Sir Isaac Newton died in 1642. He was considered the greatest intellect of his time. Newton had taken physics from the stone age into an age of technological miracles by penetrating the secrets of nature. His reputation as one who solved difficult puzzles went beyond his actual expertise, however. For Newton became obsessed with unraveling the MEANING of scripture as well.
Isaac Newtonwrote: "We are not to conceive that Christ and the children of the resurrection shall reign over the nations after ye manner of mortal kings or converse wth mortals as mortals do wth one another; but rather as Christ after his resurrection continued some time on earth invisible to mortals unless upon certain occasions when he saw fit to appear to his disciples; so it is to be conceived at the second coming he and the children of the resurrection shall reign invisibly unless they think fit on any extraordinary occasions to appear."
******* Fast forward in time a few hundred years and observe****
William Miller (1782-1849), preached that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would occur some time between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.
Miller was invited to preach his "proofs" to churches in many locations. Many heard and became convinced.
Miller’s followers may have numbered as many as 100,000.
Churches split everywhere over who believed and who refused to be taken in.
Those who pinned their hopes on Miller's arguments did whatever necessary to prepare for the event--an event which never took place. What followed has been termed THE GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT.
When Christ failed to materialize within the appointed time, Miller set a new date, October 22, 1844. When this new date failed he apologized and admitted he was wrong.
Many honest and disappointed souls hung their heads in shame and returned to their old churches. But, about a third did not. They dug in. They tried to "fix" the problem.
Joseph Bates, James White and in particular Ellen Harmon White, chose to believe there was nothing wrong with Miller’s date calculations and started to teach that Christ had indeed returned in 1844
This return was not to Earth but to His heavenly Sanctuary. (fulfilling Daniel chapter 8 verse 14), and thus started a day of preparation. The actual Second Coming, the Parousia, was imminent. (Smylie 1988)
The merit of such an argument was that it provided a flimsy scriptural dodge, an excuse, which gave them temporary plausible deniability until they could repair the damage to their chronology.
Another Millerite, Nelson H. Barbour, came to believe that the correct date for Christ’s Second Coming was 1873, not 1844.
He started to spread this message, in particular through his 1870 pamphlet called Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873: or the Midnight Cry, and his monthly The Midnight Cry from 1873. In the meantime, 1873 had become 1874, but that did not prevent another disappointment.
The loosey-goosey nature of these dates should have embarrassed further speculation. It didn't.
One of Barbour’s readers, B. W. Keith, came up with a solution.
Having obtained a new translation of the New Testament, Benjamin Wilson’s The Emphatic Diaglott, Keith noticed a marginal alternative translation of Parousia, the Greek word normally translated ‘coming,’ namely ‘presence.’
None of these men were skilled in Biblical Greek, but the idea took hold that what had started in 1874 was indeed Christ’s invisible presence. (Jonsson 1983)
This year, Barbour said, started a millennial morning, and the periodical The Midnight Cry became The Herald of the Morning.
Barbour failed to convince many of his original readers, but he did manage to convert one young man. This man was Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916).
Barbour and Russell teamed up. Barbour had the "ideas" and Russell had the money.
According to his account, Russell was astonished when he learned that Barbour had come to the same conclusions as himself.
At this time, Russell said, he and his fellow Bible students had already come to the conclusion that Christ would not return to destroy, but to bless mankind.
Russell taught that the Second Coming would be accompanied by the resurrection of the whole of mankind: “ all must come forth from their graves and be brought to a clear knowledge of the truth and to a full opportunity to gain everlasting life in Christ.”
Russell also seems to claim that he had come to believe in the two-stage coming of Christ before he read about it in Barbour’s periodical, but the actions Russell took make this highly unlikely.
Russell, being a wealthy young man, paid for Barbour to come down from New York to meet him in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and during the conversation Russell was convinced that Christ had indeed returned invisibly in 1874. When Russell learned that Barbour’s periodical was almost suspended due to financial problems (the original readers were far from convinced by Barbour’s explanation of the 1874 disappointment), he agreed to help finance its publication. Also, he made Nelson Barbour write a booklet that set forth these chronological ideas, which was published and distributed at Russell’s expense. This booklet, Three Worlds and the Harvest of This World, was published in 1877 with both names on the cover, although Barbour wrote it alone.Russell was a clever and talented writer who could clearly express his own views persuasively. What sense does it make IF Russell had arrived at the exact same conclusions as Barbour--for Russell to publish Barbour's version? Why pour his personal funds (from the sale of his father's men's clothing shops) into somebody else's intellectual property?
Would it not make more sense to go it alone and allow Barbour to take a backseat?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________\ Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet : "Barbour and his associates were well aware of others who taught a two-stage, partially invisible presence. The principal, most widely read authors espousing it were Joseph A. Seiss, a Lutheran clergyman, and Richard Cunningham Shimeall, a Presbyterian minister. Their books were standards among pre-millennialists, Adventists in particular. They read them; they quoted from them. Both Seiss’ Prophetic Times and Baxter’s The Prophetic News and Israel’s Watchman supported the idea and published articles on the subject.34 Barbour was also familiar with similar Plymouth Brethren teaching.
Benjamin W. Keith of Dansville, New York, undertook the study, apparently on his own initiative. All we can assign to Barbour was a feeling that his computations were flawless, even if they didn’t work. He held a “the operation was a success but the patient died” view and had been cast adrift spiritually. He was ready to quit."
