Steps Toward Life
EVERY sane person desires to live. Life everlasting in a state of perfect peace and happiness, what more could one desire? The time has come for sincere persons to live forever on the earth if such will comply with God’s requirements. From and after Armageddon the kingdom of God will exercise full control over the affairs of earth. Concerning the result to obedient human creatures it is written: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Rev. 21:4.
The human race has been afflicted with sickness, sorrow and death for such a great period of time that many find it difficult to believe that conditions will ever change. Let each one satisfy himself on this point by giving diligence to learn the truth. God’s arrangement is that there is a time for everything; and now is the time for people of goodwill to learn the way to life everlasting.—Ps. 16:11.
In the Bible are the indisputable facts that prove that death is the result of sin, which comes upon all men by inheritance; that to Jehovah God belongs salvation; that the greatest crisis of all time is at hand, when the wicked will be destroyed at Armageddon and when those who seek righteousness and meekness may be spared in that great disaster; that salvation from death, and life forever in happiness, are open to the obedient ones; and that therefore a great emergency now confronts those who shall form the “great multitude”. In order to gain life everlasting one must conform himself to God’s requirements. What are some of these needs, as revealed by the Scriptures?
All who would receive the gracious gift of life must please God. Faith is the first requirement. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6) That means that the ones who desire to live must believe first that God is the Almighty, whose name is Jehovah, that he is the Supreme One, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Their desire is to be in harmony with the Almighty God.
His provision for life is by and through Christ Jesus. Therefore Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Jesus buys every one of the human race that asks to be bought; and, being bought, that is to say, receiving the benefit of the ransom price he paid for men, the bought ones become the bond servants of the Lord, and therefore Jesus says: “If any man serve me, let him follow me.” (John 12:26) The first requirement, therefore, is to believe in God, the Almighty, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as man’s Redeemer or purchaser, and then to follow Jesus. The man proves his belief by the course of action he takes.
The next step to be taken is to do the will of Almighty God, because that is what Jesus always does; as it is written: “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first [old covenant arrangement], that he may establish the second [new covenant arrangement].” (Heb. 10:9) “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8) Imperfect man is selfish and desires to do his own will; but having believed on God and Christ Jesus, that man then must voluntarily surrender his own selfish will, agreeing to do whatsoever is God’s will concerning him. That means consecration of the man by agreeing to serve Jehovah God through Christ Jesus; and such consecration must be unconditional, that is to say, the person must gladly forego the doing of his own selfish will and way and diligently seek to know and to do what is the will of Jehovah God.
What, then, is the will of God concerning the Lord’s “other sheep” that are now being gathered unto life? They must assemble to the Lord God, separating themselves from and abandoning the systems of this present evil world of Satan. (Zeph. 2:1) As shown by the typical city of refuge, such persons must flee to Christ, the head of God’s organization, and there find refuge until the crisis of Armageddon is passed. Those persons must recognize Christ Jesus as the “bread of life”; and as the famine-stricken people of Egypt asked Joseph to buy them so that they might not die, so now the persons of good-will must ask Christ Jesus, the Greater Joseph, to buy them and feed them upon the “bread of life” that they may not die. They must see that God’s kingdom under Christ is the only place of protection and salvation. The religious institutions of Christendom are snares into which Satan draws men and entraps them; and the one who would live must avoid such snares and give himself entirely into the possession of Christ Jesus.
The person who believes that Jehovah God is supreme and that Christ Jesus is God’s Executive Officer, great High Priest and King, and Redeemer of man, is therefore anxious to know and do the will of God. Belief does not mean merely a mental conception of the fact that God is supreme and that Christ Jesus is the Redeemer, but it means to acknowledge the same and to act accordingly: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”—Rom. 10:9-11.
Fleeing from Satan’s organization and seeking refuge under Christ’s organization means that such a one acknowledges the Lord Jesus Christ and asks Christ to take him in. He is not ashamed to confess before others his full confidence in God and Christ Jesus; and so he makes it known to others that he has taken his stand on the side of God and Christ and has voluntarily agreed to do the will of God. The heart is the seat of motive; and, therefore, when a person believes on the Lord, he is moved to make known to others that he has fled to Christ Jesus and has taken his stand on the side of the Lord and wishes to acknowledge that he has agreed to do the will of God. He seeks protection at the hand of Christ Jesus and calls upon the Lord God for protection and salvation: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13) Being received by the Lord and under his protection, such person is in line to be saved from the devastation of Armageddon. He consecrates his life to God.
SANCTIFICATION AND BAPTISM
Another necessary step to take is that of sanctification. In the Scriptures the words “sanctification”, “sanctify,” “sanctified,” and the word “holy” are all from the same Greek root word. God said to the Israelites, whom he had chosen for his typical people and with whom he made a covenant: “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Lev. 11:44) The inspired apostle quotes these words: “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:14, 16) God is holy, since he is devoted exclusively to righteousness, hence wholly, entirely and fully righteous, or “holy”. To those who have taken the side of God the admonition is given: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [course of action].”—1 Pet. 1:15.
