New Systems of Things
“God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things.”—Heb. 1:1, 2, NW.
1. By whom and to what end has Jehovah made systems of things?
JEHOVAH God is the Maker of righteous systems of things. They are all under his supreme control. He has arranged them in an order that leads from one set of good things to better or grander things, at last reaching a height of goodness that leaves us with nothing further to be desired. He is a God of order and knows whither he is proceeding with his arrangements. His goal is to rid the entire universe of all forces of wickedness and disturbance. He will do this by means of his promised government in the hands of his glorified Son, Jesus Christ, thus bringing all living creation, seen and unseen, into peaceful, obedient relationship with their Creator and God. By attaining this goal he will vindicate himself as Rightful Sovereign over all the universe. To this end he has made a series of systems of things to follow one another. His Son has a most important part in the vindication of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty, and he has used him in the making of the systems of things.
2. Of whom has this old world not proved worthy? How so?
2 This present worldly system of things under Satan its god is permitted only for a time. It does not have the divine approval. It has had the witnesses of Jehovah God among it since its beginning after the Flood, but it has never been able to amalgamate them with itself. They have been left in this world by God in order to deliver a witness concerning his purpose to establish a new world government. But the world has acted unworthily of their presence by disregarding their message and viciously persecuting them for it. By this we mean not just the pre-Christian prophets from Noah down to John the Baptist, whose exploits and sufferings are described in chapter eleven of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. We mean also the little flock of true Christians of whom only a remnant is on earth today; yes, and the “great crowd” of “other sheep” who have flocked to their side in order to serve as Jehovah’s witnesses with them. The persecution of all these modern witnesses of the Most High God since World War I was foretold by Jesus, who said it would be a clear sign of the consummation of this wicked system of Satan. Its persecution of them has become notorious, thus proving the world is not worthy of them. For this reason it will be destroyed.—Heb. 11:38; Matt. 24:9; Rev. 7:9, 10, NW; John 10:16.
3. What work was to evidence we had reached its consummation?
3 One of the evidences that we had reached its consummation and that its end was near was to be a separating work between its peoples, particularly those within Christendom, which claims to be the realm of Christianity. Jesus pictorially described the climax of the separating work and the fiery destruction of the fake Christians, and said: “The harvest is a consummation of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the consummation of the system of things. The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.” Likening the separation work to a separating of good and bad fish scooped up in a dragnet, Jesus further said: “That is how it will be in the consummation of the system of things: the angels will go out and separate the wicked from among the righteous and will cast them into the fiery furnace.” This separating work has been going on since A.D. 1919 as a result of the Kingdom testimony delivered by Jehovah’s witnesses in all nations of the earth. The fact now that the weeping and gnashing of the teeth of the rejected unworthy ones has begun proves we are near the climax of the dividing work and that the accomplished end is near upon this world.—Matt. 13:39-42, 47-50; 24:14, NW.
A CONSUMMATION OF CERTAIN ONES NINETEEN CENTURIES AGO
4. How do we know from Hebrews 9:26 that we Christians have long been living under a new system of things?
4 Some who are to inherit the kingdom of the coming new world are still living amid this old world and its setup of things. But, remember, they are no part of it and they do not fashion themselves after it. Not being of the old, they are of the new. And do you know that for nineteen centuries now they have been living under a new system of things which Jehovah God created by his Son Jesus Christ? Yes. You can know and understand this from the apostle Paul’s words at Hebrews 9:26. He there refers to Jesus’ sacrifice of his perfect human life nineteen centuries ago. After reminding us that Jesus was not a Levite priest who served at the temple in Jerusalem, he adds: “Otherwise, he would have to suffer often from the world’s foundation. But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the consummation of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself.” (NW) That consummation reached its end A.D. 70 with the destruction of old Jerusalem and its temple and the scattering of the Jewish nation for almost nineteen centuries. Although the old world has kept standing, there can be no question that certain systems there ended, to make way for new ones. Again the apostle speaks to prove this. He tells of the faithless acts of the Jews and the punishments that befell them for it in the wilderness after they were saved from Egypt. Then he remarks: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:11, NW) So we ask, What ends arrived on Christians back there?
5, 6. What was one of those ends that arrived on Jewish Christians?
