What Has God Been Doing?
1. What do many people today believe about God, but is it true?
MANY people today believe that God is not actively interested in the earth or that he is not doing anything about the problems troubling mankind. But the truth is that God does care very much. 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 doing things for mankind from the beginning of human history right down to the present day.
2. How may their own short life span affect people’s thinking on this matter?
2 One reason some people conclude that God is not doing anything is their own short life span. This makes them impatient to get things done in the brief time their life allows. So a desire to see changes during their own lifetime dominates their thinking. Their tendency, then, is 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 90:2, 4; Isaiah 44:6) From his viewpoint he can see precisely where in the stream of time his acts will accomplish the most good for everyone concerned as well as most effectively develop his purpose. (Isaiah 40:22; 2 Peter 3:8, 9) That is exactly what God has been doing.
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 purpose is to provide a righteous administration for all creation, one that will bring mankind together in peace and unity, enjoying full security. (Ephesians 1:9, 10; Proverbs 1:33) However, God does not force anyone to come under his administration. Only those who serve him and who love his way of ruling are welcome. With a view to founding an entire world that would live by his administration’s righteous standards, God has made available to mankind a knowledge of those standards and how his administration operates. At the same time God has been making it possible for mankind to gain vital knowledge concerning 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? For one thing, much can be learned about the qualities of the Creator from his handiwork. (Romans 1:20) The marvelous interrelationships among living things and the physical laws that govern all matter bear testimony to his wisdom. The tremendous power manifest in the oceans, in the weather, and in the energy of the stars gives evidence of his almightiness. (Job 38:8-11, 22-33; 40:2) And the variety of foods to delight the palate, the beauty of flowers, birds, sunrises and sunsets, the playful antics of animals—all tell of the Creator’s love for mankind and his desire that we find life a joy. 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 he did this personally. In other instances he spoke through angels, as at Mount Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula, where he gave his law to millions of Israelites. (Exodus 20:22; Hebrews 2:2) Then, by means of his prophets he communicated with men over many centuries and had them write down the revelations of his will. (2 Peter 1:21) Thus, Jehovah gradually has acquainted man with His righteous standards and His will. An important aspect of this is the way he has revealed his principles and qualities by means of his dealings with humans. This has added the warm appeal of human experience to his written Word. How much more instructive and convincing it is not only to hear and read God’s declarations of purpose but also to have in the Bible record living examples that help us to understand his will better! (1 Corinthians 10:11) And 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 evidence that God does not forever tolerate unrighteousness. True, he let the offspring of Adam and Eve 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 morally depraved cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 19:24, 25; Jude 7) He let the nation of Israel, which professed to serve him, go into exile because they practiced false religion. (Jeremiah 13:19, 25) On learning how God views such conduct, we have an opportunity to make changes in our lives to show our love for what is right. Will we?
8. When God brings destruction, are there any survivors? Illustrate.
8 The Bible record also reveals that God differentiates between the righteous and 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 sulfur rained down on Sodom, escape was made possible for righteous Lot and his household.—Genesis 19:15-17; 2 Peter 2:7.
9. What do we learn from the way that Jehovah dealt with ancient Israel?
9 When the people of Israel, who had sworn to serve God, proved unfaithful he did not immediately cast them off. As he told them: “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 when the time drew near for the destruction of Jerusalem, Jehovah said: “Do I take any delight at all in the death of someone wicked, . . . 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. Besides his being patient, what else do these Bible accounts teach us about God?
10 What do we see, then? That in a way that deeply touches the heart of righteously disposed persons, Jehovah has made clear his great patience with mankind. At the same time, his dealings also forcefully impress on us his love of righteousness and the importance of our 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, stands out. From the beginning it becomes clear that God has had a definite purpose in everything that he has done. And he has never failed to act when the fulfillment of his purpose required action. This fundamental purpose was stated 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 support him. He also foretold the producing of another “seed,” a righteous deliverer. This One would fatally wound “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan,” thus releasing mankind from his ruinous domination. (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 12:9) After declaring 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 Ancient 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 today came into existence, God selected one nation that he used for hundreds of years as his own people. Why? In order to provide a living demonstration of the operation of his righteous principles. That nation, ancient Israel, 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.
13 After delivering them from slavery in Egypt, Jehovah offered to take them into a special relationship with him, and they replied: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Exodus 19:8) Jehovah then gave them his regulations, thus setting them apart from all other nations and providing detailed information concerning his righteous standards. (Deuteronomy 4:5-8) So, the history of ancient Israel provides a record of what happens when God’s righteous laws are either obeyed or disobeyed. Meanwhile, the history of other nations reveals 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 without 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 inherited sin and rejection of divine guidance caused them to pursue a self-seeking course that led to cruel wars and depraved practices. (Ephesians 4:17-19) God certainly could not be held responsible for the woes brought on by a course of life that they themselves chose. The only times that God intervened were when human activities conflicted with the outworking of his purposes. In the meantime, God kindly allowed them a share in the joy of living, in the beauties of creation and in earth’s fruitage.—Acts 14:16, 17.
