What Has God Been Doing?
1. (a) When people say that “God is dead,” what do they mean? (b) Do you agree with them?
IN RECENT years some people, notably religious leaders, have been saying that “God is dead.” Do they mean that God does not exist? Not in most cases. Usually they mean that they do not believe that he is actively interested in the earth or is doing anything about the problems troubling mankind. But the truth is that God is very much alive, that he does care. True, he may not have done what men expected him to do. But this does not mean he has done nothing. Actually, he has been active on behalf of mankind from the beginning of human history right down to the present day.
2. How may the shortness of a man’s life affect his thinking on this matter?
2 One reason for the feeling of some persons that “God is dead” is man’s short life-span. This makes man impatient to get things done in the brief time that life allows him. Sometimes his efforts prove premature, and so fail to achieve the intended goal. But his desire to see results during his own lifetime dominates his thinking. Mistakenly, he tends to judge God on the basis of such human experience, with all its limitations.
3. How does the length of Jehovah’s life affect his ability to handle situations at the best possible time?
3 On the other hand, Jehovah lives forever. (Psalm 102:24 [101:25, Dy]; Isaiah 44:6) He does not need to become impatient. He can scan the situation and see precisely where in the stream of time his acts will accomplish the most good for everyone concerned, as well as for the effective development of his purpose. (Isaiah 40:22; 2 Peter 3:8, 9) That is exactly what God has done.
HOW GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF
4. What has Jehovah declared his purpose to be, and so what knowledge has he provided for mankind?
4 Jehovah’s declared purpose is to provide a righteous administration for all creation, one that will enable mankind to live in peace and unity, with the enjoyment of full security. (Ephesians 1:9, 10; Proverbs 1:33) However, God does not force anyone to serve him. He gathers under his administration only those who willingly acknowledge his position and who love his rulership. With a view to laying a foundation for an entire world of mankind that would live in harmony with his requirements, God proceeded to provide mankind with knowledge of the standards and principles of his righteous administration and how it operates. At the same time he was making it possible for mankind to gain vital knowledge concerning God himself and his personal qualities.—John 17:3.
5. From the works of creation, what can we learn about God?
5 Being spirit, Jehovah is, of course, invisible to man. So, how would he make men of flesh and blood understand these things? Much can be learned about the qualities of the Creator from his handiwork. (Romans 1:20) The marvelous interrelationship of the earthly processes of life bears testimony to his wisdom. The tremendous power manifest in the oceans, in the weather and in the controlled movement of the heavenly bodies gives evidence of his almightiness. (Job 38:8-11, 22-33; 40:2) And the variety of foods that the earth yields, along with the beauty of flowers, birds, sunrises and sunsets, and the playful antics of animals, all tell of the Creator’s love for mankind and his desire that we find enjoyment in life. Yet God’s revelation of himself does not stop with these things.
6. (a) By what means has God provided specific revelations of his will? (b) By what other means has God revealed his principles and qualities to man?
6 On various occasions he has also spoken from the heavens, in some cases personally, and in other instances through angels. Thus, he has gradually acquainted man with His righteous standards and His will. He did this at Mount Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula, where he spoke in an awe-inspiring manner, giving his law to the millions of Israelites who had gathered there. (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:22) Then, by means of his prophets he communicated with men over a period of many centuries, and he had them write down the revelations of his will. (2 Peter 1:21) Besides this, God has chosen to reveal his principles and qualities by having dealings with his people, thereby adding the warm appeal of human experience to his inspired recorded Word. How much more instructive, convincing and moving not only to hear and read God’s declarations of purpose, but also to be able to see in the inerasable historical record examples that enable us to understand his will for us. (1 Corinthians 10:11) What does that record reveal?
7. (a) How has God demonstrated that he does not forever tolerate unrighteousness? (b) On learning how God views such conduct, what should we do?
7 It provides man with the evidence that God does not forever tolerate unrighteousness. True, he let the offspring of Adam go their own way, building up the inevitable record of man’s inability to govern himself successfully. But God did not leave mankind without evidence of His judgment against their unrighteous ways. Thus he brought a flood in Noah’s day because ‘the earth had become full of violence.’ (Genesis 6:11-13) He destroyed the sexually depraved cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 19:24; Jude 7) He let the nation of Israel, which professed to serve him, go into exile because they practiced falsehood. (Jeremiah 13:19, 25) On learning how God views such conduct, we have the opportunity to make changes in our lives to show our love of righteousness. Will we?
