The “Good News” Separates ‘A People for Jehovah’s Name’
1, 2. (a) To what kingdom did Jesus refer at Matthew 21:43? (b) Who is king of that kingdom, and when did he begin ruling in full Kingdom power? (c) Is that kingdom meant for any special race of people?
TO WHICH nation did Jesus refer when he said, at Matthew 21:43: “The kingdom of God will be . . . given to a nation producing its fruits”? And what is the kingdom here referred to? No, the nation so blessed is not any particular race of people, belonging to some special branch of the human family and bound together under some man-made kingdom. Jehovah God now purposed to call persons out of all nations to be associated as a people separate from the world, “a people for his name.”—Acts 15:14.
2 The kingdom, whose interests they are to serve, is no earthly kingdom with a capital city at Jerusalem or any other city on the earth. The kingdom referred to is God’s “heavenly kingdom.” (2 Tim. 4:18) Christ Jesus, who was rejected by the unfaithful nation of Israel and put to death, was resurrected and later ascended into heaven. There he awaited God’s due time for him to begin his rule in full Kingdom power. (Heb. 1:13; Acts 2:32-36) That time came A.D. 1914. Then followed “war in heaven” resulting in Satan, the great opposer of God and of faithful men on earth, being cast out from heaven, and now he is due to be crushed shortly along with all his wicked angels, worldly governments and unrighteous men who have opposed God’s rule. This would take place in the “war of the great day of God Almighty” called Armageddon.—Rev. 12:7-12; Dan. 2:44; Rev. 16:14, 16.
3. What is the relationship to the Kingdom of (a) the “little flock,” and (b) the “other sheep”?
3 Now ruling from the cleansed heavens is the heavenly kingdom of God under Christ Jesus. This kingdom in its completeness is made up of 144,000 persons selected from the nations of the earth and who rule as “kings” with Christ. (Rev. 20:6; 14:1-4) Compared to the large number of persons who gain life on earth under the Kingdom, those receiving this heavenly reward are indeed a “little flock.” In addition to that “little flock” there are “other sheep,” including a great crowd of persons of goodwill toward the “good news” living at this time of the end, who become earthly subjects of the Kingdom in a paradise earth.—Luke 12:32; John 10:16; Rev. 7:9, 13, 14; Ps. 37:11, 29. See “This Good News of the Kingdom,” paragraphs 23-28.
4. Why could it be said that when the first members of the 144,000 began to be gathered 1,900 years ago they came under Kingdom rule?
4 When the “good news of the kingdom” began to be preached by Jesus and then by his apostles and disciples of the first century, the purpose was to gather out from among the nations those who would make up ‘the people for Jehovah’s name,’ the 144,000 who were to be united with Christ Jesus in Kingdom rule. They were being called to a heavenly destiny with Jesus their Lord, and this was being done by means of the “good news.” (2 Thess. 2:14) While in those days the heavenly kingdom of God had not yet begun to exercise its rule toward the earth in full power, yet, because Jehovah always remains “King of Eternity” and Jesus was the invisible head over the new Christian nation, it could be said that through Christ Jesus those who believed came under Kingdom rule. When they heard the “good news of the kingdom,” accepted it and dedicated themselves to God’s service, it was said of them that they were ‘delivered from the authority of the darkness and transplanted into the kingdom of the Son of his love.’—Col. 1:13.
5, 6. (a) What question then faced those early Christians, and what similar questions face Christians today? (b) What identifies the true followers of Jesus as being ‘a people for Jehovah’s name’?
5 How would this change affect them? They were still living in the same world, in territories ruled over by various national governments. The sixth world power, Rome, dominated most of the civilized world at that time where the first Christians lived. What was now to be their relationship to Rome and other governments of the earth?
6 Today, 1,900 years later, the same questions are appropriate. The preaching of the “good news” is not now primarily for the purpose of calling persons to the heavenly kingdom but is directed to all men of goodwill who hope to live forever on a paradise earth. Since the year 1914, as the fulfillment of the Bible prophecies prove, the kingdom of heaven has been ruling in power, and this means the end of this system of things soon. “This good news of the kingdom” is now being preached to people in 189 lands and islands of the seas who live under many different kinds of government and forms of political rule. Indeed, in many lands the form of rule often changes, as a different political party comes into power, or local national movements take over from colonial administrations. What is the relationship of the Christian to such governments and to such changes? Is it possible for the true followers of Christ Jesus to become a united people despite their different racial and national origins, a people separate from the world, serving the interests of God’s kingdom, a people for Jehovah’s name? If so, how are they so identified? It is by conduct “worthy of the kingdom.”—2 Thess. 1:5.
7. How, then, is the “good news” a challenge?
7 Just as the “good news” that was first preached to Israel down in Egypt was a challenge to them, requiring a certain course of conduct, of faithfulness to the law covenant and subjection to Jehovah as their King and obedience to his commands, likewise, from the beginning of the calling out of the new nation of spiritual Israel of 144,000 down to this day and the calling out of the great crowd of “other sheep,” the “good news of the kingdom” presents a challenge to those who accept it. Will they “behave in a manner worthy of the good news”?—Phil. 1:27.
SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD
8. (a) What principle governing the Christian’s relationship with the world is made clear at John 17:14-18? (b) How are Jehovah’s witnesses of today a New World society?
8 In his final meeting with his disciples just before his death, Jesus, in prayer to his heavenly Father, made clear a principle concerning the Christian’s relationship to the world. “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me forth into the world, I also sent them forth into the world.” The true followers of Jesus are, therefore, no part of this world, in that they separate themselves from its wicked ways and do not place their hope for the future in the schemes and organizations of men. Rather, their hope is in the new world ruled over by God’s kingdom and they have their interests centered on that new world. So it is proper to say that the modern Christian witnesses of Jehovah are a New World society. This New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses is united by their all having the same wholehearted love for God, by recognizing Jehovah as the Supreme Ruler of the universe and by their submission to God’s kingdom.—John 17:14-18.
9. What proof is there that God’s kingdom exists and is now ruling?
9 Because God’s kingdom is heavenly and hence invisible to humans on the earth, the worldly nations refuse to recognize it or take it into account. But because God is invisible to human eyes that does not mean that he does not exist. The evidence of his existence is seen in his creation. (Rom. 1:20) Proof of the existence of God’s kingdom is seen by the very existence of the New World society—hundreds of thousands of persons coming from all nations, united, at peace and accepting the Kingdom rule. This is in harmony with the inspired words at Psalm 72:7, 8: “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. And he will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” So it is that those making up the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses are found literally to the “ends of the earth.” They demonstrate that they are truly subjects of the kingdom of God by their being obedient and submissive to the divine will and by active support of God’s kingdom, preaching it throughout the earth.
10. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses not take sides in political issues or in wars between nations?
10 In order to keep their unity the true servants of God must follow the principles, set out above, to be separate from the world. It is for this reason that Jehovah’s witnesses do not take sides in political issues. Just think what this would mean if they were to do so! The congregation of true Christians would be divided against itself if individual members supported different political organizations, joining in the ridiculing or opposing of some other group of which others in the congregation might be members. How could this possibly harmonize with Jesus’ further words in Joh 17 verses 21 and 22 of John chapter 17? Jesus there prayed concerning his followers, “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth. Also, I have given them the glory that you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are one.” On an international scale also this unity is preserved by Jehovah’s witnesses not joining in wars and struggles between nations, which are divided by man-made barriers.
PAYING BACK “CAESAR’S THINGS TO CAESAR”
11, 12. How does a Christian pay back “Caesar’s things to Caesar”?
11 However, Jehovah’s witnesses continue to live in territories ruled over by earthly governments, which Jehovah has permitted to continue up till this time. In explaining the relationship of the Christian to such governments Jesus stated another very well-known principle: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:21) These words show that earthly governments (or “Caesar”) may properly require certain duties from their Christian subjects. For example, in Matthew chapter 22 Jesus was discussing the matter of paying taxes. The governments render many services to Christ’s followers, such as in the field of education, the building of roads, the control of law and order through the police and courts of justice, making available water, electricity and other supplies, all of which have to be paid for. So Christians “pay back” with a good conscience, by means of taxes, and so forth, for these various services.
12 In addition, true Christians prove themselves to be law-abiding and respectful. For example, they comply with regulations governing traffic, not driving with excessive speed beyond what the law allows, and otherwise conforming to regulations governing the normal orderly business of living. In doing so, they also show respect for those having to administer the law. This is in harmony with the apostle Paul’s words at Romans 13, verses 6 and 7: “For that is why you are also paying taxes . . . Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax; to him who calls for the tribute, the tribute; to him who calls for fear, such fear; to him who calls for honor, such honor.”
13. What do Jehovah’s witnesses do in the face of changing forms of governments?
13 The Christian pursues this course irrespective of the government in power. The government may change, a different political party coming into power. However, Jehovah’s witnesses continue to follow the same law-abiding course toward the new government just as they did toward the old one, and this they will continue to do for as long as God may permit earthly forms of government to rule.
PAYING BACK “GOD’S THINGS TO GOD”
14. (a) What things belong to God that must be paid back to him? (b) Where there is a clash between what God requires and what Caesar demands, what course does the Christian take? (c) What principle did Peter and the apostles follow in this connection?
14 Notice that Jesus said a Christian was to pay back, not only “Caesar’s things to Caesar,” but also “God’s things to God.” Jehovah God is the Creator of all living things and so our lives belong to him. Since he is the Supreme One in the universe and the only true God, our worship belongs to him alone. The true worship of God includes in these last days the public declaring of his name and the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom.” (Nah. 1:2; Matt. 24:14) At times there may be a clash between what “Caesar” demands and what God requires. Then what must the Christian do? The proper course for one to follow if he wishes to prove “worthy of the good news” is clearly illustrated in a case involving Christians of the first century. Peter and some of the other apostles had been brought before the Jewish high priest, who said to them: “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” In answer Peter and the other apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” These early Christians saw that their worship was involved and so they refused to comply with that particular order of the court commanding them not to preach. In faithful recognition of the Supreme Law of God the record shows they continued their preaching, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.”—Acts 5:28, 29, 40-42.
