Thursday, December 1, 2016

Parable of the Four Servants -- Luke 12:42-48

Jesus, in speaking of his return, asked the question regarding whether he would find "the faith" when he returned. (Luke 18:8, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible) Jesus was pointing out that the true faith, the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3), would be extremely hard to find when he returns. Jude points out "the faith" had already been delivered "once for all." How was it delivered?

God has revealed his truth by means of his holy spirit through the prophets in the Old Testament and through Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament. (Mark 12:36; Luke 4:11; 10:21; 24:27,44; Acts 1:16; 2:33; 10:38; 28:25; Hebrews 1:1,3; 3:7; 1 Peter 3:10-12; 2 Peter 1:21) God, by means of his holy spirit, especially led the apostles into all the truths concerning Christ and what he said, and thus "the faith" was delivered once for all time to saints in the first century. (John 14:26; 16:4-13; Acts 1:2; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:2) The truths revealed to the apostles and made available to us are recorded in the Bible (the commonly-accepted 66 books) itself. (Ephesians 3:3-12; Colossians 1:25,26; 1 John 4:6) Of course, without the holy spirit, these things that are recorded will still be a mystery to us. -- Mark 4:11; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10.

Part of the truth revealed by means of the holy spirit was that there was to be an apostasy, a "falling away" from the truth of God's Word, with strong delusions. (Matthew 13:24-30; Acts 20:29,30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3,4) This falling away had already begun in the first century, with some receiving a different spirit and preaching "another Jesus"; the apostasy was restrained for only a short while. (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 2:18,19; 2 Corinthians 11:4) The apostasy spread rapidly after the death the apostles and developed into the great "Man of Sin", or more correctly "Lawless Man", or "Illegal Man", a great religious system, which claimed to have the authority to add to God's Word since their revelation was allegedly of God's Spirit. The central doctrine became the false teaching that Jesus had to be God Almighty in order to provide atonement for sins. With this spirit of error in mind, the writings of the apostles were totally reinterpreted to accommodate the error, and many of the Hellenic Jewish philosophies were adapted and added to and blended in with the New Testament, even as the Jews had done with the Old Testament.

Isaiah, in prophesying concerning the stone of stumbling (Isaiah 8:14; Romans 9:23) to both the houses of Israel (Romans 9:6,31; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 10:18; Galatians 6:16), warns us: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20, New King James Version) The "law", of course, is what we call the Old Testament; the "testimony" of this prophecy is the testimony of the apostles, as given in the New Testament. This the way to test the spirits. (1 John 4:1) It is to these and through these scriptures that the holy spirit today gives true direction, and anything not in agreement with these scriptures is not of the light of the day. (John 11:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:5) The distortion of who Jesus truly was and is -- who while on earth before his death was only human, a little lower than the angels, who gave his flesh for the life of the world -- is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to understanding the true Gospel revealed in scripture. Thus Jesus becomes a stumbling stone, not only to the house according the flesh which was corrupted from true doctrine (Israel after the flesh -- Luke 13:25-28; Romans 9:30-33), but also the house which claims Jesus, which has also become corrupted from true doctrine through spiritual fornication. -- Matthew 27:21-23; Revelation 2:13-15,20-24.

Thus, it is due to the great apostasy, wherein "the faith" that was once delivered to saints has been greatly obscured by the traditions and doctrines of man, that we can understand why Jesus asked: "However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [the] faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8, New American Standard) The Greek has the definite article before the word "faith." Jesus was not talking about faith in just anything. Everyone who has some kind of hope has faith in something, although that faith may be false to its promise. Jesus was talking about "the" faith, that is, "the faith" that was about to be delivered to the saints, and to some extent, had already been so delivered, but was not to be fully understood until after the "spirit of truth" should be sent to the apostles.

It is to this, "the faith that was once delivered," the "servant" of the master was to be faithful and wise in providing food for the household of faith. That faith, as has already been shown, was given in the first century in the Bible. Thus, in the time of Jesus' parousia, Jesus finds that very few of the servants can be actually called "faithful and wise" in stewardship. Indeed, we believe that most of Christ's servants today fall into the category of "that servant" (Luke 12:47) "who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes." (Luke 12:48, World English Bible translation) Such will have to receive some disciplining for this, but will be able to easily respond to such disciplining, so that their anguish will not be so great.
We believe that the next largest group of Christ's servants today are in the category of those shown as "that servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted." (Luke 12:47) This second "servant" class will have to receive discipline, which, for them, will be harder to respond to than the first class mentioned above.

The next is "that servant" who is called the "bad servant" (usually rendered "evil servant" -- Luke 12:45,46), those who would symbolically "beat" the fellow servants into a form of sectarian subjection, so as to bring Christ's servants under some kind of sectarian leadership. These may be aligned with the spirit of a spiritual "pride". These evidently receive the most severe disciplinary punishments. Such will certainly receive great anguish when they learn that they are positioned far below the high and lofty grandeur that they had positioned in their imagination for themselves. While Jesus does not in this parable condemn them to the second death, it is quite possible, however, that some of this class may have sinned as new creatures, thus bringing the second death upon themselves.

The category with the least amount is, of course, is that depicted by "the faithful and wise steward." (Luke 12:42-44) These are probably those who receive the reward of joint-heirs with Christ, who have overcome so as that they no longer can be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11) They will have been perfected in discipline, having proven themselves incorruptible. (See our study: With What Kind of Body Will We Be Raised?) However, it is possible also that some who fail to attain that joint-heirship but who come so close to that faithfulness that they have such little difficulty in later overcoming, that they would not be accorded a separate classification in this parable.

It is not for any of us, however, to point the finger at another and say, "you are this or that 'servant'." We are to show love to all of the household of faith, and leave the judging up to Jehovah through Jesus.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Parousia, the Seventh Trumpet and the Harvest



