Messengers of Liberation
“Stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.”—Luke 21:28, New English Bible.
1. What differing views of liberation may people have, but what is the greatest liberation that is needed?
WHO does not enjoy being free? Who that feels any bondage or slavery does not want to be liberated? There is worldwide room for liberation today. One person might think this statement too broad and sweeping, because there is, in the political field, what is called the “free world” as against the Communist bloc of nations. Another person might think of the liberation that this Communist bloc advocates for all “imperialist” nations, which amounts to merely replacing one human government that is branded as undesirable with another human government no more perfect and all-wise than the one replaced. The messengers of such a liberation would be messengers of revolution, foreign agents of a radical government, political subverters and agitators, whereas the messengers of the “free world” would be looked upon as “imperialist spies.” Still another person might think one race among mankind needs to be liberated from domination by another race. However, that the need for liberation is worldwide can be appreciated from the statement, made nineteen centuries ago but still true today: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We shall never have a righteous, peaceful, healthful world till we are liberated from that wicked one.
2. How can we be sure complete deliverance is near?
2 Complete deliverance from that wicked world-enslaver is on its way here. Because, since the year 1914, we have more and more evidence that it is near, we can act on the encouraging words of the great Prophet: “When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near. . . . Look at the fig-tree, or any other tree. As soon as it buds, you can see for yourselves that summer is near. In the same way when you see all this happening, you may be sure that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:28-31, New English Bible.
3. (a) When will complete deliverance from Satan come? (b) What liberation is taking place now?
3 That kingdom will put out of power and control the wicked one whose unseen influence and pressure all the world of mankind feels, namely, Satan the Devil. The despoiling of him of his worldwide power will take place immediately after the universal battle of Har–Magedon has taken place, which battle will result in the wrecking of his visible political system of rule. That will mean deliverance for all those God-fearing people who pray the prayer, “Your kingdom come!” and who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, as Jesus Christ taught them to do. (Matt. 6:9, 10, 33) However, there is a present liberation for them; it begins before the oncoming battle of Har–Magedon. It is a very important liberation because it concerns their everlasting future. It is a religious liberation, one that takes place even while the political governments, including dictatorships and totalitarian governments, are still standing. Such a liberation means a lot now!
4. (a) Who may feel they do not need a liberation? (b) What similar attitude did some of Abraham’s descendants have in Jesus’ day?
4 People living in lands where the Constitution or the National Bill of Rights guarantees them “freedom of religion” may not feel that they need such a liberation. They are free to practice no religion at all, to be atheists, if they choose. But a person needs to be careful today that he is not like the people at Jerusalem nineteen hundred years ago, that is, in the autumn of the year 32. At the temple Jesus Christ had been teaching these people who were descendants of the Hebrew patriarch Abraham, and he went on to say: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Thinking proudly of their nationality, they answered: “We are Abraham’s offspring and never have we been slaves to anybody. How is it you say, ‘You will become free’?”—John 8:31-33.
5, 6. (a) How did Jesus’ reply to their statement show that the descendants of Abraham were in need of liberation? (b) Now what was their answer, but whom did Jesus point out their father really was?
5 Jesus’ reply could either offend them or open their eyes to their real situation. He said: “Most truly I say to you, Every doer of sin is a slave of sin. Moreover, the slave does not remain in the household [of the patriarch Abraham] forever; the son remains forever. Therefore if the Son [Jesus Christ] sets you free, you will be actually free. I know that you are Abraham’s offspring [according to natural descent]; but you are seeking to kill me, because my word makes no progress among you. . . . Abraham did not do this. You do the works of your father.” At this statement they laid claim to a descent higher than that from the man Abraham. They said to Jesus: “We were not born from fornication [by an unnamed father]; we have one Father, God.”—John 8:34-41.
6 But had they loved God, they would have loved his Son and listened to the Son’s word; but they did not do so. Hence Jesus said: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie. . . . This is why you do not listen, because you are not from God.”—John 8:42-47.
7. (a) What is our conclusion, then, regarding these descendants of Abraham? (b) Show why it is appropriate to refer to Satan as a “god.”
7 Slaves of sin! Children of Satan the Devil, the first murderer and liar! O what kind of religious people to be, while at the same time thinking themselves to be children of God through his earthly friend, Abraham the Hebrew patriarch! What religious deception to be under! What a need for liberation! It was not without great religious meaning that Satan the Devil was called a god, “the god of this system of things.” He tries to hide the true God from all mankind. To this end he “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” (2 Cor. 4:4) So the Bible account that tells about expelling the wicked one and his demon angels from heaven says: “Down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Rev. 12:7-9) He being the “god of this system of things,” he has his worshipers. He has his religion, and he misleads practically all the inhabitants of the earth by his religion, the false religion of a false god.
