The Awake “Faithful and Discreet Slave”
“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.
1, 2. (a) How is the date 1914 looked upon (1) by a world historian? (2) by students of the Bible? (b) Why is there interest as to the question whether there were awake watchmen or not as to 1914?
TODAY it is openly admitted by shrewd observers of world conditions that 1914 marked a great turning point in earth’s affairs. A professor of world history, Arnold J. Toynbee of London, writes: “For nearly a quarter of a millennium down to the outbreak of the first World War in 1914 the West enjoyed an unchallengeable ascendancy in the world. Since 1914, however, the situation has changed. Within these last forty-two years, the West has lost its previous ascendancy in the world, and at the same time it has lost its previous confidence in itself.” (Collier’s magazine, March 30, 1956, pp. 76, 78) While this true observation is not identical with the Biblical significance of 1914, that of the legal ending of the “times of the nations,” yet there is agreement that it turned out to be a date of dangerous forebodings not only for Christendom’s West but, as we now know, for all mankind.
2 One might ask, Were any world watchmen awake to sound out the warning before 1914 of this pending time of global trouble? If there were, then such alert watchmen must now know more about these times since 1914 than any others on earth. Such watchmen should be sought out for guidance and counsel in these increasingly perilous times. They may be able to show inquiring persons where the course of safety lies.
3. Where were awake watchmen not found, and why?
3 Would one have found such awake watchmen among the Catholic clergy? Not likely! History shows they were too busy before 1914 and since with their church rituals and engaging in world politics to have been alert to the signs of these times. Perhaps the many Protestant groups were tipped off and kept awake. No! Their clergy were too engrossed before 1914 with their higher criticism of the Bible and with what they call modernism. But how about the Jewish sages and rabbis? Again no! Before 1914 they were fully occupied with materialism and busy advocating Zionism for a re-established dream state in Palestine. How about the farsighted world politicians and financiers? Maybe they knew what was coming. Very definitely no! They were up to their necks in preparing for war and raking in its profits. All these proved to be sleepy “watchmen” in Christian name only. Isaiah describes them well: “His watchmen are blind. None of them have taken note. All of them are speechless dogs; they are not able to bark, panting, lying down, loving to slumber.”—Isa. 56:10.
4. Who were awake watchmen and in accord with what prophecy?
4 Then, was the world left without advance warning by alert watchmen? Not at all! There still is one more group to check on, that of the Watch Tower Society of Jehovah’s witnesses. History records a resounding “yes” as to their being awake. True to their name as witnesses they were world-wide watchmen up on their figurative “watchtower,” sounding forth the warning to the peoples of Christendom. But Christendom’s multitudes for the most part paid little attention. Jeremiah accurately foretold this with these words of God: “‘I raised up over you people watchmen: “Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’” But they kept saying: ‘We are not going to pay attention.’”—Jer. 6:17.
5-7. (a) What record of watchfulness is there on the part of Jehovah’s witnesses? (b) What evidence is supplied by one source of documentation?
5 Yes, as far back as the year 1877, two years before their significantly named magazine, the Watch Tower, appeared, these modern witnesses of Jehovah heralded the truth that the Gentile times would end in 1914. During the thirty-seven years that followed, these witnesses energetically pressed forward with a world campaign to notify the nations that their lease of power without divine interruption would run out A.D. 1914.—See “The Climactic Approach to 1914” in Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pp. 47 to 58.
6 A leading New York newspaper, The World, in its Sunday magazine section, August 30, 1914, in a feature article, historically adds to the much documentation available for world history as to the record of these Bible witnesses of Jehovah. At that time they were also known by their British corporation name, the International Bible Students Association. In part the article reports:
7 “The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students,’ best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”—Ibidem, p. 54.
8, 9. What questions now arise, and on what occasion does a prophet give part of the answers?
8 Since history confirms that Jehovah’s witnesses were the only Christian group found awake as to 1914 and the ensuing “last days,” does this situation have any Biblical connection? Do these witnesses have any Scriptural credentials to offer the millions today sitting in world darkness who are looking for divinely directed leadership? Consider the following for the answer.
