What the Release Means to the Captives in Our Time
1. What does the Jewish experience in the first century illustrate, and so does a release mean merely getting out of a system of captivity?
THE disaster that befell the Jewish nation in our first century was a historical illustration, on a small scale, of what it results in if the release as preached by Jehovah’s anointed ones is not accepted. The release is not just a getting out of a system of captivity, the restoring of the light of freedom to the eyes blinded by the religious darkness of a prison system. Release also includes an escaping from destruction with the prisonlike system of religious captivity. Such a destruction is approaching men of this generation, on a worldwide scale.
2. So Peter’s warning them to get saved from that crooked generation meant more than just a release from what?
2 Nineteen centuries ago it was the Jews and circumcised proselytes whom Peter warned to get saved from that crooked Jewish generation. He was warning them of what befeLl their nation in 70 C.E. He was preaching to them more than just a release from the enslaving system of traditional Judaism.—Acts 2:40.
3. (a) About three and a half years later Peter issued the call to Gentiles to come out of what, and how was his action in keeping with Jesus’ parting command? (b) After Jerusalem’s destruction, why did preaching of a release have to go on?
3 Not quite three and a half years later Peter was sent to preach the message of release to the uncircumcised Gentiles, who were not in bondage to traditional Judaism. (Acts 10:1-48; 11:8) To the Gentiles who believed from then on it was a case of release from the pagan system of religion. It was a case of release from the worldwide empire of false Babylonish religion. The call to those Gentiles was to come out of Babylon the Great, which meant coming out of that world empire of false religion. That is why the resurrected Jesus Christ told his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) So the fact that earthly Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E. was no sign to indicate that the preaching of a release to the captives was to cease. Babylon the Great still remained after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman armies.
4. Years later, what vision of Babylon the Great did John see, and why is there a pressing need for release from her now?
4 Twenty-six years after Jerusalem was thus destroyed, the apostle John had a miraculous vision and saw Babylon the Great still sitting oppressively on many symbolic waters, namely, peoples, crowds, nations and tongues, all around the globe. (Rev. 17:15) Babylon the Great still continues to sit heavily upon the backs of the people. There is now a pressing need of release from her in all her religious ramifications. Ancient Babylon did not escape destruction after she herself had destroyed earthly Jerusalem in the year 607 B.C.E. Are we to expect that Babylon the Great will escape destruction after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonish Romans in 70 C.E.? Not according to Bible prophecy.
5. (a) Jerusalem’s destruction marked what day? (b) How did the revelation to John show whether that was the final fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, and out of what must people now be called?
5 Destruction of Jerusalem and her temple in that year marked a “great and illustrious day of Jehovah,” which the first-century Christians could appreciate. But it was not the complete fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. (Joel 2:30-32) After Jerusalem and her temple had lain in ruins already for twenty-six years, the apostle John was told of a still future day of Jehovah, “the great day of God the Almighty.” It was a day to be marked by war at a place called in the Hebrew tongue Har–Magedon, or Armageddon. Hence the call that John heard was not a call to get out of earthly Jerusalem, for that city was then out of existence and the Romans did not build a new city there until along in the second century. The call that John heard must now be heard by all the world of mankind, a call to get out of Babylon the Great. (Rev. 16:14-16; 18:1-4) Failure to heed this call will result disastrously!
6. Why should the people of Christendom today not think they are enjoying Christian freedom, and do they need to heed the call?
6 In course of time there came the death of the apostle John and all the other apostles of Jesus Christ and their faithful close associates like Timothy and Titus. Then the Christians began to compromise with regard to the freedom for which Christ had set them free. For selfish, materialistic, social advantages they let themselves come into bondage to Babylon the Great. The setting up of Christendom during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great was merely a fusing of the popular kind of Christianity of that time with the paganism of Babylon the Great, of which Constantine was Pontifex Maximus till he died in 337 C.E. So the people of Christendom today should not think that they are enjoying Christian freedom, “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) They are in bondage to their religious clergymen and to their ecclesiastical religious systems. They are in slavery to Babylon the Great with her confusion of sectarian religions, a thousand or more of these claiming to be Christian. So the call from heaven to get out of Babylon the Great includes getting out of Christendom.
