God’s Ascent on High Above All Enemies
1. What measure of interest do men show toward God’s kingdom, and what do they envy about it?
IF MEN, for the most part, will not celebrate the established kingdom of God by means of the heavenly Son of David, Jesus Christ, a “large army” of women will do so. Men are largely interested in the politics of this world. They prefer human politics and nationalism to the kingdom of God, which reigns from the heavenly Mount Zion. (Rev. 14:1-5; Heb. 12:22-28) The political governments of mankind envy the place that the Holy Bible, God’s Word, assigns to the heavenly kingdom of the Son of David. They ignore its existence and its right to rule all the earth. They consider themselves bigger, higher, than the kingdom of God. They resent being rejected by God. Their envious attitude compares with that poetically attributed by the psalmist David to the mountains of the region of Bashan, when these compared themselves with Mount Zion, where Jerusalem was located.
2, 3. How did Bashan figure as to height, and what mountain did Jehovah show he had chosen as the seat of government, and how?
2 Says the psalmist David: “The mountainous region of Bashan is a mountain of God; the mountainous region of Bashan is a mountain of peaks. Why do you, O you mountains of peaks, keep watching enviously the mountain that God has desired for himself to dwell in? Even Jehovah himself will reside there forever. The war chariots of God are in tens of thousands, thousands over and over again. Jehovah himself has come from Sinai into the holy place. You have ascended on high; you have carried away captives; you have taken gifts in the form of men, yes, even the stubborn ones, to reside among them, O Jah God.”—Ps. 68:15-18.
3 The mountainous region of Bashan may be said to reach its crest in Mount Hermon, over nine thousand feet high. It is now thought that the “lofty mountain” on which Jesus Christ was transfigured before his disciples Peter, James and John was Mount Hermon. (Matt. 17:1, 2) Despite the height of the mountainous area of Bashan, Jehovah God chose Mount Zion as the height on which to establish the capital city of King David and to have his holy ark of the covenant located there, near David’s palace. (2 Sam. 6:12-16) That is why he enabled King David to capture the stronghold of Zion and move his seat of government from Hebron to Mount Zion. (2 Sam. 5:4-10) The capture of Zion was a victory for Jehovah God; and when his ark of the covenant was moved up there by King David, it was as if Jehovah was beginning to reign in Zion over the nation of Israel. On Mount Zion King David was said to sit on “Jehovah’s throne” as his visible representative.—1 Chron. 29:23.
4. (a) In David’s time, how did Jehovah ascend on high? (b) How did Jehovah carry away captives and take “gifts in the form of men”?
4 Mount Zion reaches only about twenty-five hundred feet above sea level. When Jehovah, as represented by his ark of the covenant, moved there, he was ascending on high, accompanied triumphantly by tens of thousands of war chariots, as it were, seeing that Mount Zion had been gained for his earthly kingdom by war. David his anointed king was given victory over the enemies in the Promised Land. Many captives were taken, many of these stubbornly resisting God’s chosen people in taking over the land. It was as though Jehovah himself was taking the captives and returning to Mount Zion in triumph. Many of these were available as slaves; and with these captives gifts could be made in the form of men, especially to the Levites to do the menial work at the tabernacle of God’s worship. (Ezra 8:20) In this way Jehovah did take “gifts in the form of men.” Also, he started residing in the Promised Land, even though stubborn enemies had to be subdued.
5. (a) Where did Jehovah lay Jesus Christ as the Royal Stone, and how? (b) In regard to that Royal Stone, how do the rulers of Christendom compare with the Jewish rulers?
5 Earthly Mount Zion was where David himself reigned. Because Jehovah’s only-begotten Son Jesus Christ as a man was the Son of David, the heavenly height on which Jehovah has enthroned this glorified Son may be likened to Mount Zion. There in the celestial Mount Zion is where Jehovah God laid Jesus Christ as the Royal Stone after he had resurrected him from the dead, all of this in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 28:16. (1 Pet. 2:5-7) But when it came to accepting Jesus Christ the Son of David as the rightful Heir to David’s kingdom because of his human descent from David, the Jewish rulers of nineteen centuries ago cried out to Governor Pontius Pilate, who served Emperor Tiberius Caesar: “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15) However, by God’s resurrection power this Son of David began ruling on the heavenly Mount Zion. Jehovah chose this symbolic mountain as the seat of government instead of the earthly Mount Zion or any mountain peak of Bashan. But, like the Jewish rulers, the kings of Christendom do not want any heavenly seat of government over them; they prefer their own lofty governmental mountains on earth.
