Friday, October 9, 2015

Messiah's Sharp Arrows, by C. T. Russell

"Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies; whereby the people fall under thee." – Psalm 45:5.
-- Edited slightly by R. R. Day

With a strange and unaccountable perversity we often find that the very people most given to figurative and symbolical language are the very ones who when they come to the Bible are disposed to take it literally, to ignore the beautiful figures of speech with which it abounds! So persistent is this habit that even when considering that book of symbols, the Apocalypse, they are disposed to take its statements literally – although in its very introduction the declaration is made that our Lord sent and signified – made signs or symbols to illustrate the things which would shortly come to pass. We are not urging such an interpretation of the Scriptures as would ignore their true significance and make them say the reverse of what they mean, as some are disposed to do; we merely urge that symbolical, metaphorical and hyperbolical language be given true and proper recognition, as we would be disposed to do were the same figures and symbols used in connection with the affairs of our daily life. Surely none can claim that this is an unreasonable position.

When friends tell us that certain words cut them to the heart or that certain experiences broke their hearts they are merely using metaphors in the same manner in which the Scriptures use them. (Acts 2:37; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18) And similarly, when considering our text, we are not to think of literal arrows being shot forth by Messiah and that these will cause the world of mankind to fall wounded literally before Him with these arrows in their hearts. In another Scripture we read, "The wicked shoot out arrows, even bitter words," that they may injure the righteous. (Psalm 64:3,4) So here also the arrows of Messiah would represent the words of His mouth; but as a bitter fountain sends forth bitter water and a pure fountain sends forth sweet water, so the arrows of Messiah, instead of being bitter words such as the wicked shoot forth, will be forceful words of truth and grace. The symbolism is analogous to that of Revelation, where Messiah, in His coming glory of the Millennial Age, is pictured as having a sword going forth from His mouth with which He smites the nations. – Revelation 19:15.

The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17) The Sword of Messiah's mouth will be the message which He will send: "My Word that goeth forth out of My mouth shall not return unto Me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) Our Lord Jesus, as the Mouthpiece of Jehovah, was commissioned not only to redeem the world but to uplift it out of sin, degradation and death conditions and to restore the willing and the obedient to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by Christ, by His obedience and sacrifice at Calvary. As the "Lamb of God" our Redeemer has already "tasted death for every man," dying "the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." (John 1:29; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Peter 3:18) But it is not enough that He thus prepares the way by bringing mankind back to God; it is not enough that God's Justice has been appeased now on our behalf. It is necessary further that the Redeemer should grant the required assistance to the redeemed for their deliverance from the chains of ignorance, superstition, sin and death into the liberty of the sons of God.

"NOW ARE WE THE SONS OF GOD"

This deliverance of humanity according to the Divine purpose is divided into two parts: First, a special class who hunger and thirst after righteousness and are out of harmony with sin, are being blessed during this Gospel Age through the appreciation of the good tidings of God's love and favor in Christ. These are dealt with by faith, and include only such members of the race as have the hearing ear of faith – "He that hath an ear, let him hear"; for "without faith it is impossible to please God." This small company of the race, willing and able by the Redeemer's assistance to walk by faith and not by sight, now receive special truth in the School of Christ and a special testing as respects their loyalty to righteousness, in advance of the world's blessing and trial. The faithful of these, at the close of this Gospel Age, by a share in the First Resurrection will be "changed" from human nature to Divine nature and be made sharers with the Redeemer as His "Bride," His "Body," in the great Millennial Age work of blessing, uplifting the world from sin to righteousness, of bringing them out of degradation and wrath up, up, up to human perfection and eternal life in an earthly paradise restored.

