"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.VII Pg.10-12
February 1944

Russellites And Premillennialists

T. B. Wilkinson

One objection which I have often urged against Russellism, and all forms of premillenialism is that they do not rely upon the plain teachings of the New Testament for their theory, but base it exclusively upon their own interpretation of the dark sayings of the Old Testament contained in the promises to Abraham, and the prophecies regarding the kingdom. They go back to the types and shadows for their base, and we must accept their interpretation of them or be classed as unbelievers.

Illustrating this point I quote from an argument I received from one of them a few days ago in reply to this very charge, he said, "Your suggested mode of procedure, and the one which you follow, is precisely the cause of your conflicting, unsupported, assertions. You start at the top and work down, basing your conclusions upon a few certain New Testament citations, instead of starting at the bottom upon a basic promise, i.e.; the promise made to Abraham, and working up."

"I insist on starting at the roots and trunk of the tree and working upward to the branches from the bottom, and you insist on beginning with the branches, and working downward. In other words you endeavor to harmonize your conceptions pertaining to the roots and trunk of the tree--with your conception gleaned from the branches of the tree, i.e.; your interpretations of New Testament citations, instead of harmonizing your branch conceptions with the root conceptions."

I think he has stated the issue correctly, and I think he has admitted the sole reason, why we reach opposite conclusions. I hardly expected to find him frank enough to admit what I had charged as the chief cause of the weakness of premillenialism, but you only have to read their literature to know that my charge was correct, and all of them proceed in the same way. The entire theory is based upon their misconception of the promise made to Abraham, and the prophecies pertaining to the kingdom, and the New Testament passages must be made to harmonize with the theory, or be thrown out as interpolations, or called a mistranslation.

Proceeding in this way we cannot wonder that they reach the same conclusions on the promises and the kingdom that the Jews did who crucified the Lord because he would not accept their conclusions. They have the same promises, and the same prophecies, that the Jews read, and since they ignore the light the New Testament has thrown upon them just as the Jews did, they reach the same conclusions, both regarding the promises to Abraham and the kingdom.

Either Jesus did not understand the promises and the prophecies, or the Jews did not understand them. Certain it is that they never could agree on them, and it was over these very things that they split with him, rejected him, and set about to destroy him. Now what was it the Jews expected from the promises and the prophecies? They expected the literal kingdom of Israel would be restored to them, and the land given back to them as in the days of David and Solomon, and their enemies would all be driven out, as they thought the Messiah would do when he came. God sent his Son to the Jews first, and he came to bring light to the world, and to make them understand what Gods promises meant to them. But they thought they already had all the light there was, and soon made up their minds that Jesus was denying them the very things God had promised them. They refused to believe what he taught them regarding the promises to Abraham, and the kingdom promised by the prophets, and delivered him to Pilate to be crucified. I challenge all schools or premillennialists to show wherein their conceptions on these two points differs from the ones held by the Jews who crucified the Lord and killed the apostles.

Jesus chose twelve apostles and spent three years teaching them the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and the promises to the fathers. He sent the Holy Spirit to guide them for after all of this teaching he would not trust them to expound these truths without power from on high. But the Jews could not agree with what they preached, and set about to destroy them, and the Jews who persecuted the apostles held the same views on these two points the premillennialists hold today.

Whatever these apostles preached was the Holy Spirit's interpretation of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament. What they did preach gave us the church as God's kingdom on the earth, and the gospel as the power of God unto salvation to Jew first, and also to the Greek. What they preached and did was not what the Jews expected and wanted for it did not coincide with their conception of what the promises and prophecies had guaranteed to them.

They wanted the kingdom restored as it was in the days of David and Solomon, and they tried to take Jesus by force and make him king. He told them his kingdom was not of this world, but the kingdom they wanted was of this world. That was the very point in which their ideas differed. Jesus did not refuse them the kingdom, he did not reject Nicodemus when he came to him inquiring about the kingdom, but told him he would have to be born again. Why must he be born again? Because this kingdom Jesus came to set up was not of this world.

