Dividing of People Over the Kingdom Issue
1. Why is the division over the Kingdom issue a crucial matter for each one of us?
EACH ONE of us is faced with a crucial decision. At issue is our attitude toward Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ. Over this issue a dividing of people of all nations is taking place. On the basis of each person’s course of action he is being put into one of two groups. Only one of these groups will survive the impending world destruction.—Matthew 24:40, 41.
2. (a) How is this Messianic Kingdom related to the issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty? (b) What will the Kingdom soon become, and so what should we be seriously thinking about?
2 Jehovah has already enthroned his anointed Son, his Messiah, in the heavens. At the end of the “appointed times of the nations” in 1914, God gave Jesus Christ the nations as his inheritance—all the earth as his possession. (Psalm 2:6, 8) The Messianic government, with Jehovah’s anointed King on the throne, is God’s means for carrying out his own wise and loving purpose regarding the earth. Your attitude toward the Kingdom, therefore, demonstrates how you feel about Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Soon that Messianic Kingdom will “crush and put an end” to the entire political system now dominating human affairs and will become the one government over all the earth. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 19:11-21) When it proceeds to transform the earth into a Paradise, where will you be? Will you be among those guided by it to the enjoyment of perfection of life? Jesus stated the basis on which people now living could share in such a prospect.
THE KING AND HIS “BROTHERS”
3. At Matthew 25:31-33, what did Jesus describe?
3 When telling his apostles about “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus used several parables, or illustrations. In the final one he said: “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, 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 24:3; 25:31-33.
4. (a) How is this parable related to Daniel 7:13, 14? (b) What questions might we beneficially ask ourselves?
4 Notice that Jesus here speaks of himself as “the Son of man,” as he had already done repeatedly earlier in this prophecy. (Matthew 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44) His use of this expression was a reminder of the prophetic vision given to Daniel nearly six centuries earlier, concerning which the prophet wrote: “I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man [Jesus Christ] happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days [Jehovah God] he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” (Daniel 7:13, 14; Hebrews 2:5-8) That ruling authority has already been given to Jesus Christ. Since 1914 he rules from his heavenly throne. How have you personally responded to his rulership? Does your way of life give evidence of proper respect for this One whom God himself has made Ruler of all the earth?
5. How does Christ determine the genuineness of one’s claim of devotion to him as King?
5 Mere words are not enough. It is easy for a person to say that he believes in God’s Kingdom and that he loves Jesus Christ. But in his parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus showed that, since he would be invisible in the heavens, a key factor that he would take into account in determining the genuineness of a person’s claims would be his treatment of those who represent Christ on earth, his “brothers.”—Matthew 25:40, 45.
6. Who are these “brothers” of Christ?
6 Who are they? The ones whom God has chosen from among mankind to be heirs with Christ of the heavenly Kingdom. These number 144,000, of whom only a remnant are yet on earth. (Revelation 14:1, 4) Because they have been “born again” by means of the operation of God’s spirit, they are sons of God, and for that reason they are spoken of in the Scriptures as “brothers” of Jesus Christ. (John 3:3; Hebrews 2:10, 11) Jesus counts what people do to these “brothers,” even to “the least” of them, as being done to himself.
7. Why are Christ’s “brothers” not members of the churches of Christendom?
7 Where are these “brothers” of Christ in our day? Are you going to find them among the churchgoers of Christendom? Well, what did Jesus say about his true followers? “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Can that really be said of the churches of Christendom and their members? In large measure, their attitudes and conduct simply mirror those that are common in the part of the world where they are found. The involvement of the churches in politics is well known. When the United Nations Charter was being formulated in 1945, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish delegations were on hand as consultants. In recent years, popes of Rome have lauded the United Nations as “the last hope of concord and peace” and “the supreme forum of peace and justice.” The World Council of Churches, with membership of some 300 religious groups, has even provided funds used to finance political revolutions. Yet, Jesus Christ said to the Roman governor Pilate: “My kingdom is no part of this world.”—John 18:36.
8. (a) What has helped you to identify the “brothers” of Christ? (b) How important to them is the work of Kingdom preaching?
8 The facts show that only one group has taken a firm stand for the Kingdom, devoting vigorous effort to proclaiming it worldwide, while avoiding involvement of any kind in the political affairs of the world. This group is Jehovah’s Witnesses. Among them are found the remaining ones of Christ’s “brothers.” In imitation of their Lord and of his apostles, they have devoted themselves to going from city to city and from house to house, telling people the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1; Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:20, 25) In 1919, at a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses (then known as International Bible Students) in Cedar Point, Ohio, the conventioners were reminded that their “vocation was and is to announce the incoming glorious kingdom of Messiah.” At a similar convention in 1922 this was again emphasized, and they were urged: “Advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.” Using every means at their disposal, they have continued to do that worldwide right down to this day. (Matthew 24:14) Because of their activity, the Kingdom issue has been presented to you. What are you doing about it?
‘YOU DID IT TO ONE OF MY BROTHERS’
9. (a) How are the circumstances described at Matthew 25:35-40 related to the Kingdom ministry? (b) With what test have people everywhere thus been confronted?
