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VOL. XXII. APRIL 1, 1901. No. 7.
Patience as an Element of Character……………115
The Hour of Temptation Upon the
Trials of the Passover Season……………120
Poem: “So As By Fire”………………………120
“He that Liveth and was Dead”…………………121
“He Poured Out His Soul Unto
“The First-Fruits of Them That
“Behold, I am Alive Forever More”……………125
Bishop Ryle’s Millennial Creed………………128
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SUBSCRIPTIONS AND BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY,
“BIBLE HOUSE,” 610, 612, 614 ARCH ST., ALLEGHENY, PA., U.S.A.
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TERMS TO THE LORD’S POOR, AS FOLLOWS:—
Those of the interested who, by reason of old age, or other infirmity or adversity, are unable to pay for the TOWER will be supplied FREE, if they send a Postal Card each December, stating their case and requesting the paper. We are not only willing, but anxious, that all such be on our list continually.
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REMEMBER the memorial of “Christ our Passover” on its anniversary, the night of April 2nd. “As often [yearly] as ye do this, do it in remembrance of me,”—”The Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”
Those who precede the supper and follow it by special watching and prayer will surely be specially blessed.
ALTHO the mail-thief who has for three years past been stealing letters at the Allegheny postoffice has been caught, we still advise that all remittances be sent us in the form of postal-notes or bank-drafts. To send money unregistered is to tempt men to steal.
THE EDITOR will attend a One-Day Convention at Wheeling, W.Va., on Sunday, March 24. Friends residing near W. will be cordially welcomed by the Wheeling Church; and are requested to introduce themselves by name and postoffice address to the Editor. The morning session will be held at W. C.T.U. Hall, 1229 Market st. The afternoon session will be publicly announced for Odd Fellows’ Hall, cor. 12th and Chapline streets.
WE HAVE plenty of the Missionary Envelopes now. Post-paid 25 cents per hundred. $2.00 per thousand.
MARRIED SISTERS will favor us, if when writing they always use the same initials. If one time they sign their own and another time their husbands’ initials it is confusing.
REGARDING YOUR WELCOME LETTERS.
Friends writing to us either on doctrinal questions or business matters will please remember to make each letter complete in itself. Do not trust to our remembering the contents of previous letters; for where so many are involved this is impossible.
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PATIENCE AS AN ELEMENT OF CHARACTER
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth.”—Rev. 3:10.
WE WILL not here discuss this verse from the standpoint of its application to the Philadelphia epoch of the Church’s history, but will content ourselves with examining the principles implied in its statement, believing, as we do, that the Lord’s dealings with his Church throughout this Gospel age follow the same lines, are in harmony with the same principles. Whatever condition, therefore, would be acceptable and pleasing to the Lord as respected the Philadelphia epoch of the Church’s history would be acceptable and pleasing to him in respect to ourselves and all others of his people during this age.
Special stress, we see, is laid upon patience—”the word of my patience,” or, the patience which my word inculcates. Examining the word critically we find that two quite distinct words in the Greek are translated by our English word patience in the New Testament; the one is makrothunia (Heb. 6:12; James 5:10; Acts 26:3): this is the word which in a general way corresponds to the common thought of patience, as we speak of it connected with every-day affairs of our lives; it means merely long-suffering, and, indeed, makrothunia is generally so translated throughout the New Testament. (Rom. 2:4; 9:22; Eph. 4:2; Col. 1:11; 3:12; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:15,
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etc.) But this is not the word used in our text, nor the word generally translated patience throughout the New Testament, viz., hupomonee.
This word, hupomonee, has a much deeper and fuller significance than attaches to our English word patience. It signifies rather constancy,—the thought being an endurance of evil in a cheerful, willing, patient manner. It represents, therefore, an element of character, and not merely a temporary condition or restraint of feeling or action. For instance, a worldly man might have a great deal of patience in connection with the prosecution of his business;—he might be very attentive to his customers, very obliging, very painstaking, and show no dissatisfaction in connection with the inconsiderateness of his customers; and “patience,” in its ordinary sense, might be ascribed to his conduct. But the word in our text rendered patience signifies such a development of heart and character as manifests itself in an endurance of wrong or affliction with contentment, without rebellion of will, with full acquiescence in the divine wisdom and love, which, while permitting present evils, has promised to overthrow them in God’s due time. We believe it will be profitable for us to examine carefully this element of Christian character, of which our Lord speaks in such high commendation, that recognizing it clearly, we, as his followers, may attain to it more completely, and thus have his more abundant approval.
Since our text mentions this patient endurance as being the Lord’s “word” or teaching, let us glance backward to the Gospel narrative, and note the Lord’s use of the word in his teaching. Twice it is recorded as a part of his utterance. In Luke 8:15, in the parable of the sower, we read: “That [sown] on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience [with cheerful endurance, constancy].” The thought here is that in order to be of the fruit-bearing class which the Lord will approve and accept to his Kingdom, it is necessary to do more than to receive the word of his testimony, even tho we receive it with joy—for that class in the parable is represented by the stony ground, which at first gave
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evidence of great fruitfulness and vigor, but which, when the sun of persecution arose, withered, because of lack of depth of soil. That stony, shallow soil represents, the Lord explains, a class of hearers who rejoice greatly in the truth, but do not endure, such as cannot withstand persecution or opposition, but wither under it, become discouraged. Such cannot be of the Kingdom class, all of whom must be overcomers.
In this parable our Lord shows us that patient endurance, constancy, is the final test, following after the readiness of preparation to receive the seed; following after the seed has been received and has sprouted; following after love and hope and joy and faith have caused it to spring forth and to give fruitage. Patient endurance, then, is necessary, in order that the grain may be developed and thoroughly ripened, and made fit for the garner. Ah! how important patient endurance seems to be, in the light of this our Lord’s word—cheerful endurance; for we cannot suppose that he who judges the thoughts and intents of the heart would be pleased with his children, even if he saw them enduring much for his sake, if they endured in an impatient or dissatisfied or unhappy frame of mind. They would not, in that event, be copies of God’s dear Son, our Lord, whose sentiment is expressed in the words, “I delight to do thy will, O God!” All of the Royal Priesthood are sacrificers, as was the Chief Priest, our Redeemer and example, who offered up himself: we, as the under priests, have also presented our bodies living sacrifices, and are to lay down our lives for the brethren—in the service of the truth. And God, who accepts these sacrifices through the merit of Christ, informs us that he appreciates or loves the cheerful giver, those who perform their sacrifices of a willing heart, cheerfully. And this thought, be it noted, is in the Greek word we are considering. It is cheerful endurance, patient endurance, that is commended.
The other instance in which our Lord used the word during his ministry is recorded in Luke 21:19. He had just been telling his followers what they must expect as the result of being his disciples during the present time, when sin abounds, and when Satan is the prince of this world—they must expect tribulation, opposition from various quarters; but he assures them that they would nevertheless be fully and completely under divine care and protection, even tho the persecutions would be permitted to reach and to affect them. Then follow the words, “In your patience [patient endurance, cheerful constancy] possess ye your souls.”
