The Great Contest
What is this contest? How does it affect us? What dangers are involved? How can we safeguard ourselves?
HAVE you noticed in those opening statements of both John’s gospel and his first letter how he reveals a great contest, a contest between darkness and light? Referring to the Source of all light he says: “God is light and there is no darkness at all in union with him.” (1 John 1:5) Then, respecting the Word, God’s Son, who was sent into the world and who became the center of the conflict, John writes: “The light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.”—John 1:5.
The contest is fought over an issue of universal importance that arose away back in the prehuman existence of Christ Jesus. Another heavenly creature was involved. This one used, or rather misused, that precious gift of free moral choice, that gift which lifts intelligent creation far above the animal creation. In his position as covering cherub, given the oversight in Eden and specially gifted in many ways, he saw the possibility of getting man under his own control, so that man’s service and worship would be diverted to himself at the cost of loyalty and obedience to Jehovah, man’s Creator. He entertained the idea and so became “drawn out and enticed by his own desire,” which ultimately led him on to rebel against the Most High. But how did that become a contest between darkness and light?—Ezek. 28:13-17; Jas. 1:14.
God is the Creator of literal, physical light, and his first recorded command as quoted by Paul is: “Let the light shine out of darkness.” The apostle goes on to give this a symbolic application when he says: “And he [God] has shone on our hearts to illuminate them with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) This shows that light is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of the truth that gives enlightenment. Yes, “God is light” and is “abundant in . . . truth.” (1 John 1:5; Ex. 34:6) In contrast, darkness is a symbol of error and falsehood, causing confusion, ignorance and corruption.
Recall how the contest began in Eden God gave enlightenment and a plain command respecting “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad,” and both Adam and Eve knew what would be the consequences of disobedience to that command. Then the enemy appeared, though not as an enemy, but as a knowing and sagacious friend, speaking through the serpent. He too promised enlightenment, implying that God had withheld it from them, saying: “God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen. 2:17; 3:5) Eve was seduced by the enemy’s craftiness and her mind was corrupted away from its former sincerity and chastity. She was no longer safe, walking a straight course in the light of God’s favor, but fell victim to Satan and went stumbling along a diverted course to “the land of darkness and the shadow of death.” (Job 10:21, AV) So we can safeguard ourselves by learning how Satan seeks to get creatures under his control, “transforming himself into an angel of light.” His ministers, as deceitful workers, do likewise.—2 Cor. 11:3, 13-15.
But we cannot really appreciate the contest and its issue if we view it merely as a combat between individuals. Many make that mistake, which is just as Satan desires. They think of God and Christ as their friends who try to hold them to the right course, whereas they think of the Devil as ever seeking to do them mischief, blaming him for every misfortune that befalls them and wondering why God allows it.
On the one hand, Jehovah God is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. He is the Maker of a universal organization, composed of perfect heavenly creatures, over which he is the head or “husband,” and which organization is spoken of Scripturally as Zion, a devoted and chaste wifelike organization. (Isa. 54:5) On the other hand, Satan too does not stand alone, but is the head of a mighty opposing organization, including ‘the governments, the authorities, the world-rulers of this darkness, the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.’ He is “the god of this system of things,” spoken of Scripturally as Babylon, the unclean woman and the unclean city of Revelation, chapters seventeen and eighteen. (Eph. 6:12; 2 Cor. 4:4) Thus our vision is broadened out to realize that two great organizations are in a mighty conflict, each side having its representatives, or “seed,” on this earth. (Gen. 3:15) But what is the issue involved? The primary issue is universal Sovereignty. However, it is not simply a question of which side is the more powerful and will eventually crush the other and rule the entire universe. There are other important factors involved. As revealed in the book of Job, Satan raised certain questions and a certain challenge, making it an issue of whether God could hold any of his creatures in loyal devotion and unbreakable integrity to him under test. That issue could not be settled just by destroying the one putting it in dispute. So God in his wisdom determined that the contest shall be fought to a final and satisfactory conclusion.—Job 1:9-11.
Final victory is assured. Meanwhile the contest is still on and we need to be particularly alert. Why?
CLIMAX REACHED—”ARISE, SHINE”!
From all the Scriptural evidence we know that we are living in the foretold “last days [when] critical times hard to deal with will be here.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Perhaps you are tired of the word “crisis.” When Hitler was rising to power there was an acute crisis. During World War II it was one crisis after another, and when fighting ceased that immense Iron Curtain loomed into view between East and West. And today the nations are certainly blind to the real issue, concerned with their own selfish interests and filled with the spirit of national sovereignty and self-determination, both on the part of the big nations and down to the smallest islands and peoples.
How can we live in such an atmosphere and get any enjoyment out of life, except by ignoring the facts and refusing to be bothered, cultivating a self-centered and hardened frame of mind? That is exactly what the enemy wants. That is one of the chief threatening dangers; it has lulled so many into a spirit of apathy already. How can we safeguard ourselves? Only by paying careful heed to God’s Word, learning how to look at the situation as God himself views it. If we do this we shall “not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs,” not if we keep alert. (2 Cor. 2:11) With that end in view, let us review some of the highlights of Isaiah’s prophecy, reading from Isa chapter 59, verse 20, to Isa chapter 60, verse 5.
Note the dominant theme, first of Jehovah’s tender compassion to the true spiritual Israelites, spoken of as being “in Jacob,” who was surnamed Israel, cleansing them from all ungodliness and bringing them into his organization, Zion, fulfilling his covenant to put upon them his spirit and put his word, or message, into their mouths. Then, when they are fully equipped, comes the thrilling command: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee.” (AS) What a strong position for Jehovah’s organization, like the ancient city of Zion set on a hill and catching the rays of the rising sun, which, represented by Christ Jesus, the new world’s King, rises “with healing in his wings, and ye shall come forth and leap for joy like calves let loose from the stall”! (Mal. 4:2, Ro) No holding back! No hiding the light! This key position is enjoyed not only by the spiritual Israelites but also by their close companions, the “other sheep,” the “seed’s seed,” who are also equipped with Jehovah’s spirit and word. “Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people,” that is, Satan’s organization and its slaves, but though they threaten and persecute they cannot ‘overpower’ the light. (John 1:5) Instead, Jehovah’s assurance is: “Ye shall tread down the lawless, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet, in the day when I am working with effect.”—Mal. 4:3, Ro.
With what effect? With the effect of guaranteed prosperity and peace for those who arise and shine in Zion. They continue to come pouring into Zion “as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows,” using Isaiah’s illustration, in whose land doves can be seen flying in dense flocks like a cloud. They quickly learn the fundamentals of the truth and learn how to “reflect like mirrors” the glorious truth of God’s kingdom. This is of tremendous encouragement to those already active in Zion and we are told to look for that very thing: “Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: they all gather themselves together, they come to thee.”—Isa. 60:4, AS.
Surely Jehovah and his organization under Christ Jesus are worthy of our unstinted devotion and service.
Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.—Psalm 34:19.