Oh, the Blessedness!
TWO dates stand out prominently in the minds of Bible Students enlightened by present truth. These are 1874 and 1914. Nearly a century has passed since 1874, and more than half a century since 1914. Because of this passing of so many years beyond the time when it was supposed our hopes would be fully realized, the brethren are naturally concerned as to the meaning of this long delay. Various views are being expressed as to what developments there actually have been in the divine plan during this unexpectedly long end-of-the-age period, and what aspects of the divine plan still remain to be fulfilled.
It is, we are confident, the desire of everyone who loves the truth to hold firmly to its great fundamentals, and also to acquire as clear an understanding as possible of the various details related to those fundamentals. It was the great Apostle Paul who wrote that “we know in part.” (I Cor. 13:9) It is with a keen sense of this limitation that we are publishing this brochure in which, as best we can, we set forth what we understand the Bible to teach, together with a liberal number of quotations from Brother Russell’s writings, in an endeavor to reconcile the facts of today with the delayed hopes of the past.
We do not expect that all the brethren will find themselves in full agreement with this presentation. Our hope is, however, that it will serve to promote understanding among the brethren, and an increased zeal for making known the glad tidings of the kingdom.
For nearly forty years your brethren of the Dawn Bible Students Association have been upholding and publishing the precious fundamental doctrines of the truth as served to the household of faith by that “faithful and wise servant,” and we are dedicated to continue doing this. We are endeavoring also to follow the loving and humble spirit of Brother Russell, who at all times was so willing to acknowledge his lack of full knowledge on certain details of the divine plan, and so ready to change his view when he realized that he had not been wholly correct.
It is with the desire that each reader will diligently prove all things by the Word of God, and hold fast to that which is good, that we submit the following article for consideration. Although there are those who hold dissimilar views, at The Dawn and elsewhere, we rejoice that the brethren in general are working together harmoniously in the service of the Lord, the truth, and one another; and we trust that this treatise will increase that wonderful spirit of unity regardless of our agreement or disagreement with it. So we earnestly pray for the peace and spiritual prosperity of Zion.
NEARLY two thousand years ago the disciples of Jesus went to him on the Mount of Olives, and said, “Tell us when these things shall be, and what the sign of thy presence and the conclusion of the age.” (Matt. 24:3, Rotherham) From various things Jesus had said to his disciples they began to realize that he would not then establish the messianic kingdom, but would first go away and return, and that it would be after his return that the kingdom would be established. They had not grasped this thought too clearly—they did not realize, for example, that he would die, and would be raised from the dead, return to heaven, and later return to earth as an invisible, divine being.
But they did understand enough of what Jesus had said to make them concerned, hence the questions about the time and the signs of his second presence. Jesus did not then know the time himself, but he did outline a number of signs which are readily recognizable today. He said, for example, that “then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world, … no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” (Matt. 24:21,22) Today the complete destruction of the human race is threatened through the misuse of nuclear fission, so there is no sidestepping the meaning of this “sign.” It denotes that we are indeed living at the conclusion of the age, and in the time of our Lord’s second presence.
In Luke 12:37 Jesus refers to the time of his return, saying, “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” Peter asked for a further explanation, and Jesus replied, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?”—vs. 42
It seems evident that the blessedness of the Lord’s servants referred to here by Jesus is the same blessedness mentioned in Daniel 12:12, which states: “Blessed is he that waiteth.” What is this great blessing? It is a blessing which results from being served “meat in due season”—an understanding of God’s great plan of salvation. This plan of God is referred to by the psalmist as a “joyful sound,” and he says, “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.”—Ps. 89:15
“The Joyful Sound”
The records indicate that beginning about 1874 the Lord’s people who were faithfully watching the prophecies pertaining to our Lord’s return were blessed with a wonderfully clear and comprehensive understanding of God’s great plan to bless all the families of the earth through Jesus, the Redeemer. They learned that this great theme is to be found throughout the Bible. It is the messianic theme of the Scriptures—the “joyful sound” referred to by the psalmist.
And how wonderfully harmonious is the “joyful sound” of God’s messianic purpose! It begins with the creation of man to be king of earth. (Gen., ch. 1) Additional details are presented in chapter 2 of Genesis, including the fact that man’s eternal existence on earth depended upon his obedience to divine law. In chapter 3 we are informed of Satan’s deception and of the transgression of our first parents in partaking of the forbidden fruit.
“In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” God told Adam. (Gen. 2:17) “The wages of sin is death,” wrote the Apostle Paul. (Rom. 6:23) How good it was to learn that the sleep of death, not eternal torture, is God’s penalty for sin! We found out also that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:20,21) As this blessed assurance came into focus, the fact that Jesus gave himself a “ransom” for all; that is, a corresponding price, became clear.
