‘Light Has Flashed Up for the Righteous’
“Light itself has flashed up for the righteous one, and rejoicing even for the ones upright in heart.”—Ps. 97:11.
1. What is one thing that distinguishes the righteous from the wicked?
WHAT is one thing that distinguishes the righteous from the wicked, the true servants of Jehovah God from those in bondage to God’s adversary, Satan the Devil? Doubtless more than anything else it is the fact that the righteous, the true servants of Jehovah God, enjoy light. For them, indeed, “light itself has flashed up.” (Ps. 97:11) As for the wicked, they walk in darkness. Yes, “the path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”—Prov. 4:18, 19, New International Version.
2. How might the increase of light on the path of the righteous be illustrated?
2 Note that the shining of light on the path of the righteous is progressive. It keeps “shining ever brighter.” We might illustrate this by a man who gets up before daybreak and who sets out on foot to travel through the countryside. He might see an outline of a building in the distance, but at first cannot tell whether it is a barn or a house. Gradually as day dawns and he gets closer he can see that it is a house. After a while he is able to tell that it is a wooden, not a brick, house. Then, later, he can make out the color of the house, and so forth.
3. What factors have a bearing on the light’s increasing?
3 The experience of God’s servants has been just like that. Viewing certain matters from a distance in time and with only a little light on the subject often we have had an incomplete, and even an inaccurate, view of things. In such situations we may well have been influenced by previously held views. But as the light gets brighter and we draw much closer to events, then our understanding of the outworking of God’s purposes becomes clearer. Prophecies open up to us as Jehovah’s holy spirit sheds light upon them, and as they are fulfilled in world events or in the experiences of God’s people. Has this not been just the way that Jehovah God has dealt with his servants from early times? Indeed it has been!
EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM
4, 5. How did God gradually reveal his purpose to Abraham?
4 Consider Abraham, the man of faith whom God called his friend. (Isa. 41:8; Jas. 2:23) Despite his close relationship with Jehovah God, he did not at first have a complete understanding of God’s purposes. We can see this from a number of developments in Abraham’s life—his understanding gradually improved. God called him to leave his home country, telling him that He would make a great nation of him and that through him all the families of the earth would bless themselves. But Abraham did not know all the details; we read that he obeyed “although not knowing where he was going.” (Heb. 11:8) Further, though God promised him that his seed would be given the land, Abraham did not know how this would come about. He even expressed concern that his servant Eliezer might inherit his house. Then Jehovah made matters plain, telling Abraham: “One who will come out of your own inward parts will succeed you as heir.” (Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 15:2-4) Since Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren, she asked him to have relations with her maid, Hagar, by whom he had Ishmael. Later God explained to Abraham that the heir of promise would be through Sarah.—Gen. 17:15-17.
5 So we can see that, whereas everything Jehovah revealed directly to Abraham was true, yet Abraham did not accurately understand how God would work out this purpose. Still, he continued to exercise faith and to wait on Jehovah, receiving further enlightenment as time went on. Likewise, when Jehovah commanded him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah, Abraham did not know exactly how this matter would be worked out. But he had faith that God would raise up a seed through Isaac even if God had to raise Isaac from the dead.—Heb. 11:17-19.
DANIEL AND OTHER PROPHETS
6, 7. (a) What words of Daniel show that God reveals matters only at His due time? (b) What testimony does the apostle Peter give along this line?
6 Among the many prophets Jehovah favored with direct revelations was Daniel, a “very desirable man” to God. (Dan. 10:11, 19) Jehovah gave him much specific information regarding both his own time and future times; yet Daniel did not understand all that was involved. Regarding some of the visions he saw, he said: “I heard, but I could not understand.” When he asked for more information he was told: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:8, 9) Similarly, Jehovah God kept revealing many truths to his servants the prophets. Yet there were many things that they did not get to understand.
7 That is why the apostle Peter could write: “Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you.” In fact, even angels did not have a full and complete understanding of how God’s purposes would work out.—1 Pet. 1:10-12.
