1, 2. What words did Jehovah himself speak in the hearing of three of Jesus’ apostles, and how did they respond?
IF Jehovah God himself directed you to do something, how would you respond? No matter what he asked, would you not be eager to heed his direction? Surely you would!
2 Sometime after the Passover of 32 C.E., three of Jesus’ apostles—Peter, James, and John—had just such an experience. (Read Matthew 17:1-5.) Gathered with their Master on “a lofty mountain,” they saw in vision a preview of Jesus as a glorious heavenly King. The vision seemed so real that Peter tried to take part in it. While Peter was speaking, a cloud formed over them. Then Peter and his associates plainly heard what only a handful of humans have ever been privileged to hear—Jehovah’s own voice. After affirming that Jesus was his Son, Jehovah said pointedly: “Listen to him.” The apostles heeded that divine direction. They listened to what Jesus taught, and they urged others to do the same.—Acts 3:19-23; 4:18-20.
3. Why does Jehovah want us to listen to his Son, and what subject do we thus do well to examine?
3 Those words—“Listen to him”—were recorded in the Bible for our benefit. (Rom. 15:4) Why? Because Jesus is Jehovah’s spokesman and every time Jesus opened his mouth to teach, he shared what his Father wanted us to know. (John 1:1, 14) Since Jesus spoke more about God’s Kingdom, the heavenly Messianic government made up of Christ Jesus and his 144,000 corulers, than he did about any other subject, we do well to examine this vital subject carefully. (Rev. 5:9, 10; 14:1-3; 20:6) First, though, let us examine why Jesus said so much about God’s Kingdom.
“Out of the Abundance of the Heart . . .”
4. How did Jesus indicate that the Kingdom is close to his heart?
4 The Kingdom is close to Jesus’ heart. Why can we say that? Because words are a window into the heart—that is, our words reveal what is truly important to us. Jesus himself said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) At every opportunity, Jesus opened his mouth to speak about the Kingdom. There are over 100 references to the Kingdom in the four Gospels, most of them in statements made by Jesus. He made the Kingdom the theme of his preaching, saying: “I must also declare the good news of the Kingdom of God to other cities, because for this I was sent.” (Luke 4:43) Even after his resurrection, Jesus continued to speak about the Kingdom to his disciples. (Acts 1:3) Surely Jesus’ heart overflowed with appreciation for the Kingdom, impelling him to speak about it.
5-7. (a) How do we know that the Kingdom is close to Jehovah’s heart? Illustrate. (b) How can we show that the Kingdom is close to our heart?
5 The Kingdom is close to Jehovah’s heart as well. How do we know that? Remember, Jehovah sent his only-begotten Son into the world; Jehovah is the source of everything that his Son said and taught. (John 7:16; 12:49, 50) Jehovah is also the source of everything that is recorded in the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Consider for a moment what that means.
Each of us does well to ask, ‘Is God’s Kingdom close to my heart?’
6 Imagine that you are putting together a family photo album. You have many photographs to choose from, but the album can hold only so many. What do you do? You choose which ones to include. In a sense, the Gospels are like a photo album that gives us a clear picture of Jesus. Jehovah did not inspire the Gospel writers to record everything that Jesus said and did while on earth. (John 20:30; 21:25) Instead, Jehovah’s spirit guided them in recording the words and deeds that help us to understand the purpose of Jesus’ ministry and what is most important to Jehovah. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:21) Since the Gospels are filled with Jesus’ teachings about God’s Kingdom, we may safely conclude that the Kingdom is close to Jehovah’s heart. Just think—Jehovah wants us to know what his Kingdom is all about!
7 Each of us does well to ask, ‘Is God’s Kingdom close to my heart?’ If it is, we will be eager to listen to what Jesus said and taught about that Kingdom—its importance and how and when it will come.
“Let Your Kingdom Come”—How?
8. How did Jesus sum up the importance of the Kingdom?
8 Consider the model prayer. With eloquent simplicity, Jesus summed up the importance of the Kingdom, showing what it will accomplish. That prayer consists of seven petitions. The first three concern Jehovah’s purposes—the sanctification of his name, the coming of his Kingdom, and the carrying out of his will on earth as in heaven. (Read Matthew 6:9, 10.) Those three petitions are closely related. The Messianic Kingdom is the instrument through which Jehovah will sanctify his name and carry out his will.
9, 10. (a) How will God’s Kingdom come? (b) What Bible promise do you long to see fulfilled?
9 How will God’s Kingdom come? When we pray, “Let your Kingdom come,” we are asking that the Kingdom take decisive action. When the Kingdom comes, it will exert its full power toward the earth. It will remove the present wicked system of things, including all man-made governments, and bring in a righteous new world. (Dan. 2:44; 2 Pet. 3:13) Then, under Kingdom rule, the entire earth will become a paradise. (Luke 23:43) Those in God’s memory will be brought back to life and reunited with their loved ones. (John 5:28, 29) Obedient humans will reach perfection and enjoy endless life. (Rev. 21:3-5) At last, earth will be in perfect harmony with heaven, reflecting the will of Jehovah God! Do you not long to see those Bible promises come true? Remember that every time you pray for God’s Kingdom to come, you are praying for those precious promises to be fulfilled.
10 It is clear that God’s Kingdom has not yet “come” to fulfill the model prayer. After all, man-made governments are still ruling and the righteous new world is not yet here. But there is good news. God’s Kingdom has been established, as we will discuss in the next chapter. Let us now examine what Jesus said as to when the Kingdom would be established and when it would come.
When Would God’s Kingdom Be Established?
11. What did Jesus indicate about the establishment of God’s Kingdom?
11 Jesus indicated that the Kingdom would not be established in the first century C.E., despite the expectations of some of his disciples. (Acts 1:6) Consider what he said in two different parables given less than two years apart.