Some have confused the matter concerning the parousia, and have evidently misread the arguments of many of the Bible Students so as to conclude that the word "Parousia" is being interpreted as having the definition of "invisible presence." In other words, some have made the claim that Bible Students who believe that Christ's parousia is invisible are presenting the word "parousia" itself as carrying the meaning "invisible." Without judging the motives of those who would present this kind of argument, in reality the argument diverts attention from the invisible aspect of Christ's return to the word "parousia" itself, and ends up being a strawman argument.
Some have cited some works of the Greeks and Romans concerning this, as alleged proof that the the word "parousia" does not mean "invisible." Of course, the Romans and Greeks of the first century, not knowing or understanding spiritual matters, would not think of the word Parousia as expressing a spiritual presence that could not be seen. -- 2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7.
Nevertheless, the word parousia, of itself, does not prove either a visible or invisible presence, and we don't believe most, if any, Bible Students have intended to leave that impression.
Jesus, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, and having once for all time offered up his flesh, will never be seen in that flesh again. (Hebrews 7:27; 9:28; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18) However, this does not rule out the possibility that Jesus may manifest himself as did the angels of Yahweh in the Bible, who appeared as "men," ate as men, and looked like men, manifesting themselves with a body of flesh. -- Genesis 18:2,8,22; 19:1,5; Judges 13:2,6,8,9; Luke 24:4.
See the study:
Jesus Died a Human Being - Raised a Spirit Being
http://atonement.reslight.net/archives/1.html
However, Jesus does indeed return bodily, with a body, that is, with the spiritual, celestial body, and with its glory. He no longer has the body of a man, a glory a little lower than the angels. (Hebrews 2:9) Having offered (to his God in heaven) his terrestrial, earthly, fleshly body for sin, once for all time (John 6:51; Hebrews 7:27; 9:11,12,24;10:10), he will never again be seen with that body. (1 Corinthians 15:40,44) Now being a life-giving spirit, he comes again from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:40,45-48), during the blowing of the last trumpet, the seventh trumpet (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 8:2,6), with a celestial, spiritual body, resulting in (not necessarily in the order given):
(1) The end of the age, during which a harvest of the people of God begins. This harvest begins while the nations are still blinded by Satan, but it ends after Satan is abyssed, when the saints, the sons of God of this age, will be manifested and "will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father." (Matthew 13:3-43; Romans 8:19} Unlike many Bible Students, however, we do not believe that this harvest reveals who is of what class by any visible manifestation, except until after Satan is abyssed. Jesus said that the tares, not the wheat, are first gathered and bundled. (Matthew 13:39,40) Although the human servants of God labor in the harvest work, the harvest work itself is not entrusted to men, who would surely misjudge and treat much of wheat as tares, but it is entrusted to angels.
(2) The nations become angry, resulting in a great "time of trouble”, during which time the people in general do not take notice of the parousia. — Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-30; Revelation 11:15,18; Daniel 12:1,2.
(3) God’s wrath upon the children of wrath of this age comes to its conclusion — Ephesians 2:2,3; 5:6; Revelation 8:1.
(4) The dead are raised and the unjustified in this age are judged individually during the "last day" — Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 7:9,10; Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28,29; 6:39,40,44,54; 12:47,48; Romans 2:16; 3:6; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 6:2; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Revelation 11:18; 20:11-15.
(5) God’s servants, prophets, saints are rewarded in the first resurrection. — Isaiah 40:10; Daniel 7:9,10; 12:1,2; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 3:8,14; Colossians 3:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 15:18; 20:4; 22:12.
(6) Those who would destroy the earth are themselves destroyed after the judgment day. — Psalm 37:10; Revelation 15:18; 20:8,12; 21:8.
Thus, the seventh trumpet begins to sound while the nations are still ignorant and are angry, and continues to sound until after the millennial age, up to the age of the ages, the eternal age.
Of Moses, it is said that, "he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." (Hebrews 11:27) In context, "him" could be referring to the prehuman Jesus, who, before coming the earth, had the glory of the invisible, the celestial -- the glory that he did not have while on earth. (John 17:5; 1 Corinthians 15:40) Or, more than likely, "him" probably refers to the God and Father of Jesus, who is the "invisible God." (Colossians 1:15) Either way, Moses saw him who is invisible by the eye of faith, not by literal sight, for he did not see that which is invisible by means of the physical eye. The point is that "seeing" does not necessarily mean seeing with the physical eye.
On the other hand, the Jews in general saw Jesus at his first appearing in the flesh, but did not see who he was -- the Messiah -- which could only have been seen with the eye of faith. They did not recognize him. (John 1:10) Nor could they "see" the God and Father in Jesus. (John 14:9) Having seen Jesus in the flesh, however, Jesus said of the world that had seen him in the flesh, that they would see him no more. (John 14:19) Since they had only seen him in the flesh, and had not seen him with the eye of faith as the Messiah, the son of God, then this can only mean that they will never see him in the flesh again. They will see the Son of Man coming [Erchomai] on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen. -- Revelation 1:7.
The word "coming" in Revelation 1:7 is not "parousia," but a form of the verb "Erchomai," -- to come. However, we have no doubt that it is reference to "coming" in the days of the son of man, the parousia. (Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26) The statement here is not that he comes on a cloud, a singular cloud, but rather "clouds."
Another scripture describes this event in the Old Testament:
I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. -- Daniel 7:13.
Again, the reference is to clouds, plural, not a cloud, singular. Prophetically, the plural can used to represent two, as "times," representing two times. (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14) Regardless, there is the possibility of at least two clouds being spoken of, indicating the possibility of two symbolic meanings. A cloud or clouds can represent: glory (Exodus 16:10; Ezekiel 1:28); guidance (Exodus 13:12); covering of sin (Isaiah 44:24); darkness (2 Samuel 22:12; Job 38:9; Psalm 18:11; Isaiah 5:30; Joel 2:2; Zephaniah 1:15); a covenant, a promise of God (Genesis 9:13,16); God's anger (Lamentations 2:1); alienation from God (Lamentations 3:44); storms (Ezekiel 1:4; 38:9; Luke 12:54; Jeremiah 4:13; Nahum 1:4); a hiding of the sun (Ezekiel 32:7); majesty (Isaiah 14:14); a communication from God (Exodus 24:16; Psalm 99:7; Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:35); trouble, distress (Ezekiel 30:3; Zephaniah 1:15).
In Daniel 7, the one like a son of man, in coming with the clouds, comes before the Ancient of Days, that is, Yahweh, and is presented to him. As a result, there was given to him an everlasting dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. (Daniel 7:14) This brings us into the age of the ages, the everlasting age after the millennial age, the age that will never end.
In Revelation 10:1, we find a reference to an angel coming in a cloud (singular).
Revelation 10:1 I saw another mighty angel coming down out of the sky [heaven], clothed with a cloud. A rainbow was on his head. His face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire.
Here is depicted an angel clothed as with a cloud. Of course, the language is symbolic. The "angel" is either Jesus or a messenger (angel) representing Jesus. Jesus, of course, will come as the "sun of righteousness." -- Malachi 4:2.
The "rainbow" probably represents the new covenant, which will be the means by which the seed of Abraham will bring blessings to all the families of the earth.
This angel is clothed with a cloud, a symbol of majesty, and yet we believe that it is also includes a symbolism of mystique, as a cloud hiding the sun, producing darkness. The angel has a face like the sun of righteousness, as a great ruler, but he also has feet like pillars of fire, representing a distressful situation and/or destruction. "Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Yahweh's wrath, but the whole land will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy." (Zephaniah 1:18) "My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour on them my indignation, even all my fierce anger, for all the earth will be devoured with the fire of my jealousy." (Zephaniah 3:8) In this is pictured the wrath of Yahweh (Revelation 11:18), which wrath is brought to a finish during the blowing of the seventh trumpet, by means of seven symbolic bowls that are poured out. -- Revelation 11:15,18; 15:1,7.
Revelation 10:2 He had in his hand a little book open. He set his right foot on the sea, and his left on the land.
Revelation 10:3 He cried with a loud voice, as a lion roars. When he cried, the seven thunders uttered their voices.
Revelation 10:4 When the seven thunders sounded, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from the sky saying, "Seal up the things which the seven thunders said, and don't write them."
Revelation 10:5 The angel who I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to the sky,
Revelation 10:6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there will no longer be delay,
Revelation 10:7 but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as he declared to his servants, the prophets.
Thus, we believe this cloud appears either shortly before or at the beginning of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the last trumpet. The prophetical statement is that when the angel is about to sound his trumpet, the last trumpet, then the mystery of God is finished. The Greek word rendered "about" -- transliterated as "Mello," does not necessarily mean "about," as though it was something yet to happen. We believe that it can also refer to the actual "being about" of something, that is, the actual doing of what is being spoken of, and we believe, in accordance with the context, "in days of the voice of the seventh angel," that this is meaning of Mello in Revelation 10:7. When the seventh angel, having the seventh trumpet, is about the business of blowing his trumpet, then the mystery of God is finished. Many believe that this mystery refers to completing the mystery members of the bride of Christ, but we believe it refers to the completing of the mystery pertaining to the ages; in other words, it pertains to bringing to completion God's purpose of the ages (Ephesians 3:9,11,Young's Literal), which would bring us to up to the foretold "world without end," or the age of the ages, the final age that never ends. -- Isaiah 45:17; Ephesians 3:21, See Young's Literal for Ephesians 3:21.