8. When God brings destruction, are there any survivors? Illustrate.
8 A further vital point that the record reveals to man is that God does not sweep away the righteous with the wicked. In the global flood, God did not destroy Noah, who was a “preacher of righteousness,” but spared him and seven others. (2 Peter 2:5) And, before fire and sulphur rained down on Sodom, escape was made possible for righteous Lot and his household.—Genesis 19:15-17; 2 Peter 2:7.
9, 10. (a) How do you react to the way that Jehovah dealt with Israel, in view of his urging them again and again to turn away from badness? (b) Besides his being patient, what else do these accounts teach us about God?
9 When the people of Israel, who were in a covenant relationship with God, proved unfaithful to him, what did he do? He did not at once cast them off. As he told them by means of his prophet Jeremiah: “I kept sending to you all my servants the prophets, daily getting up early and sending them.” But they did not listen. (Jeremiah 7:25, 26) Even as the time for the actual siege and destruction of Jerusalem drew near, Jehovah spoke through his prophet Ezekiel, saying: “‘Do I take any delight at all in the death of someone wicked,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and not in that he should turn back from his ways and actually keep living? . . . So cause a turning back and keep living, O you people.’”—Ezekiel 18:23, 32.
10 What do we see, then? That, in a manner that deeply touches the heart of righteously disposed persons, Jehovah has made clear his great patience with mankind. At the same time, by his dealings he also forcefully impresses on us his love of righteousness and the importance of living in harmony with his requirements.
11. (a) What statement of purpose did Jehovah make in Eden? (b) What has God been doing since then?
11 Something else, very basic, is made to stand out. From the beginning, we see that God has had a definite purpose in everything that he has done, and he has never failed to act when the accomplishment of his purpose required action. His fundamental purpose was stated, though in veiled language, right in Eden. When passing judgment on Satan, Jehovah foretold that Satan would have opportunity to raise up a “seed,” those who would manifest his traits and do his will. He also foretold the producing of another “seed,” a righteous deliverer. This one would administer a fatal blow to “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan,” and thus release mankind from his wicked domination. (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:9) After making this statement of purpose, Jehovah proceeded to make definite preparations for the eventual administration of earth’s affairs under the promised “seed.” This preparatory work would take time, as we shall see.
WHY HE DEALT SPECIFICALLY WITH ISRAEL
12, 13. (a) Why did God select Israel and give his laws to just that one nation? (b) So, what can we learn from the history of Israel and from that of other nations?
12 Long before the nations of our present time came into existence, God selected one nation as his own people for hundreds of years. Why? In order to make a living demonstration of the operation of his righteous principles. That nation was made up of descendants of Abraham, a man who had displayed great faith in the Creator. To them Jehovah said: “It was not because of your being the most populous of all the peoples that Jehovah showed affection for you so that he chose you, for you were the least of all the peoples. But it was because of Jehovah’s loving you, and because of his keeping the sworn statement that he had sworn to your forefathers.”—Deuteronomy 7:7, 8; 2 Kings 13:23 [4 Kings 13:23, Dy].
13 After delivering them from slavery in Egypt, Jehovah brought them to Mount Sinai and there offered to take them into covenant relationship with him. They replied: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Exodus 19:8) Jehovah then proceeded to give them his regulations and judicial decisions. This set them apart from all other nations and provided detailed information for men concerning God’s own righteous standards. (Deuteronomy 4:5-8) So, Israelite history provides a record of what happens when God’s wise, righteous laws are either obeyed or disobeyed. At the same time, the history of other nations provides a contrast, revealing the outcome to those who live without God’s law.
14. (a) Did God wrong the non-Israelite nations by not interfering in their affairs? (b) Yet, how did they benefit from God’s undeserved kindness?
14 What about those other nations? They went their own way, choosing their own forms of government. Their people were not totally bereft of all goodness in their lives. They still had the faculty of conscience, and this at times moved them to act with humanitarian concern for their fellowman. (Romans 2:14; Acts 28:1, 2) But their inheritance of sin and their rejection of divine guidance caused them to pursue basically a self-seeking course. This led to cruel wars and depraved practices to satisfy their selfish passions. (Ephesians 4:17-19) God was not responsible for the woes that they brought on themselves. Their course of life was what they themselves chose. God did not interfere with them, except when their activities were in conflict with the outworking of his purposes. Yet, in his undeserved kindness, he allowed them to enjoy the sun and rain, the beauties of his creation and the fruitage of the earth.—Acts 14:16, 17.
