Days of Understanding
JEHOVAH reveals himself and his purposes to his people in his own due time. His prophecy therefore can not be understood until it is God's due time for understanding it. Prior to his due time any interpretation is merely a guess. Without doubt it has been pleasing to the Lord for those consecrated to him to seek an understanding even before the due time to understand. Their very attitude of searching for the truth kept them in harmony with the Lord. The holy angels of heaven sought an understanding; and while the Lord did not reveal his purpose to them, he did not rebuke them, and thus shows that he is not displeased with those who search for the truth. It will be found also that the understanding of the prophecies of God increases as the fulfilment thereof unfolds. Therefore one may see some part of prophecy now, and later see it more clearly. "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov. 4:18) It is also true that prophecy has more than one fulfilment. It will be found that at a certain period of time the prophecy has a small or miniature fulfilment, and later a much larger and complete fulfilment.
Many students have made the grievous mistake of thinking that God has inspired men to interpret prophecy. The holy prophets of the Old Testament were inspired by Jehovah to write as his power moved upon them. The writers of the New Testament were clothed with certain power and authority to write as the Lord directed them. However, since the days of
the apostles no man on earth has been inspired to write prophecy, nor has any man been inspired to interpret prophecy. The Apostle Peter emphatically says: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Pet. 1:20) The interpretation comes from the Lord in his own due time. When his due time arrives to bring about the physical facts by which those devoted to him can see that these facts are in fulfilment of prophecy, then the prophecy can be understood. The truth does not belong to any man or any other creature. God's Word is truth. In his due time he makes it clear to those devoted to him, and not before.
To his faithful disciples Jesus said: "When he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: . . . and he will shew you things to come." (John 16:13) The spirit of God was given to these disciples at Pentecost, and thereafter they spoke or wrote under the supervision of the spirit of God. (Acts 2:4) The Lord did show them things to come, and some of them uttered words of prophecy. There is no Scriptural proof, however, that the apostles had successors, and therefore we must conclude that they had a special mission from the Lord to understand and speak according to his will. Without doubt some of them at least had a better understanding than they were permitted to disclose to others. Paul speaks of himself as receiving a vision from the Lord and of hearing words which it was not lawful for him to utter. (2 Cor. 12:4) So far as the Bible discloses, there is no other man since the days of the apostles who has had any vision that was not lawful for him to utter. From the words of Jesus we must understand that even his disciples would be permitted to understand God's purpose only in his due time.
Jesus also said to his disciples: "And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe." (John 14:29) This is a plain statement of the rule concerning the understanding of prophecy, namely, that 'when it comes to pass, ye may believe and understand'. The "ye" in that text refers to the disciples, and it must be limited to those who are devoted to Jehovah God. This explains why the Lord's Word can not be understood by those who are not in harmony with God. If a man wants to understand the Word of the Lord, he must devote himself to the Lord honestly and sincerely. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." — Ps. 25:14.
The apostles, under the supervision of the Lord, organized the church in their day. To the members of the church of that time the written epistles of the apostles were directed, but they were intended more particularly for the understanding, aid and comfort of the members of the church at the end of the world. (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) After the death of the apostles there quickly came upon the church a time of darkness. That was a long period of darkness and is generally mentioned as the "dark ages". During that long period of time the face of the Lord was turned away from that organization called "the church", so far as revealing his purposes was concerned. That period of time lasted approximately from the third century to the nineteenth century. In that period there was probably a very small number of the true followers of Christ on earth. The number claiming to be the followers of Christ was large, but those who were faithful and true were few in number. That was the period of time when the true and the false grew together, which Jesus described in the
parable as the "wheat" and the "tares" growing in the same field. He declared they must continue thus to grow together until the end of the world. (Matt. 13:24,30,39) Thus growing together, the true followers of Christ were greatly hindered by the false. The teachers in the churches were selfish men interested in political influence and personal flattery. Under the influence and control of the enemy Satan, they caused the truth to become obscure and to be seen very dimly.
