1-3. (a) In what manner did Jesus leave his apostles, and why was that not a forlorn farewell? (b) Why do we need to learn about the life Jesus has led since returning to heaven?
ELEVEN men stand together on a mountain. With great love and admiration, they look upon a 12th figure. He is human in form, but in fact he is the resurrected Jesus, once again the mightiest of Jehovah’s spirit sons. Jesus has gathered his apostles to meet with him here on the Mount of Olives for one last time.
2 This mount, part of a chain of limestone hills across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, surely brings a wealth of memories to Jesus’ mind. On these slopes lies the town of Bethany, where Jesus resurrected Lazarus. Just weeks ago, Jesus set out on his triumphal ride into Jerusalem from nearby Bethphage. The Mount of Olives is also the probable site of the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent the agonizing hours before his arrest. Now on this same hill, Jesus prepares to leave his closest friends and followers behind. He utters kind parting words. Then he begins to rise from the earth! The apostles stand there rooted to the spot, gazing after their beloved Master as he ascends into the sky. Finally, a cloud obscures him from their view, and they see him no more.—Acts 1:6-12.
3 Does that scene strike you as a bittersweet ending, a forlorn farewell? It is not. In fact, as two angels now remind the apostles, Jesus’ story is far from over. (Acts 1:10, 11) In many ways, his departure toward heaven is just a beginning. God’s Word does not leave us in the dark about what next happened to Jesus. Learning about the life Jesus has led since leaving the earth is important. Why? Remember the words Jesus spoke to Peter: “Continue following me.” (John 21:19, 22) We all need to obey that command, not merely as a momentary choice but as a way of life. In order to do so, we need to understand what our Master is doing now and the assignments he has received in heaven.
The Life Jesus Has Led Since Leaving the Earth
4. How did the Bible reveal in advance what would happen in heaven after Jesus’ return there?
4 Regarding Jesus’ arrival in heaven, his welcome, and his joyous reunion with his Father, the Scriptures are silent. However, the Bible did reveal in advance what would happen in heaven soon after Jesus’ return there. You see, for over 15 centuries, the Jewish people had regularly witnessed a holy ceremony. One day each year, the high priest entered the Most Holy of the temple to sprinkle the blood of the Atonement Day sacrifices before the ark of the covenant. On that day, the high priest pictured the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled the prophetic meaning of that ceremony once for all time after he returned to heaven. He came into Jehovah’s majestic presence in heaven—the holiest place in the universe—and presented to his Father the value of his ransom sacrifice. (Hebrews 9:11, 12, 24) Did Jehovah accept it?
5, 6. (a) What evidence showed that Jehovah had accepted Christ’s ransom sacrifice? (b) Who benefit from the ransom, and how?
5 We find the answer by considering what happened a few days after Jesus’ ascension. A small band of about 120 Christians were meeting in Jerusalem in an upstairs room when suddenly a noise like a stiff rushing breeze filled the place. Tongues as if of fire appeared above their heads, they were filled with holy spirit, and they began speaking in various tongues. (Acts 2:1-4) This event signified the birth of a new nation, spiritual Israel, which was God’s new “chosen race” and “royal priesthood” for carrying out the divine will on earth. (1 Peter 2:9) Clearly, Jehovah God had accepted and approved Christ’s ransom sacrifice. This outpouring of holy spirit was among the first blessings made possible by the ransom.
6 Ever since then, Christ’s ransom has benefited his followers the world over. Whether we are among the anointed “little flock,” who will rule with Christ in heaven, or are among the “other sheep,” who will live under his rule on earth, we benefit from his sacrifice. (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) It is the basis for our hope and for forgiveness of our sins. As long as we continue “exercising faith” in that ransom, following Jesus day by day, we can enjoy a clean conscience and a bright hope for the future.—John 3:16.
7. Jesus was granted what authority after returning to heaven, and how may you support him?
7 What has Jesus been doing in heaven since his return there? He has tremendous authority. (Matthew 28:18) Indeed, Jehovah appointed him to rule over the Christian congregation, an assignment that he has carried out in a loving and just way. (Colossians 1:13) As foretold, Jesus has provided responsible men to care for the needs of his flock. (Ephesians 4:8) For example, he chose Paul to be “an apostle to the nations,” sending him to spread the good news far and wide. (Romans 11:13; 1 Timothy 2:7) Near the end of the first century, Jesus directed messages of commendation, counsel, and correction to seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia. (Revelation, chapters 2-3) Do you recognize Jesus as Head of the Christian congregation? (Ephesians 5:23) In order to continue following him, you will want to promote an obedient, cooperative spirit in your local congregation.
