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Charles Taze Russell was born to Joseph Lytel Russell and Ann Eliza Birney on Monday, February 16, 1852 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, USA. Charles, the second of five children, was one of only two to survive into adulthood. The other Russell children included Thomas, (d. September 4, 1855 age 5), Margaret ("Mae", married name Margaret Land) who died nearly 90 years old in the late 1940s, having opposed the changes initiated by the new leadership of the Bible Society her brother formed, Lucinda (d. July 21, 1858 age 1), and Joseph Lytel, Jr. (d. April 25, 1860 age 1). Their mother died on January 25, 1861 at the age of 29. The patriarch, Joseph, died December 17, 1897, at the age of 84.
Growing up in an intensely religious household, Charles' mother expressed to him when he was but seven-years-old her hope that he would one day become a missionary in God's service. Two years later on January 25, 1861, his mother died. The Russells lived for some time in Philadelphia as well as Allegheny (now incorporated into modern Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania, USA. Once established in Pittsburgh, the Russell's were respected members of the Presbyterian Church. As Charles grew into his early teens, his intellect and natural curiosity were noted by his father who made him partner of his haberdashery (men's clothing/tailoring) store named "The Old Quaker Shop" located on Federal Street in downtown Pittsburgh. By the age of twelve, Charles was writing business contracts for customers, and given charge of some of his father's other clothing stores. These early years gave him much experience in managing finances and efficient business management. At this same time, Charles had grown weary of the Presbyterian Church and personally decided to join the Congregational Church. At age thirteen, he was encouraged to participate with other members of that Church in a fund-raising activity. He would later confess this event had permanently altered his perception of 'fleecing the masses', vowing to never again participate in begging other Christians for money. He was firmly convinced that God knew how to provide whatever is needed for ministerial activities, if it be His will.
It was very evident that young Charles had strong religious convictions that motivated him to 'save' as many unbelievers as he possibly could. As a young boy in Philadelphia he would often write Bible verses in chalk upon the sidewalks to draw attention to the punishment of hell awaiting the unfaithful. Having this understanding in his mind, and great zeal in his heart, at the age of sixteen Charles was having a lively debate with a childhood friend on the contradictions of Christian creeds and the hypocrisy both of the Churches, and of those who claimed to be Christians, but were leading worldly lives. The discussion succeeded in causing Charles to question whether the Bible was the word of God, and whether Christianity was nothing but an empty faith. In an effort to get a reasonable answer to his new concerns, he approached the head Pastor of the Congregational Church with his queries. The Pastor gave him a few books to read, stating that they would convince him of the truth of Christianity. Charles found these books to be unclear, lacking any logical attempt to defend the correctness of Christian creeds and dogma. He then began to investigate the philosophies of the Far East - Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism. He soon concluded that these philosophies were likewise empty, and his quest for spiritual satisfaction and peace remained unfulfilled.
With the still lingering hope in his heart that Christianity was indeed true, and desiring to serve God, he was in a proper and ripe condition when, in 1870, at the age of eighteen, he heard that a presentation was going to be given by the famous Adventist preacher, Jonas Wendell
. (December 25, 1815-August 14, 1873) At the last minute he made the decision to attend this presentation to see if it offered anything new or reasonable. Wendell's presentation focused on the accuracy of Old Testament prophecy while pinpointing specific dates given in the Bible for events of historical importance to God's faithful followers all down through the Jewish and Christian ages. After establishing his premise, Wendell went on to show that the scriptures also clearly indicated that Christ would return to earth in 1873/1874. Conclusions such as these were not uncommon at this time in history as Christians worldwide were for the first time ever considering the prophetic chronology of the Bible, concluding that Christ was going to return on dates calculated anywhere from 1862 through 1881. (with greater focus on the year 1868) Because Wendell's presentation focused on rational, logical, and provable events, an excited Charles left the presentation with a renewed zeal that not only was the Bible the true word of God, but that all Christians - himself included - had a responsibility to preach the word of salvation to all.
