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MURMURING--Who in Parable?
QUESTION (1909)--1--(Matt. 20:11) "And when they had received it (the penny), they murmured against the good man of the house." Question: Who do those represent who murmured? What is the reward that every man received?
ANSWER.--It is a parable, dear friends, and no explanation is given, and neither you nor I can say that this or that is absolutely the way of it. The best we can do with any parable to which the Lord has not given an explanation is to make as close an application as our judgment will permit, and then tentatively hold that as our view of its meaning. That is as much as any have a right to do.
In this parable, what does the "penny" signify? It is the reward of those laborers who labored throughout the whole day or only an hour; it was the promised reward. What reward has God promised all those who are His throughout this whole Gospel Age? I know He has promised us eternal life. I would be inclined to think that the penny would represent the reward the Lord would give those who are His, not only those who are of the Little Flock, but also of the Great Company. There are other things that will be given to His followers that are not the same, as the Apostle said, "Star differeth from star in glory, so will be the resurrection of the dead," implying that some of the Lord's followers will have more than others.
Another of our Lord's parables represents where one had used his ten pounds faithfully, had increased them by gaining ten more pounds, and the Master said: "Give him to have dominion over ten cities," etc., and so with the five and the two, and yet He said to them all, "Good and faithful servants." But they got different rewards. So in putting these matters together, I think that the Lord in the future will make discriminations as to the reward you and I will have. We will be perfectly satisfied, however, for we will get more than we are worthy of or than we could have asked for.
As to why they murmured, I am unable to explain that satisfactorily. I have not murmured myself, but I have not gotten my penny yet. I cannot imagine why one who gets eternal life should murmur. I only suggest that perhaps it was not to be understood that all were to receive alike. When it is fulfilled we will then be able to see it. You know no prophecy is to be understood until it is fulfilled. Just so; it was stated of our Lord that He would be born in Bethlehem, but it was not understood then, but when it was accomplished, then we could look back and see clearly. Prophecy is not given merely to satisfy curiosity, but it shows that God foreknows the things that are to take place. Known unto God are all His works and they are all being done according to the counsel of His will.
NATIONS--God's Supervision of.
QUESTION--(1914-Z)--2--Should we understand from the [Q501] following Scriptures that God guides the affairs of nations, and chooses their rulers?
The Most High ruleth in the Kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men."--Dan. 4:17.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God."--Rom. 13:1,2.
ANSWER.--These Scriptures are in harmony with other statements of Scripture. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, after he had been seven years insane, lying amongst the beasts of the field, his reason returned to him and he extolled the God of Heaven, acknowledging that God setteth up those whom He will and putteth down those whom He will. We understand that God's dealing with King Nebuchadnezzar was prophetic.
In the case of Israel God had very particular oversight of their affairs, and dealt with their rulers. David was anointed when he was a youth, to be king in due time instead of Saul. So with several others of their kings--the Lord had them anointed in advance. It might be said of Israel, that whoever sat upon the throne was there as the Lord's representative. We remember also that on one occasion the Prophet of God was sent to anoint one of the kings of Syria and to give him a prophecy respecting himself, that he should take the throne.
Looking back, we see that in the case of Pharaoh, the perverse king of Egypt, God declared, "For this very purpose I raised thee up, that I might show forth My Power in thee." God did not approve of Pharaoh, but used him to show forth His own glory. God also used King Cyrus of Persia as a servant to perform His bidding.
All of these recorded instances show a vital interest on God's part as to who shall come forward and who shall be retarded when these matters would affect His own Plan. We are not to understand that these different kings represented God's choice as respects their loyalty to Him, but that these were the ones through whom the Divine Plan in operation could be signally manifested and outworked. And so it is today. The Lord knows which of the men running for the office of President of the United States in the fall of 1912 would be the most suitable--the one who would most fully co- operate in the carrying out of the very conditions which He is pleased to permit to come to pass at this time.
The Lord guides in the affairs of nations now, only in so far as such oversight will promote the fulfillment of His own purposes. When the monarchs of various countries declare themselves "King by the grace of God," we do not agree to the thought they have in mind in making such claim. They are expressing the thought which has prevailed throughout Christendom for centuries--that they reign as representatives of the Kingdom of God, and by His special favor. And likewise the Catholic Church: When the Pope claims that he is the head of the Church of Christ, claims that he is Christ's Vice-regent, he thus claims that Christ has set up His Kingdom, and that the Pope reigns in His stead. [Q502]
After the Papal power waned in Europe, and the Protestants came into power, the Protestant rulers claimed the same right that the Catholics had claimed--to rule as the Lord's special representatives. And it is from this standpoint that kings maintain that they reign "by the grace of God," that the Kingdom of God is set up, and that they are reigning in God's Kingdoms. We do not understand this to be the right thought, but that in God's providence He permits these to occupy the thrones of the world for the time being. We understand that God does exercise a supervisory oversight in respect to them--not that He has authorized them to represent Him, or that He is responsible for their deeds and acts, but that He is so controlling matters as to cause them to outwork His own arrangements.
