up by every contrivance imaginable for the apprehension of evil-doers and the protection of life and property. When the hour arrives that the law and order of Christendom shall succumb to anarchy, civilization will receive the greatest shock ever. So says the Bible: "There shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation."—
The philosophy of the matter, the lifting by the Almighty of the curtain of ignorance, let in such a stream of light that the world awakened from the slumber of ages with a start. Labor saving inventions suddenly made the world fabulously rich. More and more humanity is becoming intoxicated with a thirst for gold, which quenches other ambitions more noble. The mad rush for money has passed Upper Tendom, and is reaching the middle and lower classes.
Flood-like, it sweeps before it justice and love, saying, "Money first; we will inquire respecting a conscience and a God later." Had the Almighty lifted the curtain of ignorance centuries sooner, this time of trouble would have come correspondingly soon. He has deferred the matter until now, and informs us in His Word that the cataclysm of trouble about to break upon the world will be allowed to go only far enough to teach men and angels a great lesson: then Messiah’s Kingdom, established upon the ashes of selfish hopes and ambitions and "bursted" Trusts will establish by Divine power a reign of righteousness in which every evil intention, even, will be punished and every good intention blessed. These are but the beginning of "the times of restitution"—years of restoration—to all that humanity lost, as mentioned by St. Peter in
THE purple grape must be crushed To make the sweet, red wine, And furnace fires must fiercely burn, The drossy gold to refine; The wheel must cruelly grind, Else where the jewel’s light?
And the steel submit to the polishing, Or how would the sword grow bright?
How then, my soul, wilt thou The Spirit’s fruits possess, Except thou lovingly yield thyself To the Hand that wounds to bless?
Then patiently let the fire Consume all earthly dross—Thou canst not hope to wear the Crown, If thou refuse the Cross!