Of Which God Are You a Witness?
“‘So you are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’”—Isa. 43:12.
1. (a) What should a real God be able to do? (b) What attitude does the atheist have toward God, as evidenced in an Associated Press dispatch?
ANY God that is a real God ought to show proof that he is a God. He ought to have at least two or three witnesses that he is a God, or even the only God that there is. The atheist today recoils at the very suggestion that there is a god and proudly exclaims: “I am the witness of no god!” An Associated Press dispatch dated Seattle, May 6 of last year, reported: “Major Gherman S. Titov, the Soviet astronaut, proclaimed his disbelief in God today. He said he saw ‘no God or angels’ during his seventeen orbits of the earth. ‘Up to our first orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin no God helped build our rocket,’ he said. ‘The rocket was made by our people. I don’t believe in God. I believe in man, his strength, his possibilities and his reason.’ Major Titov expounded on his materialistic faith after he and his wife had spent nearly two hours touring the United States science exhibit at the Seattle World’s Fair.”—N.Y. Times, May 7, 1962.
2, 3. (a) What can be said of belief in God in ancient times? (b) What are we told about gods in the Hindu philosophy?
2 The atheist of today, whether he be a Communist or be of another political faith, thinks that in this modern nuclear, space age it has become old-fashioned to believe in an invisible god. In ancient times belief in one God or in many gods was part of the everyday life of the people in general. There might even have been an exchange of gods. Says a widely read writer of the seventh century before our Common Era: “Has a nation exchanged gods, even for those that are no gods?” “But where are your gods that you have made for yourself? Let them rise up if they can save you in the time of your calamity. For as the number of your cities your gods have become, O Judah.” (Jer. 2:11, 28) Later, in the first century of our Common Era there was a prominent Roman named Petronius Arbiter, who was a favorite of Emperor Nero and an absolute authority on questions of taste in connection with the science of luxurious living. In his work entitled “Satires,” chapter 17, Petronius referred to the Roman state religion and said: “Our country is so peopled with divinities that you can find a god more easily than a man.” Of course, the Roman emperor was addressed as a divinity.
3 It was with correctness that another writer who was of that same first century, but who is widely read today, said: “There are those who are called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords.’” (1 Cor. 8:5) Since the time of that writer the gods of the peoples have increased in number. Says The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 14 (edition of 1929), page 196b, on the development of Hindu philosophy in India:
The result was that a whole pantheon of gods was created. Imagination was let loose and had a riotous play. Gods and goddesses by the galore peopled the firmament, although however only a handful found deification in the sense that they became objects of worship. New worlds were created, and Indra was made the ruler of 330,000,000 divinities. The trinity of Hinduism came into being in Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Siva, the destroyer.
According to The Americana Annual 1963, page 321, India of today has a population of 439,235,082, of which 84.99 percent are Hindus. This would mean that there was one god to about every one Hindu and a half.
4. What facts do we have about gods in Japan, Russia and Christendom?
4 Up until 1946 the Japanese emperor was held to be divine, on the religious teaching that the imperial line descended unbroken from the time that Jimmu, great-grandson of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, set up the Japanese throne in 660 B.C. It was only sensible that on December 31, 1945, Emperor Hirohito honestly proclaimed that he was not a god. It was only since 1953, the year of the Russian dictator Stalin’s death, that the cult of Stalin was partially destroyed throughout the Communist world. But what about Christendom? She, of course, worships her own Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But what else?
5, 6. (a) How is the pope of the Roman Catholic Church viewed, as outlined in the Ecclesiastical Dictionary? (b) What other comments are made about this church leader?