I looked, and behold, a white cloud; and on the cloud one sitting like a son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. -- Revelation 14:14
Another angel came out from the temple, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, "Send forth your sickle, and reap; for the hour to reap has come; for the harvest of the earth is ripe!" -- Revelation 14:15
He who sat on the cloud thrust his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. -- Revelation 14:16.
Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the harvest time I will tell the reapers, "First, gather up the darnel, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn." -- Matthew 13:30.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. -- Matthew 13:39.
The "age" being referred to this present evil age, the age in which Satan is god. -- Galatians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 4:4.
By saying that the "harvest time" is the end of this age, and then describing events that take place during that "end," Jesus shows that the "end" is not something that happens suddenly, but that the "end" itself -- being "the time of the harvest" -- is a period of "time."
Revelation 14:14 depicts one like a son of man coming on a white cloud, a cloud of glory, and he has a sharp sickle in his hand.Revelation 14:16-20 shows that the sickle is used to harvest the earth.
When Jesus comes, one of the things he accomplishes is the harvest of the earth by means of his angels. This takes place during the "end" of the present evil age, while Satan is still the "god of this age." As long as Satan is still blinding the minds of people, we know that this "harvest" has not ended. Nevertheless, the harvest does take place as a result of Jesus' coming on the clouds.
Thus we conclude that the harvest has been going on, especially since about 1874, with an influx of worldly knowledge that is separating the tares from the true wheat. Jesus said that the tares were to be first separated from the wheat (Matthew 13:30), again indicating a time involved; the tares are thrown into the fiery furnace (symbolic of the the severe part of the time of trouble), and the wheat is gathered into the barn (representing a condition of spiritual safety; the spiritual ark, true faith in Jesus' sacrificed body with its blood by which we are sanctified, set apart -- Hebrews 9:12,14; 10:10,29). Then, after this, the wheat -- the righteous -- will shine forth as the sun, depicting the age to come, when Satan is abyssed so that he cannot deceive the heathen. -- Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43; Revelation 20:3.
Jesus indicated that the foretold time of trouble is pictured by what happened in Noah's day, thus, it is possible that the last part of the foretold time of trouble is depicted by the 40 days' flood of Noah's day. (Genesis 7:4; Matthew 24:37,38) We are now certainly experiencing a flood of knowledge now available through the internet and other means of fast communication. More and more professed Christians are falling into infidelity as a result of this influx of knowledge, thus proving themselves to be tares, rather than wheat. This increase of knowledge, however, brings discontent among the masses, and greed, and thus is also a source of trouble, and ends up being like a fiery furnace, as "fiery feet" stomping upon the people, with the trouble becoming so bad, that unless the days should be cut short, no flesh will be saved. -- Matthew 24:21,22.
Addendum:
One asks if we believe that Jesus returned in 1874 and "inspected the temple".
While we probably not put it that way, we do believe that Jesus began the harvest work related to the separating of the tares from the wheat; this is indeed an inspection of all who profess to be Christian, and since those who are being called to follow Jesus are spoken of as the temple of God,  one could say that this is a inspection of the temple. Many claim that the harvest is carried out along physical lines, but we believe the harvest is along spiritual lines, and that is carried out, not by the servants of Jesus in the flesh, but by the angels.
The questioner further asks:  "Did jesus make a decision during that time period and make a chosing of a particular group?"
The questioner is evidently asking if we have a belief similar the Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim that Jesus, in 1918, inspected the temple, and approved of Rutherford's religion, to which our answer is no. We need to remember that that the choosing of the faith seed of Abraham has been going on ever since the first century. In 1874, we believe that a special period began which is called the "harvest". However, we also believe that the choosing of the wheat class at the end of the age is done by means of the angels, and therefore, we conclude that the wheat class cannot be represented by any physical group, such as the Bible Students. The revealing of the wheat, however, cannot be until after Satan is abyssed.
The questioner further asks: "Did jesus really return and examine babylon the great, and then appoint a certain group? Was that the great tribulation? "
By "group", I assume this refers to physical outward group, such the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Bible Students movement. We have no reason to believe that Jesus has appointed a certain sectarian group, nor a certain individual, etc., to be "the true religion", or "the true church." Babylon the Great represents sectarianism, denominationalism, organizations (and associated false doctrines created by humans) that separate the sheep. To come out of Babylon the Great would signify rejection of denominational sectarianism and, and to the extent possible, the doctrines of men associated with such demoninationalism. The destruction of Babylon the Great signifies the destruction of all kinds of sectarianism and denominationalism. God is not going to allow such sectarian divisions to continue in His kingdom.
On the other hand, the tares are now being revealed as false Christians, often denying the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, accepting the idea that man got here by evolution, etc. Many of these tares openly deny Christ, and openly declare themselves as deists, agnostics, atheists, etc., while others retain the name of Christ, but in some way deny the power of blood of Jesus. Indeed, one can often hear of some claiming to be a Christian atheist, Christian agnostic, Christian deist, Christian Wiccan, Christian Buddhist, Christian Spiritualist, etc. We do believe, however, most of the Christians who profess Christ today will be found to be of the tare class. Nor does joining in association with the Bible Students movement make one of the wheat class. This does not mean that those who are found to be tares will be eternally destroyed, as the JWs teach; it simply means that their outward standing as a servant of Christ will eventually be burned up in the furnace of the time of trouble. No one amongst mankind, however, has been given any authority to point to this or that professed Christian and say "You are a tare," although many are claiming they have authority to do so. Likewise, we have no authority to claim that one is of the wheat class because they belong to the Bible Students movement. Nor can we believe we have any authority to designate who among the "wheat" class will be found to arrived at the goal, the mark, of the prize of our high calling, so we should say to this person: "You are one of 144,000", and to another, "You are not one of the 144,000." We believe that all three major classes of Revelation 7 will be revealed after Satan is abyssed.
Thus, we do not believe that Jesus came in 1874 to inspect and approve any outward "group" as being approved as the JWs teach in doctrine concerning 1918. The inspection is of individuals, not of an outward "group." Nor do we teach, as to the JWs, that one has belong to and/or recognize the Bible Students, Charles Taze Russell, or any other outward group, etc., in order to be saved, as as to live into the new age.
As Charles Taze Russell pointed out many times, the true church is not about an outward organization, but it pertains to individuals.
See also:
The questioner asks if we "are saying that jesus inspected the temple in 1874, and found that the sect called 'russelites', or 'bible students' were thus in an approved condition?"
We do not know of any place that Russell taught expressly that Jesus "inspected the temple" in 1874, but Russell's view of the temple had nothing to do with any external sect, group, denomination, etc. His view of the temple was that the temple is the church that belongs to Christ. Russell was non-sectarian.
Russell stated:“the Lord in Heaven records as members of His true Church all the saintly — whether Roman Catholics, Anglican Catholics, Greek Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.— and none others…. Do we not see that a part of our mistake was in calling the outward organization the Church of Christ, instead of remembering that the Lord alone writes the names of the Church, that He alone reads the hearts, that He alone is the Judge, and that He alone has the right to blot out the names of those who become reprobates?… We must see that the Church is a comparatively small company of saintly footstep followers of Jesus, irrespective of sectarian lines.”
And Russell stated: “all who are worshiping any church organization should be warned. See thou do it not.’ These are thy fellow servants.‘Worship God.’`Rev. 22:9`.”
He further stated:“so far as the true Church is concerned, the only authority in it is the Lord, the Head of the Church, and his Word, and the words of those whom he specially chose to be his mouth-pieces, the apostles.”
And,“we believe that in every nation and denomination there are some true saints of God, members therefore of the true Church of God.”
http://ctr.reslight.net/?p=505
Thus, Russell viewed the temple of God to be any true Christian, regardless of what external group or denomination he might be associated with. His view of the temple of God was not restricted to a "group", such as the Bible Students, nor a denomination, nor a religious organization, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Indeed, Russell preached against the kind of authoritarianism and sectarianism that is found in the Jehovah's Witnesses' organization.
Related

