Sacred Service in This “Time of the End”
1. How do we know that we are living in the “time of the end,” and what does Daniel 12:4 say about it?
IN THE light of the unsealed prophecies of the Bible we should have no trouble in seeing that we are living in the foretold “time of the end.” With regard to this critical period, the prophecy of Daniel 12:4 says: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (The Jewish Publication Society of America; Leeser) The Greek Septuagint Version reads: “And thou, Daniel, close the words, and seal the book to the time of the end; until many are taught, and knowledge is increased.” (Bagster; Thomson; Latin Vulgate; Lamsa’s Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts) The “great crowd” that is described in the last book of the Bible has benefited from this increase of Bible knowledge and understanding.—Rev. 7:9-17.
2. (a) Why is how the “great crowd” renders “sacred service” important? (b) How is the Greek word translated ‘to serve’ different from the word rendered “sacred service”?
2 Ever since this “great crowd” began to be gathered in 1935 C.E., it has been “rendering . . . sacred service” to Jehovah God. Just how they do this is very important. Why? Because to his faithful 11 apostles Jesus Christ said on his last night with them: “I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.” (John 16:1, 2) Instead of “sacred service,” The Jerusalem Bible says “holy duty”; The New English Bible says “religious duty”; Rotherham’s The Emphasised Bible says “divine service.” The original Greek word thus translated is la·treiʹa. The verb form of that Greek noun is la·treuʹein. It differs from the Greek verb di·a·ko·neinʹ, which means “to minister or serve,” and which is used even in common, ordinary, mundane things, things not sacred, as in Matthew 8:15.
3. Why did the Jews who stuck to the Law covenant think they could not go wrong in killing Jesus and persecuting his disciples?
3 Saul of Tarsus, Asia Minor, was once a misguided Jew who persecuted Christians until he got converted. He spoke of his fellow Jews as being “Israelites, to whom belong the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the sacred service [la·treiʹa] and the promises; to whom the forefathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob] belong and from whom Christ sprang according to the flesh.” (Rom. 9:4, 5) Because they stuck to that “sacred service” set out in the Law covenant, the unbelieving Jews thought that they could not be wrong in impaling Jesus Christ and persecuting his faithful disciples even to the death.
4. How does Paul speak of the service of the priests in the tent compartments, and what did those activities typify?
4 For the time that the Law covenant was in effect, that “sacred service” under it had its place, and it was acceptable to God. So the apostle Paul puts it on a high level when he says: “For its part, then, the former covenant used to have ordinances of sacred service [la·treiʹa] and its mundane holy place. For there was constructed a first tent compartment in which were the lampstand and also the table and the display of the loaves; and it is called ‘the Holy Place.’ But behind the second curtain was the tent compartment called ‘the Most Holy.’ . . . After these things had been constructed this way, the priests enter the first tent compartment at all times to perform the sacred services [la·treiʹa].” (Heb. 9:1-6) That ceremonial sacred service was in connection with the sacrifices offered in behalf of the nation of Israel. It did not refer to everyday things of the people. As the apostle Paul points out, all such “sacred service” under the old Law covenant was typical, prefiguring Christian matters.
5. Is what Paul tells Christians to do at Romans 12:1 something of an ordinary kind, and what does he call it?
5 In line with that, Paul said in his letter to the Christians at Rome: “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service [la·treiʹa] with your power of reason. And quit being fashioned after this system of things.” (Rom. 12:1, 2) So their doing something of a sacrificial kind would be out of the ordinary, something not carried on in general by the unchristian people of this worldly system of things.
6. By entering the Law covenant through Moses, the Israelites obligated themselves to do what toward God, and what did the martyr Stephen say about this?
6 After the nation of Israel was delivered out of the house of slavery in ancient Egypt, they were given an organized form of sacred service to God. As the Christian martyr Stephen worded it: “‘And that nation for which they will slave I shall judge,’ God said, ‘and after these things they will come out and will render sacred service [la·treuʹein] to me in this place.’” (Acts 7:7) By entering the Law covenant with Jehovah God through Moses as their mediator, the Israelites obliged themselves to render sacred service to Him. Later the majority of the covenant-bound Israelites chose to worship other gods. “So,” as Stephen went on to say, “God turned and handed them over to render sacred service [la·treuʹein] to the army of heaven, just as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to me that you offered victims and sacrifices for forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel?’”—Acts 7:42.
7. (a) In order to attain to the fulfillment of God’s promise, what did Paul say that the Jews were rendering to Him? (b) According to what the Jews called a sect, the apostle Paul was doing what to the God of his forefathers?