The Beginnings of his Ministry
From the years 1870 through 1875 Charles, his father Joseph, his sister Margaret, along with several other interested friends and associates, such as the well studied Millerite pastors George Storrs, and George Stetson, were actively engaged in careful, analytical Bible Study. These studies were purposely detailed and analytical with the goal of examining every 'jot and tittle' of Christian doctrine, creeds and traditions in order to determine their accuracy, or to see if they were nothing but "the traditions of men". Slowly, and step by step, they were able to separate which doctrines were Bible-based from those that were error, or mere tradition. Such detailed studies and questions of faith were common to numerous Protestant groups in the United States at this time in American history. The world's first Bible Society, The British and Foreign Bible Society, had only been formed in 1804, leading to the establishment of its sister Society, the American Bible Society in 1816. Although most take it for granted today, independent Bible study was a very new and unique concept to Christians. This was the first time since the end of the Dark Ages that Christians had the opportunity to freely and openly question the creeds that had been developed and hoisted upon Christendom by the Roman Catholic Church councils. The Roman Catholic Church was still openly condemning independent Bible study in Encyclicals as recently at 1866. (Dec. 6, 1866 in 'Quanta Cura' by Pope Pius IX) However, Russell's group, and others nationwide, was concluding that there were significant errors in belief. Sadly, most of these study groups and scholars were not aware others were doing the same. Because of their intensive study of the Bible, the Russell family (Charles, Margaret, and Joseph) concluded that they had finally gained a new and clearer understanding of what a Christian is called to do in laying down their earthly life in sacrifice and service to God. All three renewed their consecration (vow of dedication) and decided to be re-baptized in 1874.
In the early Spring of 1876, after having been in Philadelphia for an extended business trip, Charles came upon a copy of the magazine "Herald of the Morning" published out of Rochester New York by Nelson H. Barbour
. (1824-1908) His interest was immediately piqued because the magazine was teaching the same conclusions and espousing the same views that his Bible study group had reached. Not having been previously aware that others were also starting to question the creeds and traditions, 24 year-old Russell contacted 52 year-old Barbour and set up a meeting in Philadelphia to discuss views, and compare notes. At this point Barbour, and eventually his associates John Paton and B.W. Keith, pointed out that there were other groups nationwide coming to the same conclusions. Additionally, Barbour introduced him to some new prophetic and chronological views that quickly convinced him the Rapture of the saints would occur in April, 1878, and that the world was presently in the foretold "harvest" of the end of the age spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 13. Barbour also pointed out that many former Adventists, still remembering the disappointment of 1844, were beginning to lose their faith in the scriptures entirely because certain expectations for the year 1874 had not materialized. Both men agreed that they needed to do something, and do it quickly. Barbour remained in Rochester. Charles immediately, and in great haste, sold out his five clothing stores and all his other business interests to the tune of $300,000 dollars. (the same buying power as $5.5 million in the year 2005) He did this in order to devote his life to what he now believed were the last two years before the return of Jesus Christ, and the Rapture of the saints from earth. Some of this money was sent to Barbour to help finance the ministry. This included financing a coherent outline of their current views in the book "Three Worlds; or Plan of Redemption" published in 1877. A booklet entitled "The Object and Manner of our Lord's Return" was also published through the offices of the Herald. It was a text that Charles had begun writing soon after his re-baptism in 1874 illustrating Christ's return will be as a spirit, (a view common to many prominent Christians, including Sir Isaac Newton, and others) and that the purpose of the Second Advent is to bless the world, not destroy it. Russell's zeal and influence in Pittsburgh was evidenced when he called two separate meetings of all ministers, pastors and clergyman of the city to present to them the proof of how the creeds and traditions had corrupted Christianity, and that the scriptures showed clearly the time of the "harvest" had now come, the Rapture was near at hand, and that they all had a responsibility before God to preach this to their members. Although all came, and the meeting inspired great interest, not a single man was swayed by Russell's presentations either time.