“GIFTS IN THE FORM OF MEN”
6, 7. In his letter to the Ephesians, how does the apostle Paul prove that Psalm 68 is prophetic?
6 This is no imaginary way of our looking at things. It is the fulfillment of prophecy. The apostle Paul took Psalm 68 as prophetic. In writing to the Christian congregation in ancient Ephesus, Asia Minor, he quoted from Psalm 68:18 and explained how this prophecy had its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and his congregation of disciples. Thus, in Ephesians 4:7-13, Paul wrote:
7 “Now to each one of us undeserved kindness was given according to how the Christ measured out the free gift. Wherefore he says: ‘When he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts in men.’ Now the expression ‘he ascended,’ what does it mean but that he also descended into the lower regions, that is, the earth? The very one that descended is also the one that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might give fullness to all things. And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the training of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God.”
8. (a) What meaning has been given to the fact that Paul applied Psalm 68:18 to Jesus Christ? (b) In David’s day, how did Jehovah do the things described in Psalm 68:18?
8 The way that the apostle Paul here explains the fulfillment of Psalm 68:18 does not mean or say that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God. But in the Hebrew Bible is not Psalm 68:18 addressed to Jehovah? Yes. But in the typical fulfillment of these words, in which King David took part, it was not Jehovah himself that literally ascended on Mount Zion and took his royal seat there and pitched his tent of worship there. In a direct way it was David, the anointed ruler and warrior who represented Jehovah, that did so. So, as represented in David, Jehovah God did these things. Although David himself did these things, David looked upon Jehovah God, who was the responsible One, as doing these things. So, then, David addressed Jehovah God as being the Doer of these things. The like procedure is true also in the fulfillment today.
9. (a) In the complete fulfillment of Psalm 68:18, how did Jehovah descend and ascend? (b) How did Jesus Christ “ascend far above all the heavens”?
9 In this complete fulfillment it was not Jehovah himself who “descended into the lower regions, that is, the earth.” It was Jehovah’s only-begotten Son who actually descended, even going into the depths of Sheol or Haʹdes, his corpse being laid in a burial place carved in a rock. (Isa. 53:9; Matt. 27:57-61; Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:25 32) Jesus Christ ascended out of the earthly grave, but not by his own power. (How could a dead man resurrect himselfa or, harder still, make himself alive in a spiritual resurrection?) Repeatedly the inspired Scriptures say that it was God who raised Jesus Christ, the Son of David, from the dead. Neither was it in a literal way Jehovah God who ascended from earth back to heaven, to the heavenly Mount Zion. It was the resurrected Son of David, Jesus Christ, who, on the fortieth day from his resurrection, ascended back to heaven. In the heavenly Mount Zion he was laid as a precious Cornerstone by Jehovah God. Jesus Christ “ascended far above all the heavens” in that Jehovah God gave him a place higher than that of all other heavenly creatures, a position higher above them than what he had had before.—Phil. 2:5-11.
10. (a) When quoting Psalm 68:18, why did Paul use the pronoun “he” instead of “you”? (b) How was it that “he carried away captives,” and what did he do with them?
10 It is notable, therefore, that, when the apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 68:18, he did not address it to Jehovah God and use the personal pronoun “You” but said “he.” Paul knew that on the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. the ascended Jesus Christ received from Jehovah God the holy spirit and poured it out upon his waiting disciples down in Jerusalem, about one hundred and twenty of them. “He carried away captives,” not by resurrecting the pre-Christian faithful servants of God and taking them to heaven with him, inasmuch as on the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter himself said that even the pre-Christian King David had not ascended to heaven but still lay buried in the land of Judea. (Acts 2:1-34) The “captives” that Jesus carried away and that he, like David, turned over to God’s service, were those one hundred and twenty in Jerusalem upon whom he poured out holy spirit. About three thousand more “captives” were added to his victory procession that same day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:37-42) Under those circumstances he could, as Jehovah’s representative, give gifts in men.