7 It was many years after Jehovah God had canceled his Law covenant with the natural house of Israel that the apostle Paul said in a judicial hearing before King Agrippa at Caesarea: “Our twelve tribes are hoping to attain to the fulfillment of this promise by intensely rendering [God] sacred service [la·treuʹein] night and day. Concerning this hope I am accused by Jews, O king.” (Acts 26:7) Because of such an accusation Paul could say before the Roman governor Felix in the presence of Jewish accusers: “I do admit this to you, that, according to the way that they call a ‘sect,’ in this manner I am rendering sacred service [la·treuʹein] to the God of my forefathers, as I believe all the things set forth in the Law and written in the Prophets.”—Acts 24:14; 28:22.
8. (a) What is that “sect” according to which even the “great crowd” of today is worshipping Jehovah? (b) Why is there great danger of rendering a misguided “sacred service,” and what did Paul say is our safeguard?
8 The so-called heretical “sect” according to which Paul was worshiping Jehovah as God was Christianity. (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16) Today those of the “great crowd” publicly acknowledge that they are Christian witnesses of Jehovah, and for that reason they must be very careful as to how they try to serve Jehovah in a sacred way. Since the “time of the end” set in at the close of the “times of the Gentiles” in 1914, false gods and false lords have multiplied. (Luke 21:24, Authorized Version) Even 19 centuries ago the apostle Paul found it necessary to remind the “Christians” in the capital city of the Roman Empire: Jewish apostates “exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service [la·treuʹein] to the creation rather than the One who created.” (Rom. 1:25) He showed what was his safeguard against misguided sacred service, when he said: “Even though there are those who are called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords,’ there is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.”—1 Cor. 8:5, 6.
HOW RENDERED AND WHEN
9. When did efforts to render “sacred service” to God according to the Mosiac Law covenant become out of order, and why?
9 During the 1,545 years that the Law covenant was in operation toward the Jewish nation, from 1513 B.C.E. to 33 C.E., the faithful Jews rendered to Jehovah God what was “sacred service” acceptable to him. But when that Law covenant was abolished at the time that the glorified Jesus Christ mediated the new covenant in heaven in 33 C.E., the Mosaic Law covenant was no longer the means by which to render sacred service approved by Jehovah, the God of the new covenant. (Heb. 8:10-13) To have their religious service approved by Jehovah God, the Jews had to render it through the Mediator greater than Moses, Jesus Christ the Son of God, the ‘seed of Abraham.’ (Gal. 3:16) This was referred to on that spring day in 2 B.C.E. when the Jewish priest named Zechariah declared that his eight-day-old son should be named John.
10. (a) On that day of circumcising his son, Zechariah said that it was God’s purpose for His people to render what to Him after being freed from their enemies? (b) In behalf of that oath-bound covenant, John became the forerunner of whom?
10 Then the inspired Zechariah told of God’s purpose to “perform the mercy in connection with our forefathers and to call to mind his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to Abraham our forefather, to grant us, after we have been rescued from the hands of enemies, the privilege of fearlessly rendering sacred service [la·treuʹein] to him with loyalty and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:59-75) John the son of Zechariah became the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the one whom God used in carrying out the covenant that he made with Abraham, confirming it with an unbreakable oath.—Gen. 12:3; 22:15-18; Gal. 3:8, 16; Heb. 6:13-17.
11. (a) Where is the “great crowd” endeavoring to render “sacred service” to God today? (b) What question does 1 Corinthians 10:31 raise with regard to that “great crowd”?
11 As persons who are already blessed through the Abrahamic covenant, those of the “great crowd” find themselves in the earthly courtyards of Jehovah’s spiritual “temple” and are seeking to render “sacred service” fearlessly to the God of Abraham. But how? True, the words of the apostle Paul at 1 Corinthians 10:31 apply to the “great crowd” as well as to the remnant of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, namely: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”
12. Because of our different viewpoint and because we do these common things under the name of Christian witnesses of Jehovah, does this of itself make these things “sacred service,” or not?
12 By those words does the apostle Paul mean that all things that we now do as Christians become “sacred service” (lat·reiʹa) because of our having a different viewpoint respecting these things? Why should that be the case? When we eat, drink and sleep and do things that all other humans are obliged to do to live, whom are we really serving? Ourselves, naturally. Yes, when we now do those things, we have God’s glory in mind. Hence, we do not overeat to the point of sickness or gluttony; we do not drink alcoholic beverages to the point of drunkenness; we do not regularly sleep too much to the point of laziness or slothfulness. Yet now when we eat, drink, sleep under the religious name of Christian witnesses of Jehovah, the same as all other humans do under their religious names, does this of itself transform these basic, essential acts of human living into “sacred service”? No; why should it?
13. Why is the case different when the anointed witnesses of Jehovah celebrate the Lord’s Evening Meal each year on the right date?