15. What arrangements for the eventual blessing of people of these nations was God working out?
15 Nor did Jehovah shut these nations out from being among those who could eventually receive blessings by means of the promised Seed. Abraham was told that the Seed would be produced through his family line, and concerning the results of this, Jehovah said: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” (Genesis 22:18) So we see that, while Jehovah was dealing exclusively with Israel, he was impartially working out his purpose to bless the other nations later, although they were ignorant of that fact.—Acts 10:34, 35.
16. (a) During all this time, what was God doing in connection with the promise about the Seed? (b) Who did that Seed of promise prove to be?
16 During the time that Jehovah was dealing with fleshly Israel, he provided numerous prophecies that would fill a vital need. They would enable men of faith to identify the promised Seed, Jehovah’s Anointed One, when he eventually arrived. His family line—through the tribe of Judah and the house of David—was specified. (Genesis 49:10; Psalm 89:35, 36 [88:36, 37, Dy]) The place of his birth, Bethlehem, was named. (Micah 5:2) Centuries in advance, the very time when he, as a grown man, would be anointed, thus becoming the Messiah, was indicated. (Daniel 9:24-27) His priestly services on behalf of mankind were foreshadowed, as was the sacrifice of himself that he would offer in order to open the way for people of all nations to attain to the opportunity for eternal life when God’s Judgment Day would arrive. (Hebrews 9:23-28) Thus, when the appointed time arrived, everything unmistakably identified Jesus Christ as the one whom Jehovah had sent forth as the Seed of promise, the one through whom blessings would eventually come to all mankind.—Galatians 3:16, 24; 2 Corinthians 1:19, 20.
THE PREPARING OF RULERS FOR MANKIND
17. Through Jesus, what was God going to bring about, and how was this emphasized at the time of his birth?
17 Here was the one through whom God would grant peace to mankind. Before his birth his mother Mary had been told by an angel of God that her son would be given an everlasting kingdom. Shepherds near Bethlehem were notified of his birth, and then they heard a multitude of the armies of heaven praising God and saying: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Luke 1:31-33; 2:10-14.
18. (a) In what way did his experiences on earth prepare him the offices of king and priest? (b) What effect did his death have on the gaining of peace?
18 Consider the benefits of this future heavenly king’s having lived on earth. As a man he came to know and understand the problems of mankind. He lived and worked with them, sharing their grief and personally suffering hardship. Under the most severe tests he proved his loyalty to Jehovah and his love of righteousness. All this was part of God’s way of preparing him to be King over heaven and earth and High Priest to administer life-giving benefits to mankind. (Hebrews 1:9; 4:15; 5:8-10) Furthermore, by means of his own life laid down as a sacrifice, Jesus Christ opened the way for mankind to regain peaceful relations with God.—1 Peter 3:18.
19. (a) How do we know that Jesus was resurrected and ascended to heaven? (b) As to his kingship, what did he do after returning to heaven?
19 After his death, God raised him to life again and saw to it that there were over five hundred human witnesses to testify to the fact that this is what had actually happened. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Then, forty days later, with his disciples looking on, he ascended heavenward and disappeared from their sight. (Acts 1:9) From heaven he proceeded to exercise his kingship toward his own faithful followers, and the benefits of his rule made them stand out in contrast to the rest of mankind. But was it now the due time for him to receive kingly authority over the nations? No, for other matters in God’s great program required attention.—Hebrews 10:12, 13.
20. What new work had Jesus opened up for his disciples on earth?
20 A major work had to be done earth wide. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, no Israelites had gone out as preachers to convert other nations—although any who desired to take up the worship of Jehovah could always receive blessings with Israel. (1 Kings 8:41-43 [3 Kings 8:41-43, Dy]) With the beginning of Christianity, however, a new work opened up. Jesus Christ himself first set the example in Israel. Then, while he was still with his disciples, before his ascension to heaven, he told them: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
21. Instead of world conversion, what was God accomplishing by means of that witnessing?
21 Was world conversion the objective? No. Rather, as Jesus showed in an illustration concerning “the kingdom of the heavens,” what would be accomplished during the period down into the “conclusion of the system of things” would be a gathering together of “the sons of the kingdom.” Yes, the other members of the coming Kingdom government must be selected. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Anyone reading the Christian Greek Scriptures can readily see that, starting with Pentecost of 33 C.E. the hope held out to believers was of sharing with Jesus Christ in his Kingdom rule in heaven.—2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 1:3, 4.
22. (a) What qualities did God require in these prospective heirs of the heavenly kingdom? (b) So, was the choosing done hastily?
