Does a Great Heavenly Organization Exist?
WE HAVE often heard mention of angels, invisible heavenly creatures, spirit persons. But generally the mental picture has been hazy as to their purpose and activity. They are sometimes portrayed by religious artists as women, or as babylike creatures with wings.
These conceptions of angels are not of Biblical origin, however. They are pagan ideas, as can easily be proved by a little research into ancient Greek mythology and by observing the portrayal of their gods and goddesses on vases, murals, in sculpture, and so forth. Medieval artists followed this pattern in portraying angels in Christendom’s religious pictures.
What, though, does the Creator of the angels reveal to us about them? He portrays for us, not their literal appearance, but a symbolic representation. The Bible shows that angels are able to appear in Jehovah’s presence, having vision strong enough to behold Jehovah’s majesty and glory. So, in harmony with the dignity of Jehovah, these attendants of his are also very brilliant. Doubtless human eyes would be dazzled and overwhelmed at the sight of them. Moreover, much more important to us than a literal sight of them is an understanding of what they are as personalities.—Matt. 28:2-4; Luke 24:4; Dan. 10:5-7.
THE RIDER OF THE HEAVENLY CHARIOT
In a recent issue of The Watchtower we discussed Ezekiel’s vision of a great celestial chariot, which was accompanied by angels having the rank of “cherub.” In resuming our consideration of this vision we can get a better understanding of the position of the angels and their function in God’s arrangement by first viewing the chariot’s rider.
Therefore, with the prophet, we now focus our attention above the chariot’s wheels to its sparkling icelike “expanse” or platform. High up there was its rider. Ezekiel describes what he saw:
“And there came to be a voice above the expanse that was over their head. (When they stood still, they would let their wings down.) And above the expanse that was over their head there was something in appearance like sapphire stone, the likeness of a throne. And upon the likeness of the throne there was a likeness of someone in appearance like an earthling man upon it, up above. And I got to see something like the glow of electrum, like the appearance of fire all around inside thereof, from the appearance of his hips and upward; and from the appearance of his hips and downward I saw something like the appearance of fire, and he had a brightness all around. There was something like the appearance of the bow that occurs in a cloud mass on the day of a pouring rain. That is how the appearance was of the brightness round about. It was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of Jehovah.”—Ezek. 1:25-28.
How understanding and loving Jehovah is to reveal himself by this symbolic means! Jehovah is so much mightier than man that a literal revelation of his presence would destroy us. Since Ezekiel was merely a human himself, the human form was the best form that he could appreciate for this divine manifestation. And what is warmer than the human representation? Even laws and commands, when set in the framework of human experience, when taught by example in human living, have warmth and appeal, and induce in us a readiness to comply. Jehovah’s Word the Bible is that way. Its commands come to us through the writings of men—men who, guided by God’s spirit, expressed themselves in human terms and who themselves were experiencing the fine way of life that results from obedience to God’s commands.
Now, the form that Ezekiel saw, though human, was enveloped in glory, glowing brilliantly like the bright gold-silver alloy electrum, glowing as if it were being treated by fire inside a furnace. From the waist of this manlike form there was this elegant glory extending both upward and downward, the whole form being thus encased in glory. This was a mere representation of the Almighty God, but it indicates that in actuality, in the invisible realm, he is indescribably glorious.
Note this fact about Jehovah’s appearance: There is nothing horrifying about him, nothing fiendish that would even suggest that he would torture his earthly creatures, human souls, forever and ever in conscious torment in a fiery hell. The appearance of a perfect rainbow indicates calmness, serenity, reminiscent of the enjoyable, quieting calm that follows a storm. It reminds one of the first rainbow that God put into the sky after the global flood to serve as a heavenly sign to Noah and to all of us his descendants, to signify that never again would there be a global deluge.—Gen. 9:12-16.
Therefore, although the divine chariot was on a mission of war, its Rider maintained his calm and composure. In that calm attitude he can keep his attributes of wisdom, justice, power and love in perfect balance. He can never be accused of being unwise, unjust, unpowerful and unloving. His glorious appearance is never tarnished by the committing of anything wrong.
WHAT THE CHARIOT SYMBOLIZES
We are not to assume that Jehovah sits on a literal throne or rides a literal chariot. To illustrate this fact, we find the psalmist using different symbols to portray the same thing:
“Bless Jehovah, O my soul. O Jehovah my God, you have proved very great. With dignity and splendor you have clothed yourself, enwrapping yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent cloth, the One building his upper chambers with beams in the very waters, making the clouds his chariot, walking upon the wings of the wind, making his angels spirits, his ministers a devouring fire.”—Ps. 104:1-4.
The symbolism here used throws light on Ezekiel’s chariot picture. Jehovah does not ride on literal clouds or walk upon the wind any more than he rides in a chariot. But he does use these natural phenomena at times as his agencies for doing certain things for mankind on earth. So the chariot represents something that Jehovah guides, directs and uses toward mankind. Just as the articles of furniture in the tabernacle and in Jehovah’s temple at Jerusalem were designed exactly according to his pattern to picture spiritual things of far greater importance, so with the chariot.—Heb. 8:5; 1 Chron. 28:11, 12, 19.
What, then, does the chariot picture or represent symbolically? Jehovah’s heavenly organization, composed of all the holy spirit creatures, angels, in that heavenly realm. In Ezekiel’s vision, cherubs accompanied the chariot, just as ancient kings had chariot runners. (1 Ki. 1:5) David portrayed Jehovah’s use of these angels to help his people when he wrote: “In my distress I kept calling upon Jehovah, and to my God I kept crying for help. Out of his temple he proceeded to hear my voice, and my own cry before him for help now came into his ears. . . . And he proceeded to bend the heavens down and descend. And thick gloom was beneath his feet. And he came riding upon a cherub and came flying, and he came darting upon the wings of a spirit.”—Ps. 18:6-10; 2 Sam. 22:7-11.