When the Spring of 1878 came and went without any Rapture occurring Charles followed the same course as his Bible study group in years past - he examined the basis of the belief to see if it was actually Biblical, rather than giving up complete hope. He concluded that the common view was not supported by scripture, and sought to replace the mistaken belief with a more accurate representation of the scriptures when writing articles for the Herald. Barbour, however, was intensely embarrassed by the failure of their expectations. His embarrassment lead to a loss of faith and recanting of some of the foundational views he and Russell had previously shared. Initially, this was illustrated by pointed, but respectful, arguments and counter-arguments in articles appearing in the Herald with Barbour on one side, and Paton and Russell on the other. Eventually, the older Barbour felt he was being disrespected by the younger Russell, while Russell felt Barbour was denying an important aspect of the Ransom provided by Christ. All of these things resulted in a split between them; Russell removed his financial support of Barbour and the Herald, and started his own periodical entitled "Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence" with the issue July, 1879. Barbour distanced himself and formed "The Church of the Strangers". From this point onward, Russell firmly believed he had a calling to preach the Gospel worldwide and reveal the truth about the false creeds and man-made traditions that had been enforced upon Christians by Rome and darkened the Bible for so long.
Life and Ministry
On March 13, 1879, Russell married Maria (pronounced 'moriah') Frances Ackley (1850-1938) after merely a few months' acquaintance. Although expressing a fondness for each other, the marriage was not based on a romantic love, but was a mutually agreed upon celibate partnership established for preaching the gospel. In 1897 they separated following disagreements over the propriety of her role in the management of Zion's Watch Tower magazine. This caused Charles great distress, and became grist for the mill as his critics worked hard to use this as a means of smearing him and destroying his ministry that was threatening their existence. Maria Russell, as she was named in her obituary, died in St. Petersburg, Florida in August of 1938 from Hodgkin's disease.
In 1881 "Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society" was founded with the purpose of disseminating tracts, papers, doctrinal treatises and Bibles, and was officially chartered in 1884. From this point onward, Russell's ministry grew by leaps and bounds. His Bible study group had grown to over 200 local members who annually elected him "Pastor". Other congregations followed this habit as they were founded in the coming years throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, and other nations in recognition of their love, respect, and admiration for the man God was using to reveal the truth of the creeds. He devoted nearly a tenth of his fortune in publishing and distributing his first major publication, entitled "Food for Thinking Christians" in 1881. In that same year he also wrote and distributed, "Tabernacle and its Teachings", and "Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices". In "Food for Thinking Christians", Russell's zeal to throw light upon the creedal errors motivated him to tear into the error without first showing that the Bible was indeed true, and that there was truth to be found therein. This approach was found highly ineffective. In 1886, following a financial set-back due to the immense amount of money spent in printing and distributing the first three publications, he was finally able to publish the long-promised first volume of what was planned to be a seven-volume set. These books were, in fact, the first detailed textbooks ever produced to carefully outline the entire Bible and God's plan for humanity, completely free of the Roman creeds and "traditions of men". The first volume was originally entitled "The Plan of the Ages", later renamed "The Divine Plan of the Ages". It remains to this day one of the most widely distributed expositions of the Bible, published worldwide in nearly twenty languages. Its premise and style has been mimicked, copied and plagiarized in different ways by several Protestant ministers and organizations over the decades due to its immense success. Many modern Evangelical preachers follow the very outline first assembled by Charles Taze Russell, while at the same time frequently slandering him. The "Divine Plan of the Ages" took the opposite approach of "Food for Thinking Christians" and first showed the beauty and harmony of the Bible before attacking the creedal errors. This approach was accepted as a refreshing answer to peoples search for truth so evident from the end of the 19th century onward.
