Why God’s Field Will Be Productive
1. What other Greek word now comes in for discussion, and how frequently is it used in the Christian Greek Scriptures?
WITH now a more correct appreciation of the word aión used by the inspired writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures, we can better distinguish between that word and the other Greek word that we have under study, namely, kósmos. This word is used 187 times by the inspired writers, mainly by the apostle John, and in every case the King James Version translates it as “world” except in one case, namely, in 1 Peter 3:3, where kósmos is translated “adorning.” The same thing is true with the New World Translation: 186 times it renders kósmos by the English word “world,” and once, in 1 Peter 3:3, “adornment.” Hence the word cosmetic (kosmétikos).
2. Why is the expression “new kósmos” never used in the inspired Scriptures?
2 It is interesting to note that the inspired writers speak of new heavens and a new earth and New Jerusalem, but they never use the expression new kósmos. The reason for this dawns upon us when we discern that in the Bible the word kósmos implicates or revolves around the human family, the race of mankind, the people, and we are not going to have a new human family here upon this earth. Mankind is redeemed. God’s Son Jesus Christ died as a perfect human sacrifice in order to buy back for mankind what the perfect Adam in Eden lost for us by sin.—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 3:12; 21:1, 2.
3. How is kósmos now defined?
3 As Peter’s use of the word, in 1 Peter 3:3, shows, the simplest meaning of kósmos is “arrangement,” also “adornment, beauty, ornament,” because something well arranged has a beauty to it. In agreement with this, in the Christian Greek Scriptures, kósmos many times means the arrangement as it is connected with mankind as a whole. So, at times, the inspired writers use kósmos to mean that framework of surroundings, that arrangement of things, into which man is born and in which he exists and to which he has to give a relative consideration and respect. This framework of things that surround and affect mankind has been built up here on earth. Now note some uses of the word kósmos in this second sense.
4 Jesus Christ, just before entering into his terrible sufferings, said to his faithful apostles: “A woman, when she is giving birth, has grief, because her hour has arrived; but when she has brought forth the young child, she remembers the tribulation no more because of the joy that a man has been born into the world [kósmos].” (John 16:21) This does not mean primarily that the man was born into the human family but means the framework of human conditions in which the newborn child will exist from then on.
5 The apostle Paul, when advising Christians at their meetings not to use speech that is not understandable to those listening, said: “It may be that there are so many kinds of speech sounds in the world, and yet no kind is without meaning. If, then, I do not understand the force of the speech sound, I shall be a foreigner to the one speaking, and the one speaking will be a foreigner to me.” (1 Cor. 14:10, 11) So, within this framework or arrangement of things and circumstances that surrounds mankind, especially now with 2,796 languages and dialects, there are many kinds of speech sounds besides other kinds of sound, say, by musical instruments. But they are all common to human experience.
6 In giving an illustration of a lack of Christian love, the apostle John wrote: “But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him?” (1 John 3:17) To show practical love the Christian, if he has the means for supporting life as provided or made possible by this world in which he and his brother live, should share them with his needy brother.
7. Whom did Jesus say was the ruler of this external framework of things, and how is this fact supported in Luke 4:5-8?
7 Jesus Christ exposed who the unseen individual who rules this external framework of things affecting all mankind is, when he said shortly before he was betrayed into the hands of his foes: “Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. I shall not speak much with you any more, for the ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me. . . . the ruler of this world has been judged.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) The unseen ruler of this world had no hold on Jesus at the close of his earthly work even as he got no hold on Jesus when he was preparing to begin his ministry as the Messiah or Christ. At that time Jesus was finishing a fast of forty days in the wilderness. “So he brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time; and the Devil said to him: ‘I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it. You, therefore, if you do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.’” Thus Satan the Devil declared himself to be the invisible “ruler of this world,” but Jesus refused to bargain with him.—Luke 4:5-8.
8. How was Jesus able to conquer the world as a man?
8 Jesus as a perfect man in the flesh overcame this world, before he got out of it. Concerning his last passover supper with his apostles, we read: “Now, because he knew before the festival of the passover that his hour had come for him to move out of this world to the Father,” Jesus proceeded to wash their feet. (John 13:1-5) Farther along in the night he said to them: “I came out from the Father and have come into the world. Further, I am leaving the world and am going my way to the Father. . . . In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:28, 33) In himself he illustrated what he had told them earlier: “He that is fond of his soul destroys it, but he that hates his soul in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life.” (John 12:25) By sacrificing his human life or soul Jesus proved worthy of immortal life with his heavenly Father.