God will not convert a king in order to do this; He will not make him a saint. But He can allow or hinder events without interfering with the free will of any individual, and without becoming responsible for his government.
We may assume that this supervision of Divine Power is for the ultimate interest of mankind. We remember that there is a Prince of Darkness, who is seeking to do violence to humanity. Our thought is that the Divine Power hinders or restrains, so that the worst things cannot come to pass until His due time, and He overrules to bring those into power who will have the disposition to do what He purposes to permit when His due time has arrived. However, since the Lord does not explain to us just how He does this, it would be wise for us not to be too emphatic in our statements.
NATURE--Divine vs. Image of God.
QUESTION (1915)--1--Does not the attainment of the Divine nature mean attainment to the image of God in which man in the beginning was created? Does not the word nature here have the significance of disposition, character?
ANSWER.--It does not! Man never had the divine nature. The Apostle Paul points out, in discussing this subject of natures, in connection with the resurrection, that there is one flesh of fish, another of beasts, another of birds, and another of men. The fish does not have the same kind of flesh the bird has. We all know the difference. The flesh of fish, and of birds, and of beasts, is all different.
Then comes man, the highest of all the earthly beings. The Apostle calls our attention to the higher forms of existence; he calls attention to another plane of life. He shows that man, the highest of the earthly creatures, is lower than the lowest of the spiritual beings. He tells us about angels, principalities, powers, and the divine nature, the highest of all. The perfect human being is God manifest in the flesh. It is as close to the divine nature as the flesh could come. It represents the divine nature as nearly as is possible for a human being. The angels are also in God's image or likeness; the cherubim and seraphim as well, although on a higher scale than man. The highest of all is the divine nature. That nature only God had originally. And that kind of spirit nature which God has He gave to Jesus at His resurrection, as a reward for His faithfulness. Jesus did not have it before He became a man; but as the Father has inherent life, I.e., life in Himself, not a life [Q503] derived from food and water, "So hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself." We cannot understand that kind of life. I cannot imagine how God could give a life that has no need of anything to sustain it. You never had any experience along that line. I never had. We would have been as great as God is to fully comprehend Him.
We see the difference between apprehending and comprehending. To comprehend is to take in fully. To apprehend is to touch, or lay hold upon. You and I can apprehend, or lay hold of God, but not very clearly, because we are so little and He is so great. We cannot comprehend God. We can simply touch Him, or apprehend Him.
The Apostle dwelt upon this matter; he was apprehending, or touching God, as God had apprehended or touched him. God has laid hold of us, come in touch with us. We do not come in touch with God and say, "We will have Him for our God." He laid hold upon us and told us about His arrangement for us. We were responsive to it; we thought how wonderful that He would thus take notice of us. So we are seeking to apprehend that for which we are apprehended of God. Man was not created in God's image in the sense that he is of the divine nature, which is far above cherubim and seraphim, while man is a little lower than even angels.
QUESTION (1905)--1--Who is our neighbor?
ANSWER.--Our Lord tells us in the parable of the "Good Samaritan." Luke 10:29-37.
QUESTION (1913)--2--What is the present condition of Nero's soul? Where is he--in hell?
ANSWER.--I have no private information from Nero, my dear friends. I merely know what the Bible says. It says that Nero is in hell--the Bible hell, not in the hell of Dante, which is quite a different matter. Dante, you know, had a large imagination and he pictured purgatory and described how he went with an angel and looked into different places. He saw some with their heads down in the fire and their feet up being roasted; others had their feet down and the flames were coming up around their bodies; others were being rained upon with molten fire; others were being chased by devils with pitchforks, and still others were being frozen. People living in cold countries are supposed to like heat, and therefore Dante imagined that in purgatory they would be frozen. All this is imagination. As for hell, Dante did not dare to describe it. He went to the door and said, "He who enters here abandons hope," and did not enter.
The soul of Nero is where other souls are--it is dead. There was no fake about it. The devil is wrong in saying he is more alive than when he lived. He will stay dead until the time when the great Life-Giver will call him forth, as the Master said, John 5:28,29: "Marvel not, the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth; they who have done good (the saintly class, having divine approval) unto the resurrection of life." They will have the perfect life, "changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." As the Apostle says, "Every man will come forth in his own order," in his own band, or company. How many bands there will [Q504] be I do not know, as God has not revealed it. I know not in which of these bands Nero shall come forth. I know they shall come forth. Jesus says, "They shall come forth unto a resurrection of damnation." Yes, my brother, the word damnation is there, but it is a very unfortunate translation, which has confused a great many of God's people. This is an illustration of how the human mind works when it is twisted by false doctrine. The translators, having in mind the eternal torment of the wicked, when they came to this word translated it damnation, whereas, had their minds not been beclouded they would not have so translated it. It does not mean eternal torment any more than it means potatoes. It means crisis, it means decision. They will come forth to demonstrate fully whether they will come into harmony with God and prove worthy of life, or not. The test now is not such a test. We are having our crisis now. If we have heard his voice, accepted his terms and entered into a covenant of sacrifice, then, having bound ourselves by this covenant to be his disciples and walk in his footsteps, our crisis will begin there, and continue through the remainder of our lives to determine whether we will obtain the prize of the high calling.
