The Triumphant Message of “The Kingdom”
“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.”—Matt. 24:14, NW.
1. How did Jesus link earth-wide preaching about the Kingdom with the end of earth’s present system of things?
MORE than nineteen centuries ago, in the spring of A.D. 33, a man sat upon the Mount of Olives, looking at the temple of Jerusalem in the distance. The four men with him were concerned about what he had said about that temple. So they asked him a question about it and other world-important events that were due to take place. In proceeding with his lengthy answer to their threefold question, he said: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14, NW) Today, in this year 1955, the temple of Jerusalem is no more, as he foretold that it would not be, but his prophecy concerning “this good news of the kingdom” is being fulfilled among more and more of earth’s inhabitants and all the nations are being given a witness respecting “the kingdom” by a preaching campaign to which they cannot shut their ears. Triumphantly this message of “the kingdom” has gone out since first it began to be preached, and the preaching of it sounds out as a proof not only that Jesus Christ the prophesier of it is true but that we are approaching the fully accomplished end of earth’s present system of things. The preaching had to come before the end. The end could not come until after the preaching had been done on such a scale that it would be heard in all the inhabited earth and all the nations would have been witnessed to.
2. How much time has been allotted to this preaching?
2 How much time has been allotted to this preaching? Down to the middle of the year 1920 it was thought that about nineteen hundred years had been allotted to the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom and that the preaching had begun A.D. 33 at Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost when Jesus’ disciples were anointed with the holy spirit and began preaching miraculously in foreign languages to the great crowd that gathered at the miracle, and that the preaching had continued through the centuries till now. It was thought to be the preaching of a kingdom yet to be established in answer to the prayer that Jesus taught, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:9, 10.
3, 4. What gross misunderstandings about God’s kingdom on earth were widely prevalent for centuries until this twentieth one?
3 An honest examination of history, however, shows that shortly after the death of all twelve of Jesus’ apostles by the end of the first century the message of even a coming kingdom of our heavenly Father began to die out. The church came to be understood as the Kingdom, and the Kingdom would come when the church was visibly or powerfully established in the earth. Less and less the emphasis was laid on the coming kingdom as the church fell away more and more from the true Christian hope and became allied to the Roman state. When finally the Roman emperor, Constantine, claimed to be converted and became a Roman Catholic, the religious clergy felt that the Kingdom had come and they sought to increase the rule of this religio-political kingdom. In 800 (A.D.), when the Holy Roman Empire was established by Charlemagne’s being crowned emperor by Pope Leo III at Rome, it was felt still more that God’s kingdom had been established and that, although the kingdom of God was one, it manifested itself in two directions, in the temporal direction through the political empire and in the spiritual direction through the Roman Catholic pope.
4 The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century was mixed up with politics of western Europe and this led to the marriage union of the Protestant sects with the political states. The political rulers of such religio-political states were declared to rule by divine right and to be the visible representatives of God on earth, ruling in His name. This understanding of matters affected all views regarding God’s kingdom, and although missionaries were later sent out to all parts of the earth their proclamation concerning God’s kingdom was bound to be incorrect because they misunderstood the subject and they preached the teachings of the church systems that had become a part of this world.
5, 6. Christ’s actual second presence, as Scripturally defined, has what connection with the Kingdom-preaching campaign?
5 On the other hand, Jesus, when on trial for his life, told the Roman governor of Judea: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36, NW) In no way, therefore, could the preaching that the Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Protestant missionaries did during past centuries be interpreted as fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 24:14.
6 In this prophecy Jesus did not mean the preaching by such missionaries of apostate Christian religions. The Kingdom-preaching that he predicted had to wait until this twentieth century in order to go into action. God’s timing of events made it so. What is the kingdom the good news of which was to be preached earth-wide to all nations at the foremeant time? The point of the question that the four apostles put to Jesus determines the right answer. They said: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presencea and of the consummation of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3, NW; Mark 13:3, 4) It was about Christ’s actual presence in his God-given kingdom that those apostles asked. And concerning his “coming” into that kingdom Jesus said in later verses of his same prophetic answer: “Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will go to wailing and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet-sound . . . When the Son of man arrives in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another.” (Matt. 24:30, 31; 25:31, 32, NW) Consequently the kingdom about which this good news would be preached is the kingdom with Jesus Christ present in it in power, on his throne of active rulership. The Kingdom is, not one yet to be set up, but one now established.
7, 8. Since only the fall of 1914, with what effect upon most of earth’s inhabitants has Kingdom-preaching properly proceeded, and why?
