A Question Settled Never to Rise Again
CAN you be sure of what your attitudes and loyalties will be in the future? You may at present be very conscientious, faithful and loyal to what you believe. But can you be so sure of yourself as to say, “I know I’ll be the same ten or twenty years from now”?
People who have served God have always recognized their imperfections and the unreliability of their hearts. The prophet Jeremiah said: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) The apostle Paul said that he had to carry on a constant fight against his own imperfect inclinations in order to maintain a firm, loyal standing before God.—1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 7:15, 16.
But cannot a person attain to a state of knowing that he will remain faithful forever without deviating from loyalty to God? Can he know that God will never have cause to use His power to put him to death?
Jehovah God purposes to provide such assurance for those who love him. He is able to arrange a test that is as perfect as are his creative works. Those who successfully pass that test will demonstrate thereby that they are of ever-enduring faithfulness. The test will come, however, not on imperfect, sinful people, ‘the inclination of whose hearts is bad from their youth up.’ (Gen. 8:21; Jas. 4:5) Instead, the test will come on people recovered from sin—perfected people on a righteous earth.
In recent issues of this magazine we have discussed the destruction of the present wicked system of things and the thousand-year reign of Christ to follow. During that thousand-year period the survivors and the billions of resurrected mankind will have full opportunity to be relieved of the sin that Adam brought on the human race, causing imperfection and death.
What will be the conditions on earth at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ? The human family will stand perfect before Jesus Christ. Those who were rebellious during the thousand years will have been destroyed. (Rev. 20:12, 15) The obedient ones, who formerly had “beastlike” personalities, will have made over their personalities and will be fully in harmony with the laws and conditions of that righteous system of things. (Eph. 4:23, 24) The animal creation will again be brought into complete subjection. All animal life will have the fear and respect for man restored as it was originally. (Gen. 1:28; Hos. 2:18) As it was in the beginning in Eden, even the wild animals will bring no harm to man or his possessions. (Isa. 11:6-9) Peace will reign among all living things.—Psalm 148.
The death inherited by mankind from sinful Adam will have been ‘brought to nothing.’ (1 Cor. 15:26) Thus, no longer will anyone die of Adamic death. It will have been done away with, as illustrated in another way in the book of Revelation. There death is shown as being hurled into the “lake of fire,” to its own “death,” its destruction.—Rev. 20:14, 15; compare Revelation 21:1-4.
In the light of these facts we can understand the parenthetical statement in Revelation 20:5: “(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” The ministrations of Christ and his 144,000 associate kings and priests, who shared in the “first resurrection,” have brought them, “the rest of the dead,” to real, actual fullness of perfect life at this point of time.
JEHOVAH’S DIRECT KINGSHIP COMES
As humankind will then stand before Christ they will be in a condition similar to that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They will possess perfect life. But the question remains: Who will be worthy of the grant and guarantee, the assurance of everlasting life in the paradise earth? With perfect control of all their faculties, will any of them do anything of their own accord, willfully, to deserve death under Jehovah’s judgment? The apostle Paul describes what next takes place:
“Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. As the last enemy, death is to be brought to nothing. For God ‘subjected all things under his feet.’ But when he says that ‘all things have been subjected,’ it is evident that it is with the exception of the one [Jehovah God] who subjected all things to him. But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.”—1 Cor. 15:24-28.
Up to this point Jesus Christ has been judging mankind. His Messianic kingdom has been operating as a subsidiary kingdom to God’s kingdom, for God’s sovereignty is always supreme. But now there remains no subsidiary kingdom intervening between Jehovah and mankind. How will mankind react to God’s direct Kingship? They stand wholly before God, with no priest between. Will they have their names permanently written in the “scroll of life”? It is only God who can determine that. Only God can say who has the right to live in his universe forever. Such faithful ones will be revealed by a test of heart integrity and allegiance. This test will enable God and also all intelligent creation, including the angelic hosts, to know them thoroughly, in every aspect. He will be sure of their unbreakable loyalty.
That Jehovah can be fully confident in those whom he “knows” in this way is illustrated in the case of Jesus Christ. This Son of God had lived for untold ages with his Father in heaven before coming to earth. (John 1:1; 8:58) His love and obedience were such that God could go so far as to foretell in advance, without any doubt, that this only-begotten Son of his would remain faithful through the severest trials of integrity.—Rev. 20:12, 15; Isa. 53:10-12; Rom. 8:33.
How is the test for everlasting life carried out? Revelation 20:7-10 describes it:
“Now as soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison, and he will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war. The number of these is as the sand of the sea. And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down out of heaven and devoured them. And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet already were; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Satan the Devil and his associate demons have been out of action for the thousand years, unable to interfere with the dispensing of justice and righteousness during that period. Earth’s population has been without such interference from the Devil, the one who, through violent means at his disposal, could keep mankind in general ‘through fear of death subject to slavery all through their lives.’ (Heb. 2:14, 15) Now, for the purposes of the test, Satan will be loosed for “a little while.”—Rev. 20:1-3.
SOME WILL ATTACK GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY
The issue that Satan will bring up is the same one that he raised in the Garden of Eden, namely, the rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty, which requires absolute obedience of human creatures to God’s laws and prohibitions.
