Persecution by Permission of Jehovah—Why?
“Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.”—2 Pet. 2:9.
1, 2. What might persecutors of true Christians falsely conclude, and why does Jehovah not intervene?
FROM the day that Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve, was killed by his jealous brother, Cain, Jehovah’s faithful witnesses have been hated and bitterly persecuted. An inspired writer of the first century C.E., in his letter to the Hebrews, described the treatment they received, and Jesus of Nazareth, who was himself killed by misguided opponents, forewarned his true followers that they too would receive similar persecution. (Heb. 11:4, 36-38; John 15:18-20) All such ill-treatment is unwarranted and the Lord God Jehovah could have prevented it. Why did he not do so?—See Habakkuk 1:13.
2 Those dealing treacherously might begin to develop a false sense of security. The Bible psalmist wrote: “Why is it that the wicked one has disrespected God? He has said in his heart: ‘You will not require an accounting.’” (Ps. 10:13; 76:7) But God’s delay in exacting an accounting is not due to weakness or lack of concern for the oppressed. Peter, an apostle of Jesus, assured us: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off.” (2 Pet. 2:9) Persecution of the righteous by the wicked then serves a purpose of God; sometimes, it is true, it is allowed by him as a chastisement when his people have displeased him (Isa. 12:1), but, for the most part, persecution has served to identify God’s enemies (Deut. 25:17-19) as well as those favorably disposed toward him. (Matt. 25:34-36) It has served as a test of integrity on his own people and, through their deliverance, as a vindication of Jehovah’s name.—1 Pet. 4:1, 2; Prov. 27:11.
3. What are prophetic dramas, and what evidences are there of them in the Bible?
3 God’s dealings with his people and their adversaries in times past are often symbolic or pictorial of his dealings with us today, and one of the Bible’s most dramatic accounts is found in the book of Esther. (1 Cor. 10:11; Gal. 4:24-26; Luke 17:26-30) You will read the entire book with great profit. Then, with the details fresh in mind, consider the significance of this prophetic drama in our day.
4. How is the time feature of the Esther drama identified in modern times, and what is represented by King Ahasuerus?
4 The story begins in the court of King Ahasuerus, who was ruling over the vast empire of Persia and Media from India to Ethiopia. “Now it came about . . . in the third year of his reigning he held a banquet for all his princes and his servants.” (Esther 1:1-9) What does this suggest in modern times? At the end of the “times of the Gentiles” for world domination in 1914, the time had arrived for the Heir of King David, Jesus Christ, to assume his heavenly authority as King, to rule over all his subjects with royal power and authority, subjecting his enemies and exalting those whom he approves. (Luke 21:20-24; Ps. 110:1, 2; 1 Cor. 15:25; Matt. 24:45-47, Authorized Version) And in a remarkable preview given to the apostle John as recorded in Revelation 12:10, 12, a time for great gladness came shortly thereafter to those who understood Bible prophecy. “And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ [Messiah], because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God! On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them!’” So there was, at least, great rejoicing in the heavenly courts. Thus, King Ahasuerus, seated on his royal throne in splendor and wielding unlimited authority as to his vast empire, would well picture royal power in the hands of Jesus Christ in this “time of the end.”—Dan. 12:1-4.
5, 6. (a) What was Queen Vashti called upon to do? with what result? (b) How is the modern-day parallel recognized?
5 Furthermore, those Bible students on earth who were anticipating these events would properly be expected to join in in this joyful celebration. (Ps. 97:1; 96:8) How was this paralleled among the subjects of King Ahasuerus? “On the seventh day, when the king’s heart was in a merry mood with wine, he said to . . . bring Vashti the queen in the royal headdress before the king, to show the peoples and the princes her loveliness; for she was beautiful in appearance. But Queen Vashti kept refusing to come at the king’s word that was conveyed by means of the court officials. At this the king grew highly indignant and his very rage flared up within him.” (Esther 1:10-12) And rightly so! This would be highly damaging to the king’s prestige and could cause contempt for authority to spread throughout the empire. The king sought legal counsel from his wise men, who advised him: “If to the king it does seem good, let a royal word go out from his person, and let it be written among the laws of Persia and Media, that it may not pass away, that Vashti may not come in before King Ahasuerus; and her royal dignity let the king give to a companion of hers, a woman better than she is.” This pleased the king and he ordered it to be done.—Esther 1:13-22.
6 Vashti, whose name means “beautiful,” was the queen, espoused to the king; but, in spite of this preferred position that was hers, she was deposed because she did not respond to the king’s direction to join him in his joyful feast. In the events surrounding the enthronement of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in the heavens in 1914, did all those who looked for God’s kingdom join with the King in his celebration? The prophecies of the Bible, coupled with the physical facts in fulfillment, provide the answer.
