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R. A. Torrey :: Millennial Dawn: A Counterfeit of Christianity

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MILLENNIAL DAWN*: A COUNTERFEIT OF CHRISTIANITY


[[*Now Known as Jehovah's Witnesses or
Watchtower Bible & Tract Society
]]
By Professor William G. Moorehead, D. D.,
United Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Xenia, Ohio

Six rather bulky volumes, comprising in all some 2,000 pages, are published by the "Watch Tower and Tract Society" of Brooklyn, N.Y. [[Now Known as Jehovah's Witnesses or Watchtower Bible & Tract Society]] The author of this work is Mr. Charles T. Russell. Formerly his publications issued from "Zion's Watch Tower", Pittsburgh, Pa. They then bore the somewhat ostentatious title, "Millennial Dawn," (1886). The volumes now bear the more modest inscription, "Studies in the Scriptures", (1911). Why the change in the title is made can only be conjectured. Some rather severe criticism and strictures of the views advocated in these books have brought Millennial Dawn into disrepute in the minds of many people, and accordingly we think the former title has been dropped and the later and less objectionable one substituted for it. Some color is given to this conjecture by the fact that certain evangelical terms are applied to the movement of which Mr. Russell is the head, as, e.g., "People's Pulpit of Brooklyn", "International Bible Students' League", "Brooklyn Tabernacle", "Bible House and Tract Society", (Our Hope, Feb., 1911). The later title and the various names now freely used tend to allay suspicion and to commend the propaganda of Mr. Russell and his followers to the Christian public.

In the introduction to the first volume we are told that "our Society, realizing the need, is seeking to do all in its power to…lift 'the Lord's standard for the people.' It has prepared six sets of Bible studies for Christian people of all denominations…These are supplied at bare cost". The whole six volumes, "bound in cloth, embossed in silver", sell for the ridiculously small sum of $2.25 — 37.50 cents each! The object is to scatter this literature throughout our country, Canada, and other lands, for we are assured that it is translated into no less than a dozen different languages. So it is asserted in the first volume.

Some idea of the circulation may be had from the statement made in the title page of each of the first three volumes: "Series I. 3,358,000 edition". "Series II. 1,132,000 edition". "Series III. 909,000 edition". The enormous circulation of the books serves to show how industriously "Our Society" is propagating its literature, and the vast number of readers it is reaching, i.e., if these figures tell the truth! That the teaching of Dawnism has done immense harm is certain; that it is calculated to subvert the faith of Christians by substituting for the truth of Jesus Christ the calamitous doctrines of Mr. Russell cannot be denied; for the whole system is anti-Scriptural, anti-Christian, and a deplorable perversion of the Gospel of the Son of God.

In the discussion of the system it is the doctrines of Millennial Dawn that are arraigned, not the author, Mr. Russell. It is conceivable that he is self deceived, as some think, and that he believes that what he has published is the truth of the Bible. This is within the range of possibility, of course. Personally, however, the present writer withholds his assent to this opinion. That Mr. Russell is being used of the Evil One to subvert the truth of God, that the Christ he commends to men as an object of trust, love, and worship, is not the Christ of God, is the profound conviction of not a few who are familiar with his views. This is a grave indictment, but it is deliberately made. To establish it beyond peradventure and contradiction is the aim of this paper. A summary of the chief errors and heresies embodied in Millennial Dawn is here submitted.

1. Jesus, in His pre-human existence, was a spiritual being, higher than the angels, but a creature. (Vol. I, pp. 177, 178, 179, 188). The book expressly teaches that our Lord, prior to His incarnation and during His earthly life, was only a creature, higher in the scale of being than other creatures, but not God. "We are told that our Lord, before He left His glory to become a man, was 'in a form of God'—a spiritual form, a spirit being; but since to be a ransom for mankind He had to be a man, of the same nature as the sinner whose substitute in death He was to become, it was necessary that His nature be changed. And Paul tells us that He took not the nature of angels, one step lower down than His own, but that He came down two steps and took the nature of man—He 'became a man'; He 'was made flesh'. Hebrews 2:16; Philippians 2:7-8; John 1:14."

