Overseers in Apocalyptic Times
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him.”—Apocalypsis Re 1:1, Dy.
1. In what way are we living in apocalyptic times?
WE ARE in apocalyptic times. That is to say, we are living in times and under conditions that were pictured for us beforehand in the last of the sixty-six books of The Holy Bible called The Apocalypse or The Revelation.
2. According to this apocalyptic book, for what happiness is it now the time?
2 The opening of this apocalyptic book reads: “The revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent forth his angel and presented it in signs through him to his slave John, who bore witness to the word God gave and to the witness Jesus Christ gave, even to all the things he saw. Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near.” (Rev. 1:1-3) Does anyone want to be happy in these apocalyptic times? Then let him read to himself or read aloud to others the words of this prophecy. Or, if not himself doing the reading, let him listen to the reading and then let him understandingly observe the things written down in this prophetic book. It is now the time for this happiness.
3. Who was the John here named, and to whom was he to write?
3 The John here named was a servant or slave of Jesus Christ. He does not parade around the fact that he was a Christian slave in the office of one of the “twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:14) As a slave he was instructed to write to certain congregations in what is now Asiatic Turkey. So he introduces himself this way: “John to the seven congregations that are in the province of Asia.”—Rev. 1:4.
4. Where was John then, and to whom was he especially to write?
4 John was then on the prison island of Patmos, suffering at the hands of the Roman government of Caesar for being a faithful Christian. (Rev. 1:9) The island of Patmos was less than a hundred and fifty miles from the seaport of Ephesus, and hence not far from the six other cities where there were congregations to which John was told to write. At that time Timothy the son of Eunice may have been an aged overseer of the congregation at Ephesus. John was told to write especially to the overseers.
5. With which apostle was Timothy associated, and with which overseers did this apostle have a special farewell meeting?
5 In his young days Timothy was a close companion of Paul the apostle. Paul associated Timothy with himself in a number of his letters written to different congregations, for example, one written to the congregation in Philippi, Greece: “Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in union with Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with overseers and ministerial servants.” (Phil. 1:1) So those overseers and ministerial servants of the congregation were acquainted with Timothy. On Paul’s last voyage to Jerusalem in the Middle East his ship stopped at the seaport of Miletus, near Ephesus. From there Paul called for the overseers of Ephesus, not then including Timothy. They came, all of them older men of the congregation of Ephesus. Paul gave to them a solemn farewell address, just like one who was an overseer to them. To these overseers Paul said:
6. According to Acts 20:17-28, what did he say to those overseers?
6 “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. And now, . . . I know that all of you among whom I went preaching the kingdom [of God] will see my face no more. Hence I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God. Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own [Son].”—Acts 20:17-28; ED; Ro; Schonfield.
7. How long had Paul preached in Ephesus, and yet who did he say had appointed the overseers there?
7 For over two years Paul had preached God’s kingdom publicly and from house to house in Ephesus and had built up the Christian congregation there. However, Paul did not tell its overseers that he had made them such or that he had put them in this office of superintendent or supervisor of the affairs of the congregation. Paul disclaimed the power to put them over the flock of Christian sheep. He said that God’s holy spirit had made them overseers that they might shepherd God’s congregation or flock. How was that?
8. What is this holy spirit, and what did Peter say about this spirit on the day of Pentecost?
8 This did not mean that God’s holy spirit is a spirit person, the third person in a so-called Holy Trinity made up of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, three persons in one God and all three equal in power and glory. None of such nonsense! The Bible plainly shows and illustrates that the holy spirit is an invisible active force. It issues forth from God and acts directly upon his Son Jesus Christ. Then through his heavenly Son it acts upon other persons or things in order to bring God’s will and purposes to reality. For instance, on the festival day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus was resurrected from the dead and ten days after he went back to heaven, the holy spirit was poured out upon the Christian congregation in Jerusalem. The apostle Peter explained the miracle that took place by saying to the crowd of wondering Jews: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.” King David had not ascended to heaven to pour out that spirit, but Jesus, David’s descendant and Lord, had done so. (Acts 2:32-36) So, then, in making the older men of Ephesus overseers the holy spirit was not a spirit person acting on his own as the equal of God and his Son Jesus.