8. How did a question of John the Baptizer show that his understanding was incomplete?
8 The last of such prophets was John the Baptizer. God used him to prepare the way before the Christ, Jesus. (Luke 1:16, 17, 76-79) John was highly favored in getting from God the sign that identified the Messiah, and in introducing him to Israel. (John 1:26-36) Even so, John did not understand clearly all the details pertaining to Jesus’ first coming. This can be seen from the fact that while John was in prison he sent his disciples to Jesus with the inquiry: “Are you the Coming One, or are we to expect a different one?” John’s query was not an expression of a lack of faith but a desire for more specific confirmation. Jesus’ reply, pointing to his works, without a doubt comforted John.—Matt. 11:2-6.
JESUS AND HIS APOSTLES
9. What shows that Jesus did not have a complete understanding of his Father’s purposes?
9 God reveals his will to his servants only in his due time, and this applied even to Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly Jesus received direct information while he was with his Father in heaven. Yet he himself did not know when the end of our present system of things would come. That is why he confessed: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”—Matt. 24:36.
10, 11. (a) What mistaken conclusion did Jesus’ disciples reach regarding the Kingdom? (b) Why did Jesus limit what he told his apostles about the future, as well as about other matters?
10 Jesus himself acted in harmony with the principle stated at Proverbs 4:18 in dealing with his disciples. He told them much about the Kingdom: that he would go away and that he would return after a long time and take them home to him in the heavens. In spite of all of this, however, his apostles held to the idea that the Messianic kingdom would be the restored kingdom of David in Jerusalem. That is why they asked the resurrected Jesus: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” Jesus told them that there were some things they could not understand as yet, saying: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.”—Acts 1:6, 7.
11 That there is a due time to gain understanding of certain features of God’s purposes is clear from Jesus’ words to his apostles: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.” (John 16:12) This indicates that God gives his servants understanding of his will in accordance with their ability to grasp and make use of such understanding. True, Jesus told his apostles that God’s spirit would guide them “into all truth.” (John 16:13) But did Jesus mean that from the day they received holy spirit they would discern all truth, without their needing to get further understanding later? The facts show that this was not the case.
12, 13. (a) What clearer appreciation did Jesus’ followers receive at Pentecost, and what effect did it have on them? (b) Although Jesus had commissioned them to make disciples of people of all the nations, when first did they begin to do so, and why first then?
12 On the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. the disciples did receive holy spirit and with it a much clearer appreciation of the truth pertaining to Jesus’ resurrection, his ascension to heaven and the significance of the kingdom of God. This knowledge infused them with zeal to tell the “good news” to others. Even though Jesus had said they should make disciples of people of all nations, at first they limited their preaching to the Jews, non-Jewish proselytes and then, in time, to the Samaritans. They did not understand that they should go to the uncircumcised Gentiles. (Matt. 28:19, 20) No doubt Jehovah withheld such enlightenment, for the prophecy of Daniel had stated that the Messiah would keep the covenant with the Jews in force for the rest of the 70th week.—Dan. 9:24-27.
13 When that “week” ended in 36 C.E., Jehovah God acted positively in opening up the “good news” to the people of the nations. Peter truly needed help to adjust his thinking before entering the home of an uncircumcised Gentile considered unclean by the Law. He had to be instructed while in a trance: “You stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.” So Peter and the other apostles had to change their viewpoint on this matter. Peter did so and was used by God to declare to the Gentiles that the way to God’s heavenly kingdom was open.—Acts 10:9-43.
14. What light did the early Christians receive years later as to the requirements of the Mosaic law?
14 Yet, 13 years later, circumcision was still a matter of dispute among some Christians. It was necessary for Paul and other disciples to go to Jerusalem in order to take this matter up with the apostles and other elders, who at that time made up the governing body for Christian congregations. This body heard what Peter had to say about the conversion of Cornelius, and Paul’s evidence about the mighty works God had performed in connection with Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Then they considered what God’s inspired Word had to say about the matter. With the help of holy spirit they came to the right conclusion, namely, that while certain standards of conduct were required, it was not necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the Mosaic law in order to become Christians.—Acts 15:1–16:5.
