Gathered in Unity for Ministerial Work
“He [God] purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth . . . that we should serve [or, be] for the praise of his glory.”—Eph. 1:9-12, NW; AV; AS.
1. In what ways is modern man at cross-purposes with himself?
MODERN man finds himself in a complex and difficult situation. He is at cross-purposes with himself. On the one hand, in the last half century he has learned how to harness the forces of God’s creation in a way and to a degree undreamed of in previous generations, or only dimly guessed at. Tremendous advances in means of communication and of travel, advances in the world of mechanics, also in the realms of medicine and of science—these have opened the door to wonderful possibilities. On the other hand, by those same means, under the direction and stimulus of ambitious and ruthless men, the door has also been opened to dreadful possibilities. Modern man can benefit himself in many ways hitherto unknown, but he also has within his grasp the means to just about ruin the earth and its inhabitants. Men are proud of their achievements, but at the same time, as foretold, “men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” Self-assuming, headstrong men, are forced to admit that these are “critical times hard to deal with.” What a contradiction!—Luke 21:26; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
2, 3. What fine contrast is seen when we turn to the Ancient of Days?
2 But when we turn our attention away from modern man to the Ancient of Days, the Creator, what a contrast! In chapter 7 of Daniel’s prophecy, Da 7 verses 9 to 14, he is described as being enthroned at Court, with many thousands standing before him and ministering to him.
3 In the context of that same prophecy it tells of fierce beasts, representing earthly kingdoms, striving against one another for preeminence and putting on great airs. But the solution of all their conflicts is in the hands of the Ancient of Days, the Supreme One. Judgment is given in favor of someone described as a “son of man . . . And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples . . . should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” Giving further detail, the prophecy later says that “judgment itself was given in favor of the holy ones of the Supreme One . . . And the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One.”—Dan. 7:13, 14, 22, 27.
4, 5. Who are identified in Revelation as (a) the one enthroned (b) the one worthy to take the scroll, and (c) the holy ones who share the rulership with Christ?
4 The identification of these characters is not left in doubt. In the last book of the Bible the same theme is taken up and enlarged on. In Revelation, chapter 4, we find a magnificent description of the heavenly throne and the One seated upon it. It is awe-inspiring, but not terrifying. The One enthroned is mentioned twice by name: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty . . . You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”—Rev. 4:8, 11.
5 In Re chapter 5, the only one who has the right of access to the throne and who is “worthy to take the scroll and open its seals” is identified as “The Lion that is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David,” that is, Christ Jesus. Along with him, mention is also made of those holy ones, persons redeemed or bought by the blood of the Lamb, and who, with Christ Jesus, are ‘made to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will rule as kings over the earth.’ These make up the true church, the Christian congregation, who have “part in the first resurrection,” and who will be “priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Rev. 5:5, 9, 10; 20:6.
6. As the Supreme One, what qualifications does Jehovah possess?
6 These passages from God’s Word strongly impress on us the absolute sovereign right and unassailable position of the Supreme One, Jehovah. With him, all is harmonious and secure. There is nothing contradictory, as is painfully evident in the affairs of modern man. In his hands Jehovah holds the solution to all man’s problems and conflicts, seen in the rulership and kingdom which are safely entrusted to the Lamb, Christ Jesus, who is proved worthy to receive it. That others, a limited number of sinful humanity, are enabled to share in that rulership and kingdom is but an added, though wonderful, evidence of the riches of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness.
7. How is Jehovah’s undeserved kindness emphasized in the early part of the letter to the Ephesians?
7 It is this latter aspect that was evidently in the mind of the apostle Paul when writing to the Christians, “to the holy ones who are in Ephesus.” He prays on their behalf: “May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He then explains that their adoption as sons of God through Jesus Christ was “in praise of his [God’s] glorious undeserved kindness,” and that the ‘forgiveness of their trespasses,’ based on Jesus’ shed blood and ransom, was also “according to the riches of his [God’s] undeserved kindness.”—Eph. 1:1-7.
8, 9. (a) What attitude should we have toward life? (b) What disclosure did Paul make as to God’s will and purpose?
8 With this in mind, the apostle then discusses the same lofty theme as already mentioned, that of God’s sovereign will and purpose and the position of all his creatures in relation thereto. There are no exceptions or exemptions. A person will sometimes say, “I did not ask to be born,” as if thereby seeking to be relieved of any sense of responsibility in life. But no. We do not owe our existence to chance. Jehovah is the Supreme One and he created all things, including the human family in original perfection, possessing the marvelous power of procreation. Out of respect and appreciation for the Creator, we ought to say that it is because of his will that we have come into existence.—Rev. 4:11.
