Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
NEARING THE DESIRED HAVEN OF REST
"So He bringeth them unto their desired haven."
Our context seems to describe the Church of Christ and her billowy journey from Pentecost down to the time when the last member of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye and when all together united with Him He shall present them faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. (Jude 24.) That certainly is the desired haven of all those who have been begotten of the Holy Spirit, who have been taught of God and who have learned something at least respecting the things that eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath in reservation for them that love Him.—
It is of that desired haven that the Prophet speaks representing Christ and the Church, saying, "I shall be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness." (
.) O dearly beloved, we may be content whatever lot we see, since we realize that we are under the guidance and leading of our Lord and since we know that all things are working together for good to them that love Him, to the called ones according to His purpose! We may be content in the midst of all the sufferings and trials and difficulties of life, but we are not satisfied. We are content because our Lord assures us that present lessons, experiences and disciplines are necessary for our fitting and preparing for the Heavenly Kingdom and for the future glory. But we shall be satisfied only when we get those eternal verities of which now we have only the promise, or hope. But what a hope is ours; what a glorious hope! No wonder the Apostle referred to it as that "blessed hope" and connected it with the glorious
appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at His Second Advent.—Tit. 2:13.
More and more, as we study our Father’s Word and come to understand the deep things of the Divine Plan, do we find this hope to be a blessed one, the one our dear Redeemer had in mind when He said, "If I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself." (
The Apostle again refers to this "blessed hope" of ours, saying that it is to our souls an anchorage, sure and steadfast, entered within the veil, because we believe in Jesus. Faith is the cable by which that glorious promise or hope that the Lord has given us holds us fast and secure, not moved amidst the storms and trials of life. I remind you that this hope, as the Apostle explains, was originally set forth in God’s promise to Abraham—the promise which He not only repeated but made oath to—the only promise made with an oath, secured and held fast by the most solemn declaration imaginable, the word and oath of Jehovah God.
"WHICH HOPE WE HAVE"
This promise which constitutes our hope, our anchorage in Christ, is contained in the Word of God to Abraham, "In thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." What a hope we may entertain for the world of mankind in general! If they are all to be blessed they are not in any hopeless position or condition. They have indeed gone down into the silence of the tomb, into Sheol, into Hades; but He whose word cannot be broken and whose oath is inviolate declares that they yet shall all be blessed. And this we see signifies that they must all be awakened from the sleep of death. No wonder the Apostle exhorts that we should sorrow not as others who have no hope; for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again let us also believe that all who sleep in Jesus will God bring from the dead through Him. (
.) Ah, yes, we are glad that which would have been
death in the most absolute sense, in the sense that it applies to the brute creation, is not God’s ultimate provision for mankind. How glad we are that in His love and sympathy He provided even before our fall that we be redeemed with the precious blood of Christ! How glad we are to know that the precious blood was in due time shed to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness!—
"SOME BETTER THING FOR US"
How glad we are that the ultimate results of that precious sacrifice and of our Lord’s consequent resurrection to power and great glory as King Immanuel mean eventually the blessing of all these sons and daughters of Adam who have gone down into death; that their death condition has been turned into what is figuratively sleep, a period of unconsciousness, from which they will awaken in the glorious Resurrection Morning! Who that has sympathy for his fellow-creatures, the groaning creation, could help rejoicing to know of so great salvation that God has provided for the world! Indeed, we need not sorrow as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died, that He rose again, that in due time He is to be King of kings and Lord of lords, and that He must reign as Immanuel, God with men, until He shall have put down all insubordination and until the last enemy, even Adamic death, shall be destroyed and the whole world of mankind shall have been lifted out of it back to all that was lost in Adam and was redeemed by Jesus Christ our Lord—excepting only those who wilfully, intelligently and of their own responsibility, when they shall have been given those glorious opportunities, reject them and die the Second Death.—
But if our cup of blessing overflows with the thought of all the blessings that are coming to all the families of the earth when during the Millennial Age the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, when Immanuel
shall reign for the blessing of waking and uplifting of all from sin and death, and when Satan shall be bound, our joys are made superabundant when we appreciate the fact that God has called us in advance of the world, not only privileging us to know of His gracious purpose for mankind but offering to us a special share, a special salvation still higher, still grander, one which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, —even joint-heirship with our Redeemer in his glorious Kingdom as His Bride. No wonder the Apostle speaks of lengths, breadths, heights, depths of the Love of God, which passeth all understanding! What was there in the world of mankind that should attract Him to grant mankind a redemption, an opportunity for restitution, and what was there in us whom He has now called in advance that we should be called the sons of God, that we should be made joint-heirs with His Son!
