Before the Wintertime,"
"But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter
on the Sabbath day)
"Because then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the
beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
"And except those days be cut short there should no flesh be saved: but
through [by] the elect those days shall be cut short." Matthew
This gathering of the Church occurs in what is called a "harvest" time, at
the close of a summertime of favor. Our Lord explained (Matthew 13:30,37-43) that in this
harvest he would garner his wheat and burn the tares in a great time of trouble following.
It is still the custom in country places to leave the burning off of refuse until the
winter. We understand our Lord to mean, then, that we are to seek help and strength to
escape from Babylon before the wintertime of her trouble comes upon her.
We are to remember that there are to be two classes of wheat saved in this
harvest—contrary to nature though it be.
(1) The "overcomers," the faithful and promptly obedient who get out before
"winter" and are "accounted worthy to escape all those things that
shall come to pass." (Luke 21:36)
(2) Those loyal, but not promptly obedient children of God, overcharged, with zeal not
according to knowledge, and more or less contaminated with the spirit of the world. These
will be helped out of Babylon when she is falling, and will flee in the wintertime, saying
in the words of the Prophet, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended [winter
has come], and we are not saved." (Jeremiah 8:20)
The Lord very graciously indicates that all the truly loyal of these shall ultimately "come
up out of great tribulation" and be before the throne (not in the throne
with the "little flock" who inherit the Kingdom as joint-heirs with Christ),
having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14,15) Let us pray, and
labor accordingly, that we be through our flight before the "winter" of trouble
We are to pray and strive that our flight be not even on the Sabbath day. What Sabbath
day? Not the Seventh day of the week, nor the First day; for "new moons and
Sabbaths" surely would prove no hindrance to Christians in any physical flight.
The Sabbath meant is the great antitypical Sabbath—the Millennium, the
Seventh-thousand-year Sabbath. If we got started on our flight before it began
chronologically, so much the more favorable: and the farther we get into it the more
difficult it will be to get free and to abandon Babylon, at the very time it needs and
pleads most for our help to sustain it.
But God has declared that Babylon must fall, and no power can sustain her: and no one
who realizes how imperfect is her work, and how good and gracious will be the work of the
Lord after she is removed and the true Church glorified, could wish to hinder the Lord's
work for one moment.
There is yet another class brought to our attention as failing to make their calling
and election sure, but who will not go into the Second Death, because they have not sinned
wilfully in gross immorality, nor in denying the merit of the precious blood.
This class we have already referred to as the "Great Company," who will come
up out of great tribulation and wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the
Lamb; but while gaining a spiritual nature and a great blessing and a participation in the
Marriage Supper of the Lamb as guests, they will, nevertheless, lose the great prize which
is to go to the very elect only—the faithful overcomers, those who will follow the
footsteps of Jesus rejoicingly and heartily. (Revelation 7)
This Great Company fails to maintain its place in the elect—fails to be of the
"very elect"—because of insufficient zeal for the Lord, the Truth and the
brethren—because they are partly "overcharged with the cares of this
life." Nevertheless, since their hearts are loyal to the Redeemer, and since
they maintain their faith in the precious blood and hold fast and do not deny the same,
therefore the Lord Jesus, our Advocate, the Captain of our Salvation, who leads the very
elect to glory through the steps of willing sacrifice, will lead these to a spiritual
blessing—to perfection on a lower plane of spirit-being—because they have trusted in
him and have not denied his name or his work.
Our Lord refers to the elect Church, the New Creation, in his parable of The Vine,
telling us that he is the Vine and that his faithful consecrated followers who walk in his
footsteps are the branches. He assures us that being branches will not mean immunity from
trials and difficulties.
But that, on the contrary, the Father, the great Husbandman, will see that we do have
trials of faith and patience and devotion, that these may prune us so that our affections
shall take less hold upon earthly things and hopes and ambitions—to the intent that they
may bring forth a richer fruitage of the Spirit—meekness, patience, gentleness,
longsuffering, brotherly kindness, love.
And that these things may be in us and abound more and more—and that so an abundant
entrance may be administered to us into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ, as members of the New Creation. 2 Peter 1:11
However, he forewarns us that the attainment of a place amongst the true branches in
the true Vine is not sufficient: that the Spirit of the Vine must be in us—the
disposition to bear the fruit of the Vine must be in our hearts—that the Husbandman will
permit us to abide as branches for a reasonable time, in order that he may know whether or
not we give evidence of bringing forth the proper fruitage before condemning us as
unfit—that he will not look for the ripe clusters on the new branch, nor even look for
the green grapes.
He will look rather first for the small indications of the fruit-bud, and subsequently
for the blossoming of these in the flower of the grape; later on for the green fruit, and
still later for its luscious ripeness. The Husbandman hath long patience in the
development of this fruit of the Vine of "my Father's right hand planting"
But if after a reasonable time he find no fruit, he taketh away that branch as a
"sucker" which would merely absorb the strength and nutrition of the Vine to its
own enlargement and not to the propagation of the desired fruit. Thus does our Lord
clearly indicate that we must make our calling and election sure by bringing forth fruit
unto holiness, whose end, or reward, is everlasting life.