9 Earth’s greatest prophet, Jesus Christ, prophesied that there would be an awake group of Christians on the world scene before and during the “time of the end.” On the Mount of Olives shortly before his impalement four of Jesus’ disciples, namely, Peter, James, John and Andrew, privately asked him for precise evidence about the last days, when he would be returning invisibly to direct the affairs of his servants on earth. Jesus’ remarkably detailed reply is preserved for us in the Bible accounts written by Matthew, Mark and Luke, chapters 24, 13 and 21, respectively.—Mark 13:3.
10. How is one to understand Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:42-44?
10 In reply Jesus said: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you [plural, hence collectively] do not know on what day your [plural] Master is coming [Jesus’ second presence]. But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account you [plural, collectively], too, prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you [plural] do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.” (Matt. 24:42-44) Note that Jesus here encourages his group of disciples to be alert as an awake “householder.” This is not unusual for Jesus to refer to the operations of his collective group of disciples by an illustration in the singular. They are collectively so referred to similarly in the Bible as a “bride,” a “house,” and a “temple.”—John 3:29; Heb. 3:6; 2 Cor. 6:16.
11, 12. (a) Who were the ones to be found awake at the time of Jesus’ second presence? (b) Was this something strange for Jesus to be interested in the activities of his future disciples?
11 Does Jesus here imply that some of that awake “householder” group present with him on the Mount of Olives would live on to the time of his second presence at the end of the “times of the nations” in 1914? This could hardly be, since it appears that none of the four disciples lived beyond A.D. 100. Jesus foreknew that these four apostles as well as eight others would become secondary foundations of an organized group of disciples, which, after Pentecost, A.D. 33, would become known as the Christian congregation of which Jesus himself would be the primary rock foundation. (Eph. 2:20; Matt. 16:18) Therefore it would be the awake congregation, not the four individuals, that Jesus meant would survive down through the centuries, even though at times the line of disciples would be obscure from historic view.
12 Such future anointed disciples beyond the days of the apostles were not excluded from the thinking and pronouncements of Jesus. For example, in his last recorded prayer, at John 17:1-26, Jesus prayed to Jehovah: “I make request, not concerning these only [the apostles present with him], but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word.” (Joh 17 Verse 20) It is not strange, therefore, that future members of the congregation are involved in the full applications of Jesus’ illustrations and utterances.
13, 14. (a) Who in the first century was the “faithful and discreet slave”? (b) How were the “domestics” fed? (c) What is meant by “give them their food at the proper time”?
13 Let us consider what Jesus said further to his four disciples on that occasion when he was seated with them on the Mount of Olives. “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matt. 24:45) Note that now Jesus refers to the collective group as a “faithful and discreet slave,” the figure “slave” appropriately being in the singular. He says the “slave” must feed the “domestics,” the latter being in the plural. How was this done? Before his ascension into heaven Jesus emphasized to Peter such a feeding service three times: “Feed my young lambs. . . . Shepherd my little sheep. . . . Feed my little sheep.” (John 21:15-17) The sheep in Peter’s day were those of the “little flock” of anointed Christians who were eventually to number 144,000. (Luke 12:32) Here, then, we have the “domestics” or individuals who were faithfully fed by the congregation or slavelike organization through its overseers. Many years later Peter reminds the overseers that they must “shepherd the flock of God.”—1 Pet. 5:2.
14 Down through the years the slavelike congregation has been feeding its true members faithfully and discreetly. From Pentecost, A.D. 33, up to this very present hour this has been lovingly and carefully performed. Yes, and these “domestics” have been fed on progressive spiritual food that keeps them abreast of the “bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Prov. 4:18) All this has proved to be “food at the proper time,” as stated by Jesus.
15, 16. What does the Bible indicate would be the experience of the “domestics” during the Master’s absence of 1,900 years?