9. What kind of force is the holy spirit, and from what source does it go forth, and through whom, and with what results?
9 If the holy spirit is no heavenly person but is merely the unseen active force from God through Jesus Christ, how did it appoint those older men of Ephesus overseers of God’s flock? The holy spirit is not a wild force running blindly. It is a directed force. In the appointing of the Ephesian overseers it was sent forth from Jehovah God as its fountain. The first agent or intermediary through which it operated from heaven was the Lord Jesus at God’s right hand. On the day of Pentecost its operation was accompanied by a “noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze” and by visible “tongues as if of fire” sitting on the heads of each of the 120 Christian disciples into whom it came, to fill them and make them talk with languages that they had never learned. (Acts 2:1-16) Like the wind or like radio beams, God’s active force was unseen, but what it produced was seeable and hearable.
10. Through the spirit’s operation at Pentecost, what were the apostles made, and how did Saul of Tarsus become an apostle with them?
10 By filling Peter and the other apostles of Jesus Christ and making them teach fundamental things of Christian belief the holy spirit was, in effect, making those apostles “foundation stones” of the New Jerusalem and main overseers of the Christian congregation. (Rev. 21:14) Later on Saul of Tarsus was converted to Christianity, was baptized and was “filled with holy spirit,” and he became the apostle Paul to take the place of unfaithful Judas Iscariot. As it is written, in Psalm 109:8, concerning this unfaithful apostolic overseer: “Let a different man take his office of overseer.” (Acts 1:20; 9:17, 18) Very properly, the twelfth apostle of the Lamb wrote of himself as “Paul, an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him up from the dead.”—Gal. 1:1.
11. Was there a human intermediary for the spirit toward the apostles and Cornelius, and how about other overseers?
11 On the day of Pentecost and also at the conversion of the Italian centurion Cornelius over three years later there was no man as intermediary for the activity of the holy spirit. The Lord Jesus in heaven poured it out direct upon his apostles and upon Cornelius and his fellow believers. But in the case of other overseers human intermediaries have been used for the holy spirit.
12. By what means were Paul and Barnabas sent out as missionaries from Antioch, and how?
12 Note the action of God’s holy spirit at the time of sending out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries from Antioch in Syria. Paul and Barnabas were among five prophets and teachers in the congregation there. Then by some undescribed means the holy spirit was made to transmit sound, human speech, just like the action of radio waves upon a radio receiving set. “As they were publicly ministering to Jehovah and fasting, the holy spirit said: ‘Of all persons set Barnabas and Saul apart for me for the work to which I have called them.’ Then they fasted and prayed and laid their hands upon them and let them go.” Since the representative men of the Antioch congregation laid their hands upon those two, is it necessarily said that they were made missionaries by the men who laid their hands upon them? No; the action of those men was only incidental and to show that they acted for God’s spirit in setting aside the two missionaries. The fact stands out that they were made missionaries by the holy spirit, for the Bible goes on to say about the two missionaries: “Accordingly these men, sent out by the holy spirit [not by men in Antioch], went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed away to Cyprus. And when they got to be in Salamis they began publishing the word of God.”—Acts 13:1-5.
13. How was the appointment of overseers in Antioch in Pisidia made, and how was Timothy made an overseer with appointive power?
