The Big Issue—Are We for or Against Divine Rulership?
DURING the past few months hundreds of thousands of persons have squarely met this issue at the series of four-day “Divine Rulership” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Reports available from 152 assemblies show that so far 1,246,419 have attended, with many assemblies yet to be heard from. Eventually the whole world of mankind will be compelled to face up to this issue, resulting in either life or death, depending on their choice.
If you have not already done so, sooner or later you too must face this same big issue. Hence, this brief report on what was said at these assemblies should prove most beneficial in helping you to decide.
The issue is really not a new one confronting us today for the first time. This was pointed out on the first day of the assembly in the talk entitled “Divine Rulership—Are We for It or Against It?”
This keynote talk showed that hostility to divine rulership had its start in the invisible realm many millenniums ago. A spirit creature or angel made himself both “Satan” and “Devil,” that is, a “Resister” and a “Slanderer” of God. As a consequence, all opposing divine rulership take their stand with Satan the Devil and show themselves to be like such other rebels as Adam and Eve, their firstborn son Cain, the disobedient angels who lived as husbands with women prior to the global deluge, and like the post-Flood rebel Nimrod.
In sharp contrast with such rebels was the Lord Jesus Christ. He too had to decide whether he was for or against divine rulership. When offered the rulership over all this world’s kingdoms by Satan, the “god of this system of things,” he turned the offer down, saying: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (2 Cor. 4:4; Matt. 4:10) Do you view the world and its political affairs in the same way that Jesus Christ did?
HOW AN APPROVED RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH IS OBTAINED
These assemblies focused attention on gaining and maintaining a proper relationship with Jehovah in full recognition of his sovereignty. The importance and urgency of this was stressed in the keynote speech, when it declared:
“We today stand very near the end of the ‘conclusion of the system of things.’ Human rulership by imperfect, sinful, dying humans is about to be removed from the face of the earth in mankind’s greatest ‘tribulation’ foretold in the prophetic Bible.”
This is why people cannot afford to delay in taking their stand on the side of divine rulership. This means informing ourselves as to the will of God and then diligently applying it in every aspect of life. It means maintaining integrity, seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, not getting involved in human politics but obediently proclaiming God’s kingdom.
Has recognition of divine rulership moved you to take such action? Of course, there are other things that one must do to come into a proper relationship with God.
This was made clear in the discourse “Following the Chief Agent of Divine Rulership.” Therein it was shown that individuals have to repent of their sins, turn around from their past course of conduct and dedicate themselves to God through Jesus Christ in order to do the divine will. This dedication then must be symbolized by water baptism. Have you taken such a step?
Much of the Scriptural argumentation in support of these points was drawn from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. Ro 10 Verses 8 through 10 of chapter 10 read:
“‘The word is near you, in your own mouth and in your own heart’; that is, the ‘word’ of faith, which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”
The apostle Paul and his fellow missionaries of the first century brought the “word” or message about God and his Christ very near to the people. And many of these, in turn, were able to repeat that “word.” They also accepted in faith that Jesus Christ was Lord and that God had raised him up from the dead. In harmony with this they abandoned their false worship and dedicated themselves to Jehovah.
No less true today—those dedicating themselves must be motivated by hearts full of love and appreciation to make a public declaration and confession, or acknowledgment, that Jesus Christ is their Lord. In acknowledging Jesus as their Lord, they are also acknowledging that Jehovah God is their Owner.
How so? Well, is this not what Jesus Christ their exemplar did? Yes, he disowned himself, acknowledging Jehovah’s ownership of him. He also told his followers to likewise yield ownership of themselves to Jehovah God. Having done this, then, in imitation of Jesus, they get baptized.—Mark 8:34; Matt. 3:13-17.
But, you may ask, ‘When does one make “public declaration for salvation,” acknowledging Jesus Christ as his Lord and Jehovah as his Owner?’ “This confession or acknowledgment,” the speaker declared, “is what we orally make to or before the Christian minister who presides over the baptism in water.” At this year’s series of assemblies, so far, 29,087 have acknowledged such divine ownership by getting baptized. But this is not the end of the matter, for, as the speaker pointed out, after baptism the dedicated individual continues to make public declaration by commenting at Christian meetings and by sharing in the public proclamation of Bible truth.
