Wells Without Water

“My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” —Jeremiah 2:13

IT HAS been Satan’s purpose since his fall to thwart God’s design for the reconciliation of mankind. Before the Flood he was successful in contaminating the human race with sin, except for a few faithful individuals such as Enoch and finally Noah and his family—eight souls that God saved from the Flood. God has permitted Satan to operate in the earth with almost a free hand except that he has been restrained when the ultimate divine purpose might be threatened. (Ps. 76:10) This has been permitted in order to demonstrate to his human and spiritual creation the exceeding sinfulness of sin.

When God began dealing with the nation of Israel, he gave them his law with the promise that he would bless them in basket and store if they would simply be humble and make an honest effort to be obedient. (Deut. 28:1-14) Moreover, he said that if any individual was able to keep his law perfectly he would gain life. (Lev. 18:4,5) As a nation, if faithful, they were promised, “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people … and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exod. 19:5,6) These were precious promises and should have been a strong motivation for obedience. But the history of the Jews under the Law is a long, sad story of disobedience and subsequent chastisement.

By the time God began dealing with Israel as a nation, Satan was well established in the governments and peoples who were their neighbors. These nations were idol worshipers and practiced every kind of immorality. The Israelites had been exposed to sensual pleasures of this kind of life while they were slaves in Egypt and they found the excesses of their neighbors to be a great temptation to return to their former way of life. It made them feel that the restrictions imposed on them by the Law were oppressive and therefore easy to circumvent and ignore. They seemed to forget or hold in low esteem the promises of blessing and favor offered by God.

One of the most effective tools Satan used to seduce Israel was false prophets. By flattering and deceitful words, they obtained a pernicious ascendancy over the minds of the people and the rulers of Israel. In Jeremiah 23:1-40 is an account of the Lord’s displeasure with these false prophets and his lament over the children of Israel who had been led astray by them. The text in part reads, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets … for the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house I have found their wickedness, saith the Lord. … I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evil-doers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah.” (vss. 9-11,14) In another place the Lord, through the prophet, states, “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so.”—Jer. 5:30,31

The prophet was sorrowful concerning the disobedience of Israel for the whole land was filled with adulterers, and profane and perjured persons. But the people still proceeded in their evil course, and did wrong with impetuous violence and with all their power. In this unrighteousness the prophets and the priests were ringleaders; they even chose the Temple as the scene of their crimes against the Lord.

The Apostle Peter tells us that what happened to Israel with their false prophets was a foreshadowing of what was to happen to the true church down through the Gospel Age. The apostle states, “But Israel had false prophets as well as true; and you likewise will have false teachers among you. They will impart disastrous heresies, disowning the very Master who bought them. … They will gain many adherents to their dissolute practices, through whom the true way will be brought into disrepute. In their greed for money they will trade on your credulity with sheer fabrications.”—II Pet. 2:1-3, NEB

We do not have to look very closely in the history of the church to verify the accuracy of the apostle’s prediction. For example we read in Fisher’s Universal History, page 193: “As the church grew in numbers and wealth, costly edifices were constructed for worship; the services became more elaborate; sculpture and painting were enlisted in the work of providing aids to devotion. Relics of saints and martyrs were cherished as sacred possessions; religious observances were multiplied; and the church under Christian emperors (in the fourth century), with its array of clergy and of imposing ceremonies, assumed much of the stateliness and visible splendor that belonged to the heathen system which it had supplanted.”

Mosheim, in his Ecclesiastical History, traces the falling away of the church from its original simplicity and purity, step by step down to its deep degradation, which culminated in the development of the “man of sin.” (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 2, p. 283) In tracing this history, it is sobering to note how Satan used the established secular powers and spokesmen in an effort to destroy the Early Church. Continuing, the writer states: “The innocence and virtue that distinguished so eminently the lives of Christ’s servants, and the spotless purity of the doctrine they taught, were not sufficient to defend them against the virulence and malignity of the Jews. The priests and rulers of that abandoned people, not only loaded with injuries and reproach the apostles of Jesus and their disciples, but condemned to death as many of them as they could, and executed in the most irregular and barbarous manner their sanguinary decrees. … This odious malignity of the Jewish doctors, against the heralds of the Gospel was undoubtedly owing to a secret apprehension that the progress of Christianity would destroy the credit of Judaism, and bring the ruin of their pompous ceremonies.