13 On that missionary journey Paul and Barnabas started a number of Christian congregations. Men spiritually older were made overseers over such congregations. How? By the holy spirit, but through Paul and Barnabas as intermediaries. In proof of this we read of their action at Antioch in Pisidia: “Moreover, they appointed older men to office for them in the congregation and, offering prayer with fastings, they committed them to Jehovah in whom they had become believers.” (Acts 14:23) Afterward Timothy became a traveling companion and co-worker with the apostle Paul. After he became full grown spiritually, Timothy was made an overseer with power to act in appointing other mature men as overseers and ministerial servants in the congregation at Ephesus and elsewhere. But what led up to Timothy’s becoming such a special overseer, superintendent or supervisor? The action of God’s spirit through Paul. In his two letters to Timothy Paul describes it in this way: “Do not be neglecting the gift in you which was given you through a prediction [which prediction would be by the spirit] and when the body of older men laid their hands upon you.” (1 Tim. 4:14) Showing that Paul himself was an outstanding one of those older men, he further wrote to Timothy: “I remind you to stir up like a fire the gift of God which is in you through the laying of my hands upon you. For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.” (2 Tim. 1:6, 7) God’s spirit was necessary to all these actions.
14. After the special conference in Jerusalem, what were Paul and Barnabas sent out from there to do, and how did their appointment come about?
14 At a critical time Paul and Barnabas were chosen by a special conference of the governing body of the Christians at Jerusalem to read a special letter of instructions to congregations in Antioch, in Syria and in Cilicia, to advise them that circumcision was no part of Christianity. As good messengers and general overseers, Paul and Barnabas read this organizational letter to the congregations. Those appointed messengers took their assignment of service seriously, knowing they were appointed not merely by the men of the Christian governing body in Jerusalem but by the holy spirit. They had to view the matter this way because even in the letter that they read to the congregations the governing body wrote these noteworthy words: “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things.”
15. What effect did such exercise of oversight of the Christian congregations by the governing body at Jerusalem have on them?
15 Thus the governing body composed of men put the holy spirit ahead of themselves. This applied, too, with their appointment of Paul and Barnabas. What effect did this exercise of oversight of the congregations by the governing body at Jerusalem have? The record tells us of this in connection with Paul and his new companion Silas: “Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” (Acts 15:28; 16:4, 5) The congregations were no longer shaky on the matter.
16. Though human go-betweens have been used in making appointments, what must be true of the body of men or the individual used in the appointing?
16 Thus it is Scripturally true that human go-betweens have been used in appointing many overseers of the flock of God. But in the face of this fact no group of men may of their own accord form themselves into a religious body and take upon themselves the power and authority to make overseers, or “bishops,” as they are called in many churches in Christendom. Without God’s holy spirit they can do nothing that really counts with God or that plays a real part in his organization. As in the case of the Christian congregation in apostolic times, in the first century, for any body of men to be used in the appointment of overseers and their assistants, ministerial servants, they must have the holy spirit in them, yes, be “filled with holy spirit.” (Acts 9:17; Eph. 5:18) This was true of the Christian governing body at Jerusalem in apostolic times. It was true also of such individuals as the apostle Paul and his companions Timothy and Titus, who were given instructions regarding men qualified to be overseers and their assistants. They were all filled with the spirit and were moved by it.
HOW ABOUT TODAY?
17. Since the miraculous manifestations of the spirit passed away with the apostles, what questions arise over appointment of overseers, and what makes the answer certain?
17 Today we are not living in apostolic times. Long before our time, when the apostolic days ended almost nineteen hundred years ago, the miraculous gifts and manifestations of the holy spirit passed away. Can it still be true that the holy spirit appoints overseers over the congregations of true Christians today? Since the spirit is God’s invisible active force and is silent and unfeelable, how could we be sure that the appointing of overseers is by it today? The Holy Bible, God’s Word, makes this certain.
18. In what times are we living since 1914, and particularly since 1919, and so what should we expect the spirit’s activity to include?
