A People with a Purpose
“You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Pet. 2:9, NW.
1. What outstanding characteristic distinguishes Jehovah from all other so-called gods?
JEHOVAH, unlike all others called gods, proves to be the great Purposer. As the almighty Creator he not only purposes something to be, he also causes it to be. Why, the very name of this Being, this pre-eminent First Cause, is drawn from a Hebrew word meaning ‘the one who causes to be.’ To Moses he said: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” His majestic creative works as well as his intimate dealings with creatures give ample evidence of this eternal truth. As a builder of a house from the outset has a definite aim or purpose, a particular design in mind, a final goal or objective that he strives to achieve, even more so the supreme Master Builder of the universe. Not only does he aforehand determine what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, but he also follows through and successfully accomplishes it. “Let light come to be” was his will and command, and “there came to be light.” Let the earth take shape, and it did. Let the waters be set in bounds, and they were. Let living creatures be formed—fish for the sea, fowl for the air, cattle, creeping things and beasts of every sort to live upon the land—all this Jehovah purposed and it came to be. “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and have spoken, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed, I will also do it.”—Ex. 3:14; Gen. 1:3, NW; Isa. 46:9-11, AS.
2. Why can creatures put complete confidence and trust in the Word of Jehovah God?
2 Jehovah is also an unchangeable God, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, inflexible in his holy will and purpose. “I, Jehovah, change not” is an everlasting statement of fact, an unalterable truth. (Mal. 3:6, AS) The high and lofty One is not a mere man that he needs to change his mind about a matter. He is not like whimsical creatures that are unstable and fickle in decision, shifting in opinion and unpredictable in purpose. “For thus saith Jehovah, . . . I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and I have not repented, neither will I turn back from it.” (Jer. 4:27, 28, AS) No, Jehovah never makes a mistake, and so he never has to reverse his predetermined course of action. He never has to change his declared purpose to accommodate an unforeseen situation or make room for an unexpected emergency. The great Jehovah is therefore one in whom creatures can place their complete confidence and implicit trust, for he is predictable, dependable and true to his word. He says a thing and he does it. “Jehovah of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely, as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.”—Isa. 14:24, AS.
3. What was Jehovah’s original purpose toward this earth, and how did Satan attempt to thwart it?
3 Among the many things originally purposed by Jehovah was to have the earth filled with intelligent creatures who would be perfect in body, righteous in mind and thought, and fully obedient to their Creator in their activity. To that end Jehovah created a perfect human pair, male and female, and commanded that they “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28, NW) In the theocratic arrangement of things a glorious heavenly cherub was given oversight of human affairs in the garden of Eden to see that the Creator’s will and purposes were carried out. But alas! what happened? Early in man’s history sedition broke out. Impressed with his dazzling glory and exceptional beauty the covering cherub coveted a position in the universe like that of the Most High. (Ezek. 28:13-15) He thereupon rebelled against the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, persuaded Eve and then Adam to break their integrity to Jehovah and in the course of time caused a great host of angelic creatures to join the rebellion. As a result the ringleader of this treasonous gang was expelled from his honored position in Jehovah’s organization and was placed under the sentence of death as a despicable criminal. He has since been identified by the loathsome and contemptible label “Satan the Devil.” From that time until the present, under satanic rule of wickedness the earth has been filled with crime and violence as generation after generation of imperfect creatures, born in sin and shaped in lawlessness, has continued in their open opposition to God.
4, 5. (a) What erroneous conclusion must we avoid? (b) What twofold purpose does Jehovah have in allowing Satan to remain until now?
4 Is it not, therefore, reasonable to conclude, in the face of these woeful events, that Jehovah’s original purpose to have the earth filled with righteousness has been completely frustrated and brought to nought? No, not at all! Do not hastily jump to such a false conclusion. To do so betrays either gross ignorance of or willful indifference to other important facts, facts which give overwhelming proof that such rebellion in no way altered or changed or even delayed in the least Jehovah’s prime purpose to have a global paradise filled with obedient creatures. At the very inception of disobedience in the garden of Eden Jehovah declared that in his due time all wicked rebels would be exterminated and obedient mankind would be blessed with everlasting life. In substance Jehovah said to Satan, as later recorded by the inspired writers of the Bible: “For this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth,” “that my name may be published throughout all the earth.”—Ex. 9:16; Rom. 9:17, NW.
