Jesus Christ, the Faithful Witness
FOR some 4,000 years, a long line of pre-Christian witnesses had offered their testimony. But the issues involving God’s sovereignty and the integrity of his servants were far from settled. The time now arrived for the promised royal “seed,” the Messiah, to appear on earth.—Gen. 3:15.
Out of all of his millions of spirit sons, whom did Jehovah select for this assignment? All of them had witnessed what happened in Eden and were no doubt aware of the universal issues raised. But who was the most anxious to serve in clearing Jehovah’s name and vindicating his sovereignty? Who could provide the most conclusive answer to Satan’s challenge that no one would maintain integrity to God’s sovereignty under test? The one Jehovah selected was his Firstborn, his only-begotten Son, Jesus.—John 3:16; Col. 1:15.
Jesus eagerly and humbly accepted this assignment, although it meant leaving the heavenly home he had shared with his Father longer than anyone else. (John 8:23, 58; Phil. 2:5-8) His motive? Deep love for Jehovah and a zealous desire to see His name cleared of all reproach. (John 14:31) Jesus also acted out of love for humankind. (Prov. 8:30, 31; compare John 15:13.) His birth on earth, in early autumn of the year 2 B.C.E., was made possible by holy spirit—by means of which Jehovah transferred Jesus’ life from heaven to the womb of the Jewish virgin Mary. (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:26-38) Jesus was thus born into the nation of Israel.—Gal. 4:4.
More than any other Israelite, Jesus knew that he had to be a witness of Jehovah. Why? He was a member of the nation to which Jehovah by the prophet Isaiah had said: “You are my witnesses.” (Isa. 43:10) In addition to that, at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River in 29 C.E., Jehovah anointed him with holy spirit. (Matt. 3:16) Thus Jesus was empowered, as he later testified, to “proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah.”—Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:16-19.
Jesus faithfully carried out his assignment and became Jehovah’s greatest witness ever on earth. With every right, then, the apostle John, who stood near Jesus at the time of his death, calls Jesus “the Faithful Witness.” (Rev. 1:5) And at Revelation 3:14, the glorified Jesus calls himself “the Amen” and “the faithful and true witness.” What testimony did this “Faithful Witness” offer?
‘Bearing Witness to the Truth’
When on trial before Roman governor Pilate, Jesus stated: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) To what truth did Jesus bear witness? It was God’s truth, the revelation of Jehovah’s eternal purposes.—John 18:33-36.
How, though, did Jesus bear witness to this truth? The Greek verb for “bear witness to” also means “declare, confirm, testify favorably, speak well (of), approve (of).” In ancient Greek papyri, the common occurrence of another form of the verb (mar·ty·roʹ) was after a signature, such as in business transactions. By his ministry, then, Jesus had to confirm God’s truth. This certainly required that he declare, or preach, that truth to others. However, much more than talking was needed.
“I am . . . the truth,” Jesus said. (John 14:6) Yes, he lived in such a way as to fulfill God’s truth. God’s purpose in connection with the Kingdom and its Messianic Ruler had been spelled out in prophecy. Jesus, by his entire earthly life course, which culminated in his sacrificial death, fulfilled all the things prophesied about him. He thus confirmed and guaranteed the truth of Jehovah’s prophetic word. For this reason the apostle Paul could say: “No matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him. Therefore also through him is the ‘Amen’ [meaning, “so be it,” or “surely”] said to God for glory through us.” (2 Cor. 1:20) Yes, Jesus is the one in whom God’s promises find fulfillment.—Rev. 3:14.
Bearing Witness to God’s Name
Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified [or, “be held sacred; be treated as holy”].” (Matt. 6:9, ftn.) On the final night of his earthly life, in prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus also said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word. And I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” (John 17:6, 26) This, in fact, was Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth. What was involved in his making God’s name known?
Jesus’ followers already knew and used God’s name. They saw and read it in the Hebrew Bible scrolls available in their synagogues. They also saw and read it in the Septuagint—a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which they used in teaching and writing. If they knew the divine name, in what sense did Jesus make it manifest, or known, to them?
In Bible times, names were not mere labels. Says A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, by J. H. Thayer: “The name of God in the N[ew] T[estament] is used for all those qualities which to his worshippers are summed up in that name, and by which God makes himself known to men.” Jesus made known God’s name not just by using it but by revealing the Person behind the name—his purposes, activities, and qualities. As the one ‘who had been in the bosom position with the Father,’ Jesus could explain the Father in a way that no one else could. (John 1:18) Moreover, so perfectly did Jesus reflect his Father that Jesus’ disciples could ‘see’ the Father in the Son. (John 14:9) By what he said and did, Jesus bore witness to God’s name.
He Witnessed About God’s Kingdom
As “the Faithful Witness,” Jesus was outstandingly a proclaimer of God’s Kingdom. He emphatically said: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43) He proclaimed that heavenly Kingdom throughout Palestine, covering hundreds of miles on foot. He preached wherever there were people who would listen: at lakeshores, on hillsides, in cities and villages, in synagogues and the temple, in the marketplaces, and at the people’s homes. But Jesus knew that there was a limit to the area he could cover and the number of people to whom he could witness. (Compare John 14:12.) So with a view to covering the world field, Jesus trained and sent out his disciples to be proclaimers of the Kingdom.—Matt. 10:5-7; 13:38; Luke 10:1, 8, 9.
