Stability and Permanence
“Wherefore, seeing that we are to receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.”—Heb. 12:28, NW.
1. How, and in whom, has God provided a sure foundation for hope?
ALL right-minded persons love that which is trustworthy and true. Our previous study has shown us that we can have an abiding and unbroken confidence in the unchangeable God and in his Son, ‘Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today, and forever.’ (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8, NW) This satisfies our heartfelt longing in this uncertain world for something stable and permanent on which we can build a sure hope that will be “as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm.” (Heb. 6:19, NW) That hope, according to God’s purpose, and from whatever angle we view it, as just discussed, is centered in Christ. He is the “foundation cornerstone” in the glorious heavenly organization, Zion, precious in God’s sight and precious in the eyes of every true believer, “and he that rests his faith on it will by no means come to disappointment.” As Paul puts it: “For no matter how many God’s promises are, they have become Yes by means of him [Christ Jesus].”—1 Pet. 2:6, 7; 2 Cor. 1:20, NW.
2. In what way does the “foundation cornerstone” serve as an encouragement, but what warning must also be heeded?
2 The above-quoted words of Peter are intended, as he says, to serve as an encouragement to stir you to “declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” At the same time, let us heed the warning given, for the apostle shows in the same connection that some stumble over that identical stone. Why do they stumble? Note well the answer. “These are stumbling because they are unbelievingly disobedient to the word.” (1 Pet. 2:8, 9, NW) As previously expressed (¶ 17), we cannot overestimate the importance of God’s spoken word, later recorded and embodied in the Scriptures, the written Word. That Word can be for our richest blessing and encouragement, an impregnable foundation on which to build a strong faith and a true hope, coupled with the joys of industrious, sacred service; or, ‘having tasted the right word of God and powers of the coming system of things,’ we can allow ourselves to become sluggish in faith and action, leading inevitably to a shrinking back and a falling away, first becoming unbelieving, then disobedient to the gospel message, stumbling over the very things we once accepted with such joy and enthusiasm. We trust we can conclude as did Paul: “Now we are not the kind that shrink back to destruction, but the kind that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 6:5; 10:38, 39, NW.
3. How does prophecy reveal the purpose served by the “tried stone” respecting judgment, and at what particular time?
3 What makes these things so much more important and urgent, in all their aspects, is the fact that we are living in the day of judgment, “the last days” of this wicked system of things, and “the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 4:17, NW) As shown by the context of Isaiah 28:16, the very purpose for which the foundation cornerstone is laid in Zion is that searching judgment may be forthwith effected, based upon the measurements and angles of that “tried stone.” Note what immediately follows: “And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place.” (Isa. 28:17, AS) That spells doom for the foundations of the old world, its institutions and builders, including its god, Satan, the Devil. A miniature fulfillment of the laying of the “tried stone” occurred at the first advent, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and offered himself as king, three and a half years after his anointing with God’s spirit at Jordan. Similarly with the laying of this same stone in completion at the second advent. At the termination of the “times of the Gentiles,” in 1914 (A.D.), Christ was authorized to commence operations as king and priest, in fulfillment of Psalm 110:2-4, and three and a half years later, in 1918, he offered himself as king to all professing to be his people. (For a full discussion of Isaiah 28, see our issue of October 1, 1951.)
4. What related reference did Paul make, and what is shown thereby?
4 Another interesting and pointed reference is the apostle Paul’s statement: “For all that, the solid foundation of God stays standing, having this seal, ‘Jehovah knows those who belong to him,’ and, ‘Let everyone mentioning the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.’” (2 Tim. 2:19, NW) This shows, too, that when God institutes his searching judgments it makes manifest where each individual stands. In fact, the circumstance that caused the apostle to make that comment arose out of his mentioning two men by name who had “deviated from the truth,” and who had to be exposed for what they really were. (2 Tim. 2:16-18, NW) And this same lesson is made still more pointed when we look back at the reference and context of Numbers 16:5, from which Paul made the former of the two above-mentioned quotations. Does it not drive home to us how important and urgent it is to get both the encouragement and the warning from that earlier statement of the apostle: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright”? (2 Tim. 2:15, NW) Observe, please, we not only must carefully listen to and believe God’s Word, but must learn how to handle it aright in ministering it and preaching it to others with sanctified hands and hearts.
5. How do the two quotations at 2 Timothy 2:19 serve as a “seal”?
5 Perhaps you wonder how the two quotations at 2 Timothy 2:19 serve as a “seal” to the “solid foundation of God.” The fact is, no people can deceive Jehovah, however much they may deceive others, or even themselves. As we have seen, the capital organization of God is named Zion, the heavenly organization of which Christ Jesus is the cornerstone, who was tried and tested to the utmost. The same testing and disciplining is applied, without an exception, to all others who become sons of God, as Paul shows. (Heb. 12:4-11, NW) However far Satan has been allowed to go, even to attempting to becloud the whole issue by ‘oversowing weeds in among the wheat,’ yet when the appointed time comes, as, indeed, it has come, for God’s judgment to start, then it is made abundantly clear that “Jehovah knows those who belong to him” down to the last one. (Matt. 13:25, NW) There is not the slightest possibility, therefore, of anyone’s finding a place in Zion, settled upon its foundation Jesus Christ, or enjoying the freedom of the city, unless he has in deed and in truth ‘renounced unrighteousness,’ and proved that he has dedicated himself to God, delighting to do his will because his law is within his heart. Hence the fulfillment of the above-mentioned two quotations absolutely confirms, or ratifies (seals), the grand basic truth that the legal and “solid foundation of God stays standing.”