8. After the Flood, where did false religion again get its start, and how extensive was it to become?
8 Bible history reveals that after the great Flood Satan the Devil renewed his false religion in the earth at Babylon. This city was built on the banks of the Euphrates River. From this city, after the confusion of languages there, false religion spread to all parts of the inhabited earth. In the seventh century before Christ the city became the Third World Power in Bible history. It overturned the kingdom of the Jews and carried off the survivors to Babylon, where they remained unwilling captives for seventy years. Liberation came for them at the hands of the conqueror, King Cyrus, the Persian, in 537 B.C., and a remnant of more than forty-two thousand Jews returned at once to their homeland to rebuild the temple of Jehovah God and the holy city. By the time of Jesus’ coming they had fallen under the power of the Roman Empire, but they were still allowed to practice their religion, Judaism. But now man-made religious traditions had taken on more importance than the written Word of God, the Holy Scriptures.
9. Show how Jesus’ words “every doer of sin is a slave of sin” were true in the case of the Jewish people in his day and that they needed liberation.
9 Along with being bound by unscriptural, antibiblical religious traditions, the Jewish people were under the power of oppressive religious rulers, who were of their father the Devil. The religious ceremonies at the temple in Jerusalem did not really remove their sins or actually free them from the slavery of sin. As a result of sin, death, which is the penalty for sin, was reigning over them. (Rom. 6:23; 5:12-17) Jesus Christ told them the straight facts when he said they were slaves and needing liberation.
10. Explain why Paul likened the Jewish people to children of Hagar, but Christians to children of Sarah.
10 They liked to think that they were Abraham’s children by his wife Sarah, the free woman, but the Christian apostle Paul, a converted Jew, said that they were like children of the Egyptian woman, Hagar, the slave girl of Sarah, and thus were slaves. Said Paul: “These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai, which brings forth children for slavery, and which is Hagar. Now this Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia [where the Ten Commandments of the law covenant were given], and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. Wherefore, brothers, we [Christians] are children, not of a servant girl, but of the free woman. For such freedom Christ set us free. Therefore stand fast, and do not let yourselves be confined again in a yoke of slavery.”
11. (a) What kind of letter is the one written to the Galatians? (b) Who are the only free people today?
11 By those words in his letter to the Galatians (4:24-26, 31; 5:1), Paul indicates that his letter is one of liberation, not only from Babylonish paganism, but also from Judaism with its religious traditions and oppressive leaders. Today, as in Paul’s day, the only free people are those whom Jesus Christ has set free from Satan the Devil, from sin and from death, the penalty for sin. They are the children of “heavenly Jerusalem,” the “Jerusalem above.” She is their mother, and she pictures God’s holy heavenly organization, who, in turn, was pictured by Abraham’s wife, Sarah, the free woman.
SHAKE YOURSELF FREE, JERUSALEM
12, 13. What question do we now face, and what solution is offered?
12 In his letter to the Romans (10:15) the apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 52:7). When Paul says: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother,” how could he still be in harmony with the second verse of chapter fifty-two of Isaiah’s prophecy, which reads: “Shake yourself free from the dust, rise up, take a seat, O Jerusalem. Loosen for yourself the bands on your neck, O captive daughter of Zion”? It was because the heavenly Zion, the Jerusalem above, is represented by her children on earth. These are the dedicated, baptized, spirit-begotten Christians on earth, the spiritual brothers of Jesus and the spiritual sons of God.
13 Zion is pictured as sharing in the conditions and experiences of her spiritual children on earth. Just as Isaiah 63:8, 9 says regarding Jehovah’s people: “He went on to say: ‘Surely they are my people, sons that will not prove false.’ So it was to them that he came to be a Savior. During all their distress it was distressing to him.” Now Jesus Christ is the Chief One in heavenly Zion, the Jerusalem above. He said in his parable recorded in Matthew 25:31-46: “To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Thus when the children of Zion or the Jerusalem above are held captive, she is said to be in captivity.
14. (a) Though freed from Babylonian captivity in 537 B.C., what bondage continued on Israel in succeeding centuries? (b) Therefore, what were John the Baptist, Jesus and his apostles able to do?
14 The ancient city of Zion or Jerusalem literally went into captivity to Babylon on the Euphrates River when she and her temple were destroyed in 607 B.C. and her citizens or children were dragged away into captivity in Babylon’s territory. She was delivered from that in 537 B.C. when her citizens were released and went back and rebuilt her and her temple of worship. But in the succeeding centuries her people were brought into a religious bondage that corresponded in respects with the Babylonian captivity. For that reason John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and his apostles fulfilled a number of Bible prophecies that are related to the Babylonian captivity and the liberation of the exiled Jews from it. They were indeed messengers of liberation, but of a liberation greater than that from ancient Babylon, which has long since perished.
