Death, in whatever form it may come, is perishing, ceasing to exist. All mankind, through Adam's transgression, came under condemnation to loss of life, to "perish," "to be as though they had not been." And only one way of escape from that condemnation has been provided. (Acts 4:12.) Because of Christ's redemptive work all may escape perishing by accepting the conditions of life. During Christ's Millennial reign those whom Pilate slew, and those upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and all others of the race, sharers in the death penalty now upon all, will be released from the tomb, brought to a knowledge of Christ, his ransom work, and their privilege of repentance and full restitution to divine favor,—life, etc. Thus seen, the Adamic death penalty was—to perish; but it has been canceled by Christ's Ransom, so far as it relates to those who, when brought to know the Redeemer, shall forsake sin. No longer should it be regarded as a perished condition, but as a "sleep" (John 11:11-14; Matt. 9:24; 1 Thes. 4:14; 5:10), from which the Redeemer will awaken all, to give each who did not have it before being overtaken by Adam's death, a full, individual opportunity to escape perishing and live forever. Yet, finally, all who shall fail to repent and lay hold upon the gracious Life-giver shall perish; they will fail to obtain the full restitution provided; they shall never see [perfect] life [full restitution] for the wrath or condemnation of God will abide on them, condemning them to death as unworthy of life. As this will be their second condemnation, and an individual one, so the penalty will be the second death, which will not be general to the race, but only upon such individuals as refuse God's favor of reconciliation and life.
As our Lord Jesus used the calamities of his time, as illustrating the just penalty against all who do not flee sin and lay hold upon the Redeemer and Life-giver, so we use them. We declare that destruction, perishing, is the just penalty of sin taught in the Scriptures. We denounce the eternal torment theory, so generally believed by God's children, as unscriptural; as one of Satan's blasphemous slanders against God's character. And we proclaim that only by faith in the Redeemer, repentance and reformation, can the gift of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, be obtained. Whoever hears the offer of life is responsible to the extent that he understands it; and according to God's promise and plan all mankind shall, at some time, either during the Gospel age, or during the coming Millennial age, be brought to a full, clear appreciation of these conditions and opportunities, with fullest opportunities for repentance and life.
Calamities, then, are to be regarded, generally, as accidents, attributable to human imperfection and lack of experience, or to disturbances incidental to the preparation of the earth for its more quiet and perfect condition during the Sabbath or Seventh Thousand years (the Millennium), and for its state of absolute perfection forever after the Millennium, which, under Christ's direction, shall give it its finishing touches and make it fully ready for the redeemed race, which his reign shall prepare also to rightly use and enjoy and rule the perfected earth. And man is exposed to these calamities and accidents, and not defended from them by his Almighty Creator, because, first, man is a sinner condemned to death anyway, and is not to be spared from it, but must be allowed to pass through it; and secondly, by the present experiences with trouble and sorrow and pain, all of which are but elements of death, mankind is learning a lesson and laying up in store an experience with sin and its awful concomitants, sorrow, pain and death, which will be valuable in the Millennial age, when each shall be required to choose between good and evil. The evil they [R1126 : page 5] learn first, now; the good and its blessed results and rewards, but dimly seen now, will be fully displayed then,—during the Millennium.
But some one inquires, If this be God's plan, for redeeming the world by the death of his Son and justifying and restoring all who believe in and accept of him, and obey and love righteousness, why did not the Millennial reign of Christ with its favorable conditions and powerful restraints begin at once, as soon as Christ had given the ransom price at Calvary; instead of compelling those who would follow righteousness, to sail through bloody seas and suffer for righteousness sake? Or else, why not have postponed the giving of the ransom until the close of the six thousand years of evil and the inauguration of the Millennial reign? Or, at least, if the present order of events is best in the divine wisdom, why does not God specially protect from calamities, accidents, sorrow, pain, death, etc., those who have fully accepted of Christ and who have sacrificed and are using their all in the service of righteousness?
Ah yes! The subject would be incomplete were this point left untouched. The consecrated saints, the church of the Gospel age, are a "peculiar people," different from the rest of the redeemed race; and God's dealings with them are peculiar and different also. Inasmuch as it was God's purpose to highly honor and exalt our Lord Jesus far above all others, because of his faithful obedience even to self-sacrifice, so it was his purpose to select a "little flock" for his companionship in glory, who, after being justified by Christ's sacrifice and reconciled to God by the death of his Son, should develop so much of a likeness to his Son, by intently following his words and example, that they, like him (though far less fully than he because of weaknesses of the flesh), should likewise so love righteousness and truth, and so delight to do God's will, that they would do it at any cost or sacrifice of earthly pleasures, or comforts, or esteem among men—even unto death.
