A View of the Bicentennial

“Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” —Habakkuk 2:2,3

THE 200th birthday celebration of the United States has captured the imagination and sober recognition of many people throughout the world. In terms of years, this nation is still a babe, when compared with such European countries as England, France, and Germany. But the term of this nation’s life has been during the period of the greatest increase in knowledge and inventions since the beginning of recorded time. The United States was peculiarly well adapted to provide the fertile ground that gave birth to a good share of this increase in knowledge and inventions. But more than this, the nation’s business minds had the ability to mass-produce new products, which resulted in an ever-expanding industrial base and market place.

The net result of all this, as everyone knows, is that the United States has enjoyed the highest standard of living of any nation and has been the envy of every people of the world. But in spite of this country’s accomplishments, it has not and will not, under its own power, attain to the position once envisioned for it by many of its founding fathers. They had a sense of religious mission which came from the original Puritan settlers.

The extraordinary beginnings out of which our government and common life came reach back even farther than the 200 years of our official age. They reach 150 years beyond that. The root of the creative factors influencing our beginnings as a nation was that of the great revolution of religious thought that dominated every aspect of life beginning with the 17th century.

Two main themes of thought were united. The first was renewed belief in, and a teaching of, a coming millennium; and the other theme was the belief in the revival of learning which was sparked by the invention of movable type, which meant that the printing press could dramatically increase the production of books. To the minds of the early theologians the important prophetic texts of the Bible indicated that the advancement of learning and the return of the dominion of man over nature were the important elements in the millennial arrangement. Daniel, the 12th chapter, verse 4, became the main support of the Puritan millennial concepts. The text was constantly reiterated and given new shades of meaning, and it became central to the writings of the philosophers and scholars of the day, from whom the Puritans drew their inspiration.

Two of these scholars were Sir Walter Raleigh, who wrote the widely read “History of the World,” which recounted the world’s history from creation to the last judgment, and Sir Francis Bacon, who wrote in his “Valerius Terminus” as follows: “This is a thing which I cannot tell whether I may so plainly speak as truly conceive, that as all knowledge appeareth to be a plant of God’s own planting, so it may seem the spreading and flourishing or at least the bearing and fructifying of this plant, by a providence of God, nay not only a general providence but by a special prophecy, was appointed to this autumn of the world: for to my understanding it is not violent to the letter, and safe now after the event, so to interpret that the place in the prophecy of Daniel where speaking of the latter times it is said, ‘Many shall pass to and fro, and science shall be increased,’ as if the opening of the world by navigation and commerce and the further discovery of knowledge should meet at one time or age.” Thus the prophecy of Daniel was integrated by Bacon into his philosophical program.

It is authoritatively estimated that 70% of the ministers publishing new works between 1640 and 1653 subscribed to some form of millenarianism. But, second to the Bible, it was Bacon’s writings that became the most important philosophical and scientific authority of the Puritan movement.—J. F. Wilson, Pulpit in Parliament, p. 195

The following is a quotation from “The Great Instauration” (restoration), by Charles Webster. (pp. 16-18) Referring to the Puritan acceptance of the Bible and its prophecies, he states, “To the author of ‘Paradise Lost,’ the Garden of Eden represented an ideal state of affairs which had an indisputable historical basis. Raleigh conducted his investigation into the location, size, and physical description of the Garden of Eden with scientific precision. To the commentators on the Apocalypse the New Jerusalem was a concrete and attainable goal for the reformed church. Utopian town planners drew up their schemes with reference to the physical features of the city of Jerusalem. … This was not merely an academic exercise; the reconstructions were presented in such terms as to provide an inducement to action; rewards were described in terms which were congenial to the mentality of the seventeenth century. … Milton’s paradise was fertile and temperate, not unlike the landscape of the south of England. There were no thorns or weeds, but Adam was not permitted to lead a passive and indulgent life. Rather he was an active tenant farmer, charged by God to dress and keep his garden, and was granted dominion over all other creatures.”

