Our Refuge Under the Incorruptible “Kingdom of the Heavens”
1. What are some reasons for feeling insecure, leading to what urgent cry?
HAVE you ever felt the intense need to seek refuge, to find a place of shelter and protection from danger or distress? Perhaps you are one who has vivid memories of taking refuge night after night in an air-raid shelter in wartime, this giving you a sense of protection, a measure of relief. But what about the dangers and stress of present-day conditions? As a man, do you feel secure in your job? As a woman, do you feel secure in your homelife and personal relationships? Is it safe for you or the children to go out alone at night, or maybe even in the daytime? We could mention a great many more reasons for feeling very insecure, including such things as inflation, vandalism, drugs, pollution and the like. World conditions never looked blacker. World distress is deepening. Man’s helplessness becomes more and more evident. Relief from human sources is obviously impossible. The heartfelt cry goes up, Where can we find that place of secure refuge?
2. (a) In what way was 1914 C.E. a big turning point? (b) Since then, in what respects has escalation become evident?
2 Before answering that question, let us look at the root cause for these things. When and how did it all start? Looking back, we can see that 1914 C.E. was the big turning point. Until the summer of that year the outlook was promising. There was the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Europe for settling international difficulties. Life for many was genial and promising. Then came World War I like a bolt out of the blue, started by a single pistol shot that developed into bombs raining from the sky. It was hoped to be the war that would end all war. Instead it paved the way for World War II. And now, the stockpiling of nuclear weapons for missile warfare threatens our very existence. Escalation is also seen in other respects. The world population is increasing, like compound interest on money that is invested. With this increase of mouths to feed, there is the talk of world famine in the near future. And what about the widespread growth of pestilences? Not only did the “Spanish flu” of 1918 claim 20 million victims, but, with our permissive society, loathsome sex diseases have become epidemic. Crime, violence and lawlessness are the order of the day. With the growing need for self-preservation, and with so much rivalry, greed, stealing, taking advantage of others, inborn human selfishness is bound to increase. And with the loss of love for fellowman, the love of God has cooled off. Not only has it cooled off, but it is quite popular today to say that God is dead! Of course, we readily admit that there are yet many individuals who are good-hearted and are living decent lives, but it must also be admitted that they are finding it more difficult.
3. (a) How are we guided in finding the real meaning of present-day conditions? (b) What significant question led to Jesus Christ’s great prophecy?
3 Well, we have traced the general trend of things since 1914, but have we really fathomed the root cause? And, more importantly, what is the remedy? Is there one? How can we find a satisfactory answer to these questions? To whom can we go? Happily, yes, there is someone who can give, and already has given us, completely satisfying answers to all these questions. We remind you that as far back as 1876 the Bible Student who became the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society stated in print that the Biblical “times of the Gentiles” would expire in the autumn of 1914 resulting in unparalleled trouble for the whole world. Where did he get his information? From God’s Word, the Holy Bible, and particularly from Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, 32 and the great prophecy given by Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who was inspired by God’s holy spirit. This prophecy forms an integral part of God’s Word and is recorded at Matthew 24:4-51, also at Mark 13:5-37 and Luke 21:8-36. The prophecy was given in answer to a noteworthy question raised by Jesus’ disciples: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) Yes, Jesus foretold the conclusion of a system of things, not only for his day, but in parallel fashion for our day. He also identified the much-needed refuge in which we are keenly interested.
4. What was the immediate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, pointing to what similarity in our day?
4 Looking briefly at the immediate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in his own day and that of his disciples, we know that the predicted things that reached their peak in the desolation of the temple, the “holy place,” and “the holy city,” Jerusalem, also the province of Judea in the year 70 C.E., marked the calamitous end of that system of things. What of our day? Do we see the many things that Jesus foretold that make up the composite “sign” marking his presence and the conclusion of the system of things? We have already mentioned quite a few of them, and, even apart from the chronological reckoning concerning the “times of the Gentiles,” we can say with confidence that 1914 certainly marked the beginning of the “last days” of this system of things when, as Paul said, “critical times hard to deal with will be here.”—2 Tim. 3:1.