The remaining volumes of the series, originally named "Millennial Dawn" but renamed in 1904 to "Studies in the Scriptures", are:
The Time is at Hand (1889)
Thy Kingdom Come (1891)
The Day of Vengeance/The Battle of Armageddon (1897)
The At-one-ment Between God and Men (1899)
The New Creation (1904)
The delayed publishing of the seventh volume eventually became a source of great anticipation and mystery among Bible Students. Following Russell's death in 1916, a seventh volume entitled The Finished Mystery, was published in 1917 and advertised as his "posthumous work". True to Russell's plan, this seventh volume was a detailed interpretation of the book of Revelation, but had included interpretations of Ezekiel, and the Song of Solomon. Immediate controversy surrounded both its publishing, and contents. In a short time it was established that it was actually written and compiled by two of Russell's former associates, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, and edited by Joseph Franklin Rutherford.
By 1903, newspapers began printing sermons written by Pastor Russell. These newspaper sermons were syndicated all over the world and eventually reached an estimated readership of 15,000,000 people in the United States alone. By this time, Pastor Russell was one of the most recognized and 'famous' ministers in the world, comparable to the fame of Billy Graham in the modern day. Pastor Russell had made a name for himself by refusing to take collections during meetings. The slogan "Seats Free - No Collections" angered many clergymen who were losing money and church members by his approach. However, this still managed to impress so many faithful church goers with the message that the creeds were man-made traditions (and replacing those traditions with a more reasonable understanding of the Bible) that many wealthy individuals, and industries would donate large sums of money and free space in auditoriums so that he could preach the message worldwide. This activity resulted in the spread of his message in a way unprecedented in Christian history. The message that the creeds were error, and that the Bible is best understood without them, was spread to every continent. Such a brave act had never before been seen since the beginning of the Reformation period.
Confronting the creeds with such boldness created many enemies. As a result, Russell was by no means without his critics. At one point, due to his immense popularity and personal appeal, ministers and clergy throughout the world were seeking to undermine his message and smear his character. He was labeled a heretic, and eventually the separation from his wife was twisted into an attack on his morality, integrity, and convictions. This criticism, although personally painful for him, actually resulted in greater publicity for his message, gathering several hundred thousand followers in the USA alone.
Some of the more popular criticisms, which are often repeated in our day by individuals of the religious-right and strict conservative Roman Catholics are summarized as follows:
Was he a false prophet and cult leader?
"Like the noble Bereans let such ones studiously set themselves to prove what has been presented in the foregoing pages. Prove it, not by the conflicting traditions and creeds of men, but by the only correct and divinely authorized standard - God's own Word
." (The Divine Plan of the Ages, pg 348) Pastor Russell had the facts of history behind him to show the creeds were invented by the Roman Catholic Church and forced upon Christians. He was the first individual to publicly challenge all of the creeds and convince millions of this dark fact of Christian history. The clergy were furious, and attempted to block his efforts. Russell was called a heretic, a false prophet, and labeled a cult leader. Of course, none of these claims was true, however it set the stage for greater and harsher criticisms to come which some hoped would sway the uninformed:
Was he a member of the Masonic Lodge? (a Freemason)
This criticism has lingered into the modern day, and has been manipulated into the most frequent accusation against Pastor Russell. In reality, Russell believed and taught that all man-made organizations were nothing but a waste of a Christian's time. He admitted that Masons would often approach him with their secret handshake, but he would refuse to return it. He believed he was to preach the truth of the Gospel, and nothing more. The Freemasons are, in fact, a militant anti-catholic Protestant brotherhood often falsely represented as "devil worshipping". Because so few know the truth about Freemasonry, casting Russell in a Masonic light is really an attempt to make him appear to be insincere and dishonest. It is claimed that his use of a "winged sun disk" symbol on the front cover of "Studies in the Scriptures" is proof of his Masonic connections. However, the symbol was chosen (after having used an oil lamp symbol for over 20 years) because Malachi 4:2 illustrates a winged sun as a symbol of the gradual emergence (like a sunrise) of God's Kingdom, which Pastor Russell taught was beginning. The winged solar disk symbol has been used on many things, including the Chevrolet automobile, but hardly ever by Freemasons.
Did he make money off his followers?