God’s promise to Abraham came to mean much to “the people who know the joyful sound”—“In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:16-18) What a thrill it was to know of the divine purpose to bless all mankind, and that the “Seed” through which this would be accomplished was Christ. (Gal. 3:16) We learned that associated with Christ in this future work of blessing would be his faithful followers of the Gospel Age.—Gal. 3:27-29
Throughout the age Christian people entertained the hope of spending eternity in heaven, and this was a proper hope for the true followers of the Lord. Jesus said, “If I go … I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” (John 14:3) But soon after the death of the apostles the followers of the Master began to lose sight of the fact that there was a glorious purpose in exalting Jesus’ followers to a heavenly realm, that purpose being that they might be associated with Jesus in the future work of blessing all the families of the earth. This work of blessing, we learned, was to be accomplished through the agencies of the messianic kingdom; and in that kingdom Jesus’ true followers, brought forth in the first resurrection, were to live and reign with him a thousand years.—Rev. 20:6
So, while there are many promises of heavenly glory for the true followers of Jesus, we learned there are many other promises assuring us that the blessing for the world in general will be restoration to perfect life here on earth as humans. This great project, the Scriptures inform us, is to be accomplished during what Peter describes as “times of restitution of all things,” and he adds that these “times of restitution” were foretold by God’s holy prophets since the world began.—Acts 3:19-21
“Restitution” is God’s provision for giving life to the fallen and dying race of mankind. God gave his people Israel the Law, and assured them that if they kept that Law they would live. But being members of the fallen race, they were unable to keep God’s perfect law perfectly, so they failed to get life in this manner. The Law, nevertheless, served as a “schoolmaster” to teach the need of Christ’s atoning blood, and of the divine power which will operate through the agencies of the kingdom, in order for imperfect man to be delivered from his bondage to sin and death.
Another important feature of the “joyful sound” of truth which came to the Lord’s faithful people at the time of our Lord’s return was the fact that the Gospel Age would end with a period described in the Scriptures as a “harvest.” We learned that the returned Lord himself was the Chief Reaper in this harvest, and that we could engage in harvest work through proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom—“the joyful sound.” It was, and still is, a blessed work! Much joy has come to the faithful “reapers” as they have noted the “eyes” and “ears” of one here and one there opening in appreciation of that glorious harvest message that has been such a rich blessing to us. And there is still that one here and there who is responding and joining the ranks of the harvesters.
Gentile Times Ended
One of the prophecies of the Bible points out that a period in the plan of God called “times of the Gentiles” would end in 1914. “The times of the Gentiles” was a period during which certain Gentile powers, beginning with ancient Babylon, would be permitted to rule, and during this period God’s typical people Israel would be “trodden down.” As a result of the outbreak of the first World War in 1914, the governments of earth involved in this prophecy were overthrown, and one of the developments coming out of this has been that Israel is no longer trodden down by the Gentiles, but is now one of the recognized nations of earth. Thus the prophecy concerning the end of “the times of the Gentiles” has had a wonderfully accurate fulfilment. This is because it had been set down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
The 1914 date was the last one pointed out in the Word of God. Many other dates have been suggested since then, but none of them have proved out; they have all failed.
Because 1914 was the farthest extended date given us in the Scriptures so far as is yet known, it was natural to suppose that much more would take place at that point than actually did occur. It was believed that the “harvest” work would terminate in 1914, and that the last remaining disciples of Christ on earth would then be exalted to live and reign with him, and that the messianic kingdom would forthwith be established. As it turned out, none of these other things occurred. The harvest work continued; the church was not glorified, and the messianic kingdom in which Christ and the church will reign together did not become operative. It was a prophecy concerning “the times of the Gentiles,” so all that occurred was the beginning of the destruction of those Gentile nations involved in the prophecy, and, at the war’s end, a recognition of Israel’s right to the Promised Land.
“Faithful,” “Wise,”—and Humble
Prior to the rich feast of truth which the Lord provided to the “household” by “that servant,” the general concept of the end of the world was that it signified the destruction of the earth by fire, and that this would be accomplished in one twenty-four hour day. How much more clearly Brother Russell visualized this feature of the divine plan! Because it was the Lord’s due time, he was able to see clearly that the end of the world foretold in the prophecies of the Bible was in reality not the destruction of the earth, but the destruction of a social order—Satan’s social order. He saw also that this was not to be accomplished in a twenty-four hour period, but, as he visualized it, in a year, or two, or perhaps a little longer. Truly, this was progress in knowledge—progress that was possible because the time had come for the Lord’s people to receive a clearer understanding of the “joyful sound” of the truth.
