Two Pictures of Deliverance
“He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:2.
1. What attitude do Jehovah’s witnesses take toward their meetings, and how is this manifested?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES take a keen interest in all their meetings, but there is one, held yearly, that stands out apart from all the rest. There is no other meeting like it, either in its procedure or as regards its purpose and the importance placed upon it. Because of this, not only do those of the New World society make a special effort to be present themselves, but they warmly invite and encourage others, who are newly interested, to attend also.
2. (a) In what way is the Lord’s evening meal a unique meeting? (b) How can all present be helped to a better understanding of it?
2 The meeting we have in mind is the “Lord’s evening meal,” often called the Memorial, because, as Jesus commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” This year, 1962, the date to celebrate the “Lord’s evening meal” is April 17 after 6 p.m., Standard Time. One thing that makes this meeting unique is the fact that those for whom it is primarily arranged, and who are particularly addressed on that occasion, are in the minority. Indeed, as reports show, their number becomes less each year, whereas the total attendance is always on the increase. We realize, too, that the truths then discussed, which we will subsequently review, are among the deep truths of God’s Word, “solid food,” and not just the milk of “primary doctrine.” In view of this, and since for many it may be their first meeting with Jehovah’s witnesses, we feel it would be appropriate to look at certain features of God’s purpose for the deliverance of mankind, so that, not only the few, but all in attendance that night will be helped to a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of what is said and done.—1 Cor. 11:20, 24; Heb. 5:12; 6:1.
3. In what respect are we all in the same need, and how has this need been supplied?
3 The basis for the central theme on that occasion is the death of Jesus, and that can well form the starting point of our immediate discussion. True it is that the ‘man Christ Jesus gave himself a corresponding ransom for all’ by laying down his perfect human life, thus becoming man’s redeemer and deliverer. He is the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” As far as that is concerned, as children of Adam, we are all on a common level and have the same need. We should never forget that and should always be very appreciative and grateful to Jehovah, the Author of this fine provision, and to his dear Son, who so willingly carried it out.—1 Tim. 2:5, 6; John 1:29.
4. Are the benefits of the ransom administered to all alike, and is Jehovah under any obligation regarding this?
4 However, though we are all included alike in the one redemptive act, it does not follow that it is God’s purpose for the benefits of that ransom sacrifice to be administered to all alike. The Scriptures show that, generally speaking, mankind’s deliverance from sin and death will take place in God’s kingdom, the promised “new heaven and a new earth,” under the administration of the King, Christ Jesus. But the Scriptures also show that it is God’s good pleasure for some, a small minority, to receive their share in the benefits of that sacrifice in a way and at a time that marks them as separate. And let it be said at once that this is not because of any inherent virtue or merit on their part but is an expression of Jehovah’s amazing undeserved kindness. If he chooses first to deal with some and deliver them in a special way, that is his prerogative absolutely. As Paul says on that very point, we cannot be “answering back to God.”—Rev. 21:1-4; Rom. 9:20.
5. What scripture indicates a distinction in this respect?
5 The apostle John plainly indicates such a distinction when he says concerning Jesus Christ: “He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:2) To aid in getting a better understanding of this, let us go back and consider a drama enacted and recorded in the Bible over thirty-four centuries ago, when Jehovah delivered his people Israel out of Pharaoh’s hand.
THE DELIVERANCE FROM EGYPT
6, 7. What main events outline Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, leading to what outcome, and picturing what fulfillment?
