Answering the Roman Governor’s Question, “What Is Truth?”
“Pilate said to him ‘What is truth?’”—John 18:38.
THE ASKER of the question was the governor or procurator of the Roman provinces of Judea, Samaria and Idumea in the Middle East during the years of 20 to 36 of our Common Era. His capital was in the city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea; but he put his question to a man on trial before him in the governor’s palace in Jerusalem on the Jewish Passover day, Nisan 14, of the year 33 C.E. As governor, he was in the Jewish Holy City with his troops to keep order during the celebration of the Passover festival. Seemingly, in order to forestall any trouble in Jerusalem that day, the city’s religious leaders handed over to the Roman governor a man whom they called a wrongdoer, to be tried and punished according to secular Roman law. During the private examination that followed, the governor as judge put the question to the man accused of wrongdoing: “What is truth?” That is as far as the governor went in his interest in the truth. Three years later he was summoned to Rome to answer for misconduct in office. According to the historian Eusebius, he was banished to Vienna (Vienne) in the Roman province of Gaul and later he committed suicide. He died without getting the answer to his question.
1. How is the historicalness of the encounter of Pilate and Christ supported by writers, but who wrote in most detail about it?
THE Roman governor was Pontius Pilate. The man to whom he put his famous question was Jesus Christ. The historicalness of the meeting of these two men on this momentous occasion is supported, not only by Jewish witnesses, but also by the noted Roman historian of our first century, Publius Cornelius Tacitus. When writing about the name “Christian,” this non-Jewish historian says:a “The author of that name, Christ, was afflicted with punishment [was put to death] by the procurator Pontius Pilate, Tiberius acting as emperor.” But the man who reported on the details of this encounter between Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate was the most loved earthly friend of Jesus Christ, namely, John the son of Zebedee. (John 18:28-38) John’s report had a strong background of truthfulness, for more than any other Bible writer he wrote about truth and truthfulness, in a field of interest that is of the greatest importance to all of us.
2. What questions arise about Pilate’s own question, and what can we say in reply?
2 Apparently the Roman governor Pontius Pilate let the question, “What is truth?” die with him, unanswered. Really, though, did the question die with him? Has the question remained unanswered down to this day? Though Jesus Christ did not verbally answer Pilate’s question to him himself, did he really leave the question unanswered to others, yes, to us? We are obliged to reply No! Pilate’s question has been answered, and the answer can be given to the honest seekers and lovers of “the truth.”
3. What is “truth,” and about what truth did Pilate inquire?
3 Truth means “conformity to fact.” There are all kinds of things about which we have to establish the actual facts in order to know the truth about them. When we know a thing just as it actually is, our knowledge of the thing is formally true or is true in form. To be true, our knowledge of a thing must conform to what that thing is in reality. Now, when Jesus Christ was on trial before Pontius Pilate, the governor’s interest was in learning certain facts about this accused man. His interest was not in truth in general; his assigned duties and his responsibilities did not allow for such a broad investigation. The man before him under accusation was the one that brought up the subject of the truth. So it was the truth in this regard concerning which Pilate asked: “What is truth?” What, then, was the truth that here came under focus? Let us see.
PROBING FOR THE ANSWER
4. According to John’s report, how did Pilate’s question come about?
4 The report made by John the son of Zebedee reads: “So Pilate entered into the governor’s palace again and called Jesus and said to him: ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus answered: ‘Is it of your own originality that you say this, or did others tell you about me?’ Pilate answered: ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you up to me. What did you do?’ Jesus answered: ‘My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.’ Therefore Pilate said to him: ‘Well, then, are you a king?’ Jesus answered: ‘You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him: ‘What is truth?’”—John 18:33-38; Matt. 27:11-14.
5. When on trial before Pilate, how did Jesus show himself to be true to his mission in coming into the world?
5 On this decisive occasion Jesus was true to the mission on which he came into the world. Fear of death did not influence him to deny the facts of the case. When his captors handed him over to Pilate, they accused him, saying: “This man we found subverting our nation and forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar and saying he himself is Christ a king.” (Luke 23:1-3) So when he was asked point blank whether he was a king, he did not deny. In answer to Pilate, he spoke of “my kingdom,” but he explained that it was no part of this world. From this explanation Pilate concluded that Jesus was a king. This induced him to ask a second time concerning Jesus’ kingship, saying: “Well, then, are you a king?” That is, even if your kingdom is no part of this world. Jesus answered that Pilate had drawn the right conclusion, by saying: “You yourself are saying that I am a king.” Otherwise, Pilate would not have asked a second time whether he was a king.
6. In view of what purpose was Jesus determined to be faithful on this occasion, cost what it might?
6 Jesus let Pilate’s judicial conclusion stand as the true one. Jesus was on the witness stand and he could not now deny the truth. As he then told Pilate, he had been born for this very purpose and had come into the world for this very purpose, to bear witness to the truth of his kingship. And everyone that is on the side of the truth would accept Jesus’ testimony as the truth. He had been born to bear witness to the truth. At thirty years of age he had been baptized and had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. So now at the climax of his earthly life he would not miss the purpose of his human birth and of his public entry upon the world stage. He would be faithful to the truth, even if it cost his life. If the point at issue were not the truth, he certainly would not be willing to die for it; he would not die for a lie.