Who are the ones the Devil misleads? They are persons from among perfected humankind who become rebellious. They are “as the sand of the sea,” meaning that they appear to be numberless. This does not imply that the majority of mankind will rebel along with the Devil. The Bible uses this expression with regard to a number indefinite but large enough to make an impression of a big crowd.—Compare Joshua 11:4; Judges 7:12.
The misled ones are called “nations,” not in the sense that national or racial divisions exist among earth’s perfected population. Rather, it indicates that these rebellious ones separate themselves from the loyal majority, refusing to recognize Jehovah’s sovereignty and attempting to establish an earthly sovereignty of their own, like a national sovereignty. They may even be disunited among themselves, as is generally the case with selfish people grasping for power. So they may have diverse group sovereignties. They are united in one thing, however; that is, in opposing Jehovah’s sovereignty, just as the nations had done a thousand years earlier in the war of Har–Magedon that destroyed the old system of things.—Rev. 17:13, 14.
These “nations” are said to be in the “four corners of the earth” because they are far off from God’s sovereignty. In a spiritual sense they are far away from those who are loyal to God. God does not become “all things to everyone” in their case.
Their being termed “Gog and Magog” is to describe the spirit they have and the action they take, like that of “Gog of the land of Magog.” The prophet Ezekiel, centuries beforehand, had pointed out that Gog (the Devil), by means of a crowd of people making up the political and military forces of the nations, would attack Jehovah’s people. This took place when Jehovah’s people had been spiritually restored and were dwelling in peace, without literal walls, but trusting in God as their protection. It is now a thousand years since that crowd was destroyed at Har–Magedon. But now a comparable attempt is made. So it is not by a resurrection of people of the Gog-and-Magog nature that the war is waged against God’s sovereignty. Rather, the same spirit manifested by the Gog-and-Magog crowd of a thousand years previous is aroused in some of the perfected humans.
HOW AND WHY THEY MAKE THEIR ATTACK
What do these Gog-and-Magog-like “nations” attack? They cannot reach God in heaven to attack his sovereignty. No, they attack the “holy city.” This is the New Jerusalem. However, this “city,” too, is heavenly, so they cannot literally attack it. But this “city” has, during the thousand years, brought about certain effects, good, righteous effects on earth. The Devil-gathered “nations” want to destroy these effects and thereby to efface God’s sovereignty from the earth, turning all mankind against it.
The prophecy says that these rebellious “nations” will encircle the “camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.” God loves the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city, the name of which is written upon the 144,000 joint heirs and kingly associates of Christ. There are also “holy ones” on earth that love this “city,” namely, those of restored mankind who keep their integrity through this all-deciding test. These are not in the “city” in heaven, but are on earth, in the “camp,” as in a war camp outside a city attacked by enemy warriors. The earthly seat of government representing the heavenly “city” among the “holy ones” during the millennium has been made up of the “princes.” These have been the visible representatives of the heavenly governing body.—Ps. 45:16; Isa. 32:1, 2.
The “nations” come together for “war” against the holy ones and the beloved city. Is this a war using nuclear weapons or other sophisticated means of destruction? No, for earth’s inhabitants will not have stockpiled such weapons or have learned such war anymore. (Isa. 2:2-4) It will be a war of deceit, misleading propaganda, appeals to selfishness in disloyalty to the Universal Sovereign.
How could such a thing succeed in gaining adherents among people who had lived under the righteous Messianic Kingdom government during the thousand years and who had obediently progressed to perfection? Just as Satan’s effort did with perfect Adam and Eve. Though perfect, they exercised their moral freedom in making a wrong decision. They did not maintain loyalty to God’s sovereignty but let themselves entertain wrong desire, which brought forth the fruitage of sin and death.—Jas. 1:13-15.
Those who choose to side against God’s sovereignty when Satan is loosed had realized, while they were yet under the Messianic government, that they needed the benefits of Christ’s priesthood and the application of the atonement sacrifice to get rid of the sin and imperfection that was in them. If they had not been wholly willing and obedient, really genuine, the King, Priest and Judge Jesus Christ would have been hesitant to turn them over to the final test. So they are perfect. But, just as it was presented to Eve, so the Devil will make it appear that here is opportunity now to step out on their own, to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They will be induced to feel that, with their perfection, and with the Messianic Kingdom government no longer over them, they should be allowed to govern themselves as they please. They will strike out, as Adam and Eve did, for independence.
As the “holy ones” stand firm for Jehovah’s sovereignty, desiring it to continue over them forever, God, through Christ, will act against the rebels. Fire will come down out of heaven and devour them.
For passing the thoroughgoing test of their whole-souled integrity to God, the faithful and loyal ones are rewarded with the precious right to have their lives protected and prolonged to all eternity in happiness. They will know that God “knows” them intimately, as he knew his only-begotten Son on earth—that they are persons of unchanging, unbreakable faith and loyalty forever. They can be sure that they will continue a faithful course pleasing to God and supporting his sovereignty for all the billions of years in the never-ending future.—Rom. 8:21.
What about the demonic fighters against God? The prophecy of Revelation points out that Satan and his demons are hurled into “the lake of fire.” What this denotes will be the subject of discussion in the next issue of The Watchtower.