5 From a standard Roman Catholic authority, the Ecclesiastical Dictionary,a by Lucius Ferraris, an eighteenth-century canonist of the Franciscan Order of monks, we quote part of what it says under the word papa:
“The pope is of such dignity and highness that he is not simply a man but, as it were, God, and the vicar of God. . . . Hence the pope is crowned with a triple crown, as king of heaven, of earth and of hell. . . . The pope is, as it were, God on earth, the only prince of the faithful of Christ, the greatest king of all kings, possessing the plenitude of power, to whom the government of the earthly and heavenly kingdom is entrusted. . . . The pope is of so great authority and power that he can modify, declare or interpret the divine law. . . . The pope can sometimes counteract the divine law by limiting, explaining,” etcetera.
6 Pope Nicholas I, of A.D. 858-867, who is surnamed The Great “because of the stupendous work he performed for the establishing of the papacy of Rome as a secular and sovereign power, supreme to all others,”b said the following: “The Emperor Constantine conferred the appellation of God on the pope; who, therefore, being God, cannot be judged by man.” The later Pope Innocent III, of A.D. 1198-1216, said: “The pope holds the place of the true God.” The Roman Catholic canon law, in its gloss, denominates the pope as “our Lord God.” It is not without meaning, then, that at the installation of a new pope, in the part of the ceremony that is called The Adoration, the singing of what is called the Te Deum (meaning, We Praise Thee, O God) is performed.c
CHALLENGE TO THE “GODS”
7. With what challenge, then, are we now faced, and what questions on the matter call for an answer?
7 Today every worshiper who claims to have a god is challenged to act as witness for his god. In fact, all the gods, that is to say, all those who are called “gods” and who are worshiped as gods are challenged to produce their witnesses to prove that they are gods or are the one living and true God. Today, therefore, the question is hurled into the face of each worshiper, Of which God are you a witness? As a witness, what can you say and what evidence can you bring forward to prove that your god, the one whom you describe as the object of your worship, is a reality, a true, living, historical, active god deserving of worship? What do you know of your god? Can you prove satisfactorily even to your own self that he is God or a god? Or are you ashamed to be a witness of your God?
8. (a) Why is it futile to worship and serve a false god? (b) By what two means should it be possible to prove who the true God is?
8 Every reasonable person will agree that there is no use in worshiping and serving a false god. No lasting good is gained from worshiping a god that does not exist. A worshiper is only deceiving himself or letting himself be deceived by other religionists, and in the end there is only disappointment. We should not want to go by emotion and religious sentimentality. We should act like sensible persons in the matter of religion as well as in the secular matters. It does us no good to hide from ourselves the evidence concerning a God that is a true, living, powerful reality. If gods, our own or those of others, are false, then we should want to know it. If, among all the numberless gods worshiped today, there is the one living and true God, then we should call for the evidence and seriously consider it. By his very own evidence and by the evidence produced by his witnesses on earth the true God should be able to prove before the court of the universe that he is the God, the divine Being, worthy of the worship of everybody.
9. Why is the present time appropriate for the true God to demonstrate his Godship?
9 The present time affords the grandest opportunity for the true God to demonstrate his Godship. Despite scientific advances, the world of mankind finds itself in its most deplorable state, afflicted not only with bodily and mental ills, with increasing hunger due to the increasing world population, but also with mounting disturbances, political, racial and religious, topped by what mathematically seems certain, namely, a third world war, in a nuclear, space age. The straightening out of the world situation is beyond mere human power and ingenuity; it calls for action by an intelligent superhuman power. So, then, now as never before is the time for religious worshipers to look to their gods. If the prophet Jeremiah of twenty-six centuries ago were here, he would repeat his challenge to the distressed people: “Where are your gods that you have made for yourself? Let them rise up if they can save you in the time of your calamity. For as the number of your cities your gods have become.”—Jer. 2:28.
10. What can be asked of all those claiming Godship?
10 No, when all the popular religions are combined together there is no shortage of gods, but what can all those gods, either singly or in combination, do about the worsening world situation? How do they explain it? What forecast, what prediction, what prophecy do they make as to how it will turn out? What prophecy do they make as regards the future of mankind? What proof can they give us by what they did in the past that they can make their prophecy of the future come true, that thus we can believe that they are truthful and reliable and able to live up to their promise? Let them tell in advance what will happen and then make it come true, or else let them admit that they are false gods the worship of whom brings no good.