In the Sermon on the Mount he showed them why he never could be the head and founder of a kingdom based on power. Such kingdoms are of this world and belong to this world, and the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. The author of the Sermon on the Mount placed an impassible barrier between himself and a kingship upon an earthly throne, and the Jews knew it. That meant that the old literal kingdom of Israel never could be restored by him, it was a kingdom upheld by the sword, and the author of the Sermon on the Mount never could be that kind of king.

Place any interpretation possible on the Sermon on the Mount and you will still be forced to admit that it would be impossible for its author to be the founder of a kingdom upheld by policy and material power. Material power, think of it, and think of the Lord Jesus, with all power, both in heaven and on earth, using such power, either as our king, or our Savior, for he is both. God ordained civil government for men, and that has never been taken from him and God's kingdom, over which Jesus reigns, is over all such kingdoms, and they are subject to him.

Now premillennialists, like this brother, must admit that their conception of the kingdom does not come from the New Testament teaching, and the preaching of Jesus and the apostles. Like him they begin with the roots, and trunk of the tree, and work upward, and argue that the branches, and the fruit, must agree with the roots. That might be possible if there was any way we could positively identify the roots, and be sure of the identifications. The Jews were sure they knew what was in the roots, but when the branches and the fruit appeared they were disappointed, it was not what they had been expecting.

How can premillennialists know that they have done a better job in understanding what was in the roots than the Jews? The Jews misunderstood them, and even the apostles, after three years of teaching from the Lord. Even after he arose from the dead they asked him to restore again the kingdom to Israel, and he told them it was not for them to know. They had the roots, and the trunk, but they did not have what this Brother calls the branches, which is the gospel.

They got the gospel when the Spirit came upon them, and they never more worried about the material kingdom being restored to Israel, they never mentioned it again. They had received a better kingdom, one that cannot be moved. They could not understand the roots, from which premillennialist admit they get their conception of the kingdom promises, and needed the Holy Spirit to help them, and they got that help in the gospel which the Holy Spirit revealed to them. But premillennialists do not need that help, the roots and trunk are all they need, and they claim they can understand what the apostles could not understand without the aid of the Holy Spirit.

The same materialism which blinded the Jew's premillennialists holds to this day. They cannot deny it and few of them will even try. They wont even admit that the Jews were wrong in their expectations of an earthly kingdom, and while they admit they did not get it, they contend that they will get it yet. The earthly kingdom has only been postponed, the Jews were not blinded at all, they were correct in what they expected of the Messiah, and he will give it to them yet.

Russellism And The Little Flock

"Fear not little flock for it is the Father's good pleasure to give unto you the kingdom". In the writings of Russell and his disciples no other expression is found more often than that of the "little flock." You will find it in all of their writings, and it has become a hobby with them, and they misapply the expression as they do so much other Scripture.

And there is a good reason for it, they have a theory to sell to the world, and the success of their plea requires them to belittle the church, and do all possible to make the influence of the gospel look insignificant to the world. They are preparing a foundation for a theory of post mortem reconciliation which they claim will save a vast majority of humanity who have lived since time began.

So the church is a "little flock," and such it must remain to the end, and all the gospel was ever designed to accomplish was gather out this little flock, the church, who will become the judges and administrators of the post mortem, post resurrection, reconciliation. The little flock will be gathered out during the time Jesus remains in heaven, and when the little flock is completed Jesus will return to the earth, the dead will all be raised, and the little flock will proceed to administer to them a post mortem reconciliation, and then they will be settled in their proper inheritances in various parts of the world.

The expression, "little flock", was never applied to the church in the Bible. The only time the expression was used, Jesus applied to the twelve apostles, and the few disciples who followed him during his personal ministry. It was a little flock at that time but he promised to give them the kingdom, and on the day of Pentecost he made that promise good. The kingdom came with power, and never after this was it called a little flock. It was the church of God, the kingdom of God, the family of God, the body of Christ, and kindred expressions, but never a little flock.