“The Romans also did everything in their power to eradicate this new Christian movement. Nero was the first emperor who enacted laws against the Christians. In this he was followed by Domitian, Marcus Antoninus the philosopher, Servenes, and other emperors who indulged the prejudices they had imbibed against the disciples of Christ.” —Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, p. 70,72

Among the leading sects that troubled the Early Church were the Gnostics. These enthusiastic and self-sufficient philosophers boasted of their being able to restore mankind to the knowledge of the true and supreme being, which they felt had been lost in the world. Several of these false prophets mentioned by the apostles were Hymenaeus, Alexander, Philatus, Hermogenes, Demos, and Diotrephes. These men forged changes in the true doctrines and worship, and set up a new religion drawn from their own imaginations. The Apostle Paul in his counsel to Timothy stated, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare: holding [the] faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”—I Tim. 1:18-20

One of the errors that flourished in the apostles’ day was the teaching that the Lord had come the second time and that it was therefore time for the gathering of the church to the Lord. The Apostle Paul warned the church, saying, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” (II Thess. 2:3) Then the apostle proceeds to describe what this chief exponent of evil will do. He states that the man of sin will exalt himself above God, and that he will establish himself in God’s temple. Then he warns that this mystery of iniquity was already working, and that the seeds of that great error were already sown. He continues, saying that in due time “shall that wicked [one] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming [Greek parousia—presence].”—II Thess. 2:4-8

We know from history the seeds sown at that early date did bring forth the great papal system which is the greatest of false prophets, not because of its moral obliquity but because it is a counterfeit of the true Christ and the true kingdom. “This man of sin is a system, not a single individual. The Christ consists of the true Lord and the true church, so Antichrist is a counterfeit system consisting of a false lord and an apostate church, which for a time is permitted to misrepresent the truth, to practice deceit and to counterfeit the authority and future reign of the true Lord and his church, and to intoxicate the nations with false claims and assumptions.”—Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 2, p. 272

From this beginning there were born many daughters, each proclaiming its own message that perverted or diluted “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) The Apostle Peter said of all these systems: “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”—II Pet. 2:17-19

The Apostle Paul stated that at the proper time these evil systems would be exposed because of their error by “the spirit of his [Jesus’] mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming [presence].” Then the apostle identifies who is the real enemy and supporter of these systems. “But the coming of that wicked man [system] is the work of Satan. It will be attended by all the powerful signs and miracles of the lie, and all the deceptions that sinfulness can impose on those doomed to destruction. Destroyed they shall be, because they did not open their minds to love of the truth, so as to find salvation. Therefore God puts them under a delusion, which works upon them to believe the lie, so that they may all be brought to judgment, all who do not believe the truth but make sinfulness their deliberate choice.”—II Thess. 2:9-12, NEB

The prophecy states that this entire evil system and her daughters (the Protestant systems) are the work of Satan, and he will manifest great power, signs, and miracles through them. As we review in our minds the history of these systems, we see how by deep subtlety and the peculiar power of Satan, with every kind of counterfeit signs and wonders, he claims to have copied the miracles of Christ and his apostles just as the Egyptian magicians Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. (II Tim. 3:8) This great display was also accompanied with all the various kinds of forgery and fraud, with which men’s senses and understanding have been deluded by artful deceivers in different ages and nations of the world. Much of the world has been deluded into an admiration, a blind reverence and an implicit submission to the arrogant claims and multiplied idolatries and abominations of this grand delusion.

But the apostle continues, and states that when the Lord returns he will consume the wicked one with the spirit of his mouth and will destroy him with the brightness of his presence. Bypassing long periods of the history of this evil system during which the reformation, beginning about 1400 A.D., and the period of Napoleon’s success in forcing the rejection of the Pope as ruler over Rome and the papal states of Italy, we come to the beginning of the harvest time of the Gospel Age. In spite of the loss of temporal power, this great false system still retained much of its influence over the minds of the people and there was little or no evidence of its disintegration. But with the second advent of our Lord, which we believe occurred about 1874, the prophecy tells us, “As the lightning [brightshining] cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:27) The thought is that the light of truth, brought about by the Lord’s presence, was to penetrate every subject, exposing right and wrong and injustices. The proponents of the various principles are to be according to the prophecy (vss. 28,29) involved in a great struggle which will eventually resolve into an intense time of trouble expressed in other places as the day of God’s wrath. It is to be at the close of this time that evil is to be destroyed and Satan bound. (Rev. 20:2) One of these great evils is the apostate systems, the chief instrument of Satan.

Do we see these prophecies fulfilled or in the process of fulfillment today? We believe that we do! Starting about 1875, a great explosion of knowledge that resulted in unparalleled advancement in every field of knowledge and endeavor began. For example, the following are a few of the inventions resulting from this increase in light:

1875 - Telephone
1882 - Electric generator and electric motor
1884 - Linotype
1885 - Internal combustion engine
1885 - Automobile
1903 - Airplane
1906 - Tractor
1923 - Television
1944 - Computer
1947 - Transistor

We are prone to forget that the enlightenment of the world today is something that has developed suddenly, in comparison with the thousands of years of the past during which there was little or no increase in knowledge. Both with respect to the general education of the people and in the matter of scientific achievement, the world has advanced more in the last one hundred years than in the previous six thousand. It is claimed that today knowledge is more than doubling every ten years.

The first, however, to be blessed by the brightshining of our Lord’s presence are his own people, his footstep followers. The knowledge of the truth pertaining to the divine plan is symbolized as meat. Jesus said that when he would come “he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” (Luke 12:37) This promise has been, and still is being, wonderfully fulfilled.