22 The selecting of these future corulers over mankind would take time. Why? For one thing, that hope, something more precious than the finest of gems, was to be extended to people of all nations. While many professed to lay hold of it, few truly proved to be faithful followers of God’s Son. (Matthew 13:45, 46; 22:14) High standards were to be met. Christians have not lived as a national group apart from other people, as fleshly Israel did. As a result their faith and endurance have been severely tested. They have been as aliens in the world, advocating another way of life, one in harmony with God’s righteous principles. (1 Peter 2:11, 12) To be approved, they must keep clean from the immoral and corrupt practices of the world around them. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) If they are really to be “sons of God,” they must prove themselves to be “peaceable,” not engaging in the wars of the nations and not retaliating when persecuted for their faith. (Matthew 5:9; 26:52; Romans 12:18, 19) It has been required that they demonstrate unwavering loyalty to rulership by God, refusing to be identified as advocates of the political governments of mankind, which the Bible refers to as ‘beasts.’ (Revelation 20:4, 6) Because of this, and because they have adhered to the name of Jesus Christ as God’s anointed king, they have been “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (Matthew 24:9) So, those who are to be the heavenly rulers of mankind along with Christ have not been hastily chosen.
23. (a) How many are to be in that heavenly administrative body with Christ? (b) From among whom have they been selected, and why?
23 The length of time taken is not because the number chosen was to be great. According to the Scriptures, God limited the number of this select administrative body under Jesus Christ to 144,000 persons. (Revelation 14:2-3) But God has chosen them carefully. They have been taken “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9, 10) Among them are people from all walks of life, men and women, persons who have shared all the varied problems of mankind. In the course of their putting on the new Christian personality, there is simply no problem that some of them have not faced and overcome. (Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Corinthians 10:13) How glad we can be for this, since it gives us the assurance that they will be sympathetic and merciful kings and priests, able to help men and women of all kinds, assisting them to lay hold of God’s provision for eternal life.
24. What about the millions of other persons who lived and died during this time, many of them ignorant of the Bible?
24 What of mankind outside this Christian congregation? During all this time, God was not interfering with the governmental affairs of the world. He let men go in the way that they chose. Of course, millions of persons lived and died, many of them never hearing about the Bible or the kingdom of God. Yet God had not forgotten them. He was preparing for the time concerning which the apostle Paul spoke to a Roman governor of his day, saying: “I have hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Then, under the most favorable conditions, in God’s new order, they would be given opportunity to learn Jehovah’s ways and to decide what stand they personally would take on the issue of universal sovereignty. Proving themselves to be lovers of righteousness, they could live forever.
AS “THE END” DRAWS NEAR
25, 26. (a) In due time, what further authority would Christ be given, and against whom would he take action? (b) How would this affect conditions on the earth?
25 Before the incoming of that new order, thrilling events were to occur. The Bible foretold a momentous change in world affairs. Jesus Christ would be enthroned as king, not merely to rule over his own disciples, but with authority to take action toward the whole world. At this time the proclamation would be made in heaven: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Authorized by God to act against his enemies, he would first move against “the ruler of the world” himself, Satan the Devil, and his demons. (John 14:30) These wicked forces would be hurled down from the heavens, and confined to the vicinity of the earth. What would be the result?
26 The prophetic description of this event, as found in Revelation, records a voice out of heaven as saying: “On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12) Unprecedented turmoil would take place among the nations, but the end would not come at once.
27. (a) As “the end” would draw near, what great separating work would take place, and how? (b) How great will the foretold world destruction be?
27 This would be the time when a great separating work would be done. Under the direction of Jesus Christ from his heavenly throne, his faithful followers would press the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” into all the inhabited earth for a witness to all nations. (Matthew 24:14; 25:31-33) People everywhere would be given the opportunity to show their attitude toward divine rulership. With this accomplished, as Jesus explained, “then the end will come.” It will be a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) Never again will men ask, What has God been doing? The only ones to survive will be those who cared enough to find out what he was doing and to bring their lives into harmony with his requirements before the world destruction arrived.
28. (a) When do the enthronement of Christ and the dividing of people of all nations take place? (b) So, what is it urgent for us individually to do?
28 But when are these things to take place? When is Christ given power to rule as king and to proceed with the separating of the people of all nations? The facts show that these are things that God has done in the twentieth century. Christ is already on his heavenly throne and the separating work is now nearing its completion. The time left in which you can identify yourself as being on Jehovah’s side of the issue of universal sovereignty is very short. The “great tribulation” is near at hand! A careful examination of Bible prophecy in the light of recent history proves this to be true. We urge you to consider it carefully.