Our faith and trust in the Lord and his gracious promises for the future life are to be so strong that they will more than counter-balance the oppositions of the world, of false brethren, and of Satan’s blinded servants;—so much so that these persecutions will be recognized and rejoiced in as the agencies of divine providence in chiseling, shaping and polishing us as the living stones for the glorious Temple which God is constructing. And viewing our trials from this standpoint we can indeed possess our souls, our lives, and enjoy them, even amidst tribulation, with cheerful endurance, constancy. Yea, we may realize that the soul, the real being, to which God has given the exceeding great and precious promises of the future, cannot be injured by the persecutions of the flesh, nor by anything that men can do to us, so long as we are faithful to the Lord, accepting the persecutions with cheerful constancy, as the ministrations permitted of his providence for our ultimate good.
THE NECESSITY FOR PATIENT ENDURANCE
Here the question properly arises, Why is this so? In what sense is such endurance necessary? We answer that it is one of the conditions which God has attached to the call to joint-heirship in the Kingdom, and the wisdom of this is manifest when we consider the work to which we are called—the work of blessing all the families of the earth, as God’s Millennial Kingdom, under and in joint-heirship with our Lord. That will be a great work, and it is eminently proper that the Lord should demand that those whom he would account worthy of it shall not only appreciate his goodness and his character, and prefer these to sin and iniquity, but that they should demonstrate their thorough loyalty to these principles to the extent of a joyful willingness to suffer on behalf of right, to endure patiently. A transitory endurance of one or two or three brief trials would not prove the person to have established character for righteousness; but a patient, cheerful endurance even unto death, would prove and demonstrate such a character.
We might illustrate this with the diamond. Suppose that we were able to make diamonds out of some plastic material, so that they would have the full diamond measure of brilliancy; and suppose that they became hard, but not so intensely hard as the diamond, would they have the value of the diamond? By no means. And so with the Christian; if we should suppose him possessed of every grace of character that could possibly belong to the sons of God except this one of firmness, of endurance, he would not be fit to be numbered amongst the Lord’s jewels. Hence the Lord’s demand is that the quality of firmness, cheerful endurance of whatever his providence may permit, shall be a characteristic of all those who will be fit for the Kingdom.
This importance of endurance in the Christian
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character is fully borne out by the Apostle Paul’s use of the word; for on more than one occasion he ranks it as above and beyond Love, which we have seen is the “mark” of character for which we are to run,—the mark of the prize. For instance, in writing to Titus (2:2), enumerating the characteristics of the advanced Christian, the Apostle uses the following order: “Vigilant, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity [love], in patience [patient, cheerful endurance].” Tho we have all the other qualities, this final test of patient, cheerful endurance must be passed before we could be accepted of the Lord as members of the “very elect.”
Again, in writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:10) respecting himself, the Apostle again puts this quality of patient endurance in the place beyond Love saying, “Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patient endurance.”
It may be asked, How can this quality rank higher than love, if love is the fulfilling of the Law, and the mark of the prize of our high calling? We reply, that patient endurance does not merely come in at the close of our race, but is requisite all the way along the race course. We need this cheerful endurance of the earliest trials in the Christian way, and as we speed along in our race for the mark the spirit of cheerful endurance should be growing stronger and stronger at every step of the journey. It is with us at the first quarter mark, and at the second quarter mark, and at the third quarter mark, and still with us at the fourth quarter mark, the mark of the prize, perfect love. And when we have reached this mark of the race in which we love not only our friends, but our enemies, it is required of us that we shall stand up to the mark faithfully, cheerfully, patiently enduring the tests which the Lord will even then see proper to let come upon us. Hence it is that the Apostle exhorts us, “Having done all, stand”—endure. Having reached the “mark,” “Let patient endurance have her perfect work,” or “perfect her work.” Let patient endurance demonstrate, not only that you have the character, the qualifications of love, demanded in the race for the prize, but also that you have it as an element of character, deep-rooted, immutable, so that
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you can endure oppositions cheerfully.
Ah yes! we can see now a reason for the Lord’s arrangement that we should have our trial as the Master had his, under an evil environment—that we might not only have the qualities of character, but have them rooted, grounded, established, and that all this should be demonstrated and proven by our cheerful endurance of whatever divine providence shall see best to permit to befall us.
INSPIRED APPLICATIONS OF PATIENT-ENDURANCE
Everything that will enable us to see the importance of this quality of patient, cheerful endurance will be helpful to us. Therefore let us notice some other instances in which this word is used in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul says, “But ye have need of patience [cheerful endurance, constancy] that after ye have done the will of God [reached the mark] ye might receive the promise.” (Heb. 10:36.) Here, again, we see that it is not merely to do the will of God that is the test, but, that after having attained to that point, that mark of character in our hearts, in our wills (if only partially in the flesh) we should, by patient endurance, establish God’s righteous will as the law of our hearts, the rule of life under all circumstances and conditions. Then, and not till then, will we be in the heart condition of fitness for the Kingdom. The Apostle James (1:3) says: “The trying of your faith worketh patience [patient endurance];” that is to say, if our faith stands the trial it will work this character of patient endurance; of course, on the other hand, if we do not attain to patient endurance, it will mean that our faith has not stood the test satisfactorily, that we are not fit for the Kingdom.
Thus we see clearly that a great mistake has been made amongst Christian people in general in supposing that religion is merely a thing that is to be gotten as an answer to prayer, or by going to a mourners’ bench, or standing up for prayer, or in response to some human or divine appeal—as one would get a dollar and put it into his pocket. On the contrary, repentance of sin and acceptance of Christ, in faith unto justification, is only the beginning and not the end of the Christian way. The next step is consecration, and this also, is far from the end; it is merely starting in the school of Christ, having our names enrolled as those who desire to be pupils, and to be taught of God to cultivate the fruits and graces of the spirit. All these things are necessary, but much more is necessary; we must go on and on, not only to the attainment of the faith and the love, but also to the demonstration of character as expressed in his word, patient endurance.
The Apostle Paul exhorts, “Let us run with patience [cheerful constancy, patient endurance] the race set before us in the Gospel.” (Heb. 12:1.) As already observed, the race must be run with this constancy if we would reach the “mark,” and after reaching the mark the position can only be maintained by the grace of constancy, patient endurance, that having done all, we may stand.
THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION ABOUT TO COME UPON THE WHOLE WORLD
We are not to understand our Lord’s words to mean that he kept those of his people designated as
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the Church at Philadelphia from all trials and temptations: quite to the contrary, we may be sure that trials and temptations have been the portion of the Lord’s people throughout the entire age. As the Apostle Peter said to some in his day, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trials which shall try you, as tho some strange [new] thing happened unto you.” (1 Pet. 4:12.) Trials must be the portion of all who would be “overcomers.” How else could they overcome if they had no trials to overcome? The Church represented as belonging to the Philadelphia period had these common or general trials; but the Lord proposed to spare them from certain special trials that were about to come upon the whole world. We are not of the Philadelphia epoch, but of the Laodicean epoch, which goes into these trials, and to our understanding this “hour of temptation,” which is to try all people of the world, is already here, we are already in it, and it forms part of the testing of our endurance.
But tho our Lord does not preserve the Laodicean stage of his saints from going into the trouble, we may be sure that those who keep the word of his patience now will have his keeping power, as promised to the Laodicean saints: “I stand at the door and knock; whoever hears my voice and opens to me I will come in and sup with him and he with me.” This is the special reward of those who are running the race with patient endurance in the present time, in the Laodicean period; while it was not our privilege to escape the hour of temptation, it is our privilege to have a counter-balancing special blessing as a result of living in the time of our Lord’s parousia (presence). We may have his fellowship, his instruction, his dispensing of spiritual food which is now “meat in due season,” in a manner and to a degree which none of the faithful of past periods enjoyed these. But as we might expect, this greatest favor is correspondingly offset by the subtilty and severity of the trials of this hour of temptation coming upon the whole world.