7. Of what must we be convinced concerning Jesus’ testimony, and to what does our being convinced lead?
7 Jesus was willing to die for the truth. Are we convinced by the courage and faithfulness of his course that his testimony, not only before the Roman governor, but before all the nation, was the truth? If we are convinced, what does it mean? If we listen to his voice by accepting what he says, then we accept him as king. By doing so, we prove we are “on the side of the truth.” That means we are also on Jesus’ side, which is where we want to be.
8. (a) Why was that the truth on which we should inform ourselves? (b) Why did Jesus himself have to be the truth?
8 It must be very important truth, if a person is born for the very purpose of bearing witness to it. It must be truth worthy of devoting one’s whole life to it, if a person comes into this world for the very purpose of bearing witness to it. Actually it was just that important. So, if there is any truth on which to inform ourselves, it should be this truth. Yet, in Jesus’ case, truth was not just a matter of what he said; it was also a matter of what he did, how he lived and how he died. It was a case of living to make the truth realize itself or come to reality. There were many things wrapped up in Jesus as a man that were of universal importance, yes, of importance to heaven and earth; and he had to live and act in fulfillment of those things. He himself must be the truth.
9 It was not just an extravagance of words or exaggerated language when Jesus’ beloved disciple John wrote of his coming from heaven to earth to be born as a perfect man and said: “So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father; and he was full of undeserved kindness and truth. For we all received from out of his fullness, even undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness. Because the Law was given through Moses, the undeserved kindness and the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.”—John 1:14, 16, 17.
HOW “THE TRUTH CAME TO BE”
10, 11. (a) Does such a contrast made between Jesus and Moses mean that the Law given through Moses was not the truth? (b) In Romans 7:10-12, what does Paul say in defense of the goodness of God’s law?
10 Well, then, how was Jesus “full of . . . truth”? How was he the one through whom “the truth came to be”? Why does the apostle John contrast Jesus with Moses? Did not the prophet Moses bring the truth in his days, more than fourteen centuries before Christ? Was not the Law that God gave to Moses for the Jewish nation the truth? Yes. Centuries after the giving of the Law through Moses, the inspired psalmist said to God the Lawgiver: “Those in pursuit of loose conduct have come near; they have got far away from your own law. You are near, O Jehovah, and all your commandments are truth.” (Ps. 119:150, 151) The very fact that the Law as given through Moses condemned his own people as sinners proves that this Law was true to righteousness and holiness. Because of its perfection, that Law condemned the Jews to death. So, in defense of the goodness of God’s law, the apostle Paul writes:
11 “And the commandment which was to life, this I found to be to death. For sin, receiving an inducement through the commandment, seduced me and killed me through it [that is, through the commandment that condemned sinners to death]. Wherefore, on its part, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”—Rom. 7:10-12.
12, 13. (a) What did the law of Moses require for the Jews to gain life by it, and why did that Law not miss its purpose? (b) How did the apostle Paul make that point clear, in Galatians 3:23-25?
12 So the Law given through Moses was not erroneous. Rather, it pointed out what error was. The Law given through Moses was not a mistake. The Ten Commandments that were a part of that Law were no mistake. The Law required perfect obedience on the part of the Jews in order for them to gain everlasting life by keeping it. But none of the Jews of ordinary birth could keep the Law perfectly and gain everlasting life by the works of the Law. Yet that Law served its purpose, for it identified or pointed out the Perfect One who did keep the Law flawlessly, the One who thus escaped condemnation by the Law and who was therefore pronounced completely righteous and deserving of everlasting life because of his unblemished righteousness. That the Law given through Moses did not miss its purpose and that it was no erroneous attempt or failure, the Jewish Christian apostle Paul made clear with these words:
13 “Before the [Christian] faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody, looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed. Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor [the Law].”—Gal. 3:23-25.
14. (a) How was the law of Moses more than just a legal code? (b) How was this true respecting the priesthood for which the Law provided?
14 The Law given through Moses was more than just a legal code, more than a systematized set of laws for human conduct. In many ways it was prophetic. It commanded many things that were prophetic of good things to come. For instance, the Law set up a priesthood for the Jewish nation in the family of Aaron, the older brother of Moses. This was prophetic of how Jehovah God would set up a High Priest who would offer sacrifice for the lasting benefit of all mankind. This spiritual, heavenly High Priest would also have underpriests, these being taken from among men and being able to sympathize with men in their sinful estate and imperfection.
15. Of what were the features of the annual Jewish atonement day prophetic?
15 The Law ordered that every year a national atonement day should be held on the tenth day of the seventh lunar month of the Jews. On that day atonement was to be made for both the priesthood and all the rest of the Jewish nation by means of the sacrifice of an unblemished bull and goat, the blood of which was sprinkled in the Most Holy of the sanctuary. Also, their sins were to be carried away into oblivion by a scapegoat. All that was prophetic of how God’s great High Priest would offer up a sacrifice to atone for mankind’s sin and would serve as a real Sin Bearer to carry away mankind’s sin into oblivion. All this provision would be an expression of loving-kindness on God’s part.