MAINTAINING AN APPROVED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Other parts of this fine assembly program highlighted what one must do to remain an approved servant of the Divine Ruler, Jehovah.
In this regard, there was a drama entitled “Serve Jehovah with Your Whole Soul,” which showed the need to be totally, completely devoted to Jehovah in order to maintain a right relationship with him. It illustrated that one might have a good heart initially, and yet lose out on divine favor because of failure to use one’s soul (every fiber of one’s being) and one’s strength in Jehovah’s service to the full. The warning was forceful: Guard against using up your energy needlessly in fruitless pursuits, but always strive to be industrious in carrying out your Christian ministry in a fine manner.
Another feature of the program emphasized that we should serve Jehovah, not with a certain date in view, but with eternity in view. In this talk, “Serve with Eternity in View,” the speaker made his point with the aid of an illustration. ‘The present,’ he said, ‘is like a half inch on a measuring stick that extends for thousands of miles. So do not live only for the present, the half inch of a possible eternal existence!’
How the audiences at these assemblies thrilled when they watched the gripping drama about Joseph and his half brothers unfold! Here was portrayed the need to cultivate the godly quality of mercy. Joseph, as we may recall, tested out the attitude of his half brothers before revealing his identity and granting them merciful forgiveness. This example served well to illustrate the difference between being merciful and being permissive, between being forgiving and excusing or condoning wrongdoing. Then in applying these Bible principles to a modern-day case involving a wayward teen-age son, it was shown that a father can and should forgive his children, but he cannot and should not condone their wrongdoing. He must see to it that his children are corrected so they do not become involved in more serious wrongs.
Humility, a quality also necessary to remain approved by God, was the theme of another drama well received at the district assemblies. Entitled “Gird Yourselves with Lowliness of Mind,” it showed the importance of getting rid of pride or high-mindedness and being truly humble. This was portrayed in Bible times by the proud Syrian army chief Naaman. In order to be cured of leprosy he had to exercise faith and humbly obey the instructions of Elisha’s attendant to bathe himself seven times in the Jordan River. Humbleness brings grand blessings that the proud will never enjoy—this was the lesson learned by those who saw this drama.
Still another quality needed by those who would remain in God’s favor is faithfulness. This was emphasized in the discourse “What Is Looked for Is to Be Found Faithful,” and it was most helpful in getting a proper evaluation of matters. As the speaker stated: ‘God can give ability to anyone, or can accentuate one’s ability. But faithfulness is prized by Him, for this is something that the individual must develop himself. A faithful-hearted person is one whom God can use for any purpose he desires.’
Love and hate were two more qualities talked about, and both are necessary for the Christian to have in order to enjoy divine approval. In this discourse, “The Godly Qualities of Love and Hate,” it was pointed out that one must love the things God loves. On the other hand, one must hate what He hates, including fornication, adultery, loose conduct, slander, vicious gossip and avowed enemies of God. Godly love is a strong force in doing what is right, while godly hate protects one from walking contrary to Jehovah’s way.—Ps. 119:113; Prov. 6:16-19.
“Do You Appreciate the Power of Prayer?” This was the question directed to those facing the issue of divine rulership at these assemblies. Prayer has a beneficial inward effect, keeping the mind and heart turned in the right direction. It makes us feel impelled to work in harmony with what we request of God. But this is by no means everything. Sincere heartfelt prayer in harmony with God’s will can bring action on the part of God. When reflecting genuine, intense concern, prayer can make a difference in what God does and when he does it. Prayer has power.—2 Cor. 1:8-11; Heb. 13:18, 19; Jas. 5:16.
CONGREGATIONAL RECOGNITION OF DIVINE RULERSHIP
One of the most significant features of this year’s district assemblies had to do with the internal structure of the organization—the congregational body of elders and their responsibilities. If there was any one part of the program that demonstrated how divine rulership functions among Jehovah’s witnesses in modern times, it was this. The changes and modifications that were here outlined for local congregations will cause those who attended to look back in the years to come on the 1972 assemblies as one of the great milestones in the progressive march of the Lord’s people into the new order under divine rulership.
Practical aspects of the reorganization were outlined and demonstrated during the course of the four days, showing the Scriptural responsibilities that are placed on the body of elders, and how they are discharged to the blessing of the congregation and to the glory of God.