If ever patient endurance was necessary it is necessary now; if ever it was true, “In patience possess ye your souls,” it is so now. Those running the race acceptably, and possessing this patient endurance, will be able “to stand in this evil day,” and no others will be able to stand; for, as the Apostle says, the fiery trials of this day shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.—1 Cor. 3:13.
The hour of temptation seems to bear specially upon and test this point of patient endurance, and throughout the civilized world we find this quality of patient endurance becoming more and more scarce. Whether we can compare conditions of today with those of fifty years ago, or forty, or thirty, or twenty, or ten years ago, according to our experience in the matter, we will see that willingness to endure at all is growing more and more scarce. Nobody wishes to endure anything—for righteousness’ sake, for Christ’s sake or for anybody else’s sake, and if endurance even be necessary it is generally with very much of impatience, very much more of complaint, etc., than formerly. And this general tendency of the civilized world to non-endurance and impatience, necessarily has its bearing and influence upon all who are seeking to walk in the narrow way, going against the current of public sentiment and custom; the stronger that current the greater their difficulty, and only by divine grace can progress be made.
This necessary divine grace is granted to us through a knowledge of the divine plan, and is withheld from those who are not walking close to the Lord in the footsteps of Jesus. It is for this reason that we see a growing disposition toward impatience, non-endurance, amongst the professed followers of Christ. It is at the bottom of the mob violence which in Europe is kept down by military force, but which in this country is manifesting itself in repeated instances of lynching, etc., which proclaims with loud voice impatience as the growing sentiment. The same wrong condition is illustrated in the recently inaugurated attack upon illegal liquor selling in the State of Kansas, in which those who love righteousness and hate iniquity have participated, not discerning the instructions of the Lord’s Word respecting patient endurance of evil, until his time shall come for the rectification of the same;—by the establishment of the Kingdom, the binding of Satan, and the subjugation of all evil.
Indeed, we may expect the growth of this spirit in Christendom—the feeling that in the past they have been too patient, not sufficiently aggressive—the feeling that if they had taken matters into their own hands long ago the world might have been converted ere this. But those who have kept the Lord’s word of patient endurance, and who have sought from him the needed wisdom from on high, that is first pure, then peaceable, easy of entreatment, full of mercy and good works, and patient endurance, have learned that he has a due time in which his purposes shall all be accomplished; and learning this has assisted them in cultivating patient endurance as their Lord endured the opposition of evil, its malignity, its spite, its falsehoods, its persecution—enduring all this cheerfully, patiently, as unto the Lord—realizing that it is the program which the Lord has not only permitted, but permitted for wise purposes in connection with the call and preparation of the “little flock” who shall be joint-heirs with Christ, their Lord, in the Kingdom.
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The Apostle counsels us respecting this hour of temptation into which we have just entered. Its besetments and trials will be various, and some of them will be subtle; so deceptive that all who are not thoroughly rooted and grounded in the truth will be carried away from the sure foundation (the ransom) by the false arguments and sophistries of those whom Satan is now permitted to use as his agents in trying all them that dwell upon the face of the whole earth. Amongst these, no testing seems much more subtle than that of Christian Science, which, backed by the Adversary’s power, is enabled to promise its perverts that if they will affirm an untruth and stick to it they shall have the reward of relief from certain pains and ailments, and those who have not learned to patiently endure whatever the Lord’s providence shall permit, will be ready to accept almost any relief which the Adversary may bring to their attention. And as they learn to deceive themselves in respect to pain and sickness
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and gradually to pervert words from their real meaning, they finally become so confused in their minds that truth appears to them to be falsehood, and falsehood appears to them to be shining truth, on every subject involved.
They are led into this partly through curiosity. It seems so strange to hear anyone say, “There is no death, all is life! there is no pain, all is health! there is no evil, all is good!” They say to themselves, Altho we know that these are inconsistent statements yet we are curious to know how people reason them out,—what is their philosophy? This is just what the Adversary desires—to attract their attention, that step by step he may then lead them from one falsity to another, until the whole brain and conscience are subverted; rewarding them with physical relief—small recompense! They have accepted darkness for light, and light thereafter will appear to them darkness. Why? How? Because, first, they are unwilling to patiently endure, and because, secondly, they would not receive the truth, so far as they saw it, with a proper constancy. They would not receive the truth in the love of it, and hence were ready to exchange that which they valued too lightly, either in the quest of curious information, or for the sake of physical healing of troubles which, if endured joyfully, might have worked for them great blessing.
The hour of trial is not coming alike upon all; for all Christendom is not upon the same plane of development, mental, moral, physical, spiritual. The trial, as it is coming upon Christendom in general, is pictured by the Apostle in his letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:1-5). He here delineates certain characteristics of this hour of temptation, otherwise called the great “time of trouble” coming upon the world; and from his prophetic delineation we see that selfishness will be at the bottom of the matter, and that impatience will be its weapon. The Apostle says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come; men shall be lovers of their own selves; covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers [enticers to strife], incontinent [not under restraint, impetuous], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors [cannot be trusted, would sell out their best friends for selfish considerations], heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”
In his letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:9-12) the Apostle gives some further intimations respecting the peculiar trials of this hour of temptations, which has come upon the whole world, but which has not yet reached its intensity, and which probably will not reach that intensity in all respects for some years, but which is already working, and sifting, separating,—because the judgment begins with the house of God. He says, speaking of Satan as the prime mover in the evils of this present time, and especially active in this hour of temptation with which this age shall close, that his effort will be “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” Then he explains to us the reason why it will be so, saying, “Because they received not the truth in the love of it, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
God’s promise is the foundation upon which all that we hope for, either of character or coming glory, is built. Let us prize this truth so that we will not compromise it in any sense or in any degree; let us not only hold the truth in the letter but in the spirit;—in the love of it, because it is true, as well as because it is beautiful and grand. Holding it thus we will be careful that no one shall twist it for us or pervert it, and equally careful that we do not handle the word of God deceitfully ourselves, to the blinding of our own eyes of understanding, and thus to our own hindrance. And let us ever remember the importance of patient endurance, that we may not only cultivate the Christian graces, and practise them, but that we may take joyfully the trials, persecutions or difficulties which our Lord may see proper to permit to come upon us for our testing and for the development of this character which he explains to us is of paramount importance, and without which perfect love could neither be attained nor maintained.
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SPECIAL TRIALS OF THE PASSOVER SEASON
Years ago we called attention to the fact that as the Passover season brought to our dear Lord the sorrows and trials of Gethsemane and Calvary, and was a time of sifting and testing for Judas and Peter and all the Lord’s followers, it would appear to be a time even yet in which our Adversary, Satan, is granted special license to test and prove the Lord’s people. And as we get farther and farther into “the hour of temptation which shall try all them that dwell upon the earth,” we expect these testings to be specially upon “the house of God”—the consecrated.
