To the Rescue!
1. Why should people not treat as a joke what we say, and why should people take the Bible standpoint and take note of what is going on?
DO NOT laugh and treat what we say as a joke, in the way that the sons-in-law of the patriarch Lot thought that he was joking when he warned them that their city of Sodom would be destroyed the following morning by a rain of sulphury fire from heaven. We are not joking. The Bible is not joking. The worldly scoffers of this present system of things are doomed, for human society is facing Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” Persons who take the standpoint of the Bible and watch what is going on in the world can clearly see that all earthly kings and their armies are on the march to Armageddon, in defiance of Jehovah God and his Christ, “the King of kings.” In Noah’s day the people took no note. For your own sake, you take note now!
2, 3. (a) What two attitudes are there to take when one knows that one is doomed and the executioners are getting near? (b) Why do we refer to Gibeon of the fifteenth century B.C.E?
2 What would you do if you were doomed to destruction and the army of executioners was headed in your direction and getting dangerously close? Would you show that you love life and so do your utmost to have your life spared, to be rescued from the threatening destruction? Or is it that you just do not care and you are indifferent about living forever in a paradise earth in unspeakable happiness under a perfect government?
3 If God means anything to you, if pleasing him and worshiping him correctly means anything to you, if an opportunity for perfect life in endless felicity means anything to you, will you show the practical wisdom and take the urgent action of the people of ancient Gibeon in the Middle East? We refer to that ancient city because what happened there during the invasion of the land of Palestine by the Hebrews in the fifteenth century before our Common Era was prophetic, full of meaning for us today.
4. How does the prophecy of Isaiah refer to the typicalness of ancient Gibeon, and so whom should people today imitate?
4 Testifying to that fact is the prophecy found in Isaiah 28:21, 22, which reads: “Jehovah will rise up just as at Mount Perazim, he will be agitated just as in the low plain near Gibeon, that he may do his deed—his deed is strange—and that he may work his work—his work is unusual. And now do not show yourselves scoffers, in order that your bands may not grow strong, for there is an extermination, even something decided upon, that I have heard of from the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, for all the land.” So to escape extermination, let people act like Gibeonites!
5. What did those Gibeonites know about their standing before the God of the Hebrews?
5 The Gibeonites knew that all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were doomed to destruction, for they were squatters in the land that Jehovah God had promised to give to the descendants of the patriarch Abraham. Those Canaanites were a cursed people from after the flood days of Noah, and now their iniquity and immoral wrongdoing had come to the full. Jehovah God the Creator and Owner of all the earth had decreed destruction for these worshipers of false gods. Accordingly, he appointed the Hebrews under Joshua, the successor of Moses, to be the executioners of these cursed squatters in Canaanland.—Gen. 9:20-27; 15:12-21.
6. Did the Gibeonites believe that they could successfully resist the executional armies under Joshua, and by what was their belief guided?
6 The cities of Jericho and Ai had already fallen to the advancing executioners, and their inhabitants had been exterminated. The Gibeonites attributed these smashing victories to the Almighty God Jehovah, and they recalled how He had even brought the Hebrews through the depths of the Red Sea, whereas the pursuing Egyptians were drowned like rats in its waters. The Gibeonites knew that they could not successfully resist the Almighty God and his executional armies under General Joshua. The Gibeonites knew that they were in line for extermination, as soon as Joshua and his armies found their city and three neighboring cities.
7, 8. (a) What attitude did the Gibeonites take toward life, and hence what did they do at once? (b) After reaching the city of Gibeon days later, how did Joshua deal with the Gibeonites?
7 The Gibeonites were not like many persons of today who just “don’t care.” The Gibeonites loved life. They preferred to live, even if it meant living as slaves under the Hebrews and their God Jehovah, rather than to be dead as executed cursed Canaanites. Although the Gibeonites were not entitled to be admitted into a treaty with General Joshua for the preservation of their lives, they thought that they would at least try to bring about such a treaty. But how? By trickery! Not to the hurt of Jehovah’s people, however. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, some twenty miles away at Gilgal near the Jordan River, and these pretended that their City lay outside the area of the doomed Canaanites and could therefore enter into a mere friendship treaty with the Hebrews.
