Pittsburgh Gazette, Nov. 12, 1905


Pastor C T Russell of Allegheny, Pa., preached twice here yesterday. One discourse was his answer to infidelity entitled, "To Hell and Back. Who are There? Hope for the recovery of many." The other discourse was from 1 Cor. 5:5 , "To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

Luther, Zwingli and others of the early reformers withdrew from the doctrines of Roman Catholicism because they believed them to be erroneous because they believed that they had found clearer and truer light in the word of God. But, alas, they brought with them at least a partial truth. We do not wish to give the impression that we have any sympathy whatever with the Roman Catholic view of purgatory that all Roman Catholic believers (except the merest handful of saints) are saved from an eternity of torture by being put into an inferno, there to suffer physical torture for years or for centuries, and of more or less severity according to the heinousness of their sins and the carelessness of their earthly friends in the matter of paying for masses whereby they might be sooner relieved and granted access to heaven.

It was probably because the reformers felt a righteous indignation against all thought of masses for the sins of the dead, against all thought that anything could make atonement for sins except the precious blood of Christ, that they rejected the doctrine of purgatory so absolutely and adopted instead the thoroughly inconsistent theory that only the handful of saints would ever reach heaven and that the great mass of the human family would experience endless torture.


Our common sense corroborates the word of Jesus, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God," and again the Apostle's words to the saints, "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (Matt. 5:8; 1 John 3:2.) But the acceptance of this reasonable scriptural view leaves Protestants in a sad dilemma. On the one hand they know that remarkably few are saintly, "pure in heart," that remarkably few live or "walk not after the flesh but after the spirit," and that these few would not take in very many of their dear ones of earthly relationship, nor very many of their friends of the nominal church relationship either. It is impossible for them to think of these as all going to a hopeless eternity of torture when they realize that many of them have never really had the eyes of their understanding opened to see, to know, to appreciate the Lord and the message of his grace; and that many others, millions upon millions, of humanity, have never heard of God or of the Lord Jesus [HGL309] or of the gospel message in the most indefinite and remote sense.

But as they cannot think of these going to eternal torment, in their measurable or total ignorance of God and the companionship of the holy angels and an eternity of bliss. What would heaven be anyway if, mixed with its angelic hosts and handfuls of saints, there were nearly 20,000,000,000 of Adam's race who died without being saints, and many of them in absolute darkness and ignorance what kind of a place would heaven be composed of such an incongruous mass? What an amount of teaching and labor and teaching would be necessary to bring these savage, brutal, unregenerate ones into full accord with the divine character and law. The very thought suggests to us a pandemonium in heaven worse than anything by far that we have known on earth, because here the scenes are gradually changing and the worst as well as the best are continually passing off the stage of action, while there, according to the general thought on the subject, the numbers of heathen and otherwise darkened ones are being increased by 90,000 deaths every day. Every reasoning mind must conclude that either there is some great mistake in this theory or else that heaven will not be one tenth as desirable a place to go to as we had hoped.


It may seem a startling thought to some Protestants that the Bible teaches distinctly two different purgatories one for the church the other for the world. The world's judgment and purgatory lie beyond the second coming of Christ. Meantime, as the Scriptures distinctly show, the world of mankind in general at death go to sheol, to hades, to the grave, to the tomb, to the state of death, where they are utterly unconscious until their awakening shall occur during the Millennial age. Then they will come forth from the tomb for their purgatorial experiences on the earth, the object and purpose of those experiences being their reformation that they may all come to a knowledge of the Lord and to a full, complete salvation from sin and death. We will consider these and the character of their purgations further on. We must first examine in some detail the church's purgatory, which is open and in full operation at the present time.

