The Way to Security
“I am the way and the truth and the life.”—John 14:6.
1. What do the cities of refuge typify?
AMONG the ancient people of Israel the provision of the cities of refuge must often have proved to be lifesaving. Their purpose was to grant protection and security to unintentional manslayers, in view of threatening death by the hand of the legal avenger of blood. These cities were not to offer protection to criminals. And since the provision of these cities, as with so many other “shadows” of the Law (Heb. 10:1), was a prophetic type, from which Christians may learn much, the conclusion is inescapable that it typifies the grand provision of salvation that God, Jehovah, brought into operation for the eternal benefit of men of all kinds, to relieve and save them from the penalty of bloodguilt. How so?
2. What were some of the reasons for Jesus Christ’s coming to earth?
2 God sent his highest Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to make known here the great truths of this provision and also that he might die a sacrificial death, in order to save those truly exercising faith in him from a certain and everlasting death, and give them life without end. Thus we read in Ephesians 1:7: “By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness.”—Matt. 20:28.
3. What is shown by the fact that both Israelites and alien residents could find refuge in the city of refuge?
3 Even as with the typical city of refuge, so also the antitypical city of refuge is a merciful provision of God, to forgive repenting violators of His law on the basis of the ransom of Jesus Christ and to accept him into his care and protection. Writes the apostle Paul: “So that is why he is a mediator of a new covenant, in order that, because a death has occurred for their release by ransom from the transgressions under the former covenant, the ones who have been called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance.” (Heb. 9:15) In the literal city of refuge, both Israelites and alien residents could find refuge. (Num. 35:15) That pictures that the antitypical city of refuge offers its powerful protection, not only to spiritual Israelites, that is, those who become members of the heavenly class and rule and serve as priests with Christ Jesus, but also to all those who are in line to receive everlasting life on earth, “other sheep.”—John 10:16.
4. (a) What cannot be overlooked in the provision of salvation? (b) To what end do God’s spirit and his angels work?
4 The unintentional manslayer in Israel did not flee abroad, leaving his country, but headed for the city of refuge, which belonged to the nonpriestly Levites; the city of Hebron belonged to the Aaronic priests. This signifies that the provision of salvation is closely connected with Jehovah’s organization. A remnant of the spiritual priestly class is still on earth today, forming the nucleus of the congregation of Jehovah’s people. We cannot ignore the role the visible congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses plays in this provision of salvation. In Acts 2:47 we read: “At the same time Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.” That means that those “being saved” were added to the visible body of the early Christian congregation. They were gathered together into one united family of faith. So the visible congregation of God’s people has something to do with the provision of salvation today. Indeed, it has an important place in that provision. Every congregation forms a small part of God’s people. We cannot remain outside the organization of God’s people, separated from it, if we want to have Jehovah’s protection. Jehovah’s spirit and his angels all tend to a bringing together in unity of thought, aim and action. So there is a vital connection between Jehovah’s protection in the antitypical city of refuge and His visible congregation of spiritual Israelites, supervised by the “faithful and discreet slave.”—Eph. 4:3-6; Matt. 24:45-47.
THE ANTITYPICAL UNINTENTIONAL MANSLAYER
5. Who was foreshadowed by the unintentional manslayer?
5 But who, then, actually is typified by the unintentional manslayer who found refuge in the protective city? He is a picture of all those who become conscious of the fact that they, in some way and from Jehovah’s viewpoint, share in bloodguilt. This fact becomes clear to them when such sincere persons come in touch with the enlightening message of God’s Word, the Bible, which teaches the sanctity of human life. As in ancient Israel, even so today, a person may have been the cause of an accident, fatal to some other person or persons. Year by year, tens of thousands of people lose their lives on the streets of the world due to traffic accidents. Although there is no evil intent present, nevertheless, there is a certain amount of guilt involved, and, as a rule, the law codes of the nations stipulate penal sanctions for such cases.