11. How was it, then, that Jehovah both took and gave “gifts in the form of men”?
11 By Jesus, whom he resurrected, Jehovah God had “taken gifts in the form of men.” (Ps. 68:18) By the resurrected Jesus he could also ‘give gifts in men’ on the day of Pentecost and afterward.
12. (a) What “gifts in men” did Jesus Christ bestow, and upon whom? (b) Of what fact was the bestowal of such “gifts in men” tangible evidence?
12 The “gifts in men” in the form of the twelve apostles, some of whom were also Christian prophets, were markedly in evidence on that day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. (Acts 2:37, 42, 43) These apostolic and prophetic “gifts in men” were promptly accepted by the other captive disciples. But there were other “gifts in men” that the victorious Christ at God’s right hand in heaven gave to his congregation of disciples on earth, namely, evangelizers, spiritual shepherds and teachers. Dedicated, baptized, spirit-filled men served prominently in these capacities in the activities of the first-century Christian congregation, according to the Bible record. That was why the apostle Paul spoke of “gifts in men” in Ephesians 4:11 and Acts 20:28. (Acts 21:9; 2 Tim. 4:5) When such “gifts in men” were bestowed upon the newly formed Christian congregation in Jerusalem, it was tangible, visible evidence that the resurrected Jesus Christ had victoriously “ascended” to the heavenly Mount Zion, where Jehovah God laid him as a precious “foundation cornerstone.” On him his congregation is built up.
13. (a) What “gifts in men” does the Christian congregation have today, and particularly since when? (b) How did the nations of Christendom reject God’s Royal Stone, but what did God do to him?
13 Even today the true Christian congregation has such “gifts in men.” We do not have the apostles and Christian prophets in person, but we do have them with us in their inspired writings in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Furthermore, we of the true Christian congregation have the other “gifts in the form of men” in the capacities of evangelizers, spiritual shepherds and teachers, particularly since the year 1919. By waging the first world war of 1914-1918 the nations of Christendom proved that they rejected God’s kingdom and rejected the Royal Stone to whom he had assigned a place on the heavenly Mount Zion, the rightful seat of government for all the earth. They climaxed this rejection of God’s Royal Stone by voting in 1919 in favor of a League of Nations, mainly nations of Christendom. But the Royal Stone whom the political builders, backed by the religious clergy, thus rejected, Jehovah God confirmed in his exalted position on the heavenly Mount Zion, in a complete fulfillment of Isaiah 28:16. Jehovah God made that fact apparent by freeing his people in 1919 from Babylonish bondage and then giving “gifts in men.”
14. (a) How does Jehovah now reside among the “stubborn ones”? (b) What do the willing “captives” become, and how does Jehovah reside among them?
14 The “stubborn” resisters of God’s victorious kingdom are really accomplishing nothing against it. At Armageddon, when Jehovah God rises up against them as at Mount Perazim and at Gibeon, he will utterly destroy them by means of his exalted Royal Stone, Jesus Christ. Meantime God still resides as King among even the “stubborn,” and in spite of them. To his Royal Stone, Jesus Christ, on the heavenly Mount Zion Jehovah says: “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.” (Ps. 110:1, 2) But those who accept “this good news of the kingdom” and willingly become “captives” of the victorious Jehovah God and his Christ become his “men of good will.” (Luke 2:14) He builds them up spiritually as a Christian congregation by means of “gifts in the form of men,” namely, evangelizers, shepherds and teachers. By his holy spirit Jah God resides among such willing captives.
NONE OF HIS ENEMIES TO ESCAPE
15, 16. In the light of what David said in Psalm 68:19, 20, how only can the escape of those chosen for the heavenly kingdom from extinction be explained?