15 While Jesus, like a sower of seed, had richly planted the “domestics” as wheat under a shepherding organization, the congregation, history also records in another place, in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, that Satan would oversow the field with weeds in an effort to choke out the thinning line of true wheatlike followers. (Matt. 13:25, 37, 38) Would Satan entirely succeed, with no “wheat” left after the Master’s absence of nearly 1,900 years? Jesus himself put that question this way: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find this faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:8.
16 Jesus confidently answers that question in the above-referred-to illustration of the sower by saying: “Just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the consummation of the system of things. At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:40, 43) So it was indicated that many of the “wheat” class of righteous ones, anointed ones, would survive here on earth up to and during the “time of the end.” For this reason Jesus went on to say, at Matthew 24:46: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so.” How does history confirm that sure expectation of Jesus?
17, 18. (a) When and how did the true Christians begin to come to historic view again? (b) How did they prove to be awake, but why did a period of testing come upon them?
17 From the 1870’s onward the thin line of true Christians began to come to historic view again as in the days of the first century. A decided move was made by many of the “wheat” group to disassociate themselves from the many weedlike sects of Christendom. This gathered group of Christians from many parts of the earth formed a new association that later came to be known as Jehovah’s witnesses. From 1879 the Watch Tower magazine was used by this collective group to dispense spiritual food regularly to those of the anointed “little flock.” Yes, the “domestics,” or individual anointed ones, were being spiritually revived with increasing restored light of Bible truth by the collective “slave” group. In 1884 this “slave” group formed a legal servant, a corporation, called Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
18 Under the direction of this religious corporation the great world-wide campaign to announce the 1914 end of the “times of the nations” was undertaken, as mentioned earlier. The Watch Tower witnesses of Jehovah proved to be awake spiritual watchmen. But the Scriptures describe them as having unclean garments because of their long association with Christian apostasy. (Zech. 3:3, 4) They had many practices, characteristics and beliefs similar to the weedlike sects of Christendom. So from 1914 to 1918 a period of fiery testing came upon them, not unlike the ancient period of Babylonish captivity of the Jews back in 607-537 B.C.
19 In the same prophecy of Matthew (24:7, 9) Jesus says: “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom [as occurred in 1914] . . . Then people will deliver you [plural, collectively] up to tribulation and will kill you [some of you, not all], and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.” All this came to pass in connection with transgression on their part in having the fear of man, not conducting themselves in a strictly neutral way during the war years and being tainted with many religiously unclean practices. Jehovah and Jesus Christ permitted these witnesses to be reproached, persecuted, banned and their officers imprisoned by the nations of this old world. By the summer of 1918 the strong organized voice of the Watch Tower witnesses had been silenced, killed collectively as prophesied in Revelation 11:7, 8. Notice, however, that this watchman’s voice was not stilled until they had completed their pre-1914 phenomenal work of warning the peoples of the nations. For the complete facts see chapters entitled “Let Go into Captivity” and “Release from Babylonish Captivity” in the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pp. 74 to 90.
20, 21. (a) Describe the fiery test that came upon the “domestics.” (b) What was the result?
20 As we now know, this watchman class of the “faithful and discreet slave” was being cleansed for still greater watchman service in the turbulent years to follow their restoration in 1919. Previously, in the spring of 1918, Jehovah came to his temple of earthly Christian servants for inspection and cleansing. (Mal. 3:1-3) The many bad ones were disfellowshiped by Him and sent away. A loyal remnant were permitted to go through the fiery test where Jehovah and his Messenger, Christ Jesus, (1) tested them by organization arrangements on their loyalty to Jehovah’s organization rather than to human leaders, (2) tested them by service instructions and provisions as to their zeal and devotion to Jehovah’s worship and witness work, and (3) tested them by revealed truth as to their love of it. What a fiery time it was!—See You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World, pp. 303 to 305.
21 A faithful remnant of some thousands of the “domestics” of the “faithful and discreet slave” class survived this time of testing. From the spring of 1919 forward they began to rise from the dust of inactivity to their new lofty service as watchmen to the world. (Dan. 12:2; Rev. 11:11, 12) The Scriptures also describe them as being clothed with new garments of clean identification to represent Jehovah’s interests in the earth.—Zech. 3:4, 5; see the book Preparation, pp. 55 to 58.
