By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the Throne of His Glory ye also shall sit upon Twelve Thrones."—#Mt 19:28.
NONE are members of the Church of Christ except the regenerate. This fact is emphasized by our Lord Jesus, to the effect: "Ye must be born again," if ye would be My disciples. This teaching has practically disappeared from the pulpit, for the reason that the hearts of Christian people seem to be more tender than were those of their fathers; they cannot bear to think of the great mass of their relatives, friends and neighbors and of the heathen unregenerate as subjects for eternal torment at the hands of the Devil. Hence they ignore the Scriptural doctrine of regeneration, and endeavor to convince themselves that it cannot be necessary; for they know many, many people not regenerated, who are deserving of a far better fate.
The difficulty met with in considering this question is the same with which we so often meet on other questions; namely, an error firmly held so biases the mind as to make Bible truths seem impossible. Now, however, Bible students begin to see that there is a regeneration promised in the Bible for the world in the Millennium, quite separate and distinct from the regeneration now possible to the saintly church. When we get the Bible focus upon the condition of the dead, and see that they are unconscious—or, as the Bible says, sleeping, waiting for the Resurrection Morn, when the world in general will be granted opportunities of regeneration, we see that the regeneration of the present time, that of the Little Flock, will not hinder the masses from regeneration by and by. On the contrary, the regenerated Church of the present time will be associated with Messiah in the regeneration of the world.
This puts a new aspect upon the whole matter. Those now being regenerated are an elect, or select, class. Not only have they a special love for righteousness and a special hatred for iniquity, but additionally they exercise a special faith in God and His promises. By means of these promises and the trials and disciplines of life, these regenerates become especially qualified for God’s service now and hereafter.
Regenerated to Different Natures.
Another item to be noticed is that the regenerating processes of the present time are with a view to bringing the Church class, the Elect of God, to a new nature. Their regeneration began when God imparted to them the Holy Spirit, following their full consecration to His service in the name and merit of the Redeemer. The regenerative
OV379 process continues during their lifetime, as they grow in grace, in knowledge and in love—in the character likeness of God’s dear Son. This means of transforming and renewing work, referred to by St. Paul, saying: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the purifying of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit."—#Ti 3:5.
No well informed person will dispute the fact that the regenerated constitute a very small proportion of mankind—yea, that they constitute a very small proportion of the religious church membership. The Apostle refers to these, styling them New Creatures in Christ Jesus, and declares that to these "old things have passed away, and all things have become new"—new hopes, new aims, new ambitions, new desires, new affections. Such have been "transformed by the renewing of their minds."—#2Co 5:17; #Ro 12:2.
New Creatures in Christ Jesus.
Surely it is not an empty statement on the Apostle’s part that all these regenerate ones are New Creatures in Christ Jesus. The Apostle, referring to this class, tells us that they have been begotten by the Holy Spirit through the Message of Truth. Again St. Peter says, God hath "given unto us (regenerates) exceeding great and precious promises; that by these we might become partakers of the Divine nature." (#2Pe 1:4.) There it is! —these by nature were humans; but God’s grace in Christ, through this begetting, they become of a different nature—"partakers of the Divine nature." In comparison with the world, therefore, these New Creatures—a fresh creation, entirely aside from the human family to which they once belonged.
But the Scriptures everywhere remind us that the New Creation is merely an embryo and will not be perfected until the resurrection. They inform us also that some, by repudiating their covenant with the Lord and turning willfully to sin, may become subjects of the Second Death. They inform us that many begotten of the Spirit may never attain the full measure of their possibilities—may never become joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, their Lord. Because of slackness, worldly mindedness, they may attain only to a lower spiritual degree or nature—like unto the angels and not like unto the Son of God, who is the express image of the Father’s glorious Person.
We perceive, therefore, that the steps of consecration and spirit begetting are not trifling propositions, but serious ones; and that with this opportunity of so great an exaltation go also conditions, limitations, trials, testings of faith and loyalty. "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him"—"be glorified together."—#2Ti 2:12; #Ro 8:17.
Sit on Twelve Thrones, Judging.