Occasionally, armchair critics and mysteriously unknown "ordained ministers" would be quoted in newspapers as stating that Russell was one of the richest men in America because he was fleecing the flock. In truth, Russell's personal fortune (from selling his clothing stores in 1876) was slowly dwindling, and the worldwide ministry was being financed and supported by volunteers. One of the more popular criticisms related to an especially hearty strain of wheat discovered by a farmer in Virginia. When Russell learned of it in 1908, he believed that this was one of many proofs that the Bible prophecies regarding the restoration of the earth was progressing. (Acts 3:19) He received a supply of this wheat as a donation and sold it for one pound for one dollar. Eventually $1,800 was raised for the ministry. Nevertheless, in time critics turned around this beneficent means of donating money into an attempt to fleece the flock. One claim lead to another, and people began to invent false schemes that he was stealing money from his followers. Anyone knowing his fatherly character and business sense knew those claims were baseless, but many people will automatically believe anything they read in a newspaper, so the clergy were anxious to spread this information in order to undermine Pastor Russell's ministry. Again, this criticism failed in its endeavors, and actually made him more of a household name, with more people wanting to look into who he was, what he taught, and why he was so hated by the clergy.
Was he immoral and did he abuse his wife?
Mrs. Russell sought a legal separation in 1906 under the claim of "mental cruelty". This claim was in reference to the fact the couple had never engaged in sexual relations. (which they had mutually agreed upon before marrying) When the matter went to court, Mrs. Russell's attorney claimed that Charles was an adulterer and had been inappropriately affectionate with a foster daughter for which they were caring. Her attorney stated this girl claimed he told her he was a "jellyfish floating around" to different women until one would respond to his advances. The Judge inquired if this was something they wished to pursue in court, and if Mrs. Russell was insisting it was true. She said "No", (Court Transcript, page 10) but once a man from Canada (claiming to be an ordained minister) acquired the transcript, it was taken far out of context and important phrases left out. The Washington Post and Chicago Mission Friend reprinted the claim that Russell was a "jellyfish", and was sued by him for libel. The jury voted in his favor, awarding him one-dollar. After appealing this decision, Russell received a cash settlement of $15,000, an agreement for an article defending his character, and an agreement that their newspapers join in publishing his weekly syndicated sermons. From that time to the present numerous Christians who support the creeds (or strongly disagree with Jehovah's Witnesses - who have falsely claimed him as their leader) have, instead of preaching the Gospel, spent their time trying to create arguments that prove he was an immoral man, all for the purpose of undermining his ministry.
Death and Aftermath
On his return from visiting and touring the western and south-western United States where he helped dozens of congregations and spoke nightly, an exhausted and faithfully worn out Pastor Russell died from complications related to diverticulitis (he had in years past expressed problems with heart arrhythmia) on the night of October 31, 1916 in a train car as it was traveling through the town of Pampa, Texas. His death was a major headline in newspapers across the globe.
None of the criticisms or smears of his character could ever supersede the intense drama that came following his death. Once his death was confirmed at the Brooklyn "headquarters", an immense and messy struggle for control of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society began. Joseph Rutherford, the Society's lawyer, on a technicality that would have equally applied to him, summarily dismissed four influential members of the Board of Directors, and then literally tossed their belongings out onto the street. Pastor Russell's "Last Will and Testament" was both ignored and violated. Through legal and personal manipulations, Rutherford essentially appointed himself the second president of the Society, and within a period of only ten years turned the course of the Society around in a completely different direction, having discarded many of Russell's views, to the chagrin of tens of thousands of members. The news of what Rutherford had done slowly spread amongst the fellowship, but many were in the dark for some time. As the story began to be told at Conventions, and spread through letters, Rutherford violated Russell's Will (which forbade any new independent publications) by publishing a new paper without editorial permission that was sent to everyone receiving the "Watchtower". This paper, entitled "Harvest Siftings" took the lead to counteract the spreading information before everyone properly knew the unbiased details of what had happened. The paper attempted to lay blame upon the four former members of the Board, as well as Pastor Russell's closest and dearest friend, Paul S.L. Johnson for attempting to destroy the Society. The four former members of the Board of Directors got together and published a paper entitled "Light After Darkness, A Message to the Watchers, Being a refutation of 'Harvest Siftings'.