22, 23. Was Jehovah to deal with a novice group? Who, then, fulfills Matthew 24:14?
22 Now that the long-expected Kingdom had become an established reality in heaven, surely its growing interests in the earth after 1919 would not be left in the hands of a novice organization of spiritual babes. And that proved to be true. It was the 1900-year-old “faithful and discreet slave,” the old Christian congregation, that was entrusted with this precious Kingdom service. Rich in its loyalty and integrity, long in its patient suffering of persecution, strong in its ancient faith in Jehovah’s precious promises, confident in the leadership of its invisible Lord, Jesus Christ, obedient in its centuries-old commission to be witnesses in the earth, finally cleansed by a fiery test by 1918, the matured “slave” as represented by a remnant now stood ready for new assignments of service.
23 Of all the so-called Christian groups following World War I, only the awake witnesses of Jehovah were prepared to undertake the heavy global commission to preach the final witness. Fittingly Jesus said: “He that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved. 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. 24:13, 14.
24. What does Matthew 24:47 mean?
24 Properly, then, to this 1900-year-old “faithful and discreet slave” with its thousands of cleansed “domestics” Jesus next says: “Truly I say to you [plural, collectively], He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matt. 24:47) Those belongings are the interests of Christ’s kingdom on earth. With practical wisdom Jesus entrusts these Kingdom interests to his veteran, proved “slave” class. Thus from 1919 forward this “slave” class, using the Watch Tower Society, has found itself in the unique position of responsibility and leadership concerning this kingdom, which it had previously heralded as to its coming, for over thirty years prior to 1914.
25. (a) To what extent does the “slave” class have credentials? (b) Mention several of these credentials as proof.
25 Does the “faithful and discreet slave” class have any more credentials? Yes, an abundance of them! A partial list shows that the Christian remnant today since 1919 are referred to or represented in more than eighty Scriptural and prophetic designations.* With more than eighty strokes by the finger of Biblical prophecy, the God of heaven has painted a vividly accurate portrait of his official servant class on earth. The reality of this portrait in all its divinely foreordained details stands out on the world stage for all to see. The credentials are established beyond a shadow of doubt. In fact the credentials are so numerous, all pointing to the one wide-awake “faithful and discreet slave” class, that it is impossible for the great deceiver, Satan, to produce a fake organization to meet all these eighty Scriptural aspects.
26. What do the Scriptures indicate as to any responding to these credentials? What do the facts today show?
26 In view of these clear facts the Bible further indicates that lovers of righteousness all over the earth would get to see and would heartily respond to the leadership of the organization that was holding these amazing credentials. “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men [persons of good will from all the earth] shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew [singular, the ‘faithful and discreet slave’], saying, We will go with you [plural], for we have heard that God is with you [plural].” (Zech. 8:23, AS) By this year 1960 more than 850,000 have actively associated themselves as preaching ministers under the leadership of the “slave” class.*
27. What sort of leadership is available today for true worshipers?
27 Regularly and progressively such a great crowd are receiving their spiritual food through the columns of the eighty-one-year-old instrument in the hands of the “slave” class, The Watchtower, the religious magazine with the largest circulation in the world. Surely Jehovah and Jesus Christ have supplied no hasty, expedient form of leadership for the great crowd of true worshipers. Yes, beyond doubt the old but awake “faithful and discreet slave” stands today as a wonder watchman to the peoples of the nations. Just as their Master, Jesus Christ, stood for the rise and fall of many in Israel in the first century of the Christian Era, so now before the whole world the anointed witnesses stand as a guide to survival for a minority of mankind but prove to be an occasion for stumbling into Armageddon destruction for the rest.—Luke 2:34.
