Deliverance from the Authority of Darkness
“He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.”—Col. 1:13.
1. What kind of surroundings and influences are we up against?
MOST people, whether aware of it or not, are very much affected by the surroundings and influences of their childhood, including all their inherited traits. Because of the prevailing spirit of independence and rebellion against established authority and those in control, many young people today feel that they can kick over the traces and successfully resist all such influences. But this is not true. Besides our immediate family background, in the wider sense we are all members of the human family, and naturally tend to go along with the crowd, or some particular section to which we are attached, and imitate them in their attitudes and behavior. More and more this is marked by selfishness, and by indifference to what are considered old-fashioned standards of decency and morality, including the Bible and its standards.
2. (a) How have some tried to change things, and with what result? (b) Is there a basis for hope, and of what kind?
2 Thus, by nature and through birth, we are all children of the one large family and, humanly speaking, it seems impossible either to avoid or to overcome its many bad influences. Some have tried to start a new way of life, one that is entirely good, only to find themselves copying and falling in line with one or another of the prevailing patterns of thinking and of conduct. So you might well ask: “Is there no hope? Is there nothing I can do to change things, at least for myself?” Yes, there is hope. There is something you can do. Strange as it may seem, you can transfer to a different family. You have the choice of a different parent. Instead of brushing this aside as fanciful and incredible, we invite you to consider with us the reasons given as a basis for making these statements. At the outset, however, we can truly and sincerely say that many hundreds of thousands from all nationalities and walks of life have already done just that. They have transferred to a new family, and chosen a new parent, with tremendous benefit to themselves. How have they done this?
3. (a) What vital truth is of primary importance? (b) The denial of this truth leads to what results?
3 You may, or may not, be familiar with the Bible. Perhaps your only contact has been through one of Christendom’s churches, and you have viewed the Bible through the teachings of that church. In any case, we appeal to you to let the Bible speak for itself, and listen to what it has to say. Right now we invite your attention to the apostle Paul’s argument in his letter to the Romans. Early on, he establishes a fundamental truth, namely, the existence of a personal Creator, whose “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” Unless this is acknowledged, there can be no transfer as above mentioned. This vital truth is often disputed and denied today, as Paul warned. Speaking of God, he tells of those who “did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened . . . who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created.” Paul then tells of the outcome: “That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites . . . And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting.” How true those words are today! Surely all of such are under the authority of darkness.—Rom. 1:20-28.
4. What provision has God made for those seeking him, and how should it be viewed?
4 The apostle stressed the same truth when speaking to the Athenians on Mars Hill, but notice the hope he gave us in these words: “He [God] made out of one man every nation of men, . . . and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men, for them to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26, 27) To help us in our groping, God has given us his Word, the Bible, as a ‘lamp to our feet, and a light to our roadway.’ (Ps. 119:105) The Bible is not just a collection of good books by good men. It is of divine authorship in its entirety. It is the Word of the personal, living Creator. Yes, God is alive, and “the word of God is alive.” It will guide and protect us, lest we “should fall in the same pattern of disobedience,” as described at Romans 1:21-28. With these things in mind, let us follow the argument further in the letter to the Romans.—Heb. 4:11-13.
5. (a) Why is the human family in desperate need? (b) What free gift has been provided, and how does it work out?
5 As members of the human family, we are all imperfect, due to our first parent, Adam. Created in the image of God, and recognized as his earthly son, he lost that happy relationship for himself and his offspring by his willful disobedience. (Gen. 1:26; Luke 3:38) As Paul says: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) But, as just reminded, we have grounds for hope. Is it possible that God has made the way open for a restoration, or transfer, back to a peaceful relationship with him, as children of his family? We are encouraged to entertain this hope when Paul next tells of God’s “free gift.” He makes a series of fine contrasts, and commences by saying: “But it is not with the gift as it was with the trespass. For if by one man’s trespass many died, the undeserved kindness of God and his free gift with the undeserved kindness by the one man Jesus Christ abounded much more to many.” (Rom. 5:15-21) How this works out is explained earlier at Romans 3:23-25: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by his undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus. God set him forth as an offering for propitiation through faith in his blood.”—See also 1 Timothy 2:5, 6.
