The Intervening Age

“Go ye, and teach all nations.” —Matthew 28:19

THE apostle explains that Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. (I Pet. 3:18) Having given his flesh for the life of the world, he was now exalted again above the human plane. As a man, Jesus was a little lower than the angels, but in his resurrection, as the apostle declares, he was made “better” than the angels. (Heb. 1:4) Indeed, the apostle writes that Jesus was exalted far above angels, principalities, and powers, and every name which is named, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God—the throne from which the whole universe is ruled.—Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:5-11

We honor our heroes, and reward those who risk death in order to save or benefit others. There is a righteous principle involved in this—a principle which had its origin with the Creator. He thus honored Jesus for his faithfulness. He “decorated” his Son with glory and immortality. He exalted him above the angels, and above every name that is named. Jehovah, whose wisdom and power operated to create the universe, now used his power to raise Jesus from the dead, and gave him a nature which was above the human and above the angelic—the divine nature itself.

Mere man, by splitting the atom, is able to unloose a fraction of the hidden energy created by God, but he does it at the risk of committing racial suicide. God, who created that energy, and therefore is vastly superior to it, laid hold upon the dead Christ, restored him to life, and exalted him to his own right hand, giving him “all power in heaven and in earth.”—Matt. 28:18

We are awe-inspired with the thought! Is it any wonder that divine intervention such as this on behalf of One who, while he died for the sins of the world, nevertheless was unjustly killed, should have such a profound effect on the course of the world? If the discovery of the use of atomic energy has ushered the world into a new age, is it any wonder that the direct use of divine power by him who created atomic energy should also mark the beginning of a new age, even the Christian age?

But we should not labor under any misapprehensions concerning the Christian age. Many things have occurred during this age, and in the name of Christianity, which have not been Christian. It has not been Christian for one nation to go to war against another in the name of Christ. The wars of the Crusades were un-Christian. The so-called “Holy” Inquisition was unholy, the product of inhuman religious intolerance and hate, and among the most un-Christian of all the diabolical practices of the Dark Ages. Persecution of the Jews has not been Christian.

The fear-instilling teaching of eternal torture for the wicked is not Christian. Masses for the dead, and the claim that such masses ease and shorten the suffering of those alleged to have gone to purgatory, are wholly without authority by Christ or any of the inspired writers of the Scriptures. Selling indulgences, blessing images, etc., in consideration of a fee, are un-Christian and unholy practices, and no part of God’s work during the Christian age.

That for which the now nearly obsolete word “Christendom” stood was not Christian. This term had its inception in the claim that the church-state governments of Europe constituted the kingdom of Christ; but that was a false claim. This union of apostate churches with civil governments was foretold in the Scriptures, and portrayed as spiritual harlotry. The teachings of the Bible relative to this illicit union of the church with the state are symbolized by a dissolute woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast who made all the people drunk with “the wine of her fornication.” No wonder the nations of Europe were almost continuously engaging in a carousal of war, bloodshed, and hate during the heyday of ecclesiastical power in the Old Roman world. Surely such debauchery was not Christian, and no part of God’s plan for the Christian age.

All these evils are but the work of selfish man. That they were practiced in the name of Christ has confused the true issues and principles of Christianity in the minds of millions, and it is this confusion that is now causing so many to lose faith in the Bible. The enlightenment of our day is causing those with thinking minds to realize that a religion which countenances and promotes such evils is a very bad religion, and that the world would be better off without it.

We agree with this, but at the same time bid the earnest truth-seeker to look further, to search deeper, to push aside the rubbish of superstition and discover the bright and genuine jewels of truth hidden in the Bible—truths which in the light of present-day events reflect beams of light from the God of heaven, which pierce the gloom ahead, and reveal the remaining steps in the pathway to peace and everlasting life which God has outlined in his Word.

What, then, has been the work of God since Jesus went away? To the limited extent that the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus have been practiced, we have had a better world—of this there can be no doubt. On the other hand, the fact that nations and individuals comprising nations have not always practiced Christian principles in their dealings with one another does not mean that Christianity itself has failed; for strange though this may seem, Jesus did not commission his followers during this age to convert the world to his way of life. To the extent that the influence of his teachings in the lives of his true followers has made the world better, it has thus far been but a by-product of true Christian work.