7 The news of its being established is not good news to everybody, for, instead of everybody’s rejoicing over its establishment in the heavens, Jesus said that all the tribes of the earth would go to wailing at it and that he as King and Shepherd would separate people of all the nations over the matter of the Kingdom, just as a shepherd separates goats from among his sheep. God’s scheduled time to establish that heavenly kingdom with his Son on the throne was at the end of the “appointed times of the nations,” or 2,520 years from when the kingdom of Jerusalem in the land of Judah was desolated in early autumn or in the seventh Jewish month of the year 607 B.C. Those seven “appointed times of the nations” ended in the early autumn of 1914, about October 1. Before then the “good news” of the established kingdom could not be preached.
8 In December, 1879, in the sixth issue of the magazine now known as The Watchtower, it called attention to the fact that these times would run out in 1914. Did the professed Christian nations of Christendom take notice of this with any faith or joyful expectation? No! In the early autumn of 1914 the nations of Christendom were in no joyful mood over the establishing of God’s heavenly kingdom with Christ in the throne as his anointed King. The nations were raging in their first world war over world domination, and the religious clergy, Catholic and Protestant, were nationalistically backing up their sides in the gory fight, praying for God to give victory to one part of Christendom over the other part of Christendom. This first world war affected all the world. Ever since then “all the tribes of the earth” have gone wailing, and to this day they have not stopped, even though the sign of the Son of man’s having come into his long-expected kingdom is very clear and convincing to every eye not blinded by the enemy, Satan the Devil. These wailing tribes are not the people that the Shepherd-King Jesus Christ separates to his right side as sheep.
9, 10. (a) By whom is timely preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” being done? (b) Why are faith and courage vital essentials for such preaching?
9 In its issue of July 1, 1920, the magazine The Watch Tower published the article “Gospel of the Kingdom.” It was not till then that Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth saw that the “good news” or gospel was about the now established kingdom and that the good news of this kingdom must begin to be preached now, after the “beginning of pangs of distress” experienced during the period of World War I; and that the preaching must continue until the battle of Armageddon, the “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:7, 8, 21, NW) Now, in the “time of the end” of this satanic system of things, is when “this good news of the kingdom” must be preached everywhere possible. Now is when it is being preached. It will keep on being preached until this system of things ends and the new system of things, God’s new world of “new heavens and a new earth,” is ushered in with all its blessings. The missionaries of Christendom throughout the earth number into the thousands. Despite all these, it is not too much to say that Jehovah’s witnesses are the only ones preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” Why? Because they are the only ones that see the established kingdom in the light of modern events interpreted by Bible prophecy, and they are the only ones with the faith and courage from God to preach it.
10 Because Jesus called it “good news” let no one think that it does not take courage and faith in God to preach it. It is indeed God’s kingdom by Christ that is preached, which fact should ordinarily make it a most welcome message. But do you know what preaching it to this anguished world means? It means preaching the news of an enemy kingdom and preaching it in enemy lands. Why? Because the world, including Christendom, is no friend to God’s kingdom, neither are Jehovah God and his Christ friends to this world. The Revelation, which gives a vision of God’s organization giving birth to his kingdom in 1914, pictures that fact this way: “She gave birth to a son, a male, who is destined to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was caught away to God and to his throne.” (Rev. 12:5, NW) That “iron rod” in the hands of God’s kingdom is for dashing the nations of this world to pieces like frail potters’ vessels at Armageddon, as foretold at Psalm 2:7-9. It is no wonder that since 1914 the nations have raged in two world wars, with many lesser wars in between and since, and that they have meditated vain things like the League of Nations and the United Nations and have taken counsel together against Jehovah and against his anointed King Jesus Christ, as that same psalm foretold. (Ps. 2:1, 2, AS) Hence when a true Christian comes preaching the only really “good news” he comes as a publisher of a kingdom that is prophesied to destroy the nations of this world. This fact makes the preaching a work calling for courage that only God can supply.
11-13. (a) Why is it “safe” to be now the kind of “Christian” recently mentioned by one of Christendom’s renowned spokesmen? (b) In contrast, why are genuine Christians relatively unsafe yet undefeatable?
11 On April 23, 1955, at a Y.M.C.A. luncheon in New York city Dean James A. Pike of New York Cathedral said he sometimes felt it was unfortunate that “being a Christian is such a safe thing.” When this orthodox clergyman said that, was he thinking about Jehovah’s witnesses as preachers of this established kingdom? No! Those whom the dean really meant are people who profess to be Christians because they are members of the respected religious systems of Christendom, membership being popular and having the protection of the political governments of Christendom.