6. Why was Paul disturbed over the Israelites, and was their rejection total?
6 To whom is this “free gift” made available? Who are these who are “declared righteous . . . through faith in his [Christ’s] blood”? To appreciate this, we must keep in mind that Paul, in his letters, was writing to Christians, who collectively made up the “congregation of God.” (1 Cor. 11:22) He knew that for centuries his own kinsmen, the Israelites, “my relatives according to the flesh,” had been God’s chosen people, and had been brought into covenant relationship with God. With the advent of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, they could expect to enter into still closer relationship, as Paul intimated when he said of them: “To whom belong the adoption as sons.” But this very thing gave Paul “great grief and unceasing pain.” (Rom. 9:2-5) This was because, as a nation, they “stumbled on the ‘stone of stumbling,’” Christ Jesus. (Rom. 9:32; see also 1 Peter 2:7-10.) They violently rejected God’s beloved Son as their Messiah, causing him to be impaled on the torture stake, and put to open shame. Hence God cast them off, but not with a total rejection. “God did not reject his people, whom he first recognized.” After Paul refers to Elijah, at the time when God reminded Elijah, saying: “I have left seven thousand men over for myself, men who have not bent the knee to Baal,” then Paul continues: “In this way, therefore, at the present season also a remnant has turned up according to a choosing due to undeserved kindness.”—Rom. 11:2-5.
THE TRUE ISRAEL
7. To aid in identifying the true Israel, what deep truth did Paul disclose?
7 Was God’s purpose to fail because the great majority of the Jews were so lacking in faith, and so bitterly opposed to God’s means of salvation through Christ Jesus? “Never may that happen!” (Rom. 3:3, 4) Paul gives the vital key as to who actually comprise God’s chosen people, and the conditions that must be met in order to be recognized as his children, members of his family. He does this from both the individual and the national viewpoints. First, he explains that “he is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code.” (Rom. 2:28, 29) Paul later applies the same principle to the nation as a whole, saying: “For not all who spring from Israel are really ‘Israel.’ . . . That is, the children in the flesh are not really the children of God, but the children by the promise are counted as the seed,” as was illustrated in the case of Isaac. (Rom. 9:6-8) In other words, the time had come when being members of God’s chosen people, forming the true “Israel,” did not depend on fleshly descent in the normal course. Rather, God purposed to have a spiritual Israel, the members of which are transferred into his family by a special operation of his holy spirit, and on meeting certain requirements. Only a few, a remnant, of fleshly Israel showed faith in accepting Jesus as God’s anointed One. Therefore, as Paul shows, God turned to the “people of the nations,” the non-Jews, to give them the opportunity of making up the predetermined number of spiritual Israel, the Christian congregation.—Rom. 11:12.
8. Is membership limited in the spiritual Israel, and what is the evidence of membership?
8 Membership in the Christian congregation is strictly limited in number. Jesus spoke of them as a “little flock,” and three times in the book of Revelation the actual number is given as 144,000. (Luke 12:32; Rev. 7:4; 14:1, 3) Are these the only ones who make up God’s family? Are no others spoken of in the Bible as God’s children? If so, there would not seem to be much purpose in further discussing this comparatively small body of people, unless one had definite evidence of one’s membership therein. Paul, at Romans 8:14-17, tells of this evidence, saying that “all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’” He then goes on to tell of their heavenly hope of being “joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”—See also Revelation 20:6.
9. (a) Is there any hope for the rest of the human family? If so, what? (b) Whom did Paul refer to when speaking of “creation” at Romans 8:19-23?
9 Happily, however, Paul does not leave the matter there. The calling and selection of those who make up the true church, and leaving all the rest of the human family to be written off as lost, if not also as consigned to eternal torment, as taught by many of Christendom’s creeds—this is certainly not the Bible teaching. In proof of this, notice what Paul goes on to say after mentioning the above-mentioned heavenly hope. He says that “the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God . . . [and] that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Showing that by the word “creation” he has the entire human family in mind, as distinct from the Christian congregation, Paul next says: “For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now. Not only that, but we ourselves also who have the first fruits, namely, the spirit, yes, we ourselves groan within ourselves, while we are earnestly waiting for [the final] adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.”—Rom. 8:19-23.
