The "Very Elect" Protected By C. T. Russell Pastor London and Brooklyn Tabernacles
"God shall send them strong delusions that they should believe a lie; that they all might be condemned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."—#2Th 2:11,12.
THE STATEMENT of the Apostle James that God tempteth no man is not to be understood as a contradiction to the language of our text. God tempteth no man to sin, to do wrong, but He has at various times sent or permitted siftings and testings among those who are nominally His people—to separate the true from the false. Sometimes a great truth becomes the sifting or separating cause, as at our Lord’s first advent. There our Lord’s presentation of Himself in the flesh to the covenant-nation, Israel, as the long promised Savior, Deliverer and King, became to that people as a whole a test, separating the "Israelites indeed" from the mass of the nation—separating the wheat from the chaff. Our text tells of the end or Harvest-time of this Gospel Age, and of how the Lord will now permit or "send" strong delusions for the purpose of sifting and separating the true from the false among those who have named the name of Christ. We hold that, according to the Scriptures, we are living in this Harvest period, and that the sifting of the wheat from the tares has begun, and that the strong delusions mentioned in our text are coming upon Christendom.
The Scriptures bring to our attention a class of spirit beings which fell from Divine favor before the flood. These, we are told, have from that time until the present day been confined in chains of darkness in Tartarus—the circumambient air of this planet.
The story of these fallen angels is briefly stated four times—in #Ge 6:2; #1Pe 3:20; #2Pe 2:6; #Jud 6. The Old and New Testament records are thus in agreement.
Additionally, however, we have a multitude of Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, which refer to these fallen angels as "demons," unfortunately mistranslated "devils" in our common version. Without exception these demons are represented as cunning, deceitful, treacherous, devilish and as having a special malignant attitude toward mankind, and as taking special delight in misleading and deceiving humanity, particularly along irreligious lines and immoralities.
The Fallen Angels.
We call to your remembrance the Apostle’s statement regarding this matter, to the effect that God’s people have their struggle or contention, not with flesh and blood, but with wicked spirits in influential positions. Again the same Apostle points out to us that Satan is the chief leader of these spirits or demons and declares that we are not ignorant of his devices, his intrigues, his deceptions; again he styles him as wily, adroit, cunning. He informs us that the heathen world, while thinking they are worshiping God, are really deceived by these demons; their religious theories and practices are really
OV295 demonology instead of theology.—#Eph 6:12; #2Co 2:11; #1Pe 5:8.
Two Opposing Gospels.
The human family is in great distress through the fall; mental, moral and physical imperfections are manifest everywhere: "there is none righteous, no, not one." As a consequence, all are agreed to the Apostle’s broad statement, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together." (#Ro 8:22.) Naturally enough the groaning ones seek for the cause of their trouble as well as for a remedy. The Bible sets forth as the cause of all earth’s woes and sorrows the brief statement, "By one man sin entered the world and death by sin, and thus death passed upon all men, for all are sinners." It sets forth the remedy also, namely, "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures," and at His Second Advent He will introduce "times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." Thus, in brief, is the Gospel of Christ, (#Ac 3:21; #Ro 5:12; #1Co 15:3.) The "gospel" of the demons contradicts this from first to last. It denies that man ever was created in God’s image and likeness; denies that he ever fell from it into sin and death; denies that Christ ever redeemed us, and holds that we need no Redeemer; that a process of evolution is at work which is lifting mankind from a mean and low brute beginning upward, to ultimately make of the race gods, and that all that is necessary for this grand result is time. As for death, demonology denies that there is death, and claims that what seems to be death is really a change from a low form of life to a higher form.
This demon teaching is to be found among all the heathen peoples and in all their religious writings, but it is not at all sanctioned in the Scriptures. They teach to the contrary, as we have shown, that death is the penalty for sin; that it is a real penalty, a real death; that the dead are really dead, and that there is neither wisdom nor device nor knowledge in the grave (Sheol), whither all go, and that the hope of the race lies in a resurrection, and that the hope of a resurrection lies in the redemptive work of our Lord’s First Advent, and in the glorious power and authority which He will exercise at His Second Advent.
A pertinent question for each of us, dear friends, at this moment is this: To which of these teachings do we give adherence? Are we holding fast "the faithful Word of God," or are we giving heed to these seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, against which the Lord and Apostle gave so many warnings? Is our theological faith an anchor of hope holding us firmly to the truth as set forth by the Lord, or are we to any extent drawing on the original falsehood told by Satan and perpetuated by the lying spirits—the falsehood that death is not death, that our dead friends are more alive than ever before, etc.? If this be the case, let us at once begin a thorough examination of the Divine Word, assured that error never sanctifies, but is always injurious, and that our Lord was right when He prayed for His disciples, "Sanctify them through Thy Truth, Thy Word is Truth."—#Joh 17:17.
How consistent is the Word and Plan of God, which, so far from speaking of death as the angel God has sent, assures us that death is our enemy, which already has taken from us many of our loved ones, blighted our lives, and will ultimately destroy us except as we become united to the great Life-giver, Jesus. Those who do not see that the dead are dead do not catch the full, weighty import of the blessed assurance that Christ is the Life-giver, and that He came into the world and died for our sins that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Nor do they see the real beauty that lies in the promise of a resurrection from the dead, for if none are dead how could there be a resurrection of the dead?
OV296 Only those who clearly and distinctly see the Scriptural teaching on this subject are fortified against the delusions of these demons, built upon this erroneous feature of theology, which not only has permeated all the creeds of Christendom, and to a large extent has made of no effect the Word of God respecting our redemption from the grave and the hope of the resurrection from the dead at the Second Coming of Christ.—#1Co 15:12,13.