Our text does not refer to our Lord's dealings with the Church; for we are not His enemies. The enemy class will be dealt with after the Second Coming of our Lord. This He showed in one of His parables, saying, A young nobleman went into a far country to receive for Himself a Kingdom and returned and took possession of it. Before starting He called His own servants and delivered to them pounds and talents, saying, Occupy until I return. On His return, invested with the majesty, authority and power of a Kingdom, He first called His own servants (the Church class) and reckoned with them, rewarding the faithful saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" – have dominion over five cities. Then the King will say, "As for those Mine enemies, who would not have Me to reign over them, bring them hither and slay them before Me." (Luke 19:12-27) The slaying of the enemies in the parable corresponds perfectly with the Revelation picture of the Sword of Messiah's mouth, which will smite the nations; and it corresponds also with the expression in our text respecting the sharp arrows of Messiah which shall be in the hearts of His enemies and cause the people to fall before Him. Not literal arrows, not a literal sword, not literal carnage are here represented, but a great triumph of the Word of Jehovah over all during the reign of the Millennial Kingdom, following our Lord's Second Coming.

Those who are now invited to become of the Lord's "Little Flock," the "Very Elect," the "Bride, the Lamb's Wife," the "Royal Priesthood," the "Body of Christ," are not smitten down with the Sword of His mouth. Instead, they are those who through various experiences in life are already become heart weary, heavy laden, looking to the Lord in faith and desiring His assistance. The message of the Lord's lips at the present time is not arrows; not the sword to those who are invited to be His followers. On the contrary, inviting them, He says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest!" Again He tells us that His Message is intended to bind up the broken-hearted, to give the oil of joy in exchange for the spirit of heaviness. – Isaiah 61:3; Matthew 11:28-30.

The Apostle, speaking of the matter, declares that it has pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who now believe. (1 Corintians 1:21) Not that the Message is a foolish one; for on the contrary the Message of God's grace is the noblest, the grandest, the most wonderful one that could come to the ears of mankind. But from the worldly standpoint it seems foolish on God's part to address the world when He Himself declares that the vast majority are deaf, and that only here and there can any be found who have the hearing ear. Again, the Gospel Message of reward to the obedient seems foolish to the world; for it would say, "If God had all power why does He not enforce His commands and send forth judgments to compel obedience rather than send forth a message of love and an invitation to obedience?" Our answer is that God is now seeking a peculiar people; and that after He shall have gathered this specially called, specially chosen, specially blessed, specially tried class, after He shall have glorified these, blessing them with the great reward of glory, honor and immortality, then will be His time for using force, compulsion.

MESSIAH SHALL BE CONQUEROR

The Apostle Paul, discussing the work of Christ during His Millennial reign following His Second Advent, declares, "He must reign until He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death." Again,..."Then cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, when He shall have put down all [antagonistic] rule and all authority and all power....And when all things shall be subject unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him that put all things under Him that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) The Apostle introduces this statement in his argument on the resurrection of the dead. He is proving that the resurrection is for all mankind, that as "all in Adam die, even all in Christ shall be made alive" – every man in his own order, "The Christ [Head and Body, Jesus and the Church] the first-fruits; afterward [during His presence at His Second Advent in the Millennium] they that are Christ's at His coming."

It will be during that Millennial period of Messiah's Reign that force will be used instead of preaching; that His rebuke will smite into the hearts of His enemies, and that all shall fall under Him. Every knee must bow, every tongue must confess. Happy will it be for the world when Messiah shall take unto Himself His great power and reigns. Blessed will it be for the people when His sharp arrows shall smite them and when His judgment as a hammer shall break the hard, stony hearts; for, as the Scriptures declare, He wounds to heal. (Hosea 6:1) The healing process will be coincidental to the wounding and breaking; for the great Messiah, Christ and the Church, will be not only the King, the Ruler, but also the Priest of that Millennial time to heal, to console, to forgive, and the great Prophet to instruct the thousands of millions of Adam's race who have gone into death during the reign of Sin and Death and under the blinding influences of the Adversary. No wonder the Scriptures speak in glowing terms of that glorious Millennial Day, when the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth! No wonder they picture this symbolically as the rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in its beams. – Malachi 4:2.