12 Jehovah’s witnesses are endeavoring to be true Christians in accord with the Bible requirements, but they do not find it a “safe thing” anywhere on earth. Even in Christendom they have experienced what Dean Pike next goes on to observe, namely, that in its beginning years Christianity was an “illegal” and “subversive” doctrine and its advocates often came to the attention of the “un-Roman activities committee.” Christianity, Dean Pike contended, has to return to its early dynamism if it is to be completely successful against communism. (New York Times, April 24, 1955) Now it is because Jehovah’s witnesses have returned to the dynamism of the Christianity of apostolic days that even today, after the hysteria of World War II, they are “illegal” in a number of lands in Christendom, not to speak of Communist lands, and that they are falsely accused by their religious foes of being “subversive” and security risks, being classed at one time as Nazis, at another time as Communists, in Communist lands as spies and agents of imperialist countries, and elsewhere as secret agents of Jewish Zionism, any old charge being leveled at them to rouse public feeling against them, to stir up government action against them and to make their existence unsafe.
13 But this does not succeed. Jehovah’s witnesses today continue to make a public declaration of their faith and hope and to preach the good news of the Kingdom in the midst of the greatest unsafety in the concentration camps and forced labor camps and prisons of Communist lands and of other lands under totalitarian rule and dictatorship. They triumph over these forms and operations of Devil rule, even as described in Revelation 12:11 (NW): “They conquered [Satan the Devil] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even despite the danger of death.” Nowhere is being one of Jehovah’s witnesses an “easy religion” nor is one safe from some form of hatred and assault by servants and governments of the invisible “ruler of this world,” Satan the Devil. Communists and other totalitarian rulers try to make Jehovah’s witnesses show that theirs is an inferior religion, not able to hold out against this world, but the faithfulness of the witnesses under these efforts to force them to give up their religion administers a defeat to the Communists and other totalitarians. As Dean Pike also said: “Communism is a world religion. It can only be defeated by a better religion. Nothing else can defeat it.” The failure of the ban and persecutions by Communists against Jehovah’s witnesses to stamp them out or to halt their increase is an eloquent testimony that among Jehovah’s witnesses they have met up with the one “better religion,” and it serves notice upon these radical fighters against Jehovah God that his witnesses will be here triumphant after communism and other radicalisms have gone. Their religion is as imperishable as Jehovah’s kingdom that they preach.—New York Times, January 11, 1955.
14, 15. How does Christendom’s manner of preaching compare with the way Jesus’ command to preach is now being fully obeyed?
14 The manner in which Jehovah’s witnesses preach “this good news of the kingdom” has come in for criticism. They do not preach in the orthodox, formal way, which is the easy way, in clergy dress in a church pulpit and with one’s religious flock gathered inside before the preacher or priest. This ceremonial, orthodox way of preaching in Christendom has failed to fulfill the command of Jesus to his disciples: “Go [yes, Go] therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20, NW) Because Christendom’s orthodoxy has failed to convert the world or convert even the people in lands called “Christian” and has failed to halt the invasion of the big cities by paganism, the religious systems of Christendom try to force the people to adopt religion or religious practices and confessions by having the lawmakers force religion upon unwilling people by law. This might be in harmony with the treaty of peace of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years’ War in Europe in 1648 and which ruled that the religion of each province of the Holy Roman Empire was to be thereafter determined by the religion of the particular ruler of that province, be he Catholic, Lutheran or Calvinist. But it has failed to save Christendom’s form of Christianity from corruption, decay and worldliness. This means that orthodoxy, which has held sway in Christendom for centuries, has not worked. It is a failure.
15 The outstanding way by which Jehovah’s witnesses obey Jesus’ command at Matthew 24:14 and preach “this good news of the kingdom” is by going from country to country, from city to city, from village to village and from house to house. This may not be the way that is orthodox with the clergy and laymen of Christendom, but it is apostolic, yes Christlike. After the apostle Peter and the other apostles had told the Jewish Supreme Sánhedrin at Jerusalem, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men,” and had been flogged and told to stop preaching about Jesus Christ, these apostles went away rejoicing, and, says the account, “every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 5:29, 40-42, NW.