16. So, besides commandments, what did the law of Moses furnish, according to the writer of Hebrews 8:4, 5?
16 Thus there was much more to the Law given through Moses than merely commandments to point out what sin was and to tell the Jews what was the pure, right, holy and unselfish thing to do, to keep them walking in harmony with God. Besides that, the Law commanded certain meaningful ceremonies to be carried out regularly in order to draw prophetic outlines that give a true picture of grand things to come according to God’s purpose. The inspired writer calls these prophetic outlines ‘shadows,’ saying: “There being men who offer the gifts according to the Law, but which men are rendering sacred service in a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things; just as Moses, when about to make the tent in completion, was given the divine command: For says he: ‘See that you make all things after their pattern that was shown to you in the mountain [of Sinai].’”—Heb. 8:4, 5.
17. In what way did the Law provide ‘shadows’ of the perfect human body that had to be presented for sins?
17 Again the same writer mentions ‘shadows’ when reasoning on the need for a perfect human body to be presented in sacrifice to God, saying: “Since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very substance of the things, men can never with the same sacrifices from year to year which they offer continually make those who approach perfect. Otherwise, would the sacrifices not have stopped being offered, because those rendering sacred service who had been cleansed once for all time would have no consciousness of sins any more? To the contrary, by these sacrifices there is a reminding of sins from year to year, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away. Hence when he comes into the world he says: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me.’”—Heb. 10:1-5.
18. What were some of the ‘shadows’ in the Mosaic law, and why could they properly be called ‘shadows’?
18 Many other things that were commanded in the Law, such as the passover supper, the festival of weeks or Pentecost, the weekly sabbath day, the Jubilee year, the festival first day of each month or new moon, particularly the seventh new moon of each year, all these were ‘shadows.’ They were true in themselves, giving a true outline or small picture of greater things to come. However, they were only ‘shadows.’ A shadow is a dark image or design that is cast upon some surface by some solid, untransparent substance that gets in the way of the light. The shadow is not substantial; it is not the real thing. The substance or body that the shadow outlines or images is the real thing. If the substance or body is in front of the light, then its shadow extends ahead of the substance or body. For that reason it is a common saying: “Coming events cast their shadows before them.” In God’s purpose, the shadow came first, to give a small-scale idea of the grand things that he had in mind for the future of mankind. Those shadows aroused true expectations in people who obediently kept God’s law. Because the ‘shadows’ were true, these people would not be disappointed in their expectations.
19. Why, then, could John correctly say: “The law was given through Moses, . . . the truth came to be through Jesus Christ”?
19 The shadow is truthful but is not the full truth on the matter. Only when the substance that was foreshadowed arrives does the truth arrive. Then the truth is realized. The substance or body is the truth. As the Mosaic law contained only the shadows, it had to give way to the coming of the real thing, the substance or body that the Law foreshadowed. Hence the rules laid down in the Mosaic law concerning eating, drinking, observing of ceremonies and keeping of holy days had to pass away like pictures or shadows. They did so, for the apostle Paul writes to the Christian congregation in Colossae, Asia Minor: “Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Col. 2:16, 17) It was therefore in full harmony with the historical facts that the apostle John should say: “The Law was given through Moses, the undeserved kindness and the truth came to be through Jesus Christ.”—John 1:17.
20, 21. To make John’s statement fully true, what did it require on Jesus’ part as far as making atonement for sin is concerned?
20 To make this statement true in its fullest sense, it required more on the part of Jesus Christ than mere talking, preaching, teaching. It required this Son of God to shed his spiritual glory in heaven and to be born as a perfect human child in order to be able to fulfill the truth of the Atonement Day sacrifices that figuratively took away the sins of all the Jewish nation. It required him to present himself at the age of thirty years as a suitable human victim for an acceptable sacrifice to God in order for him to be appointed as God’s High Priest, to atone for the sins of all mankind. (Heb. 5:1-5; 7:27; 8:1-4) This he did when he presented himself for immersion in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, his body being buried out of sight momentarily in the water. Thus he did ‘come into the world’ with the sacrificial human body that God had prepared for him.—Heb. 10:5-10; Ps. 40:6-8; John 18:37.
21 At his death three and a half years later he, as Jehovah’s High Priest, did make an offering of his human sacrifice “once for all time.” That he might present the value of his perfect human sacrifice to God in heaven, he had to be resurrected from the dead. This occurred on the third day from his death. Then, like the Jewish high priest passing beyond the inner veil of the temple into the Most Holy or innermost room, Jesus Christ rose from the dead into the spirit realm and in due time appeared in the literal presence of God to present the life value of his sacrifice.
