Jehovah, the God of Progressive Revelation
1. What should man’s relationship to Jehovah be, and what does Jehovah provide for this?
JEHOVAH created man to be dependent on his Maker. While man possessed the great gift of free moral agency, he was not to be independent of Jehovah, but would need to rely on him for further instruction and guidance. Man could not successfully govern or be governed without the assistance and information that come from Jehovah. He must have God in his life in order to be truly happy and to be a blessing to others. Because man was created dependent on Jehovah, it meant that the invisible Jehovah would reveal himself to man to keep him continually informed concerning His purposes and requirements. That Jehovah does reveal himself the prophet Amos made clear when he said: “For the Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) His servant Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar similarly: “However, there exists a God in the heavens who is a Revealer of secrets.”—Dan. 2:28.
2, 3. How much does Jehovah reveal to man concerning his purposes? Why?
2 This revealing of Jehovah’s purposes comes in his own due time. He does not reveal his will all at once, but reveals it progressively down the stream of time, as it is needed by those affected. As Proverbs 4:18 says: “But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”
3 Jehovah made man’s mind. Since he designed it, he knows what is best for it far better than the possessor of the mind, man. Jehovah therefore recognizes man’s capacity and limitation to absorb new things. Psalm 103:14 informs us: “For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” Because of such limitations, including the added burden of human imperfection due to the rebellion in the garden of Eden, Jehovah provides spiritual truths as man is able to absorb them. Are we not thankful for the progressing of the seasons gradually so that our bodies are not shocked by sudden changes in temperature? Jehovah has wisely governed these seasons for man’s benefit. He has made the passing of them gradual so man’s body is able to adapt itself to the change. Man’s mind also needs gradual feeding and changing, as too little will keep it weak spiritually, but too much will not be absorbed and can be shocking. It is like the watering of a tender plant. Too little water will not sustain it, and the plant will gradually wither away and die. Too much water will be beyond the ability of the plant to absorb, and might even hinder its growth.
4. What did Jesus tell his disciples, to confirm this?
4 Since Jehovah knows we cannot grasp too much at one time, he does not reveal too much at one time, but reveals what is needed. In the days of Jesus the disciples learned that Jehovah would not give them what they could not absorb at their stage of maturity. Just before his death Jesus told his disciples: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.” The disciples were not yet ready for the many strong truths they were to learn later. When they were ready, then Jehovah would reveal these truths to them. As Jesus promised: “However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming.”—John 16:12, 13.
5. How was Jehovah’s loving-kindness demonstrated in connection with knowledge of the kingdom of heaven?
5 That the disciples had much to learn is evident from their question to Jesus after his resurrection. They asked him: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6) It was not until later that they fully realized there was not to be a fleshly kingdom in which they would participate. The Kingdom was to be a heavenly arrangement. We can appreciate Jehovah’s loving-kindness in giving the disciples these truths gradually, since the belief of a literal king’s coming to throw off the Roman yoke and set up an earthly kingdom was a deep-seated hope of the Jews at that time. Had this truth of the Kingdom’s being in heaven and not on earth been revealed at the time Jesus first called out his disciples, they might not have had the maturity to understand, appreciate, and continue following him. Strong truths given too quickly may be indigestible to the novice. The beginner, as the baby, needs milk, not strong meat. Paul later said: “I fed you milk, not something to eat, for you were not yet strong enough.”—1 Cor. 3:2.
6, 7. (a) Describe what Peter saw when he fell into a trance. (b) What did he already know about the things he saw?
6 An example of how Jehovah reveals truths progressively and conditions the minds of his people for them was the preparation of Peter’s mind for the work that he was to do later. In Acts, chapter ten, we find the interesting account of the trance into which Peter fell. Acts 10 Verses 10 to 16 relate the experience: “But he became very hungry and wanted to eat. While they were preparing, he fell into a trance and beheld heaven opened and some sort of vessel descending like a great linen sheet being let down by its four extremities upon the earth; and in it there were all sorts of four-footed creatures and creeping things of the earth and birds of heaven. And a voice came to him: ‘Rise, Peter, slaughter and eat!’”
7 We can imagine Peter’s feelings, since the Jews were forbidden by the Mosaic law to eat some of those things. No doubt he remembered the principles laid down in the Law, such as those of Leviticus 11:41-43: “And every swarming creature that swarms upon the earth is a loathsome thing. It must not be eaten. As for any creature that goes upon the belly and any creature that goes on all fours or any great number of feet of all the swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, you must not eat them, because they are a loathsome thing. Do not make your souls loathsome with any swarming creature that swarms, and you must not make yourselves unclean by them and actually get unclean by them.”
8. (a) What was Peter’s reaction? (b) How was he corrected?
8 What was Peter to do? Here was something new he could not quite understand. In astonishment, he replied: “Not at all, Lord, because never have I eaten anything defiled and unclean.” At this point the spirit supplied the answer: “And the voice spoke again to him, the second time: ‘You stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.’ This occurred a third time, and immediately the vessel was taken up into heaven.” Yes, here was something new to Peter. God can command that such things no longer be called unclean if that is his will.
