VOL. XXIX MAY 15 No. 10
A.D. 1908--A.M. 6036
The Editor's British Tour.........................147
The Memorial Celebration..........................148
Why Our Lord was Crucified........................149
"They Condemned the Just One".................150
A Look at the Crucified One...................151
Seven Words from the Cross....................152
"It is Finished!".............................153
"He That Liveth and was Dead".....................154
"He Descended into Hell"......................155
Resurrection Hopes and Joys...................156
"Become the First-Fruits".....................156
"Preached to the Spirits in Prison"...........158
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NEW POSTAL REGULATIONS
A new postoffice ruling should be known to all our readers. Hereafter newspapers and magazines will not be allowed to keep on their lists the addresses of expired subscriptions --except for a few months: semi-monthlies, such as the WATCH TOWER, three months; quarterlies, such as the Old Theology, six months. If your papers stop coming you will know the reason why.
Subscription lists hereafter must contain the addresses of only those who (1) have paid their money, or (2) have definitely asked for credit, or (3) whose subscriptions have been paid for them at their request. The majority of our subscriptions come under either the first or second of these rules, and we here remark that the publishers are at liberty to extend a credit for another and another year, if the subscriber so requests, but not otherwise. As for the third class; these subscriptions of the Lord's poor are paid for them gladly by Tract Fund donations of those more favored financially. But do not forget that these also under the new regulations must write us yearly requesting this. Look at the address label on your paper and note thereon the time of expiration of your subscription and act accordingly. We prefer to have the "Lord's poor" write us in May each year. As paid subscriptions come at the close of the year this helps to divide the office labors. Remember that we like to have on our List the names of all the interested. Those who donate to the Fund which pays your subscription are delighted to have the privilege of thus serving the fellow-members of the Body of Christ. Therefore let no feeling of false modesty hinder you from making request under these terms if you need so to do. You can no more afford to do without the spiritual food than to starve naturally.
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THE EDITOR'S BRITISH TOUR
Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.
TO THE DEAR BIBLE HOUSE FAMILY, ALLEGHENY, PA.
As my train left the Pittsburgh depot your waving handkerchiefs greeted my eyes, assuring me of your Christian love--and that it would go with me. And the echo of your songs stays with me still--"God be with you till we meet again" and "Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love." Your parting greetings and songs commingled with my prayers for you and all the dear Israel of God, and my thanksgivings to the Great Giver of all good beautifully blended into sweet dreams and refreshing sleep.
The next day, Sunday, April 5th, we reached Lynchburg, Va., where we were met at the depot by about two dozen of the dear brethren and sisters of that vicinity, and soon we were at the Opera House, where a great throng came to hear "The Bible Defended." About 1,000 were present, and it is said several hundred were turned away. We had close attention, and have reason to hope that some received a blessing.
The evening meeting was not advertised, and the audience, therefore, was chiefly of the interested--including some who had come from Norfolk, Suffolk, Richmond and other cities. The discourse on that occasion you already have in the Dispatch and other papers publishing the sermons.
We left at 2.10 Monday morning, and reaching Washington City were surprised to find a delegation representing the Washington ecclesia in the depot, expecting us to change cars there and bent on having us take breakfast with them, which we did. The hour spent in their company was a delightful one, reminding us afresh of what are the usual characteristics of the "Church of the First-born"--everywhere, viz., love and zeal for the Lord and for all who are his.
Six hours later we were with the New York friends. A delegation of four had been appointed to meet us and greet us in the name of the Church, and to provide for our entertainment. Assuring them that such kindness was neither expected nor deserved, we nevertheless were persuaded not to spoil their pleasure by declining the arrangement, and accepted it most heartily. Their arrangements included an evening discourse at Judson Memorial Church. We spoke to an audience of about 600 on the significance of the Passover Memorial, from the text, "Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you."
After the service we greeted the congregation at the door. About one-half of the number were friends of the Truth--of New York, Brooklyn and nearby cities as far east as Boston and as far south as Philadelphia. The next morning about forty of these bade us "Good-bye" again on the pier, and sang "God be with you till we meet again." These many demonstrations of Christian love by the dear friends everywhere have an humbling effect, as we feel our unworthiness of so much of their kind attention; and it has a stimulating effect, too, in that it encourages us to endeavor still more earnestly to attain the perfect ideals set before us in the Scriptures.
Our first day on this great vessel has been a delightful one, clear, sunshiny, cool, bracing. We have rested, read letters brought from home, tried to get acquainted, and above all have enjoyed sweet fellowship with the Lord--allowing our heart to overflow with thankfulness on our own behalf and on behalf of all the dear Church of Christ, especially those who had asked to be remembered in prayer. With a hot salt water bath we will retire, wishing you all "Good night!" and visiting you in memory as we pray for you each by name and remember what we know of your special needs.
At 3 p.m., April 13th, we reached Plymouth, our landing place. Our journey across the ocean was rather uneventful--apparently nobody seriously seasick. We enjoyed a splendid rest, exercised moderately, slept well and ate with good relish--our zest being enhanced by a large bouquet of handsome flowers beside our plate, the kind gift of our dear Brother Pierson as we started. Brother Zink's company has also added to our enjoyment of the trip. How gracious are the provisions of our Father, "who daily loadeth us with mercies." "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits."
Our steamer, "Kaiser der Grosse," was some eight hours late at Plymouth, England, where we took the Express for London, arriving there safely at 9 p.m.
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and finding eighteen dear brethren and sisters at the depot waiting to welcome us. And a hearty welcome we received there and also at the Society's depot, where a goodly company gathered. Short speeches were made welcoming us, and we were handed as a donation for the Tract Fund a draft for L.230 ($1,115), a thank-offering to the Lord. We were assured that our objection to collections and solicitations had been duly kept in mind, and that the sum was purely a voluntary one, the result of mere suggestions passed amongst the brethren of the British Isles, and that the amount but feebly expressed the sentiments of the givers, and that it would have been much larger had not many of the dear friends already undertaken all they were financially able in connection with the rent of halls and advertising for the meetings we were to address. We acknowledged our surprise, as well as our deep appreciation of so practical a demonstration of the loving zeal thus manifested. We appropriated to ourself the Apostle's word, assuring them that we had not come seeking a gift, yet we had much pleasure in accepting it, well knowing that the voluntary sacrifices thus undertaken for the Truth's sake would be to the Lord a sacrifice of sweet savor acceptable through our Redeemer, and that corresponding blessings would flow to the givers.
The following night we celebrated the Memorial Supper with 450 friends from London and vicinity, as elsewhere reported. We had a most blessed season of communion with our Lord and each other.
Wednesday, April 15th, we arrived at Bristol, our train being met at the depot by about twenty of the dear friends, who gave us most cordial greetings. We were the guest of Brother Ford and his family and were treated most hospitably. In the afternoon we addressed the interested to the number of about 100, which included probably 50 from neighboring cities. The evening service was for the public specially. It was held in the Y.M.C.A. chapel. Nearly 1000 were present and close attention was given us on "The Overthrow of Satan's Empire."
We left Thursday morning, speeded on our way by the voices of the friends on the railway platform singing, "God be with you till we meet again." Our train stopped at Gloucester, and on the platform we soon found dear ones anxious to grasp our hand and content that we had passed by their request for a meeting because such seemed the providence of God. At Birmingham we had a change of cars and found about a dozen of the friends waiting to greet us and to show us our other train and to tell us that they were preparing for our meetings with them later on.
Yours in the bonds of love divine, C. T. RUSSELL.