15. What grand liberation took place at Pentecost?
15 Most certainly Jesus Christ had to set his own apostles and other associated disciples free, and by continuing in his word they remained actually free. This included a freedom most precious, religious freedom to worship the one living and true God, Jehovah. On the day of Pentecost of A.D. 33 Jesus Christ, at God’s right hand in heaven, poured out holy spirit upon his waiting disciples in Jerusalem and they became spiritual children of God’s heavenly organization, the heavenly Zion, Jerusalem above. Then indeed they became her free children and they preached the good news of God’s kingdom, exercising their God-given religious freedom to do so.
16. (a) What practical application of Joel 2:28-32 did Peter make, and what response was there to his message of liberation? (b) What fearless expression of their religious freedom did the apostles later make?
16 The apostle Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel (2:28-32), which speaks about the “escaped ones” and the “survivors” in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem. Then, in making a practical application of his message of liberation, Peter told the thousands of listening Jews: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit. . . . Get saved from this crooked generation.” Three thousand responded to that message of liberation on that day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:14-42) Later, in fearless expression of their religious freedom, Peter and the other apostles said to the Jewish high priest and religious elders of the Jewish Supreme Court in Jerusalem: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men. . . . And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler.”—Acts 5:27-32.
17. (a) According to Bible prophecy, what lay ahead for the free spiritual children? (b) To whom would this bondage be, when would it occur, and who would be revealed at such time?
17 However, according to the prophetic experience of the ancient Jews with Babylon and according to the Bible prophecies, Zion, the Jerusalem above, as pictured by those on earth who professed to be her spiritual children, was not to remain free. Her children were foreseen as undergoing a captivity to a Greater Babylon, a system of religious bondage, not at ancient Babylon, but throughout the world. During the days of the twelve faithful apostles, down to the end of the first century, the children of the heavenly Zion, Jerusalem above, continued free, at which time the last books of the Holy Bible were written by the aged apostle John. Then, just as the apostle Paul had foretold, “the thing that acts as a restraint” got out of the way, and the falling away or apostasy from the freedom-giving Christian faith took place. So the majority of those who professed to have the Christian belief went captive to the great Babylonish system of religion. The “man of lawlessness” toward God, the “son of destruction,” got revealed, came out into the open in the form of the religious clergy of Christendom.—2 Thess. 2:3-8.
18. What course of events now followed?
18 Christendom dates particularly from the days of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century.a Evidently the true children on earth of the heavenly Zion (Jerusalem above) had to go underground because of overwhelming religious persecution. As in Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Tares), the few wheatlike sons of Zion and the imitation weedlike sons were left to grow together in the same field, the world of mankind. (Matt. 13:30) The clergy of Christendom, who claimed to represent the heavenly Zion, were Babylonized and became part of the Greater Babylon. Then, truly, the heavenly Zion as represented in her true children on earth went into captivity to the Greater Babylon.
19. (a) What questions of interest now face us? (b) When were efforts to obtain liberation begun, but what did 1914 bring?
19 Was Zion’s captivity to the Greater Babylon to continue till the battle of Har–Magedon foretold in the Bible’s last book, in Revelation 16:13-16? Were no messengers of liberation to come to her with the good news before Har–Magedon is reached? According to Revelation 9:13-15 there was to be an untying, a liberating, of those “bound at the great river Euphrates,” where ancient Babylon used to sit. In the last three decades of the past century there was an earnest effort by truly dedicated, baptized Christian worshipers of Jehovah God to liberate themselves from Christendom, which is the dominant part of the religious Greater Babylon. But in 1914 came World War I; and Christendom, the main participant in the war, used this as a means to bring the devoted Christian children of heavenly Zion into bondage, like that of the Israelites in ancient Babylon during Jerusalem’s seventy-year desolation.
20. (a) Fulfillment of Bible prophecy led to what occurrences in and after 1914? (b) What question is posed, with what answer?
20 However, Bible prophecy and its time schedule, together with the world events of 1914, proved that God’s woman, the heavenly Zion, had given birth to the promised kingdom of the Messiah or Christ, and that then the enthroned Jesus Christ had begun ruling in the midst of his enemies, to subdue them completely in due time. (Rev. 12:1-5; Ps. 110:1-6; Heb. 1:13; 10:12, 13) The battle of Har–Magedon faced him in the future at Almighty God’s appointed time, particularly after the invisible war in heaven was halted with the hurling of Satan the Devil and his demons out of their heavenly position and down to the earth. In the meantime was the victorious King Jesus Christ, who was foreshadowed by ancient Babylon’s conqueror, Cyrus the Great, going to wait until Har–Magedon to liberate the Christian witnesses of Jehovah from their captivity in the Greater Babylon of today? Not according to Bible prophecy!