More than a half-century has passed since the close of the Gentile Times. That segment of the world involved in the Gentile Times prophecy has indeed ended, but, although radically changed, the remainder of Satan’s social order still remains. Two world wars, years of acute depression, revolution, and now intermittent manifestations of anarchy continue to weaken Satan’s social order, but it has not yet collapsed. Only because these more than fifty years have passed since 1914 have our minds been expanded to see this more protracted and larger picture of the end of the world.
As we have noted, it was expected that the harvest would end in 1914. When, two years later, Brother Russell recognized that the harvest work was still in progress, he wrote:
“Some of us were quite strongly convinced that the harvest would be ended by now, but our expectations must not be allowed to weigh anything against the facts.”—R. 5950, par. 1
Later in the same article he wrote:
“We imagined that the harvest work of gathering the church would be accomplished before the end of the Gentile Times; but nothing in the Bible so said. Our thought was purely an inference, and now we see that it was an unjustified one.”—R. 5950, last par.
What a beautiful spirit of humility is here displayed! Surely all of us can with spiritual profit emulate a spirit of this kind! And surely the admonition not to allow our expectations to weigh anything against the facts is timely for the Lord’s people today. All of us have been expecting the full establishment of the kingdom these many years. We have longed to see the restoring power of the Lord giving life to the sin-sick and suffering world of mankind. And we have expected, furthermore, that this would be taking place long before this; and that we would all be with Jesus, living and reigning with him to accomplish this grand design.
But what are the facts? The facts are that we are still enjoying the privilege of sacrifice and service in the great harvest work which takes place in the end of the Gospel Age. It is also true that while we are still enjoying the service of the Lord under the direction of our present Lord, the Chief Reaper in the harvest work, the world goes on in its sinful way, with chaos and disintegration rampant everywhere. Under the great taskmaster Satan, sin and death are still reigning. Our hospitals, mental institutions, and prisons are full to overflowing, and one hundred and fifty thousand people are dying every twenty-four hours.
Increase of Knowledge
However, prophecies pertaining to “the time of the end” are being fulfilled. The foretold increase of knowledge and running to and fro are taking place on a scale which staggers the imagination. Brother Russell rejoiced greatly in the increase of knowledge which was manifested in his day. The railroad train was probably the fastest means of travel at that time. But the railroad trains of that era are now obsolete, and one hundred mile an hour trains—and more—are appearing. Then, the airplane and automobile were just coming on the scene, and radio and television were virtually unheard of.
But the prophecies were then being fulfilled, and are still being fulfilled. In 1969 planes traveling more than six hundred miles an hour, and carrying between four and five hundred people will go into service. Not long hence passenger planes will be traveling a thousand, and even fifteen hundred miles an hour; and probably that will not be the end of increasing speeds. Truly we are living in a remarkable day!
What does the increase of knowledge and invention mean with respect to the progress of the divine plan of salvation? The Prophet Nahum, in a prophecy which well might refer to certain aspects of the rapid travel of our day, uses the expression, “The day of His preparation.” (Nah. 2:3,4) A further insight into the sort of preparation now being made is gained when we note that the Hebrew word in Nahum’s prophecy which is translated “preparation” is used in Micah 4:1, and is translated “established.” The text reads, “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain [kingdom] of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.”
The establishment of the Lord’s kingdom involves the overthrow of Satan’s entire social order. We see this taking place, and the increase of knowledge is helping to bring it about. The establishment of the Lord’s kingdom also calls for the exaltation of the church in the “first resurrection,” to be, together with Jesus, the “new heavens” of promise. The establishing of the kingdom also calls for the resurrection of the earthly, visible representatives of that kingdom, the Ancient Worthies. These will be the nucleus of the “new earth.” It will be when the kingdom is fully established that “people will flow unto it.”
It was this meaning that Brother Russell attached to the great increase of knowledge of our day. He wrote:
“The solution of the riddle that is puzzling men today—why our day has produced so much more of invention and discovery than the past—is found only in the Bible. It announced the present period of invention over two thousand years ago. (Dan. 12:4) It pointed out far in advance that with the year 1799 ‘the Time of the End’ would begin, and that the present ‘Time of the End’ would be the ‘Day of God’s Preparation.’”—R. 1258
“Though It Tarry”
While we have abundant evidence of the beginning of the Master’s second presence in 1874, and that the foretold harvest has been and still is going on, and that the “times of the Gentiles” ended in 1914, the promised messianic kingdom has not yet been fully established, and the people are not yet flowing unto it. And this despite the fact that more than half a century has passed since the time at which the Lord’s people expected these momentous developments to have been fulfilled in the outworking of the divine plan. Do the Scriptures offer an explanation of this delay. We think so!
