The Crowning Assault upon All False Religion
1. What had the ancient Hebrew Scriptures prophesied, and how did many in the nations respond to Paul’s preaching?
EVEN the prophecies of the ancient inspired Hebrew Scriptures had indicated that in God’s appointed time the light of the truth was to assault the darkness of false religion. The apostle Paul quoted such a prophecy when he said to the people gathered together in the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia about eleven years after the conversion of Cornelius to true religion: “Look! we turn to the [Gentile] nations. In fact, Jehovah has laid commandment upon us in these words, ‘I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the extremity of the earth.’” After the apostle Paul quoted that prophecy to his mixed audience, what happened? This: “When those of the nations heard this, they began to rejoice and to glorify the word of Jehovah, and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers. Furthermore, the word of Jehovah went on being carried throughout the whole country.”—Acts 13:14-49; Isa. 42:6.
2. How was the action of “those of the nations” proof that a successful attack had been made by Paul in his preaching?
2 Would you call that a successful attack on false religion? Yes, because it resulted in real liberation of victims of false religion and putting them in the way of “everlasting life” in the new order of Jehovah God, where there will be no false religion. This was a liberation of people from the power of the god of all false religion, to free them for the worship and service of the God of true religion, the Archenemy of all false religion. Such liberation was the gist of the commission given to the apostle Paul when the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him and went on to say: “I have made myself visible to you, in order to choose you as an attendant and a witness . . . while I deliver you from this people and from the nations, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, in order for them to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by their faith in me.”—Acts 26:14-18.
3. How does Satan wield his authority, and when did he first begin in this manner?
3 Note those words of this commission to Paul: “to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God.” Satan the Devil wields his “authority” through false religion, through religious “darkness.” True to his name Satan, which means “Resister; Adversary,” he resists the one living and true God, whose name is Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18) Satan began his resistance of Jehovah God at the garden of Eden during the presence there of the perfect Adam and Eve, and through deception he introduced false religion into the garden of Eden. (Gen. 3:1-15) After the expulsion of the rebellious Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, Satan caused religion of a false kind to flourish outside Eden until the flood of the prophet Noah’s days, which flood brought an end to the violence with which the earth was filled as a result of false religion.—Gen. 6:1 to 8:22; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5, 6.
4. (a) How was false religion reorganized after the flood of Noah’s day? (b) Who is worshiped as a god in the Babylonish world empire of false religion?
4 After this global flood Satan the Devil finally succeeded in reestablishing and organizing false religion, especially in the days of Noah’s great-grandson, the founder of the city of Babylon (Babel) and a “mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Gen. 10:8-10; 1 Chron. 1:10) Babylon became the central stronghold of all false religion on the earth, and starting out from here a world empire of false religion was built up. This religious empire is the mysterious thing that the Holy Bible calls “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” (Rev. 17:1-5) This Babylonish religious empire has come to include even Christendom. Through this religious empire Satan the Devil is worshiped as god. This is not an overstatement, for the apostle Paul says: “If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.”—2 Cor. 4:3, 4.
5. Why have the political rulers tried to protect false religion?
5 The said “god of this system of things” also has the political rulers under his control. Jesus Christ knew this about Satan the Devil and called him “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) This explains why the political rulers of this world have tried to protect and foster false religion. This has made it more difficult for the practicers of the true religion to assault the Babylonish world empire of false religion and turn persons “from the authority of Satan to God.” Yet this assault has been successfully carried on among all nations.
THE PATTERN FOR SUCCESSFUL ASSAULT
6, 7. What tactics did the ancient Israelites follow in attacking false religion, and are these to be the tactics of Christians?
6 The apostles of Jesus Christ set the pattern as to how this attack upon the false form of worship should be carried on. They were no iconoclasts or image breakers, such as the ancient Israelites were when subduing the Promised Land in the Middle East under the generalship of Joshua the son of Nun, beginning in the year 1473 B.C.E. At the time of the Israelite invasion of the land, it was filled with idols of the false gods of the pagan inhabitants of the land and the moral conditions among these pagan worshipers were very low and degraded, filthy.