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THE MEMORIAL CELEBRATION
FOR the first time in thirty-five years the Editor celebrated the Memorial Supper apart from the Allegheny congregation. But we had a blessed season of fellowship and communion of the holy Spirit with the dear friends in London (England), which we will long remember. We reviewed briefly the time from the institution of the Passover more than 3500 years ago to the change from the type to the antitype nearly 1900 years ago, when the Memorial of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine was instituted amongst spiritual Israelites as a reminder of the broken body and shed blood of our dear Redeemer--"The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." We recognized not only our Lord's redemptive work, but also that the drinking of his "cup" signified our pledge to suffer with him for the cause of truth and righteousness as a condition precedent to our sharing with him his Kingdom honors and privileges, according to his promise. We also remembered the Jewish Law to the effect that all leaven must be destroyed, burned, before the Passover could properly be observed; and we saw from the Apostle's words that the antitype of this to us is the cleansing of our hearts from anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife, and all works of the flesh and the devil. Then we partook-- about 450--sang a hymn, and went to our homes full of solemn thankfulness, but still feasting on our Lamb and resolved to suffer with him that we may also reign with him.
The total number so far reported as having participated in the Memorial this year is 8,393. Those that reported 15 participants or over are as follows:--
New Philadelphia, O.; Weatherford, Tex.; Carbondale, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Healdsburg, Calif.--15.
Windsor, Ont.; Decatur, Ill.; Abilene, Kans.; Annapolis, Md.; Dundee, Scotland; Cromwell, Conn.; Pt. Huron, Mich.; Tacoma, Wash.; Shawnee, Okla.; Waterbury, Conn.--16.
Oil City, Pa.; Joplin, Mo.; Waukesha, Wis.; Santa Monica, Calif.; Big Sandy, Tex.; Sacramento, Calif.; Spokane, Wash.; Whittier, Calif.; San Rafael, Calif.; Mahaffey, Pa.; Dormantown, Pa.; Easton, Pa.; Butler, Pa.; Ogden, Utah--17.
Chatham, Ont.; Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Ont.; Oakland, Md.; Oldham, Eng.--18.
Rock Island, Ill.; Lima, O.; Nashville, Tenn.; So. Sharon, Pa.; Greenwich, N.Y.; Camberwell, Jamaica; Wermelskirche, Germany--19.
Gloucester, Eng.; Valdosta, Ga.; Rochester, N.Y.--20.
San Jose, Calif.; Medford, Ore.; Omer, Mich.; Auburn, Ind.; Chicago, Ill. (Polish)--21.
Grand Rapids, Mich.; Port Limon, Costa Rica--22.
Everett, Wash.; So. Knoxville, Tenn.--23.
Norfolk, Va.; Omaha, Neb.; Preston, Ont.; Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Vancouver, B.C.--24.
St. Petersburg, Fla.; Lancaster, Pa.; Mansfield, O.; Dallas, Tex.; Jackson, Mich.; Port Clinton, O.; Johnstown, Pa.--25.
Hartford, Conn.; New Brighton, Pa.; New Brunswick, N.J.--26.
Bloomington, Ill.; Tampa, Fla.; Worcester, Mass.; Iola, Kans.--27.
Cedar Rapids, Ia.; Galveston, Tex.; New Albany, Ind.; Milwaukee, Wis.--28.
Harrisburg, Pa.; Muncie, Ind.--29.
Liverpool, England; 30; Edinburgh, Scotland, 30; Sherman, Tex., 30; Cumberland, Md., 33; Birmingham, Ala., 33; Allentown, Pa., 34; Youngstown, O., 35; Springfield, Mass., 35; Autryville, N.C., 35; Hamilton, Ont., 36; Lynn, Mass., 37; Binghamton, N.Y., 38; Wheeling, W.Va., 39; Richmond, Va., 40; San Antonio, Tex., 41; Buffalo, N.Y., 42; Pasadena, Calif., 42; Houston, Tex., 42; Newark, N.J., 43; Tiffin, O., 44; Altoona, Pa., 47; St. Joseph, Mo., 48; Canton, O., 48; Stockholm, Sweden, 49; Denver, Colo., 50; Kansas
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City, Mo., 51; San Francisco, Calif., 60; Copenhagen, Denmark, 63; Cincinnati, O., 69; Toronto, Ont., 74; Ballard, Wash., 75; Scranton, Pa., 76; Providence, R.I., 85; Indianapolis, Ind., 90; St. Louis, Mo., 91; New York City, 95; St. Paul, Minn., 103; Cleveland, O., 109; Barmen, Germany, 110; Los Angeles, Calif., 150; Washington, D.C., 155; Philadelphia, Pa., 175; Boston, Mass., 216; Chicago, Ill., 225; Glasgow, Scotland, 263; London, England, 450; Allegheny, Pa., 493.
Last night two hundred and forty-six of us met together in an upper room in Glasgow and partook of bread and wine in commemoration of our dear Lord's suffering and death and of our participation in the same. In addition, seventeen brothers and sisters, who were prevented by sickness from joining us, were served in their homes. We felt it a solemn occasion, more particularly as we remembered that so few Memorial Suppers can now be held by the Church in the flesh. We called to mind that since the last occasion several of our number have passed beyond the vail, and we rejoiced to know that the time of our own deliverance from this world of sin and sorrow is now so nigh. Pray for us, as we do for you, that we may be found faithful.
The knowledge that our dear Brother Russell, to whom we owe so much in the Lord's providence, was at the same time partaking of the Lord's Supper so near to us, gave us great pleasure. We are praying that our dear Brother's visit may be greatly blessed of the Lord, not only to himself and to us, but also to many who are hungering for the Truth.
With much love in the Lord, yours in the blessed hope, JOHN EDGAR,--Scotland.
I take great pleasure in sending the report of the Memorial observance at Cleveland. There were 107 participants assembled; two, through infirmity of the flesh, were unable to meet with the others--making in all 109. As each Memorial draws nigh there seems to be a greater appreciation of this blessed privilege and a greater desire that we all assemble at one place, and not be separated into companies for the commemoration of the Lord's broken body and shed blood for the sake of the Church and the world. Truly, "Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love." And may the Lord grant to each and every one of his children more of his holy Spirit and love, binding our hearts into closer union and fellowship with himself and the brethren.
In our Lord and King, W. K.,--Cleveland, O.
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--
I want to tell you that the little Church or gathering in this place, ten in all, partook of the emblems of our dear Redeemer's flesh and blood. We considered the nearness of the time when, if faithful, we shall be
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with our dear Lord and see him as he is. We considered also our part in the sin-offering; how our dear Lord bought us, how we presented ourselves to him, and finally how he, as our High Priest, will offer the blood of the finished sacrifice before the Mercy Seat.
There was one dear brother present who was reared a Roman Catholic, and this was the first time he had commemorated our dear Lord's death. It was good to see him. His face shone with love. It was good to be there. We also remembered our dear Brother Russell and all the dear ones gathered at that time. I think we were all made much stronger in the Lord. With much Christian love,
Your brother, G. A. D.,--Conde, S.D.
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WHY OUR LORD WAS CRUCIFIED
--`JOHN 19:17-42`.--MAY 24--
Golden Text:--"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures."--`1 Cor. 15:3`.
ONE of the most remarkable facts of history is that the most intelligent people of the world, the most highly civilized, recognize as their Leader, their Prophet, Priest and King, one whom they admit was crucified as a malefactor nearly nineteen centuries ago! Still more remarkable is the fact that the doctrines promulgated in his name by his followers lay stress upon the fact that his crucifixion was a part of the divine program; more than this, that his crucifixion was necessary; that by the blood of the cross, by the death of the crucified One, atonement is effected for the sins of the Church and of the world--"He is the propitiation for our sins [the Church's sins], and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (`I John 2:2`.) Indeed, by divine providence we see that the cross of Christ (not the pieces of wood, but the sacrifice made thereon and represented thereby) is the very center of the great salvation which God had prepared for our race before sin entered the world, foreknowing that it would come. The divine sentence was death, and this rested upon Adam and all his posterity. None of the condemned could redeem himself or his brother, hence the divine provision that the Logos should leave the heavenly condition and become a man, that he might redeem man.