10. What “eager expectation” is about to be fulfilled? By what events since 1914?
10 What a glorious conception and description of the outworking of God’s purpose! At the same time, it recognizes the pressures and sufferings that cause all of us to groan. In addition, what makes this a matter of intense interest is the fact that this “eager expectation” is about to be fulfilled! In 1914 the great change in the sovereignty of this world took place. “Loud voices occurred in heaven, saying: ‘The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.’” Next, there was announced the arrival of “the appointed time for the dead to be judged.” (Rev. 11:15, 18) As other scriptures show that judgment starts with the house of God, this meant the resurrection from the sleep of death for those of the Christian congregation who had ‘proved faithful even to death.’ Shortly, these will be closely associated with Christ Jesus in heaven in bruising the head of the serpent, Satan the Devil, after God’s war at Armageddon. Thus these “sons of God,” with Christ Jesus, the foremost “Son of God,” will be revealed.—1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7, 10; Rev. 2:10; 16:14-16; 19:11–20:3; Rom. 16:20; John 1:34.
11. (a) What freedom from enslavement will mankind enjoy during Christ’s reign? (b) How will Christ Jesus prove to be the “Eternal Father”?
11 Following that, during the thousand-year reign of Christ, and his “bride” (the 144,000) sharing with him, all mankind will be “set free from enslavement” of every kind, including even death. They will realize that they have been restored to a family relationship with God, as John heard announced: “The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.” (Rom. 8:21; Rev. 21:1-4) At the same time, they will realize that the immediate rulership of the kingdom is in the hands of Christ Jesus, and that their release from the domination of Satan, the ruler of ‘the authority of darkness,’ and from sin and death, has been made possible “through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13; John 1:29; Rom. 3:24) Instead of inheriting death from their first parent, Adam, they will receive perfect human life from “the last Adam,” Christ Jesus. (1 Cor. 15:45) He will be their life-giver, their father. As foretold: “The princely rule will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called . . . Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” All of this will be accomplished by the “very zeal of Jehovah of armies.” This is a thrilling prospect indeed, but you do not have to wait.—Isa. 9:6, 7.
A PRESENT DELIVERANCE
12. (a) What events have already led to an identifying of the sons of God? (b) Who have recognized this, resulting in what blessings?
12 In reply to the disciples’ question: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” Jesus foretold certain activities that would take place under his direction, following his enthronement in 1914. Since that time there has been a remnant of the Christian congregation still on earth, who, through the ministry of the angels, and a trumpetlike call, have been gathered into a close unity. This has led to the clear identification of “the faithful and discreet slave” class, appointed over all Christ’s Kingdom interests. Also, since his enthronement, attended by “all the angels with him,” he has, through the Kingdom message given as a witness to all the nations, caused a separation of the people “one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 24:3, 14, 31, 45-47; 25:31, 32) In other words, there has already occurred an identifying “of the sons of God,” those with the heavenly hope. So growing numbers of “all creation” have gladly recognized these spiritual “brothers” of Christ Jesus, and have ministered and done good things to them, as Jesus foretold at Matthew 25:34-40. These growing numbers constitute a “great crowd . . . out of all nations,” pictured as “before the throne of God,” enjoying his favor, and “rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple,” that is, at the spiritual temple that God pitched, and in close unity with the “temple” class of Christ’s “brothers.” This is the happy experience of Jehovah’s witnesses, and is in full harmony with Jesus’ words at John 10:16: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold [of the “little flock”]; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, [under] one shepherd.”—Rom. 8:19, 22; Heb. 8:2; 9:11; Rev. 7:9, 15; Eph. 2:21, 22.