For example, when an individual has a personal problem that is more than he can cope with, to whom should he go for help and advice? Why, to one of the elders in the congregation, to one who is spiritually qualified and capable of giving wise counsel and sound advice. Such an elder, it was noted, is an overseer appointed by holy spirit “to shepherd the congregation of God.” And so, as a loving shepherd, the elder consulted gives all the tender, loving help possible so that the one with a problem can readjust his thinking in order to avoid being overtaken in some serious transgression.—Acts 20:28; Gal. 6:1.
But if there is a ‘practice of sin,’ a repeated and willful disobedience of Jehovah’s righteous laws by those professing to have given themselves over to the ownership of Jehovah, what then? The program made it very plain that in such an instance the elders making up the judicial committee will correct and root out the wrongdoing. This is a responsibility that they must discharge before the Divine Ruler of the Christian congregation. In this way the cleanness, purity and integrity of the congregation is preserved, and the congregation remains suitable for use by Jehovah.
The assembly delegates were confronted with this question in the form of a discussion: “Can You Take Counsel Without Resentment?” Therein it was shown that, when corrected, one should preserve a right attitude toward the counsel or discipline if one is to continue enjoying God’s approval. For counsel and discipline are really expressions of God’s love. (Heb. 12:5-11) This thought-provoking observation was made in the course of the discussion:
“When someone has our best interests at heart and he wants to help us to avoid a course that will end up in calamity, and this person has more wisdom, more experience and more insight than we have, then it is the course of wisdom to listen to him, isn’t it?”
PERSONAL RECOGNITION OF JEHOVAH’S RULERSHIP
From start to finish the program emphasized that every aspect of the Christian’s life should be governed by his recognition of God’s rulership. The opening address of the assembly chairman, “Living No Longer for Ourselves,” made this very clear.
The chairman asked his audience: ‘Do you respect God’s commands by giving them your heart’s attention and by alert obedience? Do you let God’s Word govern you, not only in big things, but in every facet of your life?’ Searching questions indeed. God’s way of rule is by love. There is no coercion, no placing of us in a degraded position. Jehovah trusts his servants. His rulership being based on love, righteousness, wisdom, justice and mercy, we should respond with willing obedience.
As pointed out in the talk “Have You Really Come to Know God?,” there is an individual, whole-hearted personal response on the part of those who truly know Jehovah. To know Jehovah personally as he is means to know his characteristic qualities, his viewpoint on matters and his ways of doing things. This knowing him intimately also calls for complete confidence and trust in him. The person who really knows God will not give way to doubts about the faithful elders He appoints to take the lead in the congregation nor about the organization itself that Jehovah is using. The God of love will never allow spiritual harm to come upon the dedicated people for whom his beloved Son died.
There is no relationship that is to be cherished more than this personal and intimate relationship one has with the Divine Ruler as his approved servant. Those who attended these assemblies certainly had this truth impressed upon them. The point was also stressed that the sooner people come to an accurate knowledge of Bible truth the better it is for them personally. They are protected against using up energies, time and abilities in vain pursuits. It is most urgent that God’s dedicated servants devote themselves wholeheartedly to the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. What makes it even more urgent now is that soon all who are not loyal supporters of Jehovah’s rulership will go down in everlasting destruction.
ON WITH KINGDOM-PREACHING AND DISCIPLE-MAKING!
Before Jehovah God brings destruction on all those opposed to his rulership he wants people everywhere to be given opportunity to hear the “good news of the kingdom.” So his witnesses throughout the earth are engaged in the greatest preaching and teaching work ever done. As a result, great crowds of right-hearted persons have responded, and are, in turn, sharing in this work—all evidence of their submission to God’s rulership.
This Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work of Jehovah’s witnesses certainly received a great impetus when, on the first day of the assembly, a new 192-page book, Organization for Kingdom-preaching and Disciple-making, was released. On the following days of the assembly other releases were received with a similar enthusiasm. There was The Bible in Living English, a new translation by Steven T. Byington, in which the Hebrew Tetragrammaton is consistently rendered as “Jehovah.” Also released was the 416-page book Paradise Restored to Mankind—By Theocracy!, described on its title page as “A Look at the Fulfillment of the Restoration Prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, as Possible from the Twentieth-Century Vantage Point.”