15 Today, forty-nine years after the close of World War I in 1918, as we look back we can express for ourselves the words of the psalmist David, together with his strong assurances for the future: “Blessed be Jehovah, who daily carries the load for us, the true God of our salvation. . . . The true God is for us a God of saving acts; and to Jehovah the Sovereign Lord belong the ways out from death. Indeed God himself will break the head of his enemies in pieces, the hairy crown of the head of anyone walking about in his guiltiness. Jehovah has said: ‘From Bashan I shall bring back, I shall bring them back from the depths of the sea, in order that you may wash your foot in blood, that the tongue of your dogs may have its portion from the enemies.”’—Ps. 68:19-23.
16 During this “time of the end,” and under the worldwide persecution that was foretold to come upon Christ’s faithful followers, just how the willing “captives” of the victorious Jesus Christ ever escaped being wiped out of existence is a wonder. It can only be explained by the fact that Jehovah is a “God of saving acts” and to him “belong the ways out from death.” In this connection we must remember that from 1918 onward till Armageddon God cut short the days of the tribulation upon the worldly nations and kingdoms. He did this, as Jesus Christ foretold, for the sake of his chosen ones, in order that some flesh might be saved on earth. (Matt. 24:21, 22) This cutting short of the tribulation has worked out for the salvation of even the anointed remnant of those whom God has chosen for the heavenly kingdom with Christ.
17. What other willing “captives” today have reason to bless Jehovah for acts of salvation?
17 Not only these, but also the “great crowd” of other willing “captives” on earth have reason to bless Jehovah as a “God of saving acts,” “the true God of our salvation,” the One “who daily carries the load for us.” Exactly this is what the “great crowd” now do, as foretold in Revelation 7:9, 10.
18. In what way will Jehovah bring them back from Bashan and the depths of the sea, and to what kind of treatment?
18 Jehovah God will perform no “saving acts” for his enemies. He will arise against them at Armageddon, to break their heads in pieces, to break the hairy crown of those who are guilty before him and who keep on adding to their guilt. At the destruction of religious Babylon the Great and in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon these enemies will try to escape to places high and low, hiding in places seemingly beyond reach of anybody. If, as it were, they should go into the mountainous region of Bashan and onto its high peaks, from there the inescapable Jehovah God will bring them down and back to punishment. If, even in atomic-powered submarines, they should try to hide themselves in the depths of the sea, the unavoidable Jehovah God will bring them back. To what? To face slaughter, that their lifeblood might be poured out. This will enable the true followers of the Son of David, in effect, to wash their foot in the blood of their enemies. No decent burial will be given such detestable enemies, but, if we have any Biblically despised dogs in our service, God will let them lick up the blood of the enemies against whom God has arisen.
19. What victory processions have the “stubborn” enemies seen, and what tribes take part in these processions?
19 Already in these exciting times before the war of Armageddon the stubborn, unyielding enemies have seen the victory processions of Jehovah’s people. These are celebrating jubilantly the notable victories that Jehovah God has already gained by the Son of David since 1914, when the “time of the end” began. Today no tribes of natural Israel may be identified, such as the tribes of Benjamin, Judah, Zebulun and Naphtali, since Jewish genealogical records were lost during the last half of the first century of our Common Era. But we do have a remnant of the “twelve tribes” of spiritual Israel, who will stand with the Son of David on the heavenly Mount Zion. (Rev. 7:4-8; 14:1-5; Gal. 6:16) This small remnant of spiritual Israelites have joined in these modern-day victory processions in honor of victorious Jehovah God and his Son of David. It is like what David described concerning his own day:
20, 21. (a) To what did such victory processions proceed, and why were they called the processions of God? (b) Why did David call Jehovah “my God, my King”?
20 “They have seen your processions, O God, the processions of my God, my King, into the holy place. The singers were in front, the players on stringed instruments after them; in between were the maidens beating tambourines. In congregated throngs bless God, Jehovah, O you who are from the Source of Israel. There is little Benjamin subduing them, the princes of Judah with their shouting crowd, the princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali. Your God has laid command upon your strength. Do show strength, O God, you who have acted for us.”—Ps. 68:24-28.