"IN THY MAJESTY RIDE ON"

Note our context: The first verse declares that the Message relates to the King, not to the Lord, not to Messiah waiting to be invested with the authority of the Kingdom, but to Him after He shall have been thus invested, after He shall have taken to Himself His great power and begun His Reign of Righteousness. Hearken to the prophetic description of the King in His beauty, "Thou are fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into Thy lips." This well pictures our dear Master's condition of humiliation when the Man Christ Jesus was demonstrated to be pure in heart, absolutely loyal to the Father and in this respect fairer than all the children of men, all of whom were sinners and out of the way. The grace of our Lord's lips is manifest to us in the message which He left. "Never man spake like this man." "They all bare Him witness and wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth." – John 7:46; Luke 4:22.

It is because of the faithfulness, the loyalty, the grace which our Lord demonstrated as the Man Christ Jesus that the Father glorified Him, raising Him from the dead to far more than the human nature and glory – to the highest plane, the Divine nature and its glory, honor and immortality. As the Prophet declares, God blessed Him forever. (Psalm 45:2) His exaltation is perpetual; far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named. Our Lord's trial and exaltation have been followed by the call and testing of the "Little Flock," invited to be His joint-heirs in the Kingdom; and soon these will be changed in the First Resurrection, that they may participate in His glorious work of the Millennial Kingdom.

Then the time having come for the establishment of the Kingdom, Messiah, Head and Body, will take to Himself His great power and His Millennial Reign will begin. This is represented in Verses 3 and 4, "Gird thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, with Thy glory and Thy majesty. And in Thy majesty ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness." What a noble, inspiring picture of Divine knowledge as it shall go forth in due time for the binding of Satan and the liberating of all the slaves of sin and death – not only those who have not gone down into the tomb, but the liberation of those who are in the great prison-house of death, the grave! Messiah shall not reign for the oppression of the world nor for the enslavement of the people. On the contrary the power of the Kingdom will be exercised on behalf of truth, meekness and righteousness. This however, will necessarily mean a reign of force, a reign very different from the present dispensation and its Gospel invitation to righteousness.

We read elsewhere that the "judgments of Jehovah will be abroad in the earth" – His righteous dealings. In other words, His power exercised on behalf of the cause of truth, meekness and righteousness, will mean His forceful opposition to error, to pride and all inequity, all unrighteousness. No longer will men be invited to abandon sin. The judgments, the punishments for wrong doing will be promptly and vigorously applied. The world, deaf to the Lord's Message, blind to His goodness, out of the way, degraded through sin, will learn righteousness in another way – by being made to feel a judgment, a punishment for every wrong deed and wrong word. And by the end of the Millennial Age the testing will have become so crucial that even the favorable entertainment of a disloyal thought as respects the Almighty and His rule of righteousness will lead to the Second Death.

We have no thought of suggesting that the Millennium will be entirely a time of peace, joy and blessing. It will be all of this all the time to all those who love righteousness and hate iniquity and are in accord with the Lord; but the Lord's indignation, even His fierce anger, will from the very beginning of the Millennial Age burn hotly against all unrighteousness, against all iniquity, all falsehood, to the intent that these may be thoroughly removed, completely eradicated, and that thus mankind may be most truly and most absolutely blessed. It is in harmony with this that the fourth verse of our context declares, "Thy right hand [Thy Power] shall teach terrible lessons," lessons for eternity to many, lessons which will be most salutary to the race as a whole, lessons which would be awful to humanity in some respects at the beginning of the reign. For be it remembered that the Scriptures everywhere declare that the Millennial Kingdom, although a reign of peace, righteousness and love, will be introduced by a Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation, by which trouble present institutions will be overthrown because they are all unrighteous, imperfect and built upon lines of selfishness contrary to the law of love, which shall be made to prevail in the interest of all. This is the same thought that is brought to our attention in connection with the symbolical picture of Revelation. The Sword of Messiah's mouth is there declared to smite the nations; and we are told that He will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and that as potters' vessels they shall be broken to shivers. – Revelation 2:26-28.