The death of the man Christ Jesus in any form would have been a sufficiency to offset the original sentence; but God was pleased to test our dear Redeemer's loyalty to him by arranging that the death should be a peculiarly trying one, a disgraceful one, so that the loyalty of Jesus should thereby be the more particularly demonstrated, both to angels and to men; and so that the Father could be fully justified in rewarding him with the highest exaltation--far above angels, principalities, powers and every name that is named-- that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. It was for this reason, then, that the
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death of the cross was intimated in the Scriptures as being the most ignominious--"Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The Apostle implies this added ignominy of the cross in his account of how the Lord left the glory which he had with the Father, humbled himself, took upon himself the form of a servant and was found in fashion a man--"And being found in fashion a man he humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him." (`Phil. 2:7-10`.) So far, then, as our dear Redeemer himself was concerned, this disgrace of the cross, which would have been so trying to any noble son and particularly to the Perfect One, became to him a stepping stone to glory, honor and immortality, the divine nature. As for us, it certainly has already exalted our dear Redeemer in the estimation of all truly his and guided by the Word of the Lord. These glory in the Master's faith and obedience thus demonstrated to the last degree. We are aware, however, that the Higher Critics and Evolutionists have no sympathy with any such thought. Considering themselves wise they neglect the wisdom from above, which instructs us that only by this sacrifice of himself our Redeemer presented to the Father the ransom price for father Adam's life and for the lives of all his posterity, forfeited through his disobedience; and that only by this ransom could any of these attain to a resurrection and opportunity for eternal life in harmony with God.
"THEY CONDEMNED THE JUST ONE"
Our lesson does not include the trial of our Lord by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, nor his presentation to Pilate's court, then at Herod's and his return to Pilate and the endeavors made by that Roman governor for his release. It was only when a riot was feared that Pilate consented that Jesus should be crucified and gave the order therefor, at the same time washing his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am guiltless of the blood of this just person." It was then that the multitude cried out, "His blood be upon us and upon our children," and Jesus was led away for crucifixion.
Jerusalem has several times been destroyed and rebuilt since then, and the levels of some of the streets are quite different from what they then were; yet the Via Dolorosa, or the "sorrowful way," is still pointed out, and also a portion of the archway known as the Arch of Ecce Homo, reputed to have been the place where Pilate stood when, pleading for our Lord's release, he said to the rabid throng, "Behold the man!"--as though he would say, Do you really wish me to crucify such a noble sample of humanity and of your race? Look at him! decide now and finally on the subject! That these traditions are well founded is shown by the fact that in quite recent times excavation made for the foundation of a house on the supposed site of Pilate's palace revealed at a considerable depth an extensive portion of a mosaic pavement of fine work such as would have probably been connected with a palace; and this identifies itself through the statement of `John 9:13`, which refers to the judgment seat as being in a place "called the Pavement." Herewith we publish a small diagram of the city, from which can be judged the route taken by our Lord and the Roman soldiers who were to crucify him while they went to the "place of a skull" called in the Hebrew language Golgotha, and in the Latin, Calvary. The supposed site is on a hill near Jerusalem, which in the distance has the general contour of a skull, with hollows corresponding to the eye-sockets. Modern scholars are well agreed as to this site, which answers well to the general requirements of the Gospel narrative--outside the city walls, nigh to the city, in a conspicuous position, near a frequented thoroughfare, and still called by the Jews the "place of stoning." Christian tradition from the fifth century fixes this as the place of the stoning of Stephen.
"Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?"
It was a part of the custom of these crucifixions that the culprit must bear his own cross; and so we read that Jesus bore his until, faint from the nervous strain of the preceding twenty-four hours, without sleep and probably with but little nourishment, and under great strain and exhausted from the beating, he sank under the weight of the cross. If on the one hand we think of the fact that he was perfect, we might suppose that he would have had more strength; but on the other hand we should remember that man in his perfection was not necessarily a giant in size or a Hercules in strength. Quite to the contrary; these abnormal conditions are the expressions, the results of imperfections. We may suppose that a perfect specimen of our race would combine the best qualities of mind and body represented in both the male and the female, and that delicacy, refinement and elegance with moderate strength should be nearer to our conception of perfection. Thus with fruits and vegetables; the largest fruits are frequently the coarsest; the perfect are neither over-sized and coarse-grained nor dwarfs. Our race seems to have left perfection to such a degree that the majority are either too delicate or too coarse. Furthermore, in our Lord's case we are to remember that he had been sacrificing his life for three and a half years;
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that vitality had been going out of him for the healing of all kinds of disease. This loss would tend to weaken him. In other words he had been dying for three and a half years and was now on his way to Calvary to finish the matter of surrendering his life in harmony with the Father's will.
Some of our Lord's disciples were onlookers (John, at least, was one), and truly they would have been glad to bear the cross for him. We must suppose that they were hindered from proffering their services by fear of being considered as interfering with the officers of the law. However, in the emergency the soldiers found a countryman on the route whom they compelled to bear the cross after Jesus. This expression might have meant to walk after him, to relieve him of part of the load; or it might have meant for him to carry all the load while the Lord walked on before. But we do know that this enforced task upon Simon was a very precious privilege. How many of the Lord's followers since have almost envied him the opportunity enjoyed! Tradition says that Simon ultimately became a Christian,
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that his name was known to the Apostle John and also the part of the country whence he came. The mention of the names of his sons gives strong corroboration to the tradition.--`Mark 15:22`.
While sympathizing with our Lord and thinking how we should have enjoyed helping to bear his cross, we should not forget in this connection two privileges which he has provided for us. First, he tells us that if we would come after him as his disciples we may share with him in the bearing of the cross of this present time--"Whosoever will be my disciple let him take up his cross and follow me." Then, after believing on the Lord, and being justified by faith, and having peace with God, and realizing the forgiveness of our sins, we are invited to make a full consecration of ourselves, to take up our cross--to cross our own wills and to do the will of the Lord, which is the will of the Father which sent him. Do we appreciate the privilege enough thus to take up our cross daily? Are we still bearing the cross? Is it our resolution that by the Lord's grace we will continue to bear it to the end of the journey, until like him we shall be able to say, "It is finished"--the work given us to do, the privilege of bearing witness to the Word of truth by word and by daily conduct?
The second way of crossbearing is to help others who, as members of the Body of Christ, are his representatives about us in the world. When we see any of these with crosses too heavy for them to bear, crosses under which they will likely sink or have already sunk, let us think of the Master and of how we coveted the privilege of helping him to bear his burdens, and let us hear his voice assuring us that what is done unto one of the least of his disciples in his name is done unto him. Oh, how many helpful words this would mean to many of the burdened and the weak of the Lord's Little Flock! Oh, how many cups of kindness it would imply! How much it would bring of cheer and comfort to some of those whom the Lord recognizes as members of his Body! As one member of our body assists another member in distress, so in the Body of Christ. All the members are to bear one another up, strengthen one another, comfort one another, refresh one another, and generally to make one another ready for the glorious consummation of our hopes in the Kingdom.
A LOOK AT THE CRUCIFIED ONE
Numerous details connected with the crucifixion are enumerated. The time was the third hour, nine o'clock, according to Mark, but the sixth hour or noon according to John. The discrepancy is accounted for by the oriental lack of exactness; or Mark may have referred to the fact that the sentence was pronounced in the third hour, while John's record has to do with the time when our Lord was actually on the cross-- after the slow journey, the fastening to the cross, and the making out and attaching the board indicating the charge against our Lord, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews," and then the subsequent raising of the cross with Jesus on it, all of which would occupy quite a considerable period of time, probably nearly or quite three hours.