5 As here set forth, this pronouncement of Jehovah reveals a twofold purpose. In the first place, the statement declares that Jehovah’s irresistible and omnipotent power will be displayed in all its terrible majesty when the Devil and his entire company of rebels are utterly destroyed. Furthermore, it is made certain that Jehovah’s name, word and purposes will be proclaimed, declared, published and witnessed about throughout the earth in order that people who love God may have the opportunity to escape destruction and become a part of a New World society which will fill the earth with righteousness. It is therefore quite clear that from the very beginning of man’s deflection from the truth Jehovah purposed to have a people in the earth who would be faithful to his cause, a people who would be his witnesses, a people for his name, a people even called by his noble name, that is, Jehovah’s witnesses.
A PEOPLE FOR JEHOVAH’S PURPOSE
6. What evidence is there in the Bible to prove that Jehovah’s witnesses have been on earth for nearly 6,000 years?
6 Did such divine purpose fail, or was it long delayed, delayed perhaps until this day and age before anything was done about it? History answers No! Among the very sons of Adam there arose a righteously disposed individual, Abel by name, who publicly witnessed before others concerning his confidence and hope in God’s promise recorded at Genesis 3:15. Abel demonstrated such implicit trust in that prophecy that he offered animal sacrifices pictorial of the great Lamb of God whose shed blood takes away sin. “By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness respecting his gifts.” Nor was Abel the sole witness for Jehovah prior to the Flood. Enoch, “the seventh man in line from Adam,” similarly “had the witness that he had pleased God well,” for he “kept walking with the God.”—Heb. 11:4, 5; Jude 14, 15; Gen. 5:24, NW.
7. What strange work did Noah engage in, and with what success?
7 Then there were Noah and his household. “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the God.” He was a “preacher of righteousness,” one that “found favor in the eyes of Jehovah.” (Gen. 6:9, 8; 2 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 11:7, NW) But walking in obedience and finding favor in Jehovah’s eyes required Noah to do a work that seemed very strange in the eyes of that generation. There the faithful old man was, building a huge boat at Jehovah’s command, and at the same time preaching to his friends and neighbors that unless they repented of their wickedness and took refuge in this provision Jehovah was making they would soon be destroyed. “After that Jehovah said to Noah: ‘Go, you and all your household, into the ark, because you are the one I have seen to be righteous before me among this generation.’” (Gen. 7:1, NW) Scoffers and ridiculers that generation proved to be for the most part, for only eight, including Noah, entered the ark, passed through the annihilation of the first world, and stepped out into a clean earth as a typical New World society!
8. Why was Abraham called “Jehovah’s friend”?
8 So there were plenty of faithful witnesses of Jehovah (at least ten in number, symbolic of earthly completeness) that lived in the antediluvian world. Following the Flood, “‘Abraham exercised faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,’ and he came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend’.” (Jas. 2:23, NW) Here was a man who, together with his devoted wife Sarah, put faith in Jehovah’s promised Deliverer, even though 2,000 years had elapsed since such promise was made in Eden and still no deliverer had appeared on the horizon. It was not mere lip service either on Abraham’s part, for he gave open testimony to the whole world of his hope and belief by separating himself completely from that system of things, and that at great cost in discomfort and inconvenience. “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place which he was going to receive as an inheritance, and he went out although not knowing where he was going. By faith he resided temporarily in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations and the builder and creator of which is God. . . . Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.”—Heb. 11:8-10, 16, NW.
9. To whom did Lot witness, and with what results?
9 Abraham’s nephew, “righteous Lot,” also demonstrated that he was no part of the Devil’s system of things. Lot “was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct” in that infamous city of Sodom, yet as Jehovah’s servant he remained among those people long enough to give the final witness. “He kept on saying: ‘Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah is destroying the city!’” But even as the people of Noah’s day scoffed and ridiculed that faithful witness of Jehovah, so too they laughed at righteousness-loving Lot. To them Lot “seemed like a man who was joking.” Nevertheless, as in Noah’s case so also in Lot’s: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.”—2 Pet. 2:7-9; Gen. 19:14, NW.
10. Describe how Job proved the Devil a liar.
10 Another outstanding example among those ancient witnesses of Jehovah was Job, a mighty man of integrity, famed for remaining true and steadfast to Jehovah under the most severe satanic pressure. True to the meaning of his name, Job was hated, harassed and persecuted by the Devil, the demons and their disciples. And yet for all the sadistic cruelty and prolonged torture of his body and mind Job’s fidelity and devotion to Jehovah remained unbroken. ‘Though I am slain, yet will I trust Jehovah,’ was his attitude. Thus by such unswerving and continued faithfulness under trial and testing Job made Jehovah’s heart glad, for he furnished the Most High with an answer to give the taunting adversary. To Satan Jehovah was able to say: “Have you noticed my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a man perfect and upright, who fears God and shuns wickedness?”—Job 1:8; 2:3, AT; Job 13:15; Prov. 27:11.