6. How have many persons shared in bloodguilt in our age?
6 But the application of the meaning of the unintentional manslayer in the present antitype is broader in scope and does not limit itself to those cases just mentioned. Our age is the period of the greatest wars in human history. Just think of World War I and World War II. Millions of men were forced to have a part in these bloody events, without actually wanting it. Tens of millions of men have thus died since 1914, due to the struggle for world domination and also in the course of cruel ideological revolutions. Indeed, since 1914 C.E. alone the blood account of mankind has mounted as never before in all history. It goes without saying that the Creator of man, the one who declared the sanctity of life, must have viewed all this with great displeasure.—Hab. 1:13.
7. (a) How has heavy bloodguilt become attached to false religion? (b) How does Revelation 17:5, 6 describe this?
7 The fact that religious leaders in all the world gave their blessing and support to such organized, mass spilling of human blood has led many persons to believe that it was indeed God’s will and even compatible with Christianity. So it can be presumed that many have done wrong while believing their course was right. The support of organized shedding of blood by the numerous churches and religions inside and outside Christendom reveals one thing very clearly: the immense bloodguilt that attaches to false religion throughout the entire world. This bloodguilt has accumulated, not merely in the past few decades, but also during the many centuries of the past. Blood indeed has flowed in streams in many religious wars, in wars inspired by religious leaders and supported by them, in crusades, during the so-called Inquisition and during the persecution of faithful servants of God before and after Christ. In Revelation, chapter 17, this world empire of false religion is signified or described in symbol as an immoral woman, called “Babylon the Great.” We read: “And upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.”—Rev. 17:5, 6.
8. How have churches misled the people?
8 How much the churches have misrepresented God’s purpose and justified wars is underlined by the following from a German Protestant Sunday paper during World War I: “Our combatants are not merely fighters for homeland and home, for king and fatherland, but they are God’s armies, fighting in his service as his instruments and administrators. It is good for our Christian soldiers to know that they really stand in a far higher service and office, that they take care of God’s business and that therefore the Lord has been so marvelously with us . . . to bring the war to a good end. Honor be to God alone! Also this war is a step forward on the way to the realization of the kingdom of God.” (Kirche, Krieg, Kriegsdienst, by Walter Dignath, page 51) How tellingly the words of the prophet Jeremiah apply to the bloodguilt attached to false religious systems of Christendom! Says the prophet: “Also, in your skirts there have been found the blood marks of the souls of the innocent poor ones.” (Jer. 2:34) But bloodguilt also attaches to pagan religious organizations.
THE ANTITYPICAL AVENGER OF BLOOD
9. (a) When will punishment come upon the bloodguilty? (b) Who is the antitypical avenger of blood?
9 Where there is so much bloodguilt, punishment is due and unavoidable. It will come without fail, swiftly, yes, within our generation. Speaking about this divine punishment, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “For, look! Jehovah is coming forth from his place to call to account the error of the inhabitant of the land against him, and the land will certainly expose her bloodshed and will no longer cover over her killed ones.” (Isa. 26:21) In ancient Israel it was the legal avenger of blood who settled the account and imposed punishment. Who, we ask, is the avenger of blood in the antitype? It is Jesus Christ, to whom ‘all authority has been given in heaven and on the earth.’ In Revelation, chapter 19, he is described as a rider on a white horse, carrying on war in righteousness. The armies in heaven follow him. About nineteen centuries ago Jesus was born on earth as a perfect human, and for this reason he often referred to himself as the “Son of man.” (Matt. 28:18; 25:31) Due to this he became, so to speak, the closest relative of mankind and is therefore fully entitled to be the antitypical avenger of blood.
10. Since when does the picture of the city of refuge apply in particular, and why?
10 In 1914 C.E. the “time of the end” came upon this order of human society, and particularly since that time the picture of the city of refuge has become timely and applicable. Why is this so? Because it is in our time, within this generation, that Jesus Christ will act as the great and powerful avenger of blood. He will make a complete end to this bloodguilty order of society. (Dan. 2:44) The avenger of blood and his vast army of holy angels will overtake each and every one who has not escaped in time to the shielding city of refuge. Absolutely nothing can stop this oncoming catastrophe. No nation will escape. But individuals can escape it.—Prov. 1:24-33.