"Notice that this teaches not only that angelic nature is not the only order of spirit being, but that it is a lower nature than that of our Lord before He became a man; and He was not then so high as He now is, for 'God hath highly exalted Him', because of His obedience in becoming man's willing ransom. Philippians 2:8-9. He is now of the highest order of spirit being, a partaker of the Divine (Jehovah's) nature". The book further asserts: "If this principle be a correct one, it would show that God had no right to create Jesus higher than the angels, and then further to exalt Him to the Divine nature, unless He intended to do the same for all angels and for all men" (p. 188).

There is no mistaking the significance of this teaching. Jesus Christ was originally a created being, but as a reward of His obedience unto death He is now exalted to be God! This is worse than the doctrine of Arius the Libyan which the Council of Nicea so solemnly condemned, of modern Unitarians which all evangelical Christians repudiate.

Over against this fundamental error, one that does the Lord Jesus infinite dishonor and robs us of an Almighty Saviour, we place the inspired Word of Scripture, John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God". By the Word of course is meant the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Three majestic truths are here set forth:

  • (1). The Word's eternity—"In the beginning"—the noun is without the article; it is unmarked, uncounted duration that is meant. "Was", not came into existence; He was already in existence, before the creation of the universe; therefore prior to all beginning, in a timeless age which transcends time, in eternity, Christ was. Millennial Dawn says there was a time when Christ was not; the Apostle John affirms there never was a time when He was not.
  • (2). His eternal personal existence is maintained: "The Word was with God"; His equality with God, for John goes on to ascribe to Him creation.
  • (3). His Deity: "And the Word was God". Most emphatic is the order of the words in the original: "And God was the Word". Jesus Christ was no subordinate or created being.

"Who subsisting in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant" Philippians 2:6-11, R.V. It is here taught that Christ existed in the form of God. "The form of a thing is the mode in which it reveals itself; and that is determined by its nature". John Chrysostom long ago said: "It is not possible to be of one essence and to have the form of another". Christ existed in the form of God because He Himself is God. Hence the Apostle asserts that He was God's equal, but in His self-abasement He did not hold fast to this equality but emptied Himself of it, and instead took the lowly form of a bond-servant. His humiliation presupposes His former dignity and glory. Had He not been infinitely more than a created being, it would have been no renunciation to become a servant; that He already was, according to the blasphemous teaching of Dawnism. Out of such a condition He could never have risen. The highest angel in heaven, far from having to stoop in order to become a servant, is but a servant and can never be aught else. But the very fact that He did humble Himself, even unto the death of the cross, is positive proof that He was no created being, no mere man, but God over all and blessed forever. Romans 9:5.

But even in His amazing self-abasement He did not renounce His glorious attributes as a Divine Person: He veiled them beneath His lowly human garb, save when occasion demanded their display. Both Omnipotence and Omniscience belonged to Him while on earth, and He often exhibited both in the sight of men. The proof of this is abundant and conclusive.

2. In the incarnation our Lord had but one nature, not two natures, as Christians have always held. (Series I. pp. 179,180,184). We quote: "Neither was Jesus a combination of the two natures, human and spiritual. The blending of two natures produces neither the one nor the other, but an imperfect, hybrid thing, which is obnoxious to the Divine arrangement. When Jesus was in the flesh He was a perfect human being; previous to that He was a perfect spiritual being; and since His resurrection He is a perfect spiritual being of the highest or Divine order…Thus we see that in Jesus there was no mixture of natures, but that twice He experienced a change of nature; first, from spiritual to human; afterward, from human to the highest order of spiritual nature, the Divine; and in each case the one was given up for the other."—"We have no record of any being, either spiritual or human, ever having been changed from one nature to another, except the Son of God; and this was an exceptional case, for an exceptional purpose? Thus we find that the Scriptures regard the spiritual and human natures as separate and distinct, and furnish no evidence that the one will evolve or develop into the other" …Here again there is no mistaking the teaching of Millennial Dawn. Before Christ appeared in human form among men He was a spirit being of a very high rank, but a creature. When He became a man His spirit nature was somehow dropped; it was not united with the human, it was not even merged into the human, it was "changed" into the purely and distinctively human nature, so that while on earth and during the whole period of His earthly life He was a man, only a man, perfect indeed, but a man with nothing superhuman or supernatural in Him or about Him. The spirit being ceased to be. The book asserts with a positiveness that error always assumes, that in Jesus Christ "there was no mixture of natures". The vital doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, is denied, and Christ is degraded to the level of Adam before his sin and fall. In short, the book virtually affirms that there was no incarnation whatever.

