BY C. T. RUSSELL Pastor of Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
"The Lord, through the Prophet Jeremiah, sends a message of consolation for the heart of every bereaved parent trusting in him. We read, ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children because they were not.
Thus saith the Lord, ‘Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.’"—#Jer 31:15-17.
THE LORD through the Prophet Jeremiah sends a message of consolation for the heart of every bereaved parent trusting in him. We read: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children because they were not. Thus saith the Lord: Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy."—#Jer 31:15-17.
Five items in our text fasten our attention:
First: Sorrow for the dead, which is universal; as the Apostle declares, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together."
Second: The nature of the comfort described—the hope of a resurrection, the hope of the recovery of the dead—"They shall come again," they shall be restored to life.
Third: That in death our dear ones are in "the land of the enemy;" in harmony with the Apostle’s declaration, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."—#1Co 15:26.
Fourth: That the labors of the parents in endeavoring properly to rear their children are not lost, "Thy work shall be rewarded."
Fifth: Last but not least in importance in this text is the declaration that this is the Word of the Lord, which cannot be broken—the Word which is sure of fulfillment, however different it may be from the word of man on this subject.
Tears Not Weakness—"Jesus Wept.
Sorrow for the dead is not a sign of weakness, but rather the reverse—a sign of love and sympathy, of something more than selfishness. If any demonstration of this thought were necessary it is furnished us in the statement of the shortest verse in the Bible—"Jesus wept." Our Lord’s tears were shed on a funeral occasion, too; Lazarus, his friend, the brother of Martha and Mary, was dead. Our Lord entered fully into the spirit of the occasion, with a deeper appreciation of the awful meaning of the word death than could possibly be entertained by those about him. He appreciated more than any of the fallen, dying race the great blessing and privilege of living, and what a terrible affliction was death—destruction, annihilation.
On the other hand, however, he understood more clearly than any of his hearers the gracious plan of God for the rescue of the race from annihilation. He realized that for this purpose he had come into the world,
OV213 that he might give his life as the ransom price for Father Adam, and thus incidentally for every member of the Adamic race involved in death through the first transgression in Eden. The Master realized from the standpoint of faith in the Father’s plan, and his confident intention to carry out his own part in that plan and to lay down his life as our redemption price, that thus resurrection blessings would come to every member of the race.
Not Dead, but Sleeping.
Let us note carefully the nature of the consolation which our Lord tendered to the sorrowing ones about him on this occasion. Let us be assured that "He who spake as never man spake" gave the soundest and best comfort. The consolation which he gave was that "Lazarus is not dead, but sleepeth." He neither spake of him nor thought of him as being dead in the sense of annihilation, because he had full confidence in the divine plan of redemption and in the resurrection blessings resulting. Hence the interim of death he spoke of as sleep—quiet, restful, waiting sleep.
What a wonderful figure is this, so frequently used throughout the Scriptures by all those who trusted in the divine plan of a resurrection morning. In the Old Testament Scriptures we read frequently of sleep. Abraham slept with his fathers, so did Isaac, so did Jacob, so did all the Prophets, so did all Israel.
In the New Testament it is the same. Not only did our Lord speak of Lazarus sleeping, but the Apostles frequently used this same figure of sleep to represent their hope in a resurrection—that the dear ones who went down into death were not annihilated, but, as our text declares, "Will come again from the land of the enemy"—will awaken in the resurrection morning.
Thus, too, of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, it is written that though stoned to death, he "fell asleep," sweetly, restfully, trusting in Jesus and the great power which he ultimately would exercise to call forth from the power of death all redeemed by the precious blood. This, too, we remember, was the comfort the Apostle set before the early Church, saying, "Comfort one another with these words"—"They that sleep in Jesus shall God bring from the dead by him."—#1Th 4:14-18. Referring to the matter on one occasion, the Apostle remarked, "We shall not all sleep, but we must all be changed." He referred to those who would be living at the second coming of Christ, whose resurrection "change" will not be preceded by a period of unconsciousness in death.
Let us go back to Jesus and the sorrowing sisters at Bethany, and hearken to the words of comfort extended to the bereaved on that occasion. We cannot improve upon the great Teacher and the lessons which he presented. Let us hearken to his conversation with Martha. He says: "Thy brother shall live again." He does not say thy brother is living now. He did not say, as some erroneously teach to-day, thy brother is more alive in death than he was before he died. No! No! The Lord would not thus mock the common sense and reason of his hearers, nor could he thus violate the truth and declare the dead not dead.
Hearken! The Lord admits that a calamity has befallen the household. He says not a word about his friend Lazarus having gone to Heaven—not an intimation of the sort.
On the contrary, he has tears of sympathy, and holds out as the strongest and only truthful solution of the sorrow, the hope of a resurrection—"Thy brother shall live again!" The hope of all the dead centers in me. My death will effect the cancellation of the original Adamic condemnation, and I shall have the right then in harmony with the Father’s plan to call forth all the dead from the great prison-house of death, from the tomb. "Marvel not at this, for the hour is
OV214 coming in which all who are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and shall come forth."—#Joh 5:23.
