A “Great Crowd” Hails the Incoming World Government
1, 2. Before whom are all earthly nations now gathered?
ALL the nations of the earth, those inside the United Nations and those yet outside that world organization, are now gathered before God’s enthroned King, his Son Jesus Christ. This is just as the Son of God foretold it when he was on earth nineteen centuries ago. In the closing illustration set out in his prophecy that details “the sign of [his] presence [parousia] and of the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus Christ said:
2 “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him.”—Matthew 25:31, 32.
3. How may some argue in objecting to the foregoing statement?
3 Many will contest the fulfillment of that inspired prophecy today, arguing that they do not see the more than four billion people of all nationalities, tribes and races gathered at some spacious place before a visible celestial throne with the Son of man, Jesus Christ, seated thereon, attended by “all the angels” of heaven. We agree with these objectors that they do not see such an international gathering. For one thing, how would all four billion inhabitants of earth get to such a gathering place, even if all the means of transportation that are available today were put at their disposal? Such a thing is out of the question, of course.
4. Why does such a gathering raise no problem for Jesus now?
4 However, the human astronauts who made six landings on the moon in recent years were able to see the earthrise and the earthset from the moon’s surface and also to see the entire revolving earthly globe as they traveled in their spacecraft between moon and earth. How much more so can the superhuman, glorified Jesus Christ take in the whole earthly scene from his throne far above the moon! Since his exaltation to his heavenly Father’s right hand in 33 C.E., he has always been able to do this. So, then, in what sense is it that all the nations are gathered before him since his enthronement in heaven at the close of the Gentile Times in 1914?
5. How have all nations been gathered before Christ enthroned?
5 Well, the situation has changed for the nations since their lease of world domination without interference by God’s universal sovereignty ran out in 1914. (Luke 21:24; Psalm 110:1, 2) When Jesus Christ turned his attention to the nations from then on, he did so as reigning Messianic King. (Revelation 11:15; 12:10) He now faces them and inspects them as to their attitude regarding submission to the rightful Messianic rule. They are all treated as one worldwide political system, like a corporate group, and, together, they face him and deal with him over the paramount issue of world domination. They now have to decide between national sovereignty and God’s universal sovereignty by his Messianic kingdom. Because of the “authority of his Christ,” God’s enthroned Son is now authorized to “shepherd all the nations with an iron rod” and to dash them to pieces in due time. (Revelation 12:5; 19:15; Psalm 2:8, 9) The doomed nations have now gathered together under the United Nations organization, but not to yield to Christ’s rule.
6. How have all nations been notified of their changed position?
6 All the nations have been put on notice of the change in their position before Jehovah God, the Appointer of the Gentile Times or “appointed times of the nations.” (Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, 32; Luke 21:24) How so? By Jehovah’s sending his Kingdom “ambassadors” to the nations, preaching ‘this good news of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations,’ just as Jesus Christ foretold in Matthew 24:14. These Kingdom “ambassadors” are God’s “chosen ones,” the spiritual “brothers” of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20; John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11, 12) By such ambassadorial service and Kingdom proclamation to all the nations, they are gathered before God’s anointed King, Jesus Christ, who holds the scepter of iron. Already Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have introduced the Kingdom message into two hundred and ten lands, and, as a result of this, disciples of the King Jesus Christ are found to be active in all those lands. (Matthew 28:19, 20) In this way all the nations have been gathered together before the enthroned King as notified ones, on a common footing, under like responsibility.—Compare Matthew 24:31; Isaiah 43:9.
DIVIDING KINGDOM SUPPORTERS FROM NONSUPPORTERS
7, 8. (a) Does the King divide the nations as such according to political differences? (b) On what basis is the separation made?
7 How does “the Son of man” seated on his glorious heavenly throne deal with the nations thus gathered before him? In his illustration Jesus Christ goes on to say: “And he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.”—Matthew 25:31-33.
8 We should note that the King Jesus Christ does not separate the nations into two classes, one class against another class in political differences. Rather, he divides the people who live in those nations, thus allowing each person to make his own individual choice regardless of what the national government over him does. This separating work takes place during Christ’s invisible “presence” in Kingdom power and great glory. (Matthew 24:3, 37, 39, 40) On what basis does this separating work take place? On the basis of their support of Christ’s kingdom or their rejection of it. So, now, what kind of animal pictures the Kingdom supporters, and which kind the nonsupporters? Let us note:
9, 10. The sheeplike ones who are separated to the King’s right did what?