13. How can one become one of Christ’s “other sheep,” leading to what new relationship?
13 How can you become one of these “other sheep”? First, as Jesus said, you must listen responsively to his voice, and become one of his disciples. The big step, as far as you are concerned, is that of whole-souled dedication to Jehovah God, following Jesus’ example. (Ps. 40:8; Rom. 12:1) You are encouraged, but not forced or pressured, to take this step. It must be your choice, your freewill expression of faith in the provision of the ransom sacrifice, and of your gratitude and devotion to Jehovah. In this way you are transferred to a new family, and become one of God’s children. It might be said that you have chosen a new parent, for with deep appreciation you can join with others of God’s “sheep” in addressing him as “Our Father.” (Matt. 6:9) The clergy and people of Christendom regularly repeat the Lord’s Prayer, and talk about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men, but it is largely a formality, and a mockery in view of the prevailing conditions and spirit throughout Christendom.
14. (a) How might a negative view be taken of Paul’s words at Romans 7:18-23? (b) How does the context help to give a more balanced view?
14 As to freedom from enslavement, it is important to appreciate the true position in this regard. Sometimes Paul’s words are quoted as being the Christian’s actual experience in hard fact, when he said: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” (Rom. 7:22, 23) If this is the last word on the subject, then the position is indeed negative and frustrating. Let us, however, take a look at the context. Though Paul is writing to Christians with the heavenly hope, the same principles hold true for all Jehovah’s dedicated people. At Romans 5:21 Paul says: “Just as sin ruled as king with death, likewise also undeserved kindness might rule as king through righteousness with everlasting life in view through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul then shows that our present life is closely linked with Christ in heaven, and that “just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life,” here and now. Paul later speaks of the “fruit that you used to have [as slaves of sin] . . . things of which you are now ashamed,” and then Paul adds: “However, now, because you were set free from sin but became slaves to God, you are having your fruit [not mere wishful intentions] in the way of holiness, and the end everlasting life.”—Rom. 6:4, 20-22.
15. From whose viewpoint does Paul argue in Romans, chapter 7, and elsewhere?
15 Then, with empathy, Paul puts himself in the position of those Jewish Christians who argued that God’s favor, for themselves and for Gentiles, finally depended on meeting the requirements of the Law given through Moses, including circumcision. Paul argues very strongly here and elsewhere, to show the hopelessness of such a position, and he cries out: “Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” Is there a rescuer? Yes! “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”—Rom. 3:20; 7:1, 18-21, 24, 25; Gal. 3:10-14.
16. (a) How does Paul describe the Christian’s true position, and with what emphasis? (b) In what way, and to what extent, can we take a positive outlook and course of action?
16 Now notice how Paul goes on to describe the Christian’s true position, with great emphasis on life, saying: “For the law of that spirit which gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death . . . the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace . . . If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.” (Rom. 8:2, 6, 11) What a strong and positive position! Though God’s spirit can operate in a special way, giving some the hope of life in heaven, yet that same active force can and does operate on behalf of all of Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses. It sustains and strengthens the “other sheep” today to share in the ministry with the anointed remnant who are in the new covenant, “making the truth manifest” to all peoples, invigorating even their mortal bodies with the “power beyond what is normal.” (2 Cor. 3:6; 4:2, 7) Granted, it is a daily battle with the flesh, but it need not be and should not be a losing battle. (Rom. 8:13) Granted, we are imperfect and daily need to ask for forgiveness of our shortcomings, but Jehovah has kindly made ample provision so that we can all maintain a clean standing before him. It is so effectual that it will “cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God.” (Heb. 9:14; see also Revelation 7:14; 14:5.) These are among the benefits enjoyed by the many hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses, who, by dedication and water baptism, have come into God’s family and, in a preliminary way, are enjoying the “glorious freedom of the children of God.” All of these can truly join with the apostle Paul in his cry of exultation, that nothing “will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”!—Rom. 8:21, 39.
17. From what other servant of Jehovah can we expect guidance and encouragement?
17 It surely has been a great help and encouragement to pay heed to Paul and follow his line of reasoning, inspired by God’s spirit. There was, however, another faithful servant who also enjoyed a unique relationship with Jesus, though with a different background and personality, and we will look forward to receiving further upbuilding counsel by paying attention to the apostle John and what he wrote under inspiration.