THE MODERN FLIGHT FROM BABYLON THE GREAT
7. In 1919, who made a move to get out of Babylon the Great, and for what reason?
7 In the spring of 1919, just some months after the close of World War I, a comparatively small group of dedicated Christians made a courageous move to get out of Babylon the Great. In the year 1931 they became known internationally as Jehovah’s witnesses. During World War I they had come into a captivity to Babylon the Great and her political lovers, especially so in Christendom.
8. How did Revelation 11:2-12 foretell their moving out of Babylon the Great, and what are they now determined to do?
8 The last book of the Bible, in Revelation 11:2-12, tells us of God’s anointed witnesses, his two symbolic olive trees. It says that they would be killed by the beastly system of world politics; but after a short period of time, like three and a half days, God’s spirit of life would enter into these anointed witnesses and they would come to life and would be elevated heaven-high in God’s service on earth. This reviving of God’s anointed witnesses occurred in the spring of 1919. It was then that these anointed witnesses themselves responded to the heavenly call to get out of Babylon the Great. With God’s help, by means of his reigning King Jesus Christ, they got out of Babylon the Great. With God’s assistance they are determined to stay out and stay free from her till she is no more.—Zech. 4:11-14; 2:7.
9. Why was there a need for the anointed remnant to preach a release to the captives from and after 1919, and did they do so?
9 Those who got free in 1919 were a small anointed remnant of dedicated, baptized Christians, who are Jews inwardly, spiritual Israelites. But still more were needed to fill up the Biblical number of 144,000 spiritual Israelites who are to stand with the Lamb Jesus Christ on the heavenly Mount Zion and to rule with him from the “heavenly Jerusalem” for the blessing of all nations. (Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-5; Heb. 12:22) Therefore, more captives in Babylon the Great needed to hear the message of release and make their escape from her and become part of the free spiritual “Israel of God,” the Christian Israel. (Gal. 6:16) So the anointed remnant that had been liberated in 1919 realized that they had been anointed with God’s holy spirit to “preach a release to the captives,” and they went preaching from house to house as well as publicly.
10. What response was there to this preaching of a release, and what did this produce?
10 Thousands responded to the good news of release, of liberty, from Babylon the Great, and these dedicated themselves to God and got baptized as Jesus Christ had commanded. Afterward their Christian lives showed that they had been begotten by God the Father to be his spiritual children, joint heirs of the heavenly Jesus Christ.—John 3:3, 5; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 John 2:20, 27; Rom. 8:16, 17.
11. What did this action by God regarding these released ones mean, and what prophecy was thus having a modern fulfillment?
11 Do you know fully what this meant? It meant more than that Jehovah God was begetting spiritual children for a heavenly inheritance! It meant also that he was anointing these newly released ones, he was pouring out his spirit upon these dedicated, baptized believers who were of all sorts of flesh. In this way there was a modern fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, from which the apostle Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., when the holy spirit was poured out upon the congregation of Christ’s disciples for the first time.
12. What activity was predicted to follow the outpouring of spirit on all sorts of flesh, and did it follow?
12 According to Joel’s prophecy, not only was the spirit to be poured out, but there was to be a prophesying by the anointed ones, both male and female, young and old. Well, then, if the spirit had been poured out, did the foretold prophesying occur? Yes, not only publicly but, more than ever before, from house to house. The dedicated believers had been anointed with holy spirit to prophesy and preach. How, then, could they keep from preaching the message of the “conclusion of the system of things,” namely, “this good news of the kingdom,” in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before this system of things ends?—Matt. 24:14.