Through the mails we learn of the struggles and tears and prayers of many,—some because of their own weaknesses and frailties, and some because of the frailties of others, and some because of earthly burdens which they can neither overcome nor cast fully upon the Lord. But while sympathizing with these and counselling them as best we can, we remember the Master’s words, “Blessed are those who weep now, for they shall rejoice,” and our heart is specially solicitous for those whose letters give evidence that they are in temptation, but realize it not;—those who are being swallowed up of ambition or business or other “cares of this life and deceitfulness of riches”—spiritual or temporal; and with those specially, whose love for the truth seems to grow cooler instead of hotter each year, and who see less and feel less than they did years ago. We say to ourself, these are like the apostles,—sleeping while they should be watching and praying, and the hour of trial will find them unprepared; while some who are weeping and striving are more like our Savior at Gethsemane, and like him will be strengthened for the hour of trial.
Nor can we pray the Lord not to permit these trials of faith and patient endurance; for we recognize that the “very elect” must be a tried people, because of the very object of their election,—that they may be joint-heirs with Christ in the long-promised Kingdom that is to judge and bless the world during the Millennium. As the Apostle says, these “fiery trials must try you.” It is a matter of must, of necessity, as respects all who would be graduated from the present school of Christ to a share in his glorious Kingdom,—that they must pass the examination.
Ah, if we could but keep this thought before us continually, how it would nerve us to will and to do the Lord’s good pleasure—enduring faithfully and cheerfully whatever our loving Master sees best to permit, knowing that thus he is working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. From this standpoint
“How light our trials then will seem!
How short our pilgrim way!
The life of earth a fitful dream,
Dispelled by dawning day!
“Then peace, my heart! and hush my tongue!
Be calm, my troubled breast!
Each passing hour prepares thee more
For everlasting rest.”
Let us each, dear brethren, be very solicitous for ourselves and for each other; and counting the prize set before us in the gospel as superior to all else, as the Apostle says, “Let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Let us so love all the Lord’s children that their welfare will be our chief concern, and this will mean our own spiritual health. Yet we must not permit our love even for the brethren to hinder our confidence in the Lord’s love and wisdom in respect to his terms in the choice of his Bride;—even tho the siftings should take from us some, whose fellowship we dearly cherish.
“Why should an anxious load
Press down thy weary mind?
Haste to thy Heavenly Father’s throne
And sweet refreshment find.”
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“SO AS BY FIRE”
“I sometimes feel so passionate a yearning
For spiritual perfection here below,
This vigorous frame with healthful fervor burning,
Seems my determined foe.
“So actively it makes a stern resistance,
So cruelly it sometimes wages war
Against the higher spiritual existence,
Which I am striving for.
“It interrupts my soul’s intense devotions;
Some hope it strangles at its very birth
With a swift rush of violent emotions
Which link me to the earth.
“It is as if two mortal foes contended
Within my bosom in a deadly strife;
One for the loftier aims Jesus intended,
One for the “Mammon” life.
“And yet I know this very war within me,
Which brings out all my will-power and control;
This very conflict yet through Christ shall win me
The loved and longed-for goal.
“And when in the immortal ranks enlisted,
Sometimes I wonder if we shall not find
That not for deeds alone, but also what’s resisted,
Our places were assigned.” —Selected.
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“HE THAT LIVETH AND WAS DEAD”
—LUKE 24:1-12.—APRIL 7.—
“Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.”—1 Cor. 15:20.
ON NO Christian doctrine does there seem to be a greater confusion in all denominations than on the subject of this lesson—the resurrection of the dead—the resurrection of our Lord. Nevertheless, as with one voice, all Christendom unites in declaring that our Lord’s resurrection was an indispensable necessity to our salvation, in this agreeing perfectly with the plain statement of the Apostle, “If Christ be not risen then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; … ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Cor. 15:13-18.) How strange that a subject of so vast importance as this should be so obscure! How strange that, recognizing its importance, thinking minds should treat it so lightly, and be willing to accept theories respecting it, the absurdity of which are manifest to all upon the mere statement of them!
For instance, it is the generally accepted theory that only the body dies—that the soul, the real, intelligent person or being, does not die, but merely is liberated to a higher condition of life the moment the body dies. Now, if we apply this theory to our Lord’s death and resurrection how absurd it appears, and how absurd all the various theories would be that are built upon it: (1) If merely our Lord’s body died, and if our Lord himself were released thereby and became instantly more alive than ever before, wherein would be the consistency of the claim that without his resurrection he had perished, and all hopes built upon him and his work had perished? It would be unreasonable to make such statements if the premises assumed were correct. (2) It is the claim of the majority of Christian people that our Lord Jesus was the Heavenly Father, Jehovah, and that he merely assumed to be, and took the title of the Son, when in reality he was as much the Father as he was the Son—that he was really both.
Those who hold this view are forced thereby to suppose that the Lord himself never died, else the universe would have been without a Master for a time; and to be consistent this same error must needs claim that the whole work of Christ Jesus was a farce, a pretence, that Jesus really was the Heavenly Father all the time, and wore a body of flesh just as we do a suit of clothes; that he caused this body of flesh to pretend to pray to himself, and pretend to agonize with strong cryings and tears to the Father, really himself; that he let the body of flesh go on to the cross and pretend its groans and its crying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” that he let the body be buried, and pretended for the time to be unconscious, while really he was experiencing none of these things that appeared, but was as omniscient and omnipotent as ever; that by and by he revived the body and took up the flesh and bones, etc., into heaven as an everlasting evidence of the deception he had performed upon mankind; taking a body of flesh into spiritual conditions, where it would be totally out of place and inappropriate to the environment.
All this theorizing, so common amongst Christian people, is absurd in the extreme, totally contrary to the teachings of our Lord’s Word, as well as repugnant to reason and common sense. This entire illogical theory is built upon and made necessary by two fundamental errors; first, a failure to see the sense in which the Father and the Son are one—that they are not one in person, but in harmony, in spirit, in will, as the glorified Church also must eventually be One with the Father and with the Son, as our Lord’s own lips declared, “That they all might be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” Secondly, the theory that the dead are not dead, but more alive than ever before. Can any one dispute that if the dead are not dead there are no dead ones, and to speak of a resurrection of dead ones would be an absurdity?
But when we take the Scriptural account the whole subject becomes clear and plain. Jesus was the honored Son of God—”the only begotten of the Father”—”the beginning of the creation of God.” To him had been given, while he was in glory with the Father, the privilege of becoming man’s Redeemer, and he had accepted the service gladly: “for the joy that was set before him,” he left the condition of glory, was made flesh, endured the cross, despising the shame, and ultimately received the exaltation to the divine nature, and joint-heirship through his resurrection. The taking of human nature was necessary, because it was a man that had sinned, and as by a man came death, by a man also must the resurrection of the dead be secured. (1 Cor. 15:21.) Only the sacrifice of a perfect life could redeem the original sinner, Adam, and his children, who shared his penalty. This was the necessity for our Lord’s earthly existence and for his death, as the Apostle explains.—Heb. 2:14.
“HE POURED OUT HIS SOUL UNTO DEATH.”
Those who claim that our Lord himself did not die, but that merely his flesh died, are totally unable to answer or harmonize the Scriptural declarations on this subject, which are most pointedly to the effect
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that “he poured out his soul unto death;” “he made his soul an offering for sin.” It was Adam’s soul (being, existence) that came under the sentence of death through disobedience. It was not merely a sin of his body, but, as the Scriptures declare, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” It was Adam’s soul that needed to be redeemed, and not merely his body, because if the soul were redeemed God could give it a new body as it pleased him. God’s proposition is not to give back, atom for atom, the same bodies that moulder into dust. On the contrary, it matters little what becomes of these mortal bodies, for it was not these that were redeemed, nor these that are to be restored. It was the soul that needed redemption; it was the soul that was redeemed; it was the soul of our Lord Jesus that was given as a ransom price for the soul of Adam; and the result is that the souls of Adam and his posterity are all guaranteed a resurrection.