6 This deliverance was one of the stupendous events in the history of God’s ancient people, without doubt the greatest in magnitude and dramatic intensity. Stepping back so as to get a comprehensive view of the great canvas, recorded at Exodus, chapters three to fifteen, we see certain features that stand out in bold relief and that can be summarized as follows: Pharaoh’s sneering reply to Jehovah’s demand through Moses to “send my people away,” followed by the ten plagues culminating in the death of all of Egypt’s firstborn, resulting in the sons of Israel being hurried out of the land the next day; then the deploying tactics under Jehovah’s direction, causing the Egyptian forces to pursue the Israelites, who were miraculously led through the Red Sea on “dry ground,” because the “waters were being split apart”; then finally, under Moses’ outstretched hand, the “waters kept coming back” until all of Pharaoh’s military forces perished. “Not so much as one among them was let remain.” A mighty deliverance indeed, picturing the great deliverance Jehovah will accomplish for all proved to be his “sheep” when, through Christ Jesus, he strikes down all Satan’s forces at Armageddon, completely destroying Satan’s system of things, the entire world of today, of which Egypt was a small-scale pattern. All the survivors will then join in a grand song of praise to Jehovah, as did the Israelites under Moses’ lead, when Miriam kept repeating the refrain: “Sing to Jehovah, for he has become highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has pitched into the sea.”—Ex. 5:1; 12:29; 14:1-4, 21, 28; 15:1, 21.
7 Now let us step close up to the canvas and observe that there is an inset, as it were, a picture complete in itself, yet forming part of the whole. This picture is also one of deliverance, but of a special kind.
DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL’S FIRSTBORN
8. (a) As a protection against the tenth plague, what instructions had Israel to observe? (b) How and why was this to be memorialized?
8 After Moses had served notice on Pharaoh of that final and terrible plague, the death of the firstborn of both man and beast throughout Egypt, then Jehovah immediately gave to Moses specific instructions for all Israel to observe. Briefly, each household was required to take a sheep on the tenth day of this month, which henceforth was to be the first month of the year for them, and keep it ‘under safeguard until the fourteenth day of this month,’ when it was to be slaughtered and its blood splashed on the two doorposts and upper part of the doorway of each house. That night “they must eat the flesh . . . roasted with fire and with unfermented cakes along with bitter greens.” They were told to eat it “with your hips girded, sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you must eat it in haste. It is Jehovah’s passover. . . . And the blood must serve as your sign upon the houses where you are; and I must see the blood and pass over you, and the plague will not come on you as a ruination when I strike at the land of Egypt.” Henceforth, on the same day each year, the Israelites had to repeat the same service ‘as a memorial, as a festival to Jehovah throughout their generations.’ And they were to say to their sons who asked as to its meaning: “It is the sacrifice of the passover to Jehovah, who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when he plagued the Egyptians, but he delivered our houses.”—Ex. 12:1-14, 27.
9, 10. How was the deliverance of Israel’s firstborn related to that of the entire nation?
9 Thus in this unique way a special deliverance was provided for the firstborn of Israel. They only were in danger that night. Their lives were in danger, and the blood of the “passover victim” was the means whereby they were passed over and delivered from sudden death. Please note that this special deliverance of the firstborn preceded the deliverance of the entire nation of Israel at the crossing of the Red Sea.—Ex. 12:21.
10 And how does this help us in getting a clearer understanding of what John wrote about the death of Jesus as being a “sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s”?—1 John 2:2.
FULFILLMENT OF THE PICTURE
11. What is the theme of the letter to the Hebrews, and what reference does it make to the firstborn?
11 The proper understanding of these things is not left to our imagination or “private interpretation.” In writing a letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul plainly says that everything enacted by Israel under their law covenant was a “shadow of the good things to come” and was given as an “illustration.” In fact, that is the main line of argument taken by Paul in this particular letter, showing time and again that the Law, with its ordinances and sacrifices, foreshadowed or typified far more glorious things to come. At Hebrews 1:6 he refers to Jesus as God’s “First-born,” which he preeminently is; but later he mentions a company of people occupying a similar relationship, describing them as the “congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens.”—2 Pet. 1:20; Heb. 10:1; 9:9; 12:23.
12. Who are the firstborn mentioned at Hebrews 12:23?
12 Who are these people? They are true Christians who, collectively, make up “God’s household, which is the congregation of the living God.” They are “partakers of the heavenly calling,” with Christ Jesus as their “high priest.” He, as God’s faithful Son, is appointed head over the house built by God, and, says Paul to his fellow Christians, “We are the house of that One.”—1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:1-6.
