By C. T. Russell Pastor Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"But ye are come...to the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, which are written in Heaven." —#Heb 12:22,23.
THE oneness of the Church of Christ is everywhere made prominent in the Bible.
Sects and parties are nowhere recognized. Nowhere is it intimated that Christ has various Churches—for instance, the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, the Greek, Presbyterian, Congregational, Lutheran, etc. On the contrary, there is but the one "Church, which is the Body of Christ," and that Body of Christ has but the one head, Jesus.
We not only find that Christ and the Apostles established but the one Church, but we cannot think of any reason why these should have established more than one. Nothing is plainer than that our sectarian divisions arose from our neglect and loss of "the faith once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3.) As the divisions came in, the errors came in with them; and, as the errors go out, so, also, will sectarianism pass away.
The General Assembly of the Saints.
We should not be under any human or sectarian name, nor divided by sectarian creeds, but united as one people through our consecration to the Lord, through our desire to know His will by the study of His word. We thus represent the Scriptural or ideal Church of Christ. Regardless of nationality, language, caste and of all sectarian creeds and bondages, we are simply and solely as children of God, to be Bible students in the School of Christ, to learn of Him—to be fitted and prepared for glorious joint-heirship with Him in His coming Kingdom, and meantime to learn at His feet the lessons necessary for so great a coming service.
(1) The joys of the present are merely a foretaste of the perfect glory we will experience when we enter into the joys of the Lord—beyond the veil. Now we know in part the wondrous things of our Heavenly Father’s character and plan, and of our Redeemer’s love and sympathy, and of each other’s love and sympathy; then we shall know even as we are known, is the guarantee of the inspired Apostle.
Enter into the Joys of the Lord.
Now we see as through an obscure glass the things which the natural eye cannot see nor hear, neither can enter into the heart of the natural man, but which God has revealed unto us by His Spirit. But they are still more or less obscure to us. We cannot weigh nor appreciate the wonderful glories which God has in reservation for us, but then we shall see Him face to face, as St. Paul declares.
(2) As new creatures in Christ, we seek to know each other as God knows us, not after the flesh, but after the spirit. But for all that we experience difficulties. It is often difficult for us to entirely overlook the flesh of our brethren, as they no doubt have difficulty in overlooking our blemishes in the flesh. But oh, what will it be to be there!
All the imperfections and weaknesses of the flesh, against which we must now fight—all these will then be gone.
Have we not the promise, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is?" Have we not the promise
OV285 again that, Sown in weakness, we shall be raised in power; sown in dishonor, we shall be raised in glory; sown an animal body we shall be raised a spirit body? Have we not the further promise respecting that glorious resurrection change, which shall lift us completely out of the human and into the divine nature, that "We must all be changed," "for flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God?"—#1Co 15:50,51.
Further Trials—Further Battlings.
We remember that we "have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" and fighting "the good fight of faith." We still have need of the Scriptural exhortation, "Watch," and "stand fast;" "Quit you like men;" "Put on the whole armor that ye may be able to stand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand."
Every spiritual help and assistance we receive are parts of the Father’s good providence for us whereby we shall be the stronger, the more courageous, the better prepared for further trials, besetments, difficulties and conflicts with the world, the flesh and the Adversary.
But when we reach the glorious condition mentioned by the Apostle, all the fightings and trials and testings will be in the past. For us, therefore, there will be no more sighing, no more crying, no more dying, no more fightings, no more crosses, no more sufferings, but instead, life eternal, joy eternal, glory, honor and immortality at our dear Redeemer’s right hand of favor. Well do we know that this hope of sharing in the General Assembly of the Church of the First-borns strengthens and nerves His own to loyalty and faithfulness to the Lord, the Truth and the brethren as the days go by.
Let us console ourselves with the thought that whatever is the will of God concerning us must necessarily be for our highest welfare and best interests. If, therefore, it is not yet time for us to pass beyond the veil, it is because our Heavenly Father and our Redeemer have a work for us to do in the present life—either a work of further polishing upon our own characters or a work of helping the brethren, for we remember the declaration that the Bride is to make herself ready for that event. We are to build one another up in the most holy faith, encouraging, strengthening, sympathizing with and assisting one another in running the race for the great prize.
Another happifying thought we should carry with us day by day is the Lord’s promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." And again, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in thy weakness." And again, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to the called according to His purpose."—#Ro 8:28.
So, then, let us not lose heart and flee from the battle, like an army corps in retreat, but rather, as a company of good soldiers who have been refreshed and encouraged and stimulated, we will return to our duties full of good courage, full of joyful anticipation of the coming Great Home-Gathering of the Church of the First-borns; full of renewed determination that by the grace of God, and with the assistance of our great Advocate, we will make our calling and election sure by so running in His footsteps as to obtain the great Prize which He has offered to us.
The Context in Agreement.