The Jewish leaders were disappointed with the placard which appeared on the cross, indicating the crime for which the culprit had been executed. They protested about it, denying that Jesus was the King of the Jews. But the Governor refused to alter the matter; and doubtless he worded it especially as a rebuke to them, for he perceived that for envy, malice, they had delivered Jesus to him for death. He would now shame them. The multitudes could all read the inscription: for according to custom it was written in three languages, in Hebrew, the language of the people; in Latin, the language of the government, and in Greek, the language of the educated of that time. Thus in spite of his enemies, the crucified Jesus was proclaimed the Messiah. Yet how strange! A crucified Messiah! How different are God's ways and means of accomplishing an object from man's ways! Truly, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways. Had Jesus not died, had he not redeemed us from sin, the most that he could have done as a ransomer would have been to assist man to more reasonable and better lives--but not to eternal life, which had been forfeited through Adam and which could not be recovered except through a redemption. Under the divine plan, however, he who humbled himself to redeem the world is now highly exalted by the Father to his own right hand of power and dignity, and shortly, as the King of Israel and the King of all the world, he will reveal himself to the overthrow of wickedness, to the uplifting of righteousness, and to the assistance of the weak and the poor and the ignorant, for the blessing of all the families of the earth according to the promise.--`Gen. 12:3`.
Our Lord was made a companion of robbers. The two crucified with him, one at either side, were probably members of the band of Barabbas, and were
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probably considered by the people as more or less of heroes. At all events we are not informed that any jests or jibes were hurled at them by the people. Thus it must be with the Lord's followers to this day. We must remember that our Master and his cause are unpopular; that the learned and influential of the world will be opposed to us, as they were to him, and that this is according to his Word and to the principle upon which the divine plan is being worked out, namely, that if we would reign with him, we must also suffer with him. Crucifixion particulars are not given, and we may be glad of it, for the picture which suggests itself to the mind is horrible enough without any incidental details, and the fact that four writers recorded the main features of the execution, but gave none of the details of the crucifixion itself, is in full accord with the general treatment of such matters in the Bible so different from what would ordinarily be the course of a narrator. Ian MacLaren suggests:--
"There was no death so cruel as that of crucifixion, because the prisoner died not from loss of blood nor in a short space of time, but through the lingering agony of open wounds, the arrested circulation at the extremities, the tension of the nervous system, and the oppression of heart and brain. For five long hours Jesus endured this pain of torn nerves, of intense thirst and of racked body and throbbing brain!"
SEVEN WORDS FROM THE CROSS
It is not to be expected that anyone under such conditions would have much to say. It is quite probable, therefore, that the recorded words or messages of our Lord were the only ones he uttered. These words represent faithfully some of the most important features of our Lord's character and teaching.
What is generally known as the first of these words from the cross is recorded in `Luke 23:34`. Then said Jesus, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We have no doubt at all that our Lord's heart was full of a forgiving spirit, but for several reasons we doubt if he ever uttered these words: (1) They are not found in the Greek MSS., Codex Vaticanus, No. 1209 (fourth century), and Codex Alexandrinus (fifth century). (2) These words would not seem to be appropriate, for those who were guilty of our Lord's death were not repentant, and our understanding is that the Scriptures clearly indicate that repentance is necessary to forgiveness. (3) Those who were guilty of our Lord's death did not believe on him nor trust in his merit, and the clear teaching of the Scriptures is that forgiveness must be preceded by faith. (4) It is not recorded that they were of repentant and contrite hearts and that they had turned away from sin; and the clear teaching of the Scripture is that no one is forgiven unless in this attitude of repentance. (5) Our Lord had not yet finished the work of sacrifice, nor had he yet ascended to the Father and presented that sacrifice even on behalf of believers, and hence the Father would not be prepared to forgive the sin. (6) We have no evidence that the sin was forgiven, but every evidence that the prayer of the Jews themselves, "His blood be upon us and upon our children," was answered in the time of trouble which came upon that nation, of which the Apostle says, "Wrath is come upon them to the uttermost."--`I Thess. 2:16`.
The reputed second word from the cross, "Verily I say unto you today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise,"* is apparently authentic. It was the Lord's message to one of the robbers who confessed his sin and desired the Lord's favor and clemency when he would come into his Kingdom. Our Lord has not yet fully come into his Kingdom; hence the time has not yet come when the thief desired to be remembered. Notwithstanding the dark day and the apparent eclipse of our Lord's life and hopes, he assured the penitent one that he was able to answer his petition and would do so. The fulfilment of that request, as the Scriptures show, will come at our Lord's second advent, when he shall take his great power and reestablish Paradise in the earth, the Paradise which was lost on account of sin, but which was redeemed by the precious blood. Then the penitent thief will come forth; yea, the Scriptures tell us that all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man and shall come forth; and this call will include the other thief also. They will come forth to the favorable conditions of the Millennial Kingdom; but we may be sure that the penitent one will have an advantage over the other and a special reward, too, for ministering a word of comfort to our Redeemer in his dying hour.
"BEHOLD THY SON!" "BEHOLD THY MOTHER!"
Mary, our Lord's mother, and John, his beloved disciple, evidently were standing not far from the cross, doubtless weeping and surely sorrowing. But
*Note corrected punctuation. See DAWN-STUDIES, Vol. VI., p.667
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our Lord, so far from thinking of himself and his own anguish, was thinking of others. As during his ministry he had gone about doing good, so in his dying hour here he thought of the good, the welfare of others, and in the above words committed his mother to the care of the loving disciple. Beautiful is the lesson! How it shows us the largeness of our Lord's heart and sympathy, and how it teaches us not to be entirely engrossed with our own trials and difficulties, large and small, but rather to be burden-bearers of others, allowing our sympathies, our thoughts and our plans to be active for the blessing of all those who in any measure are under our care in matters temporal or spiritual!
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" These words are known as the fourth word or message from the cross. They mark to us the depth of our Lord's anguish. He was dying as the sinner's redemption price, as the substitute, in order that God might be just and the justifier of all who believe in Jesus, and that he might grant them in due time a resurrection from the dead and a return to the Father's favor and to eternal life--to all that was lost in Adam. To be our substitute he must in everything suffer all that we were doomed to suffer as sinners. This included not only his loss of life, but also his cutting off from all fellowship with the Father. A moment, as it were, would
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do; but there must come that moment of darkness, of separation, and we may readily understand that this was the darkest moment in all of our Lord's experiences, still darker than Gethsemane, which was merely a foreshadowing of this experience. How glad we are that we can see the philosophy, the reason why this experience came to our Lord! And as we realize this, may it more and more fill our hearts with appreciation of the blessings which are ours through Christ; the privilege of return to the Father's fellowship and love, so that we can apply to ourselves the Master's words, "The Father himself loveth you." (`John 16:27`.) There is nothing in this dying word of our Lord that would suggest insincerity on his part, and surely nothing in it that would suggest the doctrine of the Trinity! It is in perfect keeping, however, with all that he said on the subject of his relationship to the Father.
The fifth word: "I thirst." This expression calls forcibly to mind several facts: (1) Exposed to the heat of the sun, with but slight covering and under nervous excitement and pain, thirst must have been one of the principal elements of torture to the crucified. (2) When we think of the fact that our Lord had been the active agent of Jehovah in the great work of creation of all things, including water, the Master's voluntary humiliation and resignation to thirst--yea, to die on behalf of the rebels of the realm--is a remarkable illustration of his love for mankind. This cry of thirst, we are told, was uttered when he knew that all things had been finished, when all of the work which had been given him to do had been accomplished--and not until then might he refer to his own condition. Even this cry was in fulfilment of the prediction of `Psalm 69:21`. Our Lord had refused the stupefying draught, but now accepted the refreshment given him from a sponge lifted to his lips on a reed, probably two and one-third feet long. As we think of this matter let us remember that our Lord hungered and thirsted that we, with all for whom he died, might have the water of life and the bread of life--might attain eternal life!