11. (a) Is there any God who has the right to challenge all other gods, and why? (b) Does he have many adherents on earth?
11 Today there is one God who hurls that challenge to all others who are called gods and who are worshiped as gods. What right does he have to challenge all others? He has the right because in the first century of our Common Era and even earlier he foretold the very world situation of today and explained its meaning and its causes, and he also foretold its outcome and the marvelous future ahead of mankind afterward. Of all those worshiped today as gods, he is the only One that has done this remarkable thing. Naturally, by his challenge, he would stir up resentment and antagonism on the part of the worshipers of all the other so-called gods. Thus it comes about that today, even as in the past, he is the God of a persecuted minority of people, a small group indeed in comparison with the whole number of religious worshipers. No, this minority is not the natural Jews, who number 12,792,800 today throughout the earth. It is a far smaller group, who now bear the name of their God. They have inherited the faith of God’s true, chosen people of nineteen centuries ago or of the first century C.E. For this reason they are called by the same names that applied away back there.
12, 13. How does this God comfort those worshiping him, and what name does he have?
12 Before hurling his challenge at the gods of all other religious groups, their God speaks prophetically by his prophet Isaiah and comforts the persecuted minority, and in doing so their God reveals his own name. In Isaiah 43:1-4 we read his words:
13 “And now this is what Jehovah has said, your Creator, O Jacob, and your Former, O Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have repurchased you. I have called you by your name. You are mine. In case you should pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not flood over you. In case you should walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, neither will the flame itself singe you. For I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel your Savior. I have given Egypt as a ransom for you, Ethiopia and Seba in place of you. Owing to the fact that you have been precious in my eyes, you have been considered honorable, and I myself have loved you. And I shall give men in place of you, and national groups in place of your soul.’”
14. To whom did Isaiah 43:1-4 first apply, and how so?
14 This statement has no application today to the Republic of Israel that was established in the so-called Holy Land in 1948, even though they do trace their natural descent from the Hebrew patriarch Jacob of thirty-seven centuries ago. In the days of the prophet Isaiah those words of Jehovah God did apply in a literal sense to the natural descendants of Jacob, and the words were fulfilled upon them in the subsequent sixth century B.C.E. How? Well, a surviving remnant of those natural descendants of Jacob, or Israelites, were delivered from their long captivity in the land of Babylon. Jehovah their God had repurchased them, and the way by which he did this had political aftereffects upon Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba at the hands of the new Persian Empire established by Cyrus the Great. Then Jehovah as their Savior brought the faithful remnant of his people back to their homeland in the land of Palestine, although he had to bring them through fire and water, as it were, or through rivers and across fiery desert.
15. (a) What change did Jesus show took place in his day, and how was it forcefully illustrated? (b) To whom after that did Isaiah’s prophetic words apply, and why to them?
15 However, in the first century C.E., Jehovah’s great prophet, Jesus Christ, pointed out that Jehovah, who had been their God up till then, was rejecting Jacob’s natural descendants, the Israelites, because of their disobedience to him and their rejecting of his prophets. This rejection of those natural Israelites was forcefully expressed by letting their sacred city Jerusalem be destroyed in the year 70 and by letting the survivors be scattered to the ends of the earth. At the same time Jesus Christ made it clear that the application of Isaiah’s prophetic words had been transferred to his own faithful followers in order to have a higher, fuller and spiritual fulfillment. In one expression of this transfer Jesus Christ said to the faithless, disobedient Israelites or Jews: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43) The faithful dedicated followers of Jesus Christ are the ones who make up that new nation to which the kingdom of God is given. They bring forth its fruitage in the kind of spiritual lives that they live and in their preaching worldwide the good news of God’s kingdom with its blessings for all families of the earth.