Revelation 19:1 and the Great Multitude

After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God: -- Revelation 19:1.

Does this mean that the "great multitude" spoken of in Revelation 19:1 are being pictured in heaven where God's throne is, and where the angels are always able to "see" the fact of God? (Psalm 11:14; Matthew 18:10) No, for the word "heaven" in the Bible does not always mean such.  Indeed, the present “heaven” that now is, which relates to the authoritarian religious/ruling elements of mankind, however, is to pass away. (Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter 3:7,12) This heaven that is to pass away is not the heaven where God's throne is, since God's dwelling place will never pass away; thus the heavens that passes away is evidently the sectarian religious and other ruling elements among mankind here on earth that seek to control mankind with their philosphies.

If this is the same "great multitude" that is spoken of in Revelation 7, we believe that, while this great multitude is yet among the sectarianism of Babylon the Great, they have consecrated themselves to God. In this position, many Christians today of many different denominations, nations and tribes, are now proclaiming their salvation in Christ, although as yet they are still being hindered by mankind's sectarianianism under the blinding influence of Satan. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9) Thus, they are still to a great degree being deceived by the sectarianism that exists all around them (Revelation 13:14); it is only after this sectarianism is destroyed in the great tribulation and Satan is abyssed, that they will be able to see beyond the deceptions of Satan (Revelation 12:9; 13:14), and then the Lamb will lead them to the waters of life, which Isaiah 25 shows will be on the earth, not in the heaven where God's throne is. -- Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 7:14-17; 20:1-3.

After the present heavens have passed away, there are to be a new heavens and new earth -- not that God's home dwelling place ever passes away, but the ruling elements related to mankind on earth passes away. Then there is to be a new heavens, a new ruling arrangement, without Satan's blinding influence. God will then dwell with man on earth, not by a physical means but by spiritual means, for He, through Christ and the joint-heirs -- Christ's bride -- will constitute the headship of the the new heavens that is rule over the new earth.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The 144,000 and the Great Multitude


Revelation 7:1 After this, I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth, or on the sea, or on any tree.
Revelation 7:2 I saw another angel ascend from the sunrise, having the seal of the living God. He cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to harm the earth and the sea,
Revelation 7:3 saying, "Don't harm the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the bondservants of our God on their foreheads!"
Revelation 7:4 I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the children of Israel:
Revelation 7:5 Of the tribe of Judah were sealed twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
Revelatio 7:6 Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
Revelation 7:7 Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
Revelation 7:8 Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. -- World English.
It is claimed by many that the twelve tribes of Revelation refer to the natural Jews, the children of Israel. These overlook the symbolism being employed in the verses, and look at the words "tribe" as speaking, not symbolically, but literally, reference to tribes of natural Israel, and thus they claim that the 144,000 are all natural Jews.
However, we need to remember that the visions that John saw are highly symbolic. The four corners of the earth are symbolic; the four winds are symbolic; the earth, sea and trees spoken of are all symbolic. The four angels are also probably symbolic of the influences of the destructive forces that are to come upon the symbolic earth, the sea and the trees.
Additionally, we should note that the twelves tribes that John saw are no where listed as such in the Old Testament. Each tribe listed in Revelation 7, we believe, has symbolic meaning. Revelation 7 and 14 is not speaking of the twelve tribes after the flesh (1 Corinthians 10:18), but rather these tribes are symbolic of the various parts of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), the Israel of faith. Those sealed out of the twelve tribes stand [rule as kings] on Mt. Zion in heaven with the Lamb. --- Revelation 14:1.
We will note that there are some Bible Students who believe that the number 144,000 is not to be taken literally; that it is only symbolic. We cannot be dogmatic that there will be literally only 144,000 to be sealed out of the twelve tribes, but we believe that, since this is spoken of in relation to two other groups, the twelve tribes and the great multitude, that this number is indeed literal, and yet it is also symbolic.
Nevertheless, Romans 11:25 speaks of the blindness to Israel continuing until the "fullness [Greek, pleroma, plenitude] of the Gentiles has come in." "Fullness" does not mean that absolutely all Gentiles must be converted before the blindness is removed from Israel. "Fullness" means the full amount related to filling up what is being spoken of; it refers to all that is needed for the purpose being spoken of. In this connection, it is speaking of filling "the election" (Romans 11:7), the symbolic grafting of Gentiles (symbolic wild olive branches) into the symbolic olive tree of God. (Romans 11:17) The olive tree of God does not mean the Law Covenant, as some have assumed. If it were the Law Covenant that the Gentiles were being drafted into, then this would mean that the Gentiles would become cursed with the Jew under the Law. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who doesn't continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.'" (Galatians 3:10) Rather, Paul speaks in Galatians 3:16 of the promises spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The covenant made with Abraham is often referred to as the Abrahamic Covenant. The Law Covenant came 430 years later (Galatians 3:17), but does not annul the earlier covenant with Abraham. Jesus claimed this covenant for himself, as he spoke to his disciples: " I, covenant unto you - as my Father hath covenanted unto me - a kingdom." (Luke 22:29) From Galatians 3:16, we can see that the covenant that Jesus refers to, and which he extends to his followers, is the covenant as the seed of Abraham. This agrees with what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:29: "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise."