16. In his preaching, how was Paul an imitator of Jesus, and with what result?
16 At that time Paul was not among those apostles in their house-to-house preaching, but years later he said in a farewell talk to the older men of the congregation of Ephesus: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. . . . I went preaching the kingdom.” (Acts 20:20, 21, 25, NW) When writing to the Christians at Corinth the apostle Paul said: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1, NW) In house-to-house preaching Paul was an imitator of Jesus Christ, for, besides preaching in various public places, Jesus was often reported in the houses of the people telling the occupants about the Kingdom. When sending out his twelve apostles and later also seventy evangelists to preach, he told them what to say at the doors of the people upon whom they called: “Wherever you enter into a house say first: ‘May this house have peace.’” (Luke 10:1, 5, NW) “When you are entering into the house, greet the household; . . . Wherever anyone does not take you in or listen to your words, on going out of that house or that city shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:5, 12-14, NW) As a result of preaching in this Christlike, apostolic way Paul could write out from his prison in Rome and say that the good news “was preached in all creation that is under heaven. Of this good news I Paul became a minister. I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for you.” (Col. 1:23, 24, NW) All creation under heaven was mainly pagan then.
17, 18. By whom and how, in practice, is the Christlike, apostolic way of preaching used successfully in our day?
17 After nineteen hundred years Jehovah’s witnesses are still wholeheartedly given to the house-to-house way of preaching in this “time of the end,” because it means obeying theocratic instructions in the Bible; it means imitating successful preachers like Jesus Christ and his apostles. Jehovah’s witnesses today have faith in that original way, that it will prove just as successful with them as with Christ and his apostles. They are not too lazy to follow that way because it is harder than standing in a church pulpit. They are not afraid to do it because it is the unsafe way, exposing them to ridicule, abuse, violent opposition and religious persecution. Instead of imitating the clergy and appealing to the “sword of the state” for help, they wield the “sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God,” and let it do the converting. They use the direct, practical, thorough method of Bible education, giving the people home instruction, private, personal, individual instruction in God’s Word, leaving literature containing printed Bible sermons with the people called upon, then returning later to answer Bible questions and to start home Bible studies. This is the aggressive, sensible way that halts the invasion of paganism into many homes or rescues many individuals from the swelling tide of paganism. For example:
18 New York city is reputed to be one of the biggest pagan cities on earth; yet by diligent house-to-house work reaching every home possible in this city of over seven million people Jehovah’s witnesses have increased from just one congregation in 1935 to fifty-five congregations thus far in 1955, with 7,048 reporting activity in preaching the good news to others. This means there is now about one active witness of Jehovah to every one thousand persons in the city. In the United States as a whole 187,120 reported activity in preaching during April of 1955, which means that among America’s 165,000,000 inhabitants there is one preaching witness of Jehovah to less than one thousand persons.
19-21. (a) What vital needs are indicated by recently reported remarks of other spokesmen for Christendom? (b) Why are such remarks out of date?
19 In the face of this is it any wonder that the clergy are beginning to make some observations and recommendations? Without themselves setting the example, the frightened clergy are now belatedly voicing the need for the laity (the members of their congregation) to get out and do some preaching, though not emphasizing the need to do house-to-house preaching. The general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches recently declared there was need for “the witness of Christ in our professional lives as well as our family lives. . . . The only way to bring people to the Christian church is to make them aware of the tremendous grace that is the gift of Christ.” (New York Times, July 12, 1954) Said the minister of Riverside church, New York city: “Overlooked is, the fact that religion is, first and foremost, the glorifying of God amid the everyday activities of life. The world is the place where religion needs to be seen in action.”—New York Times, July 5, 1954.
20 In a report to a meeting of the World Council of Churches at Evanston, Illinois, in 1954, one layman, an army colonel, said: “One of the most important factors bearing on the future of the church is the responsibility of the laity to carry their faith to their jobs, homes, everywhere. We need more everyday Christians rather than the so-called Sunday Christians.” At that same assembly of the World Council at Evanston, in connection with a call for the churches to “break out in a spirit of evangelism of the apostles,” the chairman of the section on Evangelism said: “Evangelism is not a special assignment of missionaries, but a normal action of every disciple. . . . This is a new enlargement to the activities of churches. They will now have to undertake teaching their laymen to go about evangelizing their everyday life.” (Chicago American, August 27, 1954) Notice, please, in all those published statements the lack of any reference to the apostolic house-to-house preaching.
21 But when is it hoped to get laymen of the churches trained to carry out their part of the responsibility to preach? Listen to the minister of an Episcopal church in Houston, Texas, as he sermonizes in a New York city church; he said that IN TWO HUNDRED YEARS the source of evangelistic power in the Christian church would pass from the pulpit to “a witnessing fellowship.” Yes, preachers would continue to preach, “but sermons [in the pulpit] will not be the main means by which people are brought to Christ.” This would be accomplished in an atmosphere of awakening faith created by believers who would tell what “God is doing in their lives.” (New York Times, May 31, 1954) This clergyman is at least two hundred years behind the times in his viewpoint, at least as far as Jehovah’s witnesses are concerned. Already in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses the world over, the preaching is not confined to the speaking by capable speakers from the Kingdom Hall platform but every baptized member of the congregation is encouraged, aided and trained to become a preaching witness, able to go alone from house to house and preach introductory sermons of some minutes’ length at the doors and also to make return visits on the interested sheep and give still longer sermons to show the value of Bible study.