18 The facts show that in the year 1914 God’s kingdom in the hands of his Christ was brought to birth in the heavens. We are therefore in the “times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:21) Since 1919 God’s organization has risen up to let the light of his glory shine amid the gross darkness of this world, and the time has come for the fulfillment of his promise: “I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.” Or, as the oldest translation of the Hebrew Scriptures renders it: “I will make thy chiefs peaceful and thine overseers righteous.” (Isa. 60:1, 2, 17, AS; LXX; Thomson; Bagster) We are living also in the time of final fulfillment of the prophecy to which the apostle Peter referred on the day of Pentecost, namely: “It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28, 29, AS; Acts 2:16-18) We should therefore expect the spirit’s activity to include appointing overseers.
19. For whom does the Christian governing body act today, and how has such been made equal to the responsibilities in these last days?
19 As in the days of the apostles, the Christian flock of Jehovah God has over it a visible governing body. It acts for and in expression of the “faithful and discreet slave” whom Jesus Christ has appointed since coming into his kingdom in the heavens in 1914. When warning his apostles about his coming for the judgment of his followers at an unknown hour in the time of the end of this old world, Jesus said: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matt. 24:45-47) Since 1919 this “faithful and discreet slave,” who is a composite person made up of all anointed Christian joint heirs of Jesus Christ, has been taking care of “all his belongings” on earth. The slave has been faithfully giving out the spiritual, Biblical food at the proper time, so that there is no spiritual famine among the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. To make this “faithful and discreet slave” class equal to their heavy responsibilities in these last days, God through Christ has poured out his spirit upon them in these last days, in complete fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
20. From whom are the members of the governing body taken, and so what is true regarding appointment of overseers, especially since 1932?
20 The governing body of the “faithful and discreet slave” class is taken from the members of this same anointed, spirit-filled class. By God’s spirit it is functioning. So, then, when the appointment of overseers is made by this governing body in harmony with the requirements laid down for overseers, it is really by the spirit that such overseers are appointed, although through human intermediaries. As the modern history of Jehovah’s witnesses shows, this is specially true since 1932, when the system of elective elders and deacons was done away with in their congregations.
21. In appointing overseers, what does the governing body seek, and according to which requirements?
21 The governing body of mature members of the “faithful and discreet slave” class always seeks the guidance of God’s holy spirit in appointing responsible men in the congregations overseers, together with their assistants, the ministerial servants. They do not act according to any personal favoritism or any bias. The things that make an individual worthy of being made an overseer or one of the ministerial servants are stated in God’s Word, particularly in 1Ti chapter three of Paul’s first letter to Timothy and in Tit chapter one of Paul’s letter to Titus. All those requirements of overseers and ministerial servants were written down by inspiration of the holy spirit.
22. In view of this, how is the appointing of overseers really made, and especially so in view of what on the part of the candidate that influences the appointment?
22 When, now, the governing body designates overseers that meet those plainly stated requirements, it is really the holy spirit that leads to the appointing of such overseers; it is really the holy spirit that makes such overseers. This fact becomes more evident when we note that it is also the fullness of the indwelling of the holy spirit in the candidate for the office of overseer that influences his appointment. The candidate must show that he is filled with the spirit by the way he conducts himself and his family (if he has one). He must prove that he has holy spirit by bringing forth the “fruitage of the spirit,” which is “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” and by impaling the flesh together with its passions and desires. He must show that he is moved, impelled by God’s spirit to take oversight over his flock of sheep. In illustration of this, in apostolic times Stephen was selected for service because he was a “man full of faith and holy spirit.”—Acts 6:5, 6.
23. (a) Why, then, may it be said that the holy spirit appoints overseers also today? (b) If despite this an overseer turns out bad, what must be done, and what should overseers read time and again?
