Pay Attention to “The Prophetic Word”
“You are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”—2 Pet. 1:19.
1. How does God’s prophetic Word well describe modern-day predictions by men?
A DARK gloom is settling down on mankind. Oh, there have been many predictions of better times, of ‘a world made safe for democracy’ and of ‘four freedoms,’ and glowing prophecies have been made concerning what the League of Nations, and later the United Nations, would accomplish. But somehow, all of these prophecies have gone unfulfilled. The situation is like that which caused God to declare, in another day of crisis: “And they try to heal the breakdown of my people lightly, saying, ‘There is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14) How true of this world today!
2. Why do many human forecasts fail? How do they contrast with Jehovah’s prophetic utterances?
2 Why is it that human forecasts of better times and of peace are all failing? For one thing, they are usually based on wishful thinking, rather than fact. Many of them are made for propaganda purposes. And most importantly, these human predictions run counter to God’s inspired Word, the Bible. They are not in harmony with God’s declared purposes for this earth. Jehovah God’s utterance to these would-be prophets is: “For the thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways.” Concerning his own prophetic Word, he adds: “It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isa. 55:8, 11) You, too, can have certain success by urgently heeding that Word!
A “SEED” OF VINDICATION
3. (a) Against whom was God’s first prophecy spoken, and what does it foretell? (b) What basis is there for believing that peace and freedom will be restored to earth?
3 Let us turn back the pages of the Bible to the first prophecy inspired by God, almost six thousand years ago. Listen to his judgment pronounced in Eden. It is against the renegade Satan, seducer of our first parents. Jehovah declares: “And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Gen. 3:15) A bruising of Satan’s head is foretold. And note how the apostle Paul applies this scripture in writing to true lovers of God and righteousness: “For his part, the God who gives peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rom. 16:20) It is by the crushing of Satan and his “seed” that Jehovah brings real peace to this earth, restoring the groaning creation to “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Jehovah’s prophecy in Eden provides the basis for this hope.—Rom. 8:20, 21.
4. (a) Who was first called a “prophet” in the Bible? (b) What two noteworthy miracles were performed in connection with Isaac?
4 But who is the woman’s “seed”—the “seed” of vindication that upholds Jehovah’s side of the issue against Satan? It was two thousand years after Eden that Jehovah shed much light on this question through his dealings with his “friend” Abraham—the first man called “prophet” in the Bible record. (Jas. 2:23; Gen. 20:7) Jehovah performed two noteworthy miracles in connection with faithful Abraham. The first of these was to empower Abraham and his wife, the long-barren Sarah, to produce their only son, Isaac, in their old age. (Gen. 21:1-7) Years later, when Isaac had grown to young manhood, Jehovah commanded Abraham to slay Isaac in sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Abraham obeyed. But as he was about to apply the knife to Isaac, another miracle! An angel called to Abraham to desist. And look! a ram was at hand to replace Isaac as the burnt sacrifice. Isaac was restored to Abraham, as though by a resurrection.
5. What sworn promise did Jehovah make to Abraham, and how may you share in its fulfillment?
5 How Abraham must have been stirred by what he next heard!—Jehovah’s sworn utterance of prophecy, as conveyed through the angel: “That by reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” That oath-bound promise has had remarkable fulfillment already. By cultivating faith like Abraham’s you may have the joy of sharing in its further fulfillments.—Gen. 22:1-18; Heb. 11:8-19.
6. (a) What are some of the things prophecied concerning the “seed”? (b) What important purpose did these prophecies accomplish?
6 During the next two thousand years, Jehovah’s prophets down to Malachi, and to John the Baptist, continued to focus attention on the promised “seed.” Isaac’s own son, Jacob, prophesied that the “seed” would be a ruler called Shiloh, or “The One to Whom It Belongs,” out of Judah. (Gen. 49:10) Isaiah foretold his being born of a virgin, from David’s house, his humiliation and rejection and his sacrificial death. (Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7; 28:16; 50:6; 53:5-12) Daniel described him as “Messiah the Leader,” and foretold the exact dates of his appearing and of his being cut off in death. (Dan. 9:24-27) Other prophets added minute details about his life and ministry, and his death and resurrection. (Mic. 5:2; Hos. 11:1; Zech. 9:9; 11:12; Ps. 22:16-18; 34:20; 16:10; 110:1) Did these hundreds of prophecies serve to identify the “seed” when this One finally appeared? Certainly they did, as Messiah’s faithful disciples repeatedly testified under inspiration!—Matt. 1:22, 23; 2:15, 17, 18; 12:40; 21:4, 5; 27:9; Luke 2:11; John 19:23, 24, 31-37; Acts 2:29-36.