It appears needless to point out how completely and thoroughly the Word of God contradicts this false and degrading view of our Lord's blessed Person. Let but a few texts be cited as evidence that Christ did actually assume our human nature, sinless of course, but true and genuine human nature.

John 1:14: "And the Word was made [became, R. V.] flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth". Mark the prominent features of this great Scripture:

  • (a). The Word, Christ, became flesh; He did not cease to be the Word in doing so; His incarnation was neither self-extinction, nor was He changed into a mere man.
  • (b). He still remained the Word after He had assumed the human nature, for we are assured that "He dwelt among us", obviously the Word dwelt among us, for the pronoun He has the Word for its antecedent.
  • (c). The term "dwelt" literally is "tabernacled", an allusion to the tabernacle of the wilderness. God said, "And let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" [Exodus 25:8]. And He symbolically did dwell in the Most Holy Place where the Shechinah appeared. So John affirms, "We beheld His glory" [John 1:14], as at the Transfiguration. What was anciently seen in the tabernacle was witnessed in a far more vivid way on the Mount when Moses with Elijah appeared in glory and talked with the incarnate Son of God. Compare with this the further revelation of the same Apostle, 1 John 1:1-3, where three of the most trustworthy of our senses, hearing, sight, touch, are summoned to bear witness to the reality of the presence and glory of the Word of Life as He sojourned among men.
  • (d). "Only begotten" Unigenitus. As used in Scripture this term always designates a single person in the household. As applied to Christ it occurs only in John's writings; here, John 1:18; John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9. It marks off His sonship as unique, unshared by any others, even from those who are called the sons of God.

John 16:28: "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father". From God, into the world, from the world back to God. Eternal Sonship with the Father (Greek, came out from); incarnation; exaltation; oneness with the Father, procession from the Father; redemption completed. He is the God-man, uniting two natures in one, distinct yet mysteriously constituting but one personality.

1 Timothy 3:16: "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." Even if we substitute the revised reading of this great rhythmical verse it still testifies to the theanthropic person of our Lord: "He who was manifested in the flesh", etc. The plain and emphatic teaching is, that Christ, the Son of God, was manifested, i.e., the invisible, eternal Son who dwelt in the bosom of the Father, has been made visible and is brought nigh to us in that He has taken into union with Himself human flesh. He was justified in the Spirit, i.e., He was proved to be what He claimed to be, the Son of God; He was seen and served by angels; was preached unto the Gentiles as a Divine Saviour, and believed on as such; and finally was received up into glory. There we have the inspired history of the incarnation, the earthly life and ministry, and the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God.

One other Scripture must give its solemn warning against any and all who deny that Jesus Christ assumed our nature and was incarnated in human flesh: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God; and this is that spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh, and now it is in the world" 1 John 4:2-3.

3. The atonement of Jesus Christ was that of a mere man. (Study ix.) Millennial Dawnism reiterates to weariness that Christ during His sojourn on earth was only and solely a human being. Even the spirit nature He had before coming into the world was changed into a man and so ceased to be. His death, therefore, was a creature's death; His sacrifice only human; His atonement a mere man's. What a wretched caricature of Christ's person and work! What an inadequate and puerile conception it denotes of Divine justice and law, and of man's guilt and ruin by sin! Scripture testifies that man, by his wealth, by his righteousness, by his self-sacrifice, can never redeem himself, much less his fellow man. Psalm 49:6-12; Matthew 25:8-9. God claims this for Himself; He has found a ransom, He Himself is the Saviour of men, and He has laid help on His Fellow, His Equal, even Jesus our Lord. Everywhere in Scripture the sinner's justification before God rests upon what Paul describes as "the righteousness of God" Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:1-8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9, etc.. That is, it is a Divine righteousness, provided in the Lord Jesus Christ and offered to all men who hear the Gospel. It is not a mere man's righteousness at all that we have in Christ; it is God's own righteousness, and therefore it meets and satisfies every claim upon us whether of law, or justice, or satisfaction to God, or holiness. The Apostle Paul does not shrink from ascribing even divinity to the blood of Christ: "Feed the flock of God which He hath purchased with His own blood" Acts 20:28. An uninspired man would never have dared to write so amazing, so matchless words as these. Of their genuineness there is ample proof.*