Again attention is called to the words of Jesus, the great Prophet, who with authority from Jehovah said to his disciples: "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go ... I will come again and receive you unto myself." It should therefore be expected that the coming again of the Lord would mark the beginning of a better understanding of God's Word. In harmony with this, Peter at Pentecost uttered a prophecy saying: "Times of refreshing shall come from the presence [face] of the Lord [Jehovah]; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the 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) In this the apostle clearly foretells a time of refreshing to the people of the Lord, and that the time would be at the second coming of the Lord Jesus.
That would not mean that Jesus must be bodily present again on the earth, because with him distance is no barrier. He is a spirit being of the divine nature, and his power is without limitation, regardless of his actual bodily position. Being clothed with all power in heaven and in earth, he could administer the affairs of the church from one point as well as from another.
The apostle's words mean that, at a stated time and acting in accord with Jehovah's orders, Christ Jesus would begin to minister to those consecrated to God and give them refreshing. What would be the nature of that refreshing?
Peter mentions "restitution", which would mean a restoring of that which had been taken away or hidden, and would necessarily include the truth that was hidden during the "dark ages". On another occasion Jesus said that 'Elijah must first come and restore all things'. (Matt. 17:11) Elijah was a prophet of God who did a restitution work in his time, in that he restored to the Israelites an understanding of the truth concerning God and their covenant relationship with God. (1 Ki. 18: 39) His work was prophetic and foretold that the Lord would restore his truth to his own people. After Elijah was dead, Malachi prophesied that God would send Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. (Mal. 4: 5, 6) That prophecy is proof that another should do a work similar to that done by Elijah, but on a far greater scale and of much more importance.
The restitution or restoring of all things, of which Jesus spoke, and also that mentioned by the Apostle Peter, must begin with the restoring to the people of God the truths that had been hidden during the dark ages. That restitution work would progress during the manifestation of the second presence of Jesus Christ. It would be expected that the days of understanding of the prophecies would begin sometime after the manifestation of the Lord's second presence, and the understanding would continue to increase thereafter.
The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D. This proof
is specifically set out in the booklet entitled Our Lord's Return. In the Scriptures there are three different Greek words used in connection with the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those words are, to wit: parousia (Matt. 24: 3), which means presence; epiphaneia (2 Tim. 4:1), which means presence and shining forth with increased light; and apokalupsis (Rev. 1:1), which means the presence of the Lord shining forth with increased light and to a complete uncovering or revelation. Thus is shown the progressive unfolding of the prophecies during the presence of the Lord. That is the period of refreshing mentioned by Peter, and that refreshing is given to, and is for, the benefit of the faithful students of God's Word, because God has turned his face to them and the Lord Jesus Christ is manifesting his presence and is ministering to them.
Within the period of his presence there is a gradual and progressive restoration or restitution of the fundamental truths of the Word of God. Therefore the work of Elijah foretold a period of time for the restoration of all the great fundamental truths of the divine purpose. This prophecy has been fulfilled. Particularly three great fundamental truths were little understood until after the second presence of the Lord. Those truths are, to wit, the philosophy of the ransom sacrifice, the mystery of God concerning Christ and his body members, and the restitution of the human race during the reign of Christ.
That restitution of fundamental truths would not mean an unfolding and understanding of all the prophecies, for the reason that they had never been understood. It is impossible to restore a thing that did not once exist or that was not once understood. Without a question of doubt the apostles understood
the fundamental truths, mentioned above as being restored. It is also equally certain that there are many of the prophecies that they could not clearly understand, because it was not God's due time to reveal them. One of these truths, in particular, was in reference to the Lord's second coming, one which he stated no man understood. (Matt. 24:36) Therefore the conclusion is that the restitution of all things does not have reference to an interpretation of the prophecies.