9 In this frame of mind let us listen to what Paul has to say. He explains that God caused his undeserved kindness to abound toward us by making known the “sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”—Eph. 1:9, 10.
10, 11. What meaning and importance are attached to the terms (a) “sacred secret,” and (b) “administration”?
10 The very language used by the apostle emphasizes the importance of Jehovah’s paramount will and purpose. It had been held for a long time as a “sacred secret.” How that expression appeals to us! What a pleasure it gives to be entrusted with a secret! Even a child, especially a little girl, loves to have a secret and, at the right moment, to whisper it into the ear of her best friend, keenly watching to see that no other child is within earshot. Her secret may not mean much to us grown-ups, but Jehovah’s secret is sacred and embodies his whole purpose and is all important, both to him and to us. To ignore it or stumble over it, as many have done, means the loss of everything.
11 Consider also the term “administration.” It too indicates something of real importance, as it is usually used with reference to such things as the effectual management of governmental and legal affairs. Many readers of The Watchtower, when visiting a big convention, enjoy a close look at the various departments, seeing all that can be seen, but they do not linger when coming to a door with a sign over it marked “Administration.” Ah! no, they do not want to become involved in that kind of responsibility.
JEHOVAH’S GREAT ADMINISTRATION
12, 13. As expressed at Ephesians 1:10, what is to be learned as to God’s administration?
12 What is this vital administration of Jehovah’s, held secret for so long? We are told the answer. It is Jehovah’s good pleasure, “at the full limit of the appointed times, . . . to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Eph. 1:10) From this we can at once learn several important things:
13 (1) There is but one gathering under the one administration. Man, however sincere, cannot build his own religious organization and claim that it is acceptable to God. (2) To be gathered in union with Christ calls for the spirit of willing submission to him as God’s Anointed One, also the spirit of unity and willing cooperation with all others who are thus gathered. (3) As subsequently disclosed, there is a ministry committed by God to those who are gathered. (4) The fact that Jehovah is “to gather all things together again” implies a former state of happy unity, which for some reason was not maintained, but is to be restored. (5) The time element comes in. This great work takes place “at the full limit of the appointed times.” So first we want to know, when is the full limit and when is the administration fully inaugurated?a
14. When is the “full limit of the appointed times,” and determined by what events?
14 The full limit is reached when, as Jesus said in his great prophecy, “the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) This momentous turning point in the development of Jehovah’s purpose and in human history was reached in 1914, as abundantly testified by what took place here on earth in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. It was then that the rulership was given to Christ Jesus in heaven, as described at Daniel, chapter 7, despite the opposition of fierce, beastlike kingdoms on earth. As also prophetically depicted by the psalmist, the nations and their rulers “massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one,” but Jehovah laughed at them in derision and declared: “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” When Jehovah’s anointed king, Christ Jesus, was installed or enthroned, that was when the administration was set up. This did not take place at Zion, or Jerusalem, yonder in Palestine, but, as the scripture says, at “Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.”—Ps. 2:2-6; Heb. 12:22.
15, 16. (a) When and how did the gathering in union with Christ commence? (b) What marks the full inauguration of God’s administration?
15 It may be argued that when writing to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of the gathering in union with Christ as having already commenced. That is true, as far as steps to that end are concerned. It began at Pentecost, 33 C.E., with the first members of the Christian congregation when God’s spirit was poured out upon them. (Acts 2:1-4) But neither while actively engaged in their ministry, nor at death, did they receive their full reward. As Paul wrote to Timothy: “From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day.” (2 Tim. 4:8) Jehovah’s great administration goes into full operation after the end of the Gentile Times in 1914.
16 “That day” having arrived, what do we see? In the words of the symbolic vision as described by John we can now say by faith: “And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” It was after 1914 that the administrative “new heavens,” with the enthroned Jesus Christ as God’s Administrator, cast Satan the Devil and his demon angels down to our earth and proceeded to the work of unification, particularly from 1919 onward, as modern history of Jehovah’s witnesses shows. (Rev. 14:1; 12:1-13) Thus the work of the administration sweeps ever onward, completely fulfilling the will of the Supreme One exactly as he caused it to be recorded long ago in these words: “In the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:10, 11.
17. At this time what must we particularly heed?
17 So we are in the great day when we do well to heed those lessons pointing to the need for a clear vision of God’s theocratic organization, also to appreciate the purpose for which we are gathered in unity under its direction, namely, for ministerial work. Additionally, this emphasizes the need for the spirit of submission and cooperation. These lessons become more sharply defined as we look farther into what Paul says on this same theme.