By 1928 over 75% of those associated with the Watchtower Society had left in disgust. These "Bible Students" eventually reformed into smaller groups worldwide, and still exist in significant numbers to this day in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and several nations in Africa. In 1931, Rutherford gave the remaining membership the name "Jehovah's Witnesses" in order to distinguish them from the "Bible Students" who wished to remain faithful to the life's work and views of Charles Russell. To this day leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses still claim Pastor Russell as their founder when in fact "Judge" Joseph Rutherford was their founder. (Russell was merely the founder of the corporation) The majority of doctrinal views today taught by Jehovah's Witnesses were established AFTER the death of Charles Taze Russell, and created by Rutherford or their Governing Body in the years following Rutherford's death in 1942. Some are convinced that a valid legal claim can be made to reclaim the WTB&TS from those who usurped power and violated Charles Russell's Last Will and Testament, but Bible Students and living relatives will not do so believing it to be unscriptural, and that it was God's will that the usurpation occurred.
Doctrines and Beliefs
So, what is it that made the leaders of mainline churches and established Christendom so angry and uneasy? What were the conclusions Pastor Russell and his Pittsburgh companions had reached after studying the Bible so intensely and carefully? After close, analytical examination of the Bible, the creeds and centuries old traditions were eliminated, and what amounted to a restoration of primitive Christian belief emerged. Many Protestant groups have eventually formed around, or adopted one, some, or nearly all of Pastor Russell's views, although they are not part of the 'Bible Student movement'. Here is a summary of what was found through his studies:
- The first man, Adam, sinned. Because of this sin, death has passed genetically to all of humanity. (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 5:12)
- Man was not GIVEN a mysterious entity called a "soul". Rather, Adam "BECAME a living soul". Death is unconsciousness. Part of the curse on Adam, and as a result, all of humanity after him, was "in dying you will die", that is, we suffer a dying process before the final experience of actual death. The idea that one is more alive or even conscious after death was the first lie created by Satan. (see original Hebrew of Genesis 2:17; Genesis 2:7; I Corinthians 15:45; Psalm 146: 3,4; Ecclesiastes 9:5,10; Psalm 51:5; Genesis 3:4; John 8:44)
- Mankind was condemned to death, which is eternal unconsciousness, not eternal torture. In the original languages of the Bible, "Hell" is merely the common grave to which nearly all go. It is a place of unconsciousness, where one currently "sleeps" awaiting the time they will be awakened - resurrected - from the dead, and given the opportunity to be restored to human perfection during the 1,000 year Kingdom. (Romans 6:23; Psalm 146:3,4; Mark 5:39-41; John 11:11-14, 22-25; Daniel 12:2; Ephesians 5:14; I Corinthians 15:21)
- Abraham, the Father to all who have faith in God, was given a promise soon to be fulfilled: "In thee, and in thy seed, shall all of the families of earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:18)
- This promised seed is composed of two parts: The spiritual and the earthly; "As the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore" (Genesis 22:17; Romans 11:25,26)
- Christ Jesus was the promised spiritual seed, giving up his perfect human life as a Ransom for Adam, and through him all of humanity, which will be "testified in due time". (Galatians 3:16; I Timothy 2:6; I John 4:3; II John 7; Romans 5:17-19)
- Jesus was the "firstborn" of a larger body of 144,000 faithful Christians who also comprise part of the promised spiritual seed. (Romans 8:29; Galatians 3:29; Revelation 14:1-3)
- These faithful Christians are also a bride for Jesus, "a people for his name," called out of all the nations. This bride, called "the church," once completely assembled with Jesus in heaven, shall directly assist in the resurrection, and then the restoration of mankind to perfection. (Acts 15:14; Ephesians 5:30-32; Hebrews 12:23; I Corinthians 6:2,3; Luke 22:29,30; Revelation 3:21; II Timothy 2:12; James 2:5; Obadiah 21)