Let us detain you a little longer that we may point out afresh that the context confirms our glorious hope respecting this Great Convention of the future, and shows that it is nigh at hand. St. Paul pictures before us the fact that God’s dealings with Israel, in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage and to Mt. Sinai, pictured the work of this Gospel Age, in the calling of Spiritual Israel out of the bondage of sin and death. The Apostle thus shows that the giving of the Law Covenant to Israel at Mt. Sinai typically
OV286 represented the giving to them of the New Law Covenant from Mt. Zion in the end of this age.
The Law Covenant was given through a mediator, Moses, and the New Law Covenant is to be given through a Mediator, the Antitypical Moses, Jesus the Head and the Church His Body. It has required all this Gospel Age to gather out of the world and to try, test, polish and fit the members of the Body of Christ, who, under His Headship, will be with Him the Antitypical Moses, the Antitypical Mediator between God and men.—#Jer 31:31; #Ac 3:22,23.
As Moses went up into the Mount to commune with God before the Law Covenant was completed, so the entire Church must go up into the Mountain, into the Kingdom, with our glorious Head and Redeemer, by the change of the First Resurrection. As the time for Moses’ going up into the mountain drew near, there were great manifestations of the dignity of the Divine government. And just so in the closing of this Age, the Apostle informs us, the world will have terrifying experiences on a still greater scale. He says that then the mountain trembled and smoked, and that the Divine voice was heard. The people were so terrified that they entreated that they might not hear further, but that Moses might act as mediator, and he did so.
So it will be here: There will be such manifestations of Divine Justice and opposition to sin and all iniquity that it will cause the "time of trouble" mentioned by the Prophet and by Jesus, "A time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation; no, nor ever shall be" after.—#Da 12:1; #Mt 24:21.
The result of this great time of trouble upon the world will be a realization that they need a Mediator—a Mediatorial Kingdom. And this is just what God has provided for them through the arrangement of the New Covenant.
Contrasting the experiences at the inauguration of the typical Law Covenant with those to be expected at the inauguration of the antitypical, the New Law Covenant, St. Paul says: "God’s voice then shook the earth, but now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." And the Apostle explains that the expression, "once more," signifies that this second shaking will be so thorough that no further shaking will ever be necessary, but everything of injustice and unrighteousness which ought to be shaken loose will be shaken; and this, says the Apostle, implies everything except the Church and the glorious Kingdom which we shall then receive: "Wherefore we, receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."—#Heb 12:18-29.
The Shaking Already Commenced.
Can we not see the shaking already beginning? Let us remember that this time it will not be the shaking of the literal earth, as in the type, but the shaking of the symbolical earth—the shaking of society to its very center. Do you not already hear the rumblings—the rumblings of discontent, anger, malice, hatred, strife? These forebode the "great earthquake," an expression symbolic of the great Revolution, wherein the present order of things shall collapse and give place to the New Order of Immanuel’s Kingdom of righteousness, justice, equity. And, says the Apostle, God intends this time to shake not merely the earth—the social fabric—but also the heaven—the ecclesiastical powers of the present time. Not the true Church will be shaken, but the many systems which more or less misrepresent the true Church and "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."—#Jude 3.
Do we see premonitions of this shaking? Yea, verily. In all denominations there are forebodings of coming trouble. We may even fear that some of the attempts at Christian union are not made with the proper motive, but through a realization of the
OV287 shaking which the Lord is about to permit to come upon the ecclesiastical systems of this present time.
Wait Ye Upon the Lord.
Dear brethren, in these coming days of trouble, which may be very near, the opportunity may come to you and to me to be either strife-breeders or peace-makers.
Let us see the will of the Lord in this matter, that we are called to peace, and that the declaration of the Master is, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
Let us seek rather to subdue and calm the passions of men in the coming strife, and to do nothing to augment them or to kindle the fires of passion which we know are about to consume the present social fabric. Let us point out to those with whom we have any influence that the worst form of government in the whole world is better than no government—better than anarchy, a thousand times. Let us remind them of the fact that in God’s providence we have the best of all earthly governments.
Let us remind them, too, that the Lord has told us to wait for Him and not to take matters into our own hands. His words are, "Wait ye upon Me, saith the Lord, until the day that 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. For then will I turn to the people a pure language (Message), that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent."—#Zep 3:8,9.
FATHER, TAKE MY HAND
THE way is dark, my Father! Cloud on cloud Is gathering thickly o’er my head, and loud The thunders roar above me. See, I stand Like one bewildered! Father, take my hand, And through the gloom Lead safely home Thy child.
The way is long, my Father! And my soul Longs for the rest and quiet of the goal; While yet I journey through the weary land, Keep me from wandering, Father, take my hand.
Quickly and straight Lead to heaven’s gate Thy child.
The path is rough, my Father! Many a thorn Hath pierced me; and my weary feet, all torn And bleeding, mark the way. Yet Thy command Bids me press forward. Father, take my hand.
Then, safe and blest, Lead on to rest Thy child.
The throng is great, my Father! Many a doubt And fear, and danger, compass me about, And foes oppress me so. I cannot stand Or go alone. O Father! take my hand, And through the throng Lead safe along Thy child.