13. (a) In fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, what more is to be expected than outpouring of spirit and prophesying? (b) According to what we have already observed since 1919, for what are we now due?
13 Have we observed this modern-day fulfillment of the outpouring of God’s spirit upon all sorts of flesh in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joe 2:28, 29)? Since we have, then something more is to be expected. As illustrated in the prophetic pattern of nineteen centuries ago, in the days of Christ’s apostles, from Pentecost of 33 C.E. to the summer of 70 C.E., the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 meant more than the pouring out of God’s spirit upon all sorts of flesh. It also meant that Jehovah would “give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun itself will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah. And it must occur that everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will prove to be the escaped ones, just as Jehovah has said, and in among the survivors, whom Jehovah is calling.” Since in these modern times we have convincingly observed the outpouring of God’s spirit upon dedicated, baptized Christians, we are due for the coming of the “great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” Where will the place of survival be found?
14. Where will the place of survival be found?
14 As illustrated nineteen centuries ago, in apostolic times, the place of the survivors was not in the earthly Mount Zion and in earthly Jerusalem occupied by the unbelieving Jews. It was in the heavenly Mount Zion and in the “heavenly Jerusalem.”
15. In connection with what gathering has there been an outpouring of spirit since 1919, and of what event should this be the forerunner?
15 Let us, then, not miss the sobering significance of things that have happened within the past fifty years. We have had a gathering of the chosen, called, anointed ones since 1919 into a unified organization throughout the earth. This gathering work under angelic direction continued on into the transition years of 1931-1935. Those who were added to the released remnant after 1919 were also anointed with God’s poured-out spirit to prophesy. According to the historic pattern of our first century, this outpouring of spirit is a close forerunner of the “great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah” with its portents in the heavens and blood, fire and columns of smoke on the earth. That is the day of Jehovah God for executing his vengeance upon all who have not called upon His name and who have not escaped from the worldly system of bondage to the side of God’s kingdom, which reigns since 1914 in the “heavenly Jerusalem” on the heavenly Mount Zion.
16. (a) In what “year” are we still living, and why does it now behoove us to continue preaching a release? (b) Who is taking the lead in this work today?
16 According to Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa 61:1, 2) we are still living in the “year of good will on the part of Jehovah,” but this symbolic “year” is bound to reach its end, giving way to the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.” Before the “year” of divine goodwill runs out it behooves us to intensify our preaching of a release to people still captive, because “the day of vengeance on the part of our God” is now much nearer, yes, nearer than when there was an outpouring of God’s spirit from 1919 forward. Some thousands of the anointed remnant are still with us; and they are carrying out the purpose of their anointing. How? By taking the lead in the work that God has assigned, “to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners” in Babylon the Great.
17, 18. (a) Why is there now every good reason for getting out of Babylon the Great? (b) What did John hear the voice from heaven say?
17 For Babylon of ancient times there was also a “day of Jehovah,” and it was “cruel both with fury and with burning anger.” (Isa. 13:1, 9) Likewise, for modern Babylon the Great there is a “day of vengeance,” yes, “the great day of God the Almighty.” There is now every good reason for getting out of Babylon the Great, for listen to what the apostle John heard the voice from heaven say:
18 “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind. . . . That is why in one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.”—Rev. 18:4-8.
19. (a) Why does that make it urgent for the anointed remnant to keep preaching a release to captives, and especially to what kind of captives now? (b) On what occasion back in 1923 was attention turned to such captives?