Perhaps the most detailed impression of the New Jerusalem based on biblical sources was produced by John Stoughton, the influential minister of St. Mary Aldermanbury. “He comforted his readers with the assurance that the catastrophic disruptions of the Thirty Years’ War would end with the fall of Babylon and the establishment of a millennial state. Diverse Bible texts were assimilated to give a vivid impression of the new age. This would be a period of perfect harmony, both in the celestial and terrestrial worlds. The harmony of the heavenly spheres would be matched by aesthetic harmonies on the earth. There would be neither night, nor day; the sun and moon would shine simultaneously, both with a more radiant light. … The earth would be more fruitful. The whole earth would bring forth exotic fruits of a kind which had hitherto been confined to limited regions; all crops would yield more heavily. The mountains would generate gems and precious metals in abundance. Imperfections in environment would vanish and there would be no limitations on human longevity. The wolf and the lamb would live together in peace and no creature would prey upon another. This peaceful coexistence would extend to human society, which would evolve towards a Utopian state under the guidance of the saints. The divisions between the Protestant churches would be healed and they would unite in the blood of Christ. Besides this general state of grace, the general revival of learning, which was already underway, would be pressed to its conclusion. Philosophy and poetry would be purified; voyages of exploration would reveal new rich lands; technological labours would be rewarded; children would learn efficiently by new and effortless methods. … Philosophers would be guided by a plan for the Great Instauration, which would direct both the course of systematic observation and search for new secrets of nature by means of fructiferous experiments.”

In summary, the unprecedented upheavals of the period were seen as a prelude to the final judgment and rule of the saints. Puritan leaders were thus able to draw comfort from the conditions, lawmakers projected their policies as having divine sanction, and their armies claimed to be Christ’s armies in a holy war. The sciences were employed to add exactness to the millennial outline drawn up by theologians, and millennial ideas furnished the intellectuals with new premises and goals. It seemed that the fall of man which began with Adam might at last be on the verge of being reversed. It was claimed that some indications of restitution had already occurred. The Puritan revolution was therefore seen as a period of promise, when God would allow science to become the means of bringing about a new paradise on earth. Science therefore assumed a position of considerable importance in the Puritan modus operandi, and their leaders became dedicated to the concept of recovering man’s dominion over nature.

After many years of prosperity and growth, the Puritans began to experience persecutions from established governments in England and in Europe. And as the pressure increased, the Puritans began to look for a more favorable atmosphere in which to live and to prepare for the establishment of the millennial kingdom. The new world offered an ideal place to preserve the spirit of the reformation. John White, one of the leaders in the Massachusetts colony, stated, “God especially directs this work of creating colonies unto the planting and propagating of religion. Furthermore God had ordained that this work would be undertaken in the Western parts of the World during the last age of history.” (The Planters Plea, John White, pp. 11,12)

John Winthrop shared White’s feelings, and it was in this spirit that he accepted the governorship of Massachusetts, believing that “God has chosen this country to plant his people in.”

In 1642 the book, “New England’s First Fruits,” was published. It gives the earliest report of the founding of the nation’s first college, Harvard. The seal of the college then adopted bore these words: “In Christi Gloriam.”

Peter Oakley wrote, “We the people of New England are as a city set upon a hill in the open view of all the earth; the eyes of the world are upon us, because we profess ourselves to be a people in covenant with God.”

This sense of mission permeated the thinking and attitudes of Puritan intellectuals, and the theme of a holy mission was the basis of thousands of sermons and lectures. These have been called by modern scholars “the textbook of politics,” for they prepared the people spiritually and intellectually for the political events that were to take place at a later time, and they also prepared the people to foster and adopt the great scientific and technological advancements that were even then breaking upon them.