Another general rule that may be safely followed by the student of prophecy is this: A prophecy is usually in course of fulfilment before the followers of Christ discern it, and often such followers are used by the Lord to perform a certain part in fulfilment of the prophecy without their being aware that they are so used. Then, after progress in the fulfilment, he makes it known to them. By faith the true Christian goes on doing what he can in harmony with God's will, and then the Lord shows him how he has been used by the Lord. Evidently the Lord does this for the purpose of encouraging the Christian and increasing his faith.
Interpretation of prophecy has been written time and again by men, and many have believed such interpretation to be true. Afterward, when they found out that the interpretation was not true, many have become discouraged and have turned away from the study of God's Word. This is a great mistake. If we always keep in mind that the truth is God's and not man's, and that no man can interpret prophecy, but that the true follower of the Lord can see it after it is fulfilled, then the student will be less liable to become discouraged. He will then be giving all honor and glory to Jehovah and not to any man. Jehovah
never makes any mistakes. Where the student relies upon man, he is certain to be led into difficulties. When he relies upon the Lord, he will be kept in perfect peace. — Isa. 26: 3.
PREPARING THE WAY
Jesus Christ, the great Prophet of God, prophesied that he would come again. The fulfilment of that prophecy is one of the outstanding parts of the divine plan. Having arranged for others to be taken into the 'covenant by sacrifice' and ultimately into the kingdom, the Lord at his second coming would be expected to first do some special work in behalf of those. They must have the truth restored to them to be enabled to discern the presence of the Lord and to do the will of God. They must have a knowledge of the Scriptures in order to be thoroughly furnished and prepared for the work the Lord would have them to do. (2 Tim. 3:16,17) When the Lord organized the church he provided that those who are apt to teach would communicate what they had learned to others who desired to know the truth, and thereby the members of the church would be used to aid one another. Such ministry God committed to the faithful followers of Christ Jesus. Of course the enemy would attempt to prevent this and to turn the minds of all away from God.
During the "dark ages" he used the clergy especially to blind the others, and the result was that by far the greater number were unfaithful to what they did know and became blind to all the truth. There were some who were true and faithful. The dishonest ones were used by Satan to blind many. The dishonest clergymen or teachers in the church magnified themselves and other men, and hid from the eyes of the
people an understanding of Jehovah God and the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way Satan used them as his instruments. God's due time came to send Christ Jesus, that refreshing times might begin for his faithful people. As the honest ones would be refreshed by the truth, they would be used by the Lord to aid others in teaching them the truth and preparing them to discern the second presence of the Lord and his kingdom. Such a ministry of truth was given to the apostles, and all honest followers of Christ Jesus since have had some opportunity to do something to enlighten others. To continue pleasing to the Lord they must be honest and preach God's truth, and particularly his means of salvation by Christ Jesus.
Note the apostle's argument: "Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel [the message of truth] be hid, it is hid to them that are lost [perishing]; in whom the god of this world [Satan the enemy] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Cor. 4:1-7) It follows, then, that the first essential to understanding the
truth when restored to the church would be honesty. In order to remain in the truth and advance with the light of the Lord's presence, honor and glory must be given to God and not to man. This would be a preparatory work.
Jehovah, through his prophet, foretold this very work of preparing the way. "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." (Mal. 3:1) Christ Jesus the great Prophet, God's authoritative spokesman, is the great "messenger" who is sent to execute this order of Jehovah. This order is designated in the Scriptures as 'preparing the way before Jehovah'. This work of preparing the way before Jehovah God would consist of restoring the fundamental truths, and bringing the honest seekers for truth together for the study of the Word of God and for instruction and aid to them in building one another up in the most holy faith. Undoubtedly this is the work concerning which Jesus prophesied when he said that 'Elijah must first come, and restore all things'. Elijah the prophet did a prophetic work of restoring to Israel a knowledge of God, foretelling a work which Christ Jesus would do and in which the faithful body members would have some part.
That work of restoration, foreshadowed by Elijah's work, began approximately in 1878 and continued until 1918. During that period of time the good news of the second coming of the Lord, the philosophy of the great ransom sacrifice, the mystery of God, and the final destiny of humankind, were especially taught amongst the truth-seeking people of the earth. That
period of time was a time of understanding these great truths as they had never before been understood. To be sure, the vision of the truth continued to increase from the beginning of that period. However, in that period of time much of the truth was not revealed, because it was not God's due time.
