God and Reason—Part 3

Has Christianity Failed?

A CORRECT answer to the question as to whether Christianity has been a success or a failure depends upon a proper understanding of what constitutes Christianity, and just what God intended it should accomplish in the earth. Christ is presented to us in the Bible as the Savior of the world; and the logical conclusion is that God had planned for the world to be converted to him, and thus to be saved from death. But nearly two thousand years have passed since Jesus came to the earth to die for mankind, and yet the world is still far from being converted. Even nominal Christianity is rapidly losing ground, and whole nations are officially setting themselves against religion of every kind. Are we to judge from this that God’s plan has failed?

The disciples, in Jesus’ day, based their hopes of the messianic kingdom upon the prophecies of the Old Testament, and their hopes were therefore, in the main, correct. What they failed to understand, to begin with, was that the time had not then come for the establishment of that kingdom. Just so with most professing Christians since then: their belief that God had planned the conversion of the world through Christ and the church is correct, but they have failed to see from the Scriptures that this is not the age in which God purposed that this work should be accomplished.

Now, as the immediate disciples of Jesus failed to note from the prophecies that the Messiah must suffer and die as man’s Redeemer before the promised kingdom blessings could come to the world, just so have professed Christians failed to see from the Scriptures that the true church of Christ must suffer and die with him before she will have the privilege of sharing with him in the future kingdom work of converting and blessing the world of mankind. The Apostle Paul states this matter clearly, saying, “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”—Rom. 8:17,18

The glory referred to here is evidently the glory of joint-heirship with Christ in his messianic kingdom. If those who attain to this glory must first of all suffer with him, then it means that the present mission of the church is not that of conquering the world for Jesus, but of following faithfully in his footsteps, even unto death.

Christians Follow Jesus

And this is in reality what Jesus himself taught his followers. For example, on more than one occasion he said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” That these were to follow him all the way into death is made positive by Jesus’ words in Revelation 2:10, which reads, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” That this faithfulness implies fortitude in the face of suffering persecution is shown by his promise of Revelation 3:21, where he says, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”

When the divine commission was given to the church to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, the purpose was distinctly stated to be that of making disciples, and giving a witness. But that this witness was not intended by God to conquer the world, but to result in the preparation of Christians themselves for the future work of reigning with Jesus, is made clear in Revelation 20:4. We quote: “I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God, … and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

Now if the mission of the true Christians in the world has been merely that of bearing witness to the truth and, by means of the experiences thereby gained, to prepare themselves for the great future work of converting the world during the thousand-year kingdom period, then we can readily understand the apparent failure of Christianity. We see, indeed, that true Christianity has not failed; that it is merely the false hope of nominal believers that has not materialized. When we see that the present mission of the church is one of sacrifice and suffering rather than one of conquering the world, many puzzling questions are at once cleared up for us.

For example, have you not often wondered why it is that faithful Christians have usually suffered more than unbelievers? Have you ever wondered why, after Jesus came as the light of the world, mankind actually was plunged into a long period of darkness which we now speak of as the Dark Ages? Have you ever wondered why there are more than twice as many heathen in the world today as a century ago? Who has not wondered about questions of this nature? Many, as a result of their wondering, have concluded that Christianity is a gigantic farce, and that this supposed foundation and bulwark of civilization has signally failed to make good its claims.

What Is a Christian?

The popular idea of Christianity has been that one becomes a Christian in about the same manner that one joins a club, and that it constitutes a sort of safeguard against divine wrath that otherwise would send the individual to a terrible place of torment at death. Hence it has been supposed that God wants everyone to become Christians so they might escape this terrible fate. But now that it is being discovered, in the fuller light of a better day, that the nightmare of eternal torture is not taught in the Bible, the way is thus becoming clear for a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

The word Christ, being a Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, is used in the New Testament to connect Jesus with that glorious array of messianic promises found throughout the Old Testament. As already noted, the first of these promises was given in the Garden of Eden when God said that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. Another, and more specific promise, was given to Abraham when he was told that through his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

Jesus, the Christ, came into the world as the seed of promise to be the one who would bless all humanity, and the Scriptures show that those who become true Christians by following faithfully in his steps of self-sacrifice, even unto death, are to be a part with him of the promised seed.