This central thought of the resurrection is wholly overlooked by Christian people in general, who leave the soul out of the question,—out of redemption and out of the resurrection, whereas it is the all-important. It is because the Apostle Paul recognized this matter so clearly that he stated himself so positively on this subject in his great chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15. He recognized that it was Christ’s soul that died—that his very existence had ceased in death; that not merely his body, but himself, was absolutely dead three days, and this is our Lord’s own statement, “I am he that liveth and was dead.” He does not say, I am he who lived always and who never died, but whose body died for the brief space of a few hours. It was because Christ’s soul (being) was dead that the Apostle could declare that unless his soul, being, were made alive again by a resurrection there could be no hope in him as a Savior and a Life-giver—there could be no hope of his ever exalting his Church to joint-heirship with him in his Kingdom nor of his and their blessing all the families of the earth during a Millennial reign of righteousness—if he were dead, extinct, if he had not risen from the dead.
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The Apostle Peter also marks this point well, that it was the soul of Christ that was dead—that went to hades, the grave, the state or condition of death. Note how the Apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, quoted from the inspired prophet David, the words, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [Heb. sheol, Gr., hades, English, the state or condition of death].” Peter informs us that the prophet spoke not of his own soul, but of Christ’s soul, that it was not left in hades—that, on the contrary, it was raised up from the dead on the third day. (Acts 2:27,30-33.) Whoever sees that it was our Lord’s soul that went into the state of death can see abundant evidence for all the stress which the apostles in their writings lay upon the fact of his resurrection. If Christ be risen it is an evidence of divine favor, and divine favor is an evidence of his perfection—that he did the work of sacrifice which he undertook, and in a manner acceptable to the Father; and these things being true, it follows that his exaltation to the Father’s right hand of power means that we have in this a full assurance of faith that all the exceeding great and precious promises of God to the world and to the Church, centered in him, shall have a fulfilment in due time.
As an illustration of the confusion which generally prevails on this subject by reason of false premises above criticised, note the following statement by a leading commentator, discussing this subject, and published widely in comments on this lesson. He says: “The resurrection of Jesus is the crowning proof that he is the Son of God. If he could not conquer death and come back from heaven he could not prove that at first he came from heaven!” Such is the ridiculous position into which ordinarily intelligent men are led through building upon false theories.
The Scriptures nowhere intimate that our Lord Jesus did or could raise himself from the dead. If it were merely his body that had died, and if he were more alive than ever, of course he could just as easily quicken his own body that had died as he could quicken the body of Lazarus, and it be no more of a miracle, and no more of a proof. But if, as the Scriptures declare, it was his soul that died then he was wholly dead, and could have no power whatever to resuscitate himself. To this the Scriptures agree, declaring in so many words that “God the Father raised him from the dead.” (Gal. 1:1.) Nor is this an exceptional statement of the matter. It is the united testimony of the Scriptures, in proof of which note the following: Acts 2:24,32; 3:15; 4:10; 10:40; 13:30,34; 17:31; Rom. 4:24; 8:11; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor. 4:14; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 1:21.
Our Lord’s figurative statement, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up,” is not to be understood as in conflict with the above literal testimony. “He spake of the temple of his body”—”which temple ye are”—the Church. (John 2:21; 1 Cor. 3:16.) Our Lord was living in the end of the fifth (thousand-year) day, and on the seventh (thousand-year) day “early in the morning,” the Church, which is his body, is to be delivered by him from the power of death, and thus be made sharer in “his resurrection”—the first resurrection.—Phil. 3:10; Rev. 20:4,5.
Neither are we to understand our Lord’s words,
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“I have power to lay down my life and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18), as meaning that he could have any power whatever during the interim of death. Rather, we are to understand this in harmony with the many plain statements of the apostles under the inspiration of the holy spirit, to mean that our Lord had authority or commission from the Father to make the declaration that tho he would lay down his life he would receive it again—this authority, assurance to this effect, I have received it from my Father. So understood, the whole matter is clear. So understood, the doctrine of the resurrection becomes next in importance to the doctrine of the ransom, and really a part and parcel of it; for as we have already seen, for our Lord to have died and not to have risen from the dead would have meant no hope for those whom he had promised to deliver, and whom the Father had promised he should have authority to deliver from the power of death by a resurrection through judgments.—John 5:28-30.
“IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE THAT HE SHOULD BE HOLDEN OF DEATH.”—ACTS 2:24.
It was not possible, because he had kept the divine law perfectly, and thus, according to divine arrangement and promise, he had accomplished two things: (1) The giving of the ransom price for the human family; (2) the attestation of his own fidelity and his worthiness of high exaltation to the divine nature and glory—”that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” (John 5:23.) The same justice which had operated for four thousand years against Adam and his race because of transgression was now operative on behalf of Jesus for his deliverance from death, into which he had voluntarily gone as man’s redemption price. When we come to see matters from the divine standpoint and arrangement we can well rejoice that the Father’s character is unchangeable, and our Lord’s resurrection becomes an evidence, or, as the Apostle says, an “assurance,” of the carrying out of every feature of the divine plan, all of which centered in him and was made dependent upon his faithfulness even unto death, even the death of the cross. (Acts 17:31.) Now we know that he is the antitypical Seed of Abraham, approved of God, through whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. Now we know that the Church of this Gospel age is called to be the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, just as Rebecca was called to be the wife of the typical Isaac, and to be his joint-heir in the Kingdom and joint-participator with him in the carrying out of the promises and oath of God made to Abraham. “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise”—that in this seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.—Gal. 3:29.
Coming to the narrative of our Lord’s resurrection from the standpoint above set forth, realizing that all of our hopes of life eternal are dependent upon it, we come to it with much more and much deeper interest than we could approach it from any other standpoint or theory. And we are to remember that the disciples and followers of Jesus were Jews, and that the heathen philosophies had not yet made great inroads upon the people, to mislead them into thinking that the dead were not dead. As a people they believed the dead were dead, and placed their hopes in a resurrection. Thus it was when Jesus comforted Martha and Mary respecting their brother; he said not to them, Your brother is alive, but, “Thy brother shall rise again,” clearly implying that he was not alive then in any sense of the word. Their answer was in accord with this: “I know that he shall rise again at the last day”—in the end of this age, in the great Millennial age of resurrection, lasting a thousand years. But Jesus, being the one who possesses the resurrection power, even then suspended temporarily the power of death, restoring Lazarus again, and thus illustrating the resurrection power which will be used in much fuller measure and degree, and generally, when the due time shall come, and “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and come forth.”
Similar were the views on this subject held by the apostles and others. They believed that whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, as they previously supposed, but as had seemed to be disproved by his ignominious death at the hands of his enemies, nevertheless he was a holy man, and they trusted that in due time under the divine arrangement, according to the promise to Abraham, he, as well as all the dead, would rise again. Great must have been their surprise when they learned through the angel messengers who sat at the tomb that the Lord was risen, was no longer dead.
