Set Apart from the World
“These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.”—John 15:17, 18.
1. What has Jehovah long been preparing, and for whom?
IN HIS thrilling prophecy on ‘the sign of the conclusion of the system of things,’ Jesus describes the “pangs of distress” that mankind now suffers world wide. He then ties in his arrival in kingly glory in the heavens, and a separating work among the nations. Humble, sheeplike people receive his invitation: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” (Matt. 24:3-8; 25:31-34, 46) Since the time of faithful Abel, Jehovah God has been preparing this Kingdom realm for the world of redeemable mankind.—Luke 11:50, 51; 2 Pet. 3:13.
2. (a) What is required in order to “inherit the kingdom”? (b) Why can you expect opposition?
2 Do you wish to be part of the righteous world that is rewarded with everlasting life in the Kingdom’s earthly realm? Then you must learn about Jehovah and his Son, and exercise faith in Christ’s precious sacrificial blood. (John 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-21) But in doing so, you will meet with opposition, even bitter hatred, from a different world—the world of mankind outside the Christian congregation. This world hates Christ because he bears “witness concerning it that its works are wicked.” He warns his disciples, “Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 7:7; 15:19) This is the world that is soon to perish in the fiery “great tribulation.” It will never be renewed.—2 Pet. 3:5-7; Matt. 24:21, 22; Nah. 1:9.
3. What clear-cut issue do Christians face?
3 This wicked world and its system of things is under the control of God’s archenemy, Satan the Devil. (2 Cor. 4:3, 4; 1 John 5:19) Hence we should never want to befriend it. That would be adultery of the worst kind—spiritual adultery. “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4) The issue is clear-cut. Christians cannot have any part with the present wicked world.
WHO HAS THE TRUTH?
4. How are true Christians set apart from the world?
4 Concerning his true followers, Jesus made request to his Father, “not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.” Hence they must continue to live among the world of godless mankind, but avoid becoming a part of it. They must be like Jesus, who said: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” But how is this setting apart accomplished? Jesus answers, in prayer to Jehovah: “Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me forth into the world, I also sent them forth into the world. And I am sanctifying myself in their behalf, that they also may be sanctified by means of truth.” It is truth that sanctifies, and sets Christians apart.—John 17:15-19.
5. (a) Where only is truth to be found today? (b) How do Jehovah’s witnesses differ from all other organizations on earth today?
5 But where, today, is truth to be found? Not in the Babylonish sects of Christendom and pagandom, with their shifting sands of doctrine, will you find it—but in God’s inspired Word, the Bible, and with the nonsectarian organization that is teaching God’s Word today. This is the theocratic society of Jehovah’s witnesses, whose 26,524 congregations operate in 206 lands of earth. A remarkable thing about this society of preachers is that, though they have been preaching in 160 different languages, all see eye-to-eye on Bible doctrine, all are united in the one work and purpose, and all have the common goal of everlasting life, in joyful service to Jehovah.—Zeph. 3:9; Zech. 8:23.
6. (a) Why are Jehovah’s witnesses at variance with the world? (b) What promises has the world failed to fulfill, and why?
6 For the past one hundred years, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses have advocated strict adherence to the Bible as God’s inspired Word, and this has set them at variance with the clergy and the nations. These nations have propagandized many man-made blessings for this world, such as a world made safe for democracy, four freedoms for mankind, a brighter world of tomorrow, peace and harmony for all mankind, and so forth. But can the present corrupt world really expect any kind of blessing? The Bible answers, Far from it!
7. In 1914, whose forecasts proved to be true?
7 In the later 1870’s the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was calling attention to the year 1914 as a marked date in Bible prophecy. But was this to mark the start of an era of blessing for the world? That is what world leaders had been hoping for, even up to the “last year of normalcy” in human history, 1913. However, in 1914, there came instead—World War I! Concerning this the New York World of August 30, 1914, commented: “The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, [Jehovah’s witnesses] have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. . . . And in 1914 comes war, the war which everybody dreaded but which everyone thought could not really happen.” Whose forecasts proved to be truth—those of world leaders, or those of the Bible-based witnesses of Jehovah?