22. How was all this a part of Jesus’ bearing witness to the truth?
22 All this proved the truthfulness of the shadows that had been contained in the Law given through Moses. It established the high priesthood of Jesus Christ as a real truth, as being successfully executed. From this fact the most precious blessings are to flow to mankind. All these things were part of Jesus’ bearing witness to the truth, his putting the things that were foretold and foreshadowed by the law of Moses into the realm of actual truth.
23. (a) Were things having to do with priestly sacrifice for sin all the truth of concern to us, and how did this become clear at the trial of Jesus? (b) So what other things of Moses’ law needed to be proved to be correct ‘shadows’?
23 However, is truth with regard to priestly service and the making of propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the world all the truth that is of importance and concern to us? No! For when Jesus was under questioning by Governor Pontius Pilate, the matter of royal government came foremost to view. The enemies who had handed him over for Roman trial charged him with claiming to be “Christ a king.” (Luke 23:1, 2) In reality, at that very time there was much truth to be established with regard to the matter of government, not just the local government of the Jews but the government of all the world of mankind. O ever so much depended upon Jesus Christ at that time, and he appreciated this fact and was wholly determined to be faithful. Not unexpectedly, things in the Law of Moses that had to do with the coming government of God’s people needed to be proved to be correct prophecies, correct ‘shadows’ that would conform to future facts. How were they proved so?
24. (a) What office in Israel did God set up in Aaron and his family? (b) Why did God not also set up a human king over Israel?
24 At the time that the Law was given through Moses at Mount Sinai there was no visible human king over Israel. Moses was not Israel’s king but was serving as mediator between Jehovah God and the nation of Israel. Moses’ older brother was Aaron, the firstborn son of Amram the Levite. In Aaron’s family Jehovah God set up the priesthood over Israel. Why did God not also set up a human king over Israel? Or why did he not make Aaron a king-priest? It was because Jehovah God, though invisible, was the law-giving King over Israel. He could not also be the Priest of Israel. Matters in Israel were just as Moses sang of them alongside the Red Sea, about three months before the Law was given through Moses: “Jehovah will rule as king to time indefinite, even forever. When Pharaoh’s horses with his war chariots and his cavalrymen went into the sea, then Jehovah brought back the waters of the sea upon them, while the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea.” (Ex. 15:18, 19) So Jehovah did not put himself out of office as King.
25. What references to a human king over Israel did God make in the Law given through Moses?
25 In the Mosaic law Jehovah God did suggest that the time might come when the Israelites would want to be like the untheocratic pagan nations and have a visible king over them. Then, said Jehovah, “you should without fail set over yourself a king whom Jehovah your God will choose. From among your brothers you should set a king over yourself. You will not be allowed to put over yourself a foreigner who is not your brother . . . when he takes his seat on the throne of his kingdom, he must write in a book for himself a copy of this law from that which is in the charge of the priests, the Levites.” (Deut. 17:14-18) Later Moses warned that if the Israelites did not carry out their solemn contract or covenant with God, then “Jehovah will march you and your king whom you will set up over you to a nation whom you have not known, neither you nor your forefathers; and there you will have to serve other gods, of wood and of stone.” (Deut. 28:35, 36) Over three hundred and fifty years later the whole nation of Israel did ask for such a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish.—1 Sam. 8:4 to 12:5.
26. (a) To what Israelite tribe did Saul son of Kish belong? (b) But to whom did the patriarch Jacob prophesy that the royal power in Israel would come, and so who was to come in that tribe?
26 King Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin. But long before the Law was given through Moses, Jehovah God inspired the patriarch Jacob or Israel to prophesy that the royal power in Israel would come into the hand of the tribe of Judah and that the scepter and the commander’s staff would never depart from that tribe. Someone called Shiloh (meaning “The One Whose It Is”) would come in that tribe, “and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.”
27. How could that prophecy of Jacob be said to be in the Law given through Moses?
27 This prophecy concerning kingship was written in the Bible’s first book, in Genesis 49:8-10. However, the book of Genesis was written by Moses. What are now the first five books of the Bible were at first just one book written by Moses. In the days of Jesus Christ, when Jews spoke of the big divisions of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the first five Bible books written by Moses were called the Law or “Torah,” so that the book of Genesis came under the heading of “the Law,” the Torah. After being resurrected from the dead Jesus said to his disciples: “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you [in the flesh], that all the things written in  the law of Moses and in  the Prophets and  Psalms about me must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44) For that reason the expression “the Law” could include the things written in the book of Genesis, including this prophecy by the patriarch Jacob concerning the kingship in the tribe of Judah.
28. (a) For Jesus fully to “bear witness to the truth,” why did he have to be born in a particular family besides in a particular tribe? (b) How did God make the kingdom promise still stronger, and to whom did the kingdom really belong?