The Apostle Paul, writing to Christians of his day, said, “If ye be Christ’s [Christians], then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says that Christ “is not one member, but many.” A very important point for consideration is presented by the apostle in these two statements. They show that in the selection and development of Christians, God is merely carrying on a preparatory work in connection with the future messianic purpose to bless all nations. It means that God has not been trying to make Christians of all mankind, but merely selecting a few from among the nations to be associated with Jesus in his future work of blessing the entire world, both the living and the dead.

A Peculiar People

But who are these Christians today whom God is selecting to reign with the Messiah? In what church will we find them? Since our Heavenly Father is doing the calling and selecting, he is the Judge as to just who they are. Specifically, a Christian is one who, having recognized that he was a sinner, and alienated from God, has repented, and who, through faith in the shed blood of Christ, has made a full consecration of his time, talents—all that he has—to the Lord, and is faithfully endeavoring to carry out that consecration. Denominational church membership has nothing whatever to do with it. See Romans 5:1-3

In the fifteenth chapter of Acts there is a revealing account concerning the divine purpose in the selection of the faithful Christians of this age. Here they are styled a people for his name. The apostle explains that “God at the first did visit the Gentiles,” not to make all of them Christians, but “to take out of them a people for his name”—the true Christians. After this, declares the apostle, divine favor will return to Israel, and the broken-down “tabernacle of David” will be restored: and then, he says, “the residue [remainder] of men,” and the Gentiles, will have an opportunity to “seek after the Lord.” But first must be completed the work of taking out a people for his name—the bride of Christ—to be made up of all fully consecrated Christians.—Acts 15:14-18

When we thus see that God does not intend that all the world, in this age, shall become Christians, it helps us to understand many passages of the Bible that heretofore have been very difficult to understand. For example, in Revelation 5:10 we are told that the future reign of Christ and the church is to be here on the earth. How could this be true if all except the church are to be taken away from the earth and tormented forever in a burning hell? Over whom, then, would the saints reign here on the earth? But this difficulty vanishes when we realize from the Scriptures that the world is to be blessed, not cursed, following the completion of the true church.

Viewing the matter thus, we can see that God’s plan of human salvation provides an opportunity for all, both the church and the world, not that all are to be saved irrespective of their own cooperation in the divine arrangements. No, the Scriptures distinctly point out that all who sin willfully after having come to a full knowledge of the truth are to be punished with everlasting destruction—but not everlasting preservation in misery, as the Dark Age creeds present the matter.

The True Church’s Reward

Another interesting point, in connection with God’s selection of the Christian church to be associated with Christ in his messianic kingdom, is that such faithful Christians are to have a higher reward than the world in general. God’s provision for the world is that they shall be restored to life upon the earth—a restoration of the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world, which is a dominion over the lower creation here on the earth; but to the Christian the Master gave the promise, “I go to prepare a place for you, … that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3) Yes, the church is to have a heavenly reward, but it is not God’s purpose to take all mankind to heaven, as we shall see later on in this discussion.

The prospect of everlasting life through the shed blood of the Redeemer is the blessed hope set before both the church and the world in the Bible. The scriptural presentation is not that of heaven for the righteous and eternal torture for the wicked, but is rather that of life or death.

The first man, Adam, disobeyed and lost life; but eventually Jesus came as man’s ransom, to meet the penalty of death by his own death on the cross. As a result of this, the world once more will be given the opportunity to live. This opportunity will in due time come to all; but during this Gospel Age, fully consecrated Christians are the only ones who actually have a full opportunity to benefit from the death of the Redeemer. These, because they follow Jesus in laying down their lives sacrificially, are rewarded, not only with life itself, but with immortal life. These are they who “seek for glory and honor and immortality.” (Rom. 2:7) The obedient of the world of mankind, during the future kingdom period, will also be given an opportunity to live, but the life they receive will be merely the restored human life forfeited by Adam. The obedient will then live everlastingly, not because they will become immortal, but because God will continue to sustain their lives.