7 “Consequently,” said Jehovah God, “the land is unclean, and I shall bring punishment for its error upon it, and the land will vomit its inhabitants out.” (Lev. 18:21-30) Not only were the Israelites to exterminate the false religionists of the land, but, said Jehovah, “the graven images of their gods you should burn in the fire. You must not desire the silver and the gold upon them, nor indeed take it for yourself, for fear you may be ensnared by it; for it is a thing detestable to Jehovah your God. And you must not bring a detestable thing into your house and actually become a thing devoted to destruction like it.”—Deut. 7:23-26.
8. Why was such drastic action like that necessary, and did it fully succeed?
8 That was drastic action, indeed, but not too drastic. The purpose was, not only to destroy false worshipers and their false religion out of the Promised Land, but also to protect the Israelites from being infected by it and falling victim to it and becoming like the pagan inhabitants of the land. Only in this way could Jehovah God, the Archenemy of all false religion, have the Promised Land be a land without false religion. The Israelites failed to take this drastic action completely, and the Bible history of the Israelites describes the sad consequences.
9, 10. (a) What authorization did Christians not have, and why? (b) What did Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10 show was the Christian’s method of attacking false religion?
9 The apostles of Jesus Christ and the other spiritual Israelites were not to be iconoclasts or image breakers like that. They were not authorized or commanded to go into pagan lands and smash their idols and tear down their temples of false worship. They were not told, neither did they expect, to stamp out false religion from the face of the whole earth. That work the Almighty God Jehovah reserves for himself, in the near future. And yet the twelve apostles and fellow spiritual Israelites did destroy false worship out of the lives of numberless victims of it. To the Christian congregation in the immoral idolatrous city of Corinth, Achaia, the apostle Paul wrote: “You know that when you were people of the nations, you were being led away to those voiceless idols just as you happened to be led.” (1 Cor. 12:2) To the congregation in the Macedonian city of Thessalonica, the apostle wrote:
10 “We first entered in among you and how you turned to God from your idols to slave for a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from the heavens, whom he raised up from the dead, namely, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath which is coming.”—1 Thess. 1:9, 10; compare Acts 14:14-16; 17:1-10.
11, 12. (a) Show how Paul described the Christian’s spiritual weapons. (b) What did Paul say about the Christian’s fight?
11 How did the apostle Paul and his companions Silas and Timothy enter in among the pagans of Thessalonica? Not with the carnal weapons of the iconoclast, but with the “word of Jehovah,” “the good news of God,” “the word of God.” (1 Thess. 1:8; 2:8-13) Thus, in their warfare against false religion, they used spiritual weapons. Wrote the apostle Paul to the Corinthian congregation: “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage warfare according to what we are in the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; and we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5) Very fittingly, then, the apostle Paul compares the word or saying of God to a sword. Of course, in going into these strongholds of false religion, the apostles and fellow workers exposed themselves to the assaults of demonism. The protection against this was a spiritual armor and sword. The apostle Paul describes this to the congregation in pagan Ephesus, saying:
12 “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil; because we have a fight, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places. . . . Stand firm, therefore, with your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and with your feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles. Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.”—Eph. 6:11-17.
13. How did the apostles and fellow disciples do more than preach the good news of the Kingdom? Give an example.
13 Safeguarded in this way with the “complete suit of armor from God” against the demon gods of false religion, the apostles and fellow disciples made their attack on false religion with the “sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” They did this, not just by preaching, proclaiming, heralding the good news of God’s kingdom, but backed up by teaching. This prevented them from moving rapidly from place to place, from city to city, especially as they had no printed literature of the modern style to explain God’s written Word to the searchers of the Holy Scriptures. In order to carry on a teaching course anywhere, they had to stay over a sufficient period of time with the object of ‘making disciples of people of all the nations.’ This is what the apostle Paul and his companions did in Thessalonica of Macedonia. They taught intensively for three weeks in succession, and they would have continued longer in the teaching work there had it not been that jealous religious enemies stirred up a riot, thus obliging these teachers of God’s Word to leave by night for the next city in their missionary tour.—Acts 17:1-10.