11. Why was Moses sent back to Egypt, and what were the final results?
11 About a hundred years later Egypt reached its zenith. In military might it was the first world power; in profane arrogance and impudent audacity it was the slaveholder of Jehovah’s chosen people, the descendants of His friend Abraham. Jehovah therefore determined to humiliate and destroy that presumptuous nation and deliver his chosen people, all of which would serve as an illustration of what Jehovah has determined to do at Armageddon to the entire empire of the greater Pharaoh, Satan the Devil. But first, before drowning Pharaoh’s proud and haughty armies like rats in the Red Sea, Jehovah purposed to have a thorough witness of warning delivered to all the Egyptians, the rulers and the ruled alike. To that end Jehovah chose his faithful servant Moses to be his spokesman and testimony-bearer. “Go in to Pharaoh, and you must say to him, ‘This is what Jehovah has said.’” (Ex. 8:1; 9:1, 13, NW) Repeatedly Moses obeyed these instructions. But the hardhearted and obstinate only became more hardhearted and obstinate. Yet Jehovah in his greatness was long-suffering and merciful. And with what results? By the time the seventh plague occurred there was a division even among the Egyptians, so much so that everyone “who feared Jehovah’s word among Pharaoh’s servants caused his own servants and his livestock to flee into the houses, but whoever did not set his heart to have any regard for Jehovah’s word left his servants and his livestock in the field.” (Ex. 9:20, 21, NW) When the final warning was completed Jehovah with a strong and mighty arm brought his people out, together with “a vast mixed company” of non-Israelites, but the presumably invincible armies of Egypt that followed in hot pursuit Jehovah caused to be engulfed by the sea, where “they sank like lead.”—Ex. 12:38; 15:1, 5, 10, NW.
12. Name other outstanding individuals that distinguished themselves as Jehovah’s witnesses in ancient times.
12 Passing mention, too, can be made of women like Rahab, Deborah and Jael, as well as men like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, Samuel, David and a host of others who distinguished themselves as Jehovah’s faithful witnesses. In fact, there were a ‘great cloud’ of Jehovah’s witnesses from Abel’s day down to the time of Christ, including such outstanding personalities as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, prophets and witnesses extraordinary, who made known the name and fame of the great Jehovah God.—Heb. 11:31, 32; 12:1.
13, 14. What kind of treatment have Jehovah’s witnesses in the past experienced, and why?
13 Many of those ancient witnesses suffered terrible things, hardships and persecutions equaling anything modern dictators have inflicted on Jehovah’s servants. And why? Why were they forced to wander about in the deserts and mountains and live in dens and caves of the earth? Why were they hunted down, beaten, stoned, thrown to the lions, roasted in furnaces, put to the sword and sawed asunder? Why were they forced to go about “in sheep skins, in goat skins, while they were in want, in tribulation, under ill-treatment”? The apostle Paul tells us it was because they were no part of this old wicked world under Satan’s rule, but rather they were seeking after that promised new world whose Maker and Builder is Jehovah.—Heb. 11:10, 33-38, NW.
14 As faithful witnesses of Jehovah they certainly displayed the same commendable qualities possessed by their God and Father. Their minds were set on doing his will. In their hearts the issue of who is the Supreme Sovereign of the universe was settled. They knew they were right. So with fortitude and confidence they followed through. Forward they moved, steady, resolute, unswerving in their devotion, steadfast in their integrity, inflexible in their faith. Truly they were a people with a fixed purpose, namely, to live a life in accordance with their Creator’s perfect will and purpose, and they were determined that by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness they would do that very thing, come what may. It was for these solid reasons that they endured what they did at the hands of the Devil and his outlawed bandits, while at the same time they gave testimony to others that their hope and confidence were in God’s promised theocratic government, his heavenly kingdom under Messiah’s administration. Primarily such a course on the part of those men and women served for the vindication of Jehovah’s word and name, and secondarily it meant their own salvation and deliverance as well as eternal life for all who heeded their warning message.
EARLY CHRISTIANS ALSO MEN WITH PURPOSE
15. In what respects was Jesus of Nazareth like witnesses of Jehovah prior to his time?
15 Greater than Abel, greater than Moses, yes, greater than any witness of Jehovah before or since was Jesus of Nazareth. There was no question as to his purpose in life, for he declared: “For this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37, NW) He came, not in his own name, but in the name of his Father, Jehovah. He, therefore, bore truthful testimony concerning the name, word and purposes of Jehovah. Christ Jesus was really the one chosen to be the King of Jehovah’s new-world government; so that promised kingdom was the great theme of his ministry. Naturally such an outspoken witness for Jehovah’s cause in the earth would be violently opposed by the Devil and his ministers; but by enduring such vicious persecution without complaining Jesus won the honored title of “the Faithful Witness,” “the faithful and true witness.”—Rev. 1:5; 3:14, NW.