Why the World Is Not Converted

The work of true Christianity has thus far been only that of preparing the future joint-heirs with the Messiah for the great work of his long-promised kingdom. Little wonder, in view of this, that the attempted work of converting the world has made so little progress throughout the Christian era. The Lord knew that, from the human standpoint, Christianity would appear to be a failure. Jesus himself, in referring to the end of this age, said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Thus the fact that very few in the world today really believe in the Bible is no surprise to God. His beloved Son, the Redeemer of the world, foresaw this very condition, and foretold it. This is another good reason why we should have faith in what the Bible says.

The hundreds of divisions among the so-called Christian churches likewise were foretold in the prophetic Word. Paul said that there would come a great falling away from the true faith, and this most certainly occurred.

Now if Jesus and his apostles were a group of deceiving men, bent on putting over some selfish scheme for the purpose of favorably influencing the whole world of mankind, would they deliberately predict that it would not be long before their entire scheme would fail and they themselves become laughingstocks in the minds of millions of people? Such pessimistic predictions would not be very encouraging to the early believers, nor induce very many to join the movement. Worldly wisdom would say, Paint the future as bright as you can, or else you will never make many converts.

But Jesus and the apostles were not guided by worldly wisdom. They fully understood that the purpose of preaching the Gospel in this age was not to build up large and imposing church organizations. They knew that God did not intend that the mere preaching of the Gospel now would lead the world to the feet of Jesus. They foresaw that while a little flock of true Christians would be gathered and prepared for the future work of blessing, misguided men and women as a whole would distort the glorious truths the Master taught, and that, as a result of this, Christianity would appear to go down in defeat.

How glad we are, however, that real Christianity has not failed; that the divine plan for this age is being successfully accomplished, and that now this preparatory work for the new kingdom is about completed. Indeed, there is much scriptural evidence to show that the period set aside in the divine purpose for the call and preparation of true Christians to reign with Jesus in his messianic kingdom is about ended. It should rejoice our hearts then, to consider some of the evidences which indicate that we have almost reached the end of this age and the beginning of a new one, one in which the foretold blessings of peace and life will be dispensed to a dying world.


Biblical truths pertaining to the end of the world have been so distorted by superstition and satanic deception that in the minds of many serious people they have become almost repugnant. How many thousands of sincere people have been horrified when they thought of this traditionally-terrible calamity that had been imaginatively pictured to them by overenthusiastic evangelists! Not many years ago a noted clergyman sought to encourage humanity by announcing that the end of the world would not come for fifty million years. Doubtless many noble religionists felt greatly relieved by this statement, and rejoiced that such a calamitous event would not befall the earth in their day.

But what a different viewpoint of this subject we obtain when we examine the biblical record apart from the influence of Dark Age creeds. In the sacred Word we find that the end of the world is held out as something to which all should joyfully look forward. Indeed, when all the Bible prophecies relating to the subject are fully understood, it will be found that when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” he really was instructing them to pray for the end of this present evil world, and for a better one to take its place.

The Earth Abideth Forever

The many hallucinations in the minds of the people concerning the end of the world are not taught in the Bible at all. What the Scriptures say on this subject has nothing whatever to do with the burning up or destruction of the literal earth.

Concerning this physical planet on which we live, the Prophet Isaiah says, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) Another of the Bible prophets tells us that “the earth abideth forever.” (Eccles. 1:4) Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” These passages all indicate that it is not God’s purpose ever to destroy the earth itself, but that it is to be used as a home for man.

The word world is used in the Bible very similarly to the way we often use it today, meaning not the earth, but the associations of people upon the earth—society in general. If, for example, we should read that the world was greatly shaken by a global war, we would not understand it to mean that literal mountains are being toppled over, or that the crust of the earth is in any way affected. The Bible uses Language in this same manner when foretelling the distressing events to take place at the end of the present age; events by which the existing social order is to be destroyed to make way for the kingdom of the Messiah.

The term world is also used in the Bible to denote an age. Several worlds, or ages, are mentioned in the Bible. We are told, for example, of a world that ended at the time of the Flood—yet the earth itself was not then destroyed. The Bible also speaks of another world that began after the Flood, and which is to be destroyed during the second presence of Christ. And there is still another world which will begin with the end of the present one. This latter world will continue on indefinitely into the future. It is this third world that is to be established through the operation of the messianic kingdom.

