::R0853 : page 3::
The following seven articles are connected.
BLESSED DYING—FROM HENCEFORTH
During our general meeting following the anniversary celebration, Brother Brookman received the following letter from one of the Toronto brethren; and we now answer it through the TOWER, thinking it may be of interest and profit to others of our readers. It was answered at our public meeting when received, and as we were then engaged somewhat in the examination of the Prophetic Time Proofs which show that we are in „the harvest” of this age, and that the chief reaper, the Lord Jesus, is now present, it came with special force, and we trust was seen very clearly by all present. The letter runs thus:
Dear Sir and Brother.—Now that you are on a visit to Brother Russell, I take this opportunity of sending you the enclosed extracts from an article by Mrs. R. in last TOWER, entitled, „We Shall Not All Sleep.” Already I know the TOWER’S views concerning the Lord’s presence, and it appears that now they have accepted the „orthodox” view of going to heaven when you die—at least this article seems to so teach.
Can one instance be given of the body of any one now dying in the Lord, disappearing at death? After the resurrection of our Lord his body was not found in the tomb. Should we not therefore, look for the same proofs to-day of a resurrection? Then too, according to this view, the living saints are left behind instead of being caught away together.
The extracts I refer to are as follows:
„WE SHALL NOT ALL SLEEP”
„Those [saints] who die in this day of the Lord’s presence do not sleep, but the instant that the human body sinks into death, the new spiritual body is received, and according to Paul’s words, not an instant of unconsciousness intervenes. Because the spiritual body is invisible to humanity, none can know of the change except by faith in the promise of God. The work of the new Kingdom is now in progress, and the body of Christ whether in the flesh or in the spirit (resurrected) are actively engaged as co-workers together with our Lord and head. What a blessed privilege to realize that such is the case.
Let us appreciate our privilege of service, considering that we are workers together with the Lord and the risen saints, present with us, though invisible except to the eye of faith.”
Trusting your mission will be blessed, I am, Yours in Christ, G. H. H.
The Brother errs in supposing this to be a new departure; and if he will examine some back numbers of the Tower, he will see that we have so taught for several years—since 1878, at which time we believe it became true as expressed in Revelation 14:13.—”Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; yea saith the spirit that they may rest from their labors [from the toil and weariness] and their works follow with them.”—without interruption or hindrance. See particularly the articles „Who can hear it?” in the Tower of October, 1881, and „Ye are Gods” in December, 1881, and „The Blessed Dying” in the same issue.
The fact that so called „orthodoxy” teaches something resembling what the Scriptures teach, should not be considered an argument against the view referred to. On the contrary, it is more reasonable to suppose that the more pleasing part of what the early church believed on this subject, had been held to, to the neglect and ignoring of the less palatable truths. For instance, the hope of each generation of the church in early times, was, that they would be of those mentioned by Paul (1 Cor. 15:51,52), of those who would be alive when the Lord the life-giver would return; and hence they hoped that they might not be obliged to sleep in death.
That the coming of the Lord, and the resurrection of the saints, and the bestowment of the crown of life at that time, were continually before their mind, is manifest from the various epistles of the Apostles which direct the faith and hope of all thither.
Of all the religions of the world, Christianity and Judaism are the only ones which teach that a man is really dead when he expires, and that a resurrection is the only hope of a future life. But when the church began to covet influence and power, when Papacy was „set up” in power, and the chief aim came to be, to make Christianity popular with the heathen, when thousands of heathen claimed to be converted, Papacy to bring these pagans into her bosom and to gain the support and strength of their influence, paganized Christianity, introducing gaudy ceremonies, incense burning, and the images of the apostles and saints to take the place in their hearts and superstitions of their idols and heathen customs. Can we wonder that then the cold and rather repulsive doctrine of the sleep of the dead, came to be generally ignored? and that the other thought should be made prominent and, even distorted to make it more palatable, until „We which are alive and remain shall not sleep, but shall be changed in a moment,” came to be applied to all Christians without reference to the Lord’s coming? During the darkness of the ages following that degrading of the doctrines of Christianity, and that great influx of tares among the wheat, the Bible was almost abandoned and its teachings on the subject were lost sight of.
One thing sure, is that the same Apostle who teaches that the dead all sleep until the Life-giver comes, and that they will then be awakened, teaches also that those living in that time will not sleep.
To some already instructed on this subject of the change of the living in the Day of the Lord’s presence, Paul wrote, „Yourselves know perfectly that the DAY OF THE LORD so cometh as a thief in the night.” … „Ye brethren are not in darkness that that DAY should overtake you as a thief.” … „For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:2,4,9; see also chap. 2:19,20 and 3:13 and 4:17.) From this the Thessalonian brethren seem to have drawn a wrong conclusion, supposing the Apostle to intimate that the day of the Lord would surely come in their day. And certain teachers of that day, led by their own imaginations, began to proclaim that the Day of the Lord had commenced; that the Lord was then present, and that the dead had been resurrected. (See 2 Tim. 2:17,18.) And the Thessalonian church knowing that Paul’s teachings were not out of harmony with this proclamation, were much exercised and troubled to know whether it was true that the Day of the Lord had come.