5 They were the ends of the systems of things which God had set up among his chosen people for their benefit until Jesus Christ should come and be sacrificed, be raised from the dead and be glorified at God’s right hand in heaven. The angel Gabriel foretold to Daniel the exact year when Messiah the Prince should appear. He showed that three and a half years after Jesus was anointed with the spirit of God, or at the middle of a week of years, the Messiah would be cut off in sacrifice. This would make all the animal sacrifices and other oblations of the Jews at the temple out of date and of no further force and value. Gabriel said concerning Jesus the Messiah: “And he will make a strong covenant with the many for one week [of years]; and in the half of the week will he cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” (Dan. 9:27, Le; AT, Mo) That this meant the end of the Jewish system of sacrifices and oblations as set down in the law of Moses is certain. Testifying to such end the apostle says: “Christ is the accomplished end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.”
6 Again for the comfort of both Gentile people and Jewish people he says: “By means of his flesh he abolished the hatred, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union with himself into one new man and make peace, and that he might fully reconcile both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake.” Again: “God . . . kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us, and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.”—Rom. 10:4 and Eph. 2:15, 16 and Col. 2:13, 14, NW.
7, 8. What other systems of things ended there, as Paul stated?
7 So nineteen centuries ago the end arrived upon that system of Mosaic law and its animal sacrifices and oblations offered by priests of the tribe of Levi. How? By Jesus’ death on the torture stake, then his resurrection and his ascending to heaven to offer the value of his human sacrifice to God. More proof that such system had ended was given thirty-seven years later when the Jewish priests were forcibly deprived of their sacrificial work by the destruction of their typical temple, which has continued unrestored till this very day. Not only that, but the national system whereby the Jews had a human king reigning on the “throne of Jehovah” at Jerusalem came to a decisive end. Why so? Because the Jewish nation rejected Jesus the Son of David as their King and after he rose from the dead Jesus refused to restore the earthly kingdom to the nation of natural Israel. Instead, he sat down at God’s right hand in heaven, there to await the year 1914 for God to enthrone him to be the heavenly King of the righteous new world.—Heb. 10:12, 13.
8 Besides that, there had been a system of prophetic types and shadows dramatizing wonderful realities which were to come, and, after Jesus ascended to heaven, this system ended. Now the time had come for fulfillments in order to prove God’s Word true. (Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 10:1; 11:17-19) Also the system by which God spoke and delivered his message by means of Hebrew prophets from Abraham down to John the Baptist ended. At the end of those days God spoke to men by means of his heavenly Son Jesus Christ and by his Son’s followers whom God adopted as his spiritual sons. (Heb. 1:1, 2) In view of the fact that all such arrangements ceased then, the apostle Paul could rightly say nineteen hundred years ago that the accomplished ends of the systems of things had arrived upon him and his brethren.
9. How was the present dividing work foreshadowed and also typically mentioned by John the Baptist and Jesus?
9 A dividing work is today taking place world-wide at this consummation of Satan’s wicked system. To foreshadow this, there was a separating work carried on among the Jewish nation in Palestine until fiery destruction came upon their capital and its temple in the year 70. John the Baptist foretold it when he spoke of the coming of the Messiah and said: “That one will baptize you people with holy spirit and with fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will completely clean up his threshing-floor, and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with fire that cannot be put out.” (Matt. 3:11, 12, NW) The wheat gathered into the storehouse was the Jewish remnant that sided with Jesus as Messiah the Prince. They were baptized with the holy spirit from the day of Pentecost forward. The chaff that was burned up was the Jewish nation in general, which sided with Caesar against Jesus. They were baptized with the fire of God’s wrath particularly from 70 (A.D.) onward. Jesus himself referred to the dividing work among the Jews with which those old systems of things ended. He referred to the believing Jews that were to be harvested out from among the faithless nation, with himself as the Chief Reaper, and said: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving a reward and gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. In this respect, indeed, the saying is true, One is the sower and another the reaper. I dispatched you to reap what you have spent no labor on. Others have labored, and you have entered into the benefit of their labor.”—John 4:35-38, NW.