9 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.’”—Matthew 25:34-36.
10 Thus the “sheep” picture the supporters of the Messianic kingdom that was prepared for suchlike ones from the founding of the world of mankind. But since the King Jesus Christ has not been visible in the flesh during his current “presence” in Kingdom power and glory, how have these sheeplike individuals done such things to him? His illustration goes on to say:
11. How does the King answer the questions of the “sheep”?
11 “Then the righteous ones will answer him with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and receive you hospitably, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?’ And in reply the king will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”—Matthew 25:37-40.
12. How have the righteous “sheep” done these things, and why?
12 By the reference “my brothers,” the King Jesus Christ means “his chosen ones,” those who are “heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ.” (Matthew 24:31; Romans 8:17) Of these spiritual brothers, there is yet a small remnant left on earth. All of these have been diligently engaged in fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy, “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations,” for they know by the “sign” of Christ’s invisible “presence” or parousia that the kingdom of God is near at the doors. For doing this since the close of the Gentile Times in 1914, they have been the ones who have experienced hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness, absence from home or homelessness, and even imprisonment merely for preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14, 32, 33; Mark 13:9, 10; Luke 21:29-31) The “righteous” sheeplike ones come to the aid of the spiritual “brothers” of Christ because they are in favor of the Kingdom that these Christian “ambassadors” are preaching to them. They hail that kingdom as the rightful rulership for all mankind.
13, 14. (a) Like what non-Jews in the days of Queen Esther have these “sheep” become? (b) They become the King’s disciples, how?
13 They knowingly give aid for the furtherance of the Kingdom proclamation, because they pray for that world government and are in favor of it. That is why their aid to his spiritual “brothers” counts with the King Jesus Christ. They were long ago foreshadowed by the non-Jews who came to the aid of the imperiled Jews in the days of Queen Esther and Prime Minister Mordecai during the reign of Ahasuerus, emperor of Persia.—Esther 8:17; 9:3.
14 Consequently, to these the King’s promise applies: “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink on the ground that you belong to Christ, I truly tell you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41) So now the righteous sheeplike relief-givers are rewarded with the privilege of joining the remnant of Christ’s “brothers” in preaching “this good news of the kingdom” world wide and sharing with the remnant in their sufferings for this cause. Actually they become “disciples” of Christ the King, making a dedication of themselves to the King’s heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and getting baptized in water in symbol of such a dedication.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
15. The “sheep” are blessed with what commission of service?
15 For this dedicated course of action, the righteous sheeplike ones are made emissaries of God’s Messianic kingdom, fully commissioned to preach this theocratic world government to persons of all tribes, nations, races and languages. Truly they become those “who have been blessed by [Christ’s] Father.”
16. How will the “sheep” inherit the Kingdom prepared long ago?
16 For their faithfulness to the universal sovereignty of the King’s Father they will be rewarded—not with an inheritance in the heavenly kingdom with Jesus Christ and his spiritual “brothers”—but with an inheritance in the earthly realm of the Messianic kingdom. The word “kingdom” is often used to mean the realm over which a kingdom rules. This Kingdom realm will be the earthly Paradise of which Jesus Christ spoke more than nineteen hundred years ago, shortly before his death on the stake, when he said to the dying sympathizer, “Truly I tell you today [Passover Day, 33 C.E.], You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) But when God drove Adam and Eve out of the paradise in Eden, he had this restored Paradise in mind, according to what he said in Genesis 3:15, and that was at the “founding of the world.”—Matthew 25:34.
NONSUPPORTERS OF THE INCOMING WORLD GOVERNMENT
17, 18. What judgment is pronounced on the “goats,” and why?
17 In contrast with the King’s invitation to “inherit the kingdom [realm] prepared for [the righteous sheep] from the founding of the world,” there is the judgment pronounced upon the symbolic “goats” of the illustration. Regarding these the parable goes on to say:
18 “Then he will say, in turn, to those on his left, ‘Be on your way from me, you who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. For I became hungry, but you gave me nothing to eat, and I got thirsty, but you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not receive me hospitably; naked, but you did not clothe me; sick and in prison, but you did not look after me.’ Then they also will answer with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them with the words, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did not do it to one of these least ones, you did not do it to me.’”—Matthew 25:41-45.