Be it understood that the church consists not of everyone who has heard of Jesus nor of everyone who believes that he is the Son of God. The church, according to the Bible, consists only of those who have renounced sin and accepted the merit of Christ's atoning sacrifice as their ransom price, and who, under Christ's robe of imputed righteousness, have approached the Father through him and presented their bodies living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God and their reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1) This class, accepted of God through Christ, are begotten of the Holy Spirit and reckoned as new creatures. They at once are enrolled in the Lamb's book of life, with the assurance that their names will never be blotted out if they remain faithful to their pledge, their covenant, their consecration. These have a crown of life apportioned to them, with the promise that if they are faithful the crowns shall be theirs and not be given to another. (Rev. 3:5, 11; 2:10.) These, as the apostle explains, are forthwith in the school of Christ, to be taught of him, the lessons and experiences necessary to their attainment of the glory, honor and immortality promised to the faithful.

They are forwarned to expect that there will be trials and difficult lessons in this school; that every son whom the Father receiveth must need have chastisements and schoolings, lessons, experiences in life, to teach him the way of the Lord more perfectly, to help him to conquer his own self-will, and to cultivate the fruits and graces of the spirit exemplified in his great teacher, our Lord. These experiences the Apostle Peter refers to saying, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trials that shall try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." (1 Pet. 4:12). If rightly informed as to what we are undertaking when we become disciples of Jesus we would know to expect fiery trials and disciplines, and that we are in the school of Christ for the very purpose of learning these lessons. Nevertheless while under going these fiery trials, all the faithful are assured that they may enjoy the while the peace of God which passeth all understanding ruling in their hearts. Such as are faithful have no need to be put into purgatory, for they joyfully and thankfully accept the experiences of life and learn as the Apostle says, to rejoice in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh experience, patience, hope.


The purgatory for the church is not entered at death, but as soon as any individual in the church, any of the consecrated ones, step aside from their consecration and with a measure of willfulness go into sin and error these are put forthwith into purgatory and our text describes the manner. The context shows us that in the church at Corinth was a brother who not only stepped aside from the properties of the elect but he was inclined to glory in his sins; the apostle assures the other members of the church that they should have rebuked the brother, and if he then failed to reform they should have withdrawn all brotherly relationship from him until he would reform not that they should have misused him or tortured him, but simply that they should have treated him as a worldly man and not as a brother in Christ. After upbraiding them the apostle says that wherein the church failed in its duty, he as an apostle of the Lord would undertake to do this duty for them, and accordingly in this letter he excommunicates the

wrongdoer, subject to his reform. His words are that he delivered him over to Satan for buffeting, for the "destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" at the second coming of Christ.

What did the apostle mean by this expression, "delivered over to Satan?" We reply that the church in God's providence is especially under Divine care, so that, as the apostle expresses it, the wicked one touches not, injures not, those who are in proper relationship with the Lord as members of the elect church. It is not for us to say what power is granted to Satan in respect to the world; but we have the assurance that the members of the elect church in their every interest are protected by the Lord's care, so that he can guarantee them that [HGL310] anything that he permits to come upon them will work for their good. But in the case of the evildoer under consideration, he was specially delivered over to Satan that is to say, the apostle wishes us to understand that the Lord's will respecting such would be that Satan might have special power over them to work them injury, to work them trouble, distress, financial or physical or otherwise. But even this opposition of the adversary would still be subject to the Divine supervision, to the intent, as the apostle explains, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Any punishment approved by the Lord, we may rest assured, are intended to be remedial, reformatory. The man mentioned in our text, then, we may be sure, passed into troublesome experiences at the hands of the great adversary, and in these experiences he was bereft of the fellowship of the church and cut off from the throne of grace, at least temporarily. We cannot be sure that he endured more severe trials and difficulties than did some of the faithful; indeed our Lord and the apostles suffered severely because of their loyalty to truth and righteousness, but in the midst of all their persecutions and sorrows and stripes and experiences and crucifyings they had the holy love, joy and peace divine ruling in their hearts which enabled them to rejoice in all those experiences. But this poor man mentioned in our text had nothing of consolation in his trying experiences, only the bitter reflection that he was now enduring punishment for sin. We may be sure that, according to his appreciation of his wrong course and his desire to return to the Lord and to harmony with righteousness, in that same proportion would his punishment at the hands of the adversary be shortened.

