Kentucky, March 25, 1906


Pastor Russell preached today to a large audience in McAuley's theater from the text, "So shall it be in the end of this world (age). The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 13:40-42.) The speaker said: To those who fail to note that these words are part of a parable, to those who think of these words as a literal description of the future punishment of the wicked, and who, out of their imagination, supported by other passages of scripture which they do not comprehend, believe that the furnace and the fire and the burning will endure forever and ever, the thought is not only terrorizing, but repulsive to every reasonable conception of justice as well as of mercy. It is safe to say that no sane mind and no good heart would be inclined to take these words as a literal description of the Heavenly Father's arrangements for His creatures, were it not that from childhood they have been mistaught after this manner. Alas! how seriously the Heavenly Father's character has been maligned by his children! Alas! what aspersions have been cast not only upon his character but upon the book through which He reveals Himself to His people.

We hope, by the grace of God, to make clear to you all that our Lord's words which constitute our text are reasonable, just, and loving, when rightly understood, and that they do not refer to an eternity of torture, as they indeed make no mention of torture or eternity. One point should be noticed in advance, and that is that those who hold the theory of eternal torment usually claim that the poor victims pass into it immediately at death; to such we give at least a measure of comfort in calling attention to the fact that none will be cast into this furnace at death, but, as the record reads, "In the end of this age." We hope to show that the fiery furnace then to be established will much resemble the fiery trials which now test and approve and refine the Lord's truly consecrated saints; that it refers to an experience in the earth a period of world-wide anarchy, a dreadful suffering, described by the prophet as "a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation." Dan. 12:1.


In order that we may have the entire context before our minds let us examine the whole parable (vs. 24-30, 36-43). Our Lord calls it a parable of the kingdom of heaven not a representation of the kingdom in power and great glory, not a representation of the millennial kingdom; but a representation of the kingdom in its development showing how the kingdom class would be gathered out of the world of mankind and prepared for the glorification promised at the end of this age. Our Lord intimates that the truth would be the power of God by which this would be developed. He himself sowed the good seed the gospel or message of the kingdom which falling into good and honest ground, brought forth some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold and some a hundred-fold, as shown in the preceding parable, some of the good seed, however, being choked with thorns, and for various reasons not bringing forth results.

Our Lord after sowing the seed left the field and went to a far country, even heaven itself, leaving his servants in charge. The apostles were the earliest servants, and while they lived they carefully guarded the interests of the wheat field, so that the enemy found no opportunity for bringing in false doctrines and thereby producing a spurious crop, whose influence would tend to choke and check the development of the wheat. By and by, however, when the apostles fell asleep, in death, Satan the great enemy, found his opportunity and sowed the wheat-field liberally with tare-seed. The false doctrines planted produced a wonderful crop of tares, over-shadowing the wheat and choking its development.

This is a picture of Christendom as we see it today; the truths of the divine word are represented in the true wheat class, who recognize the terms and conditions of fellowship with the Lord and of prospective inheritance in the kingdom to be faith and obedience faith in the precious blood of Christ, the redemption obedience to Him who speaketh from heaven, to the extent of a full surrender of their wills, time, talent, all, to the Lord and His service. These are the true wheat and the Lord knoweth them that are His in whatever corner of the field they may be, for by this time, contrary to the Master's word and example, the wheat-field has been divided by various creedal fences.


"The enemy came and sowed tares." In the night time, the "dark ages," our great adversary, Satan, planted the seeds of error which have developed so wonderfully, so alarmingly. We are not to understand this to mean that the adversary publicly inculcated immoralities, idolatries, etc., nor are we to expect that the tares will be immoral, vicious, murderers, thieves, gamblers, etc. If they were the danger to the wheat would probably be far less, for the outward immoralities and misconduct of such would but cause a wider separation between themselves and the wheat class there would be nothing whatever in common. No! The fallacies inculcated by the great adversary had a form [HGL319] of godliness but were without its power. He established a rival class in the wheat-field, imitations of the true wheat, and the deception has become so great that the world in general, looking at the wheat-field, admires the tares and considers the occasional stalk of wheat which they see as abnormal, fanatical, visionary and deluded. In other words, the tares pass for the best of wheat amongst those who know no better, and the true wheat are discredited.