Most Bible Students are acquainted with the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:3, which reads, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” The Apostle Paul, in discussing the Lord’s second advent, quotes from this prophecy of Habakkuk, saying, “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”—Heb. 10:37
Actually, the return of the Lord did not tarry, he has returned as King and Chief Reaper. It took place in God’s “due time,” as do all the features of our Father’s great plan of the ages. We could properly think of the “vision” seen by Habakkuk as being an understanding of God’s loving plan of the ages, and it has been true of the Lord’s people in all ages that the divine purpose has often seemed to tarry; and it should not be surprising that this is our experience down here at the end of the Gospel Age.
So there is no reason to be discouraged just because there has been a delay in the outworking of what we may have understood to be certain time elements in the divine plan. Certainly there has been no delay in God’s times and seasons. This would be impossible. The seeming delays have been the result of misconceptions of the due time aspect of the events expected. Since this is manifestly true, what should now be our attitude and desire, since more than half a century has passed since the time when many expected that the messianic kingdom would be fully established? We believe that Brother Russell, “that faithful and wise servant,” gave us some very wholesome advice along this line. We quote:
“If October, 1915 should pass, and we should find ourselves still here and matters going on very much as they are at present, and the world apparently making progress in the way of settling disputes, and there were no trouble in sight, and the nominal churches were not yet federated, etc., we would say that evidently we were out somewhere in our reckoning. In that event we would look over the prophecies further, to see if we could find an error. And then we would think, Have we been expecting the wrong thing at the right time? The Lord’s will might permit this. Our expectation as a church is that our change is near. Nothing of restitution blessings can come to the world until after the church has been glorified.”—R. 5374, col. 2, par. 1
Another statement very similar to this, but in greater detail, was published by Brother Russell in 1907, and republished in December 1913. We quote:
“Let us suppose a case far from our expectations: suppose that A. D. 1915 should pass with the world’s affairs all serene and with evidence that the ‘very elect’ had not all been ‘changed’ and without the restoration of natural Israel to favor under the New Covenant. (Rom. 11:12,15) What then? Would not that prove our chronology wrong? Yes, surely! And would not that prove a keen disappointment? Indeed it would! It would work irreparable wreck to the parallel dispensations and Israel’s double, and to the Jubilee calculations, and to the prophecy of the 2,300 days of Daniel, and to the epoch called ‘Gentile Times,’ and to the 1,260, and 1,335 days, the latter of which marking the beginning of the harvest so well fulfilled its prediction, ‘Oh, the blessedness of him that waiteth and cometh unto the 1,335 days!’ None of these would be available longer. What a blow that would be! One of the strings of our ‘harp’ would be quite broken!
“However, dear friends, our harp would still have all the other strings in tune and that is what no other aggregation of God’s people on earth could boast. We could still worship a God so great and grand that none other could compare with him. We should still see the grandeur of his salvation in Christ Jesus—‘a ransom for all.’ We should still see the wonders of the ‘hidden mystery,’ our fellowship with our Redeemer in ‘his death’ and also ‘in his resurrection’ to ‘glory, honor, and immortality’—‘the divine nature.’”—R. 4067, col. 2, par. 3 and 4
Let us note in passing that even now, more than half a century after 1915, we do indeed still have all the great fundamental truths of the divine plan which Brother Russell has here so eloquently mentioned. How we do indeed rejoice in this glorious plan of the ages, this “Gospel of Christ” which is “the power of God unto salvation.”—Rom. 1:16
But to get back to other aspects of these two quotations from Brother Russell, let us note first his suggestion that it might be that we were looking for the wrong thing at the right time; and also that failure of expectations would call for a re-examination of the prophecies. That the brethren were looking for “the wrong thing at the right time” has become evident. But this was a natural consequence of the fact that the Scriptures had not revealed any date later than 1915, and it therefore seemed a necessity to have everything pertaining to the full establishment of the kingdom, including the glorification of the church, fully accomplished by that date.
What Actually Happened
As we have noted, “the times of the Gentiles” were due to expire in 1914—and they did. This called for a “time of trouble” to begin there—and it did. The returned Lord as earth’s rightful ruler, with a golden crown upon his head. as the General of Jehovah began to destroy Satan’s world. For this reason 1914 did not go serenely by with nothing happening. As a result of the first spasm of trouble upon the hereditary ruling houses of the old Roman world the Jewish people have come into their land, and the State of Israel has been formed. Jerusalem is no longer trodden down of the Gentiles, and Israel’s “double” has been fulfilled.
But the last members of the “very elect” were not changed at that time, and natural Israel did not come under the terms of the New Covenant, nor have they received life. (Ezek. 37:9,10) Both of these are important developments in the plan of God, and the brethren were looking for them to take place prematurely. This emphasizes an important point of truth relative to the return and second presence of Jesus which is clearly set forth in the Bible; namely, that the prophecies indicate a certain sequence of events in connection with his parousia. Noting this will help to explain the disappointment of 1914.
