How Far Has Preparation Progressed?
1, 2. (a) What do people usually mean by the expression, “God is dead”? (b) Why do some people say this?
MUCH has been said in our study thus far about God’s purpose. But what has he been doing to bring that purpose to completion? Some people, not seeing world affairs getting better, say that “God is dead,” meaning that he is not doing anything to help mankind.
2 Such attitude results because it takes a measure of faith to see God’s progressive preparation for a righteous new system of things that will govern the earth. “Faith,” says the Bible, “is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”—Hebrews 11:1.
3. How do things appear to the person without faith?
3 The person without faith has no real expectation or hope regarding God because he does not believe what God promises. To such a person the things seen appear on the surface to be contrary to what the one with faith is looking for. But why does God require faith?
4. Why does God require faith?
4 God is like a father who wants his children to love him for his goodness and to accept his promises, not having to see everything before they believe their father. A child who has no faith in a good father will also be disobedient and will eventually bring trouble and disgrace on the family. Such a child is undeserving of parental affection. But, just as a good father would do, God responds to his earthly creatures who look to him in faith, and he helps them.—Psalm 119:65-68.
5, 6. (a) Illustrate how events may be very deceptive to those without faith. (b) What was the difference between the Christians and the majority of the Jews in 66-70 C.E.?
5 An illustration of the deceptive surface appearance of things, as compared with the way that faith sees the true situation, is found in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. About thirty-three years before it happened, Jesus foretold that a time would come when Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies. When that occurred, he said, Christians should immediately get out of the city, for Jerusalem’s destruction would be near. (Luke 21:20-24) According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, the Romans under General Cestius Gallus, in 66 C.E., surrounded Jerusalem, intending to take the city. Then, for some unexplained reason, Gallus withdrew. Those Jews and others who had become Christians immediately fled, because they recognized that this was exactly what Jesus had prophesied. Other Jews, however, pursued Gallus’ troops and inflicted heavy casualties upon them.
6 The majority of Jerusalem’s Jews were elated at their victory. The danger appeared past. But the Christians did not try to return to Jerusalem. This may have looked foolish to the Jews who had remained behind. However, less than four years later the Romans returned under General Titus and completely destroyed the city and more than nine tenths of its inhabitants. Yes, those having faith saw that which did not appear on the surface and saved their lives. They saw something that the Jews in general, though they had the opportunity to do so, did not see. As a people, the Jews had rejected Jesus Christ, and so had rejected the wisdom that would have saved them.—Compare Jeremiah 8:9.
7. How can we know that God has been working toward the fulfillment of his promise?
7 We need to get the right perspective as to what God has been doing toward bringing about an end to mankind’s suffering, just as he has promised. How can we do this? By examining the historical record. If we do, we will see that God has been progressively working out his purpose from the beginning of mankind’s troubles. We will see, not just theories or speculations, but “the evident demonstration of realities” on which to build firm faith.
LAYING A FOUNDATION
8. Why has God taken a long time to bring in his rule over earth?
8 Jehovah has promised that he will govern the entire earth, bringing in peace and unity. But he is not going to rule simply by force. He purposes to have people enlightened, educated to know him and to submit willingly to his administration. (Psalm 110:3) With this in view, it has taken time to establish a foundation for an entire world of mankind that would serve him. God had to provide a knowledge of the standards and principles of his righteous administration and how it operates.
9. Why is God’s way of teaching us better than if he spoke in a loud voice from heaven?
9 But Jehovah is an invisible God. (1 Timothy 1:17) How would he make men of flesh and blood understand? Not by a mere display of power, speaking in awe-inspiring tones from heaven. No, God would reveal his principles and qualities by having dealings with people. How much more instructive, convincing and moving, not only to hear and read God’s declarations as recorded by faithful men, but, additionally, to see in the historical record the proof that what he said he also carried out.
10. When did God first strikingly demonstrate to the world that he is no inactive God, but is interested in men’s affairs?