19. Does the King consider their conduct as ignorant neglect?
19 Here we might well ask, Does the King consider the matter as a mere unintentional oversight on the part of the “goat” class? Does he account their conduct as expressing merely ignorant neglect on their part? Certainly not, when we see that he calls these neglectful ones “cursed” and orders them to go off into the “everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” The King must rate or judge them as being wicked, according to the Scriptural rule: “The curse of Jehovah is on the house of the wicked one, but the abiding place of the righteous ones he blesses.” (Proverbs 3:33) But why should the “goat” class be cursed for mere failure to come to the aid and relief of Christ’s “brothers”?
20, 21. If not knowing any rule, what did the “sheep” and “goats” know?
20 If we say that the symbolic “goats” were “cursed” and condemned to destruction with the Devil and his angels merely for ignorantly neglecting Christ’s “brothers,” then, logically, we must argue that the symbolic “sheep” were blessed and rewarded with a place in the Kingdom realm merely for ignorantly doing good to Christ’s “brothers.” What real merit would there be, then, in the good that the “sheep” did to Christ’s “brothers”? Or what demerit in the neglect that the “goats” did not realize that they were committing? Where, then, is the justice in rewarding the one ignorant class and punishing the other ignorant class? Justice is apparently nowhere in such treatment.
21 Let us grant that both classes were ignorant of the rule that what they did or did not do to Christ’s spiritual “brothers” they did or did not do to Christ himself. Still, they were not ignorant of the fact that they were dealing with his “brothers”! Why not?
22. To whom were Christ’s “brothers” to preach? With what reaction?
22 We have to take Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats along with what he said earlier in his prophecy on “the sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) He spoke of the approved work for his spiritual “brothers” when, at Matthew 24:14, he told them: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” Not just to the so-called Christian nations or to Christendom, but to “all the nations” in “all the inhabited earth.” Yet Jesus also told his spiritual “brothers”: “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.”—Matthew 24:9.
23. Does nonrecognition prove Christ’s “brothers” not to be such?
23 Hatred on account of his name means that Christ’s “brothers” would identify themselves by their preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” world wide and by their making disciples for him, baptizing these. (Matthew 28:19, 20) In general, the people or the national governments that these people support refuse to acknowledge that these preachers of the Kingdom “good news” are Christ’s spiritual “brothers.” But does this really disprove that they are actually Christ’s spiritual “brothers”? No!
24. When does neglect of Christ’s “brothers” become inexcusable?
24 This general refusal of people to recognize Christ’s spiritual “brothers” as being such, and this international hatred of them because of what they are preaching about the Kingdom have influenced people in their treatment of these. Where a nation has a Bill of Rights defending freedom of worship, individuals may not join in violently persecuting Christ’s “brothers.” But out of fear of public opinion or because of agreeing with it, such abstainers from persecution refuse willfully to aid, relieve or support Christ’s “brothers.” So their negative attitude, their neglect, is not excusable.—Proverbs 29:18.
25. Why can there be no indifference on the issue without punishment?
25 Jesus’ illustration of the sheep and the goats takes all of this into consideration. Failure to come to the aid and relief of Christ’s “brothers” carries along with it a failure to aid and support Christ’s kingdom, the incoming world government. This is a serious matter, and there is no middle ground, no compromise, no straddling of the fence, with respect to the issue of world government. Jesus Christ the King hates lukewarmness. (Revelation 3:16) Jesus also said: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23) On this basis there is no injustice on Jesus’ part in declaring that the goatlike nonsupporters of his “throne” or kingdom are “cursed” and to be punished with the Devil and his angels. The title “Devil” means “Slanderer,” and these “goats” are classed with the Chief Devil because they listen to the slanders of the Devil and his angels and are prejudiced against Christ’s “brothers.” (Revelation 12:10) They should share his fate.
26. When will the King tell the “goats” to go off into the “fire”?
26 Let us, then, not be guilty of making excuses for the “goats” and thereby call into question the justice of Christ the King. Regardless of whether anyone likes the thought of it or not, Jesus’ illustration closes with regard to the judgment executed on the faulty “goats” and the righteous “sheep,” saying: “And these [symbolic goats] will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life.” (Matthew 25:46) When will Christ the King tell these cursed “goats” to go off into the symbolic “fire,” the “cutting-off” (Greek: koʹla·sis)? After the preaching of the Kingdom good news has been carried on earth wide by his spiritual “brothers” and “the end” comes on this system of things that is now in its “conclusion.” (Matthew 24:3, 14) Then the “great tribulation” will break out world wide, but the “goats” will never survive it.—Matthew 24:21, 22.