Christendom Ripe for Delusions.
The erroneous belief that the dead are alive has been to some extent for centuries offset by another error, namely, that the majority of them are confined to a place of torment—purgatory or otherwise—and a small minority were far off enjoying the bliss of Heaven, all of which hindered the thought that they might be communed with through mediums.
Besides, there has been a kind of "horse-sense" prevailing which has restrained many from having great confidence in spirit communications. While faith was expressed, a doubting fear was associated with it, and this doubting fear was increased by finding that some of the spirits seeking communion were "lying spirits," and although others made different presentations they were all more or less held in doubt and fear. Now, however, we are coming to a time when all intelligent people question the fables of the Dark Ages respecting hell and purgatory, fire, devils, pitchforks, etc.
Consequently it daily becomes easier for spiritists to find sympathy for their claims that the spirits of the dead are hovering around the living, that our atmosphere is full of them, that they are not confined to heaven nor in hell. This thought has been aided by many sermons on funeral occasions, depicting the dead as hovering over the friends gathered at the funeral, the assurance being given that if the dead could only speak he would say to the weeping ones, "Weep not," etc. All of this unscriptural guess-work, presented in the name of the Bible and in the name of Truth and in the name of intelligence, has had its effect upon the masses, who are now thoroughly perplexed as respects the place and condition of their dead friends. A growing intelligence forbids the thought that a God of Love and Justice has consigned them to the care of devils in eternal flames of fire or other torture.
Inquiries of the clergy respecting the place and condition of the departed bring no satisfaction; the few who still tell of tortures in infernal regions are less and less believed, and the others of increasing number who deny that the dead are in tortures are unable to give any answer respecting their whereabouts. No wonder the confiding sheep are perplexed. Oh, that they would look to the Word of the Lord, that they would remember "the Lord is my Shepherd," that they would seek from the inspired source the knowledge which their souls crave! Oh, that they might learn that the hope set before us in the Gospel of Christ is the hope of the resurrection of the dead! Mark the clearness of the Apostle’s statement on this subject—If there be no resurrection of the dead, then they that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.—#1Co 15:17,18.
The Delusion is Sent.
The reason for the sending of the strong delusion mentioned in our text is plainly stated in the context, but before it can be appreciated it is necessary to have some grasp of the Divine Plan of the Ages; it is necessary to see that the Lord’s work throughout this Gospel Age has not been, as many suppose, an attempt to convert the world, but, as the Scriptures declare, He has been merely electing or selecting out from the world a people for His name—to be the Bride of Christ. (#Ac 15:14.) We must see, too, that this elect people does not include all who become nominal members of Christian churches, but merely those who through full faith and consecration
OV297 become followers of the Lord Jesus in very truth, and receive the spirit of adoption from the Father. These, through the trials and difficulties of this life, shall be proved overcomers of the world and its spirit, and accepted as joint-heirs with Christ, as His Bride, in His Kingdom. This class, the Scriptures distinctly tell us, is but a little flock.
Our Lord’s words are, "Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." The Apostle declares also, "Not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble hath God chosen." "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, heirs of the Kingdom?" —#1Co 1:26; #Jas 2:5.
After we once see that only the overcomers or Kingdom class are being selected during this Gospel Age, we are ready to see that God’s great time for dealing with the majority of our race is in the future—after the Second Coming of Christ—during His Millennial Kingdom whose reign of righteousness will bless and give opportunity of eternal life to all the families of the earth.
End of the Age not End of World.
We are not of those who expect this world to be burned up. Quite to the contrary, we expect its rejuvenation, its perfecting as the Garden of Eden, the Paradise of God, the everlasting home of the majority of the human family—of all except the truly consecrated Church of this Gospel Age and those who shall ultimately die the Second Death. We have no sympathy of thought, therefore, with those who are looking for the destruction of the earth; but we nevertheless believe, as the Scriptures teach, that the present age or aion will cease and a new age or aion begin. In error the translators have rendered the word aion "world" and have given a misimpression. More than this, we believe that the Scriptures clearly indicate that the present age is now ending and the new age, lapping with it, is beginning. It is at this particular juncture that all the New Testament writings, as well as our Lord’s great prophecy of Matthew 24, center, indicating a time of confusion, a trouble such as the world has never known before, and pointing out that these are judgments of the Lord designed to prepare the world for the next Dispensation and the reign of the kingdom of righteousness. Furthermore, the Apostle distinctly points out that these judgments will begin at the House of God—the nominal church. Our Lord also points out the same thing, calling it a separation of wheat from tares in the "harvest" or close of this age.—#Mt 13:30.
It is because Christendom as a whole—though nominally a wheat field, is practically a tare field with a scattering of wheat intermingled, that there is to be such a commotion in connection with the separation of the wheat and the tares. True, the Lord who knoweth the heart, who knoweth them that are His, could easily separate them from the others, but He has chosen to make a separation publicly to demonstrate His own justice in the matter. Hence in this harvest time—at the proper time to separate the wheat from the tares—the Lord not only sends the sickle of Truth to gather the wheat, but He also sends the strong delusions to gather the tares.
"THE Lord be with you!" steals the benediction With solemn splendor like a falling star; In morns of joy and midnights of affliction, It breathes its echoed sweetness near and far.
"The Lord be with you!" when the shadows hold you; And prove His loving power to soothe and bless; When dangers darken and when fears enfold you," The Lord be with you!" in His tenderness.