10 For the first part of mankind’s history—up to the time of the Flood—Jehovah God let men go the way they chose, either to put faith in him or not. But he demonstrated that he was no “dead” or inactive God when he destroyed that world. The reason was that it had become so corrupt that it endangered pure worship and the lives of those who wanted to do what was right. God preserved in the ark those few who at that time acknowledged his rulership.—Genesis 6:11-13, 17-20; 1 Peter 3:20.
11, 12. (a) How did God proceed after the Flood? (b) In laying a foundation for his government over the earth, what things has he made it possible for men to see?
11 After the Flood, God proceeded to lay a foundation for his coming administration of earth’s affairs by the promised “seed,” the Messiah. In the meantime, God let the nations go on in their independent course and make a record that stands as proof of men’s inability to govern themselves.
12 In laying the foundation for his government over the earth, Jehovah has provided these necessary things: (1) a firm basis for faith in the administration he would provide, (2) a knowledge of the principles of his government, (3) a demonstration of his qualities as Universal Ruler and (4) a sure and unmistakable identification of the Messiah, the One who would be mankind’s Deliverer and the King ruling in Jehovah’s name. (Galatians 3:24) At the same time a comparison with man-rule has proved the superiority, deservedness and rightness of God’s rulership.
ONE NATION SELECTED TO SERVE FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL
13, 14. What did God accomplish for our benefit by using the ancient nation of Israel?
13 What means did God use in laying such a foundation? First, he selected one nation, the nation of ancient Israel, to become a living demonstration of his principles and dealings. Thereby Jehovah revealed himself and his marvelous qualities of justice and wisdom when he chastised Israel for their sins, for they proved, for the most part, to be disobedient. (Romans 10:21) Then, too, he exhibited his love, mercy and long-suffering toward them whenever they repented.
14 Additionally, Israelite history demonstrates what happens when God’s wise, righteous laws are either obeyed or disobeyed; while world history reveals the outcome to those who live without the benefit of the divine law.—1 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 4:17-19.
REASON FOR ISRAEL’S SELECTION
15. Did God show partiality in using the nation of Israel? Explain.
15 Why was Israel, rather than some other nation, selected? Not because they were better, but because of God’s love for Abraham their forefather. (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8; 2 Kings 13:23) Some four hundred years after the Flood, Jehovah found Abraham to be a man who accepted God at His word, with unquestioning faith and obedience. (Genesis 15:1, 6; Romans 4:18-22) Consequently, Abraham’s offspring through his faithful wife Sarah received the unique blessing of being chosen as the people that Jehovah God would use to accomplish the purpose he had in mind. The promised “seed” would come through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
16, 17. In dealing with ancient Israel, did God do injustice to the other nations? Explain.
16 The other nations of that time went their own way of self-rule and disobedience to God. God allowed them to enjoy the sun and rain and the fruitage of the earth. (Acts 14:16, 17; Matthew 5:45) But God did not enter into dealings with them, except when individuals from among them came to him in faith, or when these nations touched upon the affairs of his chosen nation.—Deuteronomy 32:8.
17 But Jehovah had not forgotten the other nations. While dealing exclusively with Israel, he was working out a purpose to bless the people of these nations later, although they were completely ignorant of this fact.—Genesis 22:18.
18. In being used and blessed by God, was Israel under heavier judgment?
18 No one can complain about God’s selecting one nation to provide this foundation for our faith and understanding today. During this period Israel was blessed above the other nations, it is true. But, by having Jehovah’s name placed upon it, that nation also faced a very heavy responsibility that the other nations did not bear. Israel had to account directly to God. The people were severely disciplined by Jehovah when they broke his laws.—Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
19. What further benefit was brought to us by God’s use of ancient Israel, as shown at Romans 3:1, 2?
19 Another purpose accomplished by using the one nation was the preserving of the truth. This, God did by keeping Israel separate from the unbelieving peoples around them, by disciplining that nation and holding it together under his Law covenant. He also committed to them his “sacred pronouncements,” which we now find in the Bible. (Romans 3:1, 2) In the meantime the other nations, under man-rule, continuously served a wide variety of false gods of their own making, and with a confusing mixture of doctrines.—Psalms 96:5; 115:2-8.