9-11. (a) What new dilemma faced Peter? (b) Why was he better prepared to absorb this new requirement?
9 Peter’s learning this new thought was to be of immediate use to him, for at this very moment he received visitors. These were men that had been dispatched by Cornelius, the Roman army officer. The spirit told Peter: “However, rise, go downstairs and be on your way with them, not doubting at all, because I have dispatched them.” (Acts 10:20) The men told of the request Cornelius was making for Peter to come into the house of this Gentile army officer. He wanted to hear the things Peter had to say.
10 Again we can imagine the perplexity of Peter about going into the house of a Gentile. Had he not expressed horror at being asked to eat unclean things? Now he was being asked to go into the home of one considered unclean! However, Peter was better prepared now. The request to come into the Gentile’s home was not as shocking as it may have been without the preparing of Peter’s mind by the vision Jehovah gave him while he was in the trance. Peter later recognized that this vision had prepared him for the more important truth to come. He admitted to Cornelius and his household: “You well know how unlawful it is for a Jew to join himself to or approach a man of another race; and yet God has shown me I should call no man defiled or unclean. Hence I came, really without objection, when I was sent for.”—Acts 10:28, 29.
11 Peter had learned and accepted that new truth. Jehovah supplied new information and new understanding on a matter previously accepted for centuries. Peter got the point that, while he was learning something new in connection with what could be called clean among animals and creeping things, he was actually being prepared for a far more important truth regarding peoples previously considered unclean but whom Jehovah now pronounced clean. Yes, Peter was ready to use the second key and unlock the secrets concerning Jehovah’s kingdom arrangement to these men of the nations. How timely was Jehovah’s preparing of Peter’s mind so that he could absorb these new truths!
PROGRESSIVE FROM THE BEGINNING
12. Why is the ‘book of divine creation’ not enough in understanding God’s purposes?
12 Since the time of Adam Jehovah has revealed his truths, especially of the Kingdom, progressively to the human family. To some extent he has used the ‘book of divine creation’ to do so. As Romans 1:20 states: “For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” However, Jehovah did not deem sufficient this means of revealing himself. As we can observe in places where men are surrounded by natural marvels, such as in the jungles of Africa and South America or in the mountainous regions of Asia, the worship of false gods is still prevalent.
13. To understand Jehovah’s purposes, what is much more important?
13 So while the ‘book of divine creation’ is an aid to understanding Jehovah, much more important are the supernatural revelations that come from Jehovah through his “only-begotten Son,” the Logos, and through the angels, all by means of his holy spirit. It is in this way that Jehovah progressively reveals the truth. The ones receiving these truths, men faithful to Jehovah’s requirements, then dispense them to others of mankind. Some of these human agents have been privileged to record their inspired expressions in the Bible. But whether recorded or not, these communications from Jehovah have been received supernaturally in the form of visions, dreams, word-for-word inspiration, or by the regulation of one’s thoughts. Some of those with whom Jehovah communicated to enlarge the information on his purposes were Adam (Gen. 2:16), Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Jude 14, 15), Noah (Gen. 6:9, 13), Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), Moses (Ex. 31:18; 34:28), and the various prophets (Amos 3:7).
14, 15. (a) What new arrangements came into effect for dispensing truths in the first century? (b) What were some of these new truths?
14 With the coming of the Messiah in 29 C.E., many new truths were revealed to mankind, especially concerning the Kingdom. Now Jehovah was speaking to man through his Son on earth, the King-Designate. “God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things.” (Heb. 1:1, 2) On Pentecost the holy spirit was poured out on the new Christian congregation. This was now the agency on earth used to dispense the progressive truths of Jehovah’s purposes to the human family. Paul showed that this was the case when he wrote: “Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature, but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing. But we speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things for our glory. This wisdom not one of the rulers of this system of things came to know, for if they had known it they would not have impaled the glorious Lord. But just as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’ For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.”—1 Cor. 2:6-10.
15 Many were the new truths Jehovah revealed to the first-century Christian congregation. For example, at Pentecost Peter explained the fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29. (Acts 2:14-21) Later, he revealed that salvation was possible only through the name of Jesus. (Acts 3:13–4:12) Only a few days thence Peter and John passed on to the brothers the revelation that Christians must obey God rather than man and would receive holy spirit if they did so. (Acts 5:29-32) Some time after that Stephen revealed, under inspiration, that he saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand as proof that Jesus had indeed returned to heaven.—Acts 7:56.
16, 17. In what way was the new truth relative to circumcision ascertained?