All who belong to Christ are God's sons, and are thus heirs. (Galatians 3:26) However, not all the heirs as the seed of Abraham become joint-heirs with Christ. It is out of this antitypical twelve tribes that the joint-heirs are sealed. If Romans 11:25 is speaking a limited number, it would have be related, not to the antitypical twelve tribes as a whole, but rather to the sealing of the 144,000 out those twelve tribes. In other words, the purpose of the "election" is to obtain the joint-heirs with Christ; when that purpose is fulfilled, once the 144,000 are sealed, then some time after that the blindness of Israel would be lifted. This would take us into the age to come, after Satan is abyssed so that he will not be able to deceive the heathen. (Revelation 20:1-3) We do not believe that Israel will be enlightened until after Satan -- the god of this age -- is will no longer be around bring blindness. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yahweh says concerning Israel in that age to come: "I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish to you an everlasting covenant. Then shall you remember your ways, and be ashamed, when you shall receive your sisters, your elder [sisters] and your younger; and I will give them to you for daughters, but not by your [Law] covenant. I will establish my [new] covenant with you; and you shall know that I am Yahweh; that you may remember, and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more, because of your shame, when I have forgiven you all that you have done, says the Lord Yahweh." -- Ezekiel 16:60-63.
The sealing out of the twelve symbolic tribes is not the same sealing that is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30. All of the sons of God receive the sealing of the holy spirit, the promise related to the day of redemption that is yet to come. All the sons of God are thus heirs of God, and, except for those of the great multitude*, all are of the antitypical twelve tribes of Israel, but not all who make up the twelve tribes become joint-heirs with Christ. One can be a joint-heir with Christ, only "if" indeed one "suffers with him." (Romans 8:17) The word "suffer" in Romans 8:17 is rendered from the Greek, "Sumpascho," Strong's #4841. Three words in Romans 8:17 all begin with forms of the the Greek prefix "Sun," meaning "jointly with." The first is usually translated as "joint-heirs," the second is rendered "suffer with," and the third is rendered "glorified with." Nevertheless, in the Greek, Paul lines the three words, using the same prefix for all, evidently to show a parallel in their meanings. All who are led by God's spirit are sons and heirs of God. However, to become heirs jointly with Christ, one must jointly suffer, in order to be jointly glorified.
And thus, the 144,000 sealed out the twelve tribes are said to stand with Jesus on Mt. Zion. (Revelation 14:1) The typical Mt. Zion came to used representatively of the holy city Jerusalem, the capital of the whole of Israel, especially Moriah and the temple. -- Psalm 2:6; 9:11; 74:2; Isaiah 1:8; Joel 2:23.
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*We should note that in the type, the mixed multitude (Exodus 12:13) who came out of Egypt with Israel also blended in with and became counted as part of the twelve tribes; they did not continue to remain separate from the twelve tribes.
Much that we read in the Old Testament is used as shadows, types, of that which was to come. (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 10:6,11; Galatians 4:24; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:24; Hebrews 10:1) In the New Testament, we come to the realities -- the antitypes -- represented by the typical of the Old Testament. Mt. Zion and the New Jerusalem represent the capital of God's kingdom, as though coming down out of heaven, cut out without hands, to extend its rule over the whole earth. -- Daniel 2:34,44,45; Revelation 21:1-5.
Thus seen, while many Bible Students only see two classes in Revelation 7, we see three classes: (1) The twelve tribes (2) those sealed out of the twelve tribes, and (3) the great multitude.
We will also say that most often when Bible Students speak of the "seed of Abraham," they seem to limit that seed to the 144,000, as they usually do with the word "church." Many seem to fail to distinguish between the "heirs" and the "joint-heirs." We might hear someone declare himself or others to be "joint-heirs" with Christ,  evidently without realizing that such a declaration would be the same as saying, "I/We have obtained the perfection -- the mark of the prize of the high calling," or "I have overcome, and can no longer be harmed by the second death." -- Philippians 2:12-14; Revelation 2:11.
Many Bible Students, by tradition, seem to take the view that one is first counted as being of the 144,000 and then, if they fail to retain (rather than obtain or attain) the prize, then they become of the "great company" class, and thus lose the prize they once had. (Philippians 3:11-14) This, we believe, is almost the opposite of what the scriptures actually say.
Our conclusions is that, in general, throughout the gospel age, those who believe are first placed in the general "Israel" class, as being of one of the symbolic twelve tribes, and then, if he "attains" the mark of the prize, he becomes of the 144,000 joint-heirs. The "great company" class, we believe, are those who consecrate as what Brother Russell called those who 'consecrate between the ages'*, and thus they are pictured as coming "out of" the great tribulation, entering into the age to come when Satan will have been abyssed.
Brother Russell assumed that those consecrating between the ages would not be spirit-begotten, since he still retained the idea that spirit-begotten meant that one had sacrificed his humanity, and had become begotten to the spiritual body in the resurrection. We disagree with Russell's understanding of what it means to be spirit-begotten, since, among other things, the scriptures state that Jesus was begotten of the spirit when he became flesh, a human, not a spirit being. -- Matthew 1:20; See our study: "Born of the Spirit".
The claim of many is that when one is spirit-begotten, he is no longer on the earthly plane, but, as a new creation, he is a son of God on the heavenly plane of life. Actually, the expression "spirit-begotten" does not appear in the scriptures, but we do find the expression "born of spirit", which can also be rendered "begotten of the spirit". We also find the expressions "born of water" and "born again (anew)". (John 3:3-8; 1 Peter 1:3) Does being "born of the spirit" mean that one is born/begotten to the level of being a spirit being? If so, does being born of water mean that one is born/begotten to being a water being? When Jesus was begotten of spirit in the womb of Mary, was he begotten as a spirit being, or a human being? (Matthew 1:20) Why is there an emphasis in the scriptures on "again/anew"? Why does one have to be born "again/anew"?
We believe that being begotten of the spirit simply means that one is begotten as a new creature, a seed, a grain, firstly reckoned on the earthly plane, being a new creation equal to what Adam was before Adam sinned. Adam was incorrupt morally, but he was corruptible. So with the new creation; the seed, the grain planted is sown incorrupt, but corruptible, morally speaking. Adam could have progressed from being corruptible to being incorruptible, morally speaking, had he developed a character that could not have been corrupted. Likewise, each new creature in Christ is incorrupt, yet corruptible, until he has developed an incorruptible character.
For the new creature there are two types of sin: sin that is attributable to the fallen condition of the mind and flesh, and the sin of the new creature himself. There is no ransom sacrifice to be offered if the new creature sins. If the new creature himself sins, then all that would be left would be second death for the new creature. Once the new creature has fully developed a crystalized will against sin, then he has fully overcome, he has proven himself incorruptible, and the second death can no longer harm that person. (Revelation 2:11) Such will have attained the goal of the prize of the high calling. And yet, it is obvious that very few Christians ever obtain the level of perfection that is expressed in that goal while living in this present age.
See our studies:
However, being a participant in the high calling does not mean that one has already received a crown of joint-heirship; being a participant in the high calling does not mean, that having been given joint-heirship, if he fails, he looses that crown of joint-heirship. The scriptures, taken together, tell us that one is counted first as a son, as was Adam (Luke 3:38), on the human level, and as a son, also as an heir of God, on the human level. The one consecrated is not first counted as a joint-heir. Such would mean that having already obtained the prize of the high calling, he would then stand the possibility of losing that prize. The scriptures do not present the matter in such a manner.
All who come to Christ are first made sons, as Adam was a son. (Luke 3:38)  The ransom sacrifice does not bring us to life in heaven, but rather it places us as Adam was before Adam sinned, with life on earth. Being made alive, they are sons, and if sons, they are also heirs, for "if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." The condition for heirship is to belong to Christ. (Galatians 3:29) "The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ if it so be that we joint-suffer [Strong's 4841, sumpascho, "to experience pain jointly or of the same kind (spec. persecution; to 'sympathize')"] with him, that we may be also joint-glorified [Strong's 4888, sunarmologeo, "to exalt to dignity in company with"] together." (See Note #12) The "joint-heirs" are first "heirs" before they become "joint-heirs." The condition for "joint-heirship" is (different than the condition for heirship) to be joint-sufferers with Christ: "if so be that we joint-suffer with him." (Romans 8:16,17) The heirs in general are reckoned alive, "new creatures" in Christ Jesus, but only on the human plane. This is the first plane of life for all the Israel after the spirit, the twelve tribes spoken of in Revelation 7. -- 1 Corinthians 10:18 ("Israel after the flesh" implies the existence of an Israel after the spirit); Galatians 6:15,16.
See our studies on The Ransom for All and  Born of the Spirit.
Thus, we believe that being begotten of the spirit first places one -- as a new creature -- on the plane of Adam, who was a son of God before Adam sinned -- and with the earthly heirship as a son as Adam would have had it had he remained faithful (Luke 3:38; Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29), and after that, if one completes the sacrifice by attaining the mark of the prize, then he becomes placed on the level of joint-heirship with Christ. As a result, that which is first accounted to the seed -- the grain -- (1 Corinthians 15:36-38) begotten of the spirit is the earthy, the physical body, the glory of the sinless terrestrial body (1 Corinthians 15:40; Psalm 8:5; Romans 3:23; Hebrews 2:7), not the heavenly, the spiritual body, the glory of the celestial body. (1 Corinthians 15:45) If and when the new creature is brought to perfection, incorruptibility, as a human, then that humanity is at the point that it can be sacrificed, (just as Jesus sacrificed his incorruptible humanity*), and thus one is sealed out of the twelve tribes at large and counted as one of the 144,000.
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*One should note that Jesus did not just sacrifice his sinless flesh, he sacrificed what he attained, incorruption on the human level. Unlike Adam, Jesus, as a human, brought himself to perfection, to the point of proving himself loyal beyond any shadow of a doubt. Thus, it is due to his being faithful while in the days of his flesh, that he brought life and incorruption (incorruptibility) to light. (2 Timothy 1:10) This he did by his continued, unfailing, obedience. It was this human life, wherein he had to put on incorruption, that he offered as a sacrifice. The sacrifice of the 144,000 would have to be of the same sort, that is, not just sinless human life, but human life that had proven itself incorruptible (counted as such due to perfection of the new creature's faith, love and hope, proving oneself steadfast, incorruptible, unshakable, immovable, in these -- 1 Corinthians 3:13; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 1:28; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 1:5,6; Hebrews 6:1; James 1:3,4; 1 Peter 1:6,7; 5:9,10; 1 John 4:18).
Once one gets the proper setting of what being born of the spirit means, we can see that it is not related to being first assigned a joint-heirship and then the possibility of loosing that joint-heirship,  then we can see that there could be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, today who are begotten of the spirit, who will never receive a heavenly body in the resurrection.
We, indeed, do believe that we have today tens of thousands of brothers and sisters who are called under the general call of the high calling, but who will never attain the goal of the prize of joint-heirship, and that many of them will indeed prove to be of the great multitude who "come out of the great tribulation". We do not believe that it will become evident exactly who the "great multitude" are until after the great tribulation is over and they are recognized as such after Satan's sun will no longer hinder them from the true light. It is not important for us to know whether this or that brother/sister is of the great multitude or not.
Will the great multitude be physically separated into a group or movement before the great tribulation is over? Probably not, although we believe a small number who will prove to be of the great multitude are probably now associating with the Bible Students. The problem we see with the idea of getting people out their churches to join with the Bible Students is that this very teaching has led to a sectarian view amongst the Bible Students. Thus, most the Bible Students movement itself has come to be viewed by many, even by many Bible Students as though it were a sectarian group or denomination (of a name, thus "nominal"). All sectarianism will eventually be done away with, whether it be amongst what many call the nominal church or amongst the Bible Students. On the other hand, with the destruction of the Babylonish systems, we believe that it is possible that those ones who are begotten of the spirit that were still in those systems may become more manifest, and could possibly, in a loose association, seek each other out even before the end of the great tribulation. But we do not expect the manifestation of who will be be represented as of the 144,000, the twelve tribes, or the great multitude to take place until after Satan is abyssed.
One prophecy we referred to above says that "Then they cry to Yahweh in their trouble." (Psalm 107:28) This is during, not after, the great tribulation. The scriptures do not reveal the details of how these prophecies will be fulfilled, so much of what we or anyone else might say is speculative, to say the least. We do know that God can cause great changes rather rapidly, or that He might consider to be a short time may seem to be a long time to us.
We should not, however, droop our hands with laxity so as to neglect preaching the Gospel (Good News) of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14), thinking that such work is over, etc., based on there being a limited number crowns for joint-heirship. There are, we believe, thousands of consecrated Christians in what many call the "nominal" churches who may yet wish to learn about the ransom for all, the coming blessings of the kingdom, etc. Such will not only need to be "witnessed" to, but their interest will have to be nurtured to produce growth, thus follow-up should be supplied. They will need to be taught -- step by step -- concerning who Jesus and his God are, the ransom, the resurrection hope for both the church and the world, the judgment day and God's kingdom, as well as nurturing in producing the fruit of the spirit, etc. Again, while the Studies in the Scriptures may be helpful along this line, at the same time we believe that the viewpoint concerning "born of the spirit" that is presented therein, which would limit the number who could be "born of the spirit", would be a hindrance, both to the teacher as well as to the student.  Additionally, the present views of the majority of the Bible Students would seem to hinder such a work. Therefore, the Restoration Light studies would probably of greater benefit in reaching such ones than the more traditional writings often distributed by the Bible Students. Perhaps Yahweh will bring forth someone with the abilities and wisdom to take the lead in such a work, but we will have to wait and see.
Related Studies:

Armageddon - Links to Other Sites

Armageddon On "Biblical Resurrection Hope"

Charles Taze Russell and Armageddon

Armageddon, the Second Death and Judgments

The thought is being put forth that many unbelievers will undergo the second death at Armageddon before Satan is abyssed. The following scriptures are presented to support this view:
Revelation 19:20-21 (New American Standard Bible)
“And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
Matthew 25:41,46 NASB
“Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…”
“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Revelation 7:14 (New American Standard Bible)
“I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Actually, Revelation 19:20-21 says nothing about any humans being thrown into the lake of fire, but only "these two", that is, only the "two" systems symbolized by the "beast" and the "false prophet" are said to be thrown in the lake of fire. After or at the end of the "little season"/"short time" (Revelation 20:3) which occurs *after* the 1,000 years of the reign of Jesus and the church, Satan the Devil joins these two. -- Revelation 20:10.
It is also after or at the end of that "little season"/"short while" that those humans who fail to repent at heart during the millennial age are additionally cast into the lake of fire, represented in Revelation 20:9,15. These are those spoken of in Matthew 25:41
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To understand this more fully, it might be beneficial to examine the two general days of judgment, and the corresponding condemnation and wrath resulting from each.
The first day of judgment began upon the nations more than 6,000 years ago with the first man, Adam. Out of Adam came all nations of mankind. (Acts 17:26) Adam disobeyed God, bringing judgment upon himself and all nations that have come into existence through him, as we read: "The judgment was by one to condemnation, . . . therefore as by the offense of one [Adam] the judgment was to all men to condemnation." (Romans 5:16,18) The execution of that judgment upon man began with Adam and continues until today, resulting in misery, sickness and death for all. (Romans 5:12) The facts today testify to the truthfulness of that judgment day, for we see its results everywhere. Hence, it is that as a race we are a groaning creation, travailing in pain, going down to sheol, the realm of death. (Romans 8:20-23; Ecclesiastes 9:10) Our only hope of recovery from that original sentence rests in Christ. The scriptures assure us that Jesus Christ by the grace [undeserved favor] of God tasted death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) All are thus "bought with a price." Therefore the world of mankind may hope for a full release from the death sentence in God's due time.
So before we are even born, we are already under a judgment. We receive the execution of this judgment when we die. Thus God at various times has carried out this execution against many nations and peoples who would seek to thwart his purposes. "The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made [through Adam's sin]. There own foot catches in the net which they hid. Jehovah is known by the judgment he executes. The work of his own hands ensnare the wicked one." (Psalm 9:16) The word translated "judgment" here is the Hebrew word mishpât, which Strong gives the meaning of "verdict" as well as "justice." The verdict, of course, was given in the Garden of Eden: death. The executing of that verdict meant, therefore, the death of the person or persons receiving its execution.
Terms that express the condition brought by this original sentence or judgment of death are the "wrath" and "anger" of Jehovah. "For God's wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind who extinguish the truth by unrighteousness; because what may be known of God has been made manifest all about them, for God has made these apparent to them. For from the creation of the world the unseen things about him can be understood by looking upon the things made, both his eternal power and divine being, so they are without excuse. Because having known God [in Adam before he sinned] they did not glorify him as God, nor were they thankful. They became futile in their reasonings, and their heart's discernment was darkened. Claiming themselves wise, they became foolish [The serpent led Eve to believe that she would become wise as a result of disobeying God. Adam also evidently felt himself wiser than God by listening the voice of his wife.] and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of an image of corruptible man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. [Adam, in obeying his wife, allowed his wife to become his god. Mankind has been bringing the glory of God down to corruptible matter ever since.] Therefore God also gave them up to the craving of their hearts, their bodies being dishonored among themselves, [Adam and Eve felt no shame concerning their bodies until they sinned. Adam did not develop a spiritual desire to serve God. He did not learn to walk by the spirit. He walked after the flesh, desiring his wife more than God.] in that they changed the truth of God into a lie, and venerated and served the created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." -- Romans 1:18-23.
Now we come to the scriptures that speak of the day of Jehovah's wrath, when his wrath upon mankind is being brought to an end. (Revelation 6:17) The day of his wrath is spoken of as coming in the blowing of the seventh trumpet and consisting of seven "vials" or "bowls." (Revelation 11:15; 15:7) The last bowl results in the destruction of Babylon the Great, a woman representing the false religious promises of Satan as begun in the Garden of Eden and extended all over the world. (Genesis 3:4,5; Revelation 12:9; 16:19) The destruction of those individuals who make up Satan's seed, those under God's wrath is also depicted as taking place as part of the last vial. (Revelation 19:17-19, 21) The execution upon those under God's wrath is still, however, an execution of the original sentence given in the garden of Eden -- death. The various systems of Satan receive a different sentence. Under the symbolism of a beast and false prophet, these systems are spoken of as being thrown into the "lake of fire and brimstone," referring to the lake of fire and brimstone outside the walls of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna. (Revelation 19:20) According to historical references to this valley in Jesus' day, fires were continuously kept burning in this valley by the addition of brimstone (sulphur), so that Jesus spoke of the "fire that does not die out," or as the King James Version says, "not quenched." (Mark 9:43-48) Now we know that the fires in the valley of Jerusalem no longer exist, so we must look upon to these Bible references as symbolic. So what does the lake of fire symbolize? Jesus spoke of those things thrown into as "destroyed." (Matthew 10:28) Thus Revelation 19:20 is referring to the destruction of Satan's systems that are symbolically spoken of the false prophet and a certain beast. These systems, as such, were produced out of the sea and earth of sinful mankind under the condemnation of death through Adam. (Revelation 13:2,11) However, these systems are eternally destroyed. Why? These systems are efforts of mankind (and demons) to bring mankind away from Adam's condemnation. Therefore, as such, they are viewed by mankind as not under that condemnation in Adam. Thus they are worshiped by men. (Revelation 13:4,12) Consequently they could be looked upon as symbolically "alive," only to end up in eternal death as a result thereof.
But notice that the individuals associated with these systems are not spoken of as going into the second death. These have never been released from Adamic death, and therefore cannot be given the execution of second death. The destruction that comes upon the nations is the execution of the original sentence given in the garden of Eden, and is the destruction spoken of as the broad road to destruction which all nations have been traveling since Adam's disobedience. (Romans 3:11-15; Matthew 7:18) As Jehovah turns the nations to destruction, he also says: "Return, you children of men!" (Psalm 90:3) Therefore the judgment remains the same as Jesus said: "If any man hears my words, does not believe, I do not judge him; for I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has one that will judge him. The word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day." (John 13:47,48) "He who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God [through Adam] remains upon him." -- John 3:36.
Jesus therefore tells us that the individual judgment of all those who do not now believe will be in the "last day," being that the wrath of God (as a result of Adam's sin) remains upon them. Since the wrath of God remains upon them they, as individuals, will receive the execution of that wrath in the "war of the Great Day of God the Almighty" at Armageddon. The execution to be finalized at that time, however, is a result of the collective judgment that began in the Garden of Eden. Thus when Jesus spoke of that coming destruction he said: "At that time two will be out in the field; one will be taken away, and one will be left. -- Two will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left." (Matthew 24:40,41) Those left I understand to be those spoken of in Psalm 107:20, who call upon Jehovah through Jesus especially during the great tribulation, washing their sin-ladened robes in the blood of lamb. (Revelation 7:14) Those taken, like the antediluvians outside of God's favor, are taken in death, as a result of God's wrath which remains upon them. They are not taken in the second death. (See verse 39; see also Isaiah 24:6; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:3; 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; John 3:36) It is quite possible then, that there will not be any who have not washed their robes in the blood of the lamb will be left alive at that time, not even of natural Israel. -- Revelation 7:14.
