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PASTOR RUSSELL'S SERMONS

HEAVEN AND EARTH BEING SHAKEN
[SM316]

"Yet once more [finally] I shake not the earth only, but also the heavens."--Heb. 12:26.

The heavens that are being shaken refer not to the Divine residence and Throne, but symbolically represent the ecclesiastical system of the present time. The stars, or bright ones, have been falling for some time. There is a great shaking or confusion now operating in ecclesiastical circles. It will progress until, as St. Peter figuratively declares, "the heavens shall take fire"--shall be consumed, shall cease to be, leaving the way clear for the "new heavens," the ecclesiastical system of the Millennium, which will be the glorified Church, invisible to men, but clothed with Divine power for the blessing of mankind, for their release from ignorance and superstition and their uplift for a thousand years to return them to the image and likeness of God, lost in Eden, redeemed at Calvary.--2 Peter 3:10-13.

The shaking of the earth referred to by the Apostle and symbolically by Jesus as earthquakes, signifies revolutions that are expected to immediately follow the present European war. And if the Pastor understands the Bible teaching correctly on this matter, this great symbolic earthquake, which will eventuate in anarchy will reach its culmination first in Italy. However, this will not be merely a sectional shaking; the whole earth, the entire social fabric, will be shaken, and everything in it that is not of a permanent character--not in harmony with Divine Justice, Mercy and Truth--will be shaken loose, or, in the symbolical language of St. Peter, the earth, society, also shall take fire, and will pass away with a great noise, a great commotion, a great disturbance, in the fire of anarchy.

Joel's prophecy, referring to this time, points specifically [SM317] to the "blood, the fire and the pillars of smoke," which we see already beginning in Europe. More than a million men of the flower of Europe, in the bloom of life, have shed their blood, although the war is only beginning. The explosion of tons of powder and the burning of cities and villages is surely a fire in the earth, the like of which never occurred before in the same space of time; and everywhere the pillars of smoke are rising, not only from the battlefield, but also from the burning villages and the funeral pyres whereon the dead, too numerous to bury, are burned. Whether or not there shall be other fulfilments of these signs, we surely see this much shaking and this much fulfilment already commenced. How much more of the blood and fire and pillars of smoke before the terrible ordeal is passed, we can only surmise.

We have courage to speak of these terrible things only because of our full confidence that behind this dark cloud, hidden from human sight, is the glad sunrise of the New Day--the Day of Messiah. With such a glorious hope beyond it--the hope of the Church's glorification in the First Resurrection power, and the hope of the world's Millennial blessing--God's true people everywhere can lift up their heads and rejoice through their tears, even as their great Teacher, eighteen centuries ago, prophesied that they would do.--Luke 21:28.

"MY PEOPLE PERISH FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE"

Many of God's true people have been in ignorance of His real character and Plan because stupefied by the false doctrines of the Dark Ages. They have not studied their Bibles aright. On the contrary, many of them have been "overcharged by the cares of this life" and the "deceitfulness of riches" and have been unfruitful in respect to their character development and knowledge of God. The deceitfulness of riches does not signify that merely the rich are thus deceived. The great mass of humanity are under the lure of riches, spending their earthly [SM318] attainments, time and strength of mind and body; searching for earthly wealth but getting little. Some of these in the distressing times impending, though late, will see their mistake and wish that they had been more alert in the laying up of Heavenly treasures--knowledge of the Bible, of God and character development in His likeness.

Our Adventist friends are not the only ones who have made the mistake of thinking of the fire and shaking of the earth and heavens as merely literal. Practically all the creeds of "Orthodoxy" give this misinterpretation, but now at least it is time that our eyes of understanding should open. Now that the shaking and the fire have begun, it is high time that we should see that "the earth abideth forever." There is no reason why it should be destroyed; neither is there reason why humanity should be destroyed from off the earth. God's purposes have not yet been accomplished. Yea, the Divine Plan is only in its infancy. Humanity as yet has learned only its first lesson--"the exceeding sinfulness of sin" and the bitterness of its results. The second lesson will be given by Messiah during the thousand years of His glorious Reign of Righteousness. All shall be brought from the tomb, from ignorance, superstition, darkness, to fullest opportunity, knowledge and blessed uplifting. Only the wilful enemies of God and of righteousness shall be destroyed. The race thus purged from sin and sinners, and again in the Divine image and likeness, will usher into its glorious inheritance--an eternity of God's favor on earth and life everlasting.--Eccle. 1:4; Rom. 7:13.