8, 9. What authority was Jesus granted in 1914, and what should that mean for us in the decisions we make?
8 Jesus was granted still more authority in 1914. In that year he was appointed as King of Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom. When Jesus’ rule began, “war broke out in heaven.” The result? Satan and his demons were hurled to the earth, triggering an era of woe. The rampant wars, crime, terror, disease, earthquakes, and famines that have afflicted modern man remind us that Jesus is ruling in heaven right now. Satan is still “the ruler of this world” for “a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:7-12; John 12:31; Matthew 24:3-7; Luke 21:11) However, Jesus is giving people worldwide the opportunity to accept His rulership.
9 It is vital that we take our stand on the side of the Messianic King. In all our daily decisions, we must seek his approval, not that of this corrupt world. As this “King of kings and Lord of lords” surveys mankind, his righteous heart blazes with anger and overflows with joy. (Revelation 19:16) Why?
The Anger and the Joy of the Messianic King
10. What is Jesus’ natural disposition, yet what fills our Master with righteous anger?
10 Like his Father, our Master is by nature happy. (1 Timothy 1:11) As a man, Jesus was neither critical nor hard to please. Yet, there is much happening on the earth today that must fill him with righteous anger. He is certainly angry at all those religious organizations that falsely claim to represent him. He foretold as much: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not . . . perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”—Matthew 7:21-23.
11-13. Why might some be puzzled by the strong words Jesus directed toward those performing “many powerful works” in his name, yet why is he angry? Illustrate.
11 Many today who call themselves Christians might find those words puzzling. Why would Jesus direct such strong words to people who have been performing “many powerful works” in his name? The churches of Christendom have sponsored charities, aided the poor, built hospitals and schools, and performed many other works. To see why they have earned Jesus’ anger, consider an illustration.
12 A father and mother need to go on a trip. They cannot take their children along, so they hire a babysitter. Their instructions to her are simple: “Take care of our children. Feed them, make sure they are clean, and keep them from harm.” When the parents return, though, they are shocked to see that their children are famished. They are dirty, sickly, and miserable. They are crying for the babysitter’s attention, but their cries go unheeded. Why? She is up on a ladder, washing the windows. Furious, the parents demand an explanation. The sitter replies: “Look at all that I did! Aren’t the windows clean? I made repairs to the house too, all for you!” Would the parents feel better? Hardly! They never asked her to do those jobs; they just wanted their children cared for. Her refusal to heed their instructions would infuriate them.
13 Christendom has acted like that babysitter. Jesus left instructions with his representatives to feed people spiritually by teaching them the truth of God’s Word and helping them to be spiritually clean. (John 21:15-17) Yet, Christendom has dismally failed to obey his direction. She has left people spiritually starved, confused by falsehoods and ignorant of basic Bible truths. (Isaiah 65:13; Amos 8:11) Even her attempts to better this world can hardly excuse her willful disobedience. After all, this world system is like a house that is slated for demolition! God’s Word makes it clear that Satan’s world system is soon to be destroyed.—1 John 2:15-17.
14. What work is making Jesus happy today, and why?
14 On the other hand, Jesus must be very happy to look down from heaven and see that millions of people are fulfilling the disciple-making commission that he gave his followers before leaving the earth. (Matthew 28:19, 20) What a privilege it is to contribute to the joy of the Messianic King! Let us be determined never to give up in assisting “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) Unlike Christendom’s clergy, this small group of anointed brothers has obediently directed the preaching work and has faithfully fed Christ’s sheep.
15, 16. (a) How does Jesus feel about the lovelessness so prevalent today, and how do we know that? (b) How has Christendom earned Jesus’ anger?
15 We can be sure that the King is angry when he sees the lovelessness that prevails on the earth today. We might recall how the Pharisees criticized Jesus for performing cures on the Sabbath. They were so hard-hearted, so set in their ways, that they could not see past their own narrow interpretation of the Mosaic Law and the oral law. Jesus’ miracles did good beyond measure! But the joy, the relief, the strengthening of faith that such miracles brought about meant nothing to those men. How did Jesus feel about them? He once looked “around upon them with indignation, being thoroughly grieved at the insensibility of their hearts.”—Mark 3:5.