Jesus was a hardworking, zealous witness, and he did not allow himself to be sidetracked. Although he showed personal concern for the needs of the people, he did not get so wrapped up in doing things that would bring short-term relief that he neglected his God-given assignment of pointing people to the lasting solution to their problems—God’s Kingdom. On one occasion, after he miraculously fed about 5,000 men (perhaps well over 10,000 people counting also women and children), a group of Jews wanted to seize him and make him an earthly king. What did Jesus do? He “withdrew again into the mountain all alone.” (John 6:1-15; compare Luke 19:11, 12; Acts 1:6-9.) Although he performed many miracles of healing, Jesus was not primarily known as the Miracle Worker, but, rather, he was recognized by both believers and unbelievers as “Teacher.”—Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16, 24, 36; John 3:2.
Clearly, bearing witness to God’s Kingdom was the most important work that Jesus could do. It is Jehovah’s will that everyone know what His Kingdom is and how it will fulfill His purposes. It is very dear to His heart, for it is the means by which He will sanctify His name, clearing it of all reproach. Jesus knew that, and so he made that Kingdom the theme of his preaching. (Matt. 4:17) By sharing wholeheartedly in proclaiming it, Jesus upheld Jehovah’s rightful sovereignty.
A Witness Faithful Even to Death
No one could love Jehovah and His sovereignty more than Jesus does. As “the firstborn of all creation,” Jesus ‘fully knew’ the Father from his intimate association with him as a spirit creature in the heavens. (Col. 1:15; Matt. 11:27) He had willingly subjected himself to God’s sovereignty during countless ages of time prior to the creation of the first man and woman. (Compare John 8:29, 58.) How deeply hurt he must have felt when Adam and Eve turned their backs on God’s sovereignty! Yet, he patiently waited in the heavens for some 4,000 years, and then, at last, the time arrived for him to serve as Jehovah’s greatest witness ever on earth!
Jesus was fully aware that the universal issues directly involved him. It might have appeared that Jehovah had put a hedge about him. (Compare Job 1:9-11.) True, he had demonstrated his faithfulness and devotion in the heavens, but would he maintain integrity as a human on earth under any type of test? Could he resist Satan in a setting in which his enemy apparently had the upper hand?
The serpentlike Adversary wasted no time. Shortly after Jesus’ baptism and anointing, Satan tempted him to display selfishness, to elevate himself, and, finally, to reject his Father’s sovereignty. But Jesus’ unequivocal statement to Satan, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service,” showed where he stood on the issues. How unlike Adam!—Matt. 4:1-10.
The course appointed for Jesus meant suffering and death, and Jesus well knew this. (Luke 12:50; Heb. 5:7-9) Nevertheless, “when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Phil. 2:7, 8) Jesus thereby proved Satan a monstrous liar, completely settling the question, Will anyone maintain integrity to God’s sovereignty if Satan is allowed to put him to the test? But Jesus’ death accomplished much more.
By his death on the torture stake, Jesus also gave “his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45) His perfect human life had sacrificial value. Jesus’ sacrificing his life not only makes it possible for us to receive forgiveness of sins but also opens to us the opportunity for eternal life on a paradise earth, in harmony with God’s original purpose.—Luke 23:43; Acts 13:38, 39; Heb. 9:13, 14; Rev. 21:3, 4.
Jehovah proved his love for and approval of Jesus as “the Faithful Witness” by raising him from the dead on the third day. This confirmed that the witness Jesus had given pertaining to the Kingdom was true. (Acts 2:31-36; 4:10; 10:36-43; 17:31) After remaining in the vicinity of the earth for 40 days, during which time he appeared to his apostles on numerous occasions, Jesus ascended to heaven.—Acts 1:1-3, 9.
Jesus had indicated that the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom of God would be in the far distant future. (Luke 19:11-27) That event would also mark the start of Jesus’ “presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) But how could his followers on earth discern when these things would occur? Jesus gave them a “sign”—a composite sign made up of many evidences, including wars, earthquakes, food shortages, pestilences, and an increasing of lawlessness. A significant part of that sign would also be that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached throughout the inhabited earth as a witness to all nations. All the features of that remarkable sign can be observed in our day, indicating that we are living in the time of Jesus’ presence as heavenly King and of the conclusion of the system of things.*—Matt. 24:3-14.
What, though, about Jesus’ followers? During this time of Jesus’ presence, individuals adhering to many different churches claim to follow Christ. (Matt. 7:22) Yet, the Bible says there is but “one faith.” (Eph. 4:5) So how can you identify the true Christian congregation, the one that has God’s approval and direction? You can do so by examining what the Scriptures say about the first-century Christian congregation and then seeing who today follow that same pattern.
See chapter 10, “A Bible Prophecy You Have Seen Fulfilled,” in the book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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‘Born to bear witness to the truth’
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Jesus made the Kingdom of God the theme of his preaching
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Jesus Christ was the greatest witness of Jehovah ever on earth
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