The space of time between the giving of the ransom for all, and the establishment of the kingdom which is to bestow upon mankind the blessings purchased, is for the very purpose of selecting a "little flock" of under kings and priests, Christ's companions in the honors and work of the Kingdom, otherwise called, as a class, "the Bride, the Lamb's wife." The selection of this class must take place during a time when evil, trouble and sin have sway in the world; for it is by the special opposition of evil and sin, to God's plan and to all in harmony with it, that these are to be specially tried and tested; that only "overcomers" shall be selected and given this very honorable and responsible position.
Not only is this class required to follow after righteousness and truth, and to support them and oppose sin, to their present discomfort and loss, but they are required to do all this on the strength of faith, outward evidences being often contrary to faith. A part of their test is, that they must walk by faith and not by sight. They are to believe God's promises though every outward circumstance seems to contradict it. This is part of their lesson as well as part of their trial.
They are to believe God's testimony, that death and trouble entered the world as a result of Adam's sin, and that a fall from perfection took place in Eden, no matter what speculations among scientists may suggest to the contrary,—as that Adam was evolved from an ape, and that the Bible story of the fall, the condemnation and the redemption are alike unscientific; that Christ, like Confucius, was a great teacher, but nothing more; that he accomplished no redemption and that none could have been needful or required. The saints are to shun all such babblings of science and philosophy, falsely so-called, and to walk by faith in God's revelation.—Rom. 5:12-20.
Though they see errors flourish and Scriptural truths spurned and disregarded, they are to disregard numbers and human traditions and, by faith, hold to God's Word. Though told by God that they are redeemed and no longer under his [R1127 : page 5] condemnation and disfavor with the rest of the world, they are to believe and walk by faith, nothing doubting, even though they are not the recipients of special earthly favors, and even though they, like others, have a share of sickness, pain and death.
Their advantages are often less than those of other men, and their course often much more up-hill and rough. They walk by faith and not by sight, however; they endure as seeing him who is invisible, and the crown which is invisible, and the kingdom which is invisible, and as though they already had everlasting life, though they die like other men. In all these things, yea, in everything, they are required to walk by faith and not by sight, if they would be crowned overcomers and made heirs in the coming kingdom.
Their advantages are all invisible to the world, and are seen only by the eye of faith. Their peace and joy are dependent upon their knowledge and trust of God and his plan; and their knowledge and trust depend upon their faith in his Word of promise. By faith they "know [even when outward evidences seem contrary] that all things are working together" for their ultimate good, and that the glories and blessings of the future shall far over-balance all the trials and troubles and wounds of the present; and so believing from such a standpoint, it is well said that these have a joy and peace, even amid tribulation, which the world can neither give nor take away.
What advantage, then, hath a true, consecrated Christian in the present time? Much every way; both in the life that now is, and also in that which is to come. All things are yours; for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's, and ye are accepted of God in and through the merit of Christ.
Even those things which may seem to be, and to the world are, accidents, cannot be so regarded in connection with these so peculiarly precious in God's sight. Nothing transpires without your Father's knowledge—not even a sparrow falls, nor a hair of your heads. And since infinite wisdom, infinite love, and infinite power are pledged to our aid, and guarantee us against all that would not be for our ultimate good, with how much confidence and trust all such may free themselves from harassing care and anxiety, and with how much courage they may press on, committing their way unto the Lord, and engaging heart and hand and brain in his service; for we also "know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord." Like their Master, such shall yet see results for all their travail of soul which will fully recompense or satisfy them. Such may rejoice even in tribulation, knowing the results. Even the families of the saints, and all that concerns them, are precious to the Lord for their sakes.
Courage, then, dear family of God! Be strong! quit you like men! Endure hardness as good soldiers; endure as seeing the Lord and the prize, though they are invisible except to your eye of faith. Expect not to reign, nor to be exempted from trial and sufferings, until the battle is ended—until Evil (sin, as well as disaster, trouble and death, its accompaniments) shall be removed by our Redeemer, who soon is to take his great power and reign to deliver the groaning creation from all its present distresses.
"Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people." (Luke 2:10.) Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord; for though for a little moment he hid his face and permitted calamities to scourge and destroy his creatures because of their transgression, yet in great mercy he hath provided our ransom price; yea, he hath highly exalted him to be both Priest and King to cleanse from sin, and to rule to perfect all who will then submit their hearts to him and obey him. From such he shall wipe away all tears; and sorrow and dying, and every evil, shall be no more. "Behold, I make all things new."