Lets go back a little to when Jesus first returns. One of the first things he does is to complete the sealing of his bride, the 144,000 who are not only heirs of God, but joint-heirs with Christ. These are sealed out of the Israelites  who are such by faith; these sealed ones are joined with Christ in symbolic marriage. (Revelation 7:1-8; 19:7,8; Matthew 24:31) After obtaining his bride and returning from the wedding, others join with them in the marriage supper. (Revelation 19:9; Luke 12:35-40; Matthew 25:1-12; Revelation 7:9-17) These I believe to be the class spoken of in Psalm 107:20 and Revelation 7:9-17. While the world is thrown into the fiery furnace of the tribulation, the last elect group of true servants of God are separated from the world by God's angels into God's symbolic barn. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Many scriptures indicate that only God's righteous ones, justified by faith in Jesus, will be left as God's kingdom fills the whole earth after it has destroyed all the unrighteous kingdoms of the world. (Daniel 2:44) It is during the  time  of trouble that the nations are gathered, not for their final judgment as individuals, but for the execution of judgment as had begun upon them through Adam. "For my decision is to gather nations to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all the heat of my anger; for in the fire of my jealous wrath all the earth shall be consumed." (Zephaniah 3:8, Revised Standard Version) This execution of judgment, however, not being final judgment, is rather the consummation of the judgment through Adam. The unbelieving world still has to face the final judgment in the "last day".
The "last day" is spoken of as the day when the believing dead return. (John 6:39-54) Jesus also said that unbelievers would be judged in the "last day." (John 12:47,48) Therefore the "last day" is the day of the world's resurrection and regeneration, and the "day of judgment".  It is in that same "last day", however, that the judgment is given to the saints , so that they may be judges with Christ in judging the unbelieving world.  (Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 20:4), This great judgment day will be the second great judgment day for mankind. Thus we read: "He has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; of this he has given a guarantee unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
Nor should we think of this day as a 24-hour day, but as a day on a larger scale. Peter tells us: "Brothers, do not be ignorant of this one thing, that a day with Jehovah is as a thousand years." -- 2 Peter 3:8.
The world has already completed its first trial, failed and received a condemnation. The trial took place in Eden: Adam our first father, was the representative of himself and his race in the trial. He failed, and was sentenced to death, and the whole world, his posterity, are still resting under the incubus of his sentence: "Dying, you must die." -- you are unworthy of eternal life which was offered to you in the beginning -- your disobedience has proven you unworthy. As we look about us we see that none of the race has improved and reached perfection -- rather. on the contrary, the course of the race in general has been downward, and the scriptural assurance is: "There is none righteous, no not one." -- Romans 3:10.
If then the whole world is already condemned to death -- if all were born in sin and thus from birth have been under the sentence of death, what kind of a judgment further would they need? What more condemnation could they receive from Jehovah than that already against them? Surely we are not to suppose that God doubts the wisdom of his own decision, which the Scriptures express so forcefully, and that He will try matters again to see whether or not any mistake was made in His original decision. The Supreme Court of the Universe is infallible; its decision beyond repeal; its sentence is "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) For thousands of years this penalty has been inflicted. There could be no hope of a change upon the part of the great Judge. We see, then, that any thought of a repetition of the original trial and sentence is inconsistent, and hence the day of judgment spoken of in Acts 17:31 must refer to a new trial.
But on what grounds could the great Supreme Judge of the Universe grant a new trial to Adam and his family? Since Jehovah, being true to His Word, could not rescind His own just sentence, the only consideration upon which a new trial could be granted would be that the penalty of the original trial should first be met and canceled. And this is exactly what did take place: "By one man's disobedience sin entered the world, and death as a result of sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned." -- have inherited the sin, are made sinners. (Romans 5:12-19) But now the Messiah has died for the ungodly -- has redeemed Adam, and incidentally, all of his posterity involved in his transgression. Hence the Scriptures assure us that God can be just and yet be the justifier of him that believes in Jesus. (Romans 3:26) That condemnation through Adam would have meant eternal death for Adam and his race had it not been for the provision of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Here notice that the apostle (in Acts 17:31) refers right back to our Lord's great transaction, his great redemptive work and how that, after he had died for our sins, God raised him from the dead. The apostle further declares that in so doing, God gave us an assurance of his intention to grant another trial to the race of Adam and that this Jesus who died for Adam and his race is, by divine appointment, the Judge and Mediator through whom all the condemned ones, if they will, may return to the full perfection of harmony with their Creator, and the eternal life which he is pleased to give to all those who are obedient to his laws.
The first judgment was that of one man, the effects of which extended to all of his posterity, all those lost, all who were condemned, all who went into death. The divine standard can never alter; a sinner can never have eternal life, either in heaven or elsewhere. Eternal life is a gift of God, and he will give it to none who are in sinful condition. The divine proposition is, to give to Adam and every member of his race an individual opportunity for returning to harmony with God, and thus to a recovery to all that was lost through the original fall -- with added blessings in the case of the faithful followers of Jesus in the present age. This is the Good News! -- that there is a hope of eternal life through Christ, not just for those who believe in this age, but also for those who believe in that  day, the last day, the age to come. Several thousand years had elapsed before our Redeemer was born upon the earth, yet in all that time none of Adam's race had escaped from death, except as reckoned alive by faith; only a few had any knowledge of the divine intention to provide a Savior and Redeemer and ultimately to roll away the curse and bring in blessings through Him.
The few faithful of old were of the Abrahamic line, the Israelite line. But even to them no promise of eternal life was given, though it was indirectly hinted at, and they were told to hope for it through the Messiah promised. Nevertheless, based on the promise of the sacrifice of Jesus, many in Old Testaments times were counted as alive before God through faith. Nevertheless, the Scriptures declare that Jesus brought life and incorruption to light through the Good News -- its full meaning was not brought to light before amongst mankind, since no human had lived a sinless life. (2 Timothy 1:10) At his birth the angels declared that they were messengers of Good News, which would have its fulfillment through the newborn babe, saying: "We bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." -- Luke 2:10,11.
The apostle declares that these good tidings for our race are the tidings of salvation -- not salvation from the lake of fire, but salvation from sin through Adam and its death penalty. This salvation consists of two things: -1- The sinner must be imputed as righteous, no longer a sinner, and begotten again to newness of life; -2- the sinner must be raised up out of the present death conditions -- brought back to full perfection of life as it was enjoyed before the sentence or curse came upon all mankind. There is also one more aspect of this salvation, that is, the developing of faith and love to an extent that death will be completely swallowed up in victory. This would also correspond to the prospect set before Adam. Unless Adam developed his love and faith in his Creator to such perfection that it would be unthinkable that he disobey, there would always have been the threat of death. So that this threat of death would be taken away, it would have been necessary for Adam to have proven his faith and love to such an extent that there would no longer be a shadow of doubt that he would thus continue to obey. Only by such could it have been true that there would no longer be any threat of death. This is what Paul refers to as the putting on of incorruption. (1 Corinthians 15:54) Once one has proven this character to be incorruptible, then it can be said: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (See Isaiah 25:8 ) This is salvation in the broadest meaning of the term, and the apostle declares, which salvation began to be spoken by our Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that there was no offer of salvation, no basis upon which it could be offered, until Christ, as our Redeemer, our Savior, brought life and incorruption to light. Thus, nothing that he said and nothing that the apostles said warrant us in believing that this salvation will allow life eternal to be retained by any except those who prove themselves fully willing and obedient. The offer of life eternal, indeed, we are assured, is to Adam and every member of his race, but it will be for each one of them to accept or reject its terms. The good tidings of joy will be to all people, but it will mean eternal incorruptible life only to those who prove their love and obedience to him -- those who obey the great Redeemer (who is also the Teacher, the King and the Judge) will, after the final judgment, depart into eternal life, while those who prove themselves incorrigible will depart into eternal punishment. -- Matthew 25:46.