19 Take note! Destruction is coming upon Babylon the Great as “in one day.” This makes it very urgent that the anointed remnant preach without ceasing a “release to the captives.” For some decades now the anointed remnant has had in mind religious “captives” who are not of this anointed remnant with its heavenly hope. This fact is shown by an event of the year 1923. On August 18-26 an assembly of many thousands of dedicated, baptized Bible students was held in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. On Saturday afternoon, August 25, the then president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society spoke to thousands of the anointed remnant on Jesus’ parable of the “Sheep and Goats.” He explained the “sheep” to be those who do kind favors to the anointed remnant of Christ’s spiritual brothers. As a reward, members of this “sheep” class were to be preserved alive through the coming battle of Armageddon and ushered into God’s new order of things afterward. At the close of this talk the speaker read and moved the adoption of a Resolution, and, except for some strangers, this was unanimously adopted by a standing vote. In the last three paragraphs of this it was said:
20, 21. (a) This Resolution was directed to such kind of captives where, and what call was applied to them? (b) An appeal was made to them to do what?
20 “ . . . the line of demarcation between the two classes of Christendom is closely drawn, and that the time has come for the separation of those who prefer evil from those who love righteousness and desire the Lord’s kingdom. We, therefore, in the spirit of love sound the warning to all such peace and order loving and God-fearing ones who are associated with the denominational churches, and point them to the fact that they can have no part in nor fellowship with that class of pretending Christians who repudiate the Word of God and deny the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom; and we call upon them to heed the Word of God and separate themselves from the unclean thing (2 Corinthians 6:17), to withdraw themselves from the unrighteous ecclesiastical systems designated by the Lord as ‘Babylon’, and to ‘come out of her, lest they be partakers of her sins and receive of her plagues’ (Revelation 18:4); and
21 “We appeal to all such to recognize Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords, and that his kingdom now at hand is the hope and salvation of the peoples; and that they individually and collectively declare themselves on the side of the Lord and in sympathy with his cause, and be ready to receive the blessings of God’s kingdom which he has prepared for them from the foundation of the world.”—The Watch Tower, as of November 1, 1923, page 327.
22. How was this call to come out of Babylon the Great sounded forth from Toronto in 1927?
22 This call to come out of Babylon the Great, particularly that part of it called Christendom, was again powerfully sounded forth Sunday, July 24, 1927, before a public audience of 15,000 or more at Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and a countless invisible audience brought together by the then “world’s greatest hookup,” a network of 53 radio stations, in the speech entitled “Freedom for the Peoples.” This stirring appeal as delivered by the then president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society was later published in the October 15, 1927, issue of The Watch Tower (see page 313, paragraph 56) and also circulated in millions of copies of the booklet bearing the title “Freedom for the Peoples.”
23. What shows whether merely getting out of Christendom’s religious systems will save persons on the day of God’s vengeance?
23 Getting out of Babylon the Great and escaping to the place of safety is not done by merely withdrawing from the religious systems of Christendom or by stopping attendance at a denominational church. Millions of people of Christendom have done that much, especially in lands where there is a State Church, or a union of Church and State with one particular church denomination being established as the Church of the nation. Although they withdrew and stopped supporting the State Church financially, they still are kept in bondage to the political paramours of Babylon the Great. Although they may see Babylon the Great destroyed in the “day of vengeance on the part of our God,” they will soon afterward be destroyed like symbolic “goats” with the political lovers of Babylon the Great. Those political paramours have been the tools of the religious Babylon the Great, and with her they have set themselves in opposition to God’s Messianic kingdom.
24. (a) To become a “sheep” in contrast with the “goats,” what must a person do, and how many of such “sheep” will there be by the time of destruction of Babylon the Great? (b) In view of what Babylon the Great is, from what religious areas must these “sheep” come?
24 In view of that fact the official magazine of Jehovah’s witnesses, The Watchtower, under date of August 15, 1934, pages 249, 250, said that for a person to become one of the “sheep” class he must make a full, unconditional dedication of himself to Jehovah God and be baptized in water, just the same as Jesus himself did. The following year it was further disclosed that these “sheep” would be from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” and that they would form “a great multitude,” “a great crowd,” by the time of destruction of Babylon the Great. (Rev. 7:9, 10, AV; NW) Consequently, the members of that “great crowd” must come not only out of Christendom but also out of heathendom. How appropriate it was, then, that a book was published in 1963 entitled “‘Babylon the Great Has Fallen!’ God’s Kingdom Rules!” and that this book should identify Babylon the Great as being larger than the organized religion of Christendom, namely, the world empire of false Babylonish religion, including Christendom.