8. Who proclaimed truth about the League of Nations? Explain.
8 As the war ended, a badly jolted world brought forth its League of Nations, and the executive committee of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, in its Declaration of December 12, 1918, endorsed the proposed League as “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth,” going on to say that the Church can “give a powerful sanction by imparting to the new international order something of the prophetic glory of the Kingdom of God.”a To the contrary, Jehovah’s witnesses consistently exposed the League for what it was—“the disgusting thing that causes desolation,” as prophesied by Daniel and by Jesus. (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; Rev. 13:14-18) In the 1930’s the League disintegrated, and the 1940’s were marked, not by “prophetic glory,” but by the most desolating war of all history. Who had proclaimed truth—the worldly clergy or Jehovah’s witnesses?
9. As what has the U.N. been hailed, but where is truth on this to be found?
9 Even before World War II ended, the League was revived under a new name, the United Nations, for the purpose of ‘uniting our strength to maintain international peace and security.’ Religious and political leaders have hailed the U.N. as man’s last hope for peace. But has it fulfilled this hope? Worsening crises in the Near and Far East, in Europe, in Africa and in the Americas, bespeak that mankind is far removed from the peace and security so fondly desired. Jehovah’s witnesses call attention to Bible prophecy, which describes the League and the U.N. as a “wild beast” that goes into eclipse, only to reappear and “go off into destruction.” (Rev. 17:8) Who have been speaking truth about the U.N.—world leaders or Jehovah’s witnesses?
10. (a) What boasts have been made on behalf of the materialistic society? (b) But what are the facts, and who has been making known the truth about materialism?
10 For fifty years and more, through the Watchtower magazine, Jehovah’s witnesses have consistently warned of the dangers inherent in the materialistic society. Science and technology boast of material progress, but for half a century they have in fact been ruining the earth. (Rev. 11:18) Self-seeking materialists have played havoc with the productive land, polluting air and soil, river and sea, and decimating the living resources of the earth. In some countries the few rich are very, very rich, and the many poor are very, very poor. With populations exploding all over the earth, many nations now stand at the brink of starvation, and disaster is predicted by experts for the mid-1970’s. Rather than fit in with political promises of a bright, materialistic tomorrow, this devastation on earth fits Jehovah’s prophecies on mankind’s waywardness in the “last days.” (Mark 13:8; 2 Tim. 3:1, 2; Rev. 6:5-8) Who have been making known the truth about materialism—the world’s propagandists or Jehovah’s witnesses?
11, 12. (a) Why has God been warning the people to get out of Babylon the Great? (b) How do the clergy regard Bible truth? (c) How is Babylonish religion now fulfilling true prophecy?
11 For many decades, Jehovah’s witnesses have been pointing to Bible prophecies that show that the world empire of false religion, the modern-day Babylon the Great, is on her way out. The Bible-based warning has been: “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.” The sins of Babylonish sectarian religion have massed clear up to God in heaven, and soon she is to be completely destroyed.” (Rev. 18:4-8) Why, the clergy of Christendom have even rejected the Bible, the foundation textbook of Christianity! In a recent poll, covering 7,400 clergymen in the United States, those who declared that they do not believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God were in the great majority—Methodist 82 percent, Episcopalian 89 percent, Presbyterian 81 percent, and Baptist and Lutheran 57 percent of the clergymen polled. Truly, the clergy have become ‘blind guides of the blind.’—Matt. 15:14.
12 Over the years, honest-hearted persons in “Christian” and “heathen” countries have been fleeing false religion, to take up true worship with Jehovah’s witnesses. And now, as we enter the 1970’s, an astonishing picture presents itself. Traditional religious organizations are starting to fall apart, with even the priests abandoning their posts en masse. It is as though Babylon the Great’s people, whom she has so long exploited for commercial greed, are now drying up from under her. Who have been preaching the truth about Babylonian religion—the clergy or Jehovah’s witnesses?