As we review in our minds these remarkable events that had such a profound influence in the forming of the under girding of our country, we realize that the Pilgrims’ hope for the kingdom was premature and was based on many erroneous concepts. But their zeal helped to shape the character of our nation and indirectly the lives of all of our people. They had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

When Adam was created and put in the Garden of Eden he was perfect. God required absolute obedience from him. He had communion with God and as long as this relationship lasted Adam possessed everlasting life. But he was disobedient, and because of this he and his progeny were condemned to death.

The purpose of God in developing the plan of the ages is to restore man to his original condition. The matter of having dominion and control over the land is secondary, or an outgrowth of man’s recovery. It is vital to realize that it is only through the power of God operating through his various agencies that this great work of reconciliation is to be accomplished. One of these agencies, of course, is the kingdom, which is the final stately step of the Lord in accomplishing the reconciliation of the human race to himself.

The first step in the development of the Lord’s plan is a period of time that is referred to by Bible students as the Patriarchal Age. It was during this time that God dealt with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The principal fruitage of this age was God’s promise to faithful Abraham, recorded in Genesis 22:16-18. The Apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:8, referred to this promise as the Gospel, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” This is the promise that is the basis for the Christian hope for salvation.

The patriarch Jacob had twelve sons, who later became identified as the heads of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. For a time the Lord dealt with this nation exclusively. (Amos 3:2) This period is referred to by scholars as the Jewish Age, which lasted from the death of Jacob to the crucifixion of Christ. The principal fruition of this step in the Lord’s plan of salvation was to bring forth the promised seed of Abraham.

The Apostle Paul again, in Galatians 3:16, states, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ.” In verse 19 we read, “Wherefore then serveth the law [the law covenant that was made with the Jews, and through which God dealt with them]? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed [Christ] should come to whom the promise was made.”

In the true sense of the word Christ did not become the long-promised seed of the covenant until he had died on the cross and had been resurrected to the divine nature.—Acts 13:32,33

The visitation of the Holy Spirit upon the waiting apostles at Pentecost marked the beginning of the third step in the development of the Lord’s plan of salvation—the Gospel Age.

The word Christ is the English translation of the Greek word Christos, which means anointed. The equivalent Hebrew word is Messiah. The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 12:12, identifies Christ, or the Messiah, as being one body, but that this body—as a human body—is composed of many members, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.”—Rom. 12:5; Eph. 5:30; 1:22,23

In Galatians 3:25-29 the Apostle Paul identifies the footstep followers of Jesus as being members of Christ’s body and therefore part of the seed of Abraham who will have the privilege of blessing all the families of the earth.

The gathering of the members of Christ’s body is the great work of the Gospel Age. The Apostle James, in summarizing the discussion of the elders who had gathered in Jerusalem regarding the Gentiles who were coming into Christ, stated, “Simeon hath declared how God at the first [or for the first time] did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up.”—Acts 15:14-16

The Apostle James reminded the elders that God had foretold by the prophets the great work of taking from the Gentiles the remainder of the body of Christ. (Hos. 2:23; I Pet. 2:10) But after this work is done, God is going to fulfill his promises with respect to the sure mercies of David; that is, to establish upon the antitypical throne of David the long-promised millennial kingdom. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”—Isa. 55:3; 9:7

The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 15:53,54, gives us a time prophecy that tells us when, in God’s due time, the long-expected and greatly desired kingdom will finally be established. He states, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”

Here the apostle is saying that when the last member of the body of Christ has been selected and has laid down his life by being baptized into Christ’s death and then has been exalted to the divine nature, the prophecy then will be fulfilled concerning the destruction of death. This does not indicate that the completion of the church will bring the fulfillment of the prophecy, but rather that the means of bringing about the destruction of death will have been provided; for it is through the Christ—Christ and the members of his body—that the world is to be blessed. We know that this time has not yet come, because many of those running for the prize are still here and some are still being called.

The expression, “Death is swallowed up in victory,” is a citation from Isaiah 25:6-8, which is a very beautiful and vivid prophecy concerning the yet future millennial kingdom—a time when the great restoration will come to pass.

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”—Hab. 2:2,3

Dawn Bible Students Association
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