A FULL REWARD,"
"Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things which we
have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward." 2 John 8, R.V.
...Two classes are being saved during this Gospel Age—a
"little flock," to be the "Bride," the "Lamb's Wife,"
"Joint-heirs" in the Kingdom; and a "Great Company," who will
constitute the "virgins, her companions, that follow her." (Psalm 45:14.) ...
Those who see not the two companies in the process of development during this age will
of necessity be somewhat confused in respect to certain features of the divine plan. Take,
for instance, the statement that the final overcomers of the Bride class will be those who
were not only called but also chosen, and also found faithful. (Revelation 17:14.)
All can readily recognize that, while sinners are called to repentance, only justified
believers are called of God to this High Calling, this heavenly calling of joint-heirship
with their Lord in the Kingdom. If we assume that throughout the age all the justified
ones were granted that privilege in order that they might be ready, we must admit the
force of the declaration that "many are called but few are chosen."
This Scripture shows us a wide distinction between merely a position of justification
by faith and a position of acceptance with God. Only such called ones as accept the call
by making a full consecration of themselves belong to this "chosen" class.
The chosen ones, begotten of the holy Spirit and adopted as Spirit-begotten sons of
God, are forthwith in the school of Christ, with a view to their development in grace,
knowledge, love, and with a view to their testing as respects the thoroughness of their
consecration even unto death.
We well know that not all who reach this chosen place will prove faithful and win the
crown. The great majority of the exhortations in the New Testament are addressed to this
chosen class, accepted of God as probationary members of the Bride company, the little
flock, the Body of Christ.
To these come the exhortations to "fight the good fight," to "bear much
fruit," to "let their light shine," to "so run that they may
obtain," to "lay aside every weight," to "strive to enter in," to
be "faithful unto death, that ye may receive the crown of life," to be
"filled with the Spirit."
They are exhorted that if the various fruits and graces of the Spirit be in them and
abound, an entrance shall be ministered to them abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.—2 Peter 1:11.
THE UNFAITHFUL, THE FOOLISH VIRGINS
If in the foregoing it is intimated beyond question that only the "more than
conquerors" will gain the prize—or, as our text expresses it, "gain the full
reward"—what shall we say will become of those who will not gain the full reward,
not gain the prize, who, being begotten of the Spirit, will fail to have part in the First
Resurrection of the blessed and holy, amongst the Body of Christ?
These evidently are referred to in the various parables. In one parable the Lord styles
this class a wicked and slothful servant. He does not deny him the honor of being a
servant, he does not charge him with becoming an enemy, and the entire parable shows no
such attitude toward the reproved.
He is counted wicked and slothful because, having undertaken certain
responsibilities as a servant, having certain talents committed to his care as a steward,
he has failed to manifest the proper spirit of earnest devotion which he had professed at
the time of his acceptance, when the talents were entrusted to him.
Similarly, the foolish virgins are still virgins in the parable. They are not shown as
having become corrupt or become lovers of sin.
They were drowsy, overcharged with
the cares of this life, and did not show proper spirit and alertness in connection with
the interests of their Master, the Bridegroom.
Hence they did not at the time have the proper oil in their vessels nor in their lamps,
and hence were not ready nor of the class finally accepted as the "Very Elect,"
though for a time they had been a part of the nominally elect. The parable shows the door
into the high calling to the exclusion of these.
Moreover, aside from the parables, our own experience teaches that amongst those who
have made a real consecration to the Lord and who have for a time manifested a thorough
devotion to him, some fall away to the extent of carelessness, lukewarmness, a
condition which the Lord describes as "overcharged with the cares of this life and
the deceitfulness of riches"—true wheat, but choked so that they do not bring forth
the proper fruitage.
We cannot suppose for a moment that such would be accepted of the Lord under the strict
terms and conditions of the high calling on the narrow way and the faithfulness unto
death—the terms and conditions everywhere implied in connection with the little flock.
What then shall we say would be the portion of these lukewarm, overcharged ones?
The Scriptures inform us that as that which is begotten of the flesh is flesh, so that
which is begotten of the Spirit is spirit. That is to say, that whoever has been begotten
of the holy Spirit has experienced a change of nature so radical that it would be
impossible for him to share a resurrection with the world on the human plane. He must
either be born of the Spirit and become a spirit being, or else experience the only
alternative we find, namely, the Second Death.
We remember, however, the declaration of the Lord that he willeth not the death of him
that dieth, but would that all should turn unto him and live. We must suppose, therefore,
that God would feel a deep sympathy with the large class of Christian people who have made
a consecration unto death but who have not rightly valued or improved the opportunity for
carrying out that covenant in self-sacrifice.
Some of this class the Scriptures clearly indicate are destined for the Second Death.
One of the apostles describes them as those who have been washed, but like the sow have
returned to wallowing in the mire.
Another Apostle describes this class saying, "If we sin wilfully after that we
have received a knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no longer a sacrifice for sins,
but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour us
as adversaries." (Hebrews 10:27.)