[* The American Revision has "The Church of the Lord." It stands alone in this reading. The English Revision and the critical texts of Alford, Westcott and Hort, Scrivener, Weymouth and Nestle retain "Church of God". The phrase occurs often in Paul's writings, never once "The Church of the Lord". One can perceive why "Church of God" should be changed into "Church of the Lord," but it is difficult to see why if Paul wrote "Church of the Lord" it should be turned into "Church of God.]

4. The body of Jesus was not raised up from death. (Series II, pp. 125- 130). To explain the disappearance of the body which was crucified the book says: "Our Lord's human body was, however, supernaturally removed from the tomb; because had it remained there it would have been an insurmountable obstacle to the faith of the disciples. We know nothing about what became of it, except that it did not decay or corrupt.…Whether it was dissolved into gases or whether it is still preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God's love, of Christ's obedience, and of our redemption, no one knows; nor is such knowledge necessary" (pp. 129, 130). In Series I, p. 231 we read: "Jesus, therefore, at and after His resurrection, was a spirit—a spirit being, and no longer a human being in any sense".

Wicked and disastrous as are the teachings of Millennial Dawn noted above, this is immeasurably worse, if that be possible. Here the climax in audacity and falsehood is reached. For here the basal, the vital truth on which Christianity rests, viz., the absolute certainty of Christ's literal and bodily resurrection is denied, is utterly perverted in the face of the testimony of the Four Gospels, of all the Epistles, and of the Revelation, and of the glorified Son of God Himself. If Christ be not risen from the dead, then Christianity is wiped out as a supernatural system, and Christians are of all men the most pitiable, the most fearfully deceived [1 Corinthians 15:12-19]. The heresiarchs of the early centuries, Cerinthus, Marcion, Valentinus were not more daring nor more destructive in their wild vagaries than is the author of these books. The lie invented by the chief priests and elders that His disciples stole His body away during the night while the soldiers slept is less shocking than the baseless and wicked speculation that it was dissolved into gas! To the devout, believing mind, nothing scarcely could be more blasphemous or dreadful than this slander. A thousand years before He appeared in human form the Spirit of God promised Him that His flesh should rest in hope, that it should not see corruption. Psalm 16:9-10; Acts 2:26-28. We know from the record how careful, how anxious we may almost say, Divine Providence was that His body after His death should be protected; hence the Roman guard, the new tomb wherein man never had lain, the official seal, the watch of angels, God's mighty guard, all combined to protect and safeguard the sacred remains until the resurrection. Then the disciples, Mary of Magdala, James the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19), Peter, John, all saw Him alive in His own veritable body; talked with Him, walked with Him, even ate with Him. "Dissolved into gas"! Shocking, most shocking!

We learn from the narrative of the Gospels that the risen Saviour appeared to the disciples five times on that memorable first day of the week, that some six times besides He was seen by them; and how often besides during the forty days elapsing between His resurrection and His ascension we are not told. But we know full well that He gave His disciples proof on proof of the reality of His resurrection, that the very body in which He suffered and died on the cross was now risen in the power of an endless life [Hebrews 7:16]. He was and still is, "This same Jesus".

Some slight curiosity was felt to see what the author of Millennial Dawn would do with the repeated appearances of the Lord. Here is how he disposes of them: "The creating of the body and clothing in which He appeared to them, in the very room in which they were gathered, was proof unquestionable that Christ was no longer a human being. As a human being He could not come into the room without opening the door, but as a spirit He could, and there He instantly created and assumed such body of flesh and such clothing as He saw fit for the purpose intended." The writer totally ignores the supreme fact that the Lord's resurrection body, while retaining its identify, was a spiritual body 1 Corinthians 15:44, i.e., a body perfectly adapted to the spirit and its conditions; accordingly, it was no longer under the sway of the natural laws which govern other material bodies. For the notion that Christ instantly created a body with its appropriate dress each time He appeared to His disciples there is not the most distant hint in the entire Bible a notion invented by the exigencies of a theory. The Saviour's own words to His affrighted disciples appear to be designed to forestall such a silly and absurd idea: "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I myself; handle Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have" Luke 24:36-40.

