The Light’s Increase in Modern Times
“The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”—Prov. 4:18.
1. What evidence have we considered already as to the fulfillment of Proverbs 4:18?
THE Bible record from Genesis through Revelation shows that the path of Jehovah’s servants has indeed been as a bright light that gets ever lighter. (Prov. 4:18) In the days of Jesus and his apostles many of the prophecies relating to the Messiah became understandable, even as Matthew and other Gospel writers testified. And the pouring out of God’s spirit at Pentecost and the taking of the “good news” to the Gentiles were accompanied by further illumination upon God’s Word.—Acts 2:14-36; 10:34-43; 15:6-21.
2. (a) What accounts for a period of darkness settling down upon the professed followers of Jesus Christ? (b) What played a major role in the harvest separating work?
2 However, after the death of the apostles a period of darkness gradually engulfed the professed followers of Jesus Christ. “Oppressive wolves” took over. (Acts 20:29, 30) It was even as Jesus foretold in one of his parables. He compared the kingdom of heaven to “a man that sowed fine seed in his field.” Then an “enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat.” As a result, the weeds predominated in that worldwide religious field for many, many centuries. But with the harvesttime there comes a separation. That harvesttime is now upon us, for “the harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.” Happily, a “wheat” class of true Christians has been gathered. The facts show that ever-increasing light on the pathway of these Christians plays a major role in separating them from the lawless “weeds,” whose end is destruction.—Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.*
LIGHT ON JEHOVAH GOD AND HIS WORD
3, 4. What facts regarding the Creator, Jehovah God, did the early Bible Students learn to appreciate?
3 In the early 1870’s a group of earnest, open-minded Bible students started to meet for an unbiased study of God’s Word. Instead of the creeds of Christendom, they took the inspired Scriptures as their guide. The wisdom, reasonableness, harmony and power of the Bible’s message shone into their hearts. It convinced them—contrary to the prevailing atheistic and evolutionary teachings—of the basic fact that an intelligent Creator really exists. They could see that “effects must be produced by competent causes” and that “the immensity of creation, its symmetry, beauty, order, harmony, diversity” testify concerning Him as the great Designer.* (Rom. 1:20) They also gained a clear concept of the Creator’s personality, that he has four cardinal attributes or basic qualities, namely, infinite wisdom, boundless power, perfect justice and matchless love.—Deut. 32:4; Ps. 62:11; Prov. 2:6, 7; 1 John 4:8.
4 Moreover, they learned to appreciate that God is ‘from everlasting to everlasting’ and that his name is Jehovah. (Ps. 83:18; 90:2) They came to see that the chief dogma of Christendom—the Trinity doctrine—is both unreasonable and unscriptural. The light of Bible truth showed them that God is “one Jehovah,” that Jesus is the Son of God (his own testimony establishing that his Father ‘is greater than he is’) and that God’s holy spirit, far from being the third person of the Trinity, is ‘God’s energy that he uses to accomplish varying results.’*—Mark 12:29; John 14:28; Acts 2:17, 18.
5. What stand did those lovers of truth take regarding the Bible?
5 With boldness and conviction they preached that the Bible is God’s inspired Word; that in view of God’s attributes it is reasonable to expect the Creator to provide a divine revelation for the guidance of man. They described the Bible as “the torch of civilization and liberty.” It is “the oldest book in existence; it has outlived the storms of thirty centuries.” Moreover, “all other books combined have failed to bring the joy, peace and blessing to the groaning creation that the Bible has brought.”* These sincere students saw in the unselfish, self-sacrificing lives of the Bible writers clear proof that their motives were pure. In sum, they got to see that ‘the Bible is a reasonable and harmonious statement of the causes of evil, and that it tells of the remedy and the final results; and it serves to guide and strengthen the servants of Jehovah God.’
JESUS CHRIST AND THE KINGDOM
6. What truths did these Bible Students appreciate regarding Jesus Christ?
6 From the beginning, these earnest Bible Students, as they called themselves, clearly understood the basic truths regarding Jesus Christ. He is God’s “only-begotten Son.” He had a prehuman existence. He gave his life as a “ransom for all.” He was resurrected a spirit and ascended to heaven as a spirit, and he was to return as a spirit—the invisible Messianic king of God’s kingdom. Important indeed is the subject of Christ’s second coming: Why, how and when?—John 3:16; 17:5; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 1 Pet. 3:18.
7. What did the increasing light reveal regarding God’s kingdom and its blessings?
7 The ever-increasing light made clear to these Christians the importance of Jehovah’s kingdom as the only remedy for mankind’s ills. That kingdom consists of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 associates, redeemed from among men, and who rule with him as kings and priests for 1,000 years. On the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, the King resurrects all the redeemed ones in the memorial tombs, with prospects of eternal life on a paradise earth. Thus the Bible holds out two destinies for those of saved mankind—a heavenly destiny for a “little flock” of Kingdom heirs, and life on earth for Jesus’ “other sheep,” who include “a great crowd” of survivors of earth’s greatest “tribulation” and also the many, many millions who are in the memorial tombs and who will come forth to enjoy life on the paradise earth.—Luke 12:32; John 5:28, 29; 10:16; Rev. 7:9, 14; 14:1, 4; 20:6.