On the day of Pentecost the kingdom came with power as Jesus had promised it would (Mark 9:1), and it came to the little flock, numbering at the time one hundred and twenty souls. Three thousand were added to their number that day, the next day five thousand, and then "multitudes of both men and women", and then the disciples were scattered abroad and went every where preaching the word, and the borders of the kingdom extended rapidly.

It is never called a little flock after that. Peter and Paul refer to local congregations as flocks which the local elders were to feed, and some of them small in numbers. But the church, or kingdom of God, was no longer a little flock, but a mighty aggregation of men and principles which turned the world upside down, tore down the temples of idols, and in a few short centuries changed the course of civilization for the world, and paganism received a deadly wound.

But Russell had a theory to sell to the world, and to sell it he needed the impression that the church was a "small affair, and the influence of the gospel over the nations of the world was insignificant, and the Lord never expected it to be otherwise. They will continue in the same meager course to the end of the gospel age then Jesus will come back again, bring his little flock with him, take away the gospel, and supply a different power to the reconciliation of mankind, and it will be one which will succeed where the other has failed.

They make no attack on the gospel, or the church, in a direct way, they just say they were not expected to do more than they have done, and the Lord was not ready yet to proceed to the reconciling of the world to himself. The little flock who are to administer this world reconciliation must be selected first, and the gospel was designed only to accomplish that purpose: It was never expected to convert the world, and the church had no commission to attempt such an impossible task. It was merely a preliminary which roust be worked out, and when this work is done the dead will all be raised and the work of world reconciliation can begin.

This post-resurrection reconciliation has been in the purpose of God from the beginning, and it is only after the resurrection that reconciliation will be offered to the whole world. This explains, they argue, why Satan's plans have been such a howling success through the ages, and the Lord's plan such a dismal failure, the Lord was merely letting Satan have his day in court. The truth of the matter is that the Lord had no plan to save those people during their lifetime, his plan was to let Satan have them, and destroy them, and when he gets them all killed off the Lord will raise them from the dead and proceed to reconcile them unto himself.

There was no salvation for the people back of the cross; the blood of Christ could not reach them. The sacrificial laws of God were mere mockeries in their way of viewing them, a hoax, and a fraud, which the Lord practiced on them, for they say there was no way possible for them to save the people.

There was something God was doing with those people, Noah, Abraham, Job, Enoch, Moses, Elijah, and men like that, but he was not trying to save them. He was fiddling with them, teasing them perhaps with the idea that they could be saved, and he did give them some temporal blessings, but no salvation. Jesus spoke of many that would come from the east, and from the west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, but they explain it that way like they do other contrary passages, for all must be made to harmonize with the theory.

When I first began reading Russell's literature I was struck by the frequency that expression, the little flock, appeared in it, and I supposed it must be a common one in the New Testament, if not every chapter at least in every book. But when I began looking for it I failed to find it, and this was one thing that first shook my faith in the man's sincerity and honesty. When I found that no inspired man ever applied it to the church, even in its infancy, I could not fail to see that he was not dealing honestly with the word of God. The church was few in numbers at the beginning, but the kingdom of God does not consist in numbers.

There was a reason why they wanted to make the church look small, and the influence of the gospel over the nations seem insignificant, and they wanted to do it with out making a direct attack upon either. What better plan could be devised than to belittle them, and then apologize by pretending the Lord only expected meager results from them, and designed them with that end in view. Yes the gospel is doing all the Lord expected of it, it is gathering up the little flock out of this present evil world. There will be another world in which all who have lived in this one will live again, and with no devil to hinder the Lord will reconcile them all.

One ardent disciple of Russell's theory wrote me a few days ago as follows: "Brother, your trouble lies in your effort to crowd everything into the gospel age, and into Joshua 21:40-45, hence, making the devil's plan a howling success, and the Lord's plan a dismal failure."