10. How will such work end? Why not catastrophically for us?
10 After that harvest, but particularly after the good news was turned to the uncircumcised Gentiles and they were given the opportunity to enter the heavenly kingdom, the Jewish nation withered away from being God’s favored people, like the fig tree which Jesus cursed. (Matt. 21:18, 19, 43; Luke 13:6-9; Acts 10:1-48) Today, after more than thirty years of similar harvest work, how well we see prefigured in that Jewish harvesting and threshing what is in progress in Christendom today! When we call to mind the horrible end that came upon the Jewish capital and its besieged inhabitants back there, we shudder at the more terrible end that is shortly to come upon hypocritical Christendom and its confusion of religions. However, this catastrophe spells no disaster to God’s true people, the genuine Christians. It will wipe out a great blot on God’s holy name and it will cleanse the earth for the pure worship of Jehovah God everywhere, resulting in peace and prosperity to mankind.
11. Why do we not call such period “the Jewish age”?
11 The period of time in which those old systems of things flourished we could not designate by any such name as “the Jewish age”. Why not? Because they began before there were any natural Jews. Also God is now dealing with those who are Jews inwardly, having their hearts circumcised. These are spiritual Israelites, who make up “the Israel of God”. (Rom. 2:28, 29) So we merely take note of such a period of time since the Flood during which those systems of things obtained, but do not name it. The time for such old things ended nineteen centuries ago. They are among the past systems of things and past generations from which the sacred secret of God was concealed concerning Christ and his followers, but which secret has now been made known to His holy ones.—Col. 1:26, 27, NW.
THE NEW LONG IN OPERATION ALREADY
12, 13. How did the uncovering of God’s secret improve things for us?
12 What a grand experience it is to live under God’s new system of things and to know it is only the forerunner of finer things to come! It transforms all our existence that we are obliged to live now in this fading old world. Now that Jehovah God has revealed his sacred secret, it has made things new for us. His secret was wrapped up in his Anointed One or Christ, whom he had foretold and foreshadowed during previous millenniums. In due time his beloved Son left the heavenly courts and was born as a man and the prophecies began fulfilling concerning him. Then the long-hidden sacred secret was uncovered to those who believed and received the spirit of God. By means of his Son Jehovah God did away with what was old that he might introduce what was new.
13 The apostle is plain on this improvement of matters for us, saying: “Hence when [Jesus] comes into the world he says: ‘“You did not desire sacrifice and offering, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt-offerings and sin offering.” Then I said, “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.’” After first saying, ‘You did not desire nor did you approve of sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt-offerings and sin offering’—sacrifices which are offered according to the Law—then he actually says, ‘Look! I am come to do your will.’ He does away with what is first that he may establish what is second. By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.” (Heb. 10:5-10, NW) Now, does that sound like making things new for us who seek life and happiness? For one thing, that replacement of the first set of sacrifices with the second kind of sacrifice which really sanctifies means a new high priest of God. It means a new relationship of worshipers with God.
14, 15. Why was a new covenant necessary? How did God’s promise of it affect the Law covenant?
14 How much more satisfying this is than the old! The Levite priesthood, who offered mere animal sacrifices and vegetable offerings, were put in office under the old Law covenant which God made with the natural Israelites through Moses. So those priests were part of the ancient system of things that existed under the Law covenant. The sacrifices they offered could never take away human sins and make men perfect, and so they were merely pictorial of the coming real sacrifice. If men were to get lasting good, a new and better system of things was certainly necessary, and God made it by his Son Jesus Christ. (Heb. 1:1, 2, NW) The old Law covenant prevented Jesus the Messiah from becoming a priest on earth and it only condemned men for sins instead of relieving them of such. So if there was to be a new high priest of God with a sacrifice removing sins, and if Messiah of the tribe of Judah was to be this High Priest, then there must be a new covenant. Christ Jesus was made High Priest by the sworn oath of Jehovah God, and then he was given to be the High Priest of the new covenant. What this means we read:
15 “For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second; for he does find fault with the people when he says: ‘“Look! the days are coming,” says Jehovah, “when I shall consummate a new covenant toward the house of Israel and toward the house of Judah; . . . For this is the covenant which I shall covenant with the house of Israel after those days,” says Jehovah: “I shall put my laws in their mind, and upon their hearts I shall write them, and I shall be a God to them and they will be a people to me. And they will by no means teach every man his fellow citizen and every man his brother, saying: ‘Know Jehovah,’ because they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I shall be merciful to their unrighteous deeds and I will by no means call their sins to mind any more.”’ In his saying ‘a new covenant’ he has made the former one obsolete. Now that which is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away.”—Heb. 8:7-13, NW.
16, 17. By Christ’s services what did God end and what inaugurate? So what did this mean as to systems of things?