23 In consideration of the spirit’s fruitage produced by the candidate and in harmony with the written requirements set out in the Holy Scriptures written by men under the operation of the holy spirit, the governing body acts, being itself moved by the holy spirit for which it prays to God that it may guide the governing body. In every respect, then, the spirit of God comes to the fore in the matter of appointing overseers. So today as well as in Paul’s day it may be said that the holy spirit appoints overseers over the flock of God that he purchased “with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20:28, Schonfield) If in course of time any overseer turns out bad, we must remember that even Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus himself selected to be an apostolic overseer, turned out bad, betraying his own Overseer, the Chief Shepherd, to his enemies to be killed. This required Jesus, after his death and resurrection and after the outpouring of holy spirit on the day of Pentecost, to select a different man to “take his office of overseer.” (Acts 1:16-20; 9:10-16) So today another man that has for some time shown the desirable qualities and the necessary good points must be put in office to replace the overseer that turns out bad. It would therefore do a great deal of good to overseers and the ministerial servants if they would time and again read over and meditate upon the requirements of their office as set out in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, particularly chapter three, and Paul’s letter to Titus, particularly chapter one.
24. Because at every turn the overseer has to face the spirit that made him such, what warning words of Jesus should he bear close to his heart?
24 In view of all that is bound up with the matter of appointment no appointee should treat his office of overseer lightly. At every turn the overseer has to face the holy spirit, which made him what he is. For good reason, then, he should bear close to his heart the warning words of Jesus to his enemies. With their own eyes the enemies saw the operation of God’s holy spirit through Jesus when he cured a demon-possessed, blind and dumb man, so that the dumb man spoke and saw, free of demon possession. To counteract the effect that this miracle would have on all other observers, the enemies of Jesus maliciously said it was the spirit of the Devil that had worked through Jesus to perform this cure. Jesus forcibly argued that it was God’s spirit that had worked through him to expel the demon from the blind and dumb man. To his giving of the credit to God’s spirit instead of to himself Jesus then added these words: “On this account I say to you, Every kind of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in the present system of things nor in that to come.”—Matt. 12:22-32.
25. In view of his appointment by the spirit, what will the overseer be anxious not to do, lest he commit what kind of sin?
25 Even in heaven the exalted Jesus acts by God’s spirit, this too in the matter of appointment of overseers. Seeing that the overseer is appointed by this spirit, the appointee will be anxious not to abuse his overseership for selfish reasons. As the apostle Peter said to his fellow overseers: “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, . . . neither for love of dishonest gain, . . . neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance.” (1 Pet. 5:1-3) That wrong course would mean to act like Judas, like Balaam, like the “false apostles.” (Acts 1:16-18, 25; 2 Pet. 2:15, 16; Jude 11; 2 Cor. 11:13-15) It is a betrayal of the sheep of the Right Shepherd, such as that committed by the greedy shepherds mentioned in Ezekiel 34:1-10, 17-22. That would be a sinning against the spirit that made the man an overseer. It would be a perversion of the purpose of the spirit in appointing him. This would be sin, a serious sin. If persisted in and committed to the point of hardening the overseer in that condition of heart and course of conduct, it would become a sin against the holy spirit by one whose maturity makes him more blamable and accountable. Hence it becomes a kind of sin that is neither forgivable in this world nor forgivable in the world to come.
26. Why may some overseers today be replaced without sin against the spirit, but what about an overseer that should persist in willful sin?
26 Because of the heightened responsibilities that are laid upon overseers today, because of the multiplicity of duties that are laid upon them, and because of the larger demands that are made of them, a man may because of age or sickness or other circumstances become unequal to the requirements of overseership. He may therefore be replaced through no willful sin of his own. Or a more capable person may present himself, and in the interest of greater growth and more effective effort it may be timely and advisable to transfer the duties and obligations from the less capable one to this better-qualified person. In such cases there is no sinning against the holy spirit involved, and there is no disgrace or reproach. But woe to the one who greedily, ambitiously, filthily and designedly sins because of the advantage he has as overseer! He is putting himself in a serious way toward the spirit that had to do with his appointment to overseership. Unless he strenuously recovers himself, he will not only lose his privileged office but be on the way to eternal death. His sin will become of an unforgivable type, over which he cannot repent. His disgrace will become great.