The Resurrection Morning.
At the close of his conversation with Martha, explaining that her hope must center in a resurrection of the dead and that he was the center of that resurrection hope, our Lord asked for the tomb, intent upon giving an illustration of the power which by and by in the resurrection morning will be exercised toward the whole world of mankind.
Standing at the door of the tomb, our Lord cried in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"
and the dead came forth—he had been dead, he was quickened by our Lord’s power and authority.
This, like other miracles performed by our dear Redeemer at his first advent, we are particularly told, was a fore-manifestation of his coming glory and power, an advance exhibit of what he will do at his second advent, only that the work at the second advent will be universal, higher, deeper, broader every way, "All the blind eyes shall be opened and all the deaf ears shall be unstopped;" all that are in their graves shall come forth, not merely to relapse again into blindness and death, but a permanent recovery—not only recovery from the loss of natural sight and hearing, but the eyes and ears of their understanding will be opened also; not merely aroused from a sleep of death to a few years more under present conditions, but aroused to the intent that by obedience of the Divine arrangement of the Millennial Age all the awakened ones may attain to all the glorious perfections, mental, moral and physical, lost by Adam’s disobedience.
Times of Refreshing Shall Come."
Glorious hope of a glorious time. What wonder that the Apostle speaks of it as "times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord when He shall send Jesus Christ. What wonder that he speaks of those years of the Millennial Age as "times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began."—#Ac 3:19-21.
Lazarus died again, Jairus’ daughter died again, the son of the widow of Nain died again. Their awakening from the tomb was merely a temporary matter, merely an illustration of the Lord’s power; as it is written, "These things did Jesus and manifested forth his glory." These were merely foregleams of the coming power and glory and blessed work of the gracious Prophet, Priest and King whom God had appointed not only to redeem the world, but in due time to grant to all the opportunities secured by that redemption sacrifice.
Death, "The Land of the Enemy.
We cannot here go into details, but we doubt not that a majority of you have our full thought on this subject as presented in the "Studies in the Scriptures," in which we endeavor to show amongst other things that the great blessing which will ultimately be for the world of mankind, as well as for the Church, centers in the coming of our Lord and Master, our Redeemer and King, and that the great blessings centering in him are not merely temporary, but designed of God to be everlasting and eternal to those who accept Divine favors in the right spirit, reverently, thankfully, obediently.
Why should death be called "The land of the enemy?" Why should it be written, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death?" All because, disguise the facts as we may, death is an enemy. The suggestion that it is a friend comes not from the Word of God, but from heathen philosophies. The suggestion that it is unreal comes not from the Scriptures, but from heathendom. The suggestion that the dead are more alive than they were before they died is totally out of harmony with the Scriptural declaration—" The dead know not anything;
OV215 their sons come to honor and they know it not, and to dishonor and they perceive it not of them," because "there is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device in the grave whither thou goest." (#Job 14:21; #Ec 9:10.) The suggestion that we deceive ourselves and imagine without reason that the moment of death is the moment of greater life, is of the Adversary, who contradicted the Lord’s statement in Eden to our first parents, and when the Lord had declared, "Ye shall surely die" for your sin, declared in contradiction, "Ye shall not surely die."—#Ge 3:2-4.
The Adversary has kept up this false teaching for 6,000 years, and at last not only heathendom is deceived by his misrepresentation of facts, but very, very many of Christendom likewise trust to the word of Satan, "Ye shall not surely die," and believe that the dead are not dead, and reject the testimony of God’s Word that "the wages of sin is death," that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die," that "death has passed upon all men because all are sinners," and that the hope of the Church as well as the hope for the world lies in the fact that Christ died for our sins and redeemed us from the death sentence, and in the Father’s due time is to effect a resurrection of the dead.
The Key of Death’s Prison.
Let us comfort our hearts with the true comfort, the substantial comfort of the Word of God—there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust. All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and shall come forth. The thousands of millions who have gone down into the great prison-house of death shall be released, because the Great Redeemer has the key, the power, the authority, to bid the prisoners to come forth, even as the Scriptures declare.
What a glorious resurrection morning that will be! What a glorious reunion! We understand the Scriptural teaching to be that the awakening processes will continue throughout a considerable portion of the Millennial Age, the thousand-year day of resurrection and restitution. First will come the resurrection of the Church, the "Bride," the "Lamb’s Wife," the "Body of Christ." These, as the Scriptures declare, will constitute the First Resurrection—not only first in order of time, but first in the sense of chief. In that company will be none except the saints; as it is written, "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.) Nevertheless, that will be but a little flock, as the Scriptures declare, including "not many wise, not many great, not many learned, but chiefly the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the Kingdom." —#1Co 1:26,27; #Jas 2:5.
Not long after the First Resurrection (the glorification of the Church), will come the resurrection of the Ancient Worthies—the overcomers of olden times prior to the Gospel Age. The assurance is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the holy prophets—yes, all who were approved to God by their faith and their efforts to obedience—will come forth from the tomb to human conditions, glorious, grand, earthly illustrations of the heavenly Creator, to constitute the earthly representatives of the Kingdom, the instructors of mankind.