OLD WORLD’S ILLEGAL FOUNDATIONS
6. By noting what contrast can we gain a keener appreciation of the new world?
6 Since, by nature, we gain a keener realization of things by reason of contrast, as, for example, the lovely warm days of spring after the dark, cold days of winter, so likewise we believe we can heighten our appreciation of the legal foundations of the new world by taking a brief look at the illegal foundations of the old world. Yes, let us go to the root of the matter as disclosed in God’s Word; never mind if many of Christendom’s clergy do say it is all a myth, or just an allegory. And we shall again endeavor to profit by following the lawyers’ method and shall say there are two questions before us. One is a question of fact, the other is a question of law. What are the facts in this case?
7. Where and how are Satan’s original position and deflection described?
7 Ezekiel’s prophecy tells us that the one, later identified as Satan, “the god of this system of things,” was originally created perfect and held a responsible position of guardianship over the earthly creation. It says: “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; . . . Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth.” Then it says: “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (2 Cor. 4:4, NW; Ezek. 28:13-15) Next, Isaiah’s prophecy tells us the form this expression of iniquity took in Satan’s (Lucifer’s) mind and heart thousands of years later when Babylon became the third world power: “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: . . . I will be like [match, Ro] the Most High.” (Isa. 14:13, 14) Those are the initial facts. Now what is the legal aspect?
8. The word “iniquity” conveys what meaning? and what contrast is seen respecting this as between Satan and Jesus?
8 That word “iniquity” at Ezekiel 28:15 is most significant. It carries the thought of perversity, willfully turning away from what is right, also the thought of wickedness, that is, what is contrary to moral or divine law. Opposite to Satan stands Jesus, of whom it was foretold: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness.” But Paul’s quotation of this reads: “You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9, NW. See also Diaglott and Rotherham.) God’s expressed law, or rule of action, is that all creatures should render wholehearted obedience in a spirit of loyal devotion to him as their beneficent Creator, as always exemplified by God’s only-begotten Son, later named Jesus when born at Bethlehem. (Prov. 8:22, 30) But, in sharpest contrast, Satan exercised his perfect free will, one of the most treasured possessions of every intelligent creature, and, instead of being a faithful and law-abiding officer in God’s arrangement, loyally playing his part in keeping that first righteous world headed in the right direction in rendering all worship and obedience to Jehovah, he now took the opposite and illegal course. In pursuing that proud, rebellious and defiant course, he sought to turn man’s worship and service to himself, and he became the instigator of everything that is lawless. He became wholly untrustworthy and wholly untrue to his sacred trust.
9. How did Satan place a similar temptation before Eve and her husband, and with what result?
9 Now let us see how Satan placed the same temptation before the first perfect human pair, noting both the facts and the law. The record at Genesis 3 tells how, first Eve, then Adam, used their perfect freedom of choice and deliberately entertained as an enticing morsel the idea of being independent of subjection to Jehovah and his laws. They wanted the right to live their own life their own way, and to be their own lawmakers. God laid down one simple commandment that would test man’s obedience. They were not to eat of the fruit of a certain tree. They had variety in abundance all around them and there was not the slightest need to approach that tree. They were also plainly told the penalty for disobedience, namely, death, the complete cutting-off from life (not preservation of life in eternal torment, mark you). When Satan approached Eve, using the serpent as a mouthpiece, note that the very first thing he did was to question the veracity of God’s spoken word. Paraphrasing, Satan said to Eve, ‘Has God said you shall surely die if you disobey? God has not told you the truth. You will not surely die, for God knows, though he has not told you, that in the day you eat the forbidden fruit your eyes will be opened and you yourselves shall be as God, and you will know good and evil, that is, be able to decide for yourselves what is right and what is wrong.’ (Gen. 3:1-5) And were their eyes opened? Yes, but not to what they expected. Their eyes became opened to the awful realization of their sense of guilt. They were acutely conscious that they dare not face their Creator in their undone and naked condition. Of their own free will they took a chance on striking out on the same illegal course of disobedience and proud independence, similar to Satan, and with the same result of being found guilty of lawlessness and worthy of death.