13. Is Christendom a safe guide respecting membership of the true church?
13 Surely, in view of these scriptures, we can see it is not a matter of joining one or another of the churches of Christendom and being enrolled as a member thereof. No one can make himself a member of the true church or be canonized as a saint by some earthly religious organization. No, it is “God the Judge of all” who has “set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased.” Jesus himself said that those who would be given the Kingdom and share with him in his heavenly throne would be but a “little flock,” a small minority; and this in itself rules out the millions who profess to be Christian merely on the basis of church membership and church attendance, including what is thought to be a regular partaking of the Lord’s evening meal, frequently known as Mass or Holy Communion.—Heb. 12:23; 1 Cor. 12:18; Luke 12:32.
14. Who were pictured by Israel’s firstborn, and on what Scriptural authority?
14 Is there Scriptural authority for seeing the true church, the “congregation of the first-born,” as corresponding to and pictured by the firstborn of Israel who were specially delivered that night in Egypt? Yes. Paul, in writing to the “congregation of God that is in Corinth . . . sanctified in union with Christ Jesus,” urges them to put away a certain corrupting influence and, again basing his argument on the things foreshadowed by the Law, says: “Let us keep the festival [of unleavened bread], not with old leaven, neither with leaven of injuriousness and wickedness, but with unfermented cakes of sincerity and truth.” And what authority does he give for true Christians’ keeping the feast of unleavened bread in this figurative way, not just one day, but every day of the year? Note his answer: “For, indeed, Christ our passover has been sacrificed.”—1 Cor. 1:2; 5:7, 8; Ex. 13:6.
15. What special deliverance has been provided for the true church, both for the future and also for the present?
15 This costly sacrifice “with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s,” has truly resulted in a special deliverance for these Christian firstborn ones in two ways. Not only has it guaranteed for them the final “entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” an “incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance . . . reserved in the heavens,” as expressed by Peter, but it has also meant in a very real sense, though by faith, a present deliverance that can be enjoyed. Paul expressed it thus: “He [God] delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transplanted us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins.” Particularly since 1919 have those of this company been delivered from the “darkness” and “thick gloom” as foretold by Isaiah; and, while still in the flesh, they have entered into the wonderful blessings of Kingdom service and enlightenment described in that same prophecy.—1 Pet. 1:4, 19; 2 Pet. 1:11; Col. 1:13, 14; Isa. 60:1-3.
16. (a) How is the little lock related to Jesus as to Abraham’s seed? (b) How does this help in relating the special deliverance to the larger picture?
16 Thus God’s Word clearly points out a specially chosen congregation, a “little flock,” who receive a prior share in the benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, ahead of the rest of mankind. As already mentioned, Jesus himself is preeminently God’s firstborn Son, yet he has others closely associated with him under his headship, forming the “congregation of the firstborn.” Also, in a similar way, Christ Jesus himself is the promised Seed of Abraham; yet, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, these firstborn ones, because they have been “baptized into Christ” and “belong to Christ,” are also “really Abraham’s seed.” It is through this seed that “all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves” in God’s kingdom, after the great deliverance at Armageddon from modern-day Egypt. Thus we can see how the smaller picture of a special deliverance for the firstborn class must first take place and must precede the larger picture, the fulfillment of which will certainly cause a song of triumphant praise to be sung to Jehovah, “for he has become highly exalted.” That is why, figuratively speaking, he went down to Egypt in the first instance, to “assign himself a name.”—Gal. 3:16, 27, 29; Gen. 22:18; Ex. 15:21; 2 Sam. 7:23.
17. How is 1 John 2:2 to be understood?
17 Thus, too, we can appreciate why John, in writing to these firstborn ones, said that Jesus is first a “sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:2.