- Faithful Christians, and all the rest of humanity since creation, sleep in death, until the return of Christ Jesus, when he wakes them. The faithful who died are raised first, in what is called the "first resurrection." During the interim period before the Kingdom, but after Jesus has returned, those faithful Christians who are alive and remain on earth at that time will live out their lives, and upon their human death will not sleep as their brethren did, but are, as Paul said, "changed in a moment, in the blinking of an eye" and given their spiritual body. (I Thessalonians 4:13-15; I Corinthians 15:51-53; Revelation 20:6)
- The nation of Israel, cast from God's favor during the first advent of Christ, is RESTORED to favor during the Second Advent for the distinct purpose of saving all the nations of earth. Israel and the Jews comprise the earthly part of the promised Abrahamic seed. (Luke 13:35; Acts 15:16,17; Romans 11:25-27; Isaiah 42:6,7; 49:8-10)
- The ancient prophets of Israel will be the first of humanity resurrected to life on earth, and will be both the guides and official representatives of the nation of Israel and faithful Jews, guiding the remainder of humanity in all other nations to human perfection. This constitutes the inauguration of the foretold "New Covenant." (Hebrews 11:40; 12:23; Isaiah 1:26; Ezekiel 16:61,62; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 45:16; Zechariah 8:22,23)
- The Kingdom of God is the 1,000 year judgment day during which humanity will be given opportunity to be restored to life. A minimum period of 100 years is given to each human to prove some form of advancement and compliance with righteousness before they could be judged and sentenced to death due to their own sins. (II Peter 3:7-9; Isaiah 65:20; Jeremiah 31:29,30)
- Satan is bound, and other fallen angels who supported him are destroyed once the Kingdom of God is inaugurated, so that humanity will have a full opportunity to learn righteousness on earth in the Kingdom without distraction or injury. "Nothing shall hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain." However, this transformation of character will be hard for some people who are selfish and self-centered, thus Christ rules the Kingdom with a "rod of iron." (Matthew 12:29; Revelation 20:1-3; I Corinthians 6:3; Isaiah 11:9; Revelation 19:15)
- The Bible accurately keeps time, and through it, we are able to determine exactly where we are in the stream of time. From the creation of Adam to the end of the year, 1874 passed exactly 6,000 years.
- As pictured and symbolized in the Jewish ceremonies given to Israel by God, mankind's "work week" of sin and death would encompass 6,000 years, the final 1,000 years to be the Kingdom of God. (Exodus 20:9-11; Psalm 90:4; II Peter 3:7-9; Hebrews 4:8,9; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1)
- The beginning phase of the Kingdom would be chaotic, and bring a "time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation" upon the whole earth for the purpose of wiping out all existing governmental and religious institutions (with the exception of Israel) to make way for the fuller establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. At the same time "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" and technology advances in order to set up the infrastructure for spreading the knowledge of God earth wide in the Kingdom. (Daniel 12:1-4; Haggai 2:6,7; Jeremiah 30:11 and 31:34; Isaiah 11:9)
- During Jesus' first advent he was in the flesh, and everything was performed in the presence of all. During Jesus' second advent he will be a spirit, invisible to human eyes, and everything at first clearly discerned only by his followers. Only those who are his faithful followers would understand that he had indeed returned and that his "presence" had begun by the signs he gave and the terrible "time of trouble" begun upon the earth. (John 14:19; I Timothy 6:14-16; I John 3:2; I Corinthians 15:45; Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 24:3; Ephesians 1:18; Daniel 12:1; John 21:4-7, 12; Matthew 28:17)
- Jesus, who is now a glorified spirit creature returned invisibly to the earth at the end of the year 1874, and therewith began to bind Satan's influence, and bless the earth with "restitution", directing the great advances in knowledge, science and technology which suddenly and quickly emerged worldwide. (John 14:19; Acts 3:19-21; Matthew 12:29; Daniel 12:4)