These worlds, all of which are thus seen to function on the literal planet, Earth, are subdivided by the Apostle Peter into their spiritual and material aspects, under the symbols of “heaven” and “earth.” See II Peter 3. It is plainly evident that the apostle’s language as used in this chapter is pictorial rather than literal; for we would be forced to the absurd conclusion that the Creator intends to destroy his entire universe if we insisted upon a literal meaning, because the Apostle Peter makes it plain that the heavens as well as the earth will pass away with a great noise.

In this same prophecy, the apostle uses the symbol of fire to describe the destructive influences which will bring to an end the present evil order of things and purge and prepare the way for the establishment of God’s kingdom—the “new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

Peter also tells us that the elements will melt with fervent heat. That this does not have reference to the elements of the literal earth is evident from the fact that Paul uses this same word when he admonishes the Christian not to be entangled again with the “weak and beggarly elements” of this world.—Gal. 4:9

National Symbolisms

An interesting example of the fact that the word earth, when used in the Bible, does not always mean the literal planet upon which we live, is found in Daniel 7:23. Here the prophet tells about a great and terrible beast that devours the whole earth. This would be a tall story indeed, if it were intended to be understood literally; for where would this gigantic beast stand while devouring this planetary morsel? As a symbol, however, it conveys a very meaningful lesson—the beast, as well as the earth, is symbolic.

All are familiar with the fact that many nations of the past and present are symbolized on their coat of arms by beasts of various kinds. The reigning pharaohs of Old Egypt used a lion to indicate their authority of rulership, and England today uses the lion on her standard for the same purpose. Then there are the Chinese dragon, the Russian bear, and the American eagle. These are illustrations to show the figurative application of the characteristics of living creatures to nations.

The Bible employs a similar symbolic method to designate various great world powers of history. Hence, in the passage cited above, the symbolic earth—organized society—is pictured as being devoured by a beast. It is an apt portrayal of a selfish ruling-class organization appropriating the resources of society for its own selfish use. Many people of the world recognize these conditions, and see that the illustrations aptly fit the nations represented. Why, then, should we experience any special difficulty when we find similar symbolisms in the Bible? It is the way God teaches us.

The term mountain also is often used in a symbolic sense in the Bible, and when so used it denotes a kingdom—either one or more of the kingdoms of this world, or else the messianic kingdom of the next age.

The sea, when used pictorially in the Scriptures, represents the masses; and the roaring of the sea, the restless, discontented condition of these masses. See Isaiah 17:12,13. One of the Bible prophecies relative to the progress of events now taking place on the earth tells of the mountains being carried into the midst of the sea. This, indeed, is a fitting illustration of the fact that many of the strongest kingdoms of the earth already have fallen into the hands of the clamoring masses, and that other mighty mountains of civilization will likewise be engulfed as the rising tide of discontent surges more and more persistently against their bulwarks.

An example of the scriptural use of these striking symbolisms, portraying the disintegrating processes by which the present world is being destroyed, is that of Psalm 46:2-6. Here the Lord’s prophet says, “We will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” Manifestly, this could not be understood literally, because if the literal earth were actually removed or destroyed there would be no mountains left to be carried into the sea, and no sea into which the mountains could be carried. Later in the chapter, the prophet interprets in part his own symbolic statements when he says, “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved.” And then, reverting to symbolic phraseology again, he continues, “He [the Lord] uttered his voice, the earth melted.”

That this melting of the earth does not mean the destruction of this literal planet on which we live is further evidenced in the closing verses of the chapter, where the prophet shows that the moving and melting have reference to the destruction of the war-thirsty governments prior to the establishment of God’s kingdom. That the literal earth is not destroyed is shown in verse ten of the psalm, where we read, “Be still, and know that I am God: … I will be exalted in the earth.”

In this prophecy of the forty-sixth psalm, there is a most unusual example of the varied way in which the term earth is employed in the Scriptures. In verse two, the earth is said to be removed; in the sixth verse, it is described as being melted; yet in the tenth verse, as we have seen, it still exists, and God’s name is exalted in it. In this new order, God’s name will be exalted throughout the whole earth. Surely, then, we should rejoice in the many evidences around us today which denote the near approach of the time when Christ shall be King, and the reign of sin and death shall end! Many of these signs will be examined in the next chapter.

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