“Sanctified,” applied according to the Scriptures, means to be completely devoted to God and his kingdom, therefore holy, as the Lord God and Christ Jesus are holy. The Lord is wholly and completely devoted to righteousness; as it is written: “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.” (Ps. 119:137, 142) Christ Jesus is like his Father; that is, entirely righteous. Of him it is written: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” (Ps. 45:7) Like Jehovah God, Christ is also holy: “Who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”—Heb. 7:26.
Every creature that pleases God and receives God’s approval must be holy, that is to say, unreservedly devoted to God and to his kingdom, which is righteous. Therefore every one of such must be sanctified. That does not mean that the person is perfect in the flesh, but it does mean his heart devotion is unreservedly for the Lord God. Those who take their stand on the side of God, his King and his kingdom, must thenceforth be completely devoted to God and his kingdom and must avoid compromising with the world, which is the Devil’s organization.
“Sanctification” is the act of sanctifying. The man who has agreed to do the will of God and has taken his stand by declaring himself for God and his kingdom must then act to the sanctifying of himself, which means that he sets himself to the task of fully performing his agreement to do the will of God. It will not do to merely agree; he must perform his agreement. It is the faithful keeping of the agreement that God approves. To be sanctified, therefore, means that the man who has agreed to do God’s will sets himself faithfully to the task of performing his agreement, and hence sets himself aside and devotes himself wholly to that which is right and righteous. The man who takes the step of setting himself to the task of doing God’s will is set to work by the Lord to do God’s will and thus to maintain his integrity toward God.
How is man sanctified? Jesus answers in these words, addressed to Jehovah: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) It is therefore impossible for any kind of ritualistic religious ceremony to sanctify one to God. The clergy of the orthodox religious organizations can do nothing to sanctify a man to God. Sanctification is solely between the individual, who has agreed to do the will of God, and the Lord God, who sets the man to work to prove his agreement. The man must learn what is the will of God toward him: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.’—1 Thess. 4:3.
In this text the word “fornication” has much more than a literal meaning, embracing not only illicit sex relations between individuals but also improper relationship between a Christian and this world. The one who has agreed to do God’s will is precluded from mixing up with or compromising with the world, or the Devil’s organization; and to do so means an illicit relationship described as fornication or adultery. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) The consecrated and sanctified one must be entirely or wholly on the side of God and his kingdom and wholly or completely against the Devil and his organization.
And what about baptism? Is it another required step toward life? Yes, because baptism or immersion in water is a symbol outwardly testifying that the person thus immersed has surrendered his selfish will to do God’s will. To such God provides protection. Immersion in symbol says: ‘I have put myself entirely under the command of Almighty God, and by his grace I will do his will.’ It is to such that God furnishes his protection and guidance. Before entering upon his work Jesus presented himself to John to be baptized, and John objected, and Jesus in reply said: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matt. 3:15-17) Jesus was then baptized; and when he came up out of the water, God gave an outward demonstration of his acceptance of Jesus.
Those who went into the ark with Noah thereby showed that they had agreed to do God’s will as made known to them by Noah. They were baptized unto Noah and were thus saved from the flood. “When once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 3:20, 21.
When the Israelites left Egypt under the command of Moses, all of them agreed thereby to obey Moses as God’s representative; and Moses was a type of Christ. Under a miraculous cloud they followed Moses across the dry bed of the Red sea, made possible by God’s miracle. They were thus hidden or immersed in the cloud and in the sea. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” (1 Cor. 10:1, 2) When John the Baptist came as the representative of the Lord he commanded the Israelites to repent of their sins against the law covenant and to be baptized. (Matt. 3:1-11) Those who did repent and were baptized testified thereby that they had changed their course of action and that they would no longer be guided by their own selfishness and would gladly obey the will of God. Those who felt they had not violated the Law covenant but had been faithful to God felt they had no need to be baptized.
Baptism, therefore, symbolically and outwardly testifies to an agreement to do God’s will. In the picture concerning the cities of refuge (Num. 35:10-32) the “other sheep” of the Lord are shown as fleeing to the Lord’s organization, thereby agreeing to do his will. They are thus hidden or immersed under and unto the organization of the Lord. Those who followed Moses through the waters of the Red sea and under the canopy of the cloud overhead were thus “baptized unto Moses” in the sea and the cloud and were thus against the Egyptians, representing the Devil’s organization. Likewise those who followed Noah into the ark and remained there were hidden or immersed and thereby baptized unto Noah. Both Moses and Noah pictured Christ Jesus the great Prophet of Jehovah God. Therefore even the “other sheep” at this present time experience the baptism unto the Greater Noah, Christ Jesus. Coming under the protection of the Theocratic organization of Christ Jesus, they now find shelter, and if they continue there to seek righteousness and meekness, rendering themselves in obedience unto the Lord, they have the promise of deliverance from the wrath of God at Armageddon. That baptism “with fire” will be to the destruction of all Satan’s organization, but will be to the protection of all those who find refuge in or under Jehovah’s organization.
Hence experiencing and living up to the meanings of faith, consecration, sanctification and baptism are important steps along the way to life in Jehovah’s incoming new world of righteousness.