27. To what end will an overseer use his office?
27 In the spirit of Jehovah an overseer should use his office to gain life, for himself and for God’s flock over which the holy spirit has placed him, thus vindicating or justifying his appointment. He will see the wisdom and feel the joy of carrying out Peter’s words to overseers, at 1 Peter 5:1-4. “Do not be grieving God’s holy spirit, with which you have been sealed,” said Paul.—Eph. 4:30.
28. (a) In what kind of times do we live, and why? (b) How was John carried forward in vision to our day, what did he see, hear and do?
28 Today we may not be living in apostolic times, but we do live in apocalyptic times, for the visions given in the apocalyptic book, The Revelation, are being fulfilled before our very eyes. God’s kingdom has been born in the heavens, the nations have become wrathful and God’s own wrath has come against them, and his appointed time has come for the dead to be judged. The “temple sanctuary of God that is in heaven” has been opened to our spiritual vision and we see in it the “ark of his covenant” or the symbol of his presence there. (Rev. 11:18 to 12:5) His reigning King, Jesus Christ, as God’s Messenger or Angel of the covenant, has come with Jehovah God to the spiritual temple for judgment proceedings. (Mal. 3:1) His invisible presence at the temple the apostle John on the island of Patmos saw in the visions of the “revelation by Jesus Christ.” Since the birth of God’s kingdom in the heavens in the year 1914 we are in the “Lord’s day.” What John saw carried him forward in vision to our own day, so that he wrote: “By inspiration I came to be in the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a strong voice like that of a trumpet, saying: ‘What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven congregations, in Ephesus and in Smyrna and in Pergamum and in Thyatira and in Sardis and in Philadelphia and in Laodicea.” When John turned to see who spoke he “saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands someone like a son of man . . . And he had in his right hand seven stars.” At beholding him John became deathly afraid.—Rev. 1:10-17.
29. What did the Speaker tell John to do, and what today did the seven lampstands picture?
29 The speaker made himself known as the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ, not by mentioning his own name but by telling known things about himself. Then he told John: “Write down the things you saw, and the things that are and the things that will take place after these. As for the sacred secret of the seven stars which you saw upon my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars mean the angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.” (Rev. 1:19, 20) These congregations picture the entire congregation on earth today of the spirit-begotten, anointed followers of Jesus Christ, all joint heirs with him of the kingdom of the heavens. In the Revelation the promises made to them are incorruptibility and freedom from the “second death,” a crown of rulership and authority over the nations to dash them to pieces at Armageddon, a position in the heavenly temple and in the New Jerusalem and a seat with Jesus Christ on his heavenly throne. (Rev. 2:7, 10, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 6, 11, 12, 21) Each of the seven lampstands pictures a congregation of these members of the “little flock” to whom the heavenly Father has approved of giving the kingdom.—Luke 12:32.
30. What today would the Speaker’s walking in the midst of the seven lampstands picture, and who today have been associated with the seven symbolic lampstands since 1931?
30 As the number seven is used in the Bible to symbolize what is spiritually perfect, the seven lampstands would picture all the congregations of these Kingdom heirs, or all those Kingdom heirs yet on earth who are viewed as but one indivisible congregation, with Jesus Christ as their spiritual Head. So his walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks would signify how today he is invisibly present with his entire congregation on earth and walking among them, inspecting them and expressing his judgment. With this congregation of his Kingdom heirs yet remaining on earth there is now associated a “great crowd” of other sheep, whom the Right Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has been gathering since the summer of 1931. This “great crowd” was pictured at Revelation 7:9-17.