9. What is a second definition of kósmos, and how is this shown at Luke 12:29, 30?
9 Other Bible verses could be commented on to illustrate the use of kósmos to mean the external framework surrounding all mankind into which he has come by birth under the present circumstances. (Matt. 16:26; 24:21; John 18:36; Rom. 5:12) But we pass on to the use of it in another sense, a Christian use that suggested an idea that must have been very strange to the pagans or heathens. That novel use of kósmos is the making of it to mean the mass of mankind as apart from the Christian congregation and in opposition to it. Such meaning is seen in Jesus’ telling his disciples not to worry about their material needs and then adding: “For all these are the things the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing, but your Father knows you need these things.”—Luke 12:29, 30.
10. Illustrate with suitable Bible texts this second definition of the word kósmos.
10 Contrasting that world and his disciples, Jesus said: “The spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you. A little longer and the world will behold me no more, but you will behold me.” (John 14:17, 19) He forewarned them of the world’s hatred, saying: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:18, 19; 7:7; 1 John 3:13) In his final prayer with his apostles he said to God: “I make request, not concerning the world, but concerning those you have given me; because they are yours. 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.”—John 17:9, 14.
11. How do Paul, James and John show kósmos to have the meaning given it in paragraph nine?
11 Because the world was estranged from God and hostile to His people, the apostle Paul wrote: “God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20; 7:10) The disciple James also gives us this warning against people alienated from God: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 1:27; 4:4) The reason for this the apostle John makes clear to us by saying: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We should not love it.—1 John 2:15-17.
THE FIELD FOR GOD’S WORK
12 A third use of the Greek word kósmos is that which means just the people themselves, the entire body of them as one family, all the human kind on earth, all human creatures, apart from their moral condition or course of life, but just as people, God’s creatures. From this standpoint John 1:9, 10 says: “The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, but the world did not know him.” From this standpoint, too, John the Baptist could point to Jesus Christ and cry out: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”—John 1:29; 1 John 2:2.
13. (a) Having this definition in mind reading John 3:16, 17, explain how the Samaritans of Sychar felt about Jesus. (b) Of which world would Jesus and then his disciples be the light?
13 Having reference to the people living within the present arrangement, Jesus said to Nicodemus a Jewish ruler: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life. For God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him.”(John 3:16, 17) This was the way that the Samaritans of the city of Sychar looked at the matter, for, after Jesus had confessed to the Samaritan woman that he was the Messiah or Christ and after those Samaritans themselves had heard him talk, they said: “We know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.” He was the savior, not of the Jews only, but also of the Samaritans and other races. (John 4:42) In keeping with that fact Jesus publicly said before the Jews: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” “As long as I am in the world, I am the world’s light.” (John 8:12; 9:5) In turn, his disciples must be the light of the world.—Matt. 5:14-16; Phil. 2:15.
14. What did Peter write about Jesus as the sacrificial lamb?
14 Regarding Jesus’ sacrifice of himself as a lamb the apostle Peter wrote: “You were delivered . . . with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s. True, he was foreknown before the founding [Greek, katabolé] of the world, but he was made manifest at the end of the times for the sake of you.”—1 Pet. 1:18-20.
15, 16. (a) When, particularly, did the “founding of the world” take place? (b) How did Jesus show this to be the case?
15 Jesus was made manifest as the Messiah or Christ in the years 29-33 (A.D.), “at the end of the times,” not at the “founding of the world.” For that reason the “founding of the world” took place earlier. When? When Adam and Eve were driven out of the paradise garden of Eden, condemned to death, or, more particularly, when Adam and Eve produced children who could be rescued from the condemnation to death that they had inherited from Adam. (Rom. 5:12, 13) As far as the Bible shows, Abel was the first one of such world of mankind worthy of redemption.