9 The spirit-anointed “brothers” of Christ have come under severe tests because of boldly preaching God’s Kingdom, while maintaining separateness from the world. (John 15:19, 21) Some have experienced hunger, thirst and lack of clothing. Many have left their homes to serve in areas where they were strangers. While performing their ministry, they have undergone sickness and imprisonment, even death at the hands of persecutors. These experiences of Christ’s “brothers” have caused people of all nations to be confronted with a test. Would love for God and Christ cause them to come to the aid of these ambassadors of the heavenly Kingdom? (Matthew 25:35-40; compare 2 Corinthians 5:20.) Not primarily humanitarian kindness but help rendered because they belong to Christ is counted by the King as done to himself personally.—Mark 9:41; Matthew 10:42.
10. (a) Why is the protest raised by the “goats” not valid? (b) By contrast, what position have the “sheep” taken?
10 Those who render such aid are likened by Jesus to sheep. People who fail to give help to his “brothers” are referred to in Jesus’ parable as goats. The “goats” may protest that they did not see Jesus Christ. But he has sent his servants to them, and these have clearly identified themselves. All the “goats” may not persecute Christ’s “brothers,” but neither are they moved by love for the heavenly King to come to the aid of his representatives. (Matthew 25:41-45) They cling to the world of which Satan the Devil is the invisible ruler. The “sheep” cannot literally see Christ either. But, in contrast to the “goats,” these prove that they are not afraid to identify themselves with Christ’s “brothers,” supporting these proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. The “sheep” know what they are doing, and they make a positive choice in favor of the Kingdom of God by means of Jesus Christ. That is why their action has merit in the eyes of the King.
11. (a) Since many people have never met one of Christ’s “brothers,” how can they be judged on the basis here described? (b) What assures the success of this work?
11 How, though, is it possible for people of all nations to be judged on this basis? Did not Jesus say that his “brothers,” to whom the Father would give the heavenly Kingdom, would be just a “little flock”? (Luke 12:32) Many people never personally come in contact with one of them. True, but the “brothers” of Christ make up the nucleus of the international organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. By means of this organized people, the vital Kingdom issue is being presented to people everywhere. All of this is being directed by Christ himself from his heavenly throne and with the aid of the angels. In some 200 lands and island groups around the globe—even where the preaching of God’s Kingdom is under government ban—the dividing work moves irresistibly forward, and a great crowd of persons are taking their stand on the side of God’s Kingdom.
12. (a) How do the “sheep” make clear the stand they have taken? (b) Why do they do it?
12 How do they show this? By working right along with the anointed ones, zealously proclaiming that the Kingdom rules and that it will soon bring the worldly system to its end. Thus they openly identify themselves as having taken their stand for Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom and they lovingly urge others to do the same. Far more than a desire for survival motivates these right-hearted persons. They truly love Jehovah and his ways. The provision of his Kingdom with Christ as King fills their hearts with gratitude, and they want others to benefit from it. So they share to the fullest extent that they are able in giving the Kingdom witness. As Jesus instructed his disciples, they ‘seek first the kingdom,’ not allowing anxiety over material needs to push it into second place. In this way they come in line for a grand blessing.—Matthew 6:31-33.
WILL YOU “INHERIT THE KINGDOM”?
13. (a) Since when has Jehovah had in mind a reward for these sheeplike ones? (b) What does it mean for them to “inherit the kingdom”?
13 What is in store for those who prove to be the “sheep” of Jesus’ parable is marvelous indeed. From his heavenly throne, he says to them: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) Ever since “the founding of the world,” at the time when Adam and Eve first produced children who could benefit from God’s provision to redeem mankind, according to Genesis 3:15, 16, Jehovah had in mind a reward for these “sheep.” (Compare Luke 11:50, 51.) Theirs is the opportunity to enjoy in the restored Paradise the perfection of human life that Adam lost. Their ‘inheriting the kingdom’ does not mean that they will go to heaven, because the parable shows that the “sheep” are not the same as the King’s “brothers,” who are heirs of the heavenly Kingdom. So the “sheep” must be earthly subjects of that heavenly government. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon states that the Greek term basileiʹa, which is here translated “kingdom,” can be understood in a passive sense, meaning one’s “being ruled by a king.” It is this sense that obviously applies here.
14. How will the judgment passed on the “goats” contrast with the inheritance of the “sheep”?
14 When the “goats” depart into “everlasting cutting-off,” into a destruction as complete as if by fire, the “sheep” will be safeguarded by the Messianic King. (Matthew 25:41, 46; compare Revelation 21:8.) Without any need to die, they will be preserved through the great tribulation into the glorious “new earth” that will be free from the vile influence of Satan and his wicked system of things. That blessing will be theirs because they are making the right decision on the Kingdom issue now.
15. (a) How do we know that this parable applies now? (b) So, what work is of vital importance?
15 It would be a serious mistake to reason that, because the destruction of the “goats” is everlasting, the parable could not apply until later on, perhaps during the Millennial Reign of Christ. On the contrary, Jesus gave this parable as part of the sign of “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) What he describes takes place after he is enthroned but also while his “brothers” are still in the flesh and experiencing the hardships that he mentions. We are living in that time, and it is fast running out. How vital it is, therefore, not only to put full confidence in the Kingdom but to help others to see the importance of doing so now.