Jesus commissioned his followers to go into all the world to preach the Gospel, and to make disciples of all nations. It was not expected that every individual in all nations would become a disciple. As for the world at large who heard the message, it was to be merely in the nature of a witness, a testimony. (Matt. 24:14) Instead of all being converted by this effort, the Scriptures explain that its purpose has been merely to “take out” of the world “a people for his name.”—Acts 15:14

A great deal is said in the New Testament about the “calling” of this class. The promise is given that if they suffer and die with Jesus they will live and reign with him. They are to share his “glory.” They are to sit on his throne. (Rom. 8:17; II Tim. 2:11,12; Rev. 3:21) Jesus promised to prepare a place for them, and to “come again” and receive them unto himself. (John 14:1-3) All of these amazing promises indicate that the true disciples of Christ during this Christian age are justified in expecting to be exalted above angels, to share the divine nature and glory which the Father gave to Jesus as the reward for his faithfulness. The apostle speaks of it as a “heavenly calling.”—II Pet. 1:4; Heb. 3:1

The calling and the selection of these joint-heirs of Christ, based upon their acceptance of and loyalty to the Gospel, have been the divine program for this age. This program began at Pentecost. There the invisible power of God, the Holy Spirit, came upon the waiting disciples, enlightening their minds and giving them power of speech to declare the message of truth concerning the purposes of God. The response to the Gospel on that first day was tremendous; but the enthusiasm of the believers was commingled with persecution by the intolerant and prejudiced. A great fight between light and darkness was there renewed, and the struggle has continued even until now. The truth and those who have believed it have always appeared to be on the losing side.

It was thus with Jesus who, although he was the light of the world, was crucified. He told his disciples that they also were to be “the light of the world,” but their light, although they have let it shine as brightly as possible, has been but a glimmer in the world of darkness and sin. The light-bearers have been ostracized, persecuted, and killed. Jesus foretold this, saying, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus’ true followers have also overcome the world, not by conquering and ruling over it through the civil powers, but by overcoming its spirit of selfishness in their hearts, and, like Jesus, laying down their lives in sacrifice that others might be blessed.

It may have appeared that the truth and the truth people have always been on the scaffold. But it hasn’t really been a scaffold. It has been an altar—God’s altar of sacrifice. His people have, like Jesus, been proving their love for his ways and principles by faithfulness in sacrificing. They have been demonstrating their unselfishness, their devotion to righteousness, and their harmony with the divine principles of justice and love. They have loved their enemies, as God loves his. In these ways they have qualified to be associated with the highly exalted Jesus in the future work of restoring humanity to life upon the earth.

It is the calling out of the world and the testing of these, that has been God’s work during the Christian age. In it we see a further manifestation of divine wisdom and mercy. Paul speaks of Christians as “workers together” with God. (II Cor. 6:1) Surely the Creator, with all his resources of wisdom and power, does not need the limited aid that can be given to him by puny and dying human beings. But he has arranged it that way, and there must be a reason for it. One of the terms applied to Jesus in his relationship to God and men is that of Mediator; that is, one who stands between to effect reconciliation. (II Cor. 5:18) They, as representatives of the human race, are to be on the future mediatorial board with Jesus, and will share with him in the work of reconciling the estranged world to God.

Marvelous grace!

These promises relating to the “high calling” of Jesus’ disciples have been misunderstood. From them the false theory has been deduced that the Creator desires that as many humans as possible be transferred to heaven; that he never intended man to remain a human; that his human existence is but the first stage of life, and death but a portal into the next phase, which is to be spiritual, or heavenly. The theory is that all who accept Christ as their Savior before they reach the portal of death go to heaven, and that all others go to purgatory or to hell, and there suffer excruciating tortures. It has also been supposed that the work of Christians during this present age has been to convert as many humans as possible in order to rescue them from this terrible fate of eternal torture in hell which otherwise would be sure to overtake them at death.

Due to this misunderstanding, the real destiny of the human race has been overlooked. Few have noticed the many promises of God to restore the dead to life as humans, that they might live on the earth forever. They have failed to realize that the promises of God which speak of spiritual blessings and a heavenly home, and of glory, honor, and immortality, are intended only for the footstep followers of Jesus—given to encourage them to faithfulness in laying down their lives as Jesus did, that they might live and reign with him in his future mediatorial kingdom here on this earth. The casual reader of the Bible has failed thus to see that the divine program in selecting the church of Christ during the present age is that the church in heavenly glory, exalted high above angels and principalities and powers, should together with Christ be the channel of life-giving blessings to all mankind.

The work of God during the present age began auspiciously at Pentecost. That work has continued largely unnoticed and unknown to the world. Its implications have been so far-reaching, and its magnitude so great, that there is little wonder it should be misunderstood and misrepresented. Through misrepresentation, spurious works have been undertaken, and a counterfeit kingdom of Christ established. Meanwhile, the whole human creation of God has groaned and travailed together in sin and pain, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God; that is, waiting, although unknowingly, for the work of this age to be completed, when all those called to be sons of God and joint-heirs with Jesus shall be exalted above the angels, to live and reign with him in the kingdom of blessing now near.—Rom. 8:22,19

Dawn Bible Students Association
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