16 That the founding of the world (kósmos) must be reckoned as having taken place then, Jesus indicated when he said to the Jewish leaders who were bent on killing him: “You are witnesses of the deeds of your forefathers and yet you give consent to them, because these killed the prophets but you are building their tombs. On this account the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send forth to them prophets and apostles, and they will kill and persecute some of them, so that the blood of all the prophets spilled from the founding of the world may be required from this generation, from the blood of Abel down to the blood of Zechariah, who was slain between the altar and the house [temple].’” (Luke 11:48-51) Jesus thus shows that the spilling of the blood of all the prophets from the founding of the world began with Abel. Consequently Abel lived at the “founding of the world.” From this world of mankind Jesus Christ could take away the inherited sin by the sacrifice of himself as the Lamb of God.—Gen. 4:2-11, 25; Matt. 23:35; Heb. 11:4; 12:24.
17, 18. (a) How was Jesus “foreknown before the founding of the world”? (b) How did Jehovah reveal this to mankind as recorded at Genesis 3:15?
17 How, then, was it true that Jesus Christ, the heavenly Son of God, was “foreknown before the founding of the world”? In that Jehovah God foreknew that his beloved Son would be the sacrificial Lamb of God for ransoming the world of mankind before the days of Abel. Before the perfect Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden there was no need for God to purpose the ransoming of the world of mankind by a perfect human sacrifice. But as soon as that first human pair sinned God knew it or learned it, because now they felt guilty and hid themselves from sight. God extracted their confession of sin. Immediately he formed his purpose of ransoming the world of Adam and Eve’s descendants. He revealed this purpose by saying to the serpent who stood for the Tempter, Satan the Devil: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Gen. 3:15.
18 By “her seed,” that is, the seed of “the woman,” God meant particularly his only-begotten Son, who became Jesus Christ on earth. By talking of bruising this particular Son “in the heel” God meant his death. By death God’s Son not only proved his absolute integrity but also served as a ransom sacrifice like a lamb, to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world [kósmos].” Thus, according to Genesis 3:15, God foreknew Christ before God pronounced sentence upon Eve and Adam and drove them out of the garden of Eden, for Eve to bring forth children with birth pangs. This was therefore before the “founding of the world,” that is, the world of mankind with inherited sin but in a ransomable condition in view of the sacrifice of the principal Seed of God’s woman. This was before faithful Abel offered up a sacrifice of sheep about 3897 B.C. That far ahead of his actual death on earth was Jesus Christ foreknown by God his Father.—Gen. 22:1-18; Ex. 12:3-28; 29:38-42.
19, 20. (a) Whom does Paul mention as also being chosen with Christ “before the founding of the world”? (b) How was this possible?
19 Using the very same Greek expression as the apostle Peter, the apostle Paul wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, just as he chose us in union with him before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, . . . we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one.”—Eph. 1:3-7.
20 From this it is to be understood that, when Jehovah God spoke about the seed of his “woman” as against the seed of the serpent, he chose to have that promised seed include 144,000 other spiritual sons, to become the Bride of his principal Son. Thus God chose the 144,000 in union with Jesus Christ “before the founding of the world.” In order for this to be possible, God foreordained that he would adopt these 144,000 other spiritual sons through his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, by having Jesus provide a ransom sacrifice for them through his shed blood. Thus these 144,000 who were chosen to be part of the woman’s seed in union with Christ would be released from the sinful world of mankind. As the seed of the serpent would include many individuals, so the woman’s seed would include many sons of God.
“WRITTEN . . . FROM THE FOUNDING OF THE WORLD”
21. (a) Give the true meaning of Revelation 13:8, and explain why this must be the thought of the text. (b) How many names appear in this particular “scroll of life”?
21 Revelation 13:1-8 pictures the great Serpent’s visible political organization as a wild beast and says: “All those who dwell on the earth will worship it; the name of not one of them stands written in the scroll of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered from the founding of the world.” This does not say that the Lamb was slaughtered from the founding of the world, for he was foreknown before the world’s founding and was slaughtered first in the year 33 (A.D.), as Revelation 5:6-10 shows. So Revelation 13:8 means that the scroll of life belonged to the slaughtered Lamb, and that the worshipers of the symbolic wild beast were not written in that scroll of life and were not meant to be written in it. From the “founding of the world” such idolatrous worshipers were not God’s choice for those who are to enjoy immortal life in heaven in union with the glorified Lamb of God. In that particular scroll of life name spaces were provided for only 144,000 who refuse to worship the symbolic wild beast and its image.—Rev. 15:2, 3; 20:4; 21:27.