When the world will come forth from the tomb they will come forth to a crisis; not damnation at all. The same word occurs five times in the same chapter and in only one other place is it mistranslated damnation. We see the meaning of the word crisis. The sense of the Greek word has come into the English word also. We have incorporated words from various languages, and we use the word in the English in exactly the proper way. As for instance: If the doctor comes to a home and some one has a fever. We ask, "Is it a serious case?" He says, "I cannot tell until the crisis." What does he mean? The turning point, or point of decision, which will be the seventh, fourteenth, or twenty first day, as the case may be; it will always come on a seven, and when that is reached there will be a change for the better or worse. That is the meaning of the word crisis. If the doctor would come in and, after examining the patient you would ask him as to the outlook, and he would say, "I cannot tell until the damnation," what would you think of that? That would be the translation given in John 5:28,19, and it is equally absurd there.
The dead shall come forth to a resurrection of judgment, of testing, a crisis will be reached in their affairs. From that time they will not be allowed to do as they please. They will be compelled to be obedient to the rules of the kingdom, or receive stripes. If they resist far enough they will die the second death. If they respond to the opportunities they will be raised up to perfection, and by obedience to God they may have everlasting life.
NEW COVENANT--Re Gentiles?
QUESTION (1906)--1--Would it be right to say that the Gentiles would come under the New Covenant when they never have been under any other covenant with God?
ANSWER.--Yes, it would be right, because the New Covenant does not mean another covenant. It will be another covenant for those who were under a previous one, but "new" and "another" have not the same significance. The Lord says, "After those days I will make a new covenant [Q505] with the house of Israel and the house of Judah," etc. In stating this matter respecting the new covenant, if we were to follow the connection it might seem at first as though it referred only to the Jews, but we are to remember that the Jewish people were a typical people. And just so if we read about the day of Atonement in the Law, you will find that the sin offering was made for the tribe of Levi, and then the second part of the sin offering for all the remainder of Israel. Now, where would you apply it? The Apostle applies it to every creature. In other words, all Israel means every creature in the outcome. In the type it was simply done with Israel, Israel as a nation being representative of the whole world in that atonement sacrifice. That is to say, all of God's provisions are for those who will ultimately become Israelites indeed. There will not be any provision for any who are aliens and strangers and foreigners. But now there is reason why people are aliens from God--the great adversary blinds their minds. All people who will come into harmony with God's plan through Christ, the great son of Abraham, will become thereby the children of Abraham, and thus will be a part of the "all Israel," who will have this new covenant confirmed with them and have the blessings and privileges included in it.
NEW CREATURES--Are We Actually or Reckoned?
QUESTION (1906)--1--Are we actually new creatures at the moment of our consecration, or reckoned so?
ANSWER.--I presume the brother means in the moment of the acceptance of our consecration. It is one thing for us to consecrate, and another thing for the Lord to accept the consecration. I understand the point of this question to be on the word "actual." Are we actually new creatures, or are we merely reckoned new creatures, is the thought. I think persons might, with equal sincerity, state the matter both ways, and have different thoughts. Actually I am a man, physically I have a human body, a human brain, etc., but the Lord tells me to reckon myself dead. Now I reckon myself dead. He tells me to reckon that I have passed from death unto life, and that I am now alive. But my human being, and human life, and human rights have been sacrificed, and I am now a new creature; I am to reckon that so. He tells me that He reckons it so. That is to say, He is going to deal with me from the standpoint as though I were a new creature, with whom old things have passed away, and all things have become new.
So you see it depends on how we are thinking of the matter, when stating these things. Words are only vehicles for conveying thoughts. It is the right thought we want to get, and use the most reasonable words we know how to express it. So I can see how some words say we are not actually new creatures, but only reckonedly new creatures, and that we will be actually new creatures when we enter into the full perfection of the new nature in the resurrection; and yet I can see how the other might be stated also, and say that actually we have something new, that we are new as compared with what we were before, in the sense that we have the new mind, and that God is dealing with the new mind, rather than with the body, and since He is dealing with the new mind, it is an actual new mind, a new will, a new purpose, a new intention. So you see the answer [Q506] to this question just depends on which way you are viewing it.
NEW CREATURE--Responsibility for Past Sins.