"IT IS FINISHED"
This sixth word was one of triumph. He had finished the work which the Father had given him to do; he had been loyal from first to last, self-sacrificing. He was glad, surely, that his earthly course was at an end, glad because it ended in victory and because this meant ultimately the blessing of the world of mankind and their release from the power of sin and death and the Adversary. It might be said in this sense of the word that our Lord began his work when he left the heavenly courts and humbled himself to take the human nature; and that it progressed during the period of his attaining manhood's estate, thirty years: however, Scripturally considered, the work that was finished was the work of sacrifice which began at Jordan when he was baptized, when he made a full consecration of himself even unto death. Just before his crucifixion he had said, "I have a baptism to be accomplished and how am I straightened until it be finished." Three and a half years was the period of his baptism into death, and now the final moment had come--"It is finished."
"Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." This is supposed to have been the last word, the last act of our Lord's earthly ministry, its finishing touch. How appropriate that he who had sought to do the Father's will at any cost should have absolute confidence that in his death his spirit of life would be in the Father's care and keeping, and that he should thus express himself! And this should be true of all who are his followers. Having resigned our all to the Lord we should so fully appropriate his gracious promises as to be without fear as we go down into death. Death in our Lord's case, however, must have meant far more than it could possibly mean to any of us. We not only have the Lord's assurance of a resurrection, but we have in our Lord's own case an illustration of the divine power. It was he who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead whose power will be exercised through him in bringing us forth to glory, honor and immortality. Our Lord was the forerunner; none before him had ever been raised from the dead, either to the perfection of human life or to the perfection of the divine nature.
St. Luke informs us that he cried with a loud voice, a testimony and witness to all that were near of his hope in God and in a resurrection. Some modern writers regard the cry as the utterance of one dying of a ruptured heart, the supposition being that this was the immediate cause of our Lord's death. It is admitted that there is such a thing as an actually broken heart. We might attribute the cause of this rupture to the ignominious circumstances surrounding our Lord's betrayal, denial, condemnation, scourging and crucifixion; and no doubt all of these would tend to depress him in spirit. But in our judgment the primary cause of his heart rupture was the grief mentioned in the fourth cry, the withdrawal of divine fellowship, the loneliness which was his during his last hour.
The technical explanation of the reasons for supposing that our Lord died of a heart rupture is thus stated:--
"The bloody water that burst from Christ's side when pierced by the soldier's spear evidenced this. The blood exuding from the heart into the pericardium had separated into red clots and a water serum. Jesus died literally from a broken heart."
It does not surprise us that in the divine order nature is made to manifest a sympathy with our Lord by the peculiar darkness which came over the land at the time Jesus hung on the cross. One ancient MS., treating of the subject, says that "many went about with lamps, and the darkness lasted until Jesus was taken from the cross." A great earthquake is mentioned also as having taken place at this time, in connection with which the heavy curtain of the Temple, separating the Holy from the Most Holy, was torn from the top to the bottom, symbolizing thus, as the Apostle suggests, that the way into the Most Holy was now made manifest, made possible through the suffering and death of
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Christ. According to Mark, Joseph of Arimathea went "boldly" to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. From all accounts he must have been a noble character. Matthew says "he was a rich man"; Luke says, "a good man and a righteous...who was looking for the Kingdom of God"; Mark says he was a "counsellor of honorable estate," that is, a member of the Sanhedrin. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of heaven," said Jesus. It is hard for them, because they have much more to overcome proportionately than if they were poor. Had this Joseph of Arimathea not been a rich man he probably would have been fully a follower of Jesus. We are pleased, however, to know that so many good things could be said about him, and that his courage and boldness increased, instead of diminishing under trial. May we not hope that ultimately he became a disciple and footstep follower in the fullest sense? Geike remarks respecting him:--
"It was no light matter Joseph had undertaken: for to take part in a burial at any time would defile him for seven days and make everything unclean which he touched (`Num. 19:11`); and to do so now involved a seclusion through the whole Passover week with all its holy observances and rejoicings."
How Joseph's natural, hewn tomb was honored by the Master's burial therein!
With pleasure we find Nicodemus, another wealthy and influential ruler of the Jews, associated with Joseph in caring for our Lord's body. We may be sure that these men received at the hands of the Lord special blessing because of the courage and zeal which they exhibited on this occasion. We may be sure that those who are so fearful as to hold back when opportunities are offered for service to the Lord are unlikely to be approved of the Master and unlikely, therefore, to gain the great reward which he is now offering to victors. To us the lesson in all this is to be bold for the right, for the truth, for the Lord, for the brethren--at any cost. Indeed, the more our courage and faithfulness to privilege and opportunity may cost us, the greater will be our reward, both in the present life and in that which is to come. This is the third mention we have of Nicodemus in connection with our Lord's ministry. First he visited Jesus by night, as recorded in `John 3`.
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Second, he cautiously interposed on Jesus' behalf when an attempt was made to seize the Lord, as recorded in `John 7:44-52`. And now, as some one suggests, he "improved a last opportunity for service with the bitter consolation of having failed where he might have done much." He was a rich man and brought an hundred Roman pounds (67 lbs. our weight) of myrrh, resin and pounded aloewood, aromatic and preservative, supposedly used by the Jews in wrapping up the dead. A lesson for us is that we should not be content with neutrality in connection with the truth and its service. We should be positive as far as possible; we should take our stand for righteousness and do with our might on behalf of the Lord's cause and the Lord's brethren; while using wisdom and discretion, we should nevertheless be courageous. We should bring our flowers to cheer and comfort in life and not wait until death has prevented an appreciation of these.
Newman Hall suggests:--
"Golgotha! There is a legend that it was the very center of the earth's surface, the middle point of the habitable globe. We think nothing of the legend, but very much of the truth which it suggests, for the cross of Christ is the true center of the Church where all believers meet, of all tribes and nations."
"How shall we dare, with the cross in our view, to lay out our lives for self-blessing and self-indulgence? How shall we make the possession of this world's honors, its wealth, or its favor or its high places, the main end and scope of our lives? taking no part in the sufferings of Christ, choosing ever the feast and never the fast?"
Phillips Brooks wrote:--
"You have your cross, my friend. There is pain in the duty which you do. But if in all your pain you know that God's love is becoming a dearer and a plainer truth to you, then you can triumph in every sacrifice. Your cross has won something of the glory and beauty of your Lord's. Rejoice and be glad, for you are crucified with Christ."
OUR GOLDEN TEXT
In closing this lesson let us remember the important truths of its Golden Text, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." He did not die because death was natural, because he was sinful like other men, nor to show us how to die; he died for our sins, because of our sins; because the penalty of our sins was a death penalty, and because we must be redeemed in order to have any future life on any plane. Hence:--
"In the cross of Christ we glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime."
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"HE THAT LIVETH AND WAS DEAD"
--`JOHN 20:1-18`.--MAY 31.--
Golden Text:--"I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold I am alive forevermore."--`Rev. 1:18`.
THERE is no more important lesson in connection with the Gospel than that of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The death of Jesus indeed exhibits to us his love, and the love of the Father on our behalf. But in the divine plan, in order for the proper benefit to come to man from the death of Jesus, he must rise from the dead; he must become the Captain of our salvation, as well as our Ransomer. A dead Christ could not be our Savior; as it is declared, "Because I live ye shall live also." (`John 14:19`.) A proper appreciation of this subject assists materially in straightening out various theological kinks which have troubled the Lord's people for centuries.
(1) We must have the proper thought; that our
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Lord really died, that there was no sham about it, that he was not, as some erroneously suppose, more alive than ever while apparently dead. Our Golden Text expresses this thought in our Lord's own words, "I am he that liveth and was dead." He was dead in the same sense exactly that Adam was dead, for he died as Adam's substitute, to take his place under the divine sentence or curse of original sin, thus to make possible the release of Adam and all of his posterity from that sentence. As Jesus did not in death go to a place of eternal torment, neither did Adam go to a place of torment, nor was anything of the kind implied in the sentence upon him, all the creeds of Christendom to the contrary notwithstanding. Let God be true though it make every creed a lie!