As already noted, Luke 12:37 points out that when Jesus returned he would serve his “household” with “meat in due season.” Thousands of the Lord’s people then and since have rejoiced in the fulfilment of this prophecy; and we continue to rejoice today. There is no indication in the time prophecies of the Bible as to when this aspect of the parousia will end.
On the other hand, the prophecy of Matthew 25:31 has not yet even begun to be fulfilled. We quote, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” Then follows the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, depicting the work of the day of judgment. But this work of judgment cannot begin until “the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels [messengers, are] with him.”
Jesus came to be the Chief Reaper in the harvest, but not until the harvest work is complete, and “the children of the kingdom” are all gathered to be with him in the kingdom, will they “shine forth as the sun,” in the kingdom, as a part of that glorious “Sun of Righteousness.” (Matt. 13:43; Mal. 1:3) Since we do not know how much longer the harvest work will continue, we do not know when the church will be fully glorified, and when the sunlike shining of the kingdom will begin. We had supposed the year 1914 was to be the date for this, but time has proved it otherwise.
Acts 3:19-23 is another prophecy of the return of Christ and the healing work of his kingdom. This is the Apostle Peter’s sermon on restitution. He says concerning the coming of Christ: “Whom the leaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things.” As we know, Peter added to this that God’s prophets had foretold these “times of restitution,” and the first prophetic proof text he quotes is, “Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that the soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”
Obviously Peter is not here prophesying the return of Christ to serve his people with “meat in due season”; nor to be the Chief Reaper in the work of harvest; with “sickle” and “crown.” (Rev. 14:14) What he is forecasting is the coming of the Lord as that foretold “Great Prophet.” The information is given that “it shall [then] come to pass, that the soul which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” The voice of That Prophet has not yet been heard, either by Israel or by the world, and certainly no one has been “destroyed from among the people” because of refusal to hear his voice. This, then, is an aspect of the parousia which is still future. How far in the future we do not know, for the church will share in the work of That Prophet, and we do not know when the last members of the church will be joined with their Lord in marriage, and when “the Spirit and the bride” will say, “Come.”
Satan to Be Bound
In Revelation 20:1, 2 Jesus, in one phase of his return, is referred to as an “Angel.” The passage reads, “I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand, and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.” How wise was Brother Russell in saying that we should not allow our expectations to weigh anything against the facts! The facts are, and oh, so evident, that Satan is not bound! He still goes about as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is still tempting the Lord’s true followers and spreading iniquity and deceit, especially among the nominal people of God.
No, Satan is not bound, although we doubt not that he would like nothing better than to have the Lord’s people think he is. But let us be guided by the facts as we see them all around us. Since he is not bound it means that the mighty “Angel” has not yet laid hold upon him, and this means that here is another phase of the parousia which has not yet been realized. How fortunate that through the great harvest message of truth we are protected against the fiery darts of the unbound Adversary, and against his deceptive wiles.
Those Coming Blessings
One of the greatest causes for rejoicing by those servants who are “blessed” by the “meat in due season” being served by our returned Lord, is the knowledge of the restitution blessings which, in God’s due time, will be showered upon the sin-sick and dying world of mankind. The reign of sin and death has been a long and painful one, and how we rejoice in the knowledge that the setting-up process of the messianic kingdom is even now taking place, and that soon the “Sun” of the new day will appear above the horizon to dispel the sorrow that has gripped mankind in its cruel clutches since our first parents transgressed God’s law and were driven out of their garden home into the unfinished earth to die.
We can enjoy these coming restitution blessings now by contemplating what they will mean to humanity later on. Probably every Bible Student from time to time, when noting a cripple, a blind person, or when visiting a hospital, or otherwise being reminded of the world’s pain, makes the comment, “Surely the people need restitution.” And what a joy it is to know that soon the world will receive restitution! This indeed should be emphasized in our Gospel proclamation to the world of mankind.
When we contemplate the glories of Messiah’s kingdom, and the blessings which it will bring to the people, it is understandable that the Lord’s people should find it difficult to wait for that glad new day when the “Sun of Righteousness” will be shining with “healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:3) Knowing that if faithful even unto death we will have a share in that millennial kingdom makes us all the more anxious for the Lord’s time to be here for its establishment.
Yes, we are still waiting, although the time is “short.” In a 1937 issue of The Dawn the statement is made that restitution is “just around the corner.” Restitution is still just around the corner, although it is taking longer to get around the corner than many of us supposed that it would. Brother Russell had the right thought when he said, as we have quoted, that we are now in the day of God’s preparation for kingdom blessings. It is the time when the kingdom which will bring those blessings is being established. We think that a few observations from Brother Russell’s pen would be interesting just at this point. The first quotation is in question and answer form:
“Question: Would it be proper for us to suppose that the world might begin to receive its share of restitution blessings while some of the members of the church are still in the flesh?