FLIGHT TO SAFETY
11. How can a person avoid being overtaken by the avenger of blood?
11 But how can individuals avoid being overtaken by the oncoming avenger of blood, Jesus Christ? The answer is: by flight to safety while there is yet the time. Flight to security is indeed possible. In ancient Israel there were six cities of refuge, rather equally located over the nation’s territory. Thus the way to the place of safety was not too long for any who were in need of it. Security was within reach. So it is in the fulfillment of this prophetic picture. Honest and truth-loving men, who really want to find this real security, can find it. Salvation is within reach. The way to it is not too far. The protective city, God’s provision of salvation, is near. But it takes some effort to get there. The way into security is not like a gay walk in springtime. It means hard work, yes, a fight, the “fight of the faith.”—1 Tim. 6:12.
12. Whose course furnishes an excellent example of how bloodguilty persons should act?
12 For this we have an excellent example in the apostle Paul. He too had a share in the bloodguilt resting on the Jewish religious system, at the time when he was called Saul. He approved of the killing of true Christians. About the murder of Stephen, for example, we read: “Saul, for his part, was approving of the murder of him.” (Acts 8:1) But after this Saul had converted to Christianity, what a fine fight he then fought for the true faith! What efforts he made to run the way to its end, in order to assure his salvation! He preached, he wrote numerous letters to his Christian brothers, he went through all kinds of difficulties and finally was put to death for being a Christian. The example of Paul and that of many others show us that it takes real effort to gain everlasting life.—2 Cor. 11:23-27; 2 Tim. 4:6-8.
THE WAY TO SECURITY
13. (a) What are some requirements for undertaking this flight? (b) What, actually, does faith mean?
13 Basic in starting this flight to safety is the consciousness that one has acted wrongly before Jehovah God and is guilty in his sight. (Ps. 51:3-5) This will lead the honest person to repentance, which also means a change of mind. Along with this goes faith in the Bible, in Jehovah God, in Jesus Christ and in God’s kingdom. (Acts 3:19; Heb. 11:6; Acts 16:31) But faith means much more than just believing that God exists and that Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Many people have this kind of faith, but it is wholly insufficient. Faith according to the Bible means much more: it means having complete confidence in Jehovah; it means complete obedience to God and it means action. (Heb. 11:1) It really means to dedicate oneself to Jehovah and become a follower of Christ, that is, his disciple, one who lives according to the divine will as it is set forth in the Bible. Do you see the big difference between faith as this term is commonly understood and faith in the true and deep Biblical sense? Jesus Christ declared: “Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do.” (John 14:12) The road to security to the antitypical, lifesaving city of refuge is actually identical with the cramped road Jesus spoke about: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matt. 7:14.
14. From what should a person separate himself, and why?
14 To follow this cramped road means that we cannot follow at the same time the broad and spacious road leading off into destruction. This means that we have to separate ourselves from the present wicked system of things. (Rom. 12:2) The true Christian will keep away from any movement that could involve him in bloodguilt. He will take a neutral position toward the affairs of this world. (John 18:36) As already pointed out, there is a tremendous bloodguilt attached to this world, and especially to the religious part of it. If we stay in these systems, we are a part of them and hence share in the bloodguilt resting collectively on these systems. So, as the apostle Paul separated himself from bloodguilty Judaism, honest persons today will separate themselves from Babylon the Great. It means that they break their connections with all false religion. The Bible makes this obligatory for anyone who does not want to share in the destructive judgment upon her. “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.”—Rev. 18:4, 5.
15. How is it admitted that the churches of Christendom are a part of Babylon the Great?
15 That the churches of Christendom are a part of this Great Babylon is even admitted by their own prominent members. One who certainly must be quite familiar with the situation the churches find themselves in is the former Secretary-General of the Ecumenical Council of Churches, Dr. Visser’t Hooft. Commenting on a speech he recently gave, a religious press bulletin said: “As another obstacle in the way to [religious] unity, Dr. Visser’t Hooft mentioned the ‘Babylonian captivity’ of the church. Every church has entered into some alliance with worldly powers, not only with states and peoples, but also with races and cultures and national realities.”—Schweiz. evang. Pressedienst, Sept. 30, 1964.