We are to differentiate, however, between the nations which are to be broken – the great systems of selfishness which are to fall and rise no more – and the people, into whose hearts the words of the Lord will enter and who will be smitten down before Him. They will acknowledge that they are sinners, and that His reproofs are just and His judgments upon systems of error and iniquity are true and righteous altogether. They will fall before Him; they will acknowledge the Divine power and its rightful control of human affairs; every knee must bow and every tongue must confess. As the Apostle Peter, referring to this time, declares, "It shall come to pass that the soul that will not hear [obey] that Prophet, shall be destroyed from amongst the people." – Acts 3:23.

The picture of the coming Time of Trouble and of the glorious epoch of blessing which will follow it is graphically depicted by the Prophet (Zephaniah 3:8), through whom Jehovah says, "Wait ye upon Me, saith Jehovah, until that day when I rise up to the prey: for My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, that I may pour upon them Mine indignation, even all My fierce anger: for the whole earth [social structure] shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy." So terrible will be the Time of Trouble, so sweeping the overthrow of present institutions, that Jehovah here symbolically pictures it as a fire consuming everything of the present social order.

But that it is not a literal fire, and that it will not consume or destroy mankind but prepare for their greater blessing, is shown by the next statement of the Prophet: "Then will I turn unto the people a pure Message [in contrast with the confused message that is now being promulgated by all the various sects of Christendom – Babylon] that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah to serve Him with one consent." They will no longer call upon themselves the names of sects and parties, heathen or Christian. All will call upon Jehovah, all wil recognize Him as the great Teacher; for Jehovah shall be King over all the earth in that day. (Zechariah 14:9.) And the Kingdom under the whole heavens shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. – Daniel 7:27.

"HIS MOUTH IS MOST SWEET"

In contrast with the sharp words of rebuke which will be administered to the world and which they will need and which will be most favorable to them, we have the gracious words of the Master in the present time speaking to all who have ears to hear. His Message is represented as one that binds up the broken hearts and administers the oil and wine of refreshment and joy and peace and consolation. What wonder, then, that we appreciate the statement, "Blessed are your ears, for they hear." Not only have we heard the Message of our Lord Jesus, of His love for us, and that He gave Himself a Ransom for our redemption, but we have heard the Father saying that He has spoken peace to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. He tells us also, "The Father Himself loveth you."

Hearkening we not only have heard the Message of God's love and favor for our race, and how a Ransom has been provided, and that in consequence a preparation is being made for the blessing of all the world, but we learn that we may appropriate this blessing to ourselves now by faith in advance of this general application, and that being justified by faith we may have peace with God. And, furthermore, after we had thus been accepted, we heard the voice of the Master inviting us to become His disciples, to walk in His steps, to share now in the cross and sacrifice with Him and by and by in the crown.

Ah, yes! He brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel – life everlasting, life which we now see is possible of attainment by all the families of the earth, and immortality is attainable by those who now have the hearing ear of faith and the heart desire to follow in the footsteps of their Redeemer.

"WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE!"

The character of Him who is to ride prosperously as the conqueror of the world assures us respecting His treatment of those who shall fall down before Him and accept His righteous Reign and Law. He who loved them so that He gave His life as their Redemption-price establishes His Reign, not for their injury, but for their blessing, for their uplifting, for the destruction of their real enemies. All the weaknesses and depravity of the fallen conditions are our enemies, if we love righteousness; and we are glad to have our Lord's co-operation in fighting a good fight against these. And so will all the right-minded of the Millennial Age be glad to have all the assistance He can render them. And the Church of this Gospel Age, now gaining experience through trials and disciplines, will also be fitted and prepared to co-operate with her Redeemer and King in the work of blessing our race, instructing them in the ways of the Lord and teaching them to go up on the Highway of Holiness, at whose further end, by perseverance, they may have eternal life.

Let us continue to pray, dear friends, for this Kingdom of Messiah, when His sharp arrows shall pierce many hearts and cause the masses to fall under Him and to confess Him and to adore Him. Let us continue to pray, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven." Yes, let us be glad that in the consummation of the Plan of God all who refuse to learn righteousness and to love it, and to hate iniquity, shall be utterly destroyed, so that God eventually will have a clean Universe.

He's come! Let all the earth adore Him!
The path His human nature trod
Spreads to a royal realm before Him,
The Life of life, the Word of God!

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