21 In ancient Israel each victory of Jehovah God became the reason for a victory procession on the part of his chosen people, who would march to his sanctuary or central place of worship. Processions of such kind were called God’s processions, as if he were heading the procession to his sanctuary. By victory for his people he had confirmed his kingship over them, for which reason the psalmist David spoke of Jehovah God as “my King.” Hence, he deserved to be publicly praised with music and song, with men and women participating from all the tribes of Israel.
22. (a) Who was the “Source of Israel” from whom the Israelites came? (b) Why could God lay command on their strength, and why did he have to show his own strength?
22 The singers and the women beating tambourines could sing: “In congregated throngs bless God, Jehovah, O you who are from the Source of Israel.” (Ps. 68:26) The earthly source of all twelve tribes of Israel was, of course, the patriarch Jacob, surnamed Israel; but their real Source as a chosen nation was Jehovah God, and him they should bless when in congregated throngs as on the occasion of a victory procession. From him had come the nation’s strength, and so he rightly laid command on its strength for his service. But for the nation to succeed and triumph, He must show his strength and must act for them against the enemies.
23. (a) Since 1919, how have the Gentile nations seen the processions of “my God, my King”? (b) Who have taken a large part in such?
23 In modern times, since 1919 of our Common Era, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have had such victory processions in honor of the victories of their God Jehovah. Unitedly, “in congregated throngs,” they have gone forth bearing witness to his name and kingdom both publicly and from house to house, as the apostles of Jesus Christ used to do. (Acts 5:42; 20:20) They have done this under the invisible leadership of Jehovah God, whose name they bear. In this way the people of all Gentile nations have seen the processions of the God and King of Jehovah’s witnesses. In such processions of witness work the large section of dedicated women witnesses has gained a prominence that cannot be overlooked or left unmentioned.
24. In that connection, where have “congregated throngs” actually been seen?
24 In connection with these modern victory processions, O what vast “congregated throngs” have been seen at the circuit and district and national and international assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses! Note, for example, the public meeting in New York city on Sunday, August 7, 1958, when the talk entitled “God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?” was delivered by the president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society to 253,922 hearers!
25. (a) When will the greatest victory celebration be held, and why? (b) For what will the strength of those in the procession be commanded?
25 Ah, but what a victory procession there should be world wide after Jehovah arises against his enemies at the battlefield of Armageddon and gains his greatest victory of all time! O how the favored survivors of the war of Armageddon will celebrate his eternal victory with song and music, blessing him who is the Source of life of his people! In response to their fervent prayers he will there have shown his strength for the vindication of his universal sovereignty and his holy name. He will also have acted for their deliverance. In appreciation of their indebtedness to him they will continue to respond to the commands that he lays upon their physical and spiritual strength. During the thousand years of Christ’s reign that follows they will joyfully use their strength in telling about Jehovah’s acts and glorious victory to the thousands of millions who are resurrected from the dead.
REBUKES FOR ALL BRINGING NO GIFTS BEFORE ARMAGEDDON
26, 27. Why, as set out in Psalm 68:29-35, is it advisable to make a right decision now?
26 The years remaining now before God arises against his enemies at Armageddon are critical years, making very advisable a right decision on the part of everyone. Rebukes will be administered at Armageddon, and for one to be rebuked there will mean one’s destruction. Very fittingly the psalmist David recommended a right decision as the wise thing for our momentous time, saying:
27 “Because of your temple at Jerusalem, kings will bring gifts to you yourself. Rebuke the wild beast of the reeds, the assembly of bulls, with the calves of the peoples, each one stamping down on pieces of silver. He has scattered the peoples that take delight in fights. Bronzeware things will come out of Egypt; Cush itself will quickly stretch out its hands with gifts to God. O you kingdoms of the earth, sing to God, make melody to Jehovah— . . . to the One riding on the ancient heaven of heavens. Lo! He sounds with his voice, a strong voice. Ascribe strength to God. Over Israel his eminence is and his strength is in the clouds. God is fear-inspiring out of your grand sanctuary. The God of Israel he is, giving strength, even might to the people. Blessed be God.”—Ps. 68:29-35.
