THE GREAT COMPANY

"Look to yourselves, that ye lose not the things which we have wrought, but that ye receive a full reward."
-- 2 John 8 --


Some people appear not to grasp fully the fact that 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 multitude" who will constitute the "virgins, her companions, that follow her". (Psalms 45:14) We might say from one standpoint that this is not a fundamental doctrine, and that hence differences of opinion respecting it need cause little concern. However, every truth has its place and bearing upon the Divine plan as a whole, and upon our doctrinal establishment, and hence upon our ability to "stand in this evil day". 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 exhortatins 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 Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:11)

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 devition 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 parable, 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, luke-warmness, 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". (Heb. 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. (Heb. 6:4; 10:29) And again we read, "There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it". (1 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"? (1 Cor. 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

This study shows where and how the great company 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.

DISTINGUISHED SEPARATELY WHILE STILL IN THE FLESH.

FIRST CAUSE OF FAILURE -- IDLE.

SECOND CAUSE OF FAILURE -- DISOBEDIENT.

THIRD CAUSE OF FAILURE -- FEARFUL.

FOURTH CAUSE OF FAILURE -- PRESUMPTUOUS.

SUBJECTS OF SPECIAL CHASTISEMENTS.

FINALLY DELIVERED FROM BABYLON, WITH REJOICING.

SAVED WITH A HEAVENLY SALVATION: MADE SERVANTS OF THE TRUE CHURCH ON A HEAVENLY PLANE OF EXISTENCE.

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From Z.W.T. Reprints - October 15, 1907, page 4078.