8 The ambassadors said: “It is from a very distant land that your servants have come in regard to the name of Jehovah your God, because we have heard of his fame and of all that he did. . . .” (Josh. 9:9) Because the Hebrews were persuaded by the arguments of the Gibeonites’ ambassadors, Joshua and his chieftains entered into a treaty of friendship with these plenipotentiary ambassadors of Gibeon. Three days later Joshua learned that he and his people had been tricked into this treaty. However, because they had sworn to the Gibeonites by the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel, they kept the terms of that treaty. They did not destroy Gibeon and its neighbor cities, but they made the inhabitants thereof slaves with certain duties to perform, including the providing of firewood for Jehovah’s altar of sacrifice.
9. For this, who threatened the lives of the Gibeonites, and how was their rescue brought about?
9 Because the Gibeonites had arranged to become slaves of Jehovah God and his people, five kings of the south joined together and laid siege to Gibeon. The Gibeonites refused to surrender to these five pagan kings, for they knew that to do so would not spare them from extermination at last by Jehovah’s executioners. They sent to Joshua and called for help. Joshua and his army made a forced march by night all the way from Gilgal. They surprised the besiegers of Gibeon. Then Jehovah himself went into action and threw the besiegers into confusion. As they fled, Joshua’s forces slaughtered some of them. Then, as the battle account reads, “Jehovah hurled great stones from the heavens upon them as far as Azekah, so that they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword.”
10. (a) What miracle did Joshua ask to be performed at Gibeon, and why? (b) For whom was Jehovah fighting at that time?
10 The ordinary day was not long enough for Joshua and his men to pursue and kill all the enemy. So Joshua called upon Jehovah God to perform a miracle and lengthen the daylight. With full faith in the Creator of the sun, moon and stars, Joshua said: “Sun, be motionless over Gibeon, and, moon, over the low plain of Aijalon.” In that remarkable command Joshua was scientifically correct, for the moon as well as the sun was involved in this rare miracle. Joshua 10:12-14 says: “And the sun kept standing still in the middle of the heavens [from Joshua’s standpoint on earth] and did not hasten to set for about a whole day. And no day has proved to be like that one, either before it or after it, in that Jehovah listened to the voice of a man, for Jehovah himself was fighting for Israel.” But at the same time that he was fighting victoriously for the Israelite executioners, Jehovah was also fighting for the life of the Gibeonites who feared him and who chose to become his slaves.—Josh. 9:1 to 10:27.
A “GREAT CROWD” OF SURVIVORS
11. (a) What does the miraculous rescue of the Gibeonites picture? (b) What was first necessary on the part of the Gibeonites?
11 That miraculous rescue of the Gibeonites was prophetic of the modern-day rescue of a “great crowd” of survivors out of the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon. (1 Cor. 10:11; Isa. 28:21, 22)a The only book in the Bible that names Armageddon describes also the earthly survivors of the world’s greatest tribulation as a “great crowd.” Just as those ancient Gibeonites, so all those in that “great crowd” need to do something to be rescued from destruction at Armageddon. The Gibeonites took time by the forelock and took advance steps in order to procure a treaty of salvation. If they had waited until Joshua and his executional army found the location of their city and laid siege to it, that would have been too late to escape destruction.
12. (a) Likewise, what must those who want to be among the “great crowd” now do? (b) What warning with reference to his coming to the war of Armageddon did the Greater Joshua give?
12 No less so, those who desire to be among the “great crowd” of Armageddon survivors need to take advantage of the present favorable time for entering into peaceful, friendly relations with the One who was foreshadowed by Joshua of ancient time, who acts as the great Executioner for Jehovah God. Who is that? The very name suggests him. Joshua, in the Hebrew Bible, is given in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures as Jesus. This is also what Joshua is called in the Greek Scriptures as written by the disciples of Jesus Christ. (Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8) When he was revealing in advance the marching of the kings and their armies to Armageddon, this Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ, gave us this warning: “Look! I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.” (Rev. 16:15) His coming to the war of Armageddon will take the world by surprise, as the Flood took unobserving people in Noah’s day by surprise.