"HE DESCENDED INTO HELL"
This expression is found in the so-called Apostles' Creed. It is in full accord with the statement of the Prophet David, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol" [the tomb, translated thirty-one times hell and thirty-one times grave and three times pit]. The Apostle Peter confirms the same, quoting the Psalmist's words in the Greek; he says, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades" [the grave, the tomb, the state of death]. And the same Apostle, speaking under the inspiration of Pentecost, on the subject of our Lord's resurrection tells us that the Prophet David spake not these words respecting himself, that they were not true of him, that his soul was left in sheol, in hades, and that his flesh did see corruption. St. Peter says of David, "His sepulchre is with us until this day." It would not be his sepulchre if he had risen. The Apostle says these words were spoken of our Lord; that his soul, being, was not left in the tomb; that he was raised from the dead on the third day. There is no excuse for the confusion usually presented to the minds of inquirers on this subject by their teachers. The Scriptures are plain enough in their declaration that the Lord was dead, not alive. To prevent any misunderstanding they make very plain that not merely was our Lord's body dead, but his soul was dead; as we read, "He poured out his soul unto death," "He made his soul an offering for sin"; and again, "He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied." (`Isa. 53:10-12`.) And again in the text above examined, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," in sheol, in hades, the tomb, the state of death. To suppose anything else than that our Lord was actually dead would be to suppose that Calvary was all a mockery, a farce, and that our Lord as a spirit being stepped out of the mortal body and deceived his executioners, allowing them to suppose that they killed him, while he was more alive than ever. Scriptural declarations are quite to the contrary of this, and we must stand fast by the Word of God to avoid confusion. During the "dark ages" the theory was foisted upon the Church that a man appearing to die did not do so, but became more alive than ever. Upon this false premise various delusive errors have been built-- Spiritism, Theosophy, Purgatory, means for deliverance from Purgatory, praying for the dead, etc., etc.
All scholars are aware of the truth of what we here set forth, but few of them are willing to undertake to combat the error which has become so firmly lodged in the human mind, fearing the loss of influence, honor amongst men and salary. As an illustration of what we say we call attention to a pocket-card bearing the impress of the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work, 1319 Walnut St., Philadelphia. This card has on the one side printed the ten commandments and on the other side the Apostles' Creed. It is in the latter, respecting Jesus, that we read, he "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead." Beside the word "hell" there is an asterisk referring to a footnote, which is herewith given: "*i.e., continued in the state of the dead and under the power of death until the third day." This shows conclusively that the Presbyterian Board of ministers recognize the fact that Jesus was dead and not alive during the period of his entombment. He was in neither a hell of suffering nor a heaven of bliss. He was dead, as he himself declared in our text. His resurrection was his coming to life--and again we are told that he was raised from the dead by the Father's power.--`Acts 2:24,32`.
Our common word cemetery signifies a sleeping place, and the thought thus conveyed is in full accord with the teachings of the Scriptures on the subject. They teach that the penalty of sin is death, and that death would have meant complete, absolute, perpetual destruction had it not been for God's mercy in providing for our redemption from that sentence and a resurrection from the dead through Jesus. And it is because of our faith in God's promise of a resurrection of the dead that we, in common with the Biblical writers, speak of death as a sleep. Thus, "Abraham slept with his fathers," all the prophets and kings "slept with their fathers," Stephen "fell on sleep" to await the awakening time in the resurrection morning, at the second coming of his Redeemer for the establishment of his Kingdom. Similarly the Apostle speaks of the dead in Christ being awakened in that glorious morning, and he even calls our attention to the fact that the whole world may be properly said to be "asleep in Jesus," because our Lord by his death redeemed the whole world of mankind and broke their death sentence and will in due time awaken
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them all in the resurrection morning. Hence the Apostle, in writing to the Church respecting their dead and dying friends, both in and out of Christ, says, We sorrow not as others who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died [on behalf of original sin on the whole race] and rose again [to be the deliverer of the race from the bonds of sin and death] let us believe also [the logical consequence] that those who sleep in Jesus [whose death through his merit has been changed to a sleep] will God bring from the dead by him.
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(`I Thess. 4:13,14`.) This is in harmony with the Father's arrangement that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust, and that this work shall be accomplished by the Lord Jesus, his honored representative.
The word cemetery, therefore, rightly understood, the sleeping place of the dead, teaches a volume in itself to those who have the ears to hear. It is in full accord with the facts as we know them, and better still in full accord with the divine revelation that the "wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"--by a resurrection from the dead. (`Rom. 6:23`.) In this connection let us remember our Lord's words, "Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth," those who shall have passed their trial successfully unto life eternal, instantly perfected, while those who shall not have been approved will be brought forth that they may have the opportunity for rising up out of sin and death conditions by the judgments, chastenings and corrections of the Millennial Age. Our special attention for the moment is called to the word "graves" in this text. We have already seen that sheol in the Hebrew signifies the death state and that hades is its Greek equivalent, but the word here rendered "graves" is a different one, namely, mnemeion, which signifies "remembrance." The proper thought is that although our friends and neighbors of the world of mankind are passing to the tomb at the rate of 90,000 every day, nevertheless they are not blotted out of existence, but are still in divine "remembrance" and subjects of divine power and will eventually be released from the great prison-house of death by him who bought us all with his own precious blood.
RESURRECTION HOPES AND JOYS
It is in full accord with the Scriptural presentation that joy thrills our hearts as we come to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus and also as we think of the resurrection morning of the Millennial day and the promise that therein and thereby the Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces, and there shall be no more sighing, no more crying, no more dying, because all the former things shall have passed away. But notwithstanding this natural, proper sentiment the resurrection does not hold its proper place in the minds of the majority of Christian people for the same reason that the second coming of Christ has lost its proper relationship to their faith. The fault lies in the fact that unconsciously another hope than that of the Bible has been instilled, a hope that men do not die but pass immediately into glory or immediately into anguish eternal. To those who thus misread their Bibles the word resurrection can have but little real significance. To all such it is not only a needless and useless proposition but a very inconvenient one. They ask, "Why have a resurrection for those who have gone to heaven and who hope that its joys are eternal? Why have a resurrection for those who have passed into eternal torment? What is to be gained?" Very true, we answer! Under such conditions undoubtedly a resurrection would be of no value and would have no place, but those are not the conditions. The dead are dead; they have neither joy nor suffering while they sleep. They know nothing of the lapse of time; the awakening moment to each will be the next in consciousness to the one when they died. From this standpoint the resurrection is all important, without it there could be no future life or bliss. Hence the Apostle looked forward to the resurrection and pointed us forward to the same event for the culmination of our hopes--and our dear Redeemer indicated that the blessing of the world was dependent upon their hearing his voice and coming forth from the prison-house of death, the tomb, to hear the good tidings, to be judged or tested thereby as to their willingness to be obedient to their Creator. All who will obey the commands of the great King shall by his judgments then abroad in the earth be brought to perfection and life eternal, while those who will decline to be obedient at heart shall ultimately be destroyed in the Second Death.--`Acts 3:23`.
"BECOME THE FIRST-FRUITS"
The Apostle Paul found the spirit of the Greek philosophers intruding upon the teachings of the Gospel even in his day, so that in the Lord's providence it was proper for him to write a wonderful chapter (`I Cor. 15`) fully setting forth the doctrine of the resurrection and what would be our fate without the resurrection. He says, If there be no resurrection of the dead, our hope is vain, our preaching vain, we are yet in our sins; and those who have already died are perished, and our fate will be the same. If God has provided no resurrection for the dead then our future is hopeless and we might as well eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.--`Vs. 12-18`.