16 Further clarification on the status of Gentiles was forthcoming even after Jehovah’s revelation to Peter about the calling of the Gentiles into the Christian congregation. In 49 C.E., at an assembly in Jerusalem, the matter of circumcision for Gentile converts was discussed. The decision on this question was directed by Jehovah and was tied in with previously revealed truths. Here we can see the step-by-step process that Jehovah took to build up the disciples’ appreciation of how to handle Gentile converts. On that occasion Peter related what had happened years earlier (36 C.E.) when he took the truth to the Gentile Cornelius. Peter said: “Brothers, you well know that from early days God made the choice among you that through my mouth people of the nations should hear the word of the good news and believe; and God, who knows the heart, bore witness by giving them the holy spirit, just as he did to us also. And he made no distinction at all between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:7-9) Then James, who was presiding, concluded the decision of the assembly by saying: “Brothers, hear me. Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written.”—Acts 15:13-15.
17 It was not just a matter of the apostles and older men deciding by a vote what should be done. It was their examining how Jehovah had been dealing with them and also their examining the testimony of the Scriptures. So from the appeal of Peter’s experience when he witnessed the spirit of Jehovah being poured out on Cornelius and his household even before their baptism, and from the appeal of the experiences of Barnabas and Paul among the Gentiles and also of the Scriptures, it was apparent that Jehovah was revealing to them the new truth that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. That decision was agreed upon and passed on to the congregations.
18. What else did Paul write in regard to Gentiles?
18 Then in 56-61 C.E. the apostle Paul wrote further on the matter of the Gentiles not being subject to the law of Moses. From the Scriptures he showed that God had nailed the law covenant to the torture stake of Jesus. (Rom. 6:14; 15:7-13; Col. 2:13, 14) Such revelations aided those who had formerly been of the Jewish religion to realize that Jehovah was telling them that now the Gentiles could also be called to become members of the bride of Christ without having to submit themselves to previous Jewish arrangements. In 60-61 C.E. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and said: “In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news.” (Eph. 3:5, 6) Gradually, then, over the course of years, the attitude of former Jews to these Gentile believers was transformed. How shocking it would all have been had it come the first day Jesus began his ministry!
19. How was John used in Jehovah’s progressive revelation?
19 Later, in 96 C.E., the apostle John was used in a marvelous way to inform the early Christians concerning the revelation of things that would shortly take place. Writing under inspiration he revealed such new information as the number making up the Kingdom class, the number of world powers yet to come, the length of time Satan was to be abyssed, and other outstanding truths. Progressively Jehovah revealed amazing new truths to sheeplike ones. It happened just as Jesus had said earlier: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.”—Matt. 11:25.
THE KINGDOM’S ESTABLISHMENT
20. Concerning revealed truth, what was to be expected with the Kingdom’s establishment?
20 Bible prophecies such as Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, Luke chapter 21 and others definitely point to the fact that God’s kingdom by Christ has been established in the heavens since the year 1914. Since Jehovah revealed many truths in previous generations to aid in understanding his purpose through this kingdom, are we to expect any less revealing of truths with that kingdom fully established and his King-Son Jesus Christ installed in power? Surely not! The Kingdom’s establishment was the signal for a tremendous increase of revealed truth to be dispensed to Jehovah’s people on earth. With the King’s enthronement came the issuing of a continuous flow of instructions to obedient subjects of that kingdom in order to clarify their understanding on doctrine and procedure. A constant supply of progressively unsealed truths was assured. This is pictured at Revelation 5:1 to 8:1.
21. What had Isaiah prophesied about this?
21 Centuries earlier Isaiah had foretold this flow of truth: “And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. . . . O men of the house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of Jehovah.”—Isa. 2:3-5.
22. Through what earthly agency does Jehovah dispense revealed truth in these last days?
22 As Jehovah revealed his truths by means of the first-century Christian congregation so he does today by means of the present-day Christian congregation. Through this agency he is having carried out prophesying on an intensified and unparalleled scale. All this activity is not an accident. Jehovah is the one behind all of it. The abundance of spiritual food and the amazing details of Jehovah’s purposes that have been revealed to Jehovah’s anointed witnesses are clear evidence that they are the ones mentioned by Jesus when he foretold a “faithful and discreet slave” class that would be used to dispense God’s progressive revelations in these last days. Of this class Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Matt. 24:47.
23. What evidence do we have that this is so?
23 The holy spirit of Jehovah is working mightily today! How thankful we should be for the provision God has made of this slave class, the modern spiritual remnant, as they faithfully dispense the revealed truths of Jehovah! With these rich truths to light the way, Christians do not grope in this dark, jungle-like world as do the masses of people in Christendom and heathendom alike. To the contrary, Jehovah’s faithful witnesses have been progressively brought to an understanding of Jehovah’s purposes, which are clearer now than ever before in history. Their organization, being patterned after the first-century Christian congregation, is blessed by Jehovah. He has prospered their work of preaching “this good news of the kingdom” in 194 different lands to date. Each year they gather into the organization tens of thousands of new ministers, clearly a product of Jehovah’s spirit operating through his invisible King-Son and his angelic representatives, then through his faithful slave class on earth today.—Matt. 24:14.
[Picture on page 361]
“You stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.”