15. What conduct should the Christian manifest under persecution, in harmony with Romans 12:12-21?
15 This opposition and persecution did not cause the apostles to turn against those authorities in physical retaliation, nor, when before the courts, did they show a lack of respect. Rather, with dignity and calmness they defended their position, maintaining their integrity in obeying Jehovah’s law above that of men. Likewise, in these days, even where Jehovah’s witnesses are persecuted, as in Communist countries, they do not join up in any rebellious movements to overthrow the existing authorities, but, rather, they faithfully explain their position as servants of God and as his witnesses commissioned to preach concerning his kingdom. With firm faith in the hope of life in the new world they are able to endure such tribulation. They do not allow themselves to become bitter and to try to return evil to others for the evil done to them. Rather, they try to continue living in a peaceable way and even try to help opposers to learn the truth of God’s Word and find a blessing. Writes the apostle: “Rejoice in the hope ahead. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer. . . . Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing. . . . Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’ But, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Rom. 12:12-21.
16. What has resulted to Jehovah’s witnesses from following the Bible principles so far discussed?
16 It is by following the principles discussed above at John 17:14-18, 21, 22, Matthew 22:21 and Acts 5:28, 29 that the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses has been separated from the nations of the world in a special way. They are, indeed, a people for Jehovah’s name and kingdom. In obedience to the words of Jesus at Matthew 6:33 they are “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.”
17. What requirement for salvation is made clear at Romans 10:10?
17 So, then, to answer the challenge of the “good news,” is it just a matter of joining an organization such as Jehovah’s witnesses, and joining the ranks of preachers of the “good news of the kingdom”? It is certainly true that those who would gain life in Jehovah’s new world must share in the public declaration of the truth. “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) It is, therefore, right for one hearing the “good news” and exercising faith in it to apply himself to gaining an accurate knowledge of the truth through a study of the Bible in order that he might share in this public declaration. By doing so he shows his appreciation for the “good news” and also his desire to worship Jehovah.
A NEW PERSONALITY
18. How great a change in our lives does the “good news” call for?
18 But the “good news of the kingdom” requires an even greater change in our lives. Indeed, it calls for us to bring our whole lives into harmony with Bible principles, becoming submissive in every part of our life to the will of God. As the Bible admonishes: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah,” and “whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:23, 17) We can say that it is really beginning a new life, becoming a new person. We must seek first, not only God’s kingdom, but also his righteousness, that is, seeking to do what is right in God’s eyes in all our conduct at all times.
19, 20. (a) How does the apostle Paul describe this change at Colossians 3:5-10? (b) What kind of a change must this be in order to please Jehovah and gain life in his new world?
19 This means putting away what is unrighteous or bad, causing the things that are bad in God’s sight to die out of our lives, and then to replace what is bad by what is good. The apostle wrote on this point at Colossians 3:5-10: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, injuriousness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.”
20 This clothing of oneself with the new personality must spring from a sincere heart, from a sincere desire to bring one’s life into harmony with God’s will in order to please him, with the hope of gaining life in his new world. It cannot be hypocritical, like putting on a new suit of clothes just for one day in the week. So much of religion today is just like that, people putting on their “Christianity” when they go to church and then putting off their “Christianity” like a suit of clothes and returning to the bad ways of the world for the rest of the week. There needs to be a conscious effort to put away, to deaden what is bad, to “strip off” the old personality with its practices and put on the new personality by the sincere seeking to do God’s will. Nor can one make this change just to please men, just to be someone who is looked on by others as a good man. While a Christian naturally desires the respect of his fellowmen, and especially of his Christian brothers, he must first be seeking to please God. He appreciates what Jehovah God said to the prophet Samuel: “For not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Sam. 16:7.
21. What step will the sincere person want to make?
21 It is a great privilege to be associated with the ‘people for Jehovah’s name,’ for it brings with it the joy of serving the true God. But more important is the relationship entered into with Jehovah God. The one with a good heart, who appreciates the “good news” and has a sincere desire to do the divine will, will want to use his life to the praise of Jehovah. To that end he makes a dedication of his life, making a solemn promise in prayer to Jehovah that from henceforth he will seek, not his own will, but God’s will, just as Jesus did. (Pss. 40:8; 143:10; Luke 22:42; John 5:30) The Christian recognizes that it is by means of the mediator Christ Jesus that he is able to enter into this dedicated relationship with God.—See “This Good News of the Kingdom,” paragraphs 45-51.
22. What is necessary in order for one to “walk worthily of Jehovah,” as explained at Colossians 1:9, 10?
22 It is only by maintaining this relationship with Jehovah God through Jesus Christ that one can properly maintain his association with the ‘people for Jehovah’s name.’ Since to continue in Jehovah’s favor requires one to be doing the divine will, then an accurate knowledge of that will is most important. So the Christian will earnestly strive to “be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”—Col. 1:9, 10.