16. Why should not the flight be delayed?
16 The wise person who loves life and wants to do what is right in God’s sight will not delay his separation from this bloodguilty world in which we live, from whatever part he may have been in, political, social, religious. It is high time to flee, not when it is too late, when the avenger of blood commences to execute punishment. Stressing the need for flight in time, the antitypical avenger of blood, Jesus Christ, says: “Keep praying that your flight may not occur in wintertime, nor on the sabbath day; for then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:20, 21) The time will come when circumstances will no longer permit a successful flight, namely, at the destruction of Babylon the Great and the succeeding war of Armageddon.—Rev. 16:14 to 17:18.
REMAINING IN THE “CITY OF REFUGE”
17. Who is the high priest in today’s city of refuge?
17 As we have seen, the unintentional manslayer who found protection in a city of refuge had to stay there until the high priest who was officiating when he fled had died. Then he was free to return to his former place of dwelling. The avenger of blood then had no right anymore to touch him. In fulfillment of the prophetic type Jesus Christ also fulfills the role of the high priest, for indeed he is such a high priest, as we read in Hebrews 3:1: “Consequently, holy brothers, . . . consider the apostle and high priest whom we confess—Jesus.”
18. What does it mean to stay in the city of refuge until the high priest dies, (a) for the heavenly class? (b) for the Armageddon survivors?
18 In the interesting picture of the city of refuge, Christ therefore takes on a double role, that of the avenger of blood and that of the high priest, whose death spelled liberty for those in the protective city. What, then, does it mean to remain in the antitypical city of refuge until the death of the high priest? Since, actually, members of two classes are seeking refuge in that city—“Israelites” and “alien residents”—that is, members of the heavenly kingdom class and members of the earthly class, it means the following: When the members of the heavenly class, the spiritual Israelites, finish their earthly course as imperfect humans and are rewarded with a heavenly spiritual resurrection, then the high priest “dies” toward them, so to speak, that is, he ceases to function in the capacity of a high priest in their behalf. Being no longer human, they no more need his sin-atoning services, being themselves raised to immortality, to rule as kings and priests with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:6) As regards the Armageddon survivors, Jesus Christ will cease to function in their behalf as high priest when the thousand years of his royal rule have ended and all men will have been brought to human perfection on earth. To speak in the terms of the picture of the city of refuge, Jesus Christ will then “die” as respects them, that is, leave the scene as a sin-atoning high priest. These services will then no more be needed. Then they will come directly into God’s hands to prove their perfect devotion to righteousness forever.—1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rom. 8:33; 6:7.
19. What warning is given us?
19 If, however, the one who in his human imperfection fled to the city of refuge were to leave the city before the High Priest’s death, he would expose himself to the danger of death, the danger of being executed by the legal Avenger of Blood, as he would no longer be under benefit of the ransom sacrifice of the High Priest, Jesus Christ. This is a warning for us. It shows us that we must remain in the antitypical city of refuge as long as the divine provision demands it. If we want to assure our everlasting salvation, we must stay within the bounds of Jehovah God’s loving provision associated with his visible organization, presided over by his High Priest. Let us not be tempted to forsake the shielding and powerful city of refuge in order to enjoy for a short time a deceptive freedom that exposes us to everlasting death. It is true that remaining in the city of refuge imposes some restrictions on us. We are not entirely free to do and say what we please. We have to obey God’s will, abiding under our Ransomer, Jesus Christ the High Priest, and yet that means we have full freedom to do what is right and good.
20. What advice does the disciple James give us?
20 So the provision of the city of refuge in the old Mosaic law speaks with life-or-death urgency. It conveys a sobering lesson. It is a timely lesson for us who are living in this bloodguilty human society of the twentieth century. It shows us how as individuals we may escape both the world’s collective bloodguilt and the approaching divine punishment of this wicked system of things. Happy indeed is the person who, not only reads and hears what God’s requirements are, but applies them immediately and diligently in his life! Says the disciple James: “However, become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning.”—Jas. 1:22.