THE RIGHT SPIRIT FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSE
18. On earth, how and why did the original state of unity come to an end?
18 To highlight the need for the right spirit, it will pay us to look back, particularly at the earthly scene, and see why the original state of happy unity was not maintained. When mother Eve listened to what the serpent had to say about the forbidden fruit, it became not only a test of obedience, but also one of humility. Deceived by what she was told, she began to look at that fruit from a new viewpoint. It would give her, so she thought, a newly found independence, and the idea appealed to her. This is shown by the fact that she did not even wait to ask her husband about it, but went ahead on her own initiative. We can imagine her saying: ‘Why not? I have a mind of my own, have I not? I know my husband has not had any of this fruit yet, but leave it to me; I’ll see that he has.’ And she did!—Gen. 3:1-6;1 Tim. 2:14.
19. How is the spirit of the world manifest today, and to what will this lead?
19 No, we did not hear mother Eve talking to herself in the garden of Eden, but it is not uncommon to hear some of her daughters talk like that. Is that not the spirit of the world today, both nationally and individually? Even the smallest nations are demanding their sovereign rights and independence. That same spirit, too, is often shown by individuals who say, in effect: ‘I have the right to live my own life my own way.’ That is the underlying reason why many will not heed the message brought to them by Jehovah’s witnesses. They know it will interfere with their independence. They and their rulers, similar to Eve, would rather listen to the boastful, froglike “unclean inspired expressions” that are inspired by the lying demons. Such propaganda stirs their spirit of proud independence and results in their being ‘gathered together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty.’—Rev. 16:13, 14.
20. What two alternatives face us today?
20 No wonder modern man is all at sea! Surely it is obvious that we must forego such a spirit of independence, however much we may have indulged it in the past. We are in the day when God is gathering “all things together again in the Christ,” gathering first to him the faithful Christians who have slept in death by resurrecting them to be with Jesus Christ in heaven. (Eph. 1:10; 1 Thess. 4:13-18) If we are not willing to be gathered under that righteous administration in the spirit of submission and loyal devotion, then, wittingly or unwittingly, we shall find ourselves gathered together with the opposing forces marching to Armageddon under Satan’s leadership to fight against God the Almighty. As Jesus pointedly said: “He that is not on my side is against me.”—Matt. 12:30.
21. As illustrated by Jesus, (a) who only are gathered to him, and (b) on what basis does Jesus render judgment?
21 Using Jesus’ illustration, we find that only the sheeplike ones are gathered to him; first, the “little flock,” the Christian congregation making up the “new heavens,” but now also since 1931 those “other sheep” who eagerly anticipate the blessings of the “new earth.” The “other sheep” are not dealt with separately, but all become “one flock, [under] one shepherd,” or administrator. Using Jesus’ other illustration, fulfilled in this day when he is enthroned as King, we see that he described the “other sheep” as those who support and give good cooperation to even the “least of these my brothers,” or followers. All others are judged by him as goats who, because of their stubborn independence, refuse or fail to give any such cooperation.—Matt. 25:31-46; Luke 12:32; John 10:16.
22. To what appeals in God’s Word should we now respond?
22 In this day when Jehovah will shortly ‘break and dash in pieces’ all those opposed to him and his anointed king, and will make “wars to cease to the extremity of the earth,” let all of us be wise and respond in the right spirit to the appeals made in the same Bible passages, where Jehovah says: “Give in, you people, and know that I am God.” “Serve Jehovah with fear . . . Kiss the son [Christ Jesus], that He may not become incensed . . . Happy are all those taking refuge in him.”—Ps. 2:9-12; 46:9, 10.
23, 24. What is God’s purpose for those gathered in union with Christ, and can they decide about this for themselves?
23 What is God’s purpose for those of us who do respond and are gathered under Christ’s administration? Is it just for our own blessing and salvation? Can we decide about this for ourselves? That would be most illogical, though some have made that mistake and have fallen out of the ranks. No, it is not according to what we may think, but, as Paul says regarding the foreordained 144,000, it is “according to the purpose of him [God] who operates all things according to the way his will counsels.” So what is God’s purpose? Notice the answer given: “That we should serve [literally, be] for the praise of his glory.” Then observe in what immediately follows that we are told how to serve God’s purpose acceptably. After speaking of himself and others who had been the “first to hope in the Christ,” Paul then says that “you [at Ephesus] also hoped in him.”
24 How had this been made possible? Paul explains that it was “after you heard the word of truth, the good news about your salvation.” This clearly defines for us the will of the Supreme One for those who are gathered. We must not keep the good news to ourselves, but must let others hear about it so that they too can share and rejoice in the same glorious hope. That is how we can be to Jehovah’s glorious praise, and this divine purpose must be served under the direction of a single administration.—Eph. 1:11-13.