16 By means of Christ’s service as a mediator greater than the prophet Moses and by his service as a self-sacrificing High Priest Jehovah God replaced the old Law covenant with the new covenant. When God nailed the old covenant to the torture stake upon which Jesus Christ was sacrificed, a system of things 1,545 years old passed away which once had to do with the natural Jews or Israelites. On the day of Pentecost A.D. 33 the resurrected and glorified Jesus in heaven inaugurated the new covenant toward his faithful followers on earth. There the Christian disciples were begotten by God’s outpoured spirit and became spiritual Israelites, or Jews inwardly.
17 Would not this mean, then, the introduction of new systems of things? This must be included in the meaning of the apostle’s words when he says: “If anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence. But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:17, 18, NW) Such a thing as this “new creation” in union with Christ the Head had never existed before, no, not in all God’s universe. So it could not be otherwise than that new systems of things should be introduced, and these in connection with the Christian “new creation”. Such new systems were introduced. Jehovah God so indicated when he described the benefits of the new covenant, saying that he would really remove sins by means of it from those spiritual Israelites taken into the covenant and that they would all be taught by Jehovah and all would know him, from the least of them to the greatest of them.—Jer. 31:31-34, AS.
18. So what do we see now by faith? How do we appreciate Revelation 13:8 more concerning the Lamb?
18 It was, indeed, the opening of a wonderful epoch, an epoch of new things about which inspired men of God had prophesied and of which the sacrifices, feasts and laws of the old covenant had cast shadows before them. The realities now brought in surpassed in wondrousness what ancient men of faith had envisaged; and now by faith and under the illumination of God’s spirit we behold them. Hence the apostle writes: “By faith we understand that the systems of things were put in order [prepared, adjusted] by God’s word, so that what is beheld came to be out of things that do not appear.” (Heb. 11:3, NW, margin) Now we can see that there is more meant than we formerly appreciated when Revelation 13:8 speaks of Jesus Christ as “the Lamb who was slaughtered from the world’s foundation”. (NW) The foundation of a new world was truly laid in the sacrifice he offered nineteen centuries ago. This fact is emphasized by the apostle Paul in showing that the sacrifice of the High Priest Jesus Christ needs no repeating, in these words: “Neither is it in order that he should offer himself often, . . . Otherwise, he would have to suffer often from the world’s foundation.” (Heb. 9:25, 26, NW) What world? we ask. Why, the new world of new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness is to dwell. In his sacrifice Jesus laid the foundation for creatures on earth to be rescued from sin and death in order to live in the new heavens and new earth of the righteous new world. It is from the laying of that world’s foundation onward that he does not have to keep on suffering often in order to make the new world sure and permanent, for his sacrifice was perfect and up to every requirement of justice.
19. In his sacrifice what other requirements did Jesus meet?
19 More than that! Jesus’ sacrifice met the crucial requirements for flatly answering the pre-eminent issue before all the universe, namely, Can Jehovah God maintain his sovereignty over all creation, and will God’s highest Son hold true to his Father’s universal sovereignty? Satan the slanderer said No, and by applying the full pressure of his entire world he tried to make Jesus say No! But the willing, loyal sacrifice of Jesus the Son of God answered Yes! By his obedience to a sacrificial death on a torture stake Jesus held true to Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and he held fast his integrity toward his God. After his baptism in the Jordan river he was anointed with God’s spirit to be the King of the new world, and by his integrity to God, who gave him the royal anointing, Jesus Christ proved his right to the Kingdom. He thus made sure that there would be a Kingdom to govern the new world righteously. By his sacrifice he ransomed men, not only those who would be given the high calling to rule with him in the kingdom of heaven but also those of mankind who would become his earthly subjects in the new world.
20. Why has the new world’s foundation stood solid all this time?
20 Thus in a twofold sense the foundation of the new world was laid in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice. That he might one day be King enthroned in the government and that he might act as High Priest in applying the benefits of his human sacrifice, Almighty God raised Jesus Christ from the dead as an immortal spirit Son and ushered him into his heavenly presence. As a result, the foundation of the new world has stood solid and immovable through all the storms and assaults of the past nineteen hundred years, and today we jubilantly hail the early incoming of the new world with Jesus Christ as Jehovah’s anointed King.