QUESTION (1910)--1--Does God hold you as a new creature responsible for the sins of the past?
ANSWER.--No, not at all. Sometimes people tell me secrets of their past life that are very profound, and this is one of the things that I have aimed to show them from the Scriptures, that from the time they have made their consecration God through Christ made up to them all their insufficiency, and then they were new creatures, and nothing of the past was held against them as new creatures on account of what they may have done as old creatures before they were accepted of the Lord.
The new creature, let me say, has only the earthly body through which to act at the present time; therefore, as the Apostle says, we may will, it may be our intention to do so and so, yet we may find ourselves not able to perform. However, as a new creature, you must will to do perfectly. God knows that you have only the earthen vessel and is not expecting you to do more than you can, only all that you can do. Bring every power of the body into subjection. In the 8th chapter of Romans he speaks of the spirit of Christ dwelling in you. Think what a power that is! Why, that power was able to raise Jesus from the dead. Is not that a wonderful power? Yes. Well, now, if you have received the holy Spirit of God and that was sufficient to raise Jesus from the dead, do you not think that will enable us to do considerable? Well, the Apostle says, let that spirit come more and more into the control of your mortal bodies. If you are new creatures, then as such you will bring your flesh as nearly as possible up to that standard every day.
I have found some dear friends troubled in spirit, because they have tried and failed or because someone else has done better than they could do. So I think of one brother in the Truth who said, Brother Russell, I wish I could do that the way you do. Well, I said, My brother, if you could do that as well as I can I would be ashamed. I was a Christian before you were born, and if you could do as well without my practice it would be a great shame to me. He said, Well, now, I never thought of it in that way.
NEW CREATURE--An Individual Matter.
QUESTION (1912-Z)--2--"If any man be in Christ, he is a New Creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17.) Are we to understand from this Scripture that The Christ, Head and Body, is the New Creature, or should we understand that this term, New Creature, applies to the individual members of the Church?
ANSWER.--Undoubtedly this is an individual matter. Individually we make consecration of our human nature in likeness to our Lord's consecration of His flesh. Individually we are begotten of the Holy Spirit. Individually we are on trial for everlasting life or everlasting death. Individually we must make our calling and election sure, or fail. Individually we must be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Individually, as we have borne the [Q507] image of the earthly one, we shall bear the image of the heavenly.
Moreover, this New Creation includes not only our Lord, its Head, and the Church, His Bride, but also the equally spirit- begotten. They, too, will belong to this New Creation because they will no longer be members of the human family. This New Creation embraces all who belong to "the Church of the First-borns, whose names are written in heaven." (Heb. 12:23.) The chiefest in this glorious Church will be the Royal Priesthood. The lesser brethren on the spirit plane will be the antitypical Levites, the Great Company class.
NEW CREATURE--Re the Robe.
QUESTION (1912-Z)--1--Can the New Creature's body sin?
ANSWER.--The New Creature's proper body is the Spirit body of the First Resurrection. But before getting it he is placed on probation and given his old human body to practice with. The New Creature cannot make the old body obey him perfectly. But he can develop strength in his endeavors to bring words, actions and thoughts into perfect accord with the perfect Law of God--Love.
The imperfections of the flesh to which the new mind does not consent are all of heredity--all from Adamic weakness-- all, therefore, forgivable by the Redeemer, who merely needs to be appealed to as the great Advocate. But every transgression of the flesh is charged to the New Creature, who owns the flesh and is using it. This obligates repentance, prayer, etc., and means the greater blessing to the New Creature. To whatever extent the New Creature gives consent or sympathy to the sin of his flesh he is worthy of "stripes," which correctively will assist in his character development. "What son is he whom his Father chasteneth not?"
The New Creature only is given the wedding robe, the robe of Christ's righteousness, as a covering for his imperfect flesh. It represents his justification as a New Creature. It shows him as in Divine sight, holy, harmless, undefiled, through the merit of Jesus his Advocate and Redeemer.
NEW CREATURE--And Sin.
QUESTION (1912-Z)--2--Can the New Creature sin?
ANSWER.--Yes! and No! The Apostle says, "He cannot sin, for his seed remaineth in him." (1 John 3:9.) That is to say, so long as any New Creature continues to possess the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, he cannot consent wilfully to do sin. If one Spirit-begotten does sin wilfully it implies that prior to that wilful sin he parted with his spirit of holiness (lost the seed of his begetting) and got instead a spirit of sin, the spirit of the Adversary. In other words, a holy person, possessing God's Spirit of begetting, cannot wilfully and intentionally do that which he knows to be unholy and displeasing to God. He cannot take pleasure in sin. He once died to it, and to have it revive means a return to wallowing in the mire--"twice dead, plucked up by the roots"; ready to be taken and destroyed as a brute beast--Jude 12; 2 Pet. 2:12.