A TEST OF LOYALTY
7. What happened in 1918, and what did Jehovah’s purpose for the “time of the end” require as regards the “slave” class?
7 In 1918, Jesus the Messianic Messenger accompanied Jehovah to the spiritual temple, suddenly and unexpectedly, to begin judgment on God’s people. (1 Pet. 4:17; Mal. 3:1) Jesus the Messiah foreknew that some of those seeking him would not be doing so with a pure motive. One purpose in judgment was to expose this heart attitude of those who seek God’s Messianic kingdom and to deal accordingly with those displaying it. (Matt. 24:48-51) As it is with a master of slaves, the Messiah was within his prerogative in acting according to his own will and that of his God Jehovah, in dealing with those who are Scripturally spoken of as a “slave” class. Jehovah’s purpose for this “time of the end” had been determined long in advance. (Isa. 46:8-11) That the full details of this purpose were not known to the “slave” class on earth at that time was not the important thing. Their dedication vow to Jehovah made them responsible to do whatever it was that Jehovah and his Messianic King asked them to do according to his Word, the Holy Scriptures. Now, with Jehovah’s enemies disposed of in heaven, the time had come for the Messianic King and Judge to begin the fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose as regards the earth. He knew what was ahead for this class of servants on earth and he knew that only complete unity within their ranks and a single-mindedness as to the carrying out of God’s purpose would enable them to fulfill the Scriptural responsibility that was to be theirs. For this reason it would seem that he imposed upon his anointed footstep followers on earth a very severe test so as to eliminate those who would not respond to his direction.—Mal. 3:2, 3; 1 Pet. 2:4-8; Isa. 8:13-15.
8. How were those claiming to be of the “bride” class tested? With what results?
8 Certain conditions were allowed to develop within the religious organization that searched out to the full depths the heart devotion of every individual who claimed to be espoused to the Messianic King, Jesus, as a member of the “bride” class. (Ps. 45:10-14; John 3:29) In three ways particularly their submissiveness was tested: first, as to their reliance on the doctrine of God’s Word as revealed through his channel of communication; secondly, as regards their willingness to share in the preaching of this good news of the Messianic kingdom, which must be done before Jehovah’s purpose in this “time of the end” would be concluded; and, thirdly, as regards their complete loyalty to his earthly organization, which was yet to be built up in full theocratic structure, something that must be accomplished during this “time of the end.” This was essential, not only to enable his people to stand and to face severe persecution that Jesus knew they must yet receive, but also in order that his people would be ready to take over the responsible work that would be theirs after the present system of things was destroyed in the approaching world trouble. During World War I in 1914 to 1918 none of God’s people realized the full extent of this religious responsibility that was ahead. Yet, those who loved God sincerely accepted the trials that came upon them from within the disturbed organization and the fiery test that was being put upon them in order to purge them and cleanse them as foretold by the prophet Malachi. There were some, however, who failed and who rebelled and therefore, like Vashti, these were not submissive when the call came forth for them to show their godly beauty and their submissiveness to the Messianic King.*—Luke 14:17-21.
9. What gathering work was to take place during the “time of the end,” and how was it foretold?
9 Further details were given by Jesus in his illustration of the field in which a certain man had sown wheat and in which an enemy had come along and oversowed weeds. When the matter was reported to the master he said: “Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.” (Matt. 13:30) The gathering spoken of here was to take place after the temple judgment and was to be applied to those who were faithful members of the “bride” of Christ, his anointed followers who were to rule with him in heaven. (Luke 22:28, 29; Rev. 3:21) But it was not God’s purpose to gather out only this group. (Luke 12:32) Unknown to the anointed ones at that time Jehovah had a further purpose, and that was to gather together later on a great crowd that he purposed to use as a nucleus of a righteous human society that would live on earth under the Messianic kingdom. (John 10:16; 2 Pet. 3:13) This would require a great amount of work on the part of the anointed ones, and they must be united because the work of preaching the Messianic kingdom would be done in the midst of great opposition. (Matt. 10:16-18) This was also pictured in the drama of Esther as it developed.
REPLACING THE UNSUBMISSIVE
10. What steps did King Ahasuerus take to replace Vashti, and how were Mordecai and Esther involved?
10 First, however, King Ahasuerus found it necessary to replace the queen who had been deposed. It was recommended to him by his counselors that they gather together all the young virgins, the most beautiful ones of the entire realm, that he might select from their number the one who would please him most as a successor to Vashti. Before any of the young women could be brought in to the king, they must be properly prepared to meet him. This involved a year’s beauty treatment including massages with various kinds of oils under the strict supervision of Hegai, a trusted eunuch in the service of the king. Esther, whose name means “myrtle,” was included among these young women and she immediately found favor with Hegai so that “he made haste to give her her massages and her appropriate food, and to give her seven selected young women from the king’s house.” Esther had not told about her people or about her relatives, for her cousin Mordecai himself had laid the command upon her that she should not tell. Mordecai knew that Esther was going to be subjected to many environmental changes and pressures that might cause her to turn away from the law of her own people in which she had been instructed by her caretaker, Mordecai. He was determined that this not be the final outcome for her. So he continued to maintain a close supervision of her spiritual welfare. “And day after day Mordecai was walking before the courtyard of the house of the women to know of Esther’s welfare and what was being done with her.”—Esther 2:1-11.