The women, whose office it was to complete the work of embalming the body of Jesus, went very early in the morning of the first day of the week, “while it was yet dark,” to perform their loving service. Our Lord was crucified on Friday, the sixth day of the week, and buried probably about four o’clock. This left no opportunity to complete the embalming arrangements, because, as Jews under the Law, they were obliged to keep the seventh day (Saturday) as a rest day, and in it do no work of any kind; but the seventh day closed at sundown, and we may presume that immediately the preparation of spices began, and that all arrangements were completed, and that they were on their way to the sepulchre
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as early as possible. We may assume that it was not the custom to embalm all the dead. Evidently Lazarus had not been so embalmed in death. (John 11:30.) And since the embalming process was only partly perfected on the evening of the burial, the women were in haste, as soon as the Sabbath was over, to complete their service, not realizing how unnecessary were their labors—not thinking for a moment of the Lord’s resurrection. No doubt it was in order to better inculcate this lesson, and to prepare them for seeing Jesus, that the angels appeared and drew their attention to the fact that Jesus had foretold his crucifixion, and also his resurrection on the third day.
Infidelity has objected that the accounts of our Lord’s resurrection given by the four Evangelists are not exactly alike; but we answer that this is another evidence that there was no collusion amongst the apostles in respect to their statements of the Lord’s words and doings, and these subsequent scenes. Their testimony, therefore, should be considered really stronger than if they had word for word declared the
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same thing. The fact is that each tells the story from his own standpoint, and, like any matter, it may be viewed from different standpoints, and the facts, related in somewhat different language and order, need not be understood to conflict. Rather, we are to understand that all the various things declared took place, and to do our best to find the order in which they occurred.
Nor is it unusual to find differences of opinion respecting many things in the testimonies of unimpeachable witnesses; for instance, there is a dispute to this day as to what hour the battle of Waterloo occurred, altho tens of thousands of men took part in it. “Two armies beheld the battle of Waterloo, but who can tell when it began? At ten o’clock, said the Duke of Wellington. At half past eleven, said General Alava, who rode beside him. At twelve, according to Napoleon and Druet; and at one, according to General Ney.” We do not think of impeaching the credibility of any of these witnesses. Rather, we are to suppose that they all may have been correct in that the battle began in some places sooner than in others. Some would regard the battle as beginning with the first skirmish, and others probably ignore those skirmishes and speak of the time when the armies fully met in the clash of battle. We are to use similar reasonable judgment in considering the testimony of such unimpeachable witnesses as were the apostles—men who not only hazarded their lives, but sacrificed all of their earthly interests in the service of him whom they declare to us arose from the dead on the third day.
We might remark incidentally that the terms, “on the third day,” and three days and nights, according to Jewish usage, would properly be applied to portions of three twenty-four-hour periods, and did not imply three full days and three nights. That the apostles so understood their own words is evident, for they made no effort to harmonize the statements, as they surely would have done had there been any conflict between them. Some earnest people, failing to realize this fully, have written books endeavoring to prove that our Lord was crucified on Thursday afternoon, but they seemingly overlook the fact that even then they could not count three full days and three full nights, and that unless they accepted the view that a part of three days is what is meant they would be forced to suppose that our Lord was crucified on Wednesday afternoon, in order to have the three full days, and in that event it would not be true that our Lord arose “on the third day,” but on the fourth day. Furthermore, unless it be conceded that our Lord was crucified on Friday, the sixth day, too late to complete the embalming which would be hindered by the seventh day, no excuse could be found for the women coming early on the first day of the week with the spices to complete the embalming. If our Lord had been crucified on Thursday afternoon there would have been all day Friday in which they could have completed the work of embalming.
Dr. Abbott points out that the Christian observance of Sunday is of itself a strong testimony in support of our Lord’s resurrection. He says: “A singular and significant testimony to the truth of the resurrection is afforded by the change in the Sabbath day. It was changed, not by any express command in the New Testament, but by the almost universal consent of the Church, which could not endure to observe as a day of joy and gladness that on which Christ lay in the tomb, nor forbear to mark as a weekly festival that on which he arose.”
“THE FIRST-FRUITS OF THEM THAT SLEPT.”
Our Golden Text calls attention to the fact that our Lord in his resurrection became the first-fruits of them that slept—the first-born from the dead. After God gave the promise to Abraham that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, it was the custom of Israelites to speak of their dead as not dead, not extinct, but as asleep—waiting for resuscitation, resurrection. They realized that such a resurrection was unquestionably implied, tho not actually stated, in the promise made to Abraham. For how could all the families of the earth be blessed until the ransom price was paid, a resurrection provided for, that the curse of death might be rolled back from off the race? Again, as our Lord declares, the intention of God to resurrect the dead was shown in his declaration to
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Moses at the bush, that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, etc., for if they were dead, extinct, without hope of a resurrection, God would never speak of them in this manner. (Mark 12:26,27.) Israel in general, therefore, had come to speak of the dead as asleep, waiting for Messiah and the work that he should do, which would culminate in resurrection; hence the common use of the words sleep and slept in the Old Testament when referring to the deceased. The Apostle informs us that some endured torture for their faithfulness to the Lord, in hope of a better resurrection—a more favorable condition, when the resurrection time should come.—Heb. 11:35.
Our Lord also used this expression, “sleep,” in respect to the dead, declaring that Lazarus slept, and that he went to awaken him out of sleep. (John 11:11.) Practically the whole world of mankind has gone down into this sleep, and it is called a sleep, instead of being called death, extinction, because in the divine plan, through the redemption, a provision has been made that “all that are in their graves shall come forth” at the word of their Redeemer, in the morning of the Millennial age. The “little flock” of “overcomers” who pass their judgment or trial now satisfactorily, come forth to life and joint-heirship in the Kingdom; the great mass of mankind, blinded by the Adversary, to a greater or less extent, will come forth, subsequently, to enlightenment,—when Satan shall be bound, to deceive them no more,—that they may have an opportunity of coming into harmony with God and forming characters in accord with the laws of his Kingdom, and so doing that they may have life everlasting.
Our Lord was the first-fruits of them that slept—none preceded him; hence the awakening of Lazarus and of the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow of Nain were not full and complete resurrections. Had they been such our Lord’s resurrection would not have been the first—he would not have been “the First-born from the dead.” His being born from the dead signifies that he was lifted fully and completely out of death conditions to the perfection of life, which was not the case with the others—they were merely awakened and left in the dead state with the remainder of the human family. The Church of Christ, his body, is to share with him in “his resurrection,” “the first resurrection,” a complete and instantaneous lifting out of the state of death into the perfection and completeness of glory, honor and immortality, which God has provided for them who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, his joint-heirs. These are all called the “first-fruits unto God of his creatures.” (James 1:18.) The after-fruits of God’s great plan will be developed during the Millennial age, yet there shall not enter into the approved condition any who will not use the means then within their grasp.
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“BEHOLD, I AM ALIVE FOREVER MORE.”—REV. 1:18.
—JOHN 20:11-18.—APRIL 14.—
NOT only was it necessary that Christ should rise from the dead and become alive forevermore in order to accomplish the great work planned of God and foretold in the prophets, and secured by his own sacrifice, but it was necessary also that indubitable proofs of his resurrection should be given to his disciples, for themselves and for us through them. The necessity for this lay in the fact that in the divine plan this Gospel age was marked out to be a Faith age—for the selection of a special little flock, able, like father Abraham, to walk by faith and not by sight. But faith, in order to be faith, and not merely credulity, must needs have some reasonable foundation upon which to build its superstructure; and it was to provide this foundation for faith that our Lord remained with his followers for forty days after his resurrection, before ascending to the Father,—as the Evangelist declares, “He showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”—Acts 1:3.
