By C. T. Russell Pastor New York, Washington and Cleveland Temples and the Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
THE whole world are Gentiles, according to the Scriptural presentation, except the true followers of Christ, and the loyal-hearted Jews who are still God’s people under their Law Covenant. In classing the great mass of Jews and of professed Christians as part of the world the Pastor meant no unkindness; but declared that to understand God’s dealing in the present time, nominal Christians, or mere professors, must not be confounded with the "little flock" who have responded to the Gospel Call, "Gather My saints together unto Me, saith the Lord; those who have made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice"—self-sacrifice. (Psalm 50:5; #Ro 12:1.) If we recognize these saintly Christians of every nation and denomination as being the one true Church, "whose names are written in Heaven," and if we recognize all others as Gentiles, we shall be getting the eyes of our understanding into true alignment with the mind of God as expressed in the Bible.
Thus seen, God is not merely calling nations to war, to battle, as nations; but in a more particular sense the call is to this Gentile class irrespective of national boundaries. And it is worthy of note that throughout the Scriptures the great masses of India, China, etc., are comparatively ignored. Because they have not come into particular contact with God’s Messages they are not so particularly included in the judgments, chastisements, troubles, foretold to be coming upon the earth at the close of this Age. In other words, unintentional ignorance of God is not a crime to be punished, but a defect to be corrected in due time by the blessings of Messiah’s Kingdom.
Wrong Thoughts of God’s Wrath.
When thinking of the wrath of God coming upon the world, we are not to think of the Almighty as having exercised great patience for centuries and finally losing His temper and wreaking vengeance upon His creatures. Such a thought might be gathered from some of the expressions of the Scriptures, because of adaptation of language to human comprehension, and more or less loss of the true sentiment in translating and through the mental glass of the translators.
In any event let us remember that this wrath of God and the judgments coming upon the world are wholly different from the legends—namely, eternal torture, etc., at the hands of demons, taught us by our creeds. Instinctively, a part of the dread we have of death in every form—by war, famine and sickness—is the fear of that eternal torture nightmare thrust upon us from childhood, inculcated by all the creeds of Christendom, but without Bible foundation when the latter is properly translated and rightly understood.
Furthermore, we should remember that while God has foretold the troubles
OV345 of the Day of Wrath for centuries and indicates that He will have to do with their precipitation upon the world, nevertheless elsewhere He also shows us that these troubles really come from ourselves, that they are the outgrowth of human wrong-doing, and that these dire penalties of sin would have wrecked our social and religious fabric long, long ago, had not Divine Providence forefended us—holding back the storm of human passion and avarice, and permitting it to come only now, in the end of the Age, at the time when Divine Providence has Messiah’s Kingdom in full readiness to take control. Just as soon as the storm of human passion shall have taught humanity its needed lesson and shall have liquidated the long-standing accounts, Messiah’s Kingdom, with a clean slate, will be inaugurated.
Accounts Yet to be Squared.
In Jesus and in His saintly followers throughout this Gospel Age, the world has had God’s Cause of Righteousness and Truth, more or less clearly manifested. Every persecution against these members of the Body of Christ is a crime against God and against righteousness. Of such sufferings the Apostle says, If any suffer as a Christian, let him glorify God on this behalf; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth on such.
As a blessing rested upon all the Lord’s faithful people who have suffered unjustly, so correspondingly a Divine curse, or penalty, has rested upon all persecutors of these, their responsibility being gauged by the degree of their knowledge, and their punishment proportionate. On the books of Justice, however, God represents that the lives of all His faithful ones cry out for vengeance; and that while mercy comes to all mankind through the sacrificial death of the Savior, this does not alter the fact that Justice calls for punishments for crimes more or less willful and therefore not included in the Savior’s atonement.
Thus it was in the end of the Jewish Age, which may serve us as a pattern, or illustration of the ending of this Age. St. Paul, writing of that time, says: "Wrath is come upon this people to the uttermost, that all things written in the Law and the Prophets concerning them should be fulfilled." Notice, however, the vast difference between these Bible judgments and the eternal torment judgments falsely declared by every one of our creeds, which indirectly tell us that every Jew at death goes to eternal torment because he is not a Christian.
But the Scriptures declare that the punishments upon the Jews which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 were, some of them, for sins committed long before. Notice Jesus’ words, "The blood of all the Prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, shall be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who perished between the Altar and the Temple."—#Lu 11:50,51.
Wherein was the justice in exacting all that of the people living in the close of that Age? We reply that those people had far more responsibility than all who preceded them. They had a great Light amongst them, shining from Jesus and the early saints.
In their treatment of these lightbearers, crucifying them and variously injuring them, upon that last generation of the Jewish Age "wrath came to the uttermost."
The Recompenses of Zion.
The Bible intimates that similar aggregations of punishment are to be expected in the end of this Gospel Age. The great Time of Trouble, or Day of Wrath is the "recompense of the controversy of Zion"—the saints, the true Church. For eighteen hundred years Jesus has prophetically declared that the Kingdom class would suffer violence; and the violent have usurped the place of the true by force.
All the while, the violent have outwardly been posing as the True Church of Christ, while the saints of God in
OV346 every epoch and in every century have suffered—"as deceivers and yet true; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things." (#2Co 6:8-10.) "Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ" (#Ro 8:17), they have been counted "the filth and offscouring of the earth," "of whom the world was not worthy."
