Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
STUDY 1: GENERALITIES ON THE GREAT COMPANY
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
THE Great Company is the first of the two elect classes in the Epiphany period, the other elect class being the Youthful Worthies. The Great Company is called “the handmaids” (Joel 2: 29) and a Great Multitude (Revelation 7: 9; 19: 6). The individuals of this class were originally invited through the High Calling to the Divine nature and joint-heirship with Christ (2 Peter 1: 4), but they failed to keep faithfully their consecration vows, and therefore had to be remanded to a secondary class. The faithful Great Company members repented and cleansed themselves (Revelation 7: 14) and attained a subordinate spiritual glory in Heaven (Psalm 45: 14, 15). As parts of the Firstborn they are Levites in God’s Temple and Noblemen in God’s Kingdom (Hebrews 12: 23) (Revelation 7: 15).
During the Gospel Age God has not been calling two classes to salvation, for “Ye are called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4: 4). There has been only one salvation offered to those who turn from sin to righteousness, from Satan to God, during the present Age. To these God has offered as the prize (Philippians 3: 14) the Divine nature (2 Peter 1: 4), and joint-heirship with Christ (Romans 8: 17) on condition of faithfulness unto death (Revelation 2: 10).
Why a Secondary Spiritual Class?
How then, did another class obtain salvation during this Age? We answer, the majority of those who heard and accepted the Lord’s invitation to consecrate their humanity to death in His service, and to develop heavenly hearts and minds (Romans 12: 1, 2), failed so to run as to obtain the prize of the Divine nature and joint-heirship with Christ. Rather, they became castaways as respects the prize (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27), because they did not prove to be “more than conquerors” of sin, error, selfishness or worldliness, by which through unfaithfulness they became defiled. Yet they did not wholly give up the Lord and righteousness; rather, for awhile they were double-minded – partly for the Lord, and partly for self, the adversary and the world (James 1: 8; 3: 15). Later by a penitent, believing and obedient use of the Lord’s grace exercised through His Word and providence they were recovered, and changing their course they became zealous for the Lord and His cause, and finally overcame (1 Corinthians 5: 5).
These, by their double dealing, failed to qualify for the Bride of Christ; and they would have gone into the Second Death unless the Lord should have arranged some other salvation for them. And this in His compassion He did. He proposed to make them Bridesmaids for the Lamb’s Wife, by inviting them as a class for the first time at the end of the Gospel Age to be present as guests at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 9). We are confident that many availed themselves of this privilege, and were given white robes, that is, pure characters, and were granted palms of victory (Revelation 7: 9). The Great Company consists of those who were not sufficiently faithful to be of the Bride of Christ, but faithful enough to keep out of the Second Death. They were not good enough to be Kings and Priests with Christ (Revelation 20: 4-6), but were good enough to be Nobles and Levites (Revelation 7: 9, 14, 15), and are too good to be destroyed in the Second Death.
How was the Prize Lost?
The Great Company’s failure to gain the prize was not due to the Lord’s not loving and helping them sufficiently. He loves and helps especially all that truly give themselves to Him, and most especially those who continue loyal to Him (John 14: 21-23). But they lost their “first love” (John 14: 15) (Revelation 2: 4). Their taking the wrong course was entirely due to their failing to watch, to pray and to keep themselves in the love of God sufficiently to carry out their consecration, and thus to remain standing in His special favor (Matthew 26: 41) (Jude 21). There have been such measurably unfaithful brethren throughout the entire Gospel Age (Matthew 7: 26, 27), but not all of them were equally guilty of wrong-doing. Some of them were nearly faithful enough to be of the Bride, and some of them were nearly unfaithful enough to be of the Second Death class. Between these two extremes of character there were all sorts of variations of double-mindedness.
Throughout the Gospel Age there have been consecrated individuals who have pursued the double-minded course of the Great Company, and as a result had to undergo enforced destruction of their flesh (1 Corinthians 5: 5) (1 Timothy 1: 19, 20), instead of sacrificing it completely in loving, willing service of the Lord, the Truth and the brethren. This has been especially true in the Epiphany, when the Lord dealt with them as a class. They had to pass through “the great tribulation,” amid which they cleansed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7: 14). Despite their sorrows and sufferings, they rejoiced in proclaiming the glorification of the Bride of Christ with her Lord (Revelation 19: 6-8).
They are presently with joy partaking as Bridesmaids at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 9) (Psalm 45: 14, 15). Being spirit beings like the angels, they are privileged to serve the Lord in His Temple, as Levites (Revelation 7: 15), while Jesus and the Church are the living stones of the Temple, and Priests. The trials and tribulations of these Levites are a thing of the past, and they abide under God’s eternal favor, on a plane of being lower than that of the Bride. Thus through the grace and mercy of God these wayward brethren were brought to repentance and were saved “yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3: 15).
(to be continued)