The Apostle was writing to those who believed in the resurrection of Jesus, but who disbelieved in the necessity for their own resurrection, and so he adds, If the dead rise not then Christ did not rise, and if Christ did not rise, the basis of all your hopes and faith drops out; and if Christ did rise from the dead you must logically believe that the resurrection of his followers will be like his. Indeed, as the Apostle again says, the resurrection of the Church is spoken of as being Christ's resurrection, having a share in Christ's resurrection; because in coming forth the Church will share the same kind of resurrection as our Lord, be like him--put to death in the flesh they will be quickened in spirit, sown in corruption they will be raised in incorruption, sown in weakness they will be raised in power, sown animal bodies they will be raised spiritual bodies. All who now are transferred from Adam to Christ and accepted of God as members of the Body of Christ, members of the Bride of Christ, have his new nature, are begotten of the Spirit and will in the resurrection be spirit beings like their Lord and Head. The remainder of mankind in the resurrection will be like their head, Adam. As is the heavenly one, such will they be who attain to his nature; as was the earthly one, such will they
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be who in this Gospel Age do not experience the begetting of the holy Spirit. As to the remainder of the natural seed, their resurrection will be to earthly conditions, a gradual uplifting to the full perfection of human nature, all that Adam had originally, plus experience.
If our Lord became the first-fruits of them that slept, did he not sleep? And do not the others sleep? And if he was awakened, raised from the dead by the Father's power, must not all be awakened and lifted up? A first-fruits implies after-fruits. The Scriptures point out that the Church is included with the Lord as a part of the first-fruits, "a kind of first-fruits unto God of his creatures." (`Jas. 1:18`.) Thus the resurrection of the Christ began with the resurrection of our Lord and will be consummated with the change of the last member of the Church, which is his Body. "Christ, the firstfruits," will then be complete. But this will not consummate the divine plan, for it is God's intention to have the after-fruits, a great harvest, which will be gathered during the Millennial Age. To this the Apostle refers, saying, Afterwards they that are Christ's during his parousia. Our Lord's parousia will continue for a thousand years; he will be present in the world, present for the very purpose of ascertaining how many of the world, under favorable conditions of knowledge and opportunity and assistance, will be glad to go up on the highway of holiness to perfection, to full recovery out of sin and death. That noble company will be the after-fruits of the divine plan. Earth as well as heaven will be filled with the glory of God when all evil doers shall have been cut off; and then every voice in heaven and earth shall be heard praising him that sitteth upon the throne and the Lamb for the grand consummation of the divine plan!
THE NARRATIVE OF OUR LESSON
Those who get the proper grasp of the importance of the resurrection of Jesus will perceive the necessity for the very explicit description thereof given us in the Gospels, because without faith in the resurrection of Jesus we must be without faith in the merit of his death, in the sufficiency of his sin-offering on our behalf and consequently uncertain in respect to our own resurrection, the salvation which shall be brought unto us at the revelation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (`I Pet. 1:13`.) This accounts for the minuteness of detail. Moreover, not only is it to be remembered that the apostles and the five hundred brethren, converts to our Lord's teaching at the time, were natural men and needed such proofs as would appeal to the natural mind, but it should be remembered also that the message of our Lord's death and resurrection would go to natural men all the way down the Gospel Age and must be so plain and distinct as to be understood by all. After the apostles received the holy Spirit they understood matters connected with our Lord's death and resurrection which they did not understand before. It is similar with us; when we receive the holy Spirit we come to a deeper appreciation of the features of divine truth.
"PUT TO DEATH IN THE FLESH--QUICKENED IN SPIRIT"
Our Lord took our nature not with a view to keeping it to all eternity, but merely that he might be able to present the ransom-sacrifice on our behalf; that he might die as the man Christ Jesus for the man Adam and his posterity involved with him in his sin. The death of Jesus finished the work which he came to do, as his dying words show--"It is finished." There was
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no reason why he should be raised a human being, but every reason to the contrary. As a human being he would have been circumscribed in his power, talents, dignities, honors and thus have been forever humiliated as the result of the great work which he accomplished in obedience to the Father's program. This would be quite the contrary of what the Apostle points out when he declares that God raised Jesus from the dead and highly exalted him far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named. (`Phil. 2:9`; `Eph. 2:21`.) Most evidently, then, he does not now have a human nature, but, as the Scriptures declare, a divine nature, for the human nature, instead of being far above that of angels, is a "little lower than the angels."--`Psa. 8:5`.
So, then, our Lord was put to death in the flesh-- not quickened or made alive or resurrected in the flesh --but as the Apostle declared, he was quickened, raised in spirit, a spirit being of the highest order, "changed" from mortal to immortal, because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God."
TWO LESSONS WERE TAUGHT
We see, then, that two great lessons were to come to our Lord's followers: (1) That their Master was no longer dead but alive, risen from the dead; (2) that he was no longer the man Christ Jesus, but Jesus "changed," glorified. "Now the Lord is that spirit."-- `2 Cor. 3:17`.
How could these two great and important lessons be taught to the disciples then and since, seeing, as our Lord says, that they were slow of hearing because they were natural men with natural minds, naturally disposed to think of things only upon the earthly, fleshly plane? The method adopted by our Lord was, first, to make very distinct to their natural sense the fact of his resurrection by the removal of his body from the tomb, by the vision of angels speaking of our Lord as risen, by the clothes and napkins lying in their places as though they had been laid aside by one awaking from sleep. To emphasize this lesson our Lord, although a spirit being, appeared to the disciples in bodies of flesh which on one or two occasions he permitted to be touched. But lest they should get the idea that he was still man, lest they should lose sight of the fact that he was a spirit being appearing as a man, as the angels had frequently done in the past, our Lord appeared in various forms, once as a gardener, once as a stranger traveling to Emmaus, once as a stranger on the shore of Galilee calling to the fishermen and directing them where to cast their nets, twice in the upper room, where he demonstrated that he was not a man by coming into their midst while the doors were shut and, after a brief conversation, vanishing
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out of their sight while the door was still shut. In these various ways the Lord demonstrated the double lesson, and remained with his disciples forty days that these lessons might be well learned--first, that he was risen; secondly, that he was changed and was no longer the man Christ Jesus.
No wonder that the early Church, appreciating the value of our Lord's resurrection and the fact that they were no longer Jews under the Jewish Law, gradually changed the day specially set apart for divine worship from the seventh day to the first day of the week--but not with any law or command, simply of good will and of choice, since to the Christian every day is a Sabbath, a holy day in which he is not to do anything which would be wrong or displeasing to the Lord. The custom is a beautiful one and all who love the Lord and appreciate the value of his resurrection must esteem the first day of the week on that account. It was made sacred by our Lord's resurrection; it became, therefore, to his followers the day of hope.
Joining the various accounts of the resurrection morning we find (`Mark 16:1`) that Mary Magdalene, mentioned in our lesson, was one of the first at the sepulchre while it was yet dark; that with her were Mary, the mother of James and Salome, and (`Luke 24:10`) Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward. On their way they had been wondering who would roll away the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre that they might enter with their spices to complete the embalming work which was discontinued two evenings before because of the Jewish Sabbath then beginning. To their surprise the stone was already rolled away. They tarried awhile wondering, and then in the dim light they perceived that the Lord's body was not there. Perplexed by their further loss Mary hastened to the home of John, with whom Peter was lodging, and related these facts. The two apostles ran to the sepulchre. John, the younger, outrunning Peter, arrived there first. But by this time the other women had departed to communicate the news to the other disciples. Awestricken, John had stooped down and looked in, but Peter, on arrival, still more courageous, went in followed by John. They found things as Mary had described them, the body gone, the linen cloths there. Troubled and perplexed they went their way. Although the indication is that they both believed, their belief was not that the Lord had risen, but that Mary's story was true, that his body had been removed, "for as yet they knew not the Scripture that he must rise again from the dead."--`V. 9`.
