The Rule of King Death Broken
1. What mental and moral havoc has death brought upon mankind?
THE rule of king death has brought not only physical havoc upon the human race, but mental and moral havoc as well. Besides the gnarled joints, bent backs, impaired nervous systems and hundreds of afflictions that crowd thousands of hospitals, there is the lack of self-control, the practice of injustice, immorality and the general unbalance of man’s attributes. Satan has caused man’s instinctive desire to worship to be turned from the Creator to the creature. “Although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed creatures and creeping things.” (Rom. 1:21-23, NW) According to their degree of civilization men still worship such things as the sun, fire, images, money, property or themselves and organizations of men. In the place of unqualified love for Jehovah first, and love of neighbor second, Satan has planted selfishness, fear, greed and hate. By one master stroke, in inducing our first parents to sin, the adversary made sin to rule as king with death. From then on all have been sinners, they have fallen short of God’s glory, and missed the mark of perfect obedience. Jehovah is holy, completely devoted to righteousness, perfect. Nothing short of holiness, perfect obedience, unstained in any manner, could be acceptable to him.
2. What difference is there between Adam’s transgression and that of his offspring?
2 What, then, is the difference between Adam’s transgression and that of those who followed him till Moses? since Paul wrote, “Nevertheless, death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses, even over those who had not sinned after the likeness of the transgression by Adam, who bears a resemblance to him that was to come.” (Rom. 5:14, NW) Adam had been created perfect; there was no flaw or weakness in his organism. He had been given the divine law, had the capacity for understanding and appreciating its importance, and possessed within himself the ability for perfect obedience. Yet in the face of all of this he became a rebel. His disobedience was deliberate, willful. But with Adam’s offspring it has been different. They have not had the perfection of Adam nor the ability for flawless obedience. Although not inexcusable for any wrongdoing, they have not had the same degree of responsibility.
3. What determines the degree of responsibility? Give examples,
3 Responsibility depends on the degree of knowledge of God’s will available to one and also possessed by him. Following Adam’s disobedience God did not immediately give any precisely stated law commanding what he wanted mankind to do and pronouncing punishment for disobedience. It is written, “Where there is no law, neither is there any transgression.” (Rom. 4:15, NW) For this reason God did not execute Cain for murdering Abel, though he was considered by no means guiltless, but let him live on under a curse and with destruction facing him. Not having the Mosaic law, the generations living from Adam to Moses were under no obligation to keep it.
4. Why are wicked men without excuse, and will ignorance set them free?
4 The downward course of wicked men under the rule of king death was very rapid. The eternal power and Godship of the Supreme Judge was visible to them in both earth and heaven. Hence they were inexcusable for suppressing the truth and following unrighteousness. Without a God-given code of laws these men began to make laws for their own households and their rulers for the nation. Wishing to escape divine judgment some professed ignorance of God’s will and what sin is, and so various religions arose which ignore its existence. They cannot explain its beginning, its penalty and God’s provision for removing it from the universe. Their ignorance of it does not free them from its condemnation, but only holds them tighter with its chains. For everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness, and so sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4, NW) All unrighteousness is sin.
RULE OF DEATH AS KING
5. (a) What has been the effect of sin’s rule as king? (b) Why did Jehovah give Israel a law?
5 Here another king is introduced to us. It is sin personified, sin ruling as king. What a king sin has been! Look at all his blemished earthly subjects. With worldwide authority, delinquency, corruption and hypocrisy ever on the increase, millions by preferring sin and stifling their conscience are daily paying tribute to him. The worldwide rule of king sin with king death, to which there is no living human exception, is evidence of its origin with our first parents. To awaken man’s conscience to sin and to teach him to look for God’s salvation he provided his chosen people with a systematized collection of laws. These were given through his prophet Moses 2,512 years after creation. According to them, God would impute or charge up sin to the wrongdoer. No human code of laws could reveal to men God’s mind regarding sin, right and wrong, and the means of atonement. God’s laws clearly defined it, and its priestly services foreshadowed that only through an appropriate ransom could sin be removed. Salvation would come through God’s promised seed. “Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made.”—Gal. 3:19, 24, NW.
6, 7. How was it possible for Jesus to be without sin, and to be able to provide the ransom what steps were necessary on his part?
