A Positive Commitment Required for Those Taking Refuge
1. What two symbolic women are mentioned in the book of Revelation and how are they identified?
ON LOOKING into the last book of the Bible, we find two symbolic women who are seen in sharp contrast with each other. The one is “Babylon the Great,” and the other is the “wife” of the Lamb of God. The first is branded as a “harlot.” The second, “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” is a virgin. (Rev. 17:3-6, 15; 21:9) Both are religious organizations, the one unclean, the other clean. The “bride, the Lamb’s wife,” is the congregation of the 144,000 virginlike faithful followers of the Lamb Jesus Christ, all of them being spiritual Israelites. Babylon the Great is the world empire of false religion as derived from ancient Babylon. Hence, it is composed of all of those who practice religions in opposition to true Christianity. That is why the apostle John “saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the holy ones and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” (Rev. 17:6) The religion of the members of Babylon the Great is, therefore, not Christian, but Babylonish, hence false.
2. What is the relationship between Christendom and Babylon the Great, and how is this made evident?
2 By becoming the dominant religious organization of the Roman World Power, Christendom was, in effect, a daughter of Babylon the Great, of whom it is said: “Upon her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.’” (Rev. 17:5) It is no wonder, then, that Christendom imitates her religious mother, of whom it is said: “With [her] the kings of the earth committed fornication, whereas those who inhabit the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Rev. 17:1, 2) Christendom enjoys intimate friendship with the world. This reminds us of the scripture at James 4:4: “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.” The many unions of Church and State in Christendom do not stand to her credit. They brand her as a spiritual fornicatrix, a meddler in world politics. She is condemned as a false and an unclean refuge for mankind.
3. How is the destiny of Babylon the Great, including Christendom, vividly portrayed?
3 What befalls Babylon the Great also befalls Christendom. There are no two ways about it. Revelation, chapter 17, though written in symbolic language, makes it unmistakably plain. Coming to the climax of the drama pictured in that chapter, we read: “And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast [on which Babylon the Great had been riding as mistress], these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.” Not a pretty picture!—Rev. 17:16.
FLEE FROM BABYLON THE GREAT TO GOD’S TRUE WOMAN
4. (a) At Revelation 18:4-8, what compelling cry did John hear, and why was it an urgent one? (b) How might some react to this cry, but what question must we all face today?
4 Not surprisingly, early in Revelation, chapter 18, we hear the urgent and compelling cry: “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. . . . In one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.” (Rev. 18:4-8) Have you heard and heeded that cry? Perhaps you say that you have seen the hypocrisy of the churches of Christendom and have left them, if indeed you ever reckoned to have membership in any one of them. There are many in our present generation who have no religious background at all, but who say in a vague sort of way that they believe there must be a God. Do you feel satisfied to be simply nonreligious? You could hardly claim to be in, or seeking to be in, a safe place of refuge if you are holding to such a negative and noncommitted attitude. In view of all the evidence of the approaching end of the present system of things, including Christendom, we must face the question: On whose side are we in this day of approaching climax?
5. After vision of the 144,000 what crowd of people did John see, giving what detail?
5 Perhaps you say that you are not one of the “kingdom of the heavens” class comprising those who know they have the heavenly hope, as was discussed earlier. But this does not rule you out of God’s favor or of finding refuge under his wings. (Ps. 91:4) Following the description of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites at Revelation 7:4-8, we read: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Then, for further identification, we read: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple . . . [and] the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” What an inviting picture!—Rev. 7:9-17.
6. (a) How did Jesus speak of this people? (b) In what way did he make this very personal, leading to what fine assurance?
6 For further indication as to who comprise this “great crowd,” and inviting you to be one of them, may we remind you of what Jesus said concerning his followers, whom he likened to sheep. As regards those who would share with him in his throne, he said: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) Yes, a “little flock.” But on another occasion, when speaking more extensively about his “sheep” and himself as the “fine shepherd” who ‘surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep,’ he said: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” He also made this very personal. A little earlier he said: “He [the shepherd] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” This means that if you become one of his true sheep by disowning yourself and continually following him, then he knows you personally. And notice the very personal note in his further words: “My sheep listen to my voice [and to no one else], and I know them [individually], and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father.” What a grand assurance of a safe refuge!—John 10:3, 16, 27-29; see also Matthew 16:24.
7. What warning did Peter give respecting “false teachers”?
7 Returning to the question as to whose side we are on, we do well to consider what the apostle Peter was inspired to say respecting this. Toward the close of his second letter he first warned of the rise of “false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.” With these imitation Christians in mind, he later wrote: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’” Is that not exactly the attitude that is adopted generally by Christendom’s clergy and their followers? We trust that it is not your attitude.—2 Pet. 2:1, 2; 3:3, 4.
8. How did Peter go on to sound a warning especially for our day?
8 Rather, we trust that the sincere attitude of all of us is in line with the apostle’s further exhortation. After telling that “by the word of God” a former system of things, a former heavens and earth, “suffered destruction when it was deluged with water,” he then continued, saying that “by the same word [of God] the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” He then warned about becoming impatient, as many are these days, by God’s seeming slowness, saying: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, [now notice the reason] but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” He again warned that “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief” in which the present symbolic heavens and earth, under Satan’s invisible control, will be destroyed.—2 Pet. 3:5-10.