31. What does Jesus have in his right hand, what do these picture, and why could not spirit creatures be meant here?
31 But what is it that the glorified Jesus has in his right hand? Seven “stars.” These have a relationship to the seven lampstands. As the seven lampstands picture the seven congregations of the anointed remnant of Kingdom heirs, so the seven stars stand for the “angels of the seven congregations.” Who, then, are these angels of the seven congregations? Unseen spiritual angels in heaven, who accompany Jesus Christ when he, the glorified Son of man, comes in the glory of his heavenly kingdom? Not at all. We are not to understand that each earthly congregation of the anointed remnant has its own angel in heaven who shines down upon it. No; for were that the case, Jesus up in heaven could give his messages directly to them concerning the seven congregations. To the contrary of this, Jesus commands the apostle John to write to each angel of each congregation about its condition. John on earth could not write to unseen spirit angels in heaven. How would John know which one was the star of which congregation? How would he deliver or send the message from Jesus to each star and to the proper one?
32, 33. Whom, then, do the seven stars picture, and since what notice in The Watchtower have “other sheep” been made overseers?
32 It is reasonably clear, therefore, that all seven stars in Jesus’ right hand picture the entire body or complete number of overseers of the entire congregation yet on earth of the remnant of anointed Kingdom heirs. Each star pictures the overseer or group of overseers placed in charge of each congregation of the anointed remnant. No particular person of such and such a name is pictured in the case of any star, because the individual in the position of overseer may change in the course of time by reason of death or other circumstances. But the office of overseer, not vacant but actually filled by some individual who meets the requirements, is pictured by each star. The stars picture spirit-anointed overseers who, like their congregations, are joint heirs of the heavenly kingdom with Jesus. It was first some years after the Right Shepherd Jesus Christ began gathering his “other sheep” that some of these, according to the needs of the situation, were put in positions of overseer by the “faithful and discreet slave” class. It was first in the year 1937, in the May 1 issue of The Watchtower (page 130), that the following notice was published:
33 “COMPANY SERVANT – Proclamation of the kingdom message is all-important now. It is the duty of the anointed to vote as to who shall be company servant; but ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ (Josh. 9:21-27) may serve. (Deut. 16:12-15; 29:11) When there are none in the company capable of filling the places of company servants or service committees and there are Jonadabs who have the ability and zeal, let the Jonadabs be placed on the service committee and give them opportunity to serve. The work should not drag because some of the company have lack of zeal. The gospel must now be proclaimed.—Matt. 24:14.”
34. What was the purpose of a sacred lampstand, and what now is the purpose of a symbolic lampstand?
34 A lampstand is filled with oil and lit for the purpose of shedding light to those in the house or in the temple. The sacred tabernacle erected by the prophet Moses in the wilderness of Sinai had one lampstand stationed in the first compartment or in the Holy. But in the Holy of the temple built by King Solomon there were ten golden lampstands, five on the north side and five on the south. (Ex. 25:31-40; 26:35; 40:24, 25; 2 Chron. 4:7, 20; 1 Ki. 7:49) A symbolic lampstand or congregation of anointed joint heirs of the Kingdom must serve its purpose, namely, to let the light shine; and Jesus Christ who walks in the midst of the seven symbolic lampstands will, as High Priest without need of a pope on earth, see to it that these congregations do shine.
35. How should an overseer shine like a star compared with a lampstand, and with what light should all members of the congregation shine?
35 A star in the skies shines higher than does a lampstand on earth. In like manner, one who fills the office of overseer in charge of such a congregation should shine over and above those other members of the congregation. He should be outstanding like a star in letting the light of the good news of God’s kingdom shine to the members of the congregation and to the “other sheep,” those already gathered in or those yet to be gathered in to form “one flock” with the anointed remnant. (John 10:16) Of course, in a general sense, all members of the congregation must shine with spiritual light from heaven: “Be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world.” (Phil. 2:15) Specifically concerning this “time of the end” of the world God’s angel prophesied to Daniel: “They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Dan. 12:3, AS) True to that prophecy, all wise members of the congregation should shine like stars, but their overseer especially so, just as starlight compares with lamplight. Lamplight does not carry very far; starlight does. Overseers must be examples of light-bearing.
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