28 In order to “bear witness to the truth” concerning God’s kingdom Jesus was born in the tribe of Judah. (Heb. 7:14) But in order for him fully to “bear witness to the truth,” Jesus’ birth could not be in any unparticular family in the tribe of Judah. His birth had to be in the family line of David of Bethlehem; and it was. (Rom. 1:1-4) Why was this? It was because David of the tribe of Judah was made king of Israel, to succeed King Saul and his son Ish-bosheth, and then Jehovah God made a solemn contract or covenant with King David for the kingship of God’s people to stay in David’s royal family line forever. That meant that at last David would have a permanent heir to the kingdom. (2 Sam. 7:11-16; 1 Chron. 17:11-15) Jehovah God not only made this promise to faithful King David but bound himself more strongly to this promise by swearing to it. In thus swearing, God was really swearing in behalf of his own kingdom, for King David himself acknowledged that the kingdom over Israel really belonged to Jehovah and that the throne on which he sat in Jerusalem was really “Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chron. 29:10, 11, 23) Concerning this sworn oath which was to confirm the covenant with David for an everlasting kingdom, we read:
29. What did Psalm 89 have to say regarding this covenant and God’s oath concerning David’s kingdom?
29 “I have concluded a covenant toward my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant, ‘Even to time indefinite I shall firmly establish your seed, and I will build your throne to generation after generation. . . . I shall not profane my covenant, and the expression out of my lips I shall not change. Once I have sworn in my holiness, to David I will not tell lies. His seed itself will prove to be even to time indefinite, and his throne as the sun in front of me. As the moon it will be firmly established for time indefinite, and be a faithful witness in the skies.”—Ps. 89:3, 4, 34-37; Acts 2:30.
30. So what were the “loving-kindnesses to David” mentioned in Isaiah 55:3, and why were they bound to be faithful?
30 This kingdom covenant and all its features were what God’s Word calls the “loving-kindnesses to David,” and God’s swearing to it added to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of it. Hence in a time of persecution God’s people who depend upon him to carry out this kingdom covenant can well take up the words of the psalmist, not in any doubt about the covenant, but in an appeal to God concerning it, and say: “Where are your former acts of loving-kindness, O Jehovah, about which you swore to David in your faithfulness?” (Ps. 89:49) Considerately God assures his people of his faithfulness to the covenant, saying: “I shall readily conclude with you people an indefinitely lasting covenant respecting the loving-kindnesses to David that are faithful.” (Isa. 55:3) Jesus Christ in particular could take consolation from this divine promise.
31. (a) So why was Jesus born in the royal family line of David? (b) How did Jehovah thus answer the prayer of Psalm 132:1-18?
31 So, to the end of making the kingdom covenant an everlasting truth, Jesus was born in the royal family line of David, to become David’s Permanent Heir. Thus Jehovah did not prove untrue to King David and did not draw back from giving to that anointed king a permanent heir. Jehovah answered the prayer made to him in Psalm 132:1-18: “On account of David your servant, do not turn back the face of your anointed one. Jehovah has sworn to David, truly he will not draw back from it: ‘Of the fruitage of your belly I shall set on your throne. . . . There I shall cause the horn of David to grow, I have set in order a lamp for my anointed one. His enemies I shall clothe with shame; but upon him his diadem will flourish.’”
32, 33. How did Peter on the day of Pentecost bear witness to God’s kingdom oath to David and to its fulfillment?
32 The apostle Peter was one who bore witness to the truth of all that. On the day of the festival of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, Peter explained the outpouring of God’s holy spirit upon Christ’s disciples there in Jerusalem and said:
33 “Brothers, it is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day. Therefore, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one from the fruitage of his loins upon his throne, he saw beforehand and spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in Haʹdes nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear. Actually David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.”—Acts 2:29-36.
“LORD” OF KING DAVID
34. (a) How did Jesus Christ become David’s Lord, and where did David foretell this turn of events? (b) When will David personally acknowledge the lordship of Jesus?
34 Here the apostle Peter, under inspiration of the outpoured holy spirit, declared the exalted Jesus Christ to be the Lord of King David, that is, higher than King David. The throne of King David had been merely an earthly one called “Jehovah’s throne”; but the position of Jesus Christ in a throne was a heavenly one, at God’s own right hand. He was to be a deathless, everlasting heavenly king. In the approaching future, when David is resurrected from the dead, he will learn of his descendant, Jesus Christ, and will acknowledge this exalted one as his Lord, the true Christ or Anointed One. In Psalm 110 King David foretold the lordship of Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter quoted the first verse of this psalm and applied it to Jesus Christ, as being fulfilled in him. Thus, in effect, the inspired Peter applied the entire psalm to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul also applies it to him.
35. To whom did Jehovah swear in Psalm 110:4, and about what?
35 This psalm of David reports Jehovah as swearing again, but this time not to King David, but to David’s Lord at God’s right hand in the heavens. Addressing itself to him, verse four of Psalm 110 announces: “Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” Hence Jehovah thus swore to his Son, Jesus Christ.
36. What was there special about the “manner” of Melchizedek, and how was he shown to be higher than Abraham?
36 Who was this Melchizedek whose “manner” was to be imitated in David’s Lord, Jesus Christ? The Law given through Moses, as including the book of Genesis, informs us. Melchizedek was not only a priest but also a king. According to Genesis 14:17-20, he went out from his royal city to meet the patriarch Abraham when returning victorious from battle. We read: “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine, and he was priest of the Most High God. Then he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, who has delivered your oppressors into your hand!’ At that Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Melchizedek was thus higher than Abram.