THE REMEDY AND THE REFUGE
5. At Luke 21:28-32, how did Jesus tell of the only refuge to which we should flee?
5 We next ask, Is there a remedy? There is no remedy for the present system of things. According to God’s Word, it is deservedly doomed to destruction. But is there nothing to which individuals can turn that will counteract present-day evils? There certainly is, and this is where our attention is drawn to the all-important refuge to which we need to flee without delay. Note Jesus’ words when he said:
“‘But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.’ With that he spoke an illustration to them: ‘Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now the summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.’”—Luke 21:28-31.
6. (a) How did Jesus identify the king of God’s kingdom? (b) What further identification is found in the Hebrew Scriptures?
6 That is it! That “kingdom of God” deserves our fullest attention. Who is the king of that kingdom? Just preceding the above-quoted words, Jesus, referring to himself, said: “Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” And following his prophecy he gave three parables, concluding with the one respecting the sheep and the goats, introduced as follows: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne.” (Luke 21:27; Matt. 25:31) There is no doubt as to who is the anointed King of God’s kingdom. And there is no doubt as to his worthiness! First, he willingly emptied himself of his previous heavenly glory and then, “when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” (Phil. 2:5-11) He is a living person of today—yes, and highly interested in the fulfillment of his own inspired prophecy! His life on earth was a marked life and had been foretold, in its vitally important aspects, in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, in order to identify clearly who the Messiah was. One of these scriptures foretells our day when “the kings of earth take their stand and high officials themselves have massed together as one against Jehovah and against his anointed one”; then, in reply and with a derisive, angry laugh, Jehovah tells these enemies they are too late. He says: “I, even I, have installed my king upon Zion, my holy mountain.” For further identification, Jehovah says to this anointed king: “You are my son.” The opposing nations are given to him to “dash them to pieces.” But the psalm comes to a fine conclusion: “Happy are all those taking refuge in him.” (Ps. 2:1-12) Many other psalms, such as Psalm 91:1, 2, speak of Jehovah as our refuge, or “my refuge,” but the means by which he has provided refuge in this day is his kingdom in the hands of his anointed and reigning Son, Christ Jesus.—See Psalm 110:1-4.
7. What is God’s purpose as to some sharing with Christ Jesus, and why is this so astonishing?
7 Many times Jesus spoke of the “kingdom of God,” or the “kingdom of the heavens.” He also spoke of some sharing with him, actually sharing with him as associate kings. Whoever heard of such an arrangement? Has there ever been a nation or an empire that has had 144,000 and one kings ruling in it at the same time? Never has such a thing happened. Even today, with a global population of more than four thousand million, there are not that many kings or rulers, even all of them put together. With whom did this idea originate? Certainly not with man! It is God’s idea. It is the purpose of the Creator of heaven and earth. Such a heavenly government with so many kings comprising a world government may seem fantastic to politically minded people. But that is because, just as the literal heavens are higher than the earth, so the heavenly Creator, God, has a way of thinking that is higher than the way in which earthly man thinks. As God once said to his ancient people, Israel: “‘The thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”—Isa. 55:8, 9.
8, 9. (a) Respecting this, what further details are given at Revelation 1:5, 6? (b) What additional information is given about this in the book of Revelation?
8 So we should not be surprised at anything purposed by him being so much grander than what mere man could have imagined. Centuries later, in the last book of the Bible, Revelation, God disclosed more details respecting this world government. It also gives God’s Son the full credit for pursuing a self-sacrificing course as a perfect man on earth. Notice how the apostle John, writing under inspiration, expressed this: “Jesus Christ, ‘the Faithful Witness,’ ‘The firstborn from the dead,’ and ‘The Ruler of the kings of the earth.’ To him that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood—and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—yes, to him be the glory and the might forever. Amen.”—Rev. 1:5, 6.