13 Of course, when Christian witnesses of Jehovah who are anointed with his holy spirit celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Evening Meal each year, this does make a difference. Then their eating the unleavened bread and their drinking the red wine on the springtime night of Nisan 14 are things done under the command of Jesus Christ and have the deep significance that he attached to them. So they are a vital part of the “sacred service” rendered to God by these members of Christ’s spiritual body.—1 Cor. 11:20-26; Matt. 26:26-30; Luke 22:19, 20.
14. Why is it advisable to do the things stated at Romans 13:1-7, and in doing so do we differ from all other law-abiding citizens of the land?
14 On the other hand, when all Christian witnesses of Jehovah do what the apostle Paul instructs them to do in Romans 13:1-7, they are doing only what is required of all other citizens or alien residents of a country. Properly we do so as good and orderly persons, and this keeps us from getting into trouble with the “superior authorities.” We also do so with a higher motivation, that is, to keep a good conscience and an appreciation of what is right and fitting. But our now acting in this way under the name of Christian witnesses of Jehovah does not automatically change our proper conduct into the Scriptural “sacred service.” All other law-abiding citizens do the same things, even without the same motivations that we have. So how do we differ in these respects?
15. If we defy man-made prohibitions of Jehovah’s worship and so do what other citizens do not do, what kind of service does this become, and why?
15 However, suppose the authorities of the land forbid us to carry on our worship as Christian witnesses of Jehovah? What now if we take up the words of the apostles of Christ: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men”? (Acts 5:29) Our continuing to do what all other citizens do not do, in order to obey what God orders his dedicated, baptized witnesses to do keeps what we are doing a service sacred to him. This holds true even though the authorities and other citizens of the land may denounce it as illegal, lawless.
16. What instance of this obligatory “sacred service” is given in Hebrews 10:23-25?
16 For instance, God’s Word commands: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom. but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:23-25.
17. Does the way that the “superior authorities” legalistically brand our obeying the divine exhortation change the spiritual nature of our course?
17 Undeniably our obedience to this inspired exhortation, even though we suffer for it at men’s hands, is a sacred service to the Supreme Being, Jehovah God. Let the displeased “superior authorities” of the land brand it as they choose to do, legalistically.—2 Tim. 2:8-10.
18. The “public declaration of our hope” has to do with what government, and so this comes under what mandatory words of Jesus?
18 The confession or “public declaration of our hope” has to do with God’s Messianic kingdom that will reign for the blessing of all the families of the earth. Regarding such “public declaration,” Jesus said when prophesying concerning “the conclusion of the system of things” these mandatory words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end [telʹos] will come.” (Matt. 24:3, 14) “You will . . . be put on the stand before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them. Also, in all the nations the good news has to be preached.”—Mark 13:4, 9, 10.
19. Who are the ones who must carry the fulfillment of those prophetic words into effect, and their doing so is part of what?
19 Who are to carry out the fulfillment of those prophecies that they may be proved true? No others than the dedicated, baptized disciples of the Giver of the prophecies, Jesus Christ, the ones to whom the prophecies were given. Their seeing their duty and their taking part in putting those prophecies into effect is a part of the “sacred service” that they may not sidestep.
20. Proving that his disciples must do this “sacred service,” what did Jesus say to his disciples in a mountain of Galilee, and so what must those who live in the “conclusion of the system of things” do?
20 Buttressing up the fact that his disciples were to carry on this “sacred service,” the resurrected Jesus appeared to about 500 of his disciples in a mountain in “Galilee of the nations” and commanded them: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion [syn·telʹi·a] of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20; 4:15; 1 Cor. 15:6) Since the end of the “times of the Gentiles” in 1914 we have been living in the “conclusion of the system of things.” So all we dedicated, baptized disciples of the resurrected, fully empowered Jesus Christ are under orders to carry out this “sacred service” that he has laid upon us. To the end of this conclusion of the system of things” we must do so, never slacking the hand.
21. (a) To those who make it into the heavenly New Jerusalem, what privileges will be granted? (b) To those of the “great crowd” proving faithful to the end of the “great tribulation,” what favors will be granted?
21 Concerning the 144,000 spiritual Israelites who gain admission into the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, it is written: “And no more will there be any curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his slaves will render him sacred service [la·treuʹein]; and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev. 22:3, 4) As for the faithful, obedient ones who make up the numberless “great crowd,” they will be blessed with “salvation” out of the “great tribulation” with which this “time of the end” will close, and under the millennial kingdom of the Lamb of God they will continue “rendering [God] sacred service” in the earthly courtyards of his spiritual temple. “And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”—Rev. 7:9-17.
[Picture on page 24]
To the Jews, sacred service was always related to worship in obedience to the Law covenant
[Picture on page 25]
“Sacred service” includes obeying God under persecution, making public declaration of our hope, teaching and making disciples