22 With regard to the modern-day worshipers of the wild beast’s image Revelation 17:8 says: “Those who dwell on the earth will wonder admiringly, but their names have not been written upon the scroll of life from the founding of the world.” As this verse does not say the scroll is that “of the Lamb who was slaughtered,” this scroll or book could be that in which the names of those who are to inherit earthly life in the coming system of things are listed. Because of the honorable mention given him in Hebrews 11:4; 12:24, Abel would be the first one listed. (Rev. 20:12-15) Abel is one of the “other sheep” for whom the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ surrendered his soul or laid down his human life.—John 10:14-16.
23 Abel will therefore live in the earthly realm of God’s kingdom, and thus on earth he will enter into the blessings of that kingdom of the Seed of God’s “woman.” (Gen. 3:15) There he will enjoy life with the sheeplike class who today do good to Christ’s spiritual brothers, the remnant of the Seed of God’s woman. (Rev. 12:1, 2, 5, 6, 17) This privilege is evidently what Jesus Christ pointed forward to in his parable on the sheep and the goats that is now being fulfilled. In that parable he says to the sheep gathered to his right hand: “Come, you who have my Father’s blessing, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding [Greek, katabolé] of the world.”—Matt. 25:34.
24. What significance is there in Jesus’ use of the Greek word katabolé in Matthew 25:34 rather than the word for “foundation,” namely, themélios?
24 Here for the word “founding” Jesus used a Greek word (katabolé) different from the Greek word (themélios) that is applied to him as the “foundation” of the Christian congregation. (1 Cor. 3:10-12; Eph. 2:20-22) Rightly so, because the two Greek words do not refer to the same thing, and the laying of Jesus Christ as the “foundation” in the heavenly Zion is not the same as the “founding” of the world, and they do not occur at the same time or date. (Isa. 28:16; 1 Pet. 2:5, 6) The laying of Jesus Christ as the foundation in Zion occurs thousands of years after the “founding of the world.” From God’s statement in Genesis 3:15 concerning the Seed of his woman God began preparing for his Messianic kingdom, for the blessing of all the “other sheep.” Thus their blessing in the earthly realm of the Kingdom was prepared “from the founding of the world.”
“NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH”
25, 26. What does Peter show was existing prior to the flood of Noah’s day, giving rise to what timely question?
25 The blessing of all the “other sheep” under God’s kingdom will be in the time of the promised “new heavens and a new earth.” In leading up to his mention of these the apostle Peter writes: “God . . . did not hold back from punishing an ancient world [kósmos], but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” (2 Pet. 2:4, 5) Peter afterward describes the condition just prior to that flood when he writes: “There were heavens in ancient times and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God; and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Pet. 3:5, 6.
26 Note that Peter here mentions three things that were involved in that deluge: (1) “heavens in ancient times,” (2) “an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water,” and (3) “the world of that time.” Were all destroyed, or what was?
27. What was not destroyed by the Flood, but what change in the earth did the Flood bring?
27 The earth was not destroyed; it is still “standing compactly out of water.” However, it is not standing “in the midst of water.” How is that? Because the water in the midst of which it then stood was deluged down upon it from the heavens, but not from clouds. Up until Noah’s six hundredth year of life the “heavens in ancient times” were different or had a feature different from what the heavens or outer space have now. They had a water ring high in suspension above the earth and containing billions of tons of water. According to Genesis 1:6-8, God’s word of command put that water ring up there in the heavens. It covered the earth like a canopy, so that the earth was standing “in the midst of water by the word of God.” In November of the six hundredth year of Noah God’s word brought that encircling water ring down upon the earth from which it had originally come. So that feature of the heavens disappeared, but the heavens themselves, with their sun, moon and stars, remained. (Gen. 1:14-19; 6:5—8:7) Well, then, what was destroyed?
28. (a) Who was destroyed by the Flood, as shown by Peter’s words at 2 Peter 3:6? (b) Who were not included in the destruction?