- Chronologically the Bible shows that the required 70 jubilees given to Israel, which were to be held every 50th year, come to completion at the end of the year 1874. Therewith begins an anti-typical jubilee where all of mankind will being to fight for their rights, real or imagined, and cast off religious and social oppression unlike ever before seen in human history. (II Chronicles 36:21; Leviticus 25:8-17)
- From the destruction of the Jewish Temple and the end of the representative Kingdom they ruled as God's people there was prophesied a period of "seven times", or prophetic "years" of 360 prophetic day/years each, to total 2,520 years. At the end of this period, "he shall come whose right it is and I will give it to him." Jesus would expressly begin to rule over the earth's nations, but in response "the nations were angry", because the nations are controlled by Satan and his demons do not want to give up control. These 2,520 years ended in 1914, and WWI marks the time when the nations, guided by Satan, became angry and fight the returned Lord. (Leviticus 26:28-35; Ezekiel 4:6; 21:27; Daniel 10:13; Revelation 11:16-18)
- "The harvest is the end of the age" which began in 1874. The "tares" and the "wheat" were now ripe for harvesting. What was once entirely a wheat field of faithful, pure Christians planted by Jesus and his Apostles, now appeared to be a field filled with weeds of imitation Christians who only look like wheat on the outside. The true faith is hard to find on earth, because only a few hold it. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Luke 18:8; II Thessalonians 2:3-7; Matthew 7:13,14, 21-23; Luke 13:24-28)
- God is not a Trinity, but the Father alone is God. Jesus, the son of God, was given a higher nature than what he had before he became a human due to his faithfulness. The Holy Spirit is the manifested power of God, and not a person at all. (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 17:5; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 5:8,9; I Corinthians 11:3; John 14:28; Luke 1:35; John 7:39; 20:22)
Expectations and Influence
At times, Pastor Russell is accused of being a 'false prophet', although he never claimed to be a prophet in the first place. What he did claim, however, is that all Christians who are blessed with the Holy Spirit can search the scriptures for a greater understanding of God's plans. Most of his prophetic expectations have indeed come to pass. Note that most of them were discussed and put in print prior to the year 1900. Here are a few of the more notable:
- A very sudden, rapid increase in world travel and knowledge
- Restoration of human rights through massive social revolution
- An earth wide catastrophe to emerge in 1914 that would change the world
- The push for church union through Ecumenism
- The rebirth and emergence of the nation of Israel
- "Corporate giants" (a phrase he invented) will arise and control the economy
- Weather disasters will increase, worlwide climate will begin to change, and the arctic ice caps will begin to melt as the imminent sign that God's kingdom is about to appear
- Terrorism will be used to weaken and overthrow governments
- The rise, growth, and eventual fall of Communism
- People will grow skeptical of religion, and have greater faith in science and evolution
- The emergence of moral relativism
- A growing worldwide interest in spiritism and the supernatural
- Earth's climate will change, and arctic ice will melt in preparation of God's Kingdom
- The emergence of Asia as a world financial power
- The Catholic Church destroyed bit by bit, but revered again shortly before their destruction
- Protestantism in the West mixes with politics and soon becomes a persecuting power
The effect of Pastor Russell's studies and ministry can be seen in the change of doctrine throughout Protestantism since the early 20th century. There are well over a dozen offshoots and imitation groups espousing the ideas and ideals of Pastor Russell. (groups such as the Worldwide Church of God; Philadelphia Church of God; Jehovah's Witnesses; Assemblies of Yahweh, and many others) Even the Anglican Church has recently altered their view of Hell. Pastor Russell was often called "the man who turned the hose on Hell and put out the fire" being famous for preaching to his worldwide audience that Hell was not a place of fire and torment, but the temporary state of sleep in death before resurrection.