12. How does the parable of the wheat and the weeds indicate that the Kingdom was not established in the first century C.E.?
12 The parable of the wheat and the weeds. (Read Matthew 13:24-30.) After relating this parable, perhaps in the spring of 31 C.E., Jesus explained it to his disciples. (Matt. 13:36-43) Here is the gist of the parable and its meaning: Following the death of the apostles, the Devil would sow weeds (imitation Christians) in among wheat (“sons of the Kingdom,” or anointed Christians). Both the wheat and the weeds would be allowed to grow together during a growing season that would continue until the harvest, which is “a conclusion of a system of things.” After the beginning of the harvest season, the weeds would be collected. Then, the wheat would be gathered. The parable thus indicates that the Kingdom would be established, not in the first century C.E., but only after the growing season ended. As matters worked out, the growing season ended and the harvest season began in 1914.
13. How did Jesus illustrate that he would not be installed as Messianic King immediately after his return to heaven?
13 The parable of the minas. (Read Luke 19:11-13.) Jesus gave this parable in 33 C.E. on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. Some of his listeners thought that he would set up his Kingdom as soon as they arrived in Jerusalem. To correct that notion and to show that the establishment of the Kingdom was yet a long way off, Jesus compared himself to “a man of noble birth” who had to travel “to a distant land to secure kingly power.”* In Jesus’ case, the “distant land” was heaven, where he would receive power as King from his Father. But Jesus knew that he would not be installed as Messianic King immediately after his return to heaven. Instead, he would sit at God’s right hand and wait until the appointed time. As it turned out, that wait lasted for many centuries.—Ps. 110:1, 2; Matt. 22:43, 44; Heb. 10:12, 13.
When Will God’s Kingdom Come?
14. (a) How did Jesus answer the question that four of his apostles asked him? (b) What does the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy tell us about his presence and the Kingdom?
14 A few days before Jesus was put to death, four of his apostles asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:4) Jesus answered by relating the extensive prophecy that is recorded in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Jesus detailed various global events that would serve as a sign identifying a time period called his “presence.” The start of his presence would coincide with the establishment of the Kingdom; and the culmination of his presence, with the coming of the Kingdom. We have ample proof that Jesus’ prophecy has been undergoing fulfillment since 1914.* Hence, that year marked the start of his presence and the establishment of the Kingdom.
15, 16. To whom do the words “this generation” refer?
15 When, though, will God’s Kingdom finally come? Jesus did not reveal exactly when that would happen. (Matt. 24:36) But he did say something that should assure us that it is very near indeed. Jesus indicated that the Kingdom would come after “this generation” witnessed the fulfillment of the prophetic sign. (Read Matthew 24:32-34.) To whom does the expression “this generation” refer? Let us take a closer look at Jesus’ words.
16 “This generation.” Did Jesus have in mind unbelievers? No. Consider his audience. Jesus related this prophecy to a few apostles who had “approached him privately.” (Matt. 24:3) The apostles would soon be anointed with holy spirit. Note also the context. Before he spoke about “this generation,” Jesus said: “Now learn this illustration from the fig tree: Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near. Likewise also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors.” Jesus’ anointed followers—not unbelievers—would see the things he foretold and would discern their significance, namely, that Jesus “is near at the doors.” Therefore, when Jesus spoke of “this generation,” he had in mind his anointed followers.
17. What is the meaning of the expressions “generation” and “all these things”?
17 “Will by no means pass away until all these things happen.” How will those words prove true? To answer that, we need to know two things: the meaning both of “generation” and of “all these things.” The term “generation” often refers to people of varying ages whose lives overlap during a particular period of time. A generation is not overly long, and it comes to an end. (Ex. 1:6) The expression “all these things” includes all the foretold events during Jesus’ presence, from its beginning in 1914 until its culmination at the “great tribulation.”—Matt. 24:21.
18, 19. How may we understand Jesus’ words about “this generation,” and what may we conclude?
18 How, then, may we understand Jesus’ words about “this generation”? The generation consists of two overlapping groups of anointed ones—the first is made up of anointed ones who saw the beginning of the fulfillment of the sign in 1914 and the second, anointed ones who for a time were contemporaries of the first group. At least some of those in the second group will live to see the beginning of the coming tribulation. The two groups form one generation because their lives as anointed Christians overlapped for a time.*
19 What may we conclude? Well, we know that the sign of Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power is clearly evident around the globe. We also see that the anointed ones who are still alive and part of “this generation” are getting on in years; yet, they will not all die off before the great tribulation begins. Therefore, we can conclude that very soon indeed God’s Kingdom will come and exercise its rule over the earth! How thrilling it will be to witness the fulfillment of the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Let your Kingdom come”!
20. What vital field of study will be discussed in this publication, and what will be examined in the next chapter?
20 Let us never forget the words that Jehovah himself spoke from heaven regarding his Son: “Listen to him.” As true Christians, we are eager to heed that divine direction. We are keenly interested in everything that Jesus said and taught about God’s Kingdom. What that Kingdom has already accomplished and will do in the future is the vital field of study that will be discussed in this publication. The next chapter will examine the exciting developments that surrounded the birth of God’s Kingdom in heaven.
Jesus’ parable may well have reminded his listeners of Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great. Before Herod died, he designated Archelaus as heir to rulership over Judea and other areas. However, before he could begin ruling, Archelaus first had to make the long journey to Rome in order to secure the approval of Augustus Caesar.
For more information, see chapter 9 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?
Anyone who was anointed after the death of the last of the anointed ones in the first group—that is, after those who witnessed the “beginning of pangs of distress” in 1914—would not be part of “this generation.”—Matt. 24:8.