5. After His resurrection Jesus became Divine. (Series I, pp. 178,179; Series II, pp. 107, 108, 131, 155). The teaching is, that as a reward for His perfect obedience Jesus was exalted after His death to the highest nature, the Divine. For this Christ-dishonoring doctrine there is not a shred of Scripture. Christ's exaltation is always joined with His bodily resurrection from the dead, and with His glorious person as the God-man Mediator. Acts 2:32-36; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:6-11; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Revelation 1:17-18. The Lord Jesus did not and could not become Divine at His exaltation, for He was Divine from eternity. Can a mere creature become a sharer in the Godhead, and be endowed with the infinity and the almightiness of God? Is not the Divine Essence incommunicable? Believers are indeed said to be partakers of the Divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, but this does not mean that they partake of the perfections of the Almighty. "Partakers of Christ" Hebrews 3:14 is exactly equivalent.

But, was there a resurrection of Christ at all if Dawnism teaches the truth? His body was not raised; "He is no longer human in any sense or degree", we are told. His human spirit did not die, for He commended it to His Father. He promised the penitent thief that "this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise", and it was His spirit that should be in that blessed place. The spirit being He had before His advent was changed into His human spirit, it did not retain a separate existence at all. Well then, Who or what was raised up?

The books furnish unmistakable evidence that Mr. Russell holds that a particular class of the saved, called the "little flock", will share with Jesus in the possession of the Divine nature. This notion is taught with caution and reserve, but hints of it are met with here and there in the volumes. One can easily guess who constitute this favored company. On meeting with it one is instantly reminded of the lie of Satan, "Ye shall be as God" Genesis 3:5.

6. The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ took place in October, 1874. (Vol. II, 187,199; 234-245). This startling announcement is reached by a process of chronological and mathematical reasoning founded partly on the Hebrew Jubilee years. Of the results of his calculations Mr. Russell entertains no misgiving. He is persuaded, or affirms that he is, the Lord actually came to our earth in the fall of 1874 and He is now present here. (Vol. II, 240). Accordingly, the glorified Son of God has already been in the world personally and literally for thirty-seven years! In reading this amazing statement which is made again and again one stares, and rubs his eyes and stares. Old-fashioned Christians have for centuries believed that the glorious advent of Christ will be accompanied by the most majestic tokens of the Divine Presence and the most stupendous changes and revolutions in both earth and sky. They are profoundly convinced that the Word of God warrants such anticipation; nay, it is because of the Lord's own testimony touching this mighty event that they thus believe and expect. But this period of thirty-seven years since 1874 differs but little if at all from any other thirty-seven years during a thousand years. Nay, the student of history could point out period after period in the last five hundred years marked by immensely more tragic events than any of this.

As if to put us on guard against being deceived by plausible arguments and evidences of His presence our Lord has with most solemn words warned us: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or Here; believe it not…If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, He is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, He is in the inner chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of Man" Matthew 24:23-27, R. V. Mr. Russell refuses to accept the word "lightning", and he substitutes for it "bright shining", and makes it refer to the sun's rising. He does so to escape the idea of the suddenness of the advent as symbolized by the lightning's flash, for this rendering would contradict his theory that Christ's "presence" is gradually disclosed, that He may be long on the earth and but few (the Dawnists only) be cognizant of the stupendous fact. As usual he is totally mistaken. Every version examined (five English, three Italian, the Vulgate and the Spanish); every Lexicon (Thayer, Green, Liddell and Scott, Sophocles, and Vincent's Word Studies), translate the Greek word "lightning". Attention is called to this particular instance of mistranslation of Scripture for the reason that it is but a sample of the uniform effort to empty every text of its true meaning if it in any wise denies Millennial Dawnism. Scores of such abuses of Scripture as the above are encountered in these books; nay, the characteristic features of this vicious system betray Biblical perversion at every point.