That which was revealed was an understanding of the ten great fundamental truths of the purpose of salvation. An understanding of the prophecies that had been fulfilled was given to the church; but of course those that had not been fulfilled or that Were not in course of fulfilment could not be understood, because it was not God's due time. The work of preparing the way before the Lord took place during the parousia of Christ Jesus and before the epiphaneia, as these words are hereinbefore defined.
Referring again to the prophecy of Malachi, it is easily seen that when the Messenger of Jehovah would finish the work of preparing the way before Jehovah, then something else would be due to come to pass, and that something else is stated in these words: "And [then] the Lord [Jesus Christ], whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts." (Mal. 3:1) Up to 1918 the faithful Christians on earth were especially looking for the Lord to end the work of the church on earth and take them all to glory. They began to get a better understanding of God's purposes; and the reason therefor was that at that time the Lord came "suddenly" or straightway to his temple.
It is important, then, to understand what is the temple of God and what is meant by the Lord's com-
ing to his temple. "Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant." Christ Jesus is the Head of the house of the sons of God. (Heb. 3:6) The temple of God is another name for the house of sons. The temple is made up of God's anointed, Jesus Christ himself being the "chief corner stone" thereof, and the faithful members of the body constituting the other "living stones". (Eph. 2:18-22) The apostle furnishes further proof when he says: "Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Cor. 3:16) The coming of the Lord to his temple would mark the beginning of a time of special understanding by those who are of the temple of God; and the facts show this to be true.
It is the Lord Jesus, the Bridegroom, in whom the bride members of the church delight and for whose coming the bride faithfully watched. This is proven by the prophecy which Jesus spoke concerning the wise virgins. (Matt. 25:1-8) All during the time that Christ Jesus was 'preparing the way before Jehovah' his true and faithful followers were watching and waiting for him to come and gather them to himself, even as he had prophesied he would do. With delight they anticipated his coming, because they delighted in him. This identified the class mentioned by the Prophet Malachi as the ones delighting in Jehovah's Messenger. These are called the "virgins" because they are pure and undefiled, trusting wholly in the Lord. The church is likened unto a pure virgin espoused to Christ: "For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor. 11: 2) These are "wise" virgins because they diligently apply themselves to know the
truth of God's Word and then to obey it. "A wise son heareth his father's instruction." (Prov. 13:1) They are called the sons of God because they receive their life from God. These collectively are called the wise virgins, because the church, the bride of Christ, is represented as a pure woman.
A lamp is a symbol representing God's Word of truth: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Ps. 119:105) "For thou art my lamp, 0 Lord; and the Lord will lighten my darkness." (2 Sam. 22: 29) "I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed." (Ps. 132:17) Referring now to the prophecy that Jesus spoke concerning his coming to his temple and concerning the wise virgins and whatever action would be taken at that time, he said: "Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps." (Matt. 25:7) One trims a lamp to make it shine more brilliantly, that he may see to a better advantage. The statement of Jesus therefore means that the faithful ones would at once begin to search the Scriptures more diligently, that they might obtain greater light upon God's Word. Therefore, with the coming of the Lord to his temple, the wise virgins, being received into the temple condition, would be illuminated and have a better understanding of the Word of God.
Three and one-half years after the anointing of Jesus and after his beginning to preach God's kingdom on earth, he rode into Jerusalem and offered himself as King, and immediately went to the temple or house of the Lord at Jerusalem and cleansed it. In 1914 Jehovah set his anointed One upon his throne; therefore at that time Christ Jesus took his authority as King. Three and one-half years thereafter, to wit, in 1918, the Lord came to his temple, which is the
temple of God. One of the purposes of the Lord's coming to his temple, as shown by the words of the Prophet Malachi, was and is to give those of the temple class a clearer understanding of God's purposes. Therefore that would mark the beginning of a clearer understanding of the prophecies, because it was God's due time.