15, 16. (a) What words of Paul show he recognized that the revealing of the truth was progressive? (b) What similar testimony did the apostle Peter give?
15 About six years after this meeting, Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, in which he stated concerning spirit-begotten Christians of his time: “For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; but when that which is complete arrives, that which is partial will be done away with. For at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known.” So even at this point spirit-begotten Christians, including the apostle Paul himself, had not been led by holy spirit to a complete knowledge of all truth. Their knowledge was still only partial, to the extent that God had given them understanding up to that time. But it was sufficient for the needs they then had.—1 Cor. 13:9, 10, 12.
16 Some nine years after Paul had written the foregoing, or about the year 64 C.E., what did Peter write his fellow Christians? After discussing the transfiguration experience that confirmed Jesus to be the Son of God, he went on to say: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:16-21) So Christians still needed to search the Scriptures, giving much attention to the prophetic word, which would be like a lamp shining in a dark place. This they must continue to do clear down to the time when anointed Christians would experience their reward at the glorious revelation of Jesus Christ.
17. (a) With the giving of the book of Revelation, what new truths became known to Christians? (b) When was more light due to shine on that book?
17 Some 32 years after Peter wrote his second letter, or some 63 years after Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle John received and recorded the series of visions that make up the book of Revelation. In these visions a number of truths concerning God’s purposes were revealed to spirit-begotten Christians for the first time. For instance, they thus learned that 144,000 men and women would be redeemed from all nations to be joint heirs with Jesus Christ in heaven and would rule as kings, priests and judges in the Messianic kingdom of 1,000 years’ duration. (Rev., chaps. 7, 14 and 20) Yet even Christians of that early time did not have complete knowledge. Students of God’s Word today can see that the visions of Revelation, though they may have been instructive and encouraging to Christians of John’s day, are of special value to those living in the “Lord’s day,” where we now find ourselves. (Rev. 1:10) Thus Revelation 5:1-14 pictorially describes a scroll, with seals that had to be loosed so that the scroll could be opened. This indicates that at the time of the fulfillment of the prophecies of Revelation there must be a gradual unfolding of knowledge and understanding as each seal is loosed in its turn.
18. How, then, did Jehovah God reveal truths to his servants in ancient times and during the first century?
18 So we can see that, both with regard to Jehovah’s faithful servants in pre-Christian times and the congregation of anointed Christians of the first century of our Common Era, without exception all had incomplete knowledge and understanding. They had to continue to make progress, readjusting their understanding as they observed and experienced the gradual outworking of Jehovah’s purposes. For them, the path of the righteous ones has indeed been like ‘a bright light that gets ever lighter and lighter.’ (Prov. 4:18) As the light increased, they grew in knowledge, discerning more fully the grand truths that Jehovah kept revealing to them.
19. What did God say to the prophet Daniel regarding knowledge and understanding at the “time of the end’?
19 But what of Jehovah’s servants at the time of the end? An angel had told Daniel: “O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of the end. Many will rove about [in God’s Word], and [as a result] the true knowledge will become abundant.” (Dan. 12:4) In Da 12 verse 10, it is further stated concerning God’s servants: “Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” Would this enlightenment come all at once? To be identified as ‘those having insight’ would it require that God’s servants have complete, detailed knowledge and understanding, so that they would not need, in time, to make any readjustments or changes in their views of certain teachings or other matters? These questions and others will be considered in the following articles.
[Box on page 20]
Jehovah’s dealings with his servants in times past show that understanding of his purposes often comes gradually.
Abraham did not know just how God’s promise regarding the “seed” would work out.
Daniel did not understand the final outcome of his prophecies.
John the Baptizer, who introduced the Messiah, later asked to be enlightened as to whether another was coming.
Jesus himself did not know the day and hour of the “great tribulation.”
The apostles had to learn progressively that the kingdom is heavenly and that Gentiles, too, may inherit it.
It was only upon receiving the book of Revelation that the early Christians learned that Christ’s reign would be 1,000 years long and that he would have 144,000 joint heirs.
[Pictures on page 16]
In an early morning walk things get clearer as one gets closer and as darkness gradually turns to light