For example, Paul's three supernatural accompanists of the advent, the "shout", the "voice of the archangel", and the "trump of God" 1 Thessalonians 4:16 are all symbols and denote the agitation, dissatisfaction, and restlessness everywhere manifest throughout the civilized world since 1874! So we are oracularly told. If this be all the Apostle meant, then we must confess that the "majesty of the prediction is lost in the poverty of its fulfillment." Let one other text be mentioned—Revelation 6:16: "Fall on us [cover, protect] and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne." "The thought is that of protection, not of destruction…The real fulfillment is already beginning."

Furthermore, according to the plain teaching of Scripture the resurrection of the saints takes place at the Lord's Coming. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It appears also that the two events are contemporaneous and simultaneous; the Lord's Coming, even before He reaches the earth, effects the rising of sleeping saints and the transformation of living believers, when both together are caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. We are assured that this majestic event will occur in "a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, 1 Corinthians 15:51. Millennial Dawn likewise teaches that the resurrection takes place at the Lord's advent, but not immediately; four years lie between the Lord's "presence" on earth and the resurrection of the saints; the one occurs in 1874, the other in 1878. (Vol. III, pp. 234-5; 302-306). We read: "That in the spring of 1878 all the holy apostles and other 'overcomers' of the Gospel age who slept in Jesus were raised spirit beings, like unto their Lord and Master"…"The Lord Jesus and the risen saints already here [are] engaged in the great harvest work."…"Such is the present situation: the great Judge has come—not as at the first advent, in a body of humiliation, for sacrifice, but in the plenitude of His power as a spirit being". "And while we conclude that their resurrection is now an accomplished fact, and hence that they as well as the Lord are now present in the earth, the fact, that we do not see them is no obstacle to faith when we remember that, like their Lord, they are now spirit beings, and, like Him, invisible to men". Since 1874 Jesus Christ has been dwelling on the earth; since 1878 the risen saints have also been sojourning on the earth; and no mortal has the slightest inkling of it save C. T. Russell and his followers!

All this is sufficiently astounding, but these notions stand not alone. Other marvelous things are encountered in the volumes we are reviewing. "The spring of 1878 marks the date when the nominal church systems were 'spewed out' Revelation 3:16, and from that time (A.D. 1878) they are not the mouth-pieces of God, nor in any degree recognized by Him"…"We recognize A.D. 1881 as marking the close of special favor to Gentiles—the close of the 'high-calling', or invitation to the blessings peculiar to this age—to become joint-heirs with Christ and partakers of the Divine nature" (Vol. 235).

It requires courage or recklessness to make the above statements. For thirty-three years the evangelical churches have been without Divine recognition, "spewed out" of the Lord's mouth! And yet during this same period the Gospel has been carried into the most hopelessly degraded and ignorant sections of our planet by the most devoted and truly apostolic servants of Jesus Christ since the first century. For thirty years all special favor to the Gentiles has ceased! This in the face of the most fruitful years of missions for almost ten centuries. The Dawnists have matchless courage. For bald assertion their equals it would be hard to find.

7. The final consummation of the age will take place in October, 1914. (Vol. II, p. 234, Vol. III, p. 153). This date, 1914, as terminating absolutely the present order of things of the world, is taken as fixed beyond doubt or peradventure. Dozens of times the writer of these books sets it down as positive and unalterable. He finds its parallel in the ministry and the rejection of the Saviour by the Israelites, A.D. 33 to A.D. 70, when Jerusalem's overthrow occurred and the Jews went into an exile which still endures. So the "harvest", or the final testing, runs from A.D. 1874 to 1914 when Gentile rule will be destroyed, Christendom be annihilated, all wrong end, and righteousness and peace fill the redeemed world. It is then that the Millennium, so long expected and so long yearned after, finally comes and the planet celebrates its glad, its unending jubilee!

One grows weary of this everlasting attempt to fix chronologically the end of the age. For nearly a thousand years men, many of them devout and earnest Christians, have been quite sure that they had discovered the key of chronological prophecy and confidently announced the time of the end. Awhile before the year A.D. 1000 the world became panic stricken, for it was believed that date would coincide with the final judgment and world's end. Miller, Cumming, Elliott, Dimbleby, Totten, and one does not know how many more, tried their hands at fixing the date of the consummation, on chronological and astronomical grounds: they settled both day and date with exactness, and ignominiously failed, of course. Mark 13:32 should stop this nonsense, but alas, it does not.