15. What arrangements for the eventual blessing of people of these nations was God working out?
15 Nor did Jehovah exclude the people of these nations from eventually receiving the benefits promised through the “seed” of Abraham. Jehovah said of this “seed” that was to come through Abraham’s family line: “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 even though Jehovah was dealing exclusively with Israel, he also was impartially working out his purpose to bless the other nations later, although they were unaware of this.—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 ancient Israel, he provided numerous prophecies that filled a vital need for men of faith—how to identify the promised Seed of Abraham when he eventually arrived. Even his family line, through the tribe of Judah and the house of David, was specified. (Genesis 49:10; Psalm 89:35, 36) The place of his birth, Bethlehem, was named. (Micah 5:2) Centuries in advance the very year when he would be anointed as Messiah was indicated. (Daniel 9:24-27) His priestly services on behalf of mankind were foreshadowed. And so was the sacrifice of himself that opened the opportunity for eternal life to people of all nations. (Hebrews 9:23-28) Thus, when the appointed time arrived, everything unmistakably identified Jesus Christ as the Seed of promise through whom blessings would eventually come to 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 Before Jesus’ birth his mother Mary had been told by an angel 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 for 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 both his loyalty to Jehovah and his love of righteousness. In this way God was preparing Jesus to be an understanding King as well as High Priest to administer life-giving benefits to mankind. (Hebrews 1:9; 4:15; 5:8-10) Furthermore, by sacrificing his own life, 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 Jesus’ death, God raised him to life again, and he was seen by over 500 human witnesses who could testify that the resurrection had actually occurred. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Forty days after Jesus was raised, he ascended heavenward and disappeared from the sight of his onlooking disciples. (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 now the time for him to begin ruling the nations? No, for other matters in God’s grand program required attention.—Hebrews 10:12, 13.
20. What new work had Jesus opened up for his disciples on earth?
20 A great task remained to be done earth wide. Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection none of the Israelites had gone out as preachers to convert people of other nations. Yet any who desired to take up the worship of Jehovah could always share in the benefits along with Israel. (1 Kings 8:41-43) However, the advent of Christianity opened up a major new undertaking. Jesus Christ himself set the example and left it as a legacy with his disciples, telling them before his ascension to heaven: “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, Jesus showed that during the period down into “the conclusion of the system of things” there would be a gathering primarily of “the sons of the kingdom.” Yes, the other members of the coming Kingdom government had to 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., others were being invited to share with Jesus Christ in his heavenly Kingdom rule.—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 Selecting these future corulers over mankind would take time. Why? For one thing, that opportunity had to be extended to people of all nations. And, while many professed to lay hold of it, few truly proved to be faithful followers of God’s Son. (Matthew 22:14) High standards had to be met. Though Christians have not lived as a separate national group like ancient Israel, they have been viewed as aliens, advocating another way of life. (1 Peter 2:11, 12) They must keep clean from the immoral and corrupt practices of the world around them. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) To be real “sons of God,” they must prove themselves “peaceable,” not participating in the wars of the nations and not retaliating when persecuted for their faith. (Matthew 5:9; 26:52; Romans 12:18, 19) They must demonstrate loyalty to God’s rulership by refusing to advocate political governments, pictured in the Bible as ‘beasts.’ (Revelation 20:4, 6) Because of all of this and because they have held high the name of Jesus Christ in his role 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 It is not because the number chosen was to be great that selection has taken so long. According to the Scriptures, God limited the number of this select administrative body under Jesus Christ to just 144,000 persons. (Revelation 14:1-3) 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! Why? Because it gives us the assurance that they will be sympathetic and merciful kings and priests, able to help men and women of all kinds to benefit from 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 arrangement? During all this time, God did not interfere with the various governments. He let men go in the way that they chose. Of course, millions of people 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 spoken of by the apostle Paul: “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 favorable conditions of God’s New Order, they would be given a full opportunity to learn Jehovah’s ways. Based on this, they could take a personal stand on the issue of universal sovereignty. Those who love righteousness would gain the opportunity to 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 must occur. The Bible foretold a momentous change in world affairs. Jesus Christ would then be enthroned as King not merely to rule over his own disciples but with authority to act toward the whole world. 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) The King’s first move would be 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. With what result?
26 The prophetic description 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 for a great separating work. Under the direction of the enthroned Jesus Christ, 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. People everywhere would be given an opportunity to show their attitude toward divine rulership. (Matthew 24:14; 25:31-33) 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 you individually to do?
28 But when are all these events to take place? When is Christ given power to rule as King and to proceed with separating people of all nations? The facts show that God has been doing these things during this 20th century. Christ is already on his heavenly throne, and the separating work is now nearing completion. The time for identifying yourself with Jehovah’s side of the issue of universal sovereignty is very short. The “great tribulation” is near at hand! An examination of Bible prophecy in the light of recent history proves this to be true. We urge you to consider it carefully.
[Picture on page 62]
By living among humans, earth’s new ruler came to understand mankind better