13. What indicates that many of mankind still love truth?
13 While Satan’s organization crumbles, the organization of Jehovah prospers marvelously under his protection and guidance. Those who symbolize their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism are increasing rapidly year by year—82,842 in 1968, 120,905 in 1969, and 164,193 in the 1970 service year. With more than 1,500,000 publishers in the field each month, the publishing organization of Jehovah’s witnesses is hard pressed to keep up with the demand for publications. In 1967 the Brooklyn factory’s production of Bibles and hardbound books reached a total of 8,252,860 volumes, in 1968 it was 12,130,996 volumes and in 1969 an astounding 24,038,531 volumes. But in 1970 Bibles and books printed reached 26,232,766 copies. Magazine production continues to mushroom also, and toward the end of 1969 the Watch Tower Society took a necessary step in nearly doubling its factory space in Brooklyn, through purchase of another factory complex. The demand for truth and true Bible education on the part of persons seeking righteousness is on the increase. Jehovah’s witnesses are most happy to have the truth, and to dispense it to others. “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—Ps. 144:15.
AVOIDING THE WORLD
14. How has the truth set Christians apart from the world?
14 The truth sets Christians apart from the world. They can have no part in demonstrations, or in other political emotionalism that is being whipped up throughout the world. If Jesus had been interested in worldly politics, he could have gathered an army of followers in no time. But on the night of his arrest, he did not permit his few disciples to fight even on his behalf. Why? Jesus answers: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:10, 11, 36) The materialistic philosophy so rampant today is ‘eat, drink and be merry’ with no thought for the morrow. But as Jesus showed in his illustration concerning “a certain rich man,” at Luke 12:16-21, disaster will inevitably catch up with such a one. “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”
15. Why are associations in God’s organization far to be preferred to worldly associations?
15 Though a little time remains to live in this world, we do not have to associate with it unnecessarily. We need not let our guard down by hobnobbing with worldlings at office parties, in outings or in sports groups. (1 Cor. 15:33) Worldly people are not governed by God’s principles, and a “nice” exterior can conceal wicked intents. Walk in integrity with Jehovah by shunning worldly associations, and you will be happy in finding that he does not hold back any good thing from you. Truly, those who studiously avoid associations in “tents of wickedness” are rewarded many times over. “O Jehovah . . . Happy are those dwelling in your house! They still keep on praising you. . . . For a day in your courtyards is better than a thousand elsewhere.”—Ps. 84:3, 4, 10-12.
16. (a) Against what should parents fortify children? (b) What wise counsel is given at Exodus 23:2?
16 Impressionable youths are often the target of greedy materialists. Parents, fortify your children. See that they avoid the bad influences at school—dances, parties, dating. This glamorous, sensual age is reaping its bumper harvest of youth immorality, horrible sex diseases, thievery, dope addiction and rebellion against society. With wise foresight, Jehovah commanded Israel: “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends.” (Ex. 23:2) This applies also to our young people today. The mob, with its degraded thinking, will only lead them away from Jehovah’s fine principles. When a mob gets on the loose, it is often the novice or the curious bystander that gets hurt. For mental, moral and physical well-being, it is wise to keep well away from “the crowd.”
17. (a) How should education be regarded? (b) How may we stay in the truth?
17 All worldly careers are soon to come to an end. So, why should today’s youth get interested in ‘higher education’ for a future that will never eventuate? The colleges are falling into chaos, anyway. The essentials of education for a useful life can be obtained by studying well at high school, and beyond that there is also the ‘highest education’ that Jehovah provides through his organization, preparing for a satisfying career of full-time service that goes on forever. (Ps. 71:5, 17; 61:8) Let young people, and older people, too, avoid reading matter, TV and movies that highlight worldliness. Rather than see how close one can keep to the world’s course and yet stay in the truth, how much wiser to see how far away one can get from the interests and ways of the world!—2 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 12:2.
18. How may we successfully cope with the pressures of life?
18 The bustle of twentieth-century living brings its problems. If not watched, it can start to crowd theocratic interests out of one’s life. Some negatively permit it to do this. But there is an antidote. It is to give more than the usual attention to personal Bible study, to the meetings and to serving Jehovah. Use theocratic activity to crowd unnecessary material interests out of your life, and you will be blessed. Do not fail to bring your offerings, your very best, to your God. “‘Test me out, please, in this respect,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘whether I shall not open to you people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon you a blessing until there is no more want.’” (Mal. 3:10) Jehovah is always true to his promise.—Isa. 55:11.