37. (a) From whom did Jesus inherit kingdom? (b) Did Jesus get his priesthood forever from High Priest Aaron, or how?
37 In Hebrews 6:20 to 7:17 the sworn statement of Psalm 110:4 is applied to Jesus Christ. The “manner” in which he is like King-Priest Melchizedek is explained point by point. Melchizedek as a king-priest had no successor on earth. Jesus Christ did not inherit either priesthood or kingdom from Melchizedek. He became the Permanent Heir of King David according to the kingdom covenant, but he did not inherit his priesthood from High Priest Aaron of the tribe of Levi. Jesus was not born in the tribe of Levi, for he had to be David’s descendant. How did Jesus get his priesthood forever? It was by means of Jehovah’s sworn oath as given in Psalm 110:4.
38. How did what Melchizedek prefigured come true in Jesus Christ, and so over what will Jehovah feel no regret?
38 Since ancient Melchizedek was to show the “manner” of a future King-Priest, Melchizedek was a prophetic historical figure and prefigured the greater King-Priest, Jesus Christ. What Melchizedek prefigured came true in Jesus Christ. Melchizedek’s name means “King of Righteousness”; and as king of Salem, which name means “Peace,” he was also “king of peace.” However, Jesus Christ was the real Melchizedek whom God had in mind long previously; he was the true “King of righteousness,” the true “King of peace.” He is the true King-Priest who makes everlasting atonement for all mankind and who will reign peacefully over all the earth. Jehovah God will never feel regret over having sworn to make him King-Priest.
THE PERSONIFIED TRUTH
39. How was Jesus Christ the truth, and how did he really bear witness to the truth?
39 From all this it is manifest that Jesus Christ is the Truth. He is the realization of the truth to which the shadows of the Mosaic law as well as the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures were pointing forward. All those things of a prophetic kind were focused on him. For this he was born and for this he came into the world that he might bear witness to the truth of those things by fulfilling them. He was the living Truth of those revelations of God’s purpose, the things to which God had sworn.
40, 41. (a) In these respects, why was Jesus correct in saying that he was the truth? (b) As such, he benefits what persons, and how does Paul show this in Romans 15:8-12?
40 When on earth as a man, Jesus was determined to bear witness to the truth of God’s recorded word in the Hebrew Scriptures. On the night of falling into the hands of his enemies he said to his faithful apostles: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Was he not correct in saying this? Yes, for he was indeed the Truth. He was no shadow Messiah or Christ. He was the real one promised. He was no shadow king-priest. He was substantially the true one that had been prefigured. As such, he benefits not only the circumcised Jews but also all the non-Jewish nations. Hence the apostle Paul says:
41 “I say that Christ actually became a minister of those who are circumcised in behalf of God’s truthfulness, so as to verify the promises He made to their forefathers, and that the nations might glorify God for his mercy. Just as it is written: ‘That is why I will openly acknowledge you among the nations and to your name I will make melody.’ And again he says: ‘Be glad, you nations, with his people.’ And again: ‘Praise Jehovah, all you nations, and let all the peoples praise him.’ And again Isaiah says: ‘There will be the root of Jesse [father of King David], and there will be one arising to rule nations; on him nations will rest their hope.’”—Rom. 15:8-12; Ps. 18:49; 117:1; Deut. 32:43; Isa. 11:10.
42. (a) How did Jesus actually become “a minister of those who are circumcised”? (b) How did Jesus “verify” God’s promises made to the forefathers?
42 Once when he encountered a Phoenician woman, Jesus Christ said: “I was not sent forth to any but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When sending out his twelve apostles to preach the kingdom of the heavens, Jesus said to them: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter into a Samaritan city; but, instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 15:24; 10:5, 6) Thus, because he was born and circumcised as a Jew under the Mosaic law, Jesus “actually became a minister of those who are circumcised.” This ministry of Jesus Christ to the circumcised Jews was rendered “in behalf of God’s truthfulness,” because Jehovah God had said to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that all the nations of the earth would bless themselves by means of their seed. Naturally, by human birth, their “seed” would be Israelites or Jews, Hebrews. (Gen. 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) Hence according to the natural order of things it was necessary for Jesus Christ to establish “God’s truthfulness” as regards those promises made to the three Hebrew patriarchs; how? By offering first to Jews the opportunity to receive the Abrahamic blessing and become the spiritual seed of Abraham. It was absolutely obligatory upon Jesus to respect the sworn oath of Jehovah God, because God had sworn with an oath that his promises to the patriarchs were truthful, and Jesus had to “verify” those promises.
43. (a) In order to keep what thing did Jehovah bring the descendants of the forefathers out of Egypt? (b) How did He strengthen his promises to the forefathers?