22, 23. Dedicated doers of the will of Almighty God are now alert to what privileges and responsibilities?
22 In the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses everybody is a preaching minister. It is a society of ministers, and none can escape his responsibility to preach in obedience to Christ’s command and example. Each one is keenly conscious of Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew 24:14 concerning these days of the Kingdom’s presence, and each one feels with the apostle Paul as he exclaimed: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16, NW) Each one knows that it is vital, not only to the salvation of others, but also to his own salvation to preach publicly, for with force Paul’s words come home to each one of Jehovah’s witnesses: “If you publicly declare that ‘word in your mouth’, that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Rom. 10:9, 10, NW.
23 What do Jehovah’s witnesses care whether worldly courts of law rule that they are “regular ministers” specially “set apart” or not? They know that they have dedicated themselves to God to do His will and they know that he commands them through Christ to go out to the people and preach and prove themselves his ordained ministers by actively serving the interests of his kingdom. Jehovah has known better than to wait for 200 years for the clergy of Christendom to stir their laity to action. The limited “time of the end” not allowing for that estimated time, Jehovah has raised up his own witnesses and they are giving the Kingdom witness right on time, just as he has ordered.
OVERCOMING THE WORLD
24. Living now with a Christlike faith includes what proper attitude toward this present world?
24 It requires faith to be a witness for Jehovah. Read Hebrews 11:1 to 12:3 and note that from Abel, the first to die for the worship of Jehovah, down to Jesus Christ it required faith to be one of Jehovah’s witnesses. It was their faith that enabled them to overcome the existent world by seeing a righteous new world under God’s kingdom and therefore refusing to become part of the present world and to live like it and for it. The Christian that has become a spiritual son of God must conquer this world, and he can do so only by unshakable faith. Says the apostle John: “Everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—1 John 5:4, NW.
25, 26. How and why do present-day witnesses of Jehovah conquer the world?
25 In 1914 the promised kingdom was born of God and it will yet conquer the world. It conquered Satan and his demons by casting them out of heaven and down to our earth, and now it goes on conquering in the Kingdom witness work on earth, and it will complete its conquest over Satan’s present world at Armageddon. (Rev. 6:1, 2, NW) On earth today there is a remnant of spiritual Christian sons of God, and they will not prove false to the stated rule that everything born from God conquers the world. They will show their faith in God’s kingdom by preaching it till the end of this world comes. There are also prospective earthly sons of God with us today, a constantly growing “great crowd” of them, who hope for life as His children in the glorious paradise of the “new earth.” They, too, must conquer the world just as the ancient, pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah from Abel to John the Baptist did. To do so they must make the same practical display of their faith in Jehovah God and his kingdom. But though we are surrounded by so great a cloud of ancient, pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah, we are especially looking at Jehovah’s greatest witness in the universe, his faithful and true Son Jesus Christ, for he was the greatest conqueror of this world, even by a martyr’s death on the torture stake at Calvary. He said: “I conquered and sat down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21, NW) By him Jehovah God won a grand triumph over the enemy governments and authorities. We read:
26 “God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document [the law of Moses] 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. Stripping the governments and the authorities bare, he exhibited them in open public as conquered, leading them in a triumphal procession by means of it.”—Col. 2:13-15, NW.
27-29. (a) What ancient pagan ceremonial is recalled by Paul’s reference to Jehovah’s triumphant conquest through Christ Jesus? (b) How and against what wrongful accuser did Jehovah act to enable willing humans to share Jesus Christ’s triumphant conquest?
27 Ever since that victory nineteen centuries ago, Jehovah God has been leading a glorious triumphal procession. According to the original Greek word that the apostle Paul used here, the picture is taken from the time of the pagan Roman conquests. To the pagan Romans a triumph was an imposing ceremonial in honor of a general who had gained a decisive victory. He was allowed to enter the city crowned with laurel, bearing a scepter in one hand, and a branch of laurel in the other, wearing an embroidered toga, and riding in a four-horse circular chariot of a peculiar form. He was preceded by the Roman senate and magistrates, musicians, the spoils, the captives in fetters, etc., and followed by his army in marching order. The procession advanced to the Capitoline Hill, where sacrifices were offered and the general was entertained with a public feast.