The adversary's method for discouraging, discountenancing, choking and dwarfing the wheat was a clever one, worthy of such a past master in deception as we know the great adversary to be. Did the adversary teach that there was no God? Not so; he taught that there were three gods in one beyond anything that the Lord or the apostles ever taught. Did he seek to belittle Christ in claiming that he was a mere man like other men? Not so; on the contrary, his teachings affected to more abundantly glorify the Savior, asserting that He was more than he claimed to be, more than the Son of God that He was the Father himself. Did these seeds of error contain a suggestion to the effect that no worship should be rendered to the Savior and to the Heavenly Father? No, indeed! Going beyond anything that Jesus and the apostles had taught, he established would-be systems of worship, altars, incense, genuflections, not only to the Father and to Jesus, but also to the virgin, the apostles and various saints.

The seeds of error, moreover, inculcated the thought that the simplicity of worship in upper rooms, by the riverside, etc., as practiced by Jesus and the apostles, was quite inadequate that great temples should be built, and the structural effect should be such as would appeal to the children of this world and bring them into a form of godliness without its power, without a regeneration of the Holy Spirit and an adoption into the family of God. Did it succeed? As we look all about us and note the records of the various denominations of Christendom respecting the numbers of their adherents, counting them by hundreds of millions, we are constrained to say, yes, the great adversary's method was a very successful one. The false conceptions of Christianity which he planned have sprung up and brought forth tares by the millions, so that the flock of the Lord's true wheat are scarcely to be recognized in any quarter of the field, and where recognized, they are for Christ's sake, for the truths sake, because they are loyal to the teachings of the divine word counted as were the early members of the church- "fools," "the filth and offscourings of the earth." 1 Cor. 4:10-14.


For the purpose of showing how prosperous would be the tare development, the servants are represented as inquiring of the Master of the wheat-field whether or not they should pull up the tares. The answer was that such a procedure would never do, as it would mean the uprooting of the wheat also so greatly do the tares prevail in numbers, influence and strength. The command was that the separation was not to be made until the harvest. So it has been for centuries; the true and the false have grown side by side, and the general name of Christian has been applied to all in every quarter of the wheat field. Wheat and tares bear so close a resemblance to each other in outward appearance that a person not acquainted with the distinctions would be unable to discern the one from the other, and even those familiar with the distinctions would need to look closely. So it is today with nominal Christians everywhere throughout the world the prominent in official positions, in the pulpits as well as in the chief seats of the synagogues, are sent forth and regarded as being examples of the true wheat. Yea, more, we doubt not that many of them, begotten of these errors, truly suppose that they are the genuine thing, that they are the real children of the kingdom, the real wheat class.

A distinguishing difference between the wheat and the tare is found in the seed produced. The one is valuable, nutritive, the other is comparatively worthless. So those who are taught of God know the real distinction between a true saint of God and a nominal Christian, the former trusting in the precious blood of Christ, and fully consecrated in his thoughts, words and doings to do the Master's will, is seeking to bring forth fruitage of meekness, patience, long suffering, brotherly kindness, love, in his own heart and in his conduct toward others. The latter has merely a form of politeness, a genteel drawing nigh to God with his lips while his heart is far from Him, and continually manifests the spirit of pride and worldly ambition, selfishness, and frequently the grosser qualities of anger, malice, envy, hatred, strife works of the flesh and of the devil.


Those who have the impression that the present conditions are designed of the Lord to continue indefinitely, should note carefully that this parable indicates that a harvest time is at hand with the end of this age that then the Lord would make a complete separation between the true wheat and the imitation. The parable tells that at the appropriate time the Lord of the wheat field will send forth His servants to accomplish the separating work. Although these in some instances are spoken of as "angels" in the parable, it does not follow that the entire work will be accomplished by invisible spirit beings. Doubtless they will have to do with the harvest work of separating wheat from tares, but doubtless also the Lord in this, as in other matters, will make use of human instrumentalities for the accomplishment of this separation.

To our understanding we are now living in this harvest time, and this separating work is taking place. Truth is the sickle not only truth respecting spiritual things, which the scriptures represent as "meat in due season" that will be supplied to the faithful of the Lord's people in this time of trial, but it consists also of other sickles of truth in the hands of other reapers than the saints, for be it remembered that the Lord permits the "wrath of man to praise him," and that any overplus that would work injury to His plan would be restrained. As we look all about us we see the higher critics with their sickles gathering multitudes of the intelligent people; we see the evolutionary theory as a sickle gathering many of the bright minds; we see Christian Scientists with their sickles gathering multitudes; we see spiritism in its various forms gathering many, and we see the sickle of Present Truth gathering the ripe wheat, and it alone. [HGL320] What will the harvest be? Ah! evidently, as prophetically described, the proportion that will fall under the sickles of error will be as a thousand to one that will be gathered by the sickle of Truth. And we are to remember that the reapers of the tares will gather in the great mass of nominal Christians, especially its shining lights, for the Lord specifically informs us that not many great, not many wise, not many rich, not many learned according to the course of this world will be found in the "little flock," which He will gather and acknowledge as His own in the kingdom. 1 Cor. 1:25-28; Jas. 2:5; Luke 12:32.