43 To the circumcised descendants of the patriarchs, Moses said: “It was because of Jehovah’s loving you, and because of his keeping the sworn statement that he had sworn to your forefathers, that Jehovah brought you out . . . from the hand of Pharaoh the king of Egypt.” (Deut. 7:8) God’s swearing to the patriarchs is further mentioned in Psalm 105:7-11,b which says: “He is Jehovah our God. His judicial decisions are in all the earth. He has remembered his covenant even to time indefinite, the word that he commanded, to a thousand generations, which covenant he concluded with Abraham, and his sworn statement to Isaac, and which statement he kept standing as a regulation even to Jacob, as an indefinitely lasting covenant even to Israel, saying: ‘To you I shall give the land of Canaan as the allotment of your inheritance.’”—See also Genesis 24:6, 7; 50:24; Exodus 6:8; Jeremiah 11:4, 5.
44. What persons, foremost, respect God’s oath?
44 Jehovah God respects his own oath and never proves false to it. Likewise Jesus Christ, when on earth, respected Jehovah’s oath and sought to prove its truthfulness.
45. (a) In whom are fulfilled God’s oaths regarding kingdom and priesthood? (b) With what historical events did God’s truth arrive?
45 So it is that in Jesus Christ we find fulfilled God’s oath in affirmation of the covenant that he made with David for an everlasting kingdom, and God’s oath supporting his appointment of a priest forever after the manner of Melchizedek. With Jesus’ being born on earth, his coming into the world at the time of his baptism in water, his three and a half years of public service in behalf of God’s kingdom, his death in faithfulness to God, his resurrection from the dead and his exaltation to heaven, with all these historical events the truth arrived, God’s truth arrived. The whole career of Jesus Christ was thus a bearing witness to the truth.
AT LAST THE ANSWER!
46. What then, is the Bible’s answer to the Roman governor’s question, “What is truth?”
46 How, then, shall we answer the question that the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate put to Jesus, namely, “What is truth? “ Under the circumstances under which the question was raised, the Bible’s answer must be: The “truth” is God’s kingdom with Jesus Christ the “Son of David” serving as King-Priest in the throne.
47. (a) What is, therefore, not strange regarding Bible doctrine? (b) How is God’s kingship emphasized in the last book of the Hebrew Scriptures and in the first book of the Christian Greek Scriptures?
47 Is it any wonder, then, that God’s kingdom by Christ is the leading doctrine or teaching of the Holy Bible? From its first book, Genesis, which tells of the prophetic figure, Melchizedek, down to its last book, Revelation, which describes the birth of the Kingdom and its rule for a thousand years, the Bible holds to the theme of God’s Messianic kingdom. Harmoniously with that, in the last written book of the ancient Hebrew Scriptures God calls attention to his own kingship, saying: “‘I am a great King,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘and my name will be fear-inspiring among the nations.’” (Mal. 1:14) And, according to the first book of the Christian Greek Scriptures, when Jesus the Son of God came into the world to begin his Messianic service to God, he was preceded by a forerunner, John the Baptist, proclaiming to the circumcised Jews: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.”—Matt. 3:1, 2.
48. How did Jesus emphasize the Kingdom doctrine when following up John the Baptist and when foretelling the conclusion of this system of things?
48 When Jesus Christ followed up John the Baptist, he also said: “The appointed time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near. Be repentant, you people, and have faith in the good news.” (Mark 1:14, 15) Finally, when Jesus Christ foretold the preaching that would mark his return and second presence and the conclusion of the system of things, which Bible doctrine in particular did he say would be preached by his disciples? His words recorded in Matthew 24:14 give the answer: “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.”—Matt. 24:3, 14.
49, 50. (a) According to Revelation 11:15-18, why is there good reason today for preaching that Bible doctrine foremost? (b) The hurling of Satan out of heaven was to be followed by what pertinent announcement throughout heaven?
49 Today there is good reason for that Bible doctrine to be preached foremost. Why? Because this “conclusion of the system of things” was to be the time for God’s Messianic kingdom to be born in the heavens, as prophetically pictured in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. At this event many voices in heaven would join in announcing: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king for ever and ever.” Also, to the Lord God, who is the real Power behind the Messianic kingdom, thanksgiving was to be offered in these words: “We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king. But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came.” (Rev. 11:15-18) Moreover, after Satan the chief resister of the heavenly kingdom is hurled out of heaven and down to the earth, the announcement was to be made loudly throughout heaven:
50 “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!”—Rev. 12:5-10.
THE “WORD OF TRUTH”
51. Because of the details that it gives us and because of its writers, what is the Bible rightly called?
51 God’s Messianic kingdom is the “truth,” to bear witness to which Jesus was born and came into the world. Since the Holy Bible supplies us fully the details about this kingdom, the Holy Bible is rightly spoken of as “the word of truth.” The men who took part in writing the Bible under inspiration were seekers of the truth. For example, King Solomon referred to himself as the congregator of God’s people and wrote: “The congregator sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth.” (Eccl. 12:10) The angel that was sent to tell the prophet Daniel much vital information concerning the “time of the end,” in which we are living today, said: “I shall tell you the things noted down in the writing of truth . . . And now what is truth I shall tell to you.” (Dan. 10:21; 11:2; 12:4) The apostle Paul, an outstanding contributor to the Bible, wrote to fellow Christians: “We should serve for the praise of his glory, we who have been first to hope in the Christ. But you also hoped in him after you heard the word of truth, the good news about your salvation.”—Eph. 1:12, 13.