The apostle's suggestion that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus is not an intimation that he might come back into harmony with the Lord and his people at any time, rather he is giving the ultimate design of the matter, namely, that if the evildoer persists in his wrong course it would eventuate in the destruction of his flesh, of his mortal body, instead of its sacrifice, which he had pledged; and that thus, even if it were slowly, he might be recovered from his wrong course and eventually be purged, purified, that he might attain salvation at the second coming of Christ. But on the other hand the Scriptures assure us that if these purgatorical experiences through which such would pass fail of having the effect of purifying them from sin and bringing them back into harmony with God, then they would die the Second Death the spirits would not be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus all means for their recovery from sin would have failed. It is probable that quite a good many of the Lord's people during the past eighteen centuries have passed through Purgatory fiery experiences.


The Scriptures clearly show that in the closing time of this Gospel Age great light and blessing will be bestowed upon the Lord's people, all of whom are classed as "virgins" pure ones forgiven ones covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness. The light and testing of the end of this age will prove some of these "wise virgins" and some to be "foolish virgins." The parable which illustrates this is located at the end of this age at the second coming of the Son of man. The wise virgins represent those of the Lord's faithful who will be prepared, and enter into the joys of their Lord as members of the bride of Christ the "Bride, the Lamb's Wife." (Rev. 21:9.) The foolish virgins, overcharged with the cares of this life, not sufficiently zealous, who do not comply with the terms of their consecration, fail to sacrifice earthly interests in favor of the heavenly ones these are unwise virgins, and in the parable they are represented as being without light because without oil.

The oil of the holy spirit is necessary in our earthen vessels as well as in the lamp, the word of God, and all the children of the light should have the oil abundantly both in themselves and in the word. The foolish virgins are represented as finally getting the light, the oil, the holy spirit, but too late to enter in with the wise virgins to the marriage. They cannot be of the Bride class, therefore, even though they get the necessary oil and light by and by. In the parable they are represented as standing outside the closed door, and are informed that the Lord does not recognize them and that they must have their portion, experiences, in the great time of trouble. That great time of trouble will be their purgatory the time when they will learn what a great mistake they have made in setting their affections too much upon the things of earth and failing to sufficiently set them upon heavenly things.

Thus viewed from the scriptural standpoint the Lord's people are seen in two different phases-( 1) Those who live faithfully up to their covenant engagement, and joyfully lay down their lives in sacrifice and service of the truth. (2) Those who, while acknowledging the Lord and holding fast to him, do not live up to their covenant engagements of self sacrifice, and whose flesh therefore must be destroyed if they would be counted worthy of life on any heavenly plane. The purgatorial tribulations upon these is referred to in Revelations 7:9-15. There the Little Flock is represented as completing the elect 144,000 of spiritual Israel a Little Flock. The remainder of spiritual Israel, who finally pass through the purgatorial trial successfully, are declared to be "a great multitude whose numbers no man knoweth (not a predestined number)." These, we are assured, will reach their high position as palm-bearers before the throne (not as crown-wearers in the throne, the position and honor of the Little Flock) by coming through great tribulations and washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb. Thus symbolically their purification, their perfecting, is set before us. Their spirits are saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul refers us to this class again and likens their purification to a fiery ordeal, saying, "The fire of that day shall try every man's work of what sort it is." (1 Cor. 3:13). He then pointed out that some of the Lord's people are building faith and character with gold and silver and precious stones, and that these will obtain a more excellent glory and honor. Others he tells us have built upon the true rock foundation, Christ Jesus, but with a mixture of hay and stubble. Of these he tells us that they shall be saved so as by fire, but their works shall suffer loss: that is to say, they will fail in getting the highest reward, joint-heirship with Christ in the Kingdom, but they will get salvation, everlasting [HGL311] life, after and by means of the purifying fires of trial, difficulty, trouble, through which they will pass. As already intimated, the end of this age is to be such a time of fiery trial, especially upon those who are faint-hearted, laggards. We are assured that upon all Christendom it will be a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation.