11. Who or what is pictured by (a) Mordecai? (b) Hegai?
11 Mordecai, therefore, whose name means “like pure myrrh, bruised myrrh,” pictures those of the anointed remnant who faithfully survived the temple judgment during World War I and who were interested in seeing that those who were to replace the Vashti class were properly prepared to find acceptance with the King. In modern times, those of the Mordecai class have been found faithfully discharging their God-given responsibilities. (Matt. 24:45-47) But it is to be noted that Mordecai himself did not personally have the immediate charge of Esther in this matter; it was accomplished through Hegai, who was in the service of the king. Hegai, therefore, pictures the arrangement under the supervision of the Mordecai class to prepare those of the Esther class for proper presentation to the King.—Eph. 5:26, 27.
12, 13. Of whom was Esther a type, how have they been manifested, and what attitude like that of Esther do they display?
12 Finally the day came for Esther to appear before the king. Unlike Vashti, who had leaned on her own understanding in her response to the king’s commands, Esther chose to take nothing with her when she went in before the king except what Hegai himself recommended. Today, too, those of the Esther class show themselves to be modest in appraisal of themselves and willing to follow the arrangement that is laid out for them in their service of the King. “And the king came to love Esther more than all the other women, so that she gained more favor and loving-kindness before him than all the other virgins. And he proceeded to put the royal headdress upon her head and make her queen instead of Vashti.”—Esther 2:12-18.
13 It must have been a joyful day indeed for the king to have before him on his throne a woman not only of great beauty but also of modesty and appreciation for her relationship to him. Today, too, there is great rejoicing to see those who since World War I ended became new believers, newly dedicated ones who symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ by water immersion from the year 1919 onward, especially down to 1931. Those coming in were anointed by God’s spirit as younger members of the “bride” class because the door was not yet closed to the high calling to reign with the heavenly Messiah. They were replacements that were being made for those who had been set aside because of their unsubmissive attitude. But these, like Esther, did not presume upon their new position. They continued to follow the arrangement of God just as Esther did that of Mordecai. “And the saying of Mordecai Esther was performing, just as when she happened to be under care by him.”—Esther 2:19, 20.
AN ACT OF LOYALTY GOES UNREWARDED
14. How did Mordecai demonstrate his loyalty to the king, and what resulted?
14 Something occurs now in the dramatic account that seems, at the time, of little significance to the story, yet it was to play a remarkable part in the outworking of events. Mordecai uncovered a plot against the king and reported it to Esther, who revealed it to the king. Investigation proved the guilt of the would-be assassins and they were hanged. (Esther 2:21-23) Mordecai’s thwarting this attempted assassination of the king went unrewarded at the time, though it was entered permanently in the record in his favor. The same holds true in the modern-day parallel.—Heb. 6:10.
15. How do the Mordecai class show their loyalty to the King, and how is this brought to the notice of the King?
15 In their service to the King, those of the Mordecai class are organization minded. As the organization began to take on more of the theocratic structure after the temple judgment had begun, they were quick to observe some who had appeared to be in harmony with the progress of Jehovah’s purpose up to that time, men prominent in the organization, but who became disgruntled and who took a course of action that endangered the welfare of the Kingdom interests, thus constituting rebellion against the King. (Jude 16-19) The Mordecai class brought these matters to the attention of the Esther class, who needed to learn organization and be strengthened in loyalty to the King. This was especially true since they were newcomers. (Rom. 16:17, 18) Through the Esther class it came to the King’s notice when these newly selected ones of the “bride” of Christ chose loyalty to the Messianic King and to the organization. However, no particular reward was given to the Mordecai class at that time.
AN ANCIENT ENEMY APPEARS
16, 17. (a) How did Haman come into prominence, and what is his ancestral background? (b) Whom does Haman picture, and how so?
16 It would almost seem, in fact, that Mordecai’s act was unappreciated, because the account continues: “After these things King Ahasuerus magnified Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite and proceeded to exalt him and to put his throne above all the other princes that were with him. And all the king’s servants that were in the king’s gate were bowing low and prostrating themselves to Haman, for so the king had commanded respecting him. But as for Mordecai, he would neither bow low nor prostrate himself.”—Esther 3:1-4.