6 Who is the one to come referred to by Paul? The coming one is the emancipator from king death, the seed of Abraham, the prophet like Moses. Since death came as a result of sin, it required someone free from sin to remove sin and vanquish death. It is Jesus Christ, the only sinless man ever born of woman. He was born holy and immaculate, not because his mother was immaculate, for she was a Jewish maiden descended from Adam. It was because he was begotten by a sinless, perfect father, Jehovah God. In the case of reproduction by two parents, the life sperm comes from the father, which fertilizes the egg in the mother, who in turn produces the body of her offspring. At God’s due time for Jesus to be born his perfect life was transferred from heaven to the egg cell in the womb of the virgin Mary. In this way Christ Jesus did not receive human life from the sinner Adam, but received only a human body through Adam’s descendant Mary. To be born by her, he had to lay aside all of his heavenly glory and position. He had been with the Father for unknown millenniums in the past, associated with him in the work of creation. He was the first-born and only-begotten Son of God, through whom Jehovah created all other things visible and invisible. (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-18; Rev. 3:14) At God’s due time for his birth, God sent forth his Son, produced out of a woman, who came to be under law, that he might release by purchase those under law, that we in turn might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4, 5, NW) Jesus was born under Moses’ law, an Israelite, but he was not condemned by that law, for he was the only human that kept it perfectly.
7 How does the first Adam bear a resemblance to Christ Jesus? Certainly not in the course of action taken by the first Adam, in becoming another sinner. No, not that. The apostle Paul could see that since the once perfect Adam had become father to a whole race who were now sinners, the redeemer and deliverer of any of these must be a perfect one, as Adam had been, in order to provide an acquittal, or cancellation of the debt against them. The resemblance lies in the fact that like must go for like. (Deut. 19:21) Adam had been sinless, spotless, a perfect human, not part man and part God, and the Son of God must be the same. If this had not been required he could have materialized, that is, taken on a visible human form as angels had done on previous occasions when they appeared to Abraham, Lot and others. But since a perfect human organism was required as a sacrifice, to meet the demands of justice, Jesus was born of a human virgin in the likeness of men. For it is written: “You did not desire sacrifice and offering, but you prepared a body for me,” and, “Therefore, since the ‘young children’ are sharers of blood and flesh, he also similarly partook of the same things.”—Heb. 10:5; 2:14, NW.
8. (a) Mankind’s acquittal must be according to what attribute of God, and how was the required sacrifice foreshadowed? (b) How only could the rule of death be broken?
8 Jehovah’s acquittal of mankind from sin and its penalty could only be according to his attribute of justice and would of necessity be a free gift. He is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but by no means clearing the guilty. (Ex. 34:6, 7) The sacrifice required was foreshadowed in the offering by Abel, who slew an animal of his flock and shed its blood. It was pictured by Israel’s passover lamb and their yearly atonement sacrifices and was illustrated by Abraham’s offering of his son. Jesus came to vindicate his Father’s name and to be that sacrifice. He said, “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28, NW) Although he was the Chief Agent of life he was killed; yet God exalted him as a Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Sin had brought death, the Lamb of God came to take away the sin of the world; not the sin of the old world doomed for destruction, but the sin of those who will compose the new world of righteousness. (Acts 3:15; 5:31; Jas. 1:15; John 1:29) Only in this manner could the rule of king death be broken.
9, 10. (a) How can we gain the benefit of God’s provision for life? (b) What does this arrangement reveal regarding Jehovah God, and whom does it take in?
9 How, then, may we gain the benefits of God’s gracious provision and not perish? Not by ignorance of sin and its consequences, nor by keeping the law covenant. Paul states: “All those who sinned without law will also perish without law; but all those who sinned under law will be judged by law.” (Rom. 2:12, NW) Hence all would perish. None would be saved. Jews as well as others are all sinners. “But now apart from law God’s righteousness has been made manifest, as it is borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets; yes, God’s righteousness through the faith in Jesus Christ, for all those having faith. For there is no distinction.” (Rom. 3:21, 22, NW) The exercise of faith in the ransom sacrifice brings to us an undeserved kindness; the free gift of an uncondemned standing before his Son. The acceptance of the release by ransom paid by Christ Jesus, and our dedication and faithful service to Jehovah, assure us of being declared righteous by him. In this way we gain the benefit of his gracious provisions and shall not perish.