In our context the Redeemer assured His faithful Apostles that, after being tested, the worthy ones would be associated with Himself in His Heavenly Kingdom—His Millennial Kingdom. These they would sit on twelve thrones judging or ruling. No doubt some special glory and honor is provided in God’s great Plan for the twelve faithful Apostles—St. Paul taking the place of Judas. Nevertheless the Lord afterward declared that all of His faithful followers would be granted a share with Him in His Millennial Kingdom and in His glory and power. Mark His words: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne"—I will give Him power over the nations" —the Gentiles.—#Re 3:21; 2:26.
This is doubly interesting to us: first because it is the reward of those who are now regenerated and who prove faithful to the spirit-begetting which they now receive—to those who eventually shall be born of the Spirit in the First Resurrection. As every begetting in the flesh must have a birth,
OV380 else it will be valueless, so the begetting of the Spirit must reach the culmination of the New Birth in the Resurrection. Jesus describes this Resurrection, saying, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the First Resurrection: on such the Second Death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. —#Re 20:6.
But this is not all. The time when the Church will be reigning with Christ in His Kingdom glory will be the time of the world’s regeneration—the Millennium. This is the lesson of our text, "Ye which have followed Me (in the narrow way of self-sacrifice in the present life), in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the Throne of His glory (during His Millennial Reign), ye shall sit upon twelve thrones." How plain! How simple! How beautiful! How grand! Could any of the Lord’s people who have experienced the purifying of their own hearts by the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit have a selfish or an unkind thought toward the unregenerated world—so that they would object to the thought here presented! Would not all such, on the contrary, rejoice to know that the Heavenly Father has a Plan by which the non-elect of mankind may be regenerated in due time? We hold that this is true.
Selfishness and every desire to exclude others from blessings and favors which God has promised us signify so much of sin in control of the mind. Love not only thinketh no evil, but it hopeth all things, and is glad to find in God’s Word various promises to the effect that all the families of the earth shall yet be blessed through the Spiritual Seed of Abraham—Christ and the Church.—#Ga 3:8; 16:29.
All Mankind Need Regeneration.
Some may see that the Church need regenerating now, but fail to see the need of the world. They see that the Church’s regeneration is necessary because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God"—we "must be born again." But there would be no Kingdom of God, there would be no Millennium, there would be no regeneration of the world, if God purposed only the salvation of the Church. On the contrary, however, everywhere in the Bible God tells of His compassion toward the world, while telling of His particular love for the true Church, dear as the apple of His eye.—#Zec 2:8.
Note that favorite text, "God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (#Joh 3:16.) The whole world was loved of God. The whole world has been provided for in the glorious sacrifice of Jesus, and the whole world is to have the benefit resulting from that sacrifice. Christ’s death is not in vain, nor merely for the Church, the Elect few.
Through these Elect the great mass of mankind, non-elect and unfit for the Kingdom, are to be blessed—blessed with an opportunity for regeneration as men—not to a new nature, as the Church, but to the nature once assigned humanity, in the image of God, lost through sin.
The world’s regeneration, therefore, will be to perfect human nature, lost in Adam, redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ’s human life. Moreover, God’s provision of Times of Regeneration—years of Regeneration—is ample—a thousand years. Satan shall no longer be the prince of this world. At the beginning of Messiah’s Reign, we have the assurance that he will be bound, restrained, that he may deceive the nations no more—that he may put light for darkness and darkness for light no more.
The great Life-Giver will provide the opportunity for regeneration to all the thousands of millions of our race who died in Adam and who were redeemed to this opportunity for everlasting life through Messiah’s death at Calvary. (#1Co 15:21-23.) Ignorance and superstition, darkness and sin, will flee before the rising Sun
OV381 of Righteousness, which will flood the earth with the knowledge of the glory of God.
Then all mankind, whosoever will, shall have the opportunity of coming to a knowledge of God and of the way of life, and of being begotten again by the Life-Giver.
The regenerated Elect of this Age will have nothing to do with giving the life to the world. That life must come from the Life-Giver, who has secured the right to be the world’s Everlasting Father by the sacrifice of Himself. But as Christ will be the Second Adam (#1Co 15:45) to the world for its regeneration, so the Church will be the Second Eve, to nourish, to care for, to guide, direct, instruct, all the willing and obedient, desirous of coming back into harmony with God during the Millennial Age.