WHAT THE “GREAT CROWD” DOES TODAY
13, 14. According to Revelation 7:9, 10, to what do the “great crowd” direct their attention, and what acknowledgment like that of the Gibeonites do they make?
13 What, then, should people today do? The revelation by the Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ, indicates this. The one seeing the revelation writes: “Look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they kept on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”—Rev. 7:9, 10.
14 This unnumbered “great crowd” is a worldwide crowd, not having any racial discrimination among themselves. Unitedly they turn their attention, not to Washington, D.C., or London, England, or Moscow, Russia, or Paris, France, or any other national capital, but to God’s throne, the seat of Government of heaven and earth. Similarly to what the ancient Gibeonites did, they publicly acknowledge God as the Universal Sovereign, and that he is the Source of their everlasting salvation. They also openly declare that this salvation comes to them from God through his once sacrificed Lamb, Jesus Christ, the Greater Joshua.
15, 16. (a) Whom do the “great crowd” hail or salute? (b) How is their clean standing before God pictured, and how do they gain such a clean appearance?
15 Instead of saluting any human creatures or emblems, they are waving their palm branches as they hail the great God who sits on the heavenly throne. To him they ascribe their salvation through his sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ. So they have a clean appearance in God’s sight, for they are “dressed in white robes.” How can they have such a clean appearance before God the Most Holy One? We are told in these words, in Revelation 7:14: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
16 They acknowledge the human sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered nineteen centuries ago, when he died on the execution stake outside the walls of Jerusalem. They recognize that Almighty God declared his Lamblike Son to be innocent by raising him from the dead on the third day and then inviting him back to heaven, where he presented the value of his human sacrifice to God in behalf of all humankind, people of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues. Since they confess that they are born sinners and that the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ purifies them from the stain of sin, they dedicate themselves fully to God to be his slaves, purchased by the redeeming blood of Christ. This complete dedication of themselves forever to God they publicly declare by being baptized in water, as Jesus the Lamb of God himself was. People today who do not do these things pictured in the Holy Bible cannot identify themselves as part of that “great crowd.”
17. What service were the ancient Gibeonites spared to do in Israel, and how does this agree with what is said in Revelation 7:15?
17 We remember that the Gibeonites of Joshua’s day had their lives spared to serve as slaves to fetch water and to collect firewood for the sacrificial altar in Jehovah’s temple. A thousand and eighteen years after Joshua spared them, the Gibeonites were even privileged to join the Jewish Governor Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, in addition to their service at Jehovah’s temple. (Neh. 3:7; 7:25) Quite agreeably with this it is said of the “great crowd,” who were prefigured by the Gibeonites: “That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple; and the one seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.”—Rev. 7:15.
18. How do those of the “great crowd” serve God constantly in his temple and before his throne?
18 At the present time before Armageddon this “great crowd” must serve Jehovah God in connection with his spiritual temple, of which the Lamb Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone. Their service to God on his throne is of a sacred kind, for they render to God the things that are God’s. (Matt. 22:21) As persons who owe their salvation to God and his Lamb, they join in the worldwide work that Jesus Christ predicted for this time of the “conclusion of the system of things,” as stated in Matthew 24:14: “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.” By taking part in this witness work they are, in effect, hailing God and his Lamb Jesus Christ with “palm branches in their hands.”
19. (a) Because of such service, what do worldly rulers and their armies attempt to do with the “great crowd”? (b) How, then, do those of the “great crowd” act like the Gibeonites?
19 Because of this worldwide witness work the ruling elements and the armies of this world put pressure upon those of this “great crowd” to make them surrender and quit being on the side of God’s kingdom, just as the five kings of Canaan and their armies besieged Gibeon and tried to force them to break their treaty with Joshua and his God Jehovah. But this the faithful ones of the “great crowd” refuse to do. They know that earthly rulers and their armies cannot give them life everlasting, and can in no way protect them from extermination along with worldly rulers and armies at Armageddon. They do not want the carrion birds to pick their bones of their dead bodies on the battlefield of Armageddon. They are full of faith that God, by means of his Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ, can protect them through Armageddon’s war, just as he did the Gibeonites in Joshua’s day.