10 So lofty, generous and merciful is God’s arrangement that human words are inadequate to describe it. It reveals and exhibits his own righteousness, by his forgiving of sins that occurred in the past while he was exercising forbearance, and in declaring those righteous whom he had taken out of all nations to be a people for his name. It takes in those who would exercise faith similar to that of Abraham, whether from among the Jews or from among the nations. These could say, “Therefore, now that we have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have gained our approach by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand, and let us exult, based on hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1, 2, NW) Members of the church class anticipate a heavenly glory. Jehovah’s other sheep anticipate, when declared righteous, the earthly glory of God’s image and likeness in which Adam was originally created.
11. (a) What contrast is there between the trespass and God’s free gift? (b) What benefits do we enjoy as a result of that gift?
11 But there is a contrast between the trespass which resulted in death and God’s free gift. God’s free gift accomplishes more good for us who exercise faith than any harm we may have received as the offspring of sinner Adam. For if by one man’s trespass many died, the undeserved kindness of God and his free gift, together with the undeserved kindness by the one man Jesus Christ, abounded much more to many. (Rom. 5:15, NW) We today have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. He is a priest of loving-kindness, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and one who is able to deal moderately with the ignorant and erring ones. We have God’s word made more firm, we have better knowledge and we have his spirit and his organization. We enjoy a new relationship to him through his Son, we have many faithful examples of integrity and a glorious treasure of service. Should this not equip us to break the power of king sin in our lives?
12. In what is God’s undeserved kindness toward his creatures revealed?
12 The superabundance of God’s undeserved kindness is revealed in the fact that whereas the judgment resulted in condemnation from one trespass, the gift resulted in a declaration of righteousness from not one, but many trespasses. Who from among mankind can claim that by their course of action, either willfully or ignorantly, they have not transgressed and reproached Jehovah’s name? How satisfying then is the promise, “Happy are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven and whose sins have been covered; happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.” (Rom. 4:7, 8, NW) In 1918 God’s people had shown uncleanliness of lip and the fear of man in neglecting to give public praise to Jehovah. But how happy was their lot when their witness work was revived, when they were received back into God’s favor and all their sins were cast behind his back!
13. What glorious prospect regarding the earth did Jehovah foresee and purpose, and by what means will it be realized?
13 Consider, then, the glorious prospect Jehovah foresaw and purposed. He started a sinless and deathless world to begin with, and he purposes to have a sinless and deathless world when all his enemies have been destroyed. Men and women, perfect in mind and body, free from sin and unrighteousness, without flaw or ailment of any kind, will inhabit the earth forever. As kings in life they will again have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. This glorious result will have been brought about through the thousand-year rule of the new heavens. These new heavens, or new invisible ruling powers, will be composed of those who richly received of God’s undeserved kindness in association with Christ Jesus and shared in his suffering. As the apostle Paul says: “For if by the trespass of the one man death ruled as king through that one, much more will those who receive the abundance of the undeserved kindness and of the free gift of righteousness rule as kings in life through the one person, Jesus Christ.”—Rom. 5:17, NW.
14. How is God’s exact justice revealed in his providing release for mankind?
14 Jehovah’s exact justice is clearly revealed in all of his dealings. None can rightly comprehend his doings without an appreciation that justice is the foundation of his throne. With logic for which there is no equal in any literature outside of the Bible, the apostle Paul shows how condemnation is set aside through Christ, whom God set forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood. He says: “So, then, as through one trespass the result to men of all kinds was condemnation, likewise also through one act of justification the result to men of all kinds is a declaring of them righteous for life. For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners, likewise also through the obedience of the one person many will be constituted righteous.”—Rom. 5:18, 19, NW.
RULE OF UNDESERVED KINDNESS AS KING
15, 16. (a) What king challenges the rule of sin and death? (b) By what means and with what result?
15 Look, another king arises who challenges the rule of sin as king and counteracts his power. It is king undeserved kindness. Sin has been ruling concurrently with death. Undeserved kindness rules through righteousness. Sin brought death, undeserved kindness brings life. Sin was a sting like that of the poisonous serpent who lied about Jehovah and his word. The truth makes one free from his power. Paul wrote, “The sting producing death is sin, and the Law gives to sin its power.” (1 Cor. 15:56, NW) All things the Law said it addresses to those under the Law, so that every mouth might be stopped and all the world might become liable to God for punishment. In view of this, how gracious is Jehovah’s arrangement as stated: “Now the Law came in beside in order that trespassing might abound. But where sin abounded, undeserved kindness abounded still more. To what end? That, just as sin ruled as king with death, likewise also undeserved kindness might rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Rom. 3:19; 5:20, 21, NW.