But three years remain of our age. One can readily perceive what enthusiasm the nearness of the end must arouse in the hearts of believers in Mr. Russell's dates. If but three years lie between us and the cosmical revolutions and convulsions which will shake the earth to its foundations, then why should Dawnists cling to their property and tightly grip their money. Soon it will not be needed, wealth will be worthless and bonds have no market. It is no surprise, therefore, that Mr. Russell's followers pour a continuous stream into the Watch Tower treasury, nor that sermons can be printed in multitudes of newspapers all over the land, nor that great halls can be hired for lectures, nor that these volumes can be sold at 37 cents a copy.

8. At the final resurrection, which is simultaneous for all the dead save "the little flock", the Gospel will be preached to the unsaved and the great mass of mankind will accept it and be saved. (Vol. I, Study 6, 8, 9). The preaching to the unsaved dead now at length raised up will last for one hundred years at least, and it may continue throughout the entire day of Christ, i.e., during the Millennium (p. 144). There are two world-wide judgments recorded in the Bible, that of the nations, Matthew 25:31-46; and that of Revelation 20:11-15—the judgment before the Great White Throne, and which seems to be confined exclusively to the dead, small and great. The two include the race except the saints who come not into judgment as to life and death (John 5:24). In neither of these judgments is there a hint that opportunity will be had for those arrayed before these thrones to repent, believe, and be saved. On the contrary, their eternal destiny is fixed by the Almighty Judge. Note how all-embracing these two judgments are; the one includes "all the nations", the other, "the dead, small and great". None escape save those who have part in "the first resurrection" Revelation 20:4-6. In both cases eternal doom, irreparable and indescribable, falls upon the impenitent and ungodly who rejected Christ in this world and life.

Moreover, the judgment before the Great White Throne is expressly said to follow the thousand years: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" Revelation 20:5. "The rest of the dead" include all who have no part in the first resurrection. Mr. Russell labors vigorously to cast doubt on the genuineness of Revelation 20:5. He seeks to negate its witness, for it squarely contradicts his theory that all the dead who share not in the first resurrection will be raised at the beginning of the Thousand Years, and they will then be given the opportunity to repent and be saved. But as usual he is quite wrong. He stands alone in his rejection of the verse. Every critical Greek text from Griesbach to Nestle and Swete (1907) retains the words, nor does one of these scholars cherish the slightest suspicion of its integrity.

9. Two other errors of this vicious system can be no more than mentioned, not expanded, by reason of the limits to which this paper must needs be confined.

One of these, the ninth error, essential and fundamental in Christianity, is the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. There is a strange and ominous silence regarding this most important subject very apparent in the writings of Mr. Russell. A careful reading of these volumes comprising more than a thousand pages has discovered but one solitary reference to the Spirit; it is a casual mention of the Spirit in connection with the Day of Pentecost. The statement is simply made as a historical fact, or rather as an event which marks a stage in the development of the Christian Church. Not one word of teaching has the writer found in Millenial Dawn as to the distinct personality of the Spirit, or as to His supreme agency in the salvation of sinners. To Him is ascribed in the Bible the regeneration, sanctification and spiritual growth of the believer. How vast the place that is assigned to Him in Scripture, in Creation, in the training of Israel for their mission, in the inspiration of the Old Testament prophets and psalmists, in the enduement of Christ Himself for His work of redemption, in the planting and training of the Christian Church, in the gifts bestowed on the apostles and prophets, in the guidance of the Church by its chosen teachers, and in the inspired writers of the New Testament, all attentive readers of Scripture know. Shortly before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus left with His disciples this majestic promise: "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter…even the Spirit of truth." "Another Comforter," that is, one instead of Himself, one like Himself and one that would continue and complete His own great revelation John 14:16-18, 26; John 15:26-27; John 16:7-14. On the Day of Pentecost this promise was fulfilled by the gift of the Spirit in marvellous power and efficiency. But Russellism is totally and criminally silent touching this mighty truth.