8. What understanding was gained as to the human soul and the condition of the dead?
8 The increasing light also revealed to these open-minded students of the Bible that the teachings of Christendom on the nature of the human soul and the condition of the dead are completely in error! They saw clearly that when Adam was created he ‘became a living soul,’ and that when he returned to the ground because of his disobedience, he died as a soul, simply ceasing to exist. Yes, he returned to the dust from which he had been taken in the first place. In the death state there is no consciousness, no activity. (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; Eccl. 9:5, 10) The “wages sin pays is death,” not eternal torment. A burning hell and a tormenting purgatory exist only in the minds of misinformed religionists. It is because man actually ceases to exist at death that there is need of a resurrection, in order that he may benefit from Christ’s sacrifice.—Rom. 6:23.
9. What stand did these enlightened Christians take as to holiness?
9 These Christians also took seriously what the Bible has to say about true holiness. This is not to be confused with an assumed piety or sanctimoniousness. They saw that they must live by such Bible principles as, “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Heb. 13:4) They appreciated that they could not wink at or tolerate among themselves such practices as fornication, adultery and homosexuality—which the Bible condemns. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Likewise, they must avoid all lawbreaking, paying back “Caesar’s things to Caesar,” as well as “God’s things to God.” They must be honest in all their dealings with others, living by the Christian rule: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Matt. 22:21; Luke 6:31.
10. What truth did these Christians early realize as to the Christian commission?
10 The chief concern of these Bible Students apparently was cultivating a Christlike personality. Also, they saw the need to bear witness to God and Jesus. They realized that each Christian, having received the light of truth, was obligated to spread that light to others. They recognized the need to be a minister of God, letting one’s light shine both by fine Christian conduct and by word of mouth. (Matt. 5:14-16) In fact, quite early a call went out: “Wanted, 1,000 Preachers.” It was a special appeal to those without family obligations who could devote one half or more of their time to spreading the “good news” by means of the printed page.
11. What steps did one need to take to become a Christian minister, and why was the clergy-laity distinction rejected?
11 To become a Christian minister, each one must believe God’s Word, repent, be converted and exercise faith in God and in Jesus Christ as mankind’s Redeemer. The individual must become “consecrated” to God, to do His will and be baptized by total immersion in water. (Acts 3:19; Matt. 28:19, 20) Since they were all ministers, these Christians rejected a clergy-laity distinction. From God’s Word, however, they did see the need to appoint qualified men as “elders” and “deacons” to care for the needs of each congregation.—Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-10, 12, 13.
12. What truth regarding organizations did these learn to appreciate, and what logically followed?
12 As light kept increasing, they appreciated more and more the importance of publishing Jehovah’s name, and his kingdom as mankind’s only hope. They also saw that there are but two organizations in the universe and that everyone belongs either to God’s organization or to Satan’s, the latter on earth being composed of big business, big politics and big religion. God’s heavenly organization of loyal spirit creatures is represented on earth by his organized witnesses. (Gal. 4:26; 2 Cor. 4:4) It follows that Christians may not engage in politics nor get involved in violence between the nations; in fact, they may not even take part in nationalistic exercises. Jehovah God’s servants support and fight for his kingdom, though not with carnal weapons.—Matt. 26:52; John 15:19; 18:36; 2 Cor. 10:4; Jas. 1:27; 4:4.
13. Understanding what striking issue caused these Bible Students to adopt the name “Jehovah’s witnesses,” and why was it so fitting?
13 In time these faithful servants of Jehovah came to realize that the vindication of Jehovah’s name is the great issue confronting mankind, and that this is far more important, even, than the salvation of human creatures. This was indeed a brilliant flash of light, shining forth more brightly than anything previously understood. This striking truth made the distinction between the true and the counterfeit Christian religion still more obvious. Once this weighty truth was appreciated it was not long until these Christians saw that their designation (Bible Students), while not incorrect, was not distinctive enough. For one thing, their prime mission and purpose in life was not simply to be students of the Bible but to be also witnesses for Jehovah. Nor did the name Bible Students distinguish them from the millions who claimed to study the Bible but who, nevertheless, subscribed to creedal error. So by the enlightening power of God’s holy spirit they saw that the designation that did properly and uniquely apply to them was that found at Isaiah 43:10-12, namely, “Jehovah’s witnesses.” In 1931, they joyfully accepted this name.