16 What joy may be ours! Though sin is still ruling in those of this world, leading to death, yet undeserved kindness can rule as king in us, leading to life. “Likewise also you: reckon yourselves to be dead indeed with reference to sin but living with reference to God by Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin continue to rule as king in your mortal bodies that you should obey their desires. Neither go on presenting your members to sin as weapons of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, also your members to God as weapons of righteousness.”—Rom. 6:11-13, NW.
17. What pertinent questions regarding our course of action should we ask ourselves?
17 Dear reader, how are you presenting yourself? What rule of action is governing your life? Is it principle, an adherence to fundamental truth, or passion? Is it obedience to God’s commandments or gratification of the flesh? Have you dedicated your life to Jehovah? Have you tasted the joy of regularly attending the congregational meetings and Bible studies of Jehovah’s witnesses? Have you matured to the point of presenting yourself for service, like the three hundred of Gideon’s little army of whom it is said, ‘and they stood every man in his place’? We are slaves either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view.
18. What choice must we make, and to be on the winning side requires what of us?
18 We must choose between the enslaver and the liberator. To support Satan’s lies, to live immorally or to practice idolatry means to support kings sin and death and to receive their wage. To serve Jehovah frees us from chains now, and will assure us of the gift of God, eternal life. Will you share in announcing that deliverance? If you have not already done so, enlist now on the winning side. Our fruitage in times past consisted of things of which we are now ashamed, for the finish of those things is death. “However, now, because you were set free from sin but became slaves to God, you are having your fruit in the way of holiness, and the finish everlasting life.” (Rom. 6:22, NW) “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15, NW) Then we too will be convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
19. To walk in the light what must we do?
19 The rule of kings sin and death has been a dark night of weeping for humanity. The beginning of the rule of undeserved kindness resembles the dawning light of a new day. “The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light.” “You are all sons of light and sons of day. We belong neither to night nor to darkness.” (Rom. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:5, NW) To remain in the light we must walk in brotherly love, observing the new commandment as the apostle John admonishes us, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. (1 John 2:8, NW) Continuing to walk in that light gives us the victory over king sin.
20, 21. (a) What accusation against Jehovah did the Devil make, and who proved it to be a lie? (b) Who will share with Christ Jesus in his vindicating work and in his victory over king death?
20 Reflect now for a few moments on the ultimate triumph of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness over king death as well. Satan, the originator of ill will, brought the accusation that Jehovah was unreliable and his word untrustworthy, to which all the heavenly creation were witness. Who on earth would deny that assertion, prove the Devil a liar and qualify to be his destroyer, thereby vindicating Jehovah’s word and name? It was not the first Adam, for he joined in the conspiracy to reproach the Creator. That left no perfect man on earth to take up Jehovah’s cause. But by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness the ‘Son of man’ came to earth and qualified as the second Adam. “It is even so written: ‘The first man Adam became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. The first man is out of the earth and made of dust; the second man is out of heaven.” (1 Cor. 15:45, 47, NW) “For we know that Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is master over him no more.” “But God resurrected him by loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to continue to be held fast by it.” (Rom. 6:9; Acts 2:24, NW) Christ proved the Devil a liar, and qualified. The majesty of Jehovah’s law could not hold him in death, since he was guiltless, and hence God raised him as the one who through death proved worthy to destroy the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil. In victory Christ exclaims, “I became dead, but, look! I am living for ever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”—Heb. 2:14; Rev. 1:18, NW.
21 Take note how God has lovingly arranged for others to share with Christ in the work of vindication. Discussing the resurrection hope of the faithful called-out 144,000 consecrated underpriests the apostle Paul says: “But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’ ‘Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’” (1 Cor. 15:54, 55, NW) These gain the victory through Jesus Christ, and Satan will be bruised under their feet shortly. Victory through Christ will also be the portion of persons of good will, the faithful other sheep who have the hope of everlasting life on earth. Whether by resurrection or by now passing alive through Armageddon to live forever in the new world, theirs is a victory over death, for they share in the everlasting Kingdom blessings. “And death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4, NW) The rule of death as king will be replaced by the rule of life as king for all time, when the final testing of mankind is over.