25. What is the Christian’s proper viewpoint respecting himself and works?
25 From another angle, a little farther on, Paul again argues in favor of God’s supremacy and against our taking an independent view of things. He reminds us that we cannot take any credit to ourselves in becoming Christians. We have nothing to boast of. Rather, as Christians, “we are a product of his [God’s] work.” Nevertheless, though “saved through faith,” we cannot be idle and neither can we decide for ourselves how to work out our salvation. Instead, as Paul expressed it, we are gathered in union with Christ Jesus “for good works, which God prepared in advance for us to walk in them.”—Eph. 2:8-10.
26, 27. (a) How is the right spirit for the right purpose manifest? (b) How did Jesus make the issue plain?
26 From the scriptures discussed under this subheading, the lesson to be learned and the issue involved are made quite clear. We must have the right spirit for the right purpose, the spirit of unselfish, whole-souled devotion to Jehovah in order to ensure our prosperity in the right works he has prepared for us. We not only must be gathered in union with Christ ourselves, but under him must share in gathering others by letting them hear the good news.
27 Jesus said: “He that does not gather with me scatters.” That makes the issue plain. If we refuse to come under or stay within his administration, then it is manifest that we have the wrong spirit for the wrong purpose. Any gathering sought to be done apart from Christ’s administration must be in opposition thereto, however good the work and the motive may appear to be. As Jesus said in his previous comments, after being accused of expelling demons by means of Beelzebub, “Every kingdom divided against itself comes to desolation . . . if Satan expels Satan, he has become divided against himself; how, then, will his kingdom stand?” This explains why modern man is at cross-purposes with himself, in spite of his efforts toward unity. His motive is mainly a selfish one, and that is no basis for a genuine, lasting unity. Let us not be blinded or sidetracked into supporting the wrong administration.—Matt. 12:24-30.
THE GATHERING TAKES SHAPE
28. In what way is the Christian congregation seen to take shape?
28 Following up this same theme, the apostle discloses a further development that takes place under Christ’s administration. This is intensely interesting and gives a more exalted view of the administration. He explains that those who are gathered do not just crowd around a common center, as it were. Instead, they are seen to take definite shape, likened to a building. First, “Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone.” The apostles and prophets make up the rest of the foundation, on which the “whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah . . . a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” (Eph. 2:20-22) What a lofty conception! When attending a meeting of Jehovah’s witnesses at their Kingdom Hall, or a larger assembly, we may be tempted to look at them from a fleshly viewpoint, noticing just their outward appearance. Rather, we should view them and appreciate them as Jehovah does. Other scriptures using the same illustration of God’s temple stress the same thing, our need to keep the spiritual viewpoint, also the responsibility of those belonging to God’s temple to avoid becoming “unevenly yoked with unbelievers.”—1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 6:14–7:1.
29. How is the great crowd of “other sheep” seen in the temple picture?
29 The entire Christian congregation of 144,000 together with Jesus Christ comprises the spiritual temple made up of “living stones.” (1 Pet. 2:4, 5; John 2:19-22) You may say you understand this, but that it does not have any connection with you as your hopes are not heavenly, like those of the “little flock,” but earthly. Many Watchtower readers might feel this way about it, but make no mistake. If you love Jehovah and have submitted yourself to him in dedication, symbolized by water immersion, then you come right inside the picture. For your encouragement we remind you that, after describing the formation of spiritual Israel, the temple or sanctuary class, John was given a vision of a great crowd of “other sheep” said to be “rendering him [God] sacred service day and night in his temple.” We could not imagine a finer picture of close unity and concord!—Rev. 7:15.
30. How has the gathering work today taken on a wider sweep, emphasizing what need?
30 In support of this we read that God’s “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) Today all sorts of people are responding to the good news and bringing themselves into harmony with it, being gathered into “one flock” under “one shepherd.” The Scriptures make it plain that these all should by their conduct serve for the praise of God’s glory by unitedly sharing in the ministerial work due to be completed before the accomplished end of the present system of things. From the days of the apostles onward the emphasis has been on the gathering of the Christian congregation of Christ’s 144,000 joint heirs; but now, at the “full limit of the appointed times,” the gathering work has taken on a wider sweep since 1931, coupled with great urgency because the time is short. We need all the help and encouragement possible, and it will therefore be good to take a close look at our ministerial work, both inside God’s organization and outside.
a See The Watchtower as of November 15, 1959, pages 688-690, paragraphs 15-23.
[Picture on page 400]
Froglike “unclean inspired expressions” gather rulers in opposition to God
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Serving as a minister under Christ’s administration