We can only wonder and be in amazement at the Love of God which passeth all understanding.
THE CHURCH ON A STORMY SEA
So, then, dear friends, we have a double hope, a hope for the world and a special hope for ourselves, for even as many as the Lord your God shall call, even as many of them as shall make their calling and election sure by faithful response to the terms and conditions of the call.
These hopes all center in that Abrahamic promise, the world’s share being that they shall be blessed through the Seed of Abraham, and the Church’s share that she shall be associated with her Lord as the Seed of Abraham, in harmony with the Apostle’s words, "If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s Seed, and heirs according to the promise."—
When we think of the Church of Christ we must drop from our minds the various churches of men. We must remember that there is but the one Church of Christ, and that it includes all who are truly His through faith, consecration and obedience. Sectarianism, great or small,
has no part in the Divine arrangement as revealed in the Scriptures. The Church which the Lord recognizes is the "Church of the First-borns, whose names are written in Heaven." (
.) Consequently no church history gives the record of the experiences of the true Church. What we know of it must be based upon the testimonies of the Lord’s Word, and our own experiences and inferences drawn from these. The Lord said that whosoever would live godly would suffer persecution, that whosoever would faithfully be His disciple would find crosses, trials and would be hated of all men for His sake. Our own experiences will doubtless corroborate these Scriptural declarations. We all agree that the Christian course is a strenuous one, conflicts with foes within and without, battling, struggling, fighting for life, for the life eternal, for the life which has already been begotten in us of the Holy Spirit and which must seek to grow, to develop that it may be perfected in the First Resurrection.—
The Scriptures tell us something of the experiences of the early members of the Church that they "endured a great fight of afflictions partly whilst being made a gazingstock, both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst being companions of them that were so used." (
We have every reason to believe that similar conditions have prevailed with this same consecrated class all the way down from the Apostle’s day to the present time. Furthermore, we have every reason to believe that similar conditions will continue to the very close of the Church’s experience on this side the veil, until the last member shall have finished his course and until the Church shall be exalted beyond the veil, perfect, satisfied, having reached their desired haven.
We see, then, that these stormy experiences apply both to the whole Church and to each individual member. It is true that there are certain storms, difficulties and trials common to the whole world of mankind; and, as the
Apostle says, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, ... waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." But these storms which come to the Church are specially peculiar and different in some respects from all that come to the world. They come to us because we are not of the world, because we are separate from the world and its spirit, its aspirations, and are following the new aspirations and leadings of the Lord. Notice the Master’s words, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (
.) So to speak, when we leave the world we start on our voyage to our haven of rest, the glorious Heavenly City, the New Jerusalem.
With some the beginning of the journey is peaceful and conditions are favorable, so there is more or less of a temptation to coast about and to feel at home on the ocean instead of steering straight for the haven of rest.
With others the stormy winds blow from the very start, suggesting the impossibility of the journey, in order that we might be affrighted and turn back, having concluded that as the cost of our home going would be too great we must abandon the project. These two influences are very successful with many; and they turn back after they had once concluded to take the journey in harmony with the Lord’s invitation to follow Him, to endure hardness, to separate themselves from earthly interests and to seek His blessing and favor.
Our appeal is to those who have not been turned back by the allurements of peace and calm, who have not been discouraged by the storms and threatening aspects, but who have started with full courage upon the course to the Heavenly port. Of such we confidently assert that they had not been long in the way until storms and billows assailed them and the Adversary threatened to overwhelm
them with opposition or with temptation and allurements. This is the experience of the Lord’s people in general, and the one which the Scriptures warrant us in expecting for all, "The servant is not greater than his Lord"; and the experiences of the Master are to be, in a considerable degree at least, the experiences of all those who will walk in His footsteps.
In our context the Prophet describes graphically some of our trials, difficulties and experiences, picturing them as the stormy troubles of the sea, saying of these mariners, "They mount up to heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble, they reel to and fro and stagger like a drunken man and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven," through such experiences of storm, trial, difficulty, the seeking of the Lord in prayer, waiting upon Him and trusting Him, experiencing quiet and relief and enjoying His presence and blessing. Then another storm arises—more trouble, adverse winds, prayer again, drawing near the Lord, having His sustaining strength further manifested, new hopes, new courage, new wisdom from on High. Thus by these various storms of life and the various blessings of sunshine and favor and the various lessons which we are thus learning, our Heavenly Father and our Lord are gradually bringing us to the desired haven, gradually instructing us in the right way, gradually fitting and preparing us for His presence and glory!
Indeed, we are assured that these lessons are absolutely indispensable to all those who will attain to the glorious things which God hath in reservation for them.