17 Haman’s name, if of Persian origin, means “magnificent; celebrated,” but if it corresponds with the Hebrew parallel, it means “noise, tumult, he who prepares,” doubtless in a bad way. Being the son of Hammedatha (possibly, “he who troubles the law”) the Agagite, he was a descendant of Amalek, who was the grandson of Esau. Esau had sold his birthright to his twin brother Jacob, from whom Mordecai was descended. Yet Esau hated Jacob and opposed him bitterly because Jacob took what was rightfully his. (Gen. 25:29-34; 27:41) Furthermore, and in keeping with this animosity of Esau toward Jacob, his descendants through Amalek showed their hatred for God’s own people the Israelites, when Jehovah himself was delivering his people from Egypt. The Amalekites attacked the rear of the departing Israelites and therefore Joshua fought against them with the help of Moses’ upright hands and defeated them. Because of this vile attack upon the Israelites, God said that they had laid their hand against the throne of God and Jehovah would have war against the children of Amalek forever, and that meant down into the day of Mordecai and Esther. (Ex. 17:8-16) Haman would well represent in modern times the clergy of Christendom who have sold their birthright as to God’s kingdom in return for exaltation among the kingdoms of this world and who fight bitterly against God and his chosen people, as did the Amalekites of old.—Matt. 23:5-7, 13-15; John 11:48-50, 53.
18. How could the Haman class receive prominence in this “time of the end” when Jesus Christ is ruling in heaven with all power and authority?
18 Now Haman was exalted above Mordecai, and King Ahasuerus had commanded all to bow low and prostrate themselves to him. How then can we say that Ahasuerus represents royal power in the hands of Jesus Christ? The Scriptures speak about God as permitting certain things to occur, bad things, damaging apparently to his own organization and hurtful for the time being to his own people. An instance of this is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:11: “So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them [God shall send them strong delusion (AV)], that they may get to believing the lie.” God is not the author of error nor the source of delusions but he permits them to go to the class that he wants to be affected by them. So in the fulfillment of the prophetic drama, Jehovah wants his people to come under a certain test in order for them to prove that they uphold his universal sovereignty and to demonstrate their true theocratic Christian integrity to him. The Lord Jesus Christ, ruling at Jehovah’s right hand with all power in heaven and earth, lets this situation develop. He lets the clergy of all Christendom get a high station in this world, in the midst of which the Mordecai class and Esther class are living. This affects the condition of the Lord’s people on earth. It does not destroy their own relationship with the Messianic King, but it does prove to be a peril, threatening even their lives.—John 16:2, 3.
19. What attitude did Mordecai take toward Haman, and why might its fulfillment not be too difficult for some in recent times to appreciate?
19 Mordecai, however, refused to bow to Haman. Jehovah’s witnesses today take the same position as regards the clergy of Christendom. (Ps. 139:21, 22) In view of recent developments on the world scene this might not be difficult to understand. We must remember, however, that the events relating to this aspect of the fulfillment of the prophetic drama began to take place some years ago when rebellion was not the order of the day and when church attendance was high and religious leaders were highly respected. They held high positions in civic matters. They entered into concordats with world leaders, not only to establish themselves more securely but also to advance the interests of these secular leaders. When Jehovah’s witnesses, the Mordecai class, spoke out boldly against them to expose their friendship with the world which made them enemies of God, it is understandable how tension and hostility grew between these servants of God and the clergy of Christendom.* (Jas. 4:4) The house-to-house preaching by the Mordecai class continued, however, and the animosity of the clergy increased until finally it became evident that they had determined to break up the work of the Mordecai class altogether.
20. (a) What was Haman’s reaction, and what did he set out to do? (b) What is the parallel today?
20 Haman, too, goaded to the extreme by his pride and Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him, determined that he would annihilate not just Mordecai but all the Jews. To this end Haman cast lots to determine the time most auspicious from the standpoint of his gods for his plot to be fulfilled. The lot or “Pur” fell on the thirteenth day of the twelfth lunar month, Adar. He then presented the matter to the king, charging the Jews with being against the king’s law, and asked that a writing be published throughout the empire authorizing their destruction. King Ahasuerus agreed, giving Haman his own signet ring to seal the writing, making it a law of the Medes and Persians which could not be revoked. (Esther 3:5-15) This would indicate that in modern times the Lord Jesus Christ would allow the enemies of his people to go to the full limit in their effort to carry out their purpose to destroy them. What the end result would be, however, would be his to determine, as it was even in the case of Mordecai and Esther. These dramatic events are the substance of the article that follows.
See the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pp. 64-73.
See the book Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, pp. 123-125, 129.
[Picture on page 176]
King Ahasuerus made Esther queen in place of unsubmissive Vashti