14. Why did not the apostle Paul have to force his way into the homes and destroy books and idols of false religion?
14 In the city of Ephesus, Asia Minor, the teaching program of the apostle Paul continued for going onto three years. (Acts 20:31) It might have continued longer, had it not been for an uproar that was raised in the city of the temple of Artemis (Diana) because the teaching work of Paul was so devastating to false religion. Paul did not need to force his way into the homes of demon worshipers and seize their books of false religion and burn them to ashes. Those who became believers as a result of Paul’s teaching did that themselves: “quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody. . . . Thus in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.” Paul did not need to take up a battle-ax and war club and go smashing the beautifully sculptured idols and miniature silver shrines to destroy the false worship of the Ephesians. Those who accepted Paul’s teaching and became believers did that themselves, figuratively speaking, by forsaking these things, destroying them out of their lives. This became so widespread that the idol-making industry suffered!
15. How do we know a considerable number of persons listened to Paul and then took action?
15 No wonder Demetrius the silversmith of Ephesus stirred up a violent protest, saying to a meeting of his fellow craftsmen: “Not only in Ephesus but in nearly all the district of Asia this Paul has persuaded a considerable crowd and turned them to another opinion, saying that the ones that are made by hands are not gods.” Paul won over that considerable crowd of believers by remaining in this fruitful territory and teaching week in and week out for as long as he could. Only the citywide riot stirred up by Demetrius the silversmith made it advisable for Paul to leave and move to a new territory for his attack on false religion.—Acts 19:8 to 20:1.
TODAY AS WE NEAR A WORLD WITHOUT FALSE RELIGION
16. How did Jehovah show that true religion would be practiced in this “time of the end”?
16 Thus the use of the spiritual weapons was successful against false religion in the first century of our Common Era. It should be so today in this twentieth century, despite the modern times. It is equally successful today, yet, with even greater results. Not the Communists, not Christendom, but those who practice the true religion today find it so. We say “the true religion today” because God can have the true religion on earth today, in spite of all the worldwide religious confusion, just as he had the true religion in existence and at work in the first century. He promised that he would have the true religion being practiced in this “time of the end,” in this “conclusion of the system of things,” and he has fulfilled his promise, his prophecy. In harmony with that Jesus Christ prophesied that at the time of his second coming and during the time of his invisible presence he would have a “faithful and discreet slave,” whom he would place over all his belongings. All the modern evidence is that he has found this “faithful and discreet slave,” not an individual man, but a composite “slave,” the remnant today of his faithful followers.—Matt. 24:3, 45-47.
17. What did Jesus say would be done in spite of world problems, and by whom?
17 In his prophecy on the “conclusion of the system of things” Jesus said that despite world war, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, religious persecution, “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) His “faithful and discreet slave” class would be the ones under the absolute obligation of a “slave” to see that this prophetic command is carried out.
18. Who is it that have been giving this international, worldwide witness, and how does their official magazine agree that they are indeed doing so?
18 For almost a half century now, or since 1919, that prophecy has been carried into effect to give this worldwide, international witness. The determining question now is, By whom? The facts of modern history provide the one answer, By the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. According to the official 1968 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are active in 197 lands and territories, in all these places proclaiming the kingdom of Jehovah God as the one and only hope of mankind. In agreement with this their official magazine, which goes out at the rate of 5,450,000 copies of each issue and in seventy-two languages, reads on its front page, “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.”