28 In connection with God’s triumph nineteen centuries ago the apostle Paul mentions the “handwritten document.” This was God’s law through Moses, and it “consisted of decrees” and it “was in opposition to us.” It was “against us,” for it condemned all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, as sinners deserving of death, because of our inherited imperfection and our inability to keep God’s law. But who are the governments and authorities that Paul says were stripped bare? They are the invisible governments and authorities of Satan and his demons. Moffatt’s Bible translation calls them “angelic Rulers and Powers.” Once these could accuse us before God. Why? Because we sought to worship and serve God perfectly but failed to do so, as proved by the Jews’ inability to keep the Mosaic law. That law could not make us perfect, even by its animal sacrifices. It exposed us as being sinners whom the Devil could tempt and whom he could accuse before God. But what we could not do God did, in order to overcome that accusation of Satan’s governments and authorities against Jehovah’s witnesses. He put Jesus Christ on the earth as a perfect man, and Jesus measured up perfectly to God’s law. Jesus did so although his preaching of God’s kingdom brought against him the opposition of all of Satan’s governments and authorities, visible and invisible. Jesus died unconquered by this world and perfectly loyal to God’s universal sovereignty. He died not only as a martyr or faithful witness to Jehovah’s kingdom but also as a perfect human sacrifice. Upon the basis of this sacrifice God could forgive and cancel the trespasses of which the Mosaic law condemned us. Thus Jehovah God nailed the Mosaic law to Jesus’ torture stake, canceling this “handwritten document against us,” the torture stake being a symbol of Jesus’ sacrificial death.
29 In ancient times living captives from among the defeated were often stripped naked and led in the triumphal procession before the conqueror’s chariot, as the prophet Isaiah was used to illustrate by walking about naked and barefoot for three symbolic years. (Isa. 20:1-4) So when Jehovah God triumphed over the accusing satanic governments and authorities by letting Jesus die faithful and then resurrecting him for his faithfulness, Jehovah in effect stripped those enemy governments and authorities, disarming them and rendering them naked, completely exposed, as conquered. Jehovah was now within his right to forgive the trespasses of his Christian witnesses and to justify them or declare them righteous that they might gain the heavenly kingdom with their Leader Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:1, 6-9, 18, 19) So those satanic governments and authorities could no longer condemn them as sinners already condemned by God’s own law through Moses, for by faith in Christ’s sacrifice they were forgiven and cleansed and declared righteous, and were thus given a good conscience. “Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous. Who is he that will condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died, yes, rather the one who was raised up from the dead, who is on the right hand of God, who also pleads for us.” (Rom. 8:1, 33, 34, NW) As a High Priest who has been admitted to God’s most holy presence with the life value of his perfect human sacrifice Jesus pleads and wins justification from sin for those who become his faithful, spirit-begotten, anointed followers.
30, 31. (a) Since Pentecost, what governments and authorities has Jehovah’s triumphing act kept on exhibiting as conquered and powerless? (b) For whom has such exhibition been progressing?
30 Hence the condemnation of them by Satan’s demon organization does not affect them in God’s sight. In a clash with man-made laws of worldly governments under Satan’s invisible rulership men heap condemnation upon them for keeping God’s perfect law rather than man’s imperfect, ungodly law; but that does not stop them or take away their “good conscience,” for they know they have God’s approval and are suffering for righteousness’ sake. All this unfair, unjustified condemnation of them by men exposes the shame of the worldly governments and authorities, for these have been stripped naked as being enemy governments under Satan and as now being conquered, silenced by God’s justifying arrangement for his faithful servants. Thus the persistent faithfulness of his loyal servants of unbreakable integrity shows that the enemy accusations do not count, and by this Jehovah exhibits these stripped governments and authorities in open public as conquered.
31 Ever since Pentecost A.D. 33, when he poured out his holy spirit upon his servants in divine approval, Jehovah has been leading those enemy powers as in a triumphal procession before the gaze of men and angels, and this by means of the torture stake and the One who faithfully died on it. Those satanic governments and authorities may have kept on operating since Pentecost, but still they remain beaten, conquered, and the faith of Christ’s followers conquers them and shames them as being satanic powers of this world with which Christ’s followers cannot be friends and of which they can be no part. So we see those satanic powers for what they nakedly are, and our faith gives us the conquest over them and holds us true to God’s kingdom now born in the heavens. At the battle of Armageddon God’s conquest of them will be completed. Jehovah God will not preserve them alive as captives to be led in a triumphal procession after Armageddon before the eyes of the Armageddon survivors, but he will wipe them out and bring no enemy captives out alive on earth from that universal battle.