19. How may we overcome personal problems?
19 Stay close by what Jehovah provides. Trust in him with all your heart. (Prov. 3:5) Imitate the faith of other zealous witnesses, ancient and modern. (Heb. 6:11, 12) If personal problems seem too great, take them to the mature servants in the congregation, and follow through on the loving counsel given. (Heb. 13:7, 17) In times of trial or weakness, lean all the more heavily on Jehovah in prayer, for he is a Source of power that can overcome any problem. (Isa. 40:29, 31; Ps. 59:16, 17) As Paul admonishes: “Always be rejoicing. Pray incessantly. In connection with everything give thanks. . . . Abstain from every form of wickedness.”—1 Thess. 5:16-22.
AVOIDING THE WORLD BRINGS BLESSINGS
20. What actually is the world’s situation today, but what sets the Christian free from this?
20 Can the world be described as “happy”? Is anyone happy in his death throes? That is just where this world is situated. It is past cure. Politically, commercially, religiously, morally—this world has “had it.” Education is in disorder. Prices of life’s necessities are soaring. Demonstrations and racial riots add to the confusion. Many nations stand at the brink of anarchy. But you need not share in the world’s anxieties, in its fears or in its gloom. You can have accurate knowledge concerning what is happening in the world, and by acting on that knowledge you can share in a satisfying freedom. Jesus’ promise is: “If you remain in my word, you are really my . . . disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:31, 32.
21, 22. (a) Why is it urgent for all who love truth to become Jesus’ disciples without delay? (b) How do the slaves of the happy God contrast with worldly religion? (c) Why do these go up to Jehovah’s house?
21 And how does one become a free disciple? It is by listening to, and studying with, those who are already Jesus’ disciples, and who are carrying out Jesus’ command: “Go . . . make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them.” The resurrected Jesus is directing this work, right through “until the conclusion of the system of things.” Soon it will be too late to become a baptized disciple. (Matt. 28:19, 20) “Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2) Now is the time for people world wide who love righteousness to learn the truth, and to come into an approved, dedicated relationship with God. As the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy about “pangs of distress” approaches its finale, it is time to flee in haste from this condemned world and its system of things.—Matt. 24:15-22.
22 All who seek a place in the redeemed society of mankind thereby come into association with the happiest people on earth—Jehovah’s witnesses. These are the only people who know for a certainty where they are going. (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:19-21) They are the happy slaves of the happy God. (Matt. 5:3-12; 1 Tim. 1:11) What a contrast they present to the formalistic, sanctimonious religious sects of Babylon the Great! In going to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses, one finds no cold aloofness, no embarrassing ceremonial, no saluting of idols or symbols, no exalting of creatures, no clergy class, no passing of collection plates, no bondage to creeds or traditions. (Mark 7:3-8) These halls are happy places, where a happy people congregate. They are people with a bright hope, and they joyfully welcome others who come to learn and share that hope with them. Their attitude is well expressed by David: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’” In the theocratic association of Jehovah’s witnesses there are to be found refreshing “peace” and “freedom from care.”—Ps. 122:1, 7; Isa. 2:2-4.
23. What joy is now experienced by those set apart from the world?
23 As the wicked world grows progressively wickeder, and the hope of the righteous progressively brighter, the contrast between the dying world and those set apart as Jehovah’s redeemed ones deepens. These latter hope to be of the world of mankind that will never pass away. Joyfully they heed Jehovah’s counsel: “Into the path of the wicked ones do not enter . . . Shun it, . . . turn aside from it.” In so doing, what do they find? That “the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Prov. 4:14-18) What joy, indeed, it is to receive ever clearer understanding of Jehovah and his glorious Kingdom purposes that are fulfilled through his Son, Christ Jesus!
24. What way do the redeemed ones now find, and with what result?
24 A world of mankind, Satan’s domain—with its unholy system of things, now faces demolition. The warning signal is plain for all to see: Stand clear! Set yourself apart! Take and hold your place among the redeemed ones of mankind who have found “the Way of Holiness.” These exult that Jehovah, through Christ, now reigns in heavenly Mount Zion, with Kingdom power. They “come to Zion with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain, and grief and sighing must flee away.”—Isa. 35:8-10.
a See page 207 of “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” published in 1958.