20. (a) What primary thing did the law given to Israel accomplish? (Romans 10:4) (b) What other good things do we derive from studying the Hebrew Scriptures?
20 Furthermore, all during this time Jehovah was working out matters to provide the finest gift to mankind—the principal “seed” of promise, Christ Jesus, the King of God’s kingdom to rule the earth. Through him, God will bring life to all obedient men. (Acts 17:30, 31) How God’s wisdom shines in furnishing an unmistakable identification and therefore a basis for faith in the Messiah when he finally arrived! The Most High provided this positive identification in the genealogy, chronology and prophecy of the Hebrew Scriptures. (John 5:39) Moreover, the historical record preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures not only gives comfort and hope but also serves as a guide for present living. It provides patterns as well as examples for “us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 10:1.
JESUS SELECTS ASSOCIATES FOR RULERSHIP
21, 22. Why was Jesus, when on earth, selective in the choice of his intimate disciples? (Luke 9:57-62)
21 Finally the long-awaited Messiah appeared. As God’s anointed one, Jesus Christ was selective, just as God had been, in the people he chose to be his intimate disciples. (Luke 8:38, 39) He was here, it is true, to provide the ransom for the salvation of all men who will accept it. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) But he knew that not until later would he be Head of a kingdom that would bring the benefits of his sacrifice to all mankind. And just as any ruler not yet inaugurated into office thinks first of the men he will place in important administrative positions under him, so Jesus was interested, first, in those who would be associated with him in the Kingdom government.—Luke 22:28, 29; John 17:12.
22 Accordingly, Jesus, through prayer and direction of God’s spirit, selected his apostles first. (Luke 6:12-16) These were to be the foundation of an administrative body to operate under his headship.
23. (a) What hope was held out through the preaching of Jesus and his apostles? (b) Were these disciples to rule over other men while they were on earth? (1 Corinthians 4:8)
23 In reading the Christian Greek Scriptures we observe that the hope held out to all those who accepted the preaching of Jesus and his apostles was that of sharing with Jesus Christ in his Kingdom rule in heaven. (2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 3:1; 1 Peter 1:1-4) However, while on earth these disciples would not be rulers, but would be known simply as “the congregation of God.” They would merely declare God’s excellencies to the people.—1 Peter 2:9.
24. What primary work of God has been carried on from the time of Christ’s resurrection until now?
24 So, the long time period following Christ’s death and his taking of Kingdom power would be occupied in selecting, training, testing, proving and qualifying those who would reign with Christ. The requirements were very strict. According to the Scriptures, God limited the number of this select administrative body under Jesus Christ to 144,000 persons.—Revelation 14:1-3.
25. What is the purpose of the severe testing that the prospective members of Christ’s Kingdom government have received?
25 Jehovah trains and disciplines these prospective kings and priests through the many tests they undergo. In this way they become fitted exactly for the place he has for them in his government. (Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:29) Additionally, because of this perfect training and testing he can be sure of their everlasting loyalty and incorruptness in rulership. It is said of them: “No falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.” (Revelation 14:5) This means that their devotion and integrity are free from defect. (Compare Romans 7:25.) They are trustworthy in every respect. Jehovah can safely give them immortal heavenly life. (1 Corinthians 15:50-54) But let us now consider how God also had the rest of humankind in mind as he tested and approved those whom he would use as his governmental body.
MERCIFUL RULERS ASSURED
26. How did Christ qualify to become mankind’s High Priest and Ruler?
26 Jesus Christ, the congregation’s Head, underwent a most severe test to prove his qualifications. Of him it is said: “We have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) What wisdom and fairness on God’s part! The Ruler that he puts over mankind will therefore never deal unjustly or partially.