PERFUMING THE WAY OF THE TRIUMPHAL PROCESSION
32-34. (a) Since 1914, what more has been viewed by the God-favored spectators? (b) Under the figure of odors, pleasant and offensive, what other aspects of Jehovah’s triumph are clarified by Paul?
32 Jehovah’s magnificent triumphal procession moves on through this “time of the end” of this system of things, especially now that the Kingdom, born in 1914, has won the victory in the war in heaven between its Archangel King Jesus Christ and Satan the Devil and his angels. These defeated governments and authorities have been cast down to this earth to be detained here for a “short period of time” until they are abyssed and put out of the way at the climax of the battle of Armageddon. Now Jehovah’s triumphal procession is marching along to superb victory at Armageddon. How do we know that? By the odor of the knowledge of Jehovah God that is being spread more and more heavily throughout the earth by the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” on the part of Jehovah’s witnesses, the anointed remnant and the “great crowd” of companion witnesses.
33 Not all the spectators view the triumphal procession in the same way and not all breathe in the heavy fragrance accompanying it with the same appreciation. To those who are a part of this world and to all who are friends of this foul, doomed world, the odor that is diffused by the Kingdom-preaching accompanying the triumphal procession is offensive, unbreathable, for God’s kingdom means a plague, death, to this world. To those who long for deliverance from this corrupt world and who perceive that God’s kingdom is the only hope of deliverance, that odor is welcome, sweet, delightful. The apostle Paul described it nineteen centuries ago when he was preaching about God’s coming kingdom, but what he says applies more forcefully now during the actual presence of the established kingdom. He had gone to Troas in Asia Minor to declare the good news about Christ, and there a door of opportunity to preach was opened to him. Despite that he left there and went to Macedonia across the Aegean Sea to meet Titus sooner. There, too, he was helped to spread the knowledge of Jehovah God. So in gratitude he exclaimed:
34 “Thanks be to God who always leads us in a triumphal procession in company with the Christ and makes the odor of the knowledge of him perceptible through us in every place! For to God we are a sweet odor of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the latter ones an odor issuing from death to death, to the former ones an odor issuing from life to life. And who is adequately qualified for these things? We are; for we are not peddlers of the word of God as many men are, but as out of sincerity, yes, as sent from God, under God’s view, in company with Christ, we are speaking.”—2 Cor. 2:14-17, NW; 2 Co 7:5-7.
35. From 1919 to the present, why, figuratively speaking, has Jehovah’s triumphal procession included exulting preachers of “this good news of the kingdom”?
35 What an uplifting thought! If we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah God through Christ and then engage as witnesses of Jehovah in preaching the good news of his established kingdom, he leads us in his triumphal procession with Christ the now reigning King. He leads us, but not as captives to our shame and public humiliation. Paul does not say here, as he does of the enemy governments and authorities at Colossians 2:15, that the triumphant Jehovah strips us naked and exhibits us in open public as conquered. No, but Jehovah leads us as a victorious general leads his army in a triumphal procession along a perfumed route through the welcoming capital. He leads us as sharers in His victory through Christ. Yes, he leads us as those by whom he is gaining further victory by making perceptible everywhere through us the knowledge of himself, by our publishing of the Bible and its message of the hour. Since 1919 Jehovah has given us this Kingdom message and wherever we preach it it triumphs. It gains victories, transforming many who formerly were enemies of God by wicked works into witnesses of Jehovah and preachers of the good news of his theocratic kingdom.
36-38. (a) As a repulsive stench, to whom and why are heralds of Jehovah’s kingdom unsatisfying? (b) What is denoted by such Kingdom heralds’ being, to others, “a sweet Christian odor”?
36 Not only is the diffused or published knowledge of God an odor in the midst of which we march triumphantly behind Jehovah God and in company with Christ the King as we make that divine knowledge perceptible to others, but we are also ourselves an odor. But as respects us, noses in this world differ. Not that we of our own accord want to be offensive to anybody on earth, for we seek to be helpful and of benefit to everyone. But all this world is Jehovah’s enemy. So if we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah God through Christ and He uses us in his service as bearers of his kingdom message, then we cannot avoid being, yes, we must expect to be, offensive to many, the many who are the enemies of Jehovah and his theocratic government by Christ. Paul, who tried to please all people in all things for their advantage that they might be saved, had that experience. We ourselves cannot escape it, now especially when the establishment of the Kingdom has made the issue of universal sovereignty the burning question before all people. On this issue we cannot be the friends of this world.