At the conclusion of that blessed Epoch of a thousand years, when all willful sinners shall have been destroyed in the Second Death, the Revelator’s words will be fulfilled—every creature in Heaven and on earth shall be heard saying, Praise, glory, honor, dominion and might be unto Him that sitteth upon the Throne and unto the Lamb, forever. There will be no discordant note. God’s will shall then be done upon earth, even as it is now done in Heaven; and the reward of His favor—everlasting life, with no sickness, sorrow nor pain—will then be with humanity, even as it is now with the angels.
Mankind’s New Trial for Life.
It should not be forgotten that Adam did not lose everlasting life. Although he had a perfect life and was free from all elements of death, nevertheless he was placed in Eden on probation to see whether by obedience to God he would develop a character in harmony with God, and so be accounted worthy of everlasting life. Consequently, when Adam and his posterity are redeemed from the curse of death, this salvation does not entitle them to life everlasting, but merely to a fresh trial as to worthiness of everlasting life.
This fresh trial will indeed be more favorable for Adam and his race in some respects than was Adam’s original trial, because of the large increase of knowledge. Man has had an opportunity to learn the lesson of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. He will soon have an opportunity to learn the blessedness of righteousness and to know of the grace of God in Christ. This knowledge will be of great service to all who will use it during the Millennial Age, when for a thousand years the whole world of mankind will be on trial for everlasting life before the great White Judgment Throne.—#Re 20:11,12.
God wills that all men should be saved, not only from the Adamic death sentence, but also from the ignorance and blindness with which Satan has darkened their minds. (#2Co 4:4.) He wills that all should be so saved from the train of evils which has followed Adam’s sin and its penalty of death, in order that they may come to a knowledge of the Truth. This He does to the intent that having a clear knowledge of the Truth they may make the very best possible use of the new trial for life secured for them by the Redeemer’s Ransom-sacrifice. It is for this very purpose that the Messianic Kingdom will be inaugurated, which will first bind Satan and then release.mankind from their blindness, as it is written. (#Isa 35:5.) For the same reason it is the Divine arrangement that the Kingdom work shall be done gradually and shall require a thousand years for its completion.
The Regeneration of Mankind.
Throughout the Millennial Age it will be the work of Christ Jesus, as the Second Adam, to regenerate mankind. The regenerating influences will begin with their awakening from the sleep of death, in harmony with the Master’s declaration, "The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth."—#Joh 5:28,29.
The coming forth from the tomb
OV382 will be merely the beginning of the work of regeneration. It will be only a preparatory work. The awakened sleepers will be in the same condition of mind as when they fell asleep in death—in a very similar condition to those who will be living on the earth at that time. But before they can be regenerated they must be brought to a knowledge of the Truth. Their eyes and ears of understanding must be opened. This the Scriptures assure us shall be accomplished. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."—#Isa 35:6; 11:9; #Hab 2:14.
The good news of Divine Love and of the possibilities of return to the favor of God through the atoning work of Jesus having then been clearly demonstrated to all, each one will have the opportunity of deciding for himself whether or not he desires to return to human perfection and the blessed privileges of life everlasting. To do so he must be begotten again by the Life-Giver, who will beget again only those who are desirous of having the new life. All wilful rejectors of the opportunity will die the Second Death. But those who accept the Savior’s proposition will come under the helpful and disciplinary experiences which will gradually lift them up to human perfection—mental, moral and physical—to all that was lost for them in Adam’s disobedience and that was regained for them by the Redeemer’s obedience and the Divine arrangement of His Messianic Kingdom for the regeneration of the world.
AND THERE WAS A GREAT CALM
AS the green waves bear on their crest The foam, and ever shoreward come, So, moving surely to our rest, Slowly we all like bits of foam Come drifting home.
He whom we loved has reached the shore In peace; and all the billows vast—The stormy waves of life that bore Him on—have ceased their strife at last . The storm is past!
We thought, because the waves of life Were high and rough, the end would be Mid scenes of tumult and of strife, As mighty billows of the sea Break loud and free.
But there was calm instead! The waves Of life were stilled, and up the strand Slipped noiselessly, as ocean laves In quietness the silver sand, An ending grand!
How sweet to know his weary life At last to rest and quiet wore!
Oh, may we all, through peace or strife, Be gathered on that silver shore For evermore!