Speaking through the prophet respecting this harvest time, the Lord says, "Gather together my saints unto me those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice." (Psa. 50:5.) "They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I come to make up my jewels." (Mal. 3:17.) Several points here are worthy of notice. This gathering with the sickle of Truth is not to be into new denominations or sects or parties, but reversely is to be a gathering out of sects, parties and denominations unto the Lord, "unto me" to a recognition of the fact that the true church of Christ are to be members of His body, under Him as the head, and that they have no right or authority longer to be identified with the former bodies or denominational systems which for centuries have posed as bodies of Christ, whereas there is but one body of Christ under the one head.

Another point to be noticed is that all these to be gathered have made with the Lord a covenant of sacrifice. This differentiates them entirely from the average nominal Christian, who draws nigh with his lips but having no heart knowledge of the Lord nor heart fellowship with Him. Such have entered into no covenant relationship with the Lord through Christ, and have not pledged themselves to become living sacrifices in His service. Such will not be of the jewels which throughout the gospel age He has been selecting and polishing, fitting and preparing for the kingdom glories and honors.

The work of gathering to the Lord in the field is the one we have just described; then follows the gathering of the wheat into the barn, the garner, which represents the first resurrection change from earthly to heavenly conditions. When this change shall have been accomplished in all of the true wheat class, the jewel class, speedily "then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" to bless the world, to bring in the reign of righteousness, peace on earth, good will amongst men. Matt. 13:43; Luke 2:14.


There is no intimation of any bundling of the wheat but the bundling spirit has long been manifest amongst the tare class. A disposition which the apostle terms the carnal mind has long influenced them to say, "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Peter, I am of Luther, I am of Calvin, I am of Wesley," etc., etc., etc. Naturally, therefore, in the harvest time the gathering of these, the masses of Christendom, will be in bundles. The bundling spirit is more manifest today than ever in the great federation arrangements which the scriptures foreshow will be quite successful, not only in bringing about a confederation amongst Christians, but in effectually throttling all liberty of thought on religious questions that none might buy or sell without the "mark of the beast" or the number of his name that only such as would come within the lines of the federation and its consorts will be permitted any liberty in respect to selling in the marts of truth and Christian knowledge.

But the same scriptures show that this triumph of tare organizations will be but a brief one, that suddenly the great system, Babylon, will be cast as a millstone into the sea of anarchy and confusion, desolation and trouble, financial, political and religious. The figure in the parable we are considering is reversed Babylon, after all the ripe wheat shall have been separated, will as tare bundles go into a furnace of fire, of tribulation such as the world has never before witnessed. The French revolution, with its awful scenes, is set forth in the scriptures as a figure or limited illustration of the trouble which may be expected to engulf nominal Christendom as soon as the wheat class shall all have been gathered out in this harvest time.

In another parable our Lord, under the figure of wheat and chaff, represented the Jewish nation and the harvest which took place in the end of the Jewish age, and the separation there of all the true wheat and the chaff of that age, the latter being cast into the furnace of fire. As we look back at the fire which burned as a furnace, consuming the Jewish polity, we have a limited picture of what may be expected throughout Christendom now in the harvest, the end of this age. The trouble which fell upon the Jewish people after the work of their harvest had been completed, after all the true Israelites indeed had been brought in contact with the gospel message, lasted for several years with more or less intensity of burning or trouble, culminating in the year 69 A D in an awful experience which could not symbolically be better represented than by fire. History tells us of the famine, the pestilence, the anarchy which prevailed in Palestine, and especially in its capital city, Jerusalem, and that in the latter upwards of two million lives were sacrificed, the city and the temple having been utterly destroyed. This being an illustration of what is to come upon great Babylon, nominal Christendom, explains very well why the Lord has used such a terrible picture as a fiery furnace to symbolize it.