28 The people outside Noah’s ark were destroyed. They are the ones to whom 2 Peter 3:6 refers, when it says that “the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.” They made up that “ancient world,” and, as 2 Peter 2:5 says, God punished them “when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” It was the world of mankind alienated from God by its corruptness and violence, separate and apart from Noah and the seven other human souls with him in the ark. Of course, there were Nephilim in the earth in those days. They were the hybrid offspring from the marriage of disobedient angels, the sons of God, with the beautiful daughters of men. (Gen. 6:1-4) Although they may have had superhuman vitality, the Nephilim were flesh and, of course, were destroyed in the Flood. Their mothers, the wives of the materialized angelic sons of God from heaven, were flesh and also perished in the Flood; but their fathers escaped the Flood by dematerializing their human bodies and returning to the invisible spirit realm.—1 Pet. 3:19, 20; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6.
29. Summarize what was destroyed and what was preserved.
29 Of the three things that Peter mentions, it was not the literal heavens and the literal earth that were destroyed; it was the ancient human world, “a world of ungodly people,” “the world of that time,” that was destroyed from the face of the earth.
30. Who will be destroyed at Armageddon, and who will be preserved?
30 All mankind that was estranged from God or “ungodly” was destroyed, but the human family was not wiped out. Hence today we have a modern society of mankind of this time. It is just as ungodly. It has its roots in Adam and Eve, and it will be destroyed in the coming universal battle of Armageddon. (Rev. 16:14, 16) But the human family will survive on earth, for, like Noah and the seven with him in the ark, the “other sheep” of our time will be preserved through that battle and enter the time of “new heavens and a new earth.” (Matt. 24:36-39) So human life will continue on earth forever.
31. Why, evidently, does Peter stop using the word kósmos in his writings in connection with the heavens and the earth, and so what do we conclude the expression “earth” means?
31 In the remainder of his letter, in connection with the “heavens and the earth that are now” and the “new heavens and a new earth,” the apostle Peter does not again use the word kósmos or world, that is to say, the people on earth. It is evidently because Peter now uses the expressions “heavens” and “earth” in a figurative or symbolic sense, not applying to the literal heavens and earth. What, then, about the people, that is, all the people that are ungodly, alienated from Jehovah God? They are to be understood in the expression “earth,” for oftentimes the expression “earth” means the people living on the earth.—Gen. 11:1; Ps. 97:1; Jer. 22:29.
32. Logically, then, what else becomes symbolic in Peter’s writings?
32 Accordingly, the means used for destroying the present symbolic heavens and earth becomes symbolic also, namely, fire. Thus the literal heavens and earth will not be destroyed when 2 Peter 3:7, 10 is fulfilled: “By the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men. . . . Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.” The fiery time of trouble will destroy the invisible control of Satan the Devil over mankind and the earthly society of ungodly people. But Christians who are reconciled to God will survive.
33. What are the new heavens and new earth?
33 Hence Peter continues on to say: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13) The new heavens, being symbolic, will be Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom ruling from the invisible realm. The new earth will be the organized “other sheep” for whom the Fine Shepherd Jesus Christ laid down his human life. In this new earthly society righteousness will be cultivated and will dwell, so that the literal earth will everywhere be filled with righteousness in the midst of paradise conditions.
34. What, then, is God’s field of work, and what should all Christians feel obligated to do?
34 This glorious message affects or has a bearing upon all mankind. It is God’s will through Christ that this good news should go to all the inhabited earth before the heavens and earth that are now are destroyed and all the ungodly with it. (Matt. 24:14) All the world of mankind is today God’s field of work and activity, as never before. As Christians dedicated entirely to the doing of his will, we are obligated to be fellow workers with him in the highly important work of salvation. Appreciating his undeserved kindness to us, we will determinedly go forward “working together with him.” Thus we will lovingly show him that we have not missed the purpose of all his unmerited kindness to us through Jesus Christ.—1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:19 to 6:1.
[Pictures on page 49]
Born into the World (Kósmos)
[Picture on page 52]
Abel, First of World (Kósmos) of Mankind Worthy of Redemption
[Picture on page 54]
World (Kósmos) of Ungodly People Destroyed by Water