52, 53. (a) To serve as an instrument for the truth, how must the Bible be handled, and what shows whether Christendom has handled it this way? (b) In what must Christians walk, today even as in the first century, and how can this be done?
52 In order that the Bible may serve as the instrument for our preaching and teaching the truth, it must be handled in the right way. So, when the apostle Paul told an overseer of a Christian congregation to pay constant attention to himself and to his teaching, he said: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Tim. 4:16) Today Christendom boasts of over 900,000,000 members and has had the Bible in writing or in print for many centuries. Has she handled this “word of the truth” aright? No; for she teaches religion in a thousand different ways, as represented in her hundreds of religious sects. Christendom, as a representation of Christianity, is a lie. To the contrary, Christianity, which is based on the Holy Bible and which handles the Bible aright, is the truth. The true Christians must follow the Bible if they are to walk in the truth.
53 That is what Christians did in the first century, in the purity of their faith. Testifying to this fact, the apostle John wrote to a fellow believer named Gaius and said: “I rejoiced very much when brothers came and bore witness to the truth you hold, just as you go on walking in the truth. No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.”—3 John 3, 4.
54. (a) Back there what “word” was necessary for one to be begotten as a spiritual son of God? (b) In order to be true Christians, with what do we have to originate, and how must we love?
54 Back there a person could not become a true Christian, begotten as a spiritual son of God, unless he heard and studied and believed the truth. The disciple James calls attention to this need of the truth when he writes: “Do not be misled, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow. Because he willed it, he brought us forth by the word of truth, for us to be a certain first fruits of his creatures.” (Jas. 1:16-18) A real Christian can spring only from the truth. The apostle John, who loved to write about the truth, wrote to Christians who were dear to him: “Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth. By this we shall know that we originate with the truth, and we shall assure our hearts before him.” (1 John 3:18, 19) So if we desire to assure our hearts before God that we are genuine Christians, we must originate with the truth that is brought to us and we must have brotherly love. If we originate with the world, we shall be in error.—1 John 4:4-7.
55. How can we avoid being in error and being an antichrist?
55 In view of the fact that Jesus Christ is “the truth,” as he himself said in John 14:6, we must have the correct belief about him if we are to originate with the truth and be in the truth, and not be an antichrist. If we do not believe that he was born in the flesh and came into the world to be God’s chief witness bearer to “the truth,” then we are in error and we originate with the world and we are not true Christians.—1 John 4:1-6.
56. Because of knowing the truth, we want to associate with what organization, according to 1 Timothy 3:14, 15?
56 By means of the Holy Bible, God’s “word of truth,” we know the answer to the question, “What is truth?” We desire also to associate with God’s visible organization of the truth. He used Jesus Christ his glorified Son to found this organization on the day of Pentecost fifty days after his resurrection. According to the inspired words of 1 Timothy 3:14, 15, this organization is “God’s household, which is the congregation of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth.” Yes, indeed, this is what we want to associate with, the “pillar and support of the truth.”
57. What are we, therefore, determined to do with regard to the truth?
57 So, instead of trying to tear down the truth—an impossible thing—we will do our part to uphold the Kingdom truth, raising it on high for all to see. To all the nations we will deliver the Bible answer to the question, “What is truth?” We will share with the “congregation of the living God” in preaching the truth, “this good news of the kingdom,” doing so in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) Everyone that is of the truth will listen to our voice as we serve as substitutes for Christ.—John 18:37; 2 Cor. 5:20.
a The statement in Latin reads: “Auctor nominis eius Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus est.”
See Works of Tacitus, Volume 1, page 423, edition of 1858, by Harper and Brothers, New York, N. Y. Also, M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 8, page 199, column 2. Also, The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 22 of 1929 edition, page 83, under “Pilate.”
b Other cases of God’s swearing with an oath or with upraised hand are: To the forefathers: Numbers 11:12; 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8, 35; Micah 7:20. To Israel: Numbers 14:16, 28, 30; Nehemiah 9:15; Psalm 95:10, 11; Hebrews 3:17, 18; 4:3; Ezekiel 20:5, 6. To Moses: Deuteronomy 4:21.
It is interesting to note that Jehovah God swears by his own name (Jer. 44:26, 27); by his own soul (Jer. 51:14; Amos 6:8); by his holiness (Amos 4:2); by the “Superiority of Jacob” (Amos 8:7); by his own self (Isa. 45:23; Jer. 49:13; 22:5); just as he lives forever (Deut. 32:40, 41); and regarding his purpose (Isa. 14:24); regarding another flood (Isa. 54:9); and regarding the eating and drinking of his servants.—Isa. 62:8, 9.