7. (a) How did Jesus’ apostles positively identify the “seed”? (b) To what glorious fulfillment did four thousand years of prophesying come?
7 No wonder that Peter, when questioned, could say so positively to that One: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”! (Matt. 16:16) To which Paul adds his testimony: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.” (Gal. 3:16) So, here was the “seed” of vindication promised in Eden—and Abraham’s “seed.” Surely, four thousand years of prophesying had not been in vain! How wonderfully had the Edenic and Abrahamic promises blended in their fulfillment! For the miraculous birth of Isaac, in Abraham’s and Sarah’s old age, had well represented God sending forth the promised “seed” from his heavenly, wifelike organization of holy angels, after four millenniums of waiting. And the circumstances surrounding the sacrifice of Isaac tied in with the Edenic ‘seed’s’ receiving a ‘heel bruise’ from which he could be recovered, for here was pictured Jesus’ great sacrifice on earth, and his restoration to his Father’s heavenly presence by a resurrection. Here, then, is grand assurance that all of Jehovah’s prophecies will come to glorious fulfillment.
8. How was Abraham’s “seed” multiplied, and what about its number?
8 The apostle Paul was inspired, also, to explain the multiplying of Abraham’s “seed”—“like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of the sand that are on the seashore.” He described Jesus’ anointed followers as becoming “all one person in union with Christ Jesus. . . . really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” They are to inherit the heavenly kingdom with Christ. But not for always did their number remain indeterminate ‘like the stars and grains of sand,’ for God later revealed that this spiritual Israel is made up of 144,000 redeemed from the earth.—Gal. 3:28, 29; Rev. 7:4; 14:1, 3.
9. How did Jehovah use Israel, and to what did the tabernacle pattern point?
9 In marvelous portrayal of the glorious service to be performed by the promised “seed,” Jehovah used Abraham’s fleshly seed, ancient Israel, in making prophetic patterns. Following the inspired “blueprint” from Jehovah, skilled workmen, filled with “the spirit of God,” built the tabernacle, with its tent and furnishings. (Ex. 35:30–36:3) Here for about five hundred years, and for a further four hundred years at the temple built by Solomon, Israel’s priesthood was obliged to make the sacrifices commanded by Jehovah. Probably millions of sacrifices were offered over the centuries, and all of these ‘bore witness to Jesus,’ pointing to his perfect human sacrifice and his work as resurrected High Priest in ministering to those of mankind “earnestly looking for him for their salvation.”—Heb. 7:26-28; 9:23-28; Rev. 19:10.
10. (a) In what way did Jesus prove to be a “seed” of vindication, and how was he rewarded? (b) Of what prophecies does Hebrews 10:12, 13 remind us?
10 Jesus proved to be a “seed” of vindication, in that he kept flawless integrity to Jehovah and magnified Jehovah, even while receiving the painful ‘heel wound’ on the torture stake. In this, Jehovah God was blessed, as the One typified by Abraham. (Gen. 22:17) But further blessing was to come! In showing the fulfillment of Psalm 110, Paul states of Jesus: “This man offered one sacrifice for sins perpetually and sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be placed as a stool for his feet.” (Heb. 10:12, 13) Ah, “his enemies.” This expression takes us right back to Genesis 3:15, where we read of “enmity” between the two ‘seeds.’ It reminds, too, of God’s sworn promise to Abraham, that his “seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies.” Who is this enemy “seed,” and how does the “seed” of God’s woman humiliate it?
THE SERPENT AND HIS BROOD
11. How does John describe the “children of the Devil”?
11 Concerning the “seed” of the archenemy Satan, the apostle John writes: “The children of God and the children of the Devil are evident by this fact: Everyone who does not carry on righteousness does not originate with God, neither does he who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should have love for one another; not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother. And for the sake of what did he slaughter him? Because his own works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.”—1 John 3:10-12.
12, 13. (a) With what has the ‘seed of the serpent’ always been identified? (b) What various parts are there to Satan’s “seed”?
12 It was a mistaken way of worship, coupled with hatred for his brother, that made Cain a child of the Devil. (Gen. 4:3-8) And to this day, the ‘seed of the serpent’ has been identified with false worship, and has persecuted and slain true worshipers of God. Following the flood of Noah’s day, a worldwide empire of false religion developed, based on the mysteries of Babylon. (Gen. 10:9) So reprehensible is this empire of false religion in God’s sight, that the concluding prophecy of the Bible describes it as “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.”—Rev. 17:5.