21. What prophecy was due to be fulfilled in 1914, but what problems were there then to face?
21 In 1914 Jehovah God the Almighty took his great power and began ruling as king toward the earth by setting up his promised Messianic kingdom. So “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” (Rev. 11:15-18) The time had therefore come for Christ’s prophecy to be fulfilled: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come,” that is, at Har–Magedon. (Matt. 24:14) But if the witnesses of Jehovah the King were in Babylonish captivity, how could they announce the promised rule of God’s kingdom as having begun? How would things match or harmonize with Jehovah God the Almighty ruling as King and yet with his witnesses on earth being in captivity to the enemy, the Greater Babylon? How could these captive Christian witnesses really picture the freedom of God’s heavenly “woman” and say: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother”? (Gal. 4:26) Under captive conditions they could not do so.
22. After his ouster from heaven, how did Satan the Devil show his opposition to the Kingdom?
22 Revelation 12:7-17 revealed in advance that after Satan was hurled down to our earth by the war in heaven he persecuted God’s woman who had brought forth the Messianic kingdom and, in wrath at her, he “went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” The realization of these events calls for certain other things to be true also. What things? Satan the Devil is the “god of this system of things” and hence is also the god of the Greater Babylon, which belongs to this system of things. In this Greater Babylon he held the “remaining ones of [Zion’s] seed” captive through to the end of World War I in 1918. After being ousted from his heavenly position, Satan the Devil persecuted God’s “woman” Zion by persecuting the remaining ones on earth of her seed. He did this by waging war upon them.
23. The fact that Satan waged war against the remaining ones of Christ’s seed is evidence of what?
23 From this what do we see? By reason of his being ousted from heaven Satan had lost control of the remaining ones of her seed; and his worshiper, religious Babylon the Great, had also lost such control. If he and she still had them captive, why would it be necessary for him to “wage war” upon them? Waging war upon them was necessary because they had been liberated and were now free to “observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” The Devil’s waging war upon them was an attempt to bring them back again into captivity to the Greater Babylon.
24. When were God’s people liberated from Great Babylon, and to what big fact does this testify?
24 We must proceed by the facts of the case. When do the facts prove that the Christian witnesses were liberated from captivity in the Devil-worshiping Greater Babylon? In the spring of 1919, for from then on they fearlessly undertook the preaching of God’s Messianic kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, thus observing God’s commandments for this time and discharging the work of bearing witness to the enthroned Messiah, Jesus. Their liberation was to be ascribed to no one else but Jehovah through his Messianic King, Jesus Christ, the Greater Cyrus. What did this mean? To what big fact did this evidence testify? To this fact: Not only had Great Babylon’s god Satan the Devil been hurled down from heaven, but Great Babylon herself had fallen.
25. (a) Why did this not mean Great Babylon had been destroyed, and what example is given to help us to understand what her fall meant? (b) Will Great Babylon’s final destruction take centuries from now to be accomplished?
25 Great Babylon’s fall by 1919 did not mean that she had been destroyed. Not at all! She still exists today and still runs her kingdom over the kings of the earth. Nevertheless, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have been liberated from her. We can better understand this matter when we look back to ancient history. There we observe that, when ancient Babylon fell before the Persian Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C., she was not destroyed or wiped out of existence. She continued existing for centuries afterward, even into the days of the Christian apostle Peter, who visited the declining city and wrote at least one letter, if not two, from that city. (1 Pet. 5:13) But today nothing is left of the city of Babylon itself but dismal ruins that began to be dug up in 1899. In like manner, religious Great Babylon fell by 1919 and her utter destruction lies ahead in the future. But we do not expect to wait centuries for her destruction. Things are going to happen fast now for Great Babylon, and we expect to see her destruction in our generation! What a joy that will be for all messengers of liberation!
a Says page 268 of Volume 2 of M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia (1891 Edition): “Christendom, the kingdom of Christ in its diffusion among men on the earth. . . . The conversion of Constantine established the first Christian state. . . . Thus the territory of Christianity at present comprises three out of the five large divisions of the world, with a considerable part of the two others. . . . Thus the time seems near when the extent of Christendom will coincide with the extent of the earth. The following estimate of the Christian population of the world is based upon the latest (1889) works on political and ecclesiastical statistics: Total Population: 1,447,548,000; Roman Catholics: 201,000,000; Protestant: 106,000,000; Christian: 393,225,000.” But today, in 1964, the world population is 3,060,800,000 [The World Almanac, 1963, pages 259, 719], and the so-called Christian population is 904,332,500.
[Picture on page 73]
“The truth will set you free.”