19. What shows that the remnant of the true congregation today have the true religion?
19 The Christian “congregation of the living God” during the first century knew that it had the truth and the pure, undefiled religion or form of worship. Why should it be strange or thought to be presumptuous if the remnant of that same congregation today claims to have the true religion? This remnant of dedicated, baptized followers of Jesus Christ have obeyed the divine command given in Revelation 18:4 and have come out of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, including Christendom. On coming out of Babylon the Great they have not joined any antireligious organization such as the atheists, the freethinkers, the evolutionists, the Communists. No, but they have come out of the world empire of false Babylonish religion into the one true religion as the people of Jehovah God, “my people,” as He calls them. Attack all false religion they do, not like and in company with the godless antireligious groups of this world, but in the way that the apostles of Jesus Christ did, with the “sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” the only successful weapon.
20. (a) How have Jehovah’s witnesses shown themselves to be a “pillar and support of the truth”? (b) Their preaching and teaching the Bible has resulted in what accomplishment?
20 Like a “pillar and support of the truth,” they stick to the teaching of the apostles and their inspired Christian associates as set out in the twenty-seven books of the Christian Greek Scriptures, in addition to the thirty-nine books of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. As did the Christians of apostolic times in the first century, they study, uphold and follow the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. As did the apostles themselves, they go from house to house, today placing Bibles in the homes of the people and Watch Tower Society literature explaining the Bible, in 167 languages. (Acts 5:41, 42; 20:20) When Jesus in his prayer to his Father in heaven said: “Your word is truth,” this included also the then inspired written Scriptures. (John 17:17; Ps. 119:160) The whole Bible is the complete Book of true religion. The preaching and teaching of this Book by these house-to-house witnesses of Jehovah is mightily spreading the true religion and pushing back the false religion. God is certainly backing up this work.
21, 22. (a) Of what are the relatively small number of true worshipers today merely a forerunner? (b) What is the Archenemy of false religion, Jehovah, determined to do?
21 Already close to a million dedicated, baptized worshipers of Jehovah as God have joined the anointed remnant in this modern-day attack on all false religion. Their cooperation indicates how successful has been the continuous attack carried on by the remnant, Christ’s “faithful and discreet slave.” But what are one million of true worshipers against two thousand millions or more of the false religionists of Babylon the Great? True, but God’s attack forces against false religion have never been many in the earth, and they are relatively not many today. As the tremendous organizations of false religion scoff at the small band of assailants and reunite themselves for their security, let them remember that this insignificant number of Christian witnesses of Jehovah are merely the forerunners of the coming assault that will really destroy forever false religion out of the earth. This is the assault that the almighty Archenemy of false religion will himself make upon Babylon the Great and her political paramours. Says he, in the prophecy of Isaiah 28:21, 22:
22 “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 . . . for there is an extermination, even something decided upon.”
23. What action by Jehovah will soon be brought on false religion, her political associates and Satan the Devil, and where is this foretold?
23 Strange and unusual indeed it will seem when Jehovah God the Almighty by means of his forces in heaven and on earth (the ten horns and the wild beast) brings about the speedy destruction of that world empire of false Babylonish religion, to be followed shortly by his destruction of all her political associates in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon. (Rev. 17:15 to 19:21) This will be immediately followed by the binding of the god of false religion, Satan the Devil, and all his demons and the hurling of them bound into the abyss of deathlike inactivity during the reign of God’s kingdom by his Son Jesus Christ. (Rev. 20:1-6; 21:26, 27) All this is prophesied in God’s written Word, and he will never break his word but faithfully keep it and fulfill all these desirable things.
24. What follows the destruction of false religion that will be to mankind’s eternal benefit?
24 Only in this way will God produce a world without false religion. His witnesses in the earth who are now proclaiming this “good news” of such a world will be preserved by him and will be the ones with whom he will start his promised world of true religion. Then “the earth will be filled with the knowing of the glory of Jehovah as the waters themselves cover over the sea.”—Hab. 2:14.
[Picture on page 656]
Due to Paul’s preaching many became Christians and burned their books on magical arts