The disciples realized that great events were transpiring, tho how great and momentous was their character, they but slightly comprehended. They knew that their hopes as respects an earthly Kingdom, and their Master as an earthly Lord, had failed. They had vague, indefinite hope that all that he had said to them would in some manner have a fulfilment, but how or when or where, was beyond their conception. They knew not that a change of dispensation was occurring;—that the rejection of Israel after the flesh, and the calling of a new Israel after the spirit, was commenced; and that they themselves were amongst the first thus privileged to pass from the relationship of servants of God to that of sons.—John 1:12.
As yet they knew nothing about spiritual things, not having been begotten of the holy spirit to sonship and the knowledge of things to come, Jesus not yet having been glorified, and it being impossible for the holy spirit of adoption to come upon them until after his sacrifice for sins had been presented in the
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Most Holy, and accepted of the Father. They knew not that the new Kingdom was to be a spiritual one, and that Christ, its Head, must pass from fleshly conditions to spiritual conditions in this resurrection, even as he had foretold, saying, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” They had much to learn, but they had a great Teacher, and, as we shall see, his arrangements for their instruction were specially adapted to their conditions as natural men, to give them such foundation of knowledge and experience as would subsequently be helpful to them when they should be begotten of the holy spirit at Pentecost.
The Apostle informs us that Christ was “put to death in flesh and quickened (made alive) in spirit” (we give a literal translation). The Apostle’s words being true, those who declare that our Lord arose from the dead a fleshly being at the time of his ascension are grossly in error. Indeed, it is evident that they have misconceived the entire subject of the atonement, for if our Lord, as the man Christ Jesus, gave himself a ransom, he could not be restored to manhood in a resurrection, without annulling the ransom—taking back the price he had paid for our sins. The Scriptural thought is that as man had sinned, and been sentenced to death, it was necessary that the Redeemer should become a man and should give his manhood as the ransom-price for Adam and his race; and the Scriptural declaration is not that this ransom price was taken back, but that God raised him from the dead a new creature of a new nature,—not in flesh, not in human nature, but in spirit, a spirit being.—1 Pet. 3:18.
The Apostle Paul agrees with Peter’s testimony, that Jesus was quickened in spirit, saying that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4); and again, the same Apostle, describing the first resurrection, in 1 Cor. 15:42-45, says: “Thus also is the resurrection of the dead: it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural [animal] body, it is raised a spiritual body.” The Apostle elsewhere declares that the Church’s highest ambition is to be a partaker in this first resurrection, which he denominates “his resurrection,” the Christ-resurrection, the resurrection to spirit conditions, which came first to our Lord Jesus, and in which all of his body, his Bride, is to have a share.—Phil. 3:10; Rev. 20:6.
There can be no question that the Apostle, in this description of the first resurrection, means us to understand his words just as they read—whoever interpolates and adds to the Word of God, and declares that it was sown a natural (animal) body and raised a natural (animal) body, and subsequently changed to a spiritual body, wrests the Scriptures to his own injury, to the darkening of his own understanding of the divine plan. In the same connection the Apostle declares that that body which thou sowest is not quickened, but in the resurrection God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, to every seed his own body—in the resurrection, not after it. (1 Cor. 15:35-38.) If the Church belongs to the spiritual seed, to which is to be given the spiritual body in the resurrection, then unquestionably the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church, belongs to the same spiritual seed, and accordingly God gave him a spiritual body in his resurrection. Likewise, in a succeeding verse, the Apostle declares that our Lord at his resurrection became the second Adam, and then contrasting this second Adam with the first, he says, “The first man Adam was made a living soul [an animal or earthly being]; the last Adam was made a quickening [life-giving] spirit [being].”—1 Cor. 15:38-45.
The lessons to be learned by the Lord’s immediate followers would necessarily be much more difficult to them than to us; because we have been begotten of the holy spirit, and are thereby enabled to appreciate spiritual things. To meet the exigency it was necessary that our Lord, the spirit being, should be present with them for forty days,—invisible, as spirit beings are always invisible to men, unless through the operation of a miracle. It was necessary for them to know of his resurrection in order that they should have faith in his message, and act accordingly, as he desired; yet, had he appeared to them in the glory of his spirit being, opening their eyes to see the supernatural splendor as he showed himself in vision to John on the isle of Patmos, his face as lightning, his arms and his feet shining like molten brass in the furnace—the effect would have been to terrorize them, and their natural minds would have been unable to link such manifestations with their Lord, recently crucified; neither would he have had opportunity, under such conditions, to have given them instructions, for they could not have received them by reason of terror.
It was necessary therefore, that our Lord, a spirit being, should manifest himself, as he had in the long past manifested himself to Abraham and Sarah, and as angels, under divine commission, had done on sundry occasions—as a man. (Gen. 18:1.) He must lead their minds step by step, and their thoughts link by link, from the cross and the tomb to an appreciation of his present exaltation as a spirit being, respecting which he himself explained to them, contrasting it with his previous condition, “All power in heaven and in earth is given unto me.” And this leading of their minds must be such as would gradually force upon them the conviction that he was “changed,” that he was no longer a man, and no longer subject to human conditions, as before his death. Having this thought in mind, we will have no difficulty whatever in seeing how our Lord inculcated these instructions during the forty days in his various interviews with his followers.
Mary Magdalene was honored in being the first to whom our Lord revealed himself. Scholars are generally coming to the opinion that it is a mistake to suppose that Mary Magdalene had ever been an
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unchaste woman—a mistake to identify her with the woman in Galilee in the house of the Pharisee, who washed our Lord’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, and of whom the account says, “She was a sinner.” The name Magdalene is now supposed to signify that this Mary was of or from Magdala, a town on the sea of Galilee. However, according to the Scriptural account, Mary Magdalene was a miracle of grace, for it is distinctly stated (Luke 8:2) that she had been obsessed of evil spirits, seven of them, whom the Lord cast out. Many think that she was a woman of wealth, and the evidences are that she greatly appreciated her benefactor, and esteemed it a privilege to follow him whithersoever he went. Not only had she come from Galilee to Judea, but she was near the cross at the time of his death, and the first at the tomb on the morning of the resurrection—”while it was yet dark.” Such love and devotion commend themselves to every sincere heart, and are surely worthy of emulation on the part of those who receive at the Lord’s hands spiritual favors, forgiveness, reconciliation, the spirit of a sound mind, new hopes and aspirations, etc.
To harmonize the various accounts we must suppose that the women charged with the work of embalming our Lord’s body lived in various parts of the city, and did not all arrive at the same hour. Mary Magdalene arrived first, and finding the tomb empty hastened and first found Peter and afterward John, both of whom at once ran to the sepulchre, Mary probably returning more slowly to the same place, arriving there after they and the other women had gone. It was at this second visit that the Lord revealed himself to her. She had been weeping and then stooped down in order to see through the low doorway, as tho to reassure herself that it was empty, and then saw for the first time two angels in white, who inquired respecting her sorrow. The angels had doubtless been there when she was there before, but she had not seen them, because not of their choosing to “appear:” indeed, the Scriptures assure us, saying, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation”? And again, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”
Doubtless holy angels had in charge not only our Lord’s body, but also the interests of his bereaved followers; and now, and on other occasions, some of these appeared—appeared, because they could not be seen without appearing, without a miracle—appeared as “young men,” tho they were not men, but angels; not flesh, but spirit beings—assuming fleshly bodies for a time, that they might render the service necessary. In Luke 24:4 these same angels appearing as men are said to have been clothed in shining garments—so that they might not be understood to be men, but might at once be recognized as heavenly messengers. On the contrary, when our risen Lord as a “quickening spirit” similarly “appeared” in the flesh, in order to come closer to his followers, he did not appear in shining garments, but in ordinary apparel, assumed for the purpose, and in order that he might have the better opportunity for giving the instructions which his followers needed.