But the sin of their persecutors must be liquidated, even though the persecutors themselves will all eventually be forgiven. From this viewpoint, the "Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation," and which is now beginning gradually to be consummated, will be the squaring of God’s accounts with the world, preparatory to handing the Kingdom over to Messiah for the blessing of all.
As illustrative of this principle, note the lesson of #Re 6:9-11: The cry is, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" The message for all these martyrs of Jesus was, Wait a little season, the vengeance will come, but not until all of this class shall have experienced their share of "the sufferings of Christ."
To these martyrs the suffering brought polishings of character, testings of faith, Divine approval and an increased glory on the spirit plane as members of the Bride of Christ—the blessings to be given to them in the First Resurrection—the chief Resurrection, referred to by our Lord in #Re 20:6. Then will be accomplished the binding of Satan; and then Messiah’s Kingdom, with all its blessed and uplifting influences, will bless the whole world with the long-promised "Restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy Prophets since the world began."—#Ac 3:19-23.
Modern Persecutions Differ.
We do not say that the persecutions of the last members of the Body of Christ will be literally cutting their tongues out, by literally burning them at the stake, by literally crucifying them or beheading them, as was done with some of the other members of the Body in the past. In our day there is a more refined process often used. Some are gibbeted by the pulpit, some are "roasted" in the public press, some have their tongues cut out in the sense that their words are misrepresented, and that they are denied a hearing. And yet there are things in the Scriptures which seem to imply that there may be a literal assassination and destruction of God’s faithful people in the end of this Age, as well as a figurative one. But the Lord’s grace will be sufficient for them; and the more they shall suffer for His sake, for the Truth’s sake, the greater will be their glory and station in the Kingdom.
Who shall be punished for these crimes against the Saints of God? We answer, Babylon; and Babylon signifies what is to-day known as "the Christian world"—a very anomalous term; for the world has no identification with Christianity nor Christianity with the world. The so-called "Christendom" of our day corresponds exactly to the Jewry of Jesus’ day. The Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, were banded together with the Sadducees and the Herodians, the worldly and infidel politicians. Their object was one, namely, the perpetuation of their own institution, regardless of God’s arrangement.
So here the civilized world, misnaming itself "Christ’s Kingdom," is intent upon the preservation of the great Babylon which it has constructed, and willing to do anything to avoid its foretold destruction.
Hypocrisy the Greatest of All Sins.
Taking into account the persecutions endured by God’s saints throughout this Gospel Age, there must be a heavy account on the book of Justice to be settled. Saintly Catholics, saintly Presbyterians, saintly Baptists, saintly Methodists, saintly people in and out of all denominations have suffered; and Jesus’ words still stand
OV347 true—namely, that whosoever would give to the least of His followers even a cup of cold water would not fail of reward, and that injury to even the least of these would be punished. Are we asked what are the special sins of our day? We reply that here, as in Jesus’ day, hypocrisy is the greatest of all sins. There were thefts, murders, adulteries and injustices of various kinds in Jesus’ day; yet while denouncing all these in spirit He practically ignored them all in His denunciations of the hypocrisy of the religious rulers of His time. We believe that His judgment of so-called "Christendom" to-day is the same.
There was a time when the world ignorantly thought that the kings of the earth were ruling as part of Christ’s Kingdom. There was a time when men really believed that their everlasting destiny was in the hands of the clergy, Protestant and Catholic, and that unless they had the good offices of these in baptism, marriage, funerals, etc., they would be eternally tormented; but that day has passed—a more enlightened day has come.
Our Bible is better understood; the clergy are no longer deceived. They know that the word Sheol of the Old Testament and the word Hades of the New Testament represent the state or condition of death, into which the whole world goes—good and bad. They know that these words could not represent torture or fire in any sense of the word.
They see God’s character more clearly; they perceive that the kingdoms of this world are merely political institutions permitted for a time, waiting for the glorious epoch of Messiah’s Kingdom to bring in the New Order of Things.
But notwithstanding this knowledge the Divine character is still blasphemed. The kings of the earth told during the "dark ages" that they were the sword of the Lord and servants of the Church, have not been undeceived. Hence the Czar of Russia, the Head of the Greek Church, believes he is working out a Divine destiny; the British under King George are equally convinced that they are working out a great destiny as God’s Kingdom. The German Kaiser is similarly deceived into thinking that he is the sword of the Almighty, as indicated in his reported proclamation to his army in Poland.
These false doctrines of the "dark ages" are bearing a terrible fruitage in the present war. Similarly, the teachings of eternal torment, misrepresenting and blaspheming God’s character, are bearing an evil fruitage. Millions of people are being turned away from faith in a God of Love and from faith in the Bible as His Message by the most monstrous blasphemies of the "dark ages." I charge the responsibility of all this against the sects and creeds of Christendom.
A great fraud, a great hypocrisy, you say? I answer, Yes; the most astounding the world has ever known. Two hundred thousand professed ministers of God and Christ are standing before the world to-day telling the legends of the Dark Ages and seeking to hinder the people from coming to a knowledge of the Truth, meanwhile receiving the people’s money and reverence. Does not such hypocrisy, such blasphemy against God, such deception of the people, such keeping them in darkness, deserve a great punishment?
What shall we do, do you ask? I answer: Be honest! Be true! Come out of Babylon.
Stand free from all such slandering of the Almighty God and His gracious provisions.
Stand for the Bible, the Truth, the God of Love and Wisdom, Justice and Power.
"Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."