“Answer: No! This would be an impossible thought. The whole merit of Christ is mortgaged by the imputation which Jesus has made of his merit to the company consecrating during this age. This mortgage must be released fully, completely, before the New Covenant can be sealed and put into operation for giving restitution blessings to Adam and his race. Hence, we are not to expect any restitution, either of the Ancient Worthies or others, until the Little Flock shall have passed beyond the Veil and the Great Company class shall have passed through its tribulation.”—R. 5973, par. 6, 7, col. 2
We quote again: “The satisfaction of justice is necessary before anyone can experience restitution. Even the Ancient Worthies cannot be blessed without their satisfaction of justice. After the Mediator has made satisfaction to divine justice, and has been privileged to inaugurate the New Covenant, the Ancient Worthies will he the first to be blessed under it. They will have in their resurrection complete restitution to human perfection; for during their lifetime they had this testimony that they pleased God.
“The Ancient Worthies cannot, of course, enter into the New Covenant arrangements until they shall have been awakened from the sleep of death; therefore, as stated in the foregoing, the claims of justice must be met before they are awakened. As soon as God will have made the New Covenant with them, these Ancient Worthies will form the nucleus of the earthly phase of the kingdom. The earthly seed of Abraham will be added to from all the different families … of the world.”—R. 5293, par. 7, 8, col. 2
“When this Ransom-price shall have been formally delivered over to Justice in the end of this Age, it will no longer be a deposit at the command of the Savior but will have been exchanged for Adam and his race, all of whom will be immediately transferred by the Father to the Son, that His Millennial Kingdom may begin and all the families of the earth be subjected to the Redeemer, that He may uplift them out of sin and death conditions to all that was lost in Adam—to all for which Jesus died to regain for man.”—Volume 5, Foreword, page iv
All Evil Destroyed
Speaking of the time when the Lord will exercise his authority to check Satan and destroy evil, Brother Russell wrote:
“When he [the Lord] shall have the authority he will use it, and one of the first works, we are assured, will be the suppression of Satan, the prince of this world, who now worketh in the hearts of the children of disobedience, and who, we are assured, will be bound at the beginning of that millennial reign, but additionally all the works of the Devil, all institutions of evil, moral, social, financial, that are now injuring the world of mankind and co-operating in effecting the groaning and travailing of the whole creation. All these will be suppressed as soon as the proper time shall come, and he upon whose shoulders the power and authority have been placed shall take unto himself his great power and shall begin his reign. No longer, we may be sure, will any evil be licensed, … nor the sale of these nor any other harmful things be allowed to do injury in God’s holy kingdom.—Isa. 11:9”—R. 3469 par. 8
When Jesus met with his disciples for the last time before he returned to his Heavenly Father they asked him about the time for the establishment of the kingdom. Jesus’ reply was, “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”—Acts 1:7,8
Jesus did not say that his followers would never know anything about the times and seasons in the divine plan. He merely said that the Heavenly Father was holding this information in his own hands, with the implication that it would be revealed to his people when and in proportion to their needs. But we do not yet know just when the messianic kingdom will be fully established.
Not Too Sure
In the year 1900 Brother Russell was asked about the thousand-year reign of Christ and the binding of Satan. We quote from his reply:
“Apparently this matter of when the thousand-year period should be reckoned as fully beginning and fully ending will be an open question until the close of the Millennial Age.”—R. 2739
Brother Russell expressed the possibility that this uncertainty would lead to difficulty at and concerning the close of the Millennium. In his reply to the same question that “faithful and wise servant” further stated:
“The Scripture declaration respecting the saints, the ‘overcomers’ is, ‘They lived and reigned a thousand years.’ The reign of the saints cannot properly be said to begin before all the ‘jewels’ have been gathered.”—R. 2739, last par.