Again referring to Malachi's prophecy in this connection, note that it is written: "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness." (Mal. 3:3) Silver, in the Scriptures, is a symbol of the truth; therefore the Lord, after coming to his temple, would refine and purify the truth, that is to say, give a clearer vision of the truth to those of the temple class. It should be expected, therefore, that after 1918 the true followers of Christ would gradually increase in clearness of vision of the truth and would have a better understanding of it than they had before, and particularly with reference to the prophecies. The facts show that that is exactly what has come to pass, and this in fulfilment of the prophecy. The temple class learned that the Lord had not come for the purpose of taking all to heaven; but later they had a better understanding of God's purposes, and learned that the Lord had something for the temple class remaining on earth to do before being taken into heavenly glory. The coming of the Lord to his temple therefore marks the beginning of the days of understanding.
It was from the sous of Levi that the priests of Israel were taken, which prophetically foretold that the "royal priesthood" would be taken from amongst those consecrated to the Lord God. (1 Pet. 2:9,10)
The statement of the prophet that when Jesus came to his temple he would "purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver", foretold that with the coming of the Lord to his temple he would take account with and cleanse those who had been taken into the covenant of sacrifice, that the approved ones might be known, and that these would have a clearer vision of God's purposes and would joyfully do God's will. It would be expected, therefore, that after 1918, when this purifying work began, the true followers and the approved ones would have a clearer vision of God's Word, and that those who were not thus approved would not have a clearer vision of his Word. The physical facts show that that is exactly what occurred following the year 1918. Some became offended and forsook the Lord and his work. Others, after the trying experiences, began to have a clearer vision of the prophecies and God's purposes, and greatly rejoiced therein. It was after 1918 that God's anointed people first saw and appreciated the meaning of "the robe of righteousness" and "the garments of salvation".
God had caused his prophet to say: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." (Isa. 61:10) After 1918 the wise virgin class began to see that the robe of righteousness means Jehovah's approval, and that the garments of salvation identify these approved ones who are pleasing to God and who are honestly endeavoring to do his will. Seeing this, they began to rejoice greatly, and, having continued under the robe of righteousness,
they have likewise continued to rejoice. Many of the other prophecies began to open up to the anointed after that time, and as their vision thereof clarified, their joy in the Lord continued.
Further corroborative testimony is given by the prophecy uttered by Christ Jesus the great Prophet as relating to the end of the world and what followed thereafter. He said: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." (Rev. 11:15) That corresponds exactly with the words of God's prophet in Psalm 2: 6, when the Lord Jehovah placed his Son upon his throne. Then in that connection Jesus further prophesied: "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come," (Rev. 11:17,18) In 1914 the nations became angry, and the World War began and continued for four years, ending in 1918. That World War and the attending events were exactly in fulfilment of the prophetic words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 24: 7-10. It was in that year of 1918 that the Lord came to his temple: "And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." — Rev. 11:19.
The temple of God was open to those approved ones of the temple class, and therefore such began to have a better understanding of heavenly things. From that time forward the members of the temple class have understood the prophecies as they had never understood them before, because that marked the beginning of God's due time for such understanding. The flashing of the "lightning", as stated by the Lord, represents God's truth; and as it flashed upon the temple class, the members thereof continued to have a clearer vision of the Lord's purpose, and particularly of the proph-
ecies. This represents the epiphaneia, or presence of the Lord and shining forth with increased light. Such condition of shining forth with increased light must continue until the apokalupsis, or complete uncovering of God's purposes pertaining to his kingdom or righteous government.
In answer to a question concerning his second presence, the end of the world, and coming to his own, Jesus Christ the great Prophet said: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." (Matt. 24:30) It was after 1918, when the Lord came to his temple, that the great sign of the Son of man did appear in heaven in fulfilment of the above-stated prophecy. What, then, is that sign?