Mr. Russell is in no Biblical sense a Trinitarian. He ignores the person and work of the Spirit in his system of doctrine and has nothing to supply His place save his own views of the Word of God. Even the Son of God he affirms was once a creature, then a mere man, but now at length exalted to be Divine. This is in plain contradiction to God's own solemn assertion in Isaiah 43:10-11: "Ye are My witnesses, saith Jehovah, and My servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe Me. and understand that I am He: before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides Me there is no Saviour." Nor is he a monotheist. According to his teaching, there are other gods besides Jehovah. The "little flock" he holds are likewise to become sharers of the Divine nature and be exalted even as Jesus was. Here, therefore, the inference is quite plain, namely, that Mr. Russell admits a plurality of gods.

In all this there is a curious analogy between Russell's theology and Mormonism; for Mormonism likewise holds that there are many gods; each of these was once a human being like we are and has grown by evolution into a god. One of the teachers of Mormonism, Brigham Young, affirms that Adam is our father and our God, the only God with whom we have to do. Millennial Dawn is essentially polytheistic; and as it has always happened with polytheism, this system, should it endure, will ultimately sink into idolatry.

10. The other error relates to the destiny of the wicked. On scarcely any other point does Mr. Russell so constantly and persistently dwell as on the doctrine of future and eternal punishment. He denies without qualification that the wicked, the lost, suffer in another life. As usual with him, the teaching of the Bible on this terrible theme he either evades or gives it a typical interpretation. The grotesque subject of one of his most popular lectures, a lecture he has delivered throughout our country, in Canada, and also in England, and published in a vast number of papers and periodicals, is "To Hell and Back Again." Crowds have listened with no little satisfaction to his assertions that there is no hell, no eternal punishment, and no hopelessness after death. He holds that in the resurrection which is to include both the righteous and the wicked, the gospel of salvation shall be preached to all who did not receive it, though having heard, while in this life, and to those who never had the opportunity while in the earthly life to hear and believe. For one hundred years the preaching to these classes shall continue and the great mass of them will believe and enter into eternal life. Those who persistently refuse the offer of salvation and reject the Lord's mercy will be annihilated; an act of Divine power will blot them out of existence forever. It needs but a remark or two in order to convince any honest and right-minded person that such teaching is not only unscriptural but the very opposite. Our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ the Son of God, revealed more of the eternal punishment of the lost than any other witness of God in the Bible. In twelve texts of the New Testament He speaks of the place where the wicked are confined as Gehenna, and in each save one the words of most solemn warning as to the eternal consequences of sin fell from His own lips. He describes it as the place where their worm never dies and where the fire is never quenched. He teaches that the punishment of the lost is of the same duration as the life of the saved—eternal. Matthew 25:46. In the Revelation it is called the lake of fire and the second death. These are the terms that are used to depict the eternal state of the wicked. The second death is not annihilation. We read in Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10 that after a thousand years in the lake of fire the Beast and the False Prophet are still there undestroyed. It is a forbidding theme, appalling to the natural heart, but nevertheless one clearly taught in the Scriptures that the rejecters of Jesus Christ, the haters of God, will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

SUMMMARY OF THE FALSE DOCTRINES OF MILLENNIAL DAWN


  1. Christ before His advent was not Divine.
  2. When He was in the world He was still not Divine.
  3. His atonement was exclusively human, a mere man's.
  4. Since His resurrection He is Divine only, no longer human at all.
  5. His body was not raised from the dead.
  6. His Second Advent took place in 1874.
  7. The saints were raised up in 1878.
  8. Both Christ and the saints are now on earth and have been for thirty seven and thirty-three years respectively. [Given the time of the writing-Ed.]
  9. The professing Christian Church was rejected of God in 1878.
  10. The final consummation and end will take place in 1914. [Three years future from the time of writing-Ed.]
  11. Silence as to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
  12. The destiny of the wicked.

Such is the Millennial Dawn of C. T. Russell, a mixture of Unitarianism, Universalism, Second Probation, and Restorationism, and the Swedenborgian method of exegesis. Let the reader remember that imposition is not exposition, nor is eisegesis exegesis. Mr. Russell constantly employs both; he imposes on Scripture his own views and reads into it that which never entered the mind of the inspired writer. May God in His infinite mercy preserve His people from being deceived and betrayed by this counterfeit of Christianity.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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