9. Why is it important to take the right view of God’s patience?
9 Then comes the exhortation: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Pet. 3:11, 12) The ridiculers of today do not take advantage of God’s patience. However, although they do not appreciate it, God has acted very kindly toward them with a view to their repenting. As the apostle Paul wrote: “Do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and long-suffering, because you do not know that the kindly quality of God is trying to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4) Woe betide us if we despise God’s kindness!
10. On what basis and in what way can we respond to the plea at 2 Peter 3:14?
10 But, on the positive side, how should we answer the question: What sort of persons ought you to be? And how can we show that we are “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah”? For one thing, all of us, whether our hope of life is heavenly or earthly, must respond to Peter’s further plea: “Do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Pet. 3:12, 14) Yes, we must always strive to be morally incorruptible. We must maintain our integrity, “pure in heart” in whole-souled devotion to Jehovah. (Matt. 5:8) Granted, we are all imperfect and fall short every day, but, as mentioned in the very next letter in the Bible, at 1 John 1:7: “If we are walking in the light as he [God] himself is in the light, we do have a sharing with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Yes, Jesus Christ “is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins [the Christian congregation, the “little flock”], yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” Hence, however many come into the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” they can, and must, ‘wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.’—1 John 2:2; Rev. 7:14.
11. Besides the abandonment of false religion, what definite commitment is indicated at Revelation 18:4?
11 But that is not all. Do you remember our mention of those two symbolic women set in sharp contrast with each other? The one is the harlot, Babylon the Great, including Christendom, the other is a virgin, the Lamb’s wife, the Christian congregation. It is not sufficient to get out of Babylon the Great, to abandon all false religion. Who were told, at Revelation 18:4, to “get out of her”? It was: “My people.” This means that you must definitely identify yourself as one of God’s people, as one of his devoted servants or slaves, as a follower of the fine shepherd, Christ Jesus, one of his “sheep.” For further information about this, we must go back to the Hebrew Scriptures and prophecies forming the basis, not only of the command at Revelation 18:4, but of most of what is contained in that last book of the Bible.
12. (a) How did Isaiah’s prophecy speak of Jehovah’s heavenly organization? (b) What part did Christ Jesus play in connection with this organization?
12 According to Isaiah’s prophecy, Jehovah’s Messianic Servant, Christ Jesus, before performing his role on earth, was a member of Jehovah’s heavenly organization of faithful “sons of God.” (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) That heavenly spirit organization takes the part of a “wife” who is married to Jehovah the Creator, just as the ancient nation of Israel, when taken into the Law covenant, was as if married to Jehovah and was pictured as an earthly wife of his. (Isa. 54:1, 5-8) Jehovah selected his principal heavenly son to serve as the Messianic Servant on earth. So Jehovah’s motherly organization in heaven furnished this one to be the prime vindicator of her Husband’s universal sovereignty. When this Servant had faithfully fulfilled his course on earth and was resurrected from the dead, the motherly organization in heaven received him back as the “firstborn from the dead.” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5, 17, 18) Her joy was foretold! Listen: “‘Cry out joyfully,’” says Isaiah 54:1, “‘you barren woman that did not give birth! Become cheerful with a joyful outcry and cry shrilly, you that had no childbirth pains, for the sons of the desolated one are more numerous than the sons of the woman with a husbandly owner,’ Jehovah has said.”
13 This scripture is applied by the apostle Paul, not to the Jewish nation after its exile in Babylon, but to Jehovah’s wifely organization in heaven. At Galatians 4:22 through 5:1, Paul contrasts the Jewish nation with its capital at Jerusalem, and which nation rejected Jesus Christ, with God’s heavenly wifelike organization, and says that the “Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” According to Isaiah’s prophecy, God’s heavenly organization was to have more children than the Messiah Jesus, for whom she had long waited as if in barrenness. She was to become the spiritual mother of the 144,000 associates of the Messiah Jesus. This is clearly shown at Isaiah 54:13, addressed to the “Jerusalem above,” the “heavenly Jerusalem” or “Mount Zion,” and which reads: “And all your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” That this is the correct understanding is evidenced by the fact that Jesus Christ applied that scripture to his own disciples, at John 6:45.—Heb. 12:22.
14. How is God’s organization represented on earth, calling for what positive commitment?
14 Thus we can say that God’s wifelike heavenly organization is represented on earth by the well-taught and well-trained associates of Christ Jesus. Hence, not only must we flee from the unclean harlot, Babylon the Great, but we must flee to and find refuge in close association with God’s true woman, the “heavenly Jerusalem,” represented by the virginlike followers of the Lamb, Christ Jesus, on earth. This is clearly seen in the situation that obtains today with that body of Christian people known as Jehovah’s witnesses. Among them, forming a nucleus, there is a remnant of those who are anointed by God’s spirit to the heavenly hope. Closely gathered around that nucleus is an ever-increasing “great crowd” of “other sheep,” forming “one flock [under] one shepherd.”—John 10:16.