And again he tells us that it is impossible to renew again unto repentance those who
have counted the blood of the covenant a common thing, and done despite to the spirit of
favor. (Hebrews 6:4; 10:29.) And again we read, "There is a sin unto death: I
do not say that he shall pray for it."—I John 5:16.
But are there not many Christians who have not taken these extreme backward steps to
sin and to rejection of divine favor, who nevertheless are not so running as to obtain the
prize? Is there not a large number that would come under the classification made by the
Apostle as those who build with wood, hay, stubble, instead of with gold, silver and
precious stones?—a large number, therefore, whose works will be burned in this trial time
just before us. And does not the Apostle say of these, "themselves shall be saved so
as by fire?" (I Corinthians 3:15.)
This is a large class; no wonder it is styled a Great Company, no wonder it is
symbolically represented in the Levites, while the more than conquerors, the faithful, are
but a little flock, heirs of the Kingdom, joint-heirs with their Redeemer.
It is in great mercy that the Lord will deal with these and bring them into judgment,
testing, so that all of them, who at heart love righteousness and hate iniquity, may be
manifested, may be blessed, may be saved, even though they do not come up to the glorious
standard which God has predestinated as the only acceptable one for the Redeemer and all
those who shall be joint-heirs with him, for he has predestinated that these shall be
conformed to the image of his Son—more than conquerors through him who loved them and
bought them with his own precious blood.
The Apostle James seems to speak of this Great Company class when he says, "The
double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8.) These surely
cannot be the more than conquerors, yet who will say that some of the dear people who
manifest considerable vacillation and double-mindedness are enemies of God and
righteousness, whose portion will be the Second Death? Such is not our opinion.
Rather we understand the Scriptures to teach that this Great Company class,
double-minded, intent on serving the Lord and hoping to gain a crown, and at the same time
loving the world and seeking to have its approval and emoluments, will miss the prize of
our High Calling and not be counted worthy a share in the Kingdom, but put to the crucial
test so many of them as under stress will fix their characters for righteousness and
become its loyal servants—these will be saved with the lesser salvation—on the spirit
plane indeed, but not as partakers of the divine nature nor joint-heirs with our Redeemer
in his Kingdom.
A BIBLE STUDY OF THE GREAT COMPANY
C. J. Woodworth has sent us a Bible study
upon this subject which we append and recommend to you all. He says that the subject was
recently brought to his attention and that he looked it up in the memoranda he has
prepared for our new Bibles, and that he found all of these citations within an hour and a
half, whereas without the references he might have been obliged to hunt for days or for
weeks to find these various allusions to the Great Company.
The study shows where and how the class is referred to in the Scriptures—not directly,
because no one was called to be of the Great Company, all being called to the high
calling, the little flock. But they are referred to indirectly, yet specifically, as a
part of the divine work of grace of this Gospel Age.
We recommend a study of the subject to all of the dear friends, reminding you again in
the words of our text, that even though loyal at heart to the Lord we should look to
ourselves lest we lose the things which we have wrought—that we receive a full reward,
the high calling, the joint-heirship, the Kingdom, the divine nature...
TWO COMPANIES, BOTH JUSTIFIED,
BEGOTTEN OF THE SPIRIT, AND CANDIDATES
FOR JOINT-HEIRSHIP WITH CHRIST
||Selection of goats by lot
||Two leavened wave loaves, 16th Nisan
||Two parts cut off
||Included in the heavenly Seed
DISTINGUISHED SEPARATELY WHILE STILL IN THE FLESH
||Silver vessels at Belshazzar's feast
||Silver in the Refiner's fire
FIRST CAUSE OF FAILURE—IDLE
||Five were foolish
|1 Cor. 3:12
||Builded with wood, hay and stubble
SECOND CAUSE OF FAILURE—DISOBEDIENT
||Included in Children of Disobedience
||Remember Lot's wife
||Sinners against their covenant
THIRD CAUSE OF FAILURE—FEARFUL
||Lifetime subject to bondage
||The ten spies with Caleb and Joshua
|1 Kin. 18:3
FOURTH CAUSE OF FAILURE—PRESUMPTUOUS
||Abihu and his strange fire
||Harvest is past; we did not do the Lord's will
||Cruel servant, not possessing Master's Spirit
SUBJECTS OF SPECIAL CHASTISEMENTS
||Out of great tribulation
||Delivered after Zion's travail
||Pray that your flight be not in winter
||Slaughter of the lambs
|1 Cor. 3:15
||Saved so as by fire
|1 Cor. 5:5
||Turned over to Satan for destruction of flesh
FINALLY DELIVERED FROM BABYLON, WITH REJOICING
||Called to the Marriage Supper
||With gladness and rejoicing
SAVED WITH A HEAVENLY SALVATION: MADE SERVANTS OF
THE TRUE CHURCH ON A HEAVENLY PLANE OF EXISTENCE
||Before the throne, servants
||Damsels who went with Rebecca
||Door was shut: servants
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