27. What experiences have equipped him to be a ruler in whom we can have full faith?
27 Also, because of Christ’s previous experience in heaven, where he worked with his Father in the creation of all other things, he understands the makeup of men and women. (John 1:10; 2:25) But more than that, by becoming a man of blood and flesh on earth he experienced the service of God under adverse conditions. He fully understands human problems. He knows what it means to suffer. (Hebrews 5:7-9) All men can have full faith in Christ’s rulership, knowing that he has undergone the same trials successfully and knows what humans need.—Hebrews 4:16; John 16:33.
28. Why has God’s allowance of a 1,900-year period until now not been a waste of time?
28 Also, consider God’s wisdom in his manner of selecting the body of 144,000 associate kings and priests. It has not been a waste of time. During the broad scope of the last nineteen centuries these men and women have been chosen from all walks of life, all races and languages and all backgrounds. There is simply no problem that some of them have not faced and overcome. These, too, will be sympathetic and merciful associate rulers, able to help men and women of all kinds.
FOUNDATION FOR A “NEW EARTH”
29. What further preparation must God make in order that his kingdom bring to pass the doing of his will “as in heaven, also upon earth”? (Matthew 6:10)
29 Does the mere selection of the last ones of those who will become heavenly kings and priests with Christ complete God’s preparations? Does it mean that the thousand-year rule may then begin, and the resurrection of the dead may take place? No, for first God must clean up the earth by destroying the corrupt system of things now existing. However, when he does this, he is not going to leave a “vacuum.” That is, he is not going to leave the earth a desolate globe, with no life, no persons serving him, any more than he did so at the Flood. (Isaiah 45:18) Rather, God will have people who survive and who will begin bringing about paradise conditions. They will be on hand when the time comes to welcome back the dead, and they will help them on the way to life.
30. What further group will God gather, to survive the destruction of the present system of things?
30 Who will the survivors of that destruction be? The apostle John, in describing the vision that Christ gave him, says, after speaking of the 144,000 Kingdom heirs: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” The angel bringing the vision then explained who this unnumbered multitude was: “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.”—Revelation 7:9, 14; Isaiah 2:2-4.
31. What part will the “great crowd” play in God’s progressive purpose?
31 These people will form a nucleus, the “foundation” of a “new earth.” (Compare Isaiah 51:16.) Surviving the “great tribulation,” they will immediately begin working under the direction of the “new heavens” of Christ and his 144,000 associate kings and priests, to subdue the earth. They will carry on true worship in the earth as God’s representatives, and will introduce the resurrected dead to true worship. They will logically see that there are food and homes ready for these people, and will serve as teachers in the ways of righteousness.
32. Who will make up the “great crowd,” and when are they selected and gathered?
32 Since the “great crowd” is to survive the “great tribulation,” it is obvious that they would be gathered from among people living in the time just prior to the end of this present system of things. This gathering work, then, is also a part of God’s preparatory work before the thousand-year reign of Christ begins. Gathering the “great crowd,” however, does not take centuries, as did God’s dealing with Israel and, later, his gathering of the 144,000 joint heirs with Christ. Nevertheless, it does take time. This selection and gathering are taking place now, and will evidently be completed during the lifetime of one generation. Some of that generation will survive into the period of Christ’s thousand-year reign.—Luke 21:32.
33, 34. (a) During the time of mankind’s history of about 6,000 years, what has God accomplished? (b) Could it be rightly said that “God is dead” or that he is slow?
33 Summing up, we see that God has certainly not wasted time. (2 Peter 3:9) He has made it a matter of record that man cannot successfully rule the world. He has demonstrated his patience and his good qualities in the progressive steps he has taken toward bringing in his Kingdom rule. He has shown what kind of government he administers. And he has given us an abundance of evidence that Jesus Christ is the principal one of the promised “seed” of Abraham, the Messiah, the King who will rule the earth in righteousness.—Galatians 3:16.
34 Consequently, those who sincerely want to know Jehovah God can do so. They can gain a firm faith in his purposes, for they have realities upon which to base that faith.
[Picture on page 141]
Survivors of the great tribulation will be persons who now demonstrate faith in God’s promises