However, the salvation in general is applied in the next age, not this age. Those of this age can only participate in this salvation by faith, reaching forward in time to the age to come, and tasting of the powers of that age. (Hebrews 6:5) Those who do so do receive the possibility of access to special privileges in this age, if they avail themselves of those privileges. Most, however, who put faith in Jesus, never exercise that privilege to any great extent, and thus remain as "babes in Christ." -- 1 Corinthians 3:1.
It is not difficult to prove from the facts as well as from the Scriptures that Jehovah has a favored people who are in the world at the present time -- that, as during the Jewish Age, the seed of Abraham according to the flesh were Jehovah's favored people, and as the apostle declared, a `Jew had much advantage in every way, mainly in that to them were committed the oracles of God.' (Romans 3:2) So during the Christian era, there is still a selection according to God's favor, as the apostle points out -- only a certain class of the world is being dealt with. The great mass of mankind are not being favored with the necessary information and opportunity to come into harmony with Jehovah at the present time. We know that some, ignorant of the Scriptures and short-sighted in their view of the conditions of the world, may dispute this, but it will stand examination from both standpoints.
Notice how frequently our Lord declares that only some have the ear to hear. (Matthew 7:14; 13:9,13-18,43; Mark 4:9,12,23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35; John 10:3,16) This means that only those are called. And he assures us that even amongst the called only a comparatively few will be chosen to be of the joint-heirs with Christ, the bride of the Lamb. (Matthew 22:1-14; Romans 8:17) The prophet Isaiah holds forth a similar thought, assuring us of a future time coming, when the wilderness will blossom as a rose, namely, the Millennial Age, when all the blind eyes will be opened and all the deaf ears will be unstopped. (Isaiah 35:5) He thus implies that at the present time many eyes are closed and many ears are stopped, so that the majority of mankind now do not see and do not hear, do not appreciate, the things which God has revealed to a special class only "the called according to his purpose." -- 2 Timothy 1:9; Isaiah 29:10.
The apostle Paul also refers to the matter in the same way, only more explicitly, telling us that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that do not believe, lest the light of the glorious good news of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them." (2 Corinthians 4:4) This implies that generally the whole world was in blindness, but that by God's grace his message through Jesus and his disciples comes as an eye-salve to some, but not to all. The vast majority, blinded by the adversary, by false octrines, selfishness, weakness, depravity, superstition, etc., are utterly blind and ignorant respecting the true qualities of God and of his Son, and the plan for his vindication through the salvation being worked out on their behalf. As the apostle declares: "The world does not know us, even as it did not know him." (1 John 3:1) It is the adversary who has brought this blindness of heart upon mankind, which hinders their knowing, loving and appreciating God's love and offer of salvation.
The question needs to be answered: Why should God provide a great feast of fat things through the sacrifice of his Son, and yet not make provision that all of the unenlightened human family of Adam should understand it? The very thought seems incongruous. He who loved the whole world so as to give his only begotten Son as their redemption price surely should love them all to such an extent that he would give them all the proper knowledge of that Son -- the knowledge necessary to their appreciation of him, and of his work, and of their privilege of return to harmony with their Creator and to everlasting life. We search the scriptures to ascertain the secret of this peculiarity, and are there informed that Jehovah is now calling a peculiar people, a cream class as it were, from the world of mankind into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9,10) From amongst these called ones, God first chooses a bride for his Son who become joint-heirs with him; and secondarily others are become the bridesmaids, princesses, princes in all the earth, etc. -- Matthew 25:1-13; Psalm 45:14-15.
Looking at Acts 17:31 again, we see that it refers to the entire matter of the world's judgment as future from the apostle's day. It is still future from our day, though very near at hand. Thus we should expect that the great Sun of Righteousness will soon be disclosed to the world, and the shadows of the dark night of sin and superstition and ignorance will begin to flee away. We can no longer wonder that Jehovah, through the prophets, spoke so joyfully of this coming judgment of the world as a great blessing, saying: "Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad! Let the sea roar and the fullness thereof! Let the field be joyful and all that is therein! Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before Jehovah! For He is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth! He will judge the world with righteousness and the people with His truth!" -- Psalm 95:10-13.
The gathering of the nations for individual judgment takes place by restoring them to life so that they may be judged, not by their past works, but by their works as related to the books that will then be opened. (Revelation 20:11-13). This gathering of the heathen peoples to be judged as individuals (not in Adam) is not the gathering of nations that takes place at Armageddon for the executing of God's judgment as begun upon man through Adam. "`Therefore wait for me,' says Jehovah, `until the day I rise up for plunder, my determination is to gather the nations, to my assembly of kingdoms, to pour on them my indignation, all my fierce anger. All the earth will be devoured with the fire of my jealousy." (Zephaniah 3:8 ) This is just before or at the beginning of the 1,000-year reign of Jesus, when God executes judgment upon all the ungodly. This same period is when the day of Jehovah comes as a thief upon the world. The execution of judgment at that time is to convince the ungodly of their sins, thus indicating that their destruction is not eternal but rather for the purpose of disciplining, so that they might come to know Jehovah. (Jude 1:15; 2 Peter 3:7,10; Psalm 83:18) It is during this transition period that Satan's world is destroyed. It is not until after the destruction of this present evil world that Jehovah `turns to the peoples a pure language.' (Zephaniah 3:9) We have to admit that the peoples of the world are still being blinded by Satan. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Indeed, blindness is more prevalent today than when Jesus was here. It is not until after Satan is bound and the veil of blindness is removed that it can truly be said that the nations have received a pure language. (Isaiah 25:6-7; Revelation 20:3) And the method of gathering the nations at that time will be through the awakening of the dead, in the day when many will be turned to righteousness. -- Revelation 20:11-13; Daniel 12:2,3.
And thus we have the proper setting for the judgment of the sheep and the goats. The "sheep" of the parable are not the sheep of the present age, whom the Master knows and who know the Master. (John 10:14) Rather these sheep of that judgment day are the "other sheep" who are not of the same pastorage that recognize the Master in the present age. They are brought forth out of death in the age to come. These become the sheep of the next age. These do not inherit a place in the ruling house of God, but do inherit the kingdom prepared from the founding of the world, the kingdom that was prepared for Adam and which he lost. (Matthew 25:34; Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:3-8; Hebrews 2:6-8 ) These inherit these promises, not after Armageddon, but after the final eternal destruction of the wicked which takes place after the thousand-year reign of Christ, that day which God has appointed "in which he will judge the world in righteousness." It is only then that one will no longer be able to find a wicked person. -- Revelation 20:7-9; Psalm 37:9-11; Acts 17:31.