28. In what sense have “Egypt” and “Cush” furnished gifts to Jehovah God?
28 Who, then, is “King of the nations,” yes, “the King to time indefinite”? It is Jehovah God, the Universal Sovereign, who is superior to all the kings of the nations. (Jer. 10:7, 10) Even his Son Jesus Christ is superior to them all. (Rev. 17:14; 19:16) The kings of Christendom as well as of pagandom refuse to recognize Jehovah’s supreme kingship. But they have been obliged to make contributions to Jehovah’s worship as carried on in his spiritual temple, of which Jesus Christ is the Foundation Cornerstone and his faithful disciples are “living stones.” (1 Pet. 2:5-9) Since Jehovah’s worshipers, his Christian witnesses, have determinedly obeyed God as Ruler rather than men, the earthly rulers have been obliged to make legislation and render court decisions that have shown favorable regard for the faithful worshipers of Jehovah at his temple. In this fashion, as it were, bronzeware gifts have come out of the old enemy nation of Egypt; and Cush or Ethiopia, another enemy, has been quick to hand over gifts to Jehovah God.
29. (a) How should people of the “kingdoms of the earth” sing to the Rider of the heavens? (b) How will the “beast of the reeds” and the “assembly of bulls” be rebuked, and why?
29 Now is the time for peoples of all the “kingdoms of the earth” to listen to the Kingdom message proclaimed by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses and join in singing praises to Jehovah, the One who rides triumphant, as on a war chariot, upon the highest heavens from ancient times onward. The mighty rulers of the earth, like the “wild beast of the reeds,” the hippopotamus, or like the “assembly of bulls,” with their subjects following them like “calves of the peoples,” will be rebuked by Jehovah God at Armageddon, because they offer him no “pieces of silver” as tribute but keep “stamping down” that which belongs to him. They “delight in fights” with him and his faithful worshipers. In answer to our prayer to arise against such opposers, Jehovah God will scatter them and destroy them and deliver his persecuted people. Like loud thunder, his “strong voice” will sound out in rebukes that will forever put all opposing enemies to silence.
30. (a) Why should we ascribe strength to God? (b) How is his “eminence” over his people?
30 Do we really believe that Jehovah God has the strength to do this? It is vital for us to ascribe such strength to him. To this very day he has given strength and might to his remnant of spiritual Israel and to their dedicated earthly companions to do what he has commanded them to do as his witnesses during these perilous days before Armageddon. To him we must give, to him we must ascribe the strength for what we ourselves have been able to accomplish because of the marvelous victories that he has given us. Among us he is accorded the highest place of “eminence,” no other gods or earthly rulers being recognized as superior to him or even as high as he is. His “eminence” as Universal Sovereign is plainly over us, because we obey him as Ruler and preach his kingdom by the Son of David world wide.
31. How is his strength “in the clouds”?
31 Truly “his strength is in the clouds,” in the skies, higher than outer space, for he is the Almighty One. At Armageddon he will display his omnipotence above men and devils, to vindicate his universal sovereignty. Ought we not to bless him as God? Yes, both now and forevermore!”b
a Such a thought of auto-resurrection or self-resurrection is expressed in paragraph 1 of column 2 on page 570 of volume 3 of M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopœdia. Discussing the subject of “First-born,” it says: “The expression ‘firstborn’ is not always to be understood literally; it is sometimes taken for the prime, most excellent, most distinguished of things. Thus ‘Jesus Christ’ is ‘the first-born of every creature, the first-begotten, or first-born from the dead,’ begotten of the Father before any creature was produced; the first who rose from the dead by his own power (see Journal of Sacred Literature, April 1861).”
b In The Watchtower, in its issues of March 1 to May 15, 1932, there was published a series of six articles on the subject “Publishing Jehovah’s Name” and covering Psalm 68 in its entirety, but according to the Authorized or King James Version of the Holy Bible. The explanation given was, of course, according to the Bible research made up till that time.