Jehovah ‘rides,’ not just upon one spirit person or angel, but upon all of them, in the sense that he dominates them and uses them according to his purpose. He is the Most High God, the Supreme Being. Instead of personally and directly going to any place himself, he can send a cherub or seraph (angels of specific rank or duty) or any angel. By having his spirit (his invisible active force) accompany that messenger, operating through that one, Jehovah in effect ‘rides’ that spirit creature. An example of such use of an angel accompanied by God’s holy spirit is found in the experience of the evangelizer Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, at Acts chapter eight, verses 26 and 29.
The prophet Daniel and the apostle John both had visions of this heavenly organization of Jehovah showing that it is composed of millions of angels, each one having his own place and duties in the heavenly arrangement. It is interesting to compare these two visions, given centuries apart:
“I kept on beholding until there were thrones placed and the Ancient of Days sat down. His clothing was white just like snow, and the hair of his head was like clean wool. His throne was flames of fire; its wheels were a burning fire. There was a stream of fire flowing and going out from before him. There were a thousand thousands that kept ministering to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand that kept standing right before him.”—Dan. 7:9, 10.
“And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads [ten thousand times tens of thousands] and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”’—Rev. 5:11, 12.
The descriptions of this mighty organization by both Daniel and John reveal that, as God’s ministers, angels receive missions to perform in different parts of the universe, visible and invisible. All parts of this arrangement function together smoothly in perfection, being permeated with love, wisdom, justice and power as well as by Jehovah’s other fine qualities, due to his spirit, the perfect bond of union.
Some persons dislike the word “organization.” This is doubtless because they have observed oppression in worldly organizations, religious, political and commercial. But lack of organization means disorder, and “God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Cor. 14:33) However, unlike national organizations, Jehovah’s organization in heaven operates on the same principle that Jesus set down for his earthly disciples. He said: “You know that those who appear to be ruling the nations lord it over them and their great ones wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister.”—Mark 10:42, 43; compare Daniel 10:13.
MODERN-DAY DISCERNMENT OF THE HEAVENLY ORGANIZATION
Before the year 1922 it was called to the attention of Jehovah’s witnesses that Jehovah does have such an organization. And in the issue of The Watch Tower as of December 15, 1924, on page 371, under the subheading “God’s Organization,” we read:
“The better we understand Jehovah’s plan, the more fully we appreciate the fact that he has the most wonderful of all organizations. His majesty and dignity preclude him from giving direct attention to the details and the execution of his orders. From his eternal throne in the highest heaven he exercises his power as he may will. In the offices of his heavenly courts there are different creatures, as indicated by their names. Some are called cherubim, some seraphim, and some angels. It may be properly said that the angels are messengers and executive officers of the great Jehovah.”
Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot was discussed in a book entitled “Prophecy.”a This book was published in 1929 by the “faithful and discreet slave,” God’s anointed Christians on earth, through their legal agency, the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. (Matt. 24:45-47) Chapter V of this book bore the title “God’s Organization.” Then in 1931 these Christians published volume one of the book entitled “Vindication,”b containing a commentary applying Ezekiel’s vision of the celestial chariot to Jehovah’s organization. And from the issue of October 15, 1931, to that of August 1, 1950, the front-cover design of the Watchtower magazine carried in its upper right-hand corner an artist’s conception of this chariot as seen by Ezekiel.
Ezekiel’s vision shows that Jehovah’s organization existed in that time, 645 years before the Christian congregation was established. Ezekiel not only saw that organization in symbol, but also saw how it operated. Ezekiel was certainly a witness for Jehovah. Out of the 6,961 times that the divine name Jehovah occurs in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi (New World Translation, edition of 1971), 439 of these instances occur in the prophetic book of Ezekiel, and for sixty-two times Ezekiel quotes God’s statement of his steadfast purpose that nations, peoples and individuals “shall know that I am Jehovah.”
Jehovah’s heavenly organization is everlasting, and, of course, it is in existence now. The anointed ones of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses remaining on earth today, in discerning that organization, are pictured by the prophet Ezekiel. Since the year 1919 these witnesses have been publicly declaring Jehovah’s kingdom and making his name known. Just as the chariotlike organization was on the move in Ezekiel’s day, it is on the move today. It has got in spiritual touch with these Christian witnesses and has backed them up in the worldwide work they are doing.
Just as Ezekiel, envisioning the “likeness of the glory of Jehovah,” fell prostrate upon his face, so Jehovah’s witnesses have been filled with awe and the deepest respect for Jehovah at the discernment of his heavenly organization. And just as Ezekiel listened carefully to what the Rider of the chariot had to say, so Jehovah’s witnesses have listened keenly to what Jehovah has had to say through his Word the Holy Bible. They have seen how it applies to their lives and activity, and realize that the holy angels are invisibly directing the work, causing the good news of God’s kingdom to be proclaimed despite international opposition.—Rev. 14:6, 7.
Though these Christian witnesses on earth who have hopes of joining Christ in his Kingdom rule in heaven are small in number, only about 10,000 today, they have been joined by an increasingly large number of the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have hopes of surviving the end of this system of things into Jehovah’s new order. (Rev. 7:9; John 10:16) Nonetheless, even this number, more than one and a half million persons, is insignificant as compared with the world’s population of more than three thousand million. So these servants of God recognize the need of this heavenly organization’s protection.
The nations have marveled at the courage of these Christians in making known to the nations that God Almighty the Most High is Jehovah. Happy are those who come to appreciate that the proclamation is backed up by irresistible heavenly forces!
a Now out of print and out of stock.
b Now out of print and out of stock.