PRESENT ENJOYMENT OF THE NEW
21. For new systems have we had to wait till the new world? How so?
21 The coming new world is one of the new systems of things God makes by his Son. But after its foundation was laid, we did not have to wait until the actual establishment of the new world in order to enjoy new systems of things. Christians who have been brought into the new covenant from Pentecost of the year 33 forward have been enjoying the new arrangements and provisions. No literal temple at Jerusalem, no Levite priesthood, no animal sacrifices which need to be offered repeatedly year in and year out, no consciences burdened with guilt of sin for which the Law of Moses condemns men, no, none of all those things for us! We have come to the New Jerusalem, God’s capital of the universe. We have a new temple, of which Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone and all his spiritual followers are living stones, built upon him as the foundation. We have a new high priest, a new sacrifice of a superior kind which actually cleanses away sins by its blood, a new law inscribed not on stone tablets but on our hearts, a new mediator between God and men, a new covenant. Anything more? Yes, new knowledge, new works of God in fulfillment of his past prophecies, shadows and types, a new ministry, and a new relationship with God as his new nation of spiritual Israel and as his sons whose spirit cries out to him, “Abba, Father!” True Christians, living up to their privileges, have long enjoyed these things over the centuries. Today a faithful remnant of Christ’s joint heirs are enjoying them. All these new things operating together as new systems of things since Pentecost are preliminary and preparatory to God’s own new world. They are an absolute guarantee of the full coming of the new world.
22. Why do those under the new covenant not have this world’s spirit? Who is their mother, and by means of what?
22 Since Christ’s death, resurrection and ascent to heaven all these things have been true even in the midst of this old world. The new covenant is no part of the old world arrangements but it takes out of this world a people for Jehovah’s name. (Acts 15:14) These are no longer a part of the old world, no more than Jesus their Mediator was ever a part of it. And God has chosen for his people those whom this world does not prize. Figuratively speaking, they are impaled toward this world and, in turn, it is impaled toward them as a thing condemned to destruction. And so they do not have its spirit, nor do they follow its wisdom. (John 8:23; 15:19; 17:6, 14, 16; 1 Cor. 1:27, 28; Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 2:12; 3:19) They have “tasted the right word of God and powers of the coming system of things”, the apostle tells us. He tells those who are God’s children in the new covenant that their mother is not the organization under the Mosaic law covenant which was pictured by the servant girl Hagar. Their mother is like the free woman to whom Hagar belonged, Sarah the true wife of Abraham. Abraham, who sacrificed his beloved son at the divine command, pictured Jehovah God, and his wife Sarah pictured the holy organization which is the mother or producer of God’s children. She is not a part of this old world, but is clean from it and high above it. She is heavenly, like God, and completely subject to him and devoted to his purposes. Jerusalem on earth is not her symbol. “But,” says the apostle Paul to Christians in the new covenant, “the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Heb. 6:5 and Gal. 4:24-31, NW) By means of the new covenant she produces God’s spiritual children who are to be joint heirs with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom.
23. Why cannot we designate the time of the new covenant “the Gospel age”?
23 This period of time in which the new covenant is in force and in which the good news of the Kingdom is preached by those in the covenant we must not designate by any such name as “the Gospel age”. Let us remember that the gospel or good news did not begin to be preached first when the new covenant was made. No; for at Galatians 3:8 (NW) we read: “Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’” Neither can we say that the new covenant system of things ends with the coming battle of Armageddon in which this world will be destroyed. Since God’s spiritual children in the new covenant will have a remnant that will overlive Armageddon into the new world, then this new covenant system must last till after Armageddon. It must, together with its provisions, last until God’s power removes his faithful remnant from the earth and glorifies them with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom. Hence the end of the new covenant arrangement does not come at the end of this old world of Satan’s rule. We must yet wait to see when Jehovah God brings the new covenant to its successful end. At that time he will bring all his spiritual sons into the “coming systems of things” in which will be “demonstrated the surpassing riches of his undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus”.—Eph. 2:7, NW.
24. Does the new covenant’s close end the Abrahamic covenant? Why?
24 One thing is certain: The end of the new covenant does not bring the end of God’s covenant with Abraham, to whom he declared the good news, “By means of you all the nations will be blessed.” That Abrahamic covenant is an “everlasting covenant”. (Ps. 105:8-10) It will extend on through the thousand years of Christ’s royal rule for the blessing of all his earthly subjects, no matter of what nationality they may have been in this old world.