The apostle writing to Timothy, refers to two brethren, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had gone astray from the truth, and says, "Whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme." 1 Tim. 1:20. It is doubtless because many of the Lord's people at the present time are not sufficiently reverential toward God and his word and sufficiently zealous for his cause that they will go into the time of trouble, failing to come off "more than conquerors." The doctrine of eternal torment is as gross a blasphemy against the holy name as could possible be imagined, yet in this blasphemy are associated a very large portion of those who have consecrated themselves to lay down their lives in defense of the Lord and his cause. While we may excuse many of those on the score of ignorance, we must remember that now the true light on the subject is shining, and that daily the excuse is less and less potent. In the great time of trouble, when all the various systems of men, financial, social, political and religious, will all go down in anarchy, in preparing for the establishment of the Lord's kingdom, then those who have blasphemed the holy name, and others who have been too busy with worldly cares to study the Divine word, will be in sore straits, represented in the Scriptures as "weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth," chagrin and disappointment. In that trouble they will wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb; they will trim their lamps, get the oil which now they lack, and see and understand clearly the true situation and be delivered their spirits saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.


The time of trouble with which the present Gospel Age will end and the last members of the consecrated class be tested and proven will also do a work for the world in general. To whatever extent men have not lived up to their best conceptions of right and wrong, the flickering light of nature left them through the fall, and subsequently at times by the light of grace reflected from God's consecrated ones to that extent they are blameworthy and deserve stripes or punishment of a purgatorial kind, and will surely get them. But whatever proportion of their misconduct is due to ignorance and superstition, the results of the fall, in themselves or in others, to that extent their wrong doing is pardonable and excusable under the Divine arrangement through the blood of Christ. The world-wide trouble already referred to serves as a purgatorial flame to purge the world in general of much of the sin and shame which now it licenses and approves.

The plowshare of trouble will cut deep furrows through human hearts, breaking up fallow ground and making the world of mankind more ready to hear the voice of peace and reconciliation from him who speaketh from heaven, the great Mediator, the great Christ our Lord Jesus the Head, the church His body, His bride. The Scriptures teach that the entire Millennial age will be a period of judgments or disciplines disciplines and punishments for wrong doing and wrong intending, and of rewards for every right intention and effort. Thus the entire Millennial age will be a period of world's purgatory. At its beginning sin and degradation will cause shame and contempt, but as the great King of Glory and his associate judges (1 Cor. 6:2) shall progress with the work of judging, disciplining, uplifting and restoring the poor fallen race from its conditions of sin and degradation and death, marvelous changes will go on daily, hourly, until finally, at the close of that period of purgation and discipline and correction in righteousness, all will have been brought to perfection who were willing to return, and of the others it will be true as written, "It shall come to pass that the soul will not hear (obey) that prophet shall be destroyed from among the people." Acts 3:23.

At the close of that world's day of purgatory, having accomplished the work intended of the Father, Christ will deliver up the kingdom, the rule of the earth, to God, even the Father. The elect church will still be His bride and co-laborers with Him in His further honor, glory and service, while the remainder of mankind, as many as will receive the grace of God, the gift of life eternal, on God's terms, being absolutely perfect, will need no mediator, no intermediary to cover blemishes for them. Satan, who will be bound through out that thousand years of the world's purgatory, will be loosed then that he may test and try all those perfect ones of the human family as at first he was permitted to try and test our first parents in their perfection. As many as will then yield to error and disobedience will die the second death, while all the remainder, perfectly proven and tested, will have the gift of eternal life at the hands of their creator, having attained it through the merit of him who loved us and bought us with his precious blood by his sacrifice and afterwards by the purgatorial experiences through which they will pass under his loving care.

Prev   Next