SHAKING OF MOUNT SINAI TYPICAL

There might be also literal earthquakes and great physical changes at this time, intended to bring the earth into alignment with Millennial blessings, but we are not so sure respecting these physical changes. They may or may not play a part in the trouble of this Great Day.

In our context the Apostle compares the inauguration of Messiah's Kingdom, with its New Law Covenant [SM319] mediated by the Redeemer, with the typical Law Covenant given to Natural Israel at Mount Sinai at the hands of the typical mediator Moses. There, the voice, the cloud, the darkness, the lightning, the thunders, the earthquakes, were literal. Here, now beginning, we have the antitypes of these in the inauguration of the Antitypical Covenant, which, at the hands of The Christ, is to bring the wonderful blessings foretold, to all men.

St. Paul declares that the Word of the Lord upon this subject implies the removing of all things that can be shaken, so that only the unshakable things will remain; and these unshakable things he associates with God's Kingdom of righteousness. When with the eyes of our understanding open we look about us, we see very many things that evidently are not permanent, not right, not satisfactory to God and to all who love righteousness and hate iniquity; and when we reflect that the shaking will be such as to loosen and destroy all the imperfect things of the present time, we can better imagine than describe the severity of that shaking.

In the Revelation this same thought is expressed under the figure of a mighty earthquake, the like of which there had not been before and would never be thereafter. (Rev. 16:18.) Throughout the Apocalypse the term earthquake is used to symbolically represent revolution. We are to expect, then, a great revolution, a great earthquake, which will overthrow everything that is not of the Lord's establishment and approval. From this standpoint a certain class can read the signs of the times intelligently and with confidence; and this class the Scriptures call the Lord's "little flock" (Luke 12:32); counted foolish by the world, but counted of the Lord as "the wise" who are to "understand." (Dan. 12:9,10.) To these the Master Himself addressed the words, "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those [SM320] things which are coming upon the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." And again, "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your deliverance draweth nigh."

The Lord's consecrated people, possessed of His Spirit, cannot in any sense rejoice at tribulations coming upon others. Their rejoicing can be only in respect to the glorious things which they hope to experience and know to be near by these outward signs. They rejoice not merely on their own behalf, but also on behalf of the whole world; for they have the assurance of the Scriptures that behind this Time of Trouble, which looms up as a dark cloud to cover the entire social world, there is a silver lining; and that shortly the glorious Sun of Righteousness will blaze forth, dispel every cloud and all shadows of ignorance and superstition, and bring to mankind the rich blessings of Divine favor secured through the precious blood of Christ.

GREAT CHANGES NOW DUE

Evidently wonderful changes will be effected, some to be brought about gradually. We all know of the gradual change of the temperate zone--its extension further and further and further toward the poles. We notice also the increasing moderation nearer to the equator. Those who recognize the Power of God can have full confidence that He is able to perform all the glorious promises of His Word respecting the paradisaical conditions of this earth for the use of mankind during the Millennial Age and the ages to follow.

As already intimated, social upheavals are pictured in the Word of God under the symbolism of earthquakes, "mountains carried into the sea," etc. These uprisings in anarchy are pictured as tidal waves engulfing the "mountains"--governments. This is one of the most forceful pictures used, in the Psalms, in Revelation and in our Lord's symbolical reference to the great Time of Trouble near at hand.--Psa. 46:2. [SM321]

Let us not be understood as advocating anarchy or revolution of any kind. On the contrary, we are giving heed to the Master's injunction that all His true followers seek peace and pursue it; that they like Himself resist not evil with evil, force with force, but commit their way unto the Lord, walk in His paths, relying upon Him for the results that will be to their profit and His glory. We hold and teach that even the meanest and poorest government is superior to anarchy; and in full sympathy and kindness we counsel those tending toward Socialism that they are unsuspectingly "hatching cockatrice eggs"; for under present conditions Socialism is absolutely impossible. The rich will not give up their advantages without a struggle to the death; and this, as soon as Socialism shall have gained the power it is seeking, will spell anarchy for the world; for those now entertaining Socialistic hopes will find those hopes vain, and will become angered, embittered, mad, with the deceptions of their theories and the impossibility of carrying them out, as they intended, along the lines of benevolence. Then they will be drawn to the desperate methods of the anarchist.

We urge all who are the Lord's to seek to more and more understand His wonderful Plan of Salvation, to glorify Him in their bodies and spirits, which are His, and to wait for His time and manner of bringing in the blessings which all see are so much needed by the poor "groaning creation." Meantime, all such should cultivate the graces of the Holy Spirit, should "put on Christ," His character, His meekness, patience, long suffering, brotherly-kindness, love, against which there is no law. "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."--2 Peter 1:10,11.

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