15. In what ways do Jehovah’s witnesses show that they keep Jehovah’s day “close in mind”?
15 This is no empty claim. They show that they are indeed “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” Despite all the increasing pressures, they hold to the ‘pure religion and undefiled’ by keeping themselves without spot from the unclean world. They refuse to worship the political “wild beast” and its man-made “image,” the United Nations. They keep from being stained with bloodguilt, keeping strictly neutral and nonparticipating with respect to the sanguinary wars of nations and political parties of this world. They copy Jesus Christ their leader in being no part of this world.—Jas. 1:27; Rev. 13:1-15; 15:2-4; John 15:19; 17:14, 16.
16 With emphasis on the positive side, they prove that they are “seeking first the kingdom [of their heavenly Father] and his righteousness” by their persistence in proclaiming what they know to be man’s only hope and refuge, as Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” They also persist, while there is yet time, in carrying out the command of the resurrected Jesus Christ to go and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in water and teaching them to observe all the things that he commanded them. (Matt. 6:33; 24:14; 28:18-20) That all of this has had Jehovah’s blessing is seen, not only in the truly remarkable increase of those crowding into Jehovah’s organization, but in the peaceful, happy, secure and clean condition, obtaining earth wide among Jehovah’s dedicated people. It is truly like a spiritual paradise. Listen, then, and give heed to this Scriptural invitation, to come and find refuge in this spiritual paradise.
INVITATION TO A SPIRITUAL PARADISE
17 At the close of Isaiah, chapter 54, comes the grand promise to the spiritual sons of the “Jerusalem above”: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn.” (Isa. 54:17) Then comes the thrilling invitation: “Hey there, all you thirsty ones! Come to the water. And the ones that have no money! Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk even without money and without price. . . . Listen intently to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul find its exquisite delight in fatness itself.” (Isa. 55:1, 2) The clue to the situation is seen when we recall that Isaiah foretold the desolating of Jerusalem and Judea and the exile of the Jews to Babylon for seventy years. He also foretold their liberation through Cyrus the Persian, who was used as a prophetic type of God’s Messianic Servant, Christ Jesus, who would overthrow and destroy modern Babylon the Great. (Isa. 44:28–45:6) But what of today?
18. How did the experiences of Jehovah’s witnesses from 1914 to 1919 lead up to a major fulfillment of the above scriptures?
18 During World War I, Babylon the Great really got Jehovah’s witnesses in her power by means of her worldly paramours, the political, military and judicial authorities. There were widespread persecution and bans, climaxed by the imprisonment of members of the governing body of Jehovah’s witnesses. The outlook was dim. Then suddenly an unexpected postwar period opened up before them. The message of deliverance came from Jehovah, the Scriptural message of deliverance from Babylon the Great by means of the established Messianic kingdom. The concrete proof of this was seen in the release from prison of the above-mentioned members and their being totally relieved of all false charges. Closely following in the same year, 1919, the leading article appeared in The Watch Tower entitled “Blessed Are the Fearless,” and which was the theme of the General Convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, September 1-8, 1919. At that convention, as a sign of more spiritual food and a greater work ahead, there was announced the publication of a new biweekly magazine, The Golden Age. As you can imagine, all of this was like refreshing water, strengthening bread, joy-giving wine and fattening milk to God’s true servants.
19. What subsequent steps have been taken toward the restoration of a spiritual paradise?
19 That was only the beginning, the first step, of the restoration of a spiritual paradise for God’s people. Tremendous forward steps have been taken since then, as the modern history of Jehovah’s witnesses shows, and which record is available for all to see and check for themselves. Additionally, each forward step can be seen to be under the direction of the Bible’s Author, who said: “My word . . . will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it. For with rejoicing you people will go forth, and with peace you will be brought in . . . the very trees of the field will all clap their hands. Instead of the thicket of thorns the juniper tree will come up. Instead of the stinging nettle the myrtle tree will come up. And it must become for Jehovah something famous, a sign to time indefinite that will not be cut off.”—Isa. 55:10-13.
20. How is the invitation to share in this paradise expressed at Psalm 1:1-3?
20 What a grand and inviting description of a spiritual paradise! And you are invited to have a personal share in that paradise if you stick closely to God’s Word. As it says at Psalm 1:1-3: “Happy is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” What happens to that man? “He will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither [remaining ever fruitful and ever green], and everything he does will succeed.”
21 The way into the spiritual paradise is still open! The invitation to enter and enjoy it is still sounding out world wide! As expressed by the king in Jesus’ parable: “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” (Matt. 25:34) In fact, the Holy Scriptures, God’s Word, concludes with this invitation: “And the spirit and the bride keep on saying: ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” As a last word, John, in vision, hears Christ Jesus say: “He that bears witness of these things says, ‘Yes; I am coming quickly.’” Then John eagerly responds: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”—Rev. 22:17-20.
22 Why not make a positive commitment and take refuge under the incorruptible “kingdom of the heavens”? With such an oft-repeated and pressing invitation, will you not eagerly respond? Will you not come?