Three Worlds would impress many who read it, with its seemingly amazing number of advanced calculations based on Biblical figures and symbols, all leading up to an array of prophetic dates in their own time. The harmony between many allegedly independent calculations, all pointing to the same overall pattern, made this an important work in the history of this branch of the Adventist movement. In this system, the 6 th millennium of humanity ended in 1873. (A hundred years later, Fred Franz used the exact same argument for the failed 1975 fiasco.)
Christ’s invisible Parousia started in 1874. This year also started Armageddon, a period of great calamities for mankind, which would end with the full establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth 40 years after the start of his parousia, in 1914. Three and a half years into this period, corresponding to the length of Jesus’ ministry, the remnant of the 144,000 saints – Christ’s church on Earth, along with them Russell, Barbour and their followers – would be raptured. This was 1878, the following year. At the time, Barbour was “not willing to admit that this calculation is even one year out.”
Clearly, the heavy lifting (mental grunt work) was all Barbour's efforts built on top of the failed ideas of previous Adventist thinkers who had followed Miller's failures seeking success.
Russell succeeded in pumping enough money into his publishing of these Adventist views that he stirred up groups of people who, like Miller's followers before, were willing to accept the seemingly overwhelming "proofs" for this being a correct understanding.
This was the beginning of the scientific era in America. A thirst for measurements, calculations, charts, graphs and proofs lent a false air of authenticity to such religious enterprises. A sophistication was added which Miller's preachments sadly and sorely lacked.
Adventist genius for invention and Russell's money=gullible followers and a movement was started which eventually led to a new religion.
The time was ripe for the clothing store saleman, Charles T.Russell, to transform into a new identity of preacher extraordinaire: PASTOR RUSSELL.
Over the next decades, Russell would become a high profile peddler of, not two piece business suits or waistcoats, but--a new kind of Adventist propaganda with built in safety nets. All proofs were necessarily invisible! He, in effect, became the tailor in The Emperor's New Clothes who could sell the invisible to the public at large and count on their co-operation not to blow the fakery sky high. True Believers can never admit to being wrong!
After the schism with Barbour, Russell published his own periodical. In July 1879 the first edition of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence was published. The same year, Russell married Maria Frances Ackley. Clearly, his choice of wife and his publishing debut of the Watchtower were meant to signal a joint venture. Maria was an intellectual, writer, women's suffragette and partner in every way.
Russell began to revise the chronology he had learned from Barbour. The first test of Russell's powers of diversion and deflection came when he moved the rapture to 1881, to take his followers’ attention away from the failure of the predictions about 1878. Russell sometimes even denied having made such predictions (Penton 1985, 25ff). Denial, deflection and diversion became a pattern for Russell and it served him well.
How successful was Russell in launching his own enterprise?
Russell was a tireless writer and he also traveled widely to preach his understanding of Scripture, and the number of his followers grew. Using his personal wealth, Russell made sure the Watch Tower was widely distributed, and his sermons were printed in a large number of newspapers all over the United States. By the time of his death, his total production totaled some 50,000 printed pages, and nearly 20 million copies of his books had been distributed worldwide (Penton 1985, 26). The first of his real books, Millennial Dawn or Studies in the Scriptures was published in 1886. This would become volume I in a series of six books with the same title, and the book was later known as The Divine Plan of the Ages.
One of the key ingredients to Russell's far reaching success in spreading his peculiar views would be the local participation of true-believers who locally published, advertised and promoted his books and pamphlets. One of the men who joined his efforts was Joseph Rutherford who could recognize a self-promoter when he saw one. (Rutherford would go on to re-establish Russell's religion as a world wide Witness work employing the local yokel approach to distribution.) _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What seemed to separate Pastor Russell from his contemporaries was his utter neglect of bible doctrine and commentary. His passion and focus seemed to lock in to Chronology, Chronology,Chronology!!
While all the above doctrines had a central importance to the Bible Students, it is clear that to Russell, they all – with the exception of the salvation doctrine and the atonement – were secondary compared to the chronology. Alan Rogerson explains, referring to the Studies in the Scriptures:
“The most surprising thing about the six volumes was their lack of discussion of basic doctrines – less than sixty of the 3,000 pages were devoted to discussing the trinity, the immortality of the soul and hell-fire. The second volume contained no doctrinal material at all; ... (One last example: in the first volume Russell devoted only two paragraphs in the whole book to showing that the idea of eternal torment was unscriptural.)” (Rogerson 1969, 17)
Did Russell ORIGINATE any of his teaching on the return of Jesus Christ?
In the 1906 autobiographical Watch Tower article, Russell clearly left the impression that his booklet Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return was written before he met Barbour.
Later, the Watchtower Society explicitly made the claim it was published in 1873 (see Watchtower Publications Index 1930-1985, Yearbook 1975, p. 36 and Purpose 1959). A cursory reading of the booklet itself reveals that he refers directly to Nelson Barbour and that it teaches the presence had already started.
So, in Proclaimers 1993 the Watchtower Society indeed admits it was written in 1877, after Russell had been converted to Barbour’s cause, but even in this history version the order of events is reversed, giving the casual reader the impression that Russell himself originated the "invisible presence" doctrine.
Russell himself contradicts this view, when he explains how Barbour had convinced him about Christ’s invisible coming in 1874. Whatever the case, the evidence suggests that most, if not all, of Russell’s early doctrines were taken directly from Nelson Barbour.