Now we know what this one at least thinks of the law age, and of the gospel age, on Gods part they are dismal failures, while from Satan's side they are a howling success. Both ages however have produced some worthy names which have survived as models of faith, meekness, patience, and righteousness, not to mention courage, zeal, and fidelity to the Lord. He ignores twenty-five hundred years during which such men as Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job, lived, as not even worthy of mention. He wants to make it look little and would have us believe that all the Lord got out of the first four thousand years were the few names mentioned by Paul in Hebrews eleven, and all he will get from the gospel age is the little flock.

He continues, "hence, making Satan's plan a howling success and Gods plan a dismal failure represented by just a little flock," and a few ancient worthies mentioned by Paul in Hebrews eleven, while Satan claims all the rest of mankind since Adam."

His purpose is to make it look bad, he learned this trick from old Russell himself, and when his readers become horrified by the picture they have drawn they spring their surprise, these were only rounds one and two, and it is not till round three that the Lord turns himself loose. Thus while Satan has been doing all the leading in the fight so far, the Lord has just been playing with him, the next round the Lord will open up with a new kind of power, one never used before. In the first round he used the law of Moses, and in the second round the gospel, but knew all the time Satan was too strong for either of these powers. Now they will be laid aside and the other kind of power will be loosed. Just what that power is they are not very definite, but it is one that will raise all the dead and bring them back to this world, and destroy the devil so that he can never again interfere between God and man.

But now a word about that little flock, the church. We know what Russell and his disciples think about it, it has proven a failure. But what does the Lord say about it? Daniel saw the kingdom as a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands, then he saw it grow, and become a great mountain that filled the whole earth, and broke in pieces, and consumed all other kingdoms. Jesus saw it as a small grain like a mustard seed, but said it became a great tree. Again he saw it as a little leaven which a woman hid in three measures of meal, but it leavened all the meal, but of course all of this did not happen in a day.

Paul saw the kingdom when we must through great tribulation enter into it, but he said Jesus was reigning, and he must reign until all enemies are put under his feet. David saw him reigning in the midst of his enemies, also, and he said God said unto him, "Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstools," and this must have been the same thing that Paul saw. Paul said he must reign until all enemies are put under him, and I believe that he will, and those two words, must, and, all, are very strong words, and admit of no limitation.

Now we can believe these and hundreds of others Scriptures like them, and take up the fight against Satan and sin with renewed courage, or we can not believe them, and begin to whimper about the miserable showing the Lord has made, and register our dissatisfaction with the gospel, and our disappointment over the little flock, and pipe dream about some other power the Lord could use.

Russell's theory is nothing but a weak apology for what he considers the Lords failures in three efforts to save mankind. It is founded entirely upon ignorance of what the Lord really has done during past dispensations and a short sighted view of the gospel dispensation, based upon misconception, and misinformation, and no faith in the power of the gospel. They have already judged the world, and the works of God in dealing with mankind, and pronounced it a failure.

They have assigned to the Lord the little flock and a few ancient worthies mentioned by name in Hebrews eleven, and all the rest belong to Satan, and they wrest the Scriptures in a vain effort to make them support their theory. There is only one thing left to the Lord to save himself from a humiliating defeat, and that is kill the devil, raise all of Satans children from the dead, and give them a second chance, hoping they will do better with the devil gone.

All Russellites are gross materials, and their materialism also includes the God they pretend to worship. They worship a material god and hope for a material salvation, and for the most of humanity a very material one. For all except the "little flock" it will be a mere restoration of life to conditions similar to the ones they knew in their first existence, and perpetuated only conditionally. The "little flock," of which they hope to form the greater part, they only will get immortality, and they will also be made partakers of the divine nature, and hence forth will be gods themselves, and equals with the only begotten Son.

Russell reserves for himself and his "little flock" all of the choice rewards of eternity, they only will get heavenly award and glory, they will be the kings and priests, inherit the kingdom, and feed on heavenly manna.