In the same chapter (vs. 47-52) the same general lesson is taught under another figure or parable. There the kingdom influence, the nominal church, is represented as a great dragnet cast into the sea and dragged for the shore. The representation is that this net has been catching all kinds of fish during the past eighteen centuries and more, and that it is not to be kept forever swimming in the sea, but is finally to be brought to shore, that the ones desired should be found and the others rejected. The bringing of the net to the shore corresponds to the commencement of the harvest time, and the examination and sorting of the good fish into baskets corresponds to the gathering of the wheat into the barn, and the casting away of the unsuitable fish corresponds to the burning of the tares. [HGL321] This parable concludes with a statement very similar to the words of our text, "So shall it be in the end of the age; the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from amongst the just and shall cast them into a furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Again we note that the statement has a particular time of fulfillment, that it does not refer to anything that has been in progress through out the age, but to certain conditions that will prevail in the end of the age, in the harvest of the age. Again we note that there is no intimation of the furnace and the weeping and gnashing of teeth being perpetual, everlasting. All thoughts of this kind have come from other sources than the word. Destruction is the end of the wicked according to the divine law, as we read, "All the wicked will God destroy;" "He shall be punished with everlasting destruction;" "The wages of sin is death." Psa. 145:20; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rom. 6:23


Are we to suppose that the tares in this furnace of fire, in this furnace of affliction to which they all go, will be refined or otherwise benefited by those experiences? We answer; No, not as tares. As tares they will be utterly consumed; for a tare is an imitation Christian, a deceiver, a false or spurious Christian. As such they should be destroyed, God will no longer permit any to masquerade as saints of God who know not and love not the truth, and whose godliness is only form. All such misrepresentation and ignorance must cease and be no more.

In the parable the field, the ground, is the world of mankind; the wheat are some who rise up out of the world, separate from the world, and rise above the ground, although still having rooting in and drawing physical nourishment from the ground for earthly conditions. The true wheat profess to be the Lord's people living in the world, with their rooting in it, but really and actually not of the world, separate from it, risen above it.

The "tares" are really well-meaning worldly people. "Of the earth earthy," they have never been begotten of the holy spirit to a newness of life, to a separateness from the world, and hence their rising up out of the world in imitation of wheat is a deception and a falsity unrecognized and unauthorized by the Lord. The fiery furnace of trouble, following the gathering of the wheat into the garner, will utterly destroy these as tares by reducing them to their original condition as part of the earth, as part of the world of mankind. As such they will be prepared then for the great blessings that are to come through the glorified church to all the families of the earth the millennial blessings and glorious opportunities for coming into harmony with God and righteousness and truth and experiencing full restitution to all that was lost in Adam. It will then be for them to decide either for or against righteousness. To decide in favor of righteousness will signify an acceptance of the Lord and the laws and regulations and blessings of the kingdom for their uplift; to decide against the Lord and righteousness will mean a resistance of the favorable conditions of the kingdom and ultimately to be utterly destroyed in the second death. Acts 3:19-23.


Aside from getting rid of the confusion of the "dark ages," and therefore getting clearer views of our heavenly Father and His gracious plans for our salvation, there are lessons for us, dear friends, whether we belong to the wheat class or to the tare class. One lesson is that many tares highly esteemed amongst men are an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and another lesson is that some of the wheat counted foolish and as the offscouring of the earth are esteemed by the Lord as his jewels, and we are more and more to know one another, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit from the Divine standpoint.

Although it is not in the power of wheat to change to tares nor of tares to change to wheat, nor of one kind of fish to change to another kind of fish, it is in the power of a nominal Christian to become a true one. If any of you have been living a sham Christian life, not founded upon the recognition of yourself as a sinner and the recognition of Jesus as your Redeemer, who gave his life as your ransom price, you should begin now and through the exercise of faith repent, reform, and accept of the great salvation so freely provided as a robe to cover your blemishes and imperfections. Go on then to make your covenant with the Lord by sacrifice, consecrating time, talents, influence and all that is dear and precious to you of an earthly kind, gladly, counting all things as loss and dross as compared with the excellency of the relationship to the Lord by faith now, and hoping by and by for the change of the first resurrection and for a participation in the great work of the kingdom which soon is to bless the world.

There is a lesson also for those who are of the true wheat class. Such are to take heed lest they should be overcharged with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches, etc., and become unfruitful, and thus be little better than tares. If we are fruit-bearing Christians of thirty-fold, let us strive by the grace of God to bring forth sixty-fold or one hundred-fold of good fruits and good graces and good services, that will have the Divine approval and bring us eventually the Master's words, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

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