To meet their difficulty, Paul wrote them the second epistle in which the main thought is the correcting of this error. And inasmuch as we are now making very similar claims to those which the Apostle guarded them against, it is well that we note carefully his words and see whether they disprove our teachings on the subject. If they do, we must abandon the view, no matter how pleasing it may seem; but if it is in harmony, it will be an additional confirmation of our position.
The Apostle wrote: (2 Thes. 2.) „But we entreat you brethren, concerning the coming [presence—Greek parousia] of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our assembling to him, that you be not quickly agitated, in mind, nor alarmed; neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us—as though the Day of the Lord was present. Let no man delude you by any means.” Had the Apostle stopped here, it would not only have proved our teachings as erroneous as those he was refuting, but it would have done more; it would have proved his own teachings in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, as well as those to the Corinthians, to be erroneous also. It would be saying, The day of the Lord never will be present; whereas he had taught them plainly that „The day of the Lord so cometh [and that too unawares, secretly] as a thief in the night.”—1 Thes. 5:2.
But the Apostle is not controverting his previous teachings that such a day of the Lord’s presence would come, and secretly; he was merely showing that it had not yet come; for he continues—”Let no man delude you by any means, BECAUSE the apostasy must come first, and must be revealed, that MAN OF SIN, that SON OF DESTRUCTION, the OPPONENT; who indeed lifts himself above everything called a god or that is reverenced—so as to seat himself in the TEMPLE of God exhibiting himself that he is a god. Do you not remember that while I was with you I said these things to you?” And now you know, what withholdeth [prevents, hinders, comes between] that he [Christ Jesus] should be revealed in his own season. [Now you know why I so positively declare that we are not yet in the Day of the Lord.]
Paul knew of the Man of Sin, from the prophecies of Daniel, as well no doubt as from visions and revelations given him specially; (Dan. 7:24,25. 2 Cor. 12:1-7), and hence said with assurance that the Day of the Lord had not yet come. But it must strike many as peculiar that he used this argument alone. As they suppose it, he might have said, O foolish Thessalonians do you not know that when the Lord comes you will see him in the sky in great splendor? Do you not know that you would see the tomb-stones shake and fall, and the graves opening, and the risen saints about you, if the Lord, and the Day of the Lord had come? If this would be a true argument, it certainly would have been one of the most convincing to the troubled Thessalonians. And the fact that Paul used none of those arguments is strong evidence that they are not true. On the contrary the fact that they had received the doctrine of the Lord’s presence, etc., proves that the Apostle’s previous teaching had in no way led them to suppose that the Lord would be visible in the sky in his day, but that it would be „as a thief in the night,” stealthily and quietly; and that to discern it would require them to watch and not be overcharged and asleep with the world. And even in controverting this error, Paul offers no objection to the theory that the Day of the Lord had commenced, except that above noticed—that another event, the development and revealing of Anti-Christ must come FIRST.
It is then, proper to say that Paul’s statement here, favors OUR VIEW entirely, if it can be clearly seen that the apostasy he mentions did since take place, and that the „Man of Sin,” or mystery of iniquity, has been revealed. This we have time and again shown to be the case, and pointed to the unquestionable fulfilment in Papacy of every item mentioned by Daniel and Paul—hence so far as Paul knew, or as we know, nothing now hinders.
Since then, nothing now prevents, the question is, What proofs are there to show that we are now in the day of the Lord’s presence? We cannot here give the prophetic proofs, but hope to soon lay before you these Scriptural demonstrations that we are in the day of the Lord since 1874, and that his taking of his great power as King to judge and break in pieces present unrighteous systems, as well as to exalt to honor and glory the faithful members of his „body”—the true church—dates from 1878; at which time we understand that the sleeping members of his body were due to awake to immortality. And since that date those of this class alive, need not sleep even a moment; but in the instant of dying are changed to spiritual beings—swallowed up of life.
Even to those who had strong hopes of resurrection to spiritual being, the Adamic death or sleep, was not a desirable thing, hence the Apostle says that he desired not to be unclothed, but rather to be clothed upon with the heavenly spiritual house or body. But only to those alive in this day of the Lord, has it been possible to have this instant transfer of existence or being, from the earthly to the heavenly body, without sleep—without being unclothed for a moment.
We do not here cite you proof from the daily history of our times, that the judgment and overthrow of all imperfect civil and religious systems is in progress, as a proof that we are in the Day of the Lord’s presence and power, as we have noticed this before.
— May, 1886 —