37 As Christians we witnesses of Jehovah copy Jesus Christ, we follow his steps bearing his reproach, we advertise him as now reigning King, and so, as it were, we exhale or give out the odor of Christ. In this respect we wish we smelled sweet to everybody, but we do only to the smaller number of people, to those who are being saved. To these we are like a sweet Christian odor. To these we are as an odor that issues from a life-giving source and that therefore leads to life in God’s new world. Why are we a sweet, life-breathing odor to these? Because it is plain to these few people that Jehovah God, the Source of life, sends us and so we come to them, not for death-dealing purposes, but unselfishly for life-giving purposes. These people are nauseated with this putrid world and its disappointing promises and its desperate, selfish efforts to keep itself in and God’s righteous world out. The message that we preach of God’s present kingdom is really “good news” to them. It breathes of life to them, and it shows them the way to happy life in God’s world of new heavens and a new earth, with now the opportunity of even surviving the battle of Armageddon.
38 As if breathing in a delightful odor, they turn to us and receive us to themselves as Christians sent from God. They listen to our message and accept our Bible literature and our offer to study it with them. They act on our invitation to attend our meetings at area studies and at Kingdom Halls, become a part of the New World society by dedication to God through Christ and then join with us in breathing out this delightful, life-giving odor to others that they too may be helped to everlasting life. Jehovah as represented by his ruling King Jesus Christ is no “stone of stumbling” or “rock of offence” to them. They accept Jehovah as Universal Sovereign, the great Rock of the universe, whose activity is perfect. (Deut. 32:3, 4, NW; Isa. 8:13, 14, AS) The triumph of Jehovah’s kingdom message over these persons of good nose is for their life.
39. Figuratively again, to and from what are noses of lovers of “this world” turned, and why?
39 On the other hand, the prophecy foretold that others, even Christendom itself, would stumble on this great Stone and get offended at this great Rock and hence would fall and be broken and be caught in a snare and be taken for death. (Isa. 8:15) To these the preaching witnesses of Jehovah are a stench, “an odor issuing from death to death.” Our Kingdom message bodes no good to them. It is like a foul smell issuing from a dead thing and contaminating and deadly to breathe in. It issues from a death-dealing source and it spells death to them. Why? Because they are a part of this world and love it and do not want to break loose from it. They do not want to reform and become reconciled to God through Christ. They prefer the company of his enemies, including Christendom with her orthodoxy and human traditions, which tickle their noses as well as their ears. But we preach the “day of vengeance of our God,” and therefore the coming destruction of this world and of all those who remain a part of this world. So we stink to these world-lovers. To them we are pestilential, we are death-dealing, we ought to be buried out of sight, out of smelling and out of hearing. This message of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and of his new world and of the destruction of this old world is an offense to them and puts us in bad odor with them. We give them no promise of life in the eternal future.
40, 41. How do such offended ones act, and with what effect?
40 Jehovah, who put Christ in Kingdom power, has become a great Stumbling Stone and an offensive Rock to these. They try to remove the stumbling stone and to overturn the offensive rock by their worldly schemes of conspiracy against Jehovah God and his reigning Christ. In harmony with this they try to silence the Kingdom message proclaimed by Jehovah’s witnesses so foul-smelling to them. They may remove the name of Jehovah from translations of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible, but they cannot remove Jehovah the Rock from his position of Universal Sovereign. Hence they will be squashed flatter than a pancake by that great Stone at Armageddon.
41 Just as they can never remove the great Rock from his royal sovereignty over this earth, so they have not been able and never will be able to silence the Kingdom message and destroy its preachers. Till now they have had to smell Jehovah’s witnesses, and they will have to keep on smelling us, until their own noses are mashed in at the coming day of the ‘war of God the Almighty’ at Armageddon. (Rev. 16:14-16, NW; Matt. 21:42-44) It is Jehovah the almighty Unconquerable that leads us, and it is in his triumphal procession that he leads us in company with his King of kings and Lord of lords, the winning King and the winning Lord. The message of Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ has already gained grand triumphs throughout the earth because He backs up and blesses the preaching of this “good news” by his witnesses in all the inhabited earth. It will continue to triumph under his protection and guidance of us until Armageddon, when his own triumphant act of vindication will cause all the earth’s atmosphere to be permeated with the sweet, life-giving odor of the knowledge of God for every praiser of Jehovah that then breathes.—Hab. 2:14, AS.
a On page 426 of the McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 2, column 2, we read this subheading: “Coming (parousía, being present) OF CHRIST.” At Matthew 24:3 the word translated “presence” is this Greek word parousía. See Philippians 2:12 and; 2 Corinthians 10:10 for other occurrences of this Greek word.
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