Following the release of the Organization book a discussion on the platform raised some very searching questions about one’s motives for sharing in this God-ordained work. “Do we see how this work relates to the supreme issue over the rightness of Jehovah’s sovereignty? Do we see how God’s name is involved, and the part that our willing obedience serves in vindicating and sanctifying God’s name?” How would you answer? The audience realized that they must have right motives if their answers were ‘Yes’ to the questions.
If you are sharing in this preaching and disciple-making work together with Jehovah’s witnesses, then you are assisting other people to come to God’s temple of worship. But what is this temple, since the Bible speaks of many temples? The discourse “The Gathering of All Nations to One Temple of Worship” provided an ‘in-depth’ consideration of this question.
To begin with, it was pointed out, this temple is the spiritual sanctuary of Jehovah God. In the “Most Holy” of that temple, that is, in the part of heaven where God has his holy residence, the apostle John saw the ‘ark of the covenant.’ (Rev. 11:19) That ark represented God’s presence and has to do with the “new covenant” of God with men, which covenant came into being in the year 33 C.E. Like the tabernacle constructed by the Israelites in the wilderness, and the material temples that later stood on Mount Moriah, God’s great temple also has a “Holy” compartment and courtyards.
According to Hebrews 10:20, the curtain of the material temples separating the Holy from the Most Holy compartments, represented Jesus’ flesh. That fleshly organism was a ‘barrier’ to his entering the heavens of God’s presence. Only by death as a human and resurrection as a spirit could he pass that barrier and enter the Most Holy. This means that things outside that curtain—the Holy, the courtyard(s) and the copper altar—must represent things here on the earth.
The audience was now anxious to learn what the Holy, the courtyard(s) and the copper altar represented. Hebrews 10:7-10 indicates that the altar represents God’s “will,” that is, his willingness to accept the perfect human sacrifice of Jesus. Since Jesus presented himself in the year 29 C.E. for sacrifice in God’s due time on the altar of His “will,” it was then that God’s great spiritual temple first came into being. God’s heavenly residence now became like the Most Holy compartment of the material temples in that Jehovah was now willing to be propitiated by the perfect sacrifice of his High Priest Jesus Christ. So from his baptism onward, Jesus began walking in the antitypical priestly courtyard, and, in effect, was superintending his human sacrifice. And as a spirit-begotten Son of God, he offered up prayer, praise and service to God, as incense was offered by the typical priests in the Holy of the material temple.
Similarly, the spirit-begotten followers of the Lord Jesus Christ serve in the priestly courtyard of God’s temple, enjoying a special standing with God, being counted righteous and sinless. And their spirit-begotten condition while still in the flesh was pictured by the Holy compartment in the typical temple frequented by the underpriests.
The speaker next showed that these spirit-begotten sons of God, as “spiritual Israelites,” were not the only ones who are found serving at Jehovah’s temple today. People of all kinds are being invited to come and serve at this temple, even as the Bible foretold would occur. (Isa. 2:2, 3; Rev. 7:9, 15) Those who respond have the privilege of worshiping Jehovah in the nonpriestly courtyard, comparable to the “courtyard of the Gentiles” of the temple built by King Herod.
So you see why Jehovah’s witnesses are urging as many people as possible to come to God’s spiritual temple. They know that soon now all who are not true worshipers of Jehovah will be destroyed. Really, the essence of their message was contained in the widely advertised public talk delivered at the climax of these four-day assemblies: “Divine Rulership—the Only Hope of All Mankind.” Everyone present was urged to take with him one or two printed copies of this timely talk.
All in all, what a grand series of district assemblies this has been! So many new things learned and so many old things made brighter. Indeed, Jehovah opened his hand and showered upon his people many rich and satisfying blessings, not the least of which was a comprehensive view of the increased responsibilities now resting upon the local body of elders in each congregation. Truly, Jehovah is bringing his congregated people into an organizational condition in which they will be able to ride out Armageddon into God’s new order under divine rulership. Ah, yes, divine rulership! We are for it and we trust that you are too!
[Pictures on page 603]
Over 795,863 persons interested in divine rulership attended assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses at some 80 large convention sites in North America
Sam Houston Coliseum
Hawthorne Race Course
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“Organization” book, released at assemblies, focuses attention on the big work of preaching and disciple-making
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At assemblies 29,087 were baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah the Divine Ruler