Following is the partial list of Scriptural and prophetic designations applying to or being represented in the anointed remnant since 1919:
(1) Noah’s wife, Gen. 7:7; (2) angels sent to Lot, Gen. 19:15; (3) Rebekah, Gen. 24:64; (4) Joseph and Benjamin, Gen. 45:14; (5) gleanings left behind, Lev. 19:9; (6) two spies to Rahab, Josh. 2:4; (7) Barak, Judg. 4:14; (8) Jephthah, Judg. 11:34; (9) Naomi and Ruth, Ruth 2:2; (10) David’s Israelite warriors, 2 Sam. 18:1; (11) Jehu, 2 Ki. 10:11, 15; (12) Mordecai and Esther, Esther 4:13; (13) Job, Job 42:10, 13; (14) King’s daughter, Ps. 45:13; (15) men of loving-kindness, Ps. 50:5; (16) Intimate group, Ps. 89:7; (17) Shear-jashub, Isa. 7:3; (18) light of the nations, Isa. 60:3; (19) big trees of righteousness, Isa. 61:3; (20) ministers of our God, Isa. 61:6; (21) cluster preserved, Isa. 65:8; (22) servants called by another name, Isa. 65:15; (23) men trembling at God’s word, Isa. 66:5; (24) new nation born, Isa. 66:8 (25) Jeremiah, Jer. 1:10; (26) Jehovah’s people in the new covenant, Jer. 31:33; (27) man clothed in linen, Ezek. 9:2; (28) dwellers in the center of the earth, Ezek. 38:12; (29) trees by the river, Ezek. 47:7; (30) fishers, Ezek. 47:10; (31) the host of heaven, Dan. 8:10; (32) sanctuary restored (cleansed), Dan. 8:14; (33) they that are wise, Dan. 11:33; (34) many in the dust awake to everlasting life, Dan. 12:2; (35) all flesh receiving the spirit, Joel 2:28; (36) Jonah, Jon. 3:1-3; (37) apple of Jehovah’s eye, Zech. 2:8; (38) Joshua the high priest, Zech. 3:3, 4; (39) a Jew, Zech. 8:23; (40) sons of Levi, Mal. 3:3; (41) wheat, Matt. 13:25; (42) sons of the kingdom, Matt. 13:38; (43) workers for the vineyard, Matt. 20:1; (44) those invited to marriage feast, Matt. 22:3-14; (45) chosen ones, Matt. 24:22; (46) eagles, Matt. 24:28; (47) faithful and discreet slave, Matt. 24:45; (48) discreet virgins, Matt. 25:2; (49) brothers of the king, Matt. 25:40; (50) little flock of sheep, Luke 12:32; (51) older brother of the prodigal, Luke 15:25; (52) beggar Lazarus, Luke 16:20; (53) branches of the vine, John 15:4; (54) royal palace of David, Acts 15:16; (55) heirs with Christ, Rom. 8:17; (56) the remnant, Rom. 11:5; (57) branches in the olive tree, Rom. 11:24; (58) holy ones of saints, 1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 16:6; (59) temple, 1 Cor. 6:19; (60) new creation, 2 Cor. 5:17; (61) ambassadors for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20; (62) congregation of God, Gal. 1:13; (63) part of Abraham’s seed, Gal. 3:29; (64) Israel of God, Gal. 6:16; (65) body of Christ, Eph. 1:22, 23; (66) soldiers of Christ Jesus, 2 Tim. 2:3; (67) house built by Christ, Heb. 3:6; (68) holy priesthood, 1 Pet. 2:5; (69) holy nation, 1 Pet. 2:9; (70) association of brothers, 1 Pet. 2:17; (71) seven congregations, Rev. 1:20; (72) twenty-four persons of advanced age, Rev. 4:4; (73) spiritual Israel, Rev. 7:4; (74) locusts, Rev. 9:3, (75) two witnesses, Rev. 11:3; (76) two olive trees, Rev. 11:4; (77) seed of the woman, Rev. 12:17; (78) trees of life, Rev. 22:2; (79) the bride of Christ, Rev. 22:17; 19:7; (80) Jehovah’s witnesses, Isa. 43:10.
This Biblical description is timely portrayed on the 1960 calendar of Jehovah’s witnesses.