20. Against whom is God’s war of Armageddon, and what do the “great crowd” expect him to do there respecting them?
20 The “war of the great day of God the Almighty” is not directed against this “great crowd” if they remain faithful. It is directed against the symbolic wild beast, the beastly political system, and the kings of the entire earth and their armies and all their backers who attribute salvation to this political, religious, social, economic, scientific system of things. Those who hail the enthroned Jehovah God as their Savior through his Lamb Jesus Christ look to Him to rescue them out of Armageddon. And, according to his promise, God Almighty will do so. Nothing less than that is meant in those words of Revelation 7:15, that “the one seated on the throne will spread his tent over them.”
21. What is the “great tribulation” mentioned in Revelation 7:14, out of which the “great crowd” come?
21 Quite in line with such a rescue it is said of this “great crowd,” in Revelation 7:14: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.” The name “the great tribulation” well applies to this time of tribulation that has been upon mankind since the year of the outbreak of World War I, to wit, 1914, and that will mount up to its highest destructiveness in the war of Armageddon, completely exterminating this worldly system of things. Such a tribulation, without parallel since the beginning of the world, will never occur again on earth, said Jesus Christ when warning his disciples to flee to God’s place of refuge before the worst and final stage of this great tribulation.—Matt. 24:20-22.
22. (a) As in the case of the Gibeonites, what does the threatening situation call for? (b) What two clear positions are now open to take, and which one is the reader encouraged to take?
22 As in the case of the Gibeonites, there is no time to delay. The threatening situation calls for God-fearing action now, not before a third world war could break out, but before the “great day of God the Almighty” comes like a thief and the war of that great day breaks out at Armageddon. The choice is between two clear positions now: Choose the God Almighty Jehovah and his Lamb Jesus Christ and live! Or, choose world rulers and their armies marching under the influence of expressions inspired by the Devil and his demons and die! Let no fear and trembling before men be a snare to your life. (Prov. 29:25) Take your stand with the “great crowd” and tremble and fear before God Almighty and, under cover of his protection, “come out of the great tribulation.”
23. Into what will the “great crowd” finally “come out of the great tribulation”?
23 “Come out of the great tribulation” to what? To an earth cleansed and freed from all disturbers of peace, even the superhuman Satan and his demons being bound! Come out to an earth delivered from those who are today ruining the earth, polluting air, sea and land! Come out to an earth over which the Universal Sovereignty of God has been completely reestablished and his promised kingdom by Christ reigns to bless mankind forever. Come out to an earth in which fear and selfishness will not prevail, but the survivors rescued out of Armageddon will love and help one another as brothers and sisters, adopted by the Lamb of God as their Eternal Father. (Isa. 9:6) Come out to an earth that these Armageddon survivors will begin restoring from its ruin and transforming thus delightfully into a paradise everywhere under the blessing of God’s heavenly kingdom!
24. What time of ecstasy will the “great crowd” of Armageddon survivors experience with regard to the dead?
24 This earth, destined to become a paradise like the original garden of Eden, will not remain one vast cemetery holding in its bosom the thousands of millions for whom the Lamb of God once lovingly laid down his life in sacrifice. His own resurrection from the dead by God Almighty’s power is an unbreakable guarantee that those for whom he presented the value of his perfect human sacrifice in heaven will also be resurrected under his kingdom. (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:20; John 5:28, 29) What a time of ecstasy those Armageddon survivors will experience when they begin to receive back the dead to opportunities for eternal life in an earthly paradise under God’s kingdom! Certainly this will redound to God’s endless praise by Jesus Christ. It will justify God as having righteously brought this necessary calamity of Armageddon for his own vindication and for deliverance of all mankind.
25. How can lovers of life show that they believe it is worthwhile being rescued out of Armageddon?
25 Dear Reader, is it worthwhile being rescued out of Armageddon? Do you as a lover of life answer Yes? Then join in this lifesaving work of helping people to the side of God’s kingdom. It is work that leads to rescuing a great crowd out of Armageddon!
a See pages 239 ¶14 to 244 ¶22 of Chapter 14 entitled “The Flight to Safety,” of the book You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World, published in 1955 by the Watch Tower Society.