Have You Been Baptized for Life?
Would you like to live forever in God’s beautiful New World paradise? If so, then you must get baptized for life and that before it is too late!
THE Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, held in the summer of 1958, attracted world-wide attention by reason of both its size and its unique features. One feature that was widely publicized was its baptism of 7,136 Christians. To the four corners of the globe newspapers and magazines, newsreel and television cameras carried pictures of it.
Why did that baptism attract so much attention? Quite likely because it was a baptism by total immersion. And why do the witnesses of Jehovah insist on total immersion? Because their baptism is commanded by God’s Word; and in its original Greek tongue the words rendered “Baptist,” “baptism” and “baptize” have the meaning, not of sprinkling, but of Immerser, immersion and immerse, or Dipper, dipping and dip. Literal Bible translations, such as those of Rotherham and Benjamin Wilson, bear this out.—Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:3, 16; Ro, ED (interlinear).
John the Baptist baptized by immersion in the Jordan and Jesus’ disciples did the same. That is why John baptized “in Aenon near Salim, because there was a great quantity of water there.” Early religious history shows that in the first centuries of our common era Christians invariably baptized by immersion. Sprinkling was resorted to later on only because of convenience.—John 3:23.
Represented among those 7,136 immersion candidates at the Divine Will assembly were all races, many nationalities as well as a wide range of ages, from barely in their teens to long past the proverbial threescore years and ten. Among them, however, were no infants. Why not? Because of Jesus’ commission regarding baptism, which states: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them.” A disciple is “one who receives instruction from another.” An infant cannot receive Scriptural instruction. As with baptism by sprinkling, baptism of infants was not practiced by the early Christian congregation.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
What is the meaning and value of Christian baptism in water? Does it wash away original sin, as claimed by some? That could not be, for Jesus himself set the pattern for Christians in baptism as in everything else, and he was without sin. Rather, baptism is a symbol of one’s having dedicated himself to do God’s will and therefore associates itself with one’s ordination as a minister of Jehovah’s Word. Thus the apostle Paul shows that when Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized he said: “Look! I am come to do your will.”—Heb. 10:9.
By going under the water in his baptism Jesus was, in symbol, dying to his past course of action, that of helping to support his mother and her family by carpentering, and embarking on the specific mission for which his Father had sent him to earth. What was that special mission? “For this purpose I have been born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) His being submerged completely under water also pictured his willingness to go to the point of death and burial in doing his heavenly Father’s will.
Before we can make an acceptable dedication of ourselves to do God’s will, however, we must first gain knowledge of Jehovah God and exercise faith in him, as we read: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to win his good pleasure, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” Secondly, we must recognize ourselves as sinners, due to Adam’s transgression, ‘and repent and turn around and get our sins covered by exercising faith in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.’ Only then are we in a position to come to God, as Jesus did, and dedicate ourselves to him and his service. That dedication obligates us to get immersed in water at the very first opportunity.—Heb. 11:6; Rom. 5:12; Acts 3:19; Rev. 7:14.
WITH HOLY SPIRIT AND WITH FIRE
John the Baptist, who pioneered in baptizing persons and who baptized Jesus, said: “I, on the one hand, baptize you with water because of your repentance; but the one coming after me is stronger than I am, whose sandals I am not fit to take off. That one will baptize you people with holy spirit and with fire.” When and how did “that one,” Jesus Christ, perform these baptisms?—Matt. 3:11.
Just before his ascension into heaven Jesus said to his followers: “Do not withdraw from Jerusalem; but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.” That baptism by holy spirit came at Pentecost, even as Peter showed in applying the words of Joel’s prophecy to that event. That baptism marked the beginning of the Christian congregation, the body of Christ, and is limited to those who will become a part of it.—Acts 1:4, 5; 2:16-18.
When did Jesus baptize with fire? Was this also at Pentecost, when flames of fire rested upon his 120 followers assembled in an upper room in Jerusalem? That could not be correct. Why not? Because, remember, baptism means immersion, and those 120 were not immersed in those flames. Then when, how and whom did Jesus baptize with fire? Fire is a symbol of destruction. Baptism by fire therefore calls to mind the time when Sodom and Gomorrah received a baptism by fire, completely destroying them and their people. John the Baptist indicated the same when he said that Jesus “will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with fire that cannot be put out.” That baptism by fire took place A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and more than a million Jews lost their lives and 97,000 of them were taken captive. No Christians were involved in that terrible slaughter, because they had heeded Jesus’ words to flee Jerusalem when they saw it surrounded by armies.—Matt. 3:12; Luke 21:20, 21.
PATTERNS OF BAPTISM FOR LIFE
Thus we see that in the first century all those Jews who exercised faith in Jesus, dedicated themselves and were baptized experienced a baptism that was for life, whereas others, like chaff, were baptized by fire and to destruction. The same is true today. Just how this applies at our time can be seen from two prophetic patterns that Jehovah caused to be made long ago. One of these took place in the days of Noah, as called to our attention by Peter. After telling that because of God’s patience eight souls back there “were carried safely through the water,” he goes on to say: “That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism.”—1 Pet. 3:20, 21.