The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus, at his first advent, came to die for Adam and his entire race, that they might have an opportunity to be restored to life on the earth, and if faithful to the laws of the kingdom, gain everlasting life. The Apostle Paul stated the matter this way, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:22) The period in which man will be restored to life on the earth is described by the Apostle Peter as “times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21) This great hope of the world is now seen by the faithful watchers in Zion, being one of the rays of heart-cheering light which has gladdened the hearts of those who have first observed the brightshining of the Master’s presence.

The general enlightenment of the masses of underprivileged peoples of earth has brought forth a cry for justice and equality. The struggle between the “haves” and the “have nots” has led the world into two world wars and innumerable skirmishes and smaller conflicts. The “have nots” have risen up in rebellion against the tyrannies of the past which oppressed and robbed them of their just share of earth’s goods.

These and many other evidences point to our day as the time of the Lord’s invisible presence and the day of God’s wrath, when our returned Lord, acting as the arm of Jehovah, is destroying evil and the evil systems of earth—including, in due time, Satan, the god of this present evil world “with the spirit of his mouth.” (II Cor. 4:4) The spirit of the Lord’s mouth is the Word of God, and it was the printing press, flooding the world with Bibles in preparation for the brightshining of our Lord’s presence, that began to weaken the wicked church-state system of Europe, the counterfeit kingdom of Christ. Today in Europe we see this process continuing as membership sags in practically every country.

In France the heavy immigration from North Africa has made Moslems the second largest religious group, ahead of Protestants and Jews. The attendance in the Roman Catholic Church is declining, and its priesthood has dropped by one-fourth since 1963. In Italy, where ninety-nine percent of the population is born into Catholicism, fewer than ten percent are regular churchgoers. In West Germany only one in three church members attends services regularly. Regular attendance at Great Britain’s churches, especially the Anglican faith, has been declining for years; now there is a shortage of clergy. Declines in membership and clergy are even steeper in some Marxist-governed nations such as Czechoslovakia, where repression has reduced the active priesthood to less than two-thirds the needed number. —U.S. News & World Report 10/1/79

This decline was first felt in the United States, with a similar erosion of church membership. But many of the churches have attempted to meet the challenge by liberalizing their services to accommodate an increasing number of young people who refuse to accept the old tenets. Religious leaders now expect more spiritual exploration, and new sects blending elements of world religions as they come into increasing contact with one another, thus further diluting the Gospel message. The radio and television ministry is a phenomenon that gathers huge audiences at the expense of established mainline churches. For the most part their message is a diluted presentation with emphasis on entertainment and the collection of money.—N.Y. Times, 1979, Dec. 2,1:3, 30th, XII,S:1

All of this, we believe, marks the beginning of the disintegration of this great false church system. But Satan is not surrendering his power without a final struggle marked by the mushroom growth of religious cults and mystic sects. These have been a powerful magnet for our youth. At present, anywhere from one to three million Americans, mostly in their twenties or late teens, are involved in two hundred to one thousand of these new cults. Many of these youngsters are attracted to the authoritarian image presented by most of the cult leaders, together with a multitude of other motivations such as some traditionally devout views. Others involve drugs, and even Satan worship.—U.S. News & World Report, June 14, 1976

The most frightening development of this trend is the unprecedented growth in popularity of “hard rock” among our young people. Some of the popular groups playing this kind of music, such as Led Zeppelin, are deep into the occult. In an article by Dick Donovan for the New York News, he states that aside from obvious physical gyrations in expressing the effect of the wild sound and beat of the music, there are many other evidences of satanic influences. For example, on many of the records that are currently popular there are messages recorded backward and are intelligible only when the record is played in reverse. Some of these messages are: “I will sing because I live with Satan”; “Decide to smoke marijuana”; “Satan, Satan, Satan, he is God! He is God, he is God.” The young people are aware that these messages are there and they have devised ways to listen to them. One of the current hits is openly titled, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Surely the thought of the prophecy in Revelation 12:12 applies to this time. “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea; for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

We know from the prophecy in Matthew 24:22 that the completed church, with Christ as its head, will have the privilege of bringing to a close Satan’s rule here on earth. The details of the struggle that will spell Satan’s demise are prophesied in Revelation 19:11-21 and in Psalm 149:5-9, which reads, “Let the saints be joyful in glory. … Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen and punishment upon the people, to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all his saints.” Then in Revelation 20:1-3 we read of the result of this climactic phase of the time of trouble: “I saw an angel [the Christ] come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled.”

When Satan and his multitude of false prophets are no longer effective in the world, then the kingdom of God will be established in the earth. There are many wonderful prophecies telling of this time. One of these is in Isaiah 25:6-10 which reads in part, “He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” The covering cast over all people and the veil over all nations is the cloud of ignorance, superstition, and doubt that Satan has generated and fostered as a means of deceiving the people. But the prophet states that the Lord is going to remove this’ veil. Then the Prophet Jeremiah explains that the Lord will put his “law in their [the people’s] inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.”—Jer. 31:33,34

In that great and glorious day there will be one well of water from which the water of life will flow freely. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

Dawn Bible Students Association
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