LIGHT ON PROPHECIES AND PARABLES
14. What understanding did the increasing light reveal regarding the restoration prophecies?
14 Up to this time, many persons held the view that the return of the Jews to their homeland was in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. But no, these beautiful and encouraging restoration prophecies had their initial fulfillment back in the sixth century B.C.E. when the Jews returned from Babylon, and they have their major fulfillment in our day on spiritual Israel. We see proof of their fulfillment in the spiritual paradise in which the modern “Israel of God” and their loyal companions find themselves.—2 Cor. 12:4; Gal. 6:16.
15, 16. What light was shone on two of Jesus’ parables?
15 More accurate understanding of Jesus’ parables also resulted. An outstanding example involved the parable of the sheep and the goats, as recorded at Matthew 25:31-46. It had long been thought that this parable would be fulfilled during Christ’s 1,000-year reign. But then Jehovah’s Witnesses saw that it simply could not apply at that time. Among the many reasons was that during Christ’s millennial reign his “brothers” would not be upon the earth, let alone be in need because of being sick or persecuted. So it must be fulfilled now, as the enthroned Jesus in heaven gathers the nations for judgment, and this is borne out by the observable facts in fulfillment.
16 Likewise, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus has been illuminated. It was seen that the rich man represented, not the Jewish nation as a whole, but the hypocritical affluent religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and correspondingly the religious clergy of Christendom in our day.—Luke 16:19-31.
17. What remarkable understanding did they gain concerning the book of Revelation?
17 Similarly, the increased light caused Jehovah’s servants to appreciate that the book of Revelation has its climactic fulfillment beginning with “the Lord’s day,” that is, since 1914, and not during the entire history of the Christian congregation from apostolic times to the present, as once thought. (Rev. 1:10) They came to understand that the beginning of “the Lord’s day” had been marked by a war in heaven in which Michael (the enthroned Jesus Christ) and his angels cast Satan and his angels out of heaven. (Rev. 12:1-12) Jehovah’s people rejoiced greatly to note that their Kingdom work had been foretold, particularly in Revelation chapters 2, 3, 6-11.
18. What was learned as to theocratic order in the Christian congregations, and how was this put into effect?
18 Many more examples could be given of the light’s increase in modern times, but space permits listing just one more. This relates to theocratic law or God-governed procedure. In the latter part of the 19th century, the Bible Students had a democratic way of governing their congregations; they wanted to get away from an autocratic hierarchical system. But in the year 1938 they realized that this democratic arrangement lacked Scriptural support. It was not in line with theocratic order, which is rule from God downward, rather than from men upward. (Isa. 60:1, 17-19) So in more recent times, by direction of holy spirit, the “faithful and discreet slave”* does the appointing of men in the congregations to serve as elders and ministerial servants. (Acts 20:28) These must have the Scriptural qualifications stated at 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9.
19. Why was it not to be expected that full and complete light would come at once?
19 Truly, all the foregoing demonstrates that the pathway of Jehovah’s people has been and is like the bright light that gets ever brighter. (Prov. 4:18) As they came out of the gross darkness enveloping “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, it was not to be expected that they would see all things immediately in their true light. (Rev. 17:5) The brilliance of revealed truth could have had a blinding, even a confusing, effect upon them spiritually. This could be compared to a person’s coming out of a totally dark room into bright sunlight. It would take time for the person’s eyes to adjust to the sudden glare of brilliant sunlight.
20. (a) What wide range has been covered by the progressive light of truth? (b) What question remains for consideration?
20 And, as we have seen, the progressive light of truth covers a wide range. There are refined understandings as to doctrines, as to prophecies, as to Christian conduct and the commission of Christians, as to the meaning of Jesus’ parables, as to proper congregational organization, and so forth. All of this is clear enough. But some might ask the question: Why does it seem that the path of true Christians does not always go straight forward? What is the explanation? For answers to these questions we refer the reader to the succeeding article.
See pages 102, 103 in the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 1, pp. 29-35.
“The Watch Tower Reprints,” Vol. 1, pp. 369-371.
Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 1, p. 38.
Jesus Christ foretold that he would put this “faithful and discreet slave” in charge of all his belongings to provide spiritual food for his followers. The foregoing facts prove that this “slave” is a composite individual and is associated with the Christian witnesses of Jehovah.—Matt. 24:45-47.
[Box on page 25]
The modern servants of Jehovah understood early that:
Jehovah is the one true God and Jesus Christ is his only-begotten Son.
The holy spirit is God’s active force.
The soul is mortal and the hope for the dead is in a resurrection.
Christ will have 144,000 joint heirs in the heavens, whereas the rest of obedient mankind will receive eternal life on a paradise earth.
In time they also got to appreciate:
That God permitted wickedness because of the issue of universal sovereignty.
That the restoration prophecies apply to spiritual Israel.
That the fulfillment of Revelation is in the “Lord’s day.”
[Picture on page 24]
Understanding of Jehovah’s purposes as made known through “The Watchtower” has become clearer over the years