16. In the relationship of God with his people, who created whom, proving what?
16 As it was with that ancient nation of Jacob or Israel before Jehovah God rejected them, so it is with this new nation to whom he gives the kingdom of God, that they may reign with Jesus Christ in the heavens as blessers of all mankind left on earth. They did not create Jehovah in their minds as their God, but he created them as a spiritual nation, a spiritual Israel or Jacob. They did not form him, neither did they form imaginary statues of him, but Jehovah God formed them as a spiritual nation with Jesus Christ as the King of kings. Consequently, Jehovah is no false god, no man-made god, but, as God and Creator, he made them.
A REGATHERING NEEDED
17. Why was a regathering of believers in the true God needed, but what interruption prevented it for a time?
17 After the death of Jesus Christ and his twelve apostles, his faithful followers were scattered by persecution and religious oppressors. In the latter half of the nineteenth century there was an effort by a faithful remnant of Christ’s dedicated, baptized followers to unite together from all parts of the earth. But in 1914 along came World War I, and the religious clergy of Christendom took advantage of the patriotic, nationalistic passions, ambitions and emergency arrangements of wartime to oppress and scatter, if not exterminate, these Christians who worshiped Jehovah as the only living and true God. But thousands of years previously, he had promised to regather his worshipers and use them in a special way for his glory. In the same chapter of Isaiah he went on to say:
18. Had this true God made any statement about regathering those of his who were scattered?
18 “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. From the sunrising I shall bring your seed, and from the sunset I shall collect you together. I shall say to the north, ‘Give up’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep back. Bring my sons from far off, and my daughters from the extremity of the earth, everyone that is called by my name and that I have created for my own glory, that I have formed, yes, that I have made.’”—Isa. 43:5-7.
19. How did Jesus show he knew of this regathering that was to take place?
19 Jesus Christ foretold this same regathering in his prophecy on the end of this worldly system of things. He applied it, not to the regathering of Zionist Jews to Palestine and the establishment of the Republic of Israel, but to the faithful remnant of his own dedicated followers. He said: “The powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.”—Matt. 24:3, 29-31.
20. In what way did Jehovah prove to be a God of his promise as regards regathering those of his nation?
20 Thus in the eighth century B.C.E. by his prophet Isaiah Jehovah God foretold the regathering of his Christian worshipers and he emphasized it by the prophecy of his own Son Jesus Christ nineteen hundred years ago. Did Jehovah God fulfill the prophecy? Did he prove that he is a God of true prophecy? Has he proved that he is the faithful, almighty God who sticks to his promise and who can make good his word of promise? Yes! Contrary to the expectation of the religious clergy of Christendom, and much to their vexation and irritation, Jehovah delivered his faithful remnant of worshipers from Babylonish captivity and regathered them in a worldwide unity, stronger and more extensive than ever before. Even the most prominent ones of the remnant who had been imprisoned during World War I were freed from prison and were exonerated of all the false charges that had been used to railroad them to prison.
21. What appreciation of Jehovah now came to those regathered, and to what realization did they come?
21 By means of his written Word upon which the light of fulfilled prophecy was shining Jehovah led the remnant to appreciate more the importance and preciousness of his name. They came to appreciate that they were a people, not for the name of Jesus, but for the name of Jehovah, even as the Christian disciple James pointed out long ago when applying Jehovah’s prophecy in Amos 9:11, 12. (Acts 15:13-19)d From the unfolding meaning of the Holy Scriptures they became more and more impressed with the fact that they must serve as the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. By means of his holy spirit he had created them for His glory, for he had begotten them to be his spiritual children and had anointed them with his spirit to preach and to be the joint heirs of Jesus Christ in his heavenly kingdom. Jehovah had formed them as a spiritual nation by bringing them into His new covenant through the Mediator Jesus Christ. Jehovah had made them his visible organization on earth, a theocratic organization. Now, by his delivering them in 1919 and reorganizing them for his further service, he had proved that he was a living God to them.