16 Today, Jesus sees far more to make him feel “thoroughly grieved.” The leaders of Christendom are blinded by their devotion to traditions and doctrines that are at odds with the Scriptures. Further, they are enraged by the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom. In many parts of the world, the clergy have fomented vicious persecution against those Christians who sincerely try to preach the message that Jesus preached. (John 16:2; Revelation 18:4, 24) At the same time, such clergymen often exhort their own followers to go to war and take the lives of others—as if doing so would please Jesus Christ!
17. How do Jesus’ genuine followers make his heart rejoice?
17 In contrast, Jesus’ genuine followers endeavor to show love to their fellow man. They share the good news with “all sorts of men,” just as Jesus did, despite opposition. (1 Timothy 2:4) And the love they show to one another is outstanding; it is their chief identifying mark. (John 13:34, 35) As they treat their fellow Christians with love, respect, and dignity, they are truly following Jesus—and making the heart of the Messianic King rejoice!
18. What distresses our Master, yet how may we please him?
18 Let us also keep in mind that our Master is distressed when his followers fail to endure, letting their love for Jehovah cool off and giving up as His servants. (Revelation 2:4, 5) However, Jesus is pleased with those who endure to the end. (Matthew 24:13) By all means, then, let us keep ever in mind Christ’s command: “Continue following me.” (John 21:19) Let us consider some of the blessings that the Messianic King will bestow on those who endure to the end.
Blessings Flow to Faithful Servants of the King
19, 20. (a) Following Jesus leads to what blessings right now? (b) How can following Christ help us to fill our need for a father?
19 Following Jesus is the way to a truly blessed life right now. If we accept Christ as our Master, following his direction and using his example as our guide, we will find treasures that people the world over seek in vain. We will be blessed with work that fills our life with purpose and meaning, a family of fellow believers united in a genuine bond of love, a clean conscience, and peace of mind. In short, we will find a life that is rich and satisfying. And we will find still more.
20 In Jesus, Jehovah has provided an “Eternal Father” for those who hope to live forever on earth. Jesus is a replacement for the human father, Adam, who failed all his offspring so miserably. (Isaiah 9:6, 7) By accepting Jesus as our “Eternal Father,” exercising faith in him, we have a sure hope of everlasting life. Further, we thereby get ever closer to Jehovah God. As we have learned, striving to follow Jesus’ example day by day is the best possible way to obey this divine command: “Become imitators of God, as beloved children.”—Ephesians 5:1.
21. How do followers of Christ reflect light in a dark world?
21 As we imitate Jesus and his Father, Jehovah, we have a wonderful privilege. We reflect a brilliant light. In a world shrouded in darkness, where billions are misled by Satan and imitate his traits, we who follow Christ spread abroad reflections of the brightest light—the light of Scriptural truths, the light of fine Christian qualities, the light of genuine joy, true peace, real love. At the same time, we draw closer to Jehovah, and that is the ultimate goal, the highest possible aim, of any intelligent creature.
22, 23. (a) What future blessings will come to those who loyally continue to follow Jesus? (b) What should be our determination?
22 Think, too, of what Jehovah wants to do for you in the future by means of his Messianic King. Soon that King will wage righteous warfare against Satan’s wicked system of things. Jesus’ victory is sure! (Revelation 19:11-15) Afterward, Christ will begin his Thousand Year Reign over the earth. His heavenly government will dispense the benefits of the ransom to every faithful human, raising such ones to perfection. Imagine yourself vibrant in health, ever young and strong, happily working with a united human family to turn this earth into a paradise! At the end of that Millennium, Jesus will hand the rulership back to his Father. (1 Corinthians 15:24) If you continue loyally following Christ, you will be granted a blessing so wonderful that it is hard even to imagine—“the glorious freedom of the children of God”! (Romans 8:21) Yes, we will have all the blessings that Adam and Eve had and lost. Earthly sons and daughters of Jehovah, we will be forever free of the stain of Adam’s sin. Truly, “death will be no more.”—Revelation 21:4.
23 Recall that wealthy young ruler we discussed in Chapter 1. He turned down Jesus’ invitation: “Come be my follower.” (Mark 10:17-22) Never make that mistake! May you take hold of Jesus’ invitation with joy and enthusiasm. May you be determined to endure, to continue following the Fine Shepherd day by day, year by year, and live to see him bring all of Jehovah’s purposes to glorious fulfillment at last!