For anyone back there to experience salvation he had to be baptized into Noah. That is, he had to exercise faith and confidence in God’s prophet. He had to become inseparably attached to Noah, fully submitting himself to Noah’s direction, coming under his headship. It was not the water baptism back there that saved Noah’s family; it destroyed the wicked. Rather, it was uniting with Noah that meant salvation.
A like prophetic pattern was made later, in the time of Moses. This was when the nation of Israel followed Moses through the Red Sea. Here again, what saved them was being baptized into Moses by recognizing Moses as their head, submitting to him and following his instructions. By casting their lot in with him, as it were, they were baptized into Moses, even as the apostle Paul shows: “Our forefathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea.”—1 Cor. 10:1, 2.
BAPTISM FOR LIFE TODAY
In particular is the prophetic pattern of Noah’s family in being baptized into him for their salvation and life full of meaning for us today. Fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that we are living in the last days of this wicked old world, when again only a few will avail themselves of the baptism for life, while the vast majority will undergo a baptism of destruction. This is borne out by the prophecy of Jesus: “Just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. . . . they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
Even as Noah was the one with whom salvation and deliverance from the expression of God’s wrath were to be found back there, so today Jesus Christ is the one with whom these are to be found at the coming expression of God’s wrath, Armageddon. Yes, “there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved”; and that applies both to salvation from impending destruction and salvation to eternal life.—Acts 4:12.
Would it then be correct to say that water baptism today is the baptism for life? No, because unless it is performed as an evidence of one’s dedication it is meaningless. Is it the baptism of the holy spirit? No, because the Scriptures show that that baptism is limited to the body of Christ, whereas a “great crowd” of “other sheep,” those represented by Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law, today also have received the baptism for life to which Peter refers. Then is it one’s dedication to Jehovah God that is this baptism for life? No, but it involves this dedication. Our dedication to God in imitation of Jesus is the throwing in of our lot with the Greater Noah, even as Noah’s family threw in their lot with him and the Israelites threw in their lot with Moses. It is God who then baptizes us into the Greater Noah by bringing us under protection of the new system of things pictured by Noah’s ark. Baptism for life highlights our relationship to Jesus Christ as the Greater Noah and the part he plays in our being spared at Armageddon. To throw in our lot with him we must take our stand for Jehovah and his kingdom by dedication to do His will and then symbolizing that dedication at the first opportunity, and we must submit ourselves to Jesus Christ as the “leader and commander” designated by Jehovah.—Isa. 55:4.
Today many are delaying to dedicate themselves to Jehovah God and to symbolize that dedication by water immersion. Thus they hesitate to throw their lot in with the Greater Noah. Such is a great mistake! Jesus showed that this generation would see Armageddon and he stressed the urgency of the situation. Those on the housetop or in the field were to flee at once, for no one knows on what day Armageddon will strike.—Matt. 24:15-18, 34.
Although today the Greater Noah, Jesus Christ, is not visibly present, God’s people are not left without visible direction. The facts show that Christ has a composite “faithful and discreet slave,” the remaining ones of the body of Christ, to represent him. This slave serves as God’s channel of communication. To act consistently with our baptism for life and into the Greater Noah we must submit to and cooperate with that slave and its legal instrument, the Watch Tower Society. It publishes Bibles and Bible-study aids, arranges for various kinds of meetings for Bible instruction and operates a training program designed to aid all sincere Christians to become qualified to preach “this good news of the kingdom.”—Matt. 24:14, 45-47.
A NEW SYSTEM OF THINGS
All dedicated Christians now serving under the direction of the faithful and discreet slave are part of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. Referring now to one of the prophetic patterns, could it properly be said that the ark that Noah and his family built foreshadowed this new society? No, because its members are pictured rather by the family of Noah. As Noah pictured Jesus Christ, so Noah’s wife pictured the Christian congregation, the bride of Christ, consisting of but 144,000 members, of whom there remains but a remnant. What about Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law? These picture, quite fittingly, the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who as children of Jesus Christ, the “Father for eternity,” will live in the earthly Paradise. All who have been baptized for life today belong to one of these two classes.—Isa. 9:6; John 10:16; Rev. 7:9; 14:1.
Then what does the ark picture? The new system of things built by the Greater Noah to take the place of the old Mosaic system of things that came to its legal end after Jesus was nailed to the torture stake A.D. 33. (Col. 2:14; Heb. 1:2) This new system of things includes the new Christian system of pure worship of Jehovah, with its standard of Christian conduct and Christian ministry, and serves as a safeguard to all those serving within its confines. As Noah’s family co-operated with him in building the ark, so the members of the New World society co-operate with the Greater Noah in building up the new system of things by helping to expand the true form of worship.
Have you been baptized for life? If not, then no longer delay, for Armageddon is coming on apace. Take in right knowledge, throw in your lot with Jesus Christ and follow his example. Make an unreserved dedication to do Jehovah’s will and make public confession of it by water baptism. Then continue faithful in the modern ark, the new system of God’s pure worship, by exercising a clean conscience as regards both your Christian ministry and daily conduct. Doing so, you may hope to survive God’s expression of wrath and enter into his beautiful New World paradise in which righteousness will dwell and death will be no more.