GOD'S ESTIMATION DIFFERENT FROM THE WORLD'S
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--
I request your opinion upon the correctness of a thought found in one of the Convention Reports in the following language:--
"When the holy Jesus died, it was as a victim of Sin, which, for the moment, seemed to have the victory. Indeed, he could not have died had sin not been imputed to him; for all the promises of health, prosperity and life which were by the Law were his. The Law said--"The [R4704 : page 333] man which doeth those things shall live by them." (Rom. 10:5.) Thus came a necessity for our Lord to be accounted a sinner, in order that he might die for the people. For this reason we do not see that it is possible for the members of the Church to die unless, like him, they are accounted sinners."
I am well aware that the Lord Jesus would not have died (the Report says, "could not have died") if there had been no sin to be atoned for. But if our Lord died, as above suggested, it seems to me that his death must have been a penal death and not a sacrificial one. Could he die both a penal and a sacrificial death? It seems not so to me. If the Lord Jesus died a penal death it would appear to me that he could have no life rights left to his credit to bestow upon either the Church or the world.
I anxiously await your reply, for if the foregoing expression is correct, I have seriously misunderstood both the Scriptures and the DAWNS.
Your loving brother in our dear Redeemer,
W. W. M.--, Suffolk, Va.
DEAR BROTHER M.:--I am glad to note your careful discrimination in your Scripture studies. This is one lesson that all of the dear friends in the Truth need to learn--not to accept implicitly everything that they read in a Convention Report, nor everything that even a regular Pilgrim may express. The same principle, of course, holds true with respect to our own presentations, oral and printed. All that we receive as spiritual food should be thoroughly masticated before assimilation. We have great confidence in all of the dear Brethren engaged in the Pilgrim service; otherwise they would not represent the Society. However, we must not be held responsible for their every expression. We believe them to be thoroughly well-intentioned, but perfection alone will be reached beyond the vail. We come now to your question.
We cannot quite endorse the phraseology of the statement you quote. All of the Church die as the victims of sin, in the sense that sin and death are mentioned in a personified way in the Scriptures. Sin has actuated all those who oppose the Truth and persecute the Lord and his consecrated footstep followers. But we cannot agree with the thought that our Lord's death was a penal one. One Scripture might be considered as supporting this thought, namely, the words, "He was made sin for us who knew no sin." But this Scripture we understand to signify that our Lord, who knew no sin, was made a sin-offering on our behalf. We remember also the Scripture which declares that "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." The serpent, indeed, is the symbol for sin. But we can think of only one way that our Lord was viewed as a serpent --in the sense that he underwent all the experiences which a sinner could have been required to undergo. Thus he suffered as a sinner, and for the sinner, the same [R4704 : page 334] penalty that might have been required of any sinner. But while, in the eyes of men, he was a malefactor, a sinner, etc., he was the reverse of all this in the eyes of his true followers and in the Father's sight.
What Jesus did he plainly stated:--He laid down or surrendered his life because thus he could best serve the Father's purposes. He did not give away his life, nor did he die under condemnation as a sinner, nor did he forfeit his life; nor did the Jews or Roman soldiers take his life from him contrary to his permission. He laid it down of himself. Had he died a sinner in God's sight, with sin imputed to him by the Father, he would have had nothing to give for the redemption of Adam and his race;--he would have been unable to become their regenerator in the "times of restitution."
We submit that the only proper view of the Lord's death is that it was a manifestation of his absolute obedience to the Father's will. That extreme of obedience was rewarded with the divine nature and glorious exaltation in his resurrection. The risen glorious Redeemer made no satisfaction of Justice and paid nothing over on behalf of anybody until after he had ascended up on high. Then he appropriated of his merit to all who, during this age, will accept the Father's call and drawing to become members of his Body. To these he imputed enough of his own merit to make good the deficiencies of their flesh, in order that they, like himself, might present to God sacrifices holy and acceptable and thereupon be begotten to the spirit plane. Later on our Lord's human life, unforfeited, not yet given away, will be given away on behalf of Israel and the world, canceling the sins of all the people and securing the Mediatorial Throne of the Millennial Age for the blessing of Israel, through its Mediator, and also for all the families of the earth through Israel and under Israel's New (Law) Covenant.
We note your second question relative to our statement in March 1st WATCH TOWER, page 88, second column, where we set forth that Satan's "little season" will be after Messiah shall have delivered up the Kingdom to the Father. It is true that some years ago we were not so clear on this as now--less positive. The great Mediator will indeed "destroy from amongst the people" all who will not obey him throughout the Millennial Age, so that at the transfer of his Kingdom, at the time of his vacating of his Mediatorship, the world of mankind will be perfect. The Mediator will step from between God and man, and Divine tests will be applied to prove, to demonstrate the heart-faithful. The sentence upon the disloyal will be, "There will come down fire from God out of heaven and destroy them." This indicates a testing and punishing by Divine Justice similar to that which came upon father Adam. This would not be possible so long as the Mediatorial Kingdom held sway. However, we understand that our Lord will be the Father's representative in connection with that exhibition of Divine Justice, which will follow his Mediatorship, just as he was the Father's representative and agent before he came into the world to be our Redeemer.