The Apostle likens us to human sons and asks, "What son is he whom the Father chasteneth not," and suggests that if the chastening be thus necessary and if we receive
none, it would indicate that we are not really sons but bastards, not really in the Father’s love and favor. It is a part of the great lesson of faith and trust that we shall be able to recognize the hand of the Lord in all of our difficulties, to see the silver lining in every cloud of trouble, and to realize that all about us are the protecting powers of our God; that He holds us, as it were, in the hollow of His hand and that nothing of evil or trouble can by any means hurt us if we abide in trust, faith and obedience under His protecting care, seeking to learn the lessons which He would teach us. Thus He is bringing us to the desired haven. He is bringing us to that condition of heart and character which He can approve as worthy of life eternal, the glorious reward of the inheritance of the saints in light.—
"NO LION SHALL BE THERE"
We have remarked that the world indeed has its tribulations now, but they are not of the kind that come to us who have joined the standard of the Lord and made consecration of our lives to be soldiers of the cross and to fight a good fight under His banner. Neither will the world ever have similar experiences to ours. The Lord’s dealings with the world in their Judgment Day, the Millennial Age, will be along different lines entirely from those which He pursued in dealing with the Church, the Body of Christ. It is because the Church is called to so high a station, joint-heirship with her Lord, that it is required of all who would attain to that glory, honor and immortality that they shall be able and willing to endure hardness as good soldiers of God; that they shall overcome the world, the flesh and the Adversary and come off more than conquerors through our Lord’s assisting grace.
But notice that while the Church’s trials are crowded into a few years of experience, the world’s trial day is to be a thousand years long, and the conditions will be very different. That which makes our voyage stormy is largely the opposition of the world, the Adversary, and
our own fallen flesh brought into temptation by its surroundings which are not favorable to us as New Creatures and which cause us continual distress. In the next Age, in the Millennium, when Satan is bound and the Reign of Righteousness is instituted, the world of mankind, then on trial for life eternal or death eternal, will find everything in every way more favorable to the way of righteousness than at present.
How grand a time that will be for the world! What a blessed thought it is that earth’s millions who have known so much of sorrow, pain and trouble will then know so much of blessing and of the Lord’s favor, and that He will wipe away all tears from off all faces and bring in everlasting righteousness, and that all those found faithful to the end shall ultimately not only reach the human perfection lost in Adam and an earthly paradise for a home, but life eternal through the dear Redeemer and the operation of His glorious Kingdom!
How glad we are for them that such blessings are awaiting them! We are content, however, to have the storms and billows in the present time, and the tribulation necessary for our development, that we may be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord.
A SYMBOLICAL PICTURE
Call to mind the night in which our Lord sent the disciples by boat across the Sea of Galilee while He remained in a desert place to pray! Call to mind the storm which arose, and the great distress in which they were! Call to mind how later on they beheld Jesus walking on the water! Call to mind how their hearts were at first affrighted but afterwards calmed as they realized that it was indeed their Lord and that He was present with them and had all power! Then call to mind how Peter at this time became so courageous that he even suggested a willingness to walk on the water if our Lord would consent! Call to mind his fear when he saw the billows tempestuous! Call to mind that finally
our Lord Himself entered into the ship, and that immediately it was at the land and there was a great calm!
Perhaps this narrative was given us as a picture of the experiences of the Church individually and collectively.
Individually we have such experiences. The Lord, although not forgetting us, hides Himself for a time and permits the storms of life, the billows of trouble, to assault us. Then He manifests Himself; and the storms no longer cause us dread and fears. We are able to endure them because of our realization of the Lord’s presence and care.
Some of us might even essay to ignore the storms, and yet this, perhaps, is rash, as illustrated in St. Peter’s case. But from the time we have the Lord’s presence we have peace, and ultimately He brings us to the desired haven of Heavenly rest. Applying the picture to the Church collectively it is equally fitting: Storms and trials have beset the way of the Lord’s faithful all through the journey from Pentecost until now. In the morning watches He has appeared. In the light of His Word we discern His presence. Our hearts are comforted; the storms and billows of life have no terror for us in the presence of our Master, in whom we trust. As He takes His seat in our midst we find ourselves at the close of the journey, at the desired haven. We have not yet fully reached that consummation except by faith. We are still nearing the port; but the realization of the Lord’s favor and presence is our comfort and our strength. Let us continue to the end of the journey, and presently we shall effect our landing on the other side the veil. That will be glory for us, that will be satisfaction, that will be more than heart could wish or tongue could tell.
"We shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness," when we share in His glory, when we shall be like Him and see Him as He is, when we shall participate with Him in the glories of the Millennial Kingdom for the blessing of mankind!