Brother Russell consistently held to the view that the thousand-year reign of the saints with Jesus could not begin until the church was complete. Here are further quotations:
“If the reign of Christ should begin today, the saints would be with him; for he is to be the great Judge, the saints the underjudges; he is to be the great King, the saints the underkings; he is to be the great Priest, the saints the underpriests—a ‘royal priesthood,’ kings and priests unto God,’ who shall reign with Christ a thousand years.’”—R. 5023, col. 2
“So Christ in glory is not a man, not an earthly being, not the sacrificing One, as before. He is the glorified kingly Priest, in power and great glory as the King of saints, able and willing to succor them in all their trials and difficulties. And by and by, after he shall have accepted all of his underpriests—after he shall have changed them to his own glorious likeness in the first resurrection, beyond the veil—then he will become the King and Priest in glory to the world, and for a thousand years will reign to bless and uplift all the willing and obedient who, under the enlightenment then afforded, will draw nigh unto God.”—R. 5472, par. 8
“In a word, God’s proposal is that Messiah’s kingdom, the members of which are now being selected from the world—the church, the bride—will for a thousand years, with the Redeemer, bless and uplift and restore all the nations of the earth, from sin, degradation, death, the tomb.”—R. 5314, par. 11
“Throughout the thousand years of Messiah’s reign, he as Mediator has absolute control of the whole human family.”—R. 5301, par. 2
“It will be seen that while it took but a moment to sprinkle the tables of the Law, it must have taken Moses a considerable time to sprinkle all the people, numbering millions. And, in the antitype, that work lasts for a thousand years. During the entire thousand years of the reign of Christ upon his mediatorial throne the work of sprinkling the people—the work of justifying them, making them acceptable, cleansing them from sin, and bringing them into relationship with the covenant and its demands of perfect obedience—will be in process.”—R. 5000, par. 4
“When the true Zion is thus exalted, then will follow the great work of the kingdom. … The rule of the iron rod will quickly subdue all things, completely breaking up the whole present social fabric and accomplishing the leveling process which will make ready for the peaceful reign of righteousness. Then the great Millennial reign of righteousness will begin, when every man will have a full; fair opportunity to win eternal life by faith and obedience.”—R. 1649, par. 9, 10
“Throughout the Millennial Age there will be a brand opportunity for every member of Adam’s race to seek the Lord while he may be found, to call upon him while he is near. The opportunity will last for a thousand years and all will be invited to drink of the water of life freely. All appreciating the situation fully may attain to all that was lost in Adam—attain it through process of restitution. Verse seven shows how the Lord may then be sought and found; namely, the wicked must forsake his ways of unrighteousness, the unjust must abandon unrighteousness even in thought. Under such conditions during that thousand years all may return unto Jehovah and find mercy and abundant pardon through the great antitypical David. But it will require all of that thousand years of Christ’s reign to restore and make fit for presentation to Jehovah those who will hear the voice and apply for the water of life, forsake unrighteousness and seek the Lord. How glorious the prospect!”—R. 3597, par. 5, 6
“But what lies between the present and that grand perfection for men? The Millennium—a thousand years of discipline under the most just and loving and sympathetic government conceivable; and yet under the strictest rule the world has ever known. This is God’s bridge for spanning the chasm between the present state of sin and selfishness and imperfection and that future state of holiness, love, and perfection. Its foundations were laid eighteen hundred years ago at Calvary—when the ‘man Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all’; and soon it shall be testified in God’s due time to all men, and all shall have the fullest opportunity of crossing over by obedience and love to perfection and life by the bridge of restitution, and such alone as will not cross will perish.”—R. 1244, last par.
To the extent that we re-examine the prophecies, as Brother Russell suggested we should do, it might be well to note what the Bible sets forth as genuine time prophecies, for certainly there could be no failure of these. None of us, of course, are in a position to say what changes Brother Russell might have made had he realized that the harvest work would continue for more than a half century after he died, with the church still not fully glorified. There is perhaps a hint along one line given to us in Volume 2, beginning with the last paragraph on page 39. We quote:
“Here we furnish the evidence that from the creation of Adam to A. D. 1873 was six thousand years. And though the Bible contains no direct statement that the seventh thousand will be the epoch of Christ’s reign, the great Sabbath Day of restitution to the world, yet the venerable tradition is not without a reasonable foundation. The Law given to Israel, the typical people, appointing that six days of labor and weariness should be followed by one of refreshment and rest from their own works, seems fitly to illustrate the six thousand years in which the whole creation labors and groans under the bandage of sin and death (Rom. 8:22) in a vain endeavor to extricate itself, and the grand millennial day in which the weary and heavy laden may come to Christ Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, and through him find rest, refreshment, and restitution—in which, through the merits of his precious blood, they may find repentance and remission of sins. On the typical seventh day he inquired of the impotent man, ‘Wilt thou be made whole?’ and in answer to his faith and obedience gave him strength to take up his bed and walk. (see John 5:6-9; also Matt. 12:10,13; John 7:23; Luke 13:11-16; 14:1-5) So, during the antitypical Sabbath, the Millennium, it will be declared to all the world that ‘whosoever will’ may have life and health eternal if he will take the steps of faith and obedience.”
Brother Russell was honest in saying that the idea that six thousand years’ reign of sin and death would be followed by the thousand-year reign of Christ was a “venerable tradition,” and that it is not taught directly in the Bible. It is just possible, we think, that if Brother Russell were here today he would realize that what he referred to as “a venerable tradition” was indeed merely a tradition, and that it was not to be expected that the reign of sin and death was to end in 1873 or 1874, which, indeed, it did not. We suggest that this might well be another instance in which Brother Russell would reason that the facts must take precedence over his expectations.