OUTPOURING OF SPIRIT OVER, NEXT THE GREAT DAY!
25. (a) For what captives is the preaching of a release, and why must this work of liberation go on to the finish? (b) Since we have seen the outpouring of the spirit, what must come next in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32?
25 For whom, then, is the preaching of a release? It is for the captives of all the religious systems that make up Babylon the Great. All these need to be released from Babylon the Great now, if they desire to escape destruction with her or destruction with her political paramours in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” at Armageddon. (Rev. 16:14-16) We must warn them of the eternal destruction that is speeding toward them. This generation of mankind has witnessed the pouring out of God’s spirit upon all sorts of flesh in order to accomplish the great preaching work concerning God’s Messianic kingdom. Now, shortly, must come the fulfillment of the rest of Joel’s prophecy (Joe 2:28-32), and that is the “great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah” for the destruction of all those who do not call upon the name of Jehovah through Jesus Christ and who do not seek refuge with Jehovah’s anointed remnant under protection of the “heavenly Jerusalem.” So the preaching of a release to the captives dare not stop now. This work of liberation, of salvation, must go on to the finish!
26. How will slavery under Babylon the Great and her political paramours end, and why, according to God’s will, must such slavery go?
26 Babylon the Great and her political consorts and patrons keep on committing religious filthiness together, and they hold the people in a slavery that will end up soon in destruction on the “day of vengeance on the part of our God.” Such slavery must go! God is not interested in having a slave camp kept in operation here on earth by Babylon the Great and her political paramours. Yes, Satan the Devil is interested in such a slave camp, but not Jehovah God. He does not believe in an eternal slavery and indebtedness for all mankind. He is the God of freedom, of liberty! He believes in the freedom of those who are his children.
27. (a) How was it that God let this enslavement of mankind occur, but what statement of purpose did he at once make? (b) What hope did such statement arouse in human hearts, and so of whom must this earth now be purged?
27 At creation it was not God’s will that mankind should become enslaved to Satan the Devil, to sin and to death. Such enslavement he permitted to occur while allowing his earthly children to use their free moral agency, of their own accord to love God obediently or to reject him. But immediately he announced his unchangeable purpose to bring a liberation for the unfortunate victims of the transgression that Adam and Eve, our first human parents, committed. By God’s published and recorded statement of purpose he aroused in the hearts of human creatures the “hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20, 21) Babylon the Great and her political paramours will not block this program of Jehovah God for bringing this precious freedom to the groaning human creation. The earth must be purged of these obstructors of God-given freedom. Liberty lovers must be helped now to escape from destruction with those obstructors.
28. (a) What will the remnant and the released sheeplike people now do? (b) To what will this release and this step for Christian freedom lead?
28 What, then, will the anointed remnant and those sheeplike persons who have already been released by Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ do? They will continue to go to people of all the nations and of all religions and “preach a release to the captives” while there is still opportunity to gain the release and enjoy the freedom for which Christ has made us free. This release will lead to God’s protection and preservation when Babylon the Great and the political paramours who sin with her go down in ruin, after which slavery to them is no more. Such a taking of our stand for true Christian freedom will be a step toward our having a part in the realization of God’s magnificent purpose to banish sin, death and Devil and have all the earth transformed into a paradise of freedom for perfected human sons of God forever.
29. What has now been published as an aid to such prospective sons of God, and what is recommended regarding it?
29 To give aid today in this critical time to such prospective sons of God the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania has now published a new book in English, entitled “Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God.” We can heartily recommend that you read it, study it with the Holy Bible, and so safeguard your priceless freedom that is the gift of God through Christ.