10. How does this review throw light on the present world situation and spirit?
10 Does not this review of the root trouble throw a flood of light on the present world situation and prevailing spirit? Do we not find the nations earth-wide insisting more than ever on their independent sovereign rights? And is it not true, and often remarked on, that among the people generally there is today more rank selfishness than even a generation back? Is not the favorite excuse for refusing to pay attention to the Bible message for today often expressed in such words as these: ‘I do not need any of that Bible literature. I am all right. I do not go to church very often, but I believe in living a decent life, and never doing any harm to anyone. That is my religion, and I do not see how I can be expected to do any more’? Yes, the same independent spirit as the human family’s first parents, the right to live your own life your own way without interference from anybody. Surely there is ample evidence that the whole make-up of the “present wicked system of things” is out of harmony with God, in spite of its professions, and that its foundations are illegal and altogether out of course, and therefore headed for destruction. Just as Jesus said, this world can be “likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house and it caved in, and its collapse was great.” In summary, the matter is very forcefully expressed for us in the following prophecy: “The earth also is polluted under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are found guilty: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.”—Gal. 1:4; Matt. 7:26, 27, NW; Isa. 24:5, 6, AS.
DISCREET KINGDOM BUILDERS
11. Why is this day of trouble a grand and happy one for God’s devoted people?
11 As we turn away from that dark picture, how deeply impressed we are with the undeserved kindness of our God freely shown toward us. The very signs that cause men to “become faint out of fear” as they see such prophecies as just mentioned nearing fulfillment, these same signs cause us to rejoice, as Jesus said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near. . . . when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:26-31, NW) It is indeed a grand and happy day for those whose eyes are opened to the truth and who see their privilege of taking those steps that enable them to share with God’s devoted people in sacred Kingdom service under the direction of his organization, Zion. To such not only is given the joy of believing and understanding God’s spoken and written Word, but, as Jehovah’s witnesses, they are authorized to speak and publish his words, as beautifully expressed in that assuring promise: “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.” (Isa. 51:16, AS) Such promise becomes our legal inheritance.
12. Following what theme, to what climax does Paul reach in his letter to the Hebrews?
12 As Paul comes to the climax of his long letter to the Hebrews, he, too, takes up the theme of the Kingdom established. “You have approached a mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem,” he writes. Then, once again he warns, stressing God’s all-important spoken word: “See that you do not implore him not to speak.” In fact, God’s spoken word is the apostle’s recurrent theme throughout his letter, from the opening words onward. Finally, we come to his most encouraging word, yet not without warning, when he writes: “Seeing that we are to receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.” And that is not only for the encouragement of those who have the heavenly hope, for all the sheep who are placed today by the King, Christ Jesus, “on his right” hand are invited to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the world’s foundation.”—Heb. 12:22, 25, 28; Matt. 25:34, NW.
13. As we build on the one foundation, what must we be careful to avoid?
13 Let each one of us see to it that he builds industriously and discreetly on the Kingdom’s “foundation cornerstone.” (1 Cor. 3:11-13, NW) On the one hand, do not run ahead of Jehovah and his organization and decide for yourself how to render acceptable, sacred service, for you will be in danger of acting ultra vires, as the lawyers say, that is, overstepping your legal rights. On the other hand, do not become sluggish and irregular in your Kingdom service. You will never build anything worth while that way, for “by slothfulness the roof sinketh in; and through idleness of the hands the house leaketh.” No, ‘do not loiter at your business, but be aglow with the spirit.’—Eccl. 10:18, AS; Rom. 12:11, NW.
14. What is the most important word that we can give to Jehovah?
14 In conclusion, we ask you to consider this point of view. Jehovah has pledged his all-important word of promise. As you continue to learn more of the truth through a study of his Word, are you not moved to a keener appreciation of the amazing extent of his provision made for our benefit? Has that not led you to respond to his invitation, “My son, give me thy heart”? (Prov. 23:26, AS) It is your privilege to respond by pledging your word of promise in making a vow of dedication. As far as you, personally, are concerned, that is the most important word you can give. Keep it! Honor it! Live up to it!
15. On our part, what is indispensable to receiving God’s blessing?
15 Do not make an excuse by saying you have no hope of being part of the seed of Abraham, with the prospect of sharing with Christ in the heavenly throne. Do you not greatly desire to enjoy God’s blessing? Well, you will not receive any blessing at all, either as part of Abraham’s seed or as part of “all the families of the ground,” unless you manifest the same kind of faith and willing obedience in a spirit of true devotion and worship as did Abraham. Do not allow yourself to be deluded, or frightened off, by the Devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, solid in the faith.”—Gen. 12:3, NW; 1 Pet. 5:8, 9, NW.
16, 17. What final appeal is made, and what grand encouragement is given us to respond thereto?
16 We therefore make the strongest possible appeal to you to be like father Abraham and manifest the right kind of industriousness down to the end, while you have the full assurance of hope of inheriting those blessings flowing from the city that has real, solid, legal foundations. Those blessings are beckoning to you now. Listen!
17 “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! the tent of God is with humankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.’ And the one seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also he says: ‘Write, because these words are trustworthy and true.’”—Rev. 21:1-5, NW.