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The words of the angels to Mary would be calculated to assuage her grief, for they manifested no grief, and by their question implied that she had no ground for it. At this juncture something drew Mary’s attention, and turning around she discovered another person near her, evidently in ordinary garments, whom she presumed to be a servant of Joseph of Arimathea, the owner of the garden—his gardener. She considered herself a trespasser to some extent, and assuming that our Lord’s body was not wanted longer in the rich man’s tomb she inquired where he had been taken, that she might take the proper steps to care for his reinterment. Then Jesus (for it was he who had “appeared” in the form of a gardener) spoke her name: “Mary!” At once she recognized the voice, and crying, “Master, Teacher!” she fell at his feet, grasping them as tho fearful that somehow, if she let go, she might never get the opportunity of touching his blessed person again. Our Lord’s words to her, “Touch me not, but go, tell my brethren,” would more properly be translated, Cling not to me, etc.—for I have not yet ascended to my Father; I will be here a while yet, before I ascend, but your great opportunity for clinging to me and trusting in me will be after I have presented to the Father, and he has accepted, the great atonement for sins which I have just accomplished at Calvary. Mary’s touch could do our Lord no harm, for others touched him subsequently, as the record shows; but our Lord would lead Mary’s mind away from a mere clinging in the flesh,—to the higher relationship and intimacy of heart and of spirit, which would now be possible, not only for her, but for all his followers, not only then but ever since. In a spiritual way the Lord’s people may be exhorted not only to “look unto Jesus,” the Author and Finisher of our faith, but also to “cling to Jesus,” and by faith to place our hands in his that he may lead us all through our pilgrim journey, in the narrow way until he shall bring us to himself, when we, like him, shall be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, and be like him, spirit beings, and see him as he is;—not as he was, before his resurrection, nor as he “appeared” during the forty days after it.—1 John 3:2.
Our Lord gave Mary a message, a service to perform, and so it is with all who love the Lord and seek him and find him: they are not to merely enjoy him selfishly, but are given a commission in his service for the brethren. This seems as true today as ever. And by the way, this is the second instance in which our Lord ever addressed his disciples as “brethren,” with all that that word implies of fellowship and of all being children of the one Father. (Matt. 12:48.) Now he emphasized this relationship by referring to the Father as his Father, and their Father, his God and their God. How close this brings our Lord to us in fellowship and relationship, not by pulling him down, but by realizing him as highly exalted, far above angels, principalities and powers, and every name that is named; it lifts us up, and by faith enables us to consider ourselves, as the Lord considers us, “brethren,” prospective joint-heirs with him, who by and by shall be like him, our elder brother, sharing, through his grace and assistance, in his resurrection, and participating as joint-heirs in his “Kingdom”—
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if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”—Rom. 8:17.
Mary departed with her glad message and was undoubtedly much happier in the delivery of it than if she had been permitted to remain clinging to the Lord; enjoying her knowledge somewhat selfishly. To find her Lord alive when she had supposed him dead meant to Mary a joy such as the Apostle Peter expressed when he said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” We may well suppose from our own experience in such matters, that every time Mary told the good tidings to others and made their hearts rejoice also, it brought her a fresh increase of joy. The Master similarly sends all who recognize him as “he that liveth and was dead, and is alive forevermore,” to go forth and tell others of the glorious fact that we have a living Savior, whose love and interest extends to every interest and affair of our lives, and who not only is full of sympathy and compassion, but is able also to succor those who are tempted, who are in trial, who are in distress of any kind;—one who is able to bring us off conquerors, to give us strength to endure hardness, and who by and by will receive to himself all the faithful.
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BISHOP RYLE’S MILLENNIAL CREED
“FIRST. I believe that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity, by any existing agency, before the end of this dispensation. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, members and churches, the wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest; and when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state that it was when the flood came in the days of Noah.—Matt. 13:24-30; Luke 17:20-36; Matt. 24:37-47.
“Second. I believe that the wide-spread unbelief, indifference, formalism and wickedness which are to be seen throughout Christendom, are only what we are taught to expect in God’s Word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold, are things distinctly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it I should think the Bible was not true.—Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:1-6,13.
“Third. I believe that the grand purpose of the present dispensation is to gather out of the world an elect people, and not to convert all mankind. It does not surprise me at all to hear that the heathen are not all converted when missionaries preach, and that believers are but a little flock in any congregation in my own land. It is precisely the state of things I expected to find. The Gospel is to be preached ‘for a witness,’ and then shall the end come. This is the dispensation of election, and not of universal conversion.—Acts 15:14-19; Matt. 24:14; Romans 8:20-24,28,29.
“Fourth. I believe that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is the great event which will wind up the present dispensation, and for which we ought daily to long and pray. ‘Thy Kingdom come,’ ‘Come, Lord Jesus,’ should be our daily prayer. We look backward, if we have faith, to Christ dying on the cross, and we ought to look forward, no less, if we have hope, to Christ coming again.—John 14:3; 2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Peter 3:12; Titus 2:13; 1 Cor. 11:26.
“Fifth. I believe that the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is to be a literal, personal coming: that as he went away in the clouds of heaven, before the eyes of his disciples, so, in like manner, will he return.—Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:14-18.
[As his going was known only to his faithful followers, so only such will have the eye of faith and that enlightenment which will permit them to discern the second presence of the Lord, while all others will continue about the ordinary vocations of life, ignorant of the fact that they are living “in the days of the Son of Man,”—eating, drinking, planting, building, and knowing not of his parousia, his presence. Then, too, he went away quietly, unostentatiously, as well as unknown to the world, and the manner of his coming will be similar—he shall come in like manner. “Now the Lord is that spirit,” and tho we, the Church, shall see him, it will be “as he is,” and not as he was. At first we will see him with the eye of faith through the prophetic word of promise only, but the promise is that we also in due time shall be “changed”—to spirit beings. Then “we shall see him as he is; for we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:2.)—EDITOR.]
“Sixth. I believe that, after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth will be renewed and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that before he comes there shall be neither resurrection, judgment or millennium; and that not till after he comes shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.—Acts 3:20-26; Isa. 25:6-9; Rev. 1:5-8; 20:1-6; Isa. 65:17 to end.
“Seventh. I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be regathered, as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ.—Jer. 3:10,11; 13:10; Rom. 11:25,26; 2 Cor. 3:15,16.
“Eighth. I believe that the literal sense of the Old Testament prophecies has been far too much neglected in the present day, and far too much neglected by the churches; and that, under the mistaken system of spiritualizing and accommodating Bible language, Christians have too often completely missed the meaning.—Luke 24:25,26.
“I believe, finally, that it is for the safety, happiness and comfort of all true Christians to expect as little as possible from churches or governments under
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the present dispensation; to hold themselves ready for tremendous convulsions, and changes of all things established, and to expect their good things only from Christ’s second advent.”