27. The “goats” have a “cutting-off” from what, for how long?
27 The everlasting “cutting-off (koʹla·sis) of the “goats” is the opposite of the “everlasting life” with which the “sheep” are rewarded. It is an everlasting punishment, because this form of punishment will never be lifted from these “goats” who are executed in the “great tribulation.” They will never have a resurrection from the dead. They suffer that other death that the Bible speaks of, “the second death,” which is symbolized by “the lake of fire.” They will no more be released from this symbolic “lake of fire” than Satan the Devil and his demon angels will. (Revelation 20:10-15; Genesis 3:15) They will perish in the “great tribulation” that will reach its peak in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon.—Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11-21.
THE SURVIVORS OF THE “GREAT TRIBULATION”
28, 29. The “sheep” survive what, as shown in Revelation 7:13-15?
28 We do not care to be ‘cut off everlastingly’ with the “goats” in the oncoming “great tribulation,” do we? Not if we want to enjoy the incoming world government of Jehovah God by his Son Jesus Christ. Our sensible, God-honoring choice would be that of now proving ourselves to be like the blessed “sheep.” The class made up of symbolic “sheep” will go alive through the “great tribulation.” This survival leads on to their “everlasting life” under the incoming world government. There will be an unnumbered “great crowd” of such sheeplike survivors of the “great tribulation.” We have assurance of this as stated in the dialogue between a special “elder” and one of Christ’s “brothers,” the apostle John. Concerning this dialogue we read:
29 “And in response one of the elders said to me: ‘These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?’ So right away I said to him: ‘My lord, you are the one that knows.’ And he said to me: ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple; and the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.’”—Revelation 7:13-15.
30. Under what protection do they survive, to stand before whom?
30 God spreads his “tent” of protection over these white-robed persons. This explains how it is that, aside from the remnant of Christ’s spiritual “brothers” to whom they have kept on doing good, they are the only ones out of all earth’s population at the time that “come out of the great tribulation.” During that “great tribulation” all the thrones of the rulers of the nations have been overturned and destroyed. (Haggai 2:22) That is the reason why no other throne is spoken of in this particular vision of the apostle John but the “throne of God.” (Revelation 7:10-15) No one else is seen seated on a throne but God. His position as Sovereign of the universe, including our earth, is vindicated!
31. What action, not shown in Jesus’ parable, have they taken?
31 This vision shows that these white-robed survivors of the “great tribulation” have done more than what is illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. They “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” This stated fact emphasizes that they are believers in the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and have accepted his sin-atoning sacrifice, his shed blood. This is one of the factors that moves them to aid, relieve, and work with the Lamb’s spiritual “brothers.” Above all, they have looked to the Lamb’s heavenly Father, the Universal Sovereign, for salvation out of the “great tribulation.”
32. How do they meet the basic requirement for such salvation?
32 The “great crowd” show that they meet the fundamental requirement for such salvation by the attitude they take toward God’s throne and by what they publicly confess before it. This fact becomes plain to us as we read: “After these things [after the sealing of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, the Lamb’s spiritual brothers] I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”—Revelation 7:9, 10.
33. What acknowledgment do they make to God and his Son? How?
33 In suitable dress, this “great crowd,” which does not contain any spiritual Israelites, stands respectfully before God’s throne, recognizing him as the World Ruler. (Revelation 11:15) As with palm branches, they unitedly hail Him as the Universal Sovereign, the One entitled to occupy a throne with universal governorship. (Compare John 12:12, 13.) They also acknowledge the “Chief Agent of life” whom Jehovah God has used, “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ his Son. (Acts 3:15; John 1:29, 36) So they joyfully confess before heaven and earth the Source of their salvation out of the “great tribulation” and also his Chief Agent in that behalf.
34. Since when, particularly, has there been a gathering of them?
34 During this “conclusion of the system of things,” notably since the year 1935 C.E., this “great crowd” has been assembled and unified despite national, racial and tribal extractions. They have heard the worldwide preaching of “this good news of the kingdom.” Acting on the timely information published on page 250 (paragraph 34) of The Watchtower for August 15, 1934, they proceeded to dedicate themselves to Jehovah God through his Lamb Jesus Christ. Their dedication they symbolized by water baptism. They have joined the remnant of Christ’s spiritual “brothers” in preaching the “good news” to the ends of the earth. How good it is to our ears to hear them thus hail Jehovah’s incoming world government!