16, 17. (a) Who gave heed to the message preached by Jesus? (b) In turn, what did the followers of Christ become?
16 The whole nation of Israel knew of Jesus and the message he was preaching and yet not many gave heed to what he said. In fact, only those ‘on the side of the truth listen to my voice,’ said Jesus. (John 18:37, NW) “I told you and yet you do not believe. . . . But you do not believe, because you are none of my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:25-27, NW) Now those that listened to Jesus and became his disciples also became witnesses for Jehovah. To such Jesus said: “You, in turn, are to bear witness, because you have been with me from when I began.” (John 15:27, NW) Again Jesus told his disciples before leaving them: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” “Starting out from Jerusalem, you are to be witnesses of these things.” “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Acts 1:8; Luke 24:47, 48; Matt. 28:19, NW.
17 The subsequent impression made on history by those early followers of Christ proves beyond question that they carried out their Master’s instructions. “With great power the apostles continued giving forth the witness concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 4:33, NW) Boldly the apostle Peter declared before the Sanʹhedrin: “We are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:32, NW) Stephen was most outspoken in his testimony, so much so that his enraged opponents took him out and stoned him to death. (Acts 7:1-60; 22:20) To the apostle Paul the Lord himself reassuringly said: “Be of good courage! For as you have been giving a thorough witness on the things about me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”—Acts 23:11, NW.
18. In what respects were the followers of Christ different from others of their day?
18 Now what driving force enabled those first-century followers of Christ to give such a thorough witness? What were their aim and purpose in life, their motives for doing such an unpopular work? What made them risk their lives (many even lost their lives) to be Jehovah’s witnesses? Was it due to some selfish ambition, some personal gain, or was it because they were mentally unbalanced or because they had some kind of personality complex that drove them to die as martyrs? As a tool of the Devil the provincial governor Festus falsely charged that Paul was a madman when he spoke so eloquently before King Agrippa, but there was not a particle of truth in the hateful charge. (Acts 26:24) Read the whole account of the early Christians and you will see that they were different from the rest of the corrupt world, not, however, because they were queer lunatics or freakishly off balance in their senses. They were different in that they were devoted to truth and righteousness and the service of the Most High God. Actually, those early Christians were very intelligent men and women, far smarter than their opponents who were so dull of hearing and perception they could not recognize the way that leads to life.
19. (a) What is the acknowledged source of the Christian’s zeal, determination and endurance? (b) What aim and purpose in life did first-century Christians have?
19 Christians of the first century had zeal, enthusiasm, determination, power and endurance in far greater measure than devotees of other religions. Such driving forces were supplied by Jehovah God, and those early Christians acknowledged this source of their strength. When standing before King Agrippa, faithful Paul declared in all humility: “Because I have obtained the help that is from God I continue to this day bearing witness to both small and great.” (Acts 26:22, NW) So it was Jehovah’s active force, his holy spirit upon them, that enabled faithful followers of Christ to push ahead amid such violent and fiendish opposition. They were not interested in selfish pursuits, nor did they engage in the work just to make a name for themselves. As part of the “chosen race,” the “royal priesthood” and the “holy nation” their purpose was to declare abroad the excellencies of him who had called them out of darkness into his wonderful light. Hence their primary interest and concern were Jehovah’s name, word and purposes. His name had been defamed by those pretending to serve him. His sacred Word had been hidden under the rubble of orthodox tradition. His immutable purposes were obscured from the people in general. Hence, footstep followers of Christ who had been informed on these very important matters considered it a great honor and privilege to tell their fellow creatures, whether small or great, about the marvelous provisions Jehovah had made for their salvation and deliverance from impending destruction. Notwithstanding all the false accusations, the preaching work of the early Christians was a good work. It was one of love; first of all, love for their Creator Jehovah God, and, too, love for their neighbors and fellow creatures.
20. What are some of the questions that still remain unanswered?
20 Is true Christianity any different today than at the outset? Has this modern age altered conditions and circumstances and made gospel-preaching out of date and impractical? Can we say that the purpose of Jehovah’s witnesses today is the same as that of the early Christians 1,900 years ago? These are some of the important questions that will be considered in the article beginning on the next page.