Mary returned to the tomb filled with sorrow; she was weeping and saying in her heart, They might at least have left us the body of our Lord. She looked again into the sepulchre. Ah, now she saw something different. Two angels were present, who said, "Why weepest thou?" intimating that there was no cause for weeping and thus no doubt helping to prepare Mary for the next step of our Lord's revealment. A noise or perhaps a shadow called her attention backward and she saw a man who she supposed was the gardener and she appealed to him, Sir, if you have borne him hence tell me where you have laid him and I will see that you are not further troubled in the matter, for myself and his other friends will care for his remains. Then Jesus, who had hidden his identity by appearing in "another form," like a gardener, in different clothing from that which was parted amongst the soldiers, and different also from that in which he had been shrouded, revealed himself through the tone of his voice which she so well knew, uttering her name only. In a moment the truth flashed upon her mind and she cried, Rabboni, my Master, my Lord!
With us as with Mary sorrow sometimes fills our hearts and we see not the streams of joy and everlasting blessing which the Lord has for us; not until we hear his voice, his word, do we appreciate the truth. But all who know the Master truly know his voice, know his message, know his spirit, his disposition; as he himself expressed it, My sheep hear my voice and they follow me, they recognize not the voice of strangers.--`John 3:5`.
"I AM NOT YET ASCENDED"
In her ecstasy Mary was apparently about to grasp the Lord by the feet. Her thought evidently was, This is a vision, which will pass away and I will see my Lord no more; I will hold him tightly; where he is I must be. But Jesus taught her otherwise, and the lesson is a good one for us also. He would have her remember that he had already said, "It is expedient for you that I go away." Why, then, should she detain him? Besides, she was not ready to go with him, she had lessons to learn, experiences were to still further develop her character, to fit and prepare her for the Kingdom blessings. He must go, she must stay. She must learn submission, confidence in him and have a realization that he is able to make all things work together for good to those who trust him. Our Lord gave Mary a message for the apostles, a service she could render him and them--and the intimation is that she should rather have been thinking of such a service instead of holding him by the feet; she should be exercising faith and accepting divine providence and hastening to spread the good tidings of his resurrection to others. The lesson for us is obvious. We, too, have heard of the death and resurrection of Jesus and additionally have learned of God's grace through him, and it is our privilege to carry the message to all of the brethren wherever they may be, to all who have the hearing ear.
Our Lord's declaration, I have not yet ascended to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God, emphasizes the fact that he went not to heaven when he died, but into the tomb, into the state of death. It emphasizes also the fact that he is our Elder Brother, our forerunner into the Father's presence and into the glories which God hath in reservation for all those that love him, that love him to the extent of willingness to follow in the footsteps of Jesus at any cost along the rugged narrow way.
"PREACHED TO THE SPIRITS IN PRISON"
We refer to these words of the Apostle Peter because they are so generally misunderstood. Some suppose
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that our Lord went to Purgatory or to some other place of torment and delivered some discourses during the period of his death. Here we find the error respecting the meaning of life and death still further confusing; we ought to understand that when our Lord was dead he could not preach and that the dead of mankind could not hear; as the Scriptures declare, "In death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave [sheol] who shall give thee thanks?" (`Psa. 6:5`.) "There is no work nor device nor knowledge in the grave [sheol] whither thou goest," whither all mankind go. (`Eccl. 9:10`.) What, then, is the signification of the words of St. Peter quoted above? We reply that he is referring to those angels who sinned in the days of Noah--the fallen angels. They are the spirits in prison, under restraints, "chains of darkness," until the judgment of the great day. True, mankind in general are said to be in prison also; the tomb is the great prison-house
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to which our Lord referred, quoting Isaiah's prophecy and assuring us that ultimately he will open the prison-doors and bring forth the prisoners. Again he assures us that he has the key to this prison, the "key of death and of hades"--the tomb. But men are never referred to as spirits; angels are so referred to; they are spirit beings; man is not, he is a human or earthly being. True, we sometimes speak of the spirit of life, the power of life in man, but we do not speak of it as a thing that could be preached to; it merely refers to his vitality. Every spirit that can be preached to must be a spirit being and must be alive and not dead, in order to be able to receive the preaching.
With these points in mind it is very easy to see that the Apostle was referring to our Lord's preaching in a figurative sense in much the same way that we are in the habit of saying, "Actions speak louder than words." Our Lord's sermons to the fallen angels, the spirits in prison, restrained from liberty in the days of Noah, were along this line of action, not of words. When cast out by our Lord, some of these spirits who had obsessed humanity cried out, "We know thee who thou art!" They knew Jesus was the Logos, the Father's representative who had created them; they knew that he had left the glory of the Father and humbled himself to take the earthly nature instead; they knew that he had consecrated his human life to death as a sin-offering for mankind. In all this they beheld a wonderful lesson, yet we cannot suppose that they any more than the apostles understood that our Lord would be raised from the dead. When, however, he was raised up by the Father's power on the third day and they beheld him again a spirit being of the highest order, it must have been a matter of astonishment and wonderment to them. It preached a lesson, namely, that obedience to God is profitable. It must have preached another lesson also, that God who punishes evil doers is sure to bless and reward all those who seek to do his will.
It was a sermon along still another line, namely: it taught the love of God, his compassion toward sinners, and it gave the fallen angels room to reflect that if God had such compassion upon the poor, fallen human race, he might ultimately have as much compassion upon them and grant them some opportunity for escaping from the punishment which had come upon them for their sins. Theirs, indeed, was a different penalty from that upon man, but why might they not hope that the same God who was rich in mercy upon Adam and his race would have compassion also upon any of those who would have the heart desire to come back into harmony with him. It is our thought that this was a powerful sermon, and we shall not be surprised to find by and by that as a result of this sermon some of those fallen angels repented and did thereafter strive to live in harmony with the Father, hoping that some time divine mercy might be extended to them for their release and their restoration to fellowship with the holy angels. And this very hope is held out by the Apostle when he tells us that the Church shall judge not only the world of mankind but shall also judge angels. This means a judgment or trial time for the fallen angels, the holy angels needing no judging or trial.
IT IS SOWN--IT IS RAISED
Before leaving this subject we call attention to the words of the Apostle descriptive of the resurrection change of the Church. (`I Cor. 15:42,43`.) He says, "It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown an animal body, it is raised a spiritual body." And since the Church's resurrection is really a share or part of Christ's resurrection, the First Resurrection, these words must also describe our Lord's resurrection. The question we raise is, What is it that was sown and that was raised? We answer that it was our Lord's soul or being. When he was thirty years of age he was simply the perfect one, a man separate from sinners. But when he consecrated himself at baptism and was begotten of the holy Spirit he was then a New Creature in embryo. It was our Lord the New Creature who was the heir of all things, the High Priest whose privilege it was to sacrifice. He sacrificed his flesh, his earthly nature, which he covenanted to the Lord at his baptism. He finished the work of sacrificing at Calvary; for parts of three days he was dead, but when the resurrection moment came and the Father raised him up by his own power, he raised up not the sacrificed flesh but the New Creature, the "it" to which the Apostle refers, the "it" which was sown, buried in the flesh, in dishonor, with the wicked and the rich. It was raised the third day to glory, honor and immortality, the divine nature. In other words the New Creature was perfected by being given a new body. Thus seen all of the Lord's people, as was their Lord, are dual beings. They as New Creatures have a reckoned existence while their mortal bodies are reckoned dead. By and by when the mortal flesh is actually dead the New Creature will be perfected by being granted a new body, a resurrection body. Let us remember the Apostle's words and apply them to ourselves, I do count all things but loss and dross that I may win Christ...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection [sharing it], being made conformable to his death.--`Phil. 3:8-10`.