13 We need to be on guard against this religious “seed” of Satan, and also against the Satanic “heavens,” which are also part of his “seed.” (Eph. 6:12) Satan organized this spirit “seed” from the angels who proved disobedient in Noah’s day, and over whom he became “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” (Matt. 12:24; 2 Pet. 2:4) Satan also brought “all the kingdoms of the world” under his control, using his demons as ‘princes’ over them. (Matt. 4:8, 9; Dan. 10:13, 20) Satan’s “seed” thus came to be a powerful organization in heaven and on earth. It is his instrument whereby he seeks to devour lovers of righteousness, and we should be careful never to become enslaved by it.—1 Pet. 5:8, 9.
14. What did Jesus call the religious clergy of his day, and why?
14 The religious clergy of Jesus’ day were part of Satan’s “seed.” They taught traditions instead of God’s Word, and they spilled the righteous blood of God’s prophets. Jesus called them to their face “serpents, offspring of vipers.” (Matt. 23:33-36; 15:6) They claimed to be Abraham’s “seed,” but Jesus told them: “If you are Abraham’s children, do the works of Abraham. But now you are seeking to kill me, a man that has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the works of your father. . . . You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him.”—John 8:39-41, 44.
15, 16. (a) Are all religions good? Why do you so answer? (b) How does Christendom stand, with regard to Matthew 7:15, 16?
15 To which “seed” do modern-day religions of this world belong? We should beware of such statements as, “All religions are good.” Not all religions are good, and especially those that are deeply involved in worldly politics. Paul warned first-century Christians of a corrupting of true religion, saying: “But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3) Did this corrupting take place? History proves that it did, exactly as the apostles foretold. (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 John 2:18, 19)Jesus also prophesied of this, when he said: “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them.”—Matt. 7:15, 16.
16 What fruits, for example, has Christendom produced? Due to having replaced pure Bible teaching with Babylonian traditions, both Catholicism and Protestantism today are in a state of doctrinal confusion. Look, too, at her “fruits” in the form of the inquisitions, the crusades, the “holy wars” and the two world wars that were launched from within Christendom, and which received willing support from the clergy and chaplains on both sides. Can Christendom lay any claim to being identified with the “seed” described in Jehovah’s Word of prophecy as the “Prince of Peace”?—Isa. 9:6, 7; 2:4.
CLIMAX OF THE ISSUE
17. How has the issue moved toward a climax since 1914, and why?
17 As explained in detail in the book The Time Is at Hand, published by the Watch Tower Society in 1889, Bible prophecy, including that at Daniel chapter 4, pointed to the year 1914 as a marked date.* This was to be the end of “seven times,” or 2,520 years, of uninterrupted domination of the earth by the nations under Satan. It would be the time for the promised “seed” to take kingdom power in heaven. And indeed, the world war that came in 1914 as a start of the “pangs of distress” was a clear proof that Satan’s system of things was now entering its last days. Distress on earth has continued to mount, in remarkable fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy at Matthew chapters 24 and 25 concerning “the conclusion of the system of things.” Enmity between the two ‘seeds’ has also moved toward a peak, as Jesus forewarned his followers: “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. . . . And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:3, 9-13) True to the prophecy, Christendom is plagued by lawlessness. And where in Christendom can you find genuine love for Jehovah God and his righteousness? But happy are those who have come out of Christendom’s Babylonish religious system, and who are enduring in the hope of salvation through Christ, the “seed.”—Heb. 9:28; Luke 21:34-36.
18, 19. (a) Why does the enemy “seed” attack true Christians? (b) What examples are given of God’s protecting his people, and what can we learn therefrom?
18 Bible-based Christians are busy in obeying Jesus’ prophetic command for this day: “And 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) For this, the enemy “seed” has persecuted them ruthlessly at times. For example, during World War II, Catholic Hitler of Germany declared concerning these Christian witnesses of Jehovah: “This brood will be exterminated in Germany!” To the concentration camps with them! But finally it was Hitler that perished, while Jehovah’s witnesses were freed to continue their organized preaching. Here is one fine example of Jehovah’s preserving his people through those troublous times:
19 In April 1945, the approach of the Russian army compelled the Nazis to evacuate the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. A group of Jehovah’s witnesses had to march out with the rest. Looting, panic and shootings surrounded them, and the thunderous bombardments of war drew ever nearer. What did they do? They kept together. They stayed close to Jehovah in prayer. They maintained theocratic order in their camp. They witnessed concerning God’s kingdom to those whom they met along the way. The people heard them gladly and provided them food and shelter for the night, whereas other thousands were dying all around them. Jehovah was with his people of integrity, as the following account by one of the group shows:
“From our troop of about 230 brothers and sisters none, not even the weakest, was lying on the road; in spite of the fact that we had some brothers from 65 to 72 years of age. They were all standing faithfully. You could again see the Theocratic spirit and arrangement and how the Lord’s angel protected us. How wonderfully on this day the promises were fulfilled by Jehovah from Isaiah 40:29-31.”