9 If it were not that Jesus Christ poured out his lifeblood in self-sacrifice to God, his footstep followers could never be made kings and priests to God his Father in heaven. Jesus Christ thus plays a vital part in making it possible for these associate kings to share with him in the heavenly kingdom. As he said: “To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev. 3:21) In harmony with this, the twenty-four elders are reported as saying to Jesus Christ: “You were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”—Rev. 5:9, 10.
10. Who are see with the Lamb on Mount Zion, and how are they described?
10 As to the number of these associate kings and priests with Christ Jesus, we are not left in doubt. Describing those who will reign with Christ Jesus on the heavenly Mount Zion and telling of their fine qualifications, John writes: “Look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth. These are the ones that did not defile themselves with women; in fact, they are virgins. These are the ones that keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb, and no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish.”—Rev. 14:1-5.
11, 12. (a) How are these differentiated from mankind in general? (b) When do these king-priests reign with Christ Jesus, and how do they gain entrance into the heavenly kingdom?
11 These followers of the Lamb are clearly differentiated from mankind in general when Revelation 7:4-8 speaks of them as Israelites of a spiritual kind. As such, they are sealed with the “seal of the living God” in their foreheads. The apostle John lists twelve tribes of them with Israelite patriarchal names. He states that 12,000 were sealed from each of these twelve tribes, giving a grand total of 144,000 spiritual Israelites. The Lamb, Jesus Christ, is himself spoken of as “the Lion that is of the tribe of Judah.” (Rev. 5:5) Hence, this finally results in 144,000 and one spiritual Israelites, all together.
12 The twentieth chapter of Revelation discloses that these 144,000 king-priests enter in upon a reign of a thousand years with the Lamb Jesus Christ immediately after Satan the Devil and his demons are chained and hurled into an abyss, where these wicked spirit forces are unable to mislead the peoples of the earth during Christ’s millennial reign together with the ones whom he bought with his sacrificial blood. They enter into the heavenly kingdom with Christ by means of a resurrection to spirit life, spoken of as “the first resurrection.” Hence, Revelation 20:6 says: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority [because they have been made immortal], but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
AN INCORRUPTIBLE REFUGE
13. From all the foregoing evidence, what conclusion do we reach?
13 With all this inspired written evidence before us, we have no grounds for questioning that Jehovah God has purposed a literal government of one hundred and forty-four thousand and one kings to reign over the whole globe during the prescribed thousand years, during which Satan and his demons will be imprisoned in the “abyss.” Down till now, our earth has never been favored with a government of that kind, with government officials of such Godly qualities. This heavenly world government is at hand. It is the kingdom for all people to seek for a refuge that will not fail them.
14. (a) In what two ways are present-day rulers subject to corruption? (b) What can be said in this respect of all the members of God’s heavenly government?
14 All man-made kingdoms or governments, as represented by their rulers, by whatever title they may be known, are subject to corruption. They are corruptible, in the sense that, due to inherited sin and imperfection, they all sicken and die off, but they are also subject to corruption morally. There is no need to submit proof of this. We are only too familiar with the record to date. Not so, however, with the government comprising the “kingdom of the heavens,” even though made up of so large a number. Each and every one of them will be incorruptible, both literally, as regards their organisms, and morally. There is no question of the topmost one, Christ Jesus, who, at Hebrews 7:26, is described as “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners, and become higher than the heavens.” But what of his associates, chosen from amongst sinful mankind? Well, following their sincere repentance and conversion, turning to God in whole-souled dedication and exercising faith in the merit of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, they are accepted by God and quickened by his spirit to a new hope, a heavenly one. As the apostle Peter expressed it: “He [God] gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” Then, later, after saying, “You have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth,” he adds: “For you have been given a new birth, not by corruptible, but by incorruptible reproductive seed, through the word of the living and enduring God.”—1 Pet. 1:3, 4, 22, 23; see also Acts 26:20.