In the foreword to Volume 3 of Studies in the Scriptures, the author sets forth the need for the church to be complete before the messianic kingdom can be fully established. We quote:
“Messiah’s kingdom has various stages of inauguration. First, in his parousia the glorified Jesus quickens, or resurrects, the sleeping members of the body of Christ. This is the first executive act of the Great One whom God has so highly honored—the heir of the great Abrahamic promise. His members must be completed before he will officially take his position as the King of the world. Assurance is given of this fact by the inspired Word: ‘When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.’ (Col. 3:4) Next in order the Master deals with the living members of his body, the church. As shown in the parables of the pounds and the talents, the Master’s judgment concerning worthiness or unworthiness in the kingdom must pass upon all of his consecrated ones and the full number of the elect must be found and be glorified by the resurrection ‘change’—because ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ (I Cor. 15:50) Then the dominion of the world will be assumed. The glorified One will ask of the Father, and he will give him the heathen for his inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for his possession. ‘He will rule them with a rod of iron. As the vessels of a potter shall they be broken into shivers.’“
We have not attempted to quote all that Brother Russell said with respect to the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ and the church. Space does not permit this. However, quotations similar to those we have used are to be found in “Studies in the Scriptures”; “Tabernacle Shadows”; “Pastor Russell’s Sermons”; “What Pastor Russell Said”; and many additional ones in the “Reprints.” These statements, we believe, are all in harmony with the great fundamental truths pertaining to the ransom and restitution. The following, for example, is from Tabernacle Shadows, page 89, paragraphs 3 and 4:
“God has not yet manifested his acceptance of the great Atonement Day sacrifice, by fire; the people have not yet shouted and fallen on their faces in worship of the Great King and his representative. No, the world still lieth in wickedness (I John 5:19); the god of this world still blinds more or less nearly all mankind (2 Cor. 4:4); darkness still covers the earth—gross darkness the people. (Isa. 60:2) Nor need we look for the great restitution blessings prefigured in this type until all the members of the Church, the ‘Body’ of the great high Priest, shall have first gone beyond the Second Veil (actual death), into the Most Holy, by resurrection change. Nor will this ‘blessing’ of the type be fulfilled until after the great time of trouble. Then, chastened, sobered, humbled, the world of mankind will very generally be ‘waiting for’ and ‘looking for’ the great Christ, the Seed of Abraham, to bless them and lift them up.
“How beautifully these types teach a full ransom for all the people, and a restitution and blessing made possible to all!”
We all know, of course, that Brother Russell expressed views with respect to the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ and the church other than those we have quoted in this article. Would Brother Russell have made these other statements had he realized that the reign of sin and death would still be continuing nearly a century beyond 1874? The important thing, of course, for us to consider is, which are the scriptural views? We know of no scriptures which indicate that the thousand-year reign was to begin before the glorification of the complete church, nor did Brother Russell ever quote any such scriptures. The promise is that the faithful followers of the Master are to be “priests and kings” and are to reign in this double capacity. Reigning as priests harmonizes with the thought of the mediatorial reign.
We all cherish the memory of “that servant,” and thank God for his faithful ministry of the truth. We think he would not want us to claim fulfilment of prophecies which manifestly have not been fulfilled. We think we can honor the great, wise, and generous spirit of Brother Russell best by being on the alert as students of the Bible, endeavoring to identify the fulfilment of its prophecies as these fulfilments unfold before us.
As already noted, we would like to know more about “the times and seasons” of God’s plan. We rejoice in what has been revealed and verified; but let us wait on the Lord for further unfoldings. Meanwhile, let us remember the commission which Jesus gave to his disciples when they asked about “the times and seasons”; namely, to proclaim the Gospel, as his witnesses. This great commission is still with us; let us be faithful in pursuing it while we wait for the Lord to complete the preparatory work for his kingdom.
Let us, above all, continue to love one another, even though in our study of prophecy we do not all arrive at exactly the same conclusions. There is a much overworked word being used today. It is “dialog.” But this is a good word. To us it would mean wholesome and loving discussions among ourselves relative to the times in which we are living, the progress of the divine plan, and the fruition of our glorious hope of living and reigning with Christ a thousand years.
Your brethren of The Dawn are determined to continue contending earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints—those precious foundation truths of the Gospel. None of us has any desire to change the great structure of truth which the Lord gave to us through his Word. We simply want to acknowledge reality with respect to the fulfilment of prophecy as Brother Russell so faithfully admonished us, and as he himself did when he realized that he was wrong. The Dawn has been upholding present truth for nearly forty years, and will continue to do so. It is our sincere desire that in the future, as in the past, all who love present truth will together continue to lay down their lives in its service, and thus actively wait for the full fruition of our hopes.