Jehovah does indeed ‘make full might abound’ among those who loyally support his side of the issue between the two ‘seeds.’
20. (a) What recent examples show Jehovah’s strength on behalf of his people? (b) What is Satan’s determination, and what may be expected?
20 And in more recent days, how wonderfully has Jehovah strengthened his loyal servants to hold fast to true worship in the face of demonic opposition in Cuba, in Spain and Portugal, and in Malawi, Zambia and the United Arab Republic! In his wrath against God’s womanlike organization, Satan is determined, to the bitter end, “to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed, who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” Satan musters his entire “seed” organization in heaven and on earth for the final all-out assault on the apparently defenseless Witnesses who proclaim Jehovah’s Kingdom purposes by Christ.—Rev. 12:17; Ezekiel chap. 38.
21. (a) Why is it high time to ‘stay awake’? (b) What awaits “Babylon the Great,” and on what does survival depend?
21 The final showdown draws near! Satan tries to befuddle the people with propaganda, as “inspired expressions of demons” gather the nations “together to the war of the great day of God the Almighty . . . Har–Magedon.” It is now the time of all times for God’s own people to ‘stay awake’! (Rev. 16:13-16) Lawlessness, violence and distress are increasing in the earth. But sometime before liberty is proclaimed in all the earth for all mankind, Satan’s “seed,” including “Babylon the Great,” must be put out of business. Religious Babylon’s fate is well deserved, for she is described as being “drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” This desolating of false religion’s world empire comes with surprising suddenness, in just “one hour,” as Revelation emphasizes three times. It is now vitally urgent for all who wish to be identified with the true “seed” of promise to heed the angel’s command: “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.” Your very survival depends on getting free from all entanglement with false religion!—Rev. 17:6; 18:4, 10, 17, 19.
22. How does the prophetic Word describe the victory over Satan and his “seed”?
22 In many places, the prophetic Word warns of God’s executing judgment on Satan and his “seed.” For example, there is Jeremiah 25:31-38, which tells us that “those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth.” To the forefront are the political and religious “shepherds,” who will ‘howl’ and ‘cry out,’ and wallowing with them are the “majestic ones of the flock,” including the favored prominent followers, who follow them into destruction. Finally, the original Serpent himself, together with his demons, will be shut up for a thousand years. Revelation 19:11 to 20:3 describes how Christ Jesus and the holy angels of heaven will fight for just such a victory, in vindication of Jehovah’s name. The triumph over the Serpent and his “seed” will be complete!
BLESSING THROUGH THE “SEED”
23, 24. (a) How will the final part of the promise to Abraham be fulfilled? (b) Why may we be assured of this, and so how should we act?
23 Thus the “seed” possesses the “gate of his enemies.” But more is to follow. For Jehovah’s sworn utterance to Abraham concludes with the words: “And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” (Gen. 22:18) To “bless themselves,” these “nations” must obey, just as Abraham did. Whether they are those of mankind that pass alive through Har–Magedon, or whether they are “the dead, the great and the small,” who stand on this earth again by a resurrection, all must exercise faith in the priestly “seed” and his ransom sacrifice, and all must come under the kingly rule of the “new heaven,” comprised of Christ and his 144,000 associates. And what grand blessings are in store for all who thus “bless themselves” in obedience! For they will become a “new earth”—a happy, peaceful, loving society of men of all races. They will be restored to radiant health and youthfulness, with the prospect of life everlasting in “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” After the apostle John had a magnificent vision of God’s grand arrangement for that time, Jehovah himself added his seal to the description of these blessings in store for mankind, saying, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”—Rev. 21:1-5; 20:11-13; Rom. 5:12, 18; 8:21.
24 Again, in Revelation 22:6 we read: “These words are faithful and true; yes, Jehovah the God of the inspired expressions of the prophets sent his angel forth to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.” And with a note of urgency the prophecy adds: “Look! I am coming quickly. Happy is anyone observing the words of the prophecy of this scroll.” “Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to render to each one as his work is.” May we strive for that reward, by working in loyal support of the “seed” that vindicates Jehovah’s holy name!—Rev. 22:7, 12.
Study IV, “The Times of the Gentiles,” pp. 73-102.
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Jesus told the religious leaders of his day: “You are from your father the Devil.” In the light of this truth, we should beware of such statements as, “All religions are good”