The instruction of the world will forthwith proceed. We are assured that "the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the great deep"—to such an extent that "They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord." We cannot stop to describe that glorious time and the grand opportunities it will give to every creature to know the Lord, to obey Him, to attain to resurrection
OV216 in its full significance—a raising up to mental, moral and physical perfection.
After the Kingdom of God shall have been fully established in the earth, and Satan shall have been bound, after the darkness shall have rolled away and the true light shall have lightened every creature, the time will come for the awakening of all the families of the earth—not all at once, but gradually, "they shall come again from the land of the enemy." The Scriptures do not go into details on this subject, they leave much to faith; but give us a firm foundation for that faith, nevertheless, in the positive promise of the Lord’s Word.
The Last First, the First Last.
To our understanding those who have fallen asleep last, will be among the first to be called back from the land of the enemy, to be awakened, and thus the work of awakening the sleeping ones will progress backward, as we might express it; the living ones will prepare for their brothers and sisters and parents, and they in turn for their brothers and sisters and parents, and so on all the way back, until finally Father Adam and Mother Eve shall come forth to see the world filled with their progeny, in accord with the Lord’s original commission that they multiply and fill the earth.
They will behold with astonishment the showers of blessing that have come upon the race from the Heavenly Father and through the Heavenly Savior; they will see what havoc was wrought by their disobedience, but that God in His wisdom and power was both able and willing to overrule the matter and to bring order out of confusion and resurrection out of death. They and all will realize something of the lengths and breadths and heights and depths of the Love of God. The grand plan of salvation shall loom up before them; they will see how Abel, their son, who suffered for righteousness, was a type and picture of the great Son of God who suffered for righteousness and for our deliverance, and they will see how his blood speaks peace for all for whom it is shed, speaks forgiveness and renewed harmony with God.
The Tragedy of Sin and Death.
They will learn, too, of the terrible degradation which came upon their race subsequently to their death; they will read with appalled hearts and bated breath of the terrible famines and pestilences which came upon the race as a part of the original sentence or death curse; they will learn about the mental aberrations which afflicted the world, so that men thought they were doing God service in persecuting one another because of religious differences of opinion, and how others, more or less consumed with selfishness, land hunger, etc., warred and fought and devised engines of destruction against each other, and killed one another by the thousands in battle. They will wonder at the patience of God in so long permitting the evil.
Thy Work Shall Be Rewarded.
Then truly they will see what God has wrought: First, his justice, which provided the great redemption price and would not otherwise clear the guilty. Second, his love, manifested in the same connection in the giving of his Son. Third, they will come to understand how that during this Gospel Age God has been selecting his Church to be the Bride of Christ and joint-heir with him in the Kingdom. Fourth, they will perceive that when this election was complete and the members of the glorified company had all been tried and polished and tested and glorified, then the blessing of the world through the glorified Christ, Head and Body, came upon all mankind in the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began.—#Ac 3:20.
Finally, consider the Lord’s Word to us all as a race, and particularly his
OV217 word to parents, "Thy work shall be rewarded." What a blessing and comfort! What a consolation and encouragement are in these words to those parents who, seeking to train up their children in the way they should go, are sadly wounded and discouraged when the arrow of death smites down the dear ones they had so loved and cherished.
They are disposed at first to say, Ah, my love, my counsel, my motherly care, my fatherly provision, were wasted. But not so, saith the Lord; thy works shall be rewarded.
You shall see the fruit of your labor in the future; we shall know as we are known by and by. Our dear ones will be with us, and to whatever extent time and effort will have been expended upon them to mold and fashion them along the lines of righteousness and truth, uprightness and godliness, these surely have not been spent in vain. The child shall come forth that much more advanced in its mental and moral development; to that much more easy attainment of the grand heights which the Lord will then open up before it.
On the other hand, the parent who has been careless of his children, neglectful of his privileges and obligations as a parent, will undoubtedly have his negligence rewarded in the future as he shall see what he might have done for his children but did not.
And more than this. By a Divine law of reaction, every parent who is faithful in the discharge of his parental duties shall have his work rewarded in himself, and likewise every parent neglectful of his duties shall have his work rewarded in himself. For who does not realize that there is no greater privilege or opportunity for self-development than comes to the parent in his endeavor to train up his children in the way they should go, in the reverence and admonition of the Lord.
Character Building Is Included.
Undoubtedly it is true, too, that every effort to do good unto others, especially to your own children, has its compensating blessings upon your own hearts. May this blessing deepen as the years go by.
In conclusion, I say to you, not only for to-day, but for the future days, "Comfort one another with these words" of our Lord to the effect that your little ones shall come again from "the land of the enemy," and that their return shall be even much more blessed, under much more favorable conditions than at present. Then, the great King reigning, all evil will be in subjection, all evil doers will be under restraint, all the influences of righteousness will be let loose, and the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the great deep. Blessed prospects are those before us, and to him who loved us and bought us, and to the Heavenly Father, who designed the great plan, we give everlasting thanks and praises, and show this by our daily lives