22, 23. (a) What failure on their part did Jehovah call to their attention? (b) What were some of the charges laid against them, and what would they have to face?
22 Before this they had not appreciated so fully and clearly that he was their God. With regard to this fact they had been spiritually blind and deaf, like Christendom, which worships what it calls a “triune God,” a trinity of three coequal, coeternal persons all said to be contained in one God. Their slowness to see and hear was to a large extent due to the influence of Christendom, with which they had so long been associated and which had oppressed them and held them captive. They had failed to act as the “servant of Jehovah.” In the preceding chapter of Isaiah (Isa 42:18-25) Jehovah had called attention to this and to the painful consequences of it, saying to them:
23 “Hear, you deaf ones; and look forth to see, you blind ones. Who is blind, if not my servant, and who is deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as the one rewarded, or blind as the servant of Jehovah? It was a case of seeing many things, but you did not keep watching. It was a case of opening the ears, but you did not keep listening. Jehovah himself for the sake of his righteousness has taken a delight in that he should magnify the law and make it majestic. But it is a people plundered and pillaged, all of them being trapped in the holes, and in the houses of detention they have been kept hidden. They have come to be for plunder without a deliverer, for pillage without anyone to say: ‘Bring back!’ Who among you people will give ear to this? Who will pay attention and listen for later times? Who has given Jacob for mere pillage, and Israel to the plunderers? Is it not Jehovah, the One against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they did not want to walk and to whose law they did not listen? So [Jehovah] kept pouring out upon [Jacob] rage, his anger, and the strength of war. And it kept consuming [Jacob] all around, but he took no note; and it kept blazing up against him, but he would lay nothing to heart.”
THE CALL FOR WITNESSES
24. (a) How might some view the plundering of Jehovah’s people? (b) What, then, was necessary?
24 Due to letting his people be plundered and pillaged because of their failing to see and to hear and to obey their God, Jehovah allowed it to appear that their God was no God at all, or was a weakling God and so the gods of their persecutors, plunderers and pillagers were stronger than Jehovah. Now the time had come to reverse the wrong impression that had been allowed to grow. The time had now come for the dispute over the true Godship to be settled and every false god to be silenced. Let a judicial court be held! Let witnesses be called, and let all the universe attend the hearing, particularly all the nations of earth! Rather than call for a unification of all the gods and for a combining of their worship in one all-inclusive religion, Jehovah challenges all those who are worshiped as gods by the nations, to prove themselves gods.
25, 26. What did Jehovah then do for his people, and how did he speak of this prophetically?
25 That his dedicated people may serve as his representatives in this universal court, Jehovah opens up their eyes and their ears in a spiritual way by having them brought forth from their captivity in the Babylonish religious organization in the year 1919, in which year they held the epoch-making first general convention of the international Christian Bible students after World War I. Having now his own free representatives, Jehovah God calls for all the nations of earth to appear in court. His once blind and deaf people must face all the worldly nations on the controversy of Godship.
26 Prophetically issuing the order for the calling of this court together in this twentieth century, Jehovah went on to say by means of his prophet Isaiah of twenty-seven hundred years ago: “Bring forth a people blind though eyes themselves exist, and the ones deaf though they have ears. Let the nations all be collected together at one place, and let national groups be gathered together. Who is there among them that can tell this? Or can they cause us to hear even the first things? Let them furnish their witnesses, that they may be declared righteous, or let them hear and say, ‘It is the truth!’”—Isa. 43:8, 9.
a Lucius Ferraris is the author of what is called “Prompta Bibliotheca canonica, juridica, moralis, theologica, necnon ascetica, polemica, rubricistica, historica,” a veritable encyclopedia of religious knowledge.
b See M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 7, page 63b.
c See pages 310, 311, 316 of the book The Time is at Hand, by C. T. Russell, and copyrighted in 1889.
d See The Watch Tower as of January 15, 1928, pages 19-25.
[Picture on page 105]
Indra, one of “those who are called ‘gods’”