15 As for the realization of their heavenly hope, Peter says: “He [God] has freely given us the precious and very grand promises, that through these you may become sharers in divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust.” And this is confirmed by Paul’s word as regards their nature and organism when he wrote: “For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.”—2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:53.
16 As regards those who are not of the “kingdom of the heavens” class, but who seek and find refuge under the Kingdom, these too must prove to be incorruptible morally, but this matter will be discussed later.
THE FALSE GOVERNMENTAL REFUGE
17. Since World War I, how and why have people turned increasingly to human government, and in spite of what preaching?
17 Meanwhile, in order to heighten our appreciation by means of a sharp contrast, let us take a look at a false governmental refuge that has been foisted upon mankind, reaching a climax in our day. Since the outbreak of World War I in 1914 the inability of man-made governments to rule mankind successfully has become more and more evident. And yet the people turn increasingly to human government, with more national governments being established since 1919 than in any comparable previous period. The former League of Nations, which died in the throes of World War II, had fewer than sixty member nations at that time. But the United Nations of today has one hundred and thirty-eight member nations. Local rule by the local people, not colonial empires, has been the guiding principle. This multiplication of man-made governments has gone on in spite of the ever-intensified preaching by Jehovah’s witnesses that God’s Messianic kingdom is mankind’s only and immediate hope. During the past sixty-one years hundreds of thousands have responded to this Kingdom message, but these two million advocates of God’s kingdom are far outnumbered by the overwhelming majority of earth’s four thousand million inhabitants. There is no gainsaying the fact that the vast bulk of humankind are manifestly not taking refuge under God’s kingdom as their only hope.
18. (a) What illustration of Jesus foretold two contrasting classes, and how so? (b) What did Jesus further say that gives the real point to many of his parables?
18 Should we be surprised that the greater part of mankind have shut their hearts and minds to the Kingdom gospel and prefer human political governments as their refuge in these troublous times? No, not if we are well acquainted with the prophetic scriptures of God’s Holy Bible. His Son, the Lamb Jesus Christ, foretold that it would be so. In one of his illustrations, he said: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left.” He went on to say that the sorting out of the weeds from the wheat would wait until the harvest. Later, when explaining the parable, he said: “As for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one,” and added that “the harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.” (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) Keep in mind, too, the answer Jesus gave when his disciples asked him: “Why is it you speak to them by the use of illustrations?” Note, now, his reply: “To you [disciples] it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted . . . because, looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah [at chapter Isa 6:9, 10] is having fulfillment, which says, ‘By hearing, you will hear but by no means get the sense of it; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.’” (Matt. 13:10-15) This setting gives the thrust to many of Jesus’ parables. Is it not exactly the same today with the “weeds” at this “harvest,” the “conclusion of a system of things”? Their hearts and minds are shut.
19. (a) What similar warning did Paul give at Acts 20:27-30? (b) How did the “man of lawlessness” develop, ultimately forming what false governmental refuge?
19 Bearing on the same subject, we recall the warning that the apostle Paul gave to the elders of the congregation at Ephesus when he said: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:27-30) These false teachers would be very corrupt and, as Paul also foretold, would gradually form a composite “man of lawlessness.” (2 Thess. 2:3-12) It was already at work in the days of the apostles, but it did not take definite form until the fourth century when Emperor Constantine the Great forced a compromise with the so-called “bishops,” the false teachers of his day. So the adulterated Christianity that these “bishops” supervised was merged with the pagan Roman religion. This fusion religion became the State religion, and in this way Christendom was founded. It is a huge religious mass today and is thoroughly leavened with paganism, worldliness, badness, traditions of men, hypocrisy, doctrines of demons. Christendom made herself a part of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and is the dominant part of that religious empire.—Rev. 17:3-6; Gal. 5:9, 19-21.