Who Are Following the Light of the World?
“You are shining as illuminators in the world.”—PHILIPPIANS 2:15.
1. What does the Bible say about counterfeit religious lights?
THE Bible clearly identifies Jesus as “a great light,” “the light of the world.” (Isaiah 9:2; John 8:12) Yet, relatively few followed him when he was on earth. The majority chose to follow counterfeit lights who were, in reality, bearers of darkness. Of these God’s Word says: “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works.”—2 Corinthians 11:13-15.
2. What did Jesus say would be the basis for judging people?
2 Thus, not all people want the light, as marvelous as it is. Jesus said: “This is the basis for judgment, that the light has come into the world but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked. For he that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved.”—John 3:19, 20.
Lovers of Darkness
3, 4. How did the religious leaders in Jesus’ day show that they did not want to follow the light?
3 Consider how that was the case when Jesus was on earth. God had empowered Jesus to perform thrilling miracles as a way to establish that he was the Messiah. For example, on a Sabbath day, he restored the sight of a man born blind. What a wonderful act of mercy! How appreciative the man was! He could see for the very first time! What, though, was the reaction of the religious leaders? John 9:16 relates: “Some of the Pharisees began to say [about Jesus]: ‘This is not a man from God, because he does not observe the Sabbath.’” How perverted their hearts were! Here a marvelous healing had taken place, but instead of expressing joy for the formerly blind man and appreciation for the healer, they condemned Jesus! By doing so, they doubtless sinned against the manifestation of God’s holy spirit, an unforgivable sin.—Matthew 12:31, 32.
4 Later, when those hypocrites questioned the formerly blind man about Jesus, the man said: “This certainly is a marvel, that you do not know where he [Jesus] is from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, he listens to this one. From of old it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of one born blind. If this man [Jesus] were not from God, he could do nothing at all.” How did the religious leaders respond? “In answer they said to him: ‘You were altogether born in sins, and yet are you teaching us?’ And they threw him out!” How lacking in compassion! They had stones for hearts. So Jesus told them that while they could see with their physical eyes, they were spiritually blind.—John 9:30-41.
5, 6. What did first-century religious leaders do that showed they loved the darkness?
5 That these religious hypocrites were sinning against God’s spirit is readily seen on another occasion, when Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead. Because of that miracle, many of the common people put faith in Jesus. Note, however, what the religious leaders did. “The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Sanhedrin together and began to say: ‘What are we to do, because this man performs many signs? If we let him alone this way, they will all put faith in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’” (John 11:47, 48) They were worrying about their positions and prominence. At all costs they wanted to please the Romans, not God. So, what did they do? “From that day on they took counsel to kill [Jesus].”—John 11:53.
6 Was that all? No. What they did next shows how much they loved the darkness: “The chief priests now took counsel to kill Lazarus also, because on account of him many of the Jews were going there and putting faith in Jesus.” (John 12:10, 11) What incredible wickedness! Although they did all of this to protect their positions, what happened? In that very generation, they revolted against the Romans, who came against them in 70 C.E. and took away their place, their nation, and their lives as well!—Isaiah 5:20; Luke 19:41-44.
The Compassion of Jesus
7. Why did lovers of truth flock to Jesus?
7 So too in our time, not all want spiritual enlightenment. But those who love the truth do want to come to the light. They want God as their Sovereign, and they eagerly turn to Jesus, whom God has sent to explain what the light is, and follow him. That is what humble people did when Jesus was on earth. They flocked to him. Even the Pharisees had to admit that. They complained: “The world has gone after him.” (John 12:19) Sheeplike people loved Jesus because he was the opposite of the selfish, arrogant, power-hungry religious leaders of whom Jesus said: “They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger. All the works they do they do to be viewed by men.”—Matthew 23:4, 5.
8. In contrast to the religious hypocrites, what attitude did Jesus have?
8 In contrast, note the compassionate attitude of Jesus: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) And what did he do about it? He said to those who had been exploited by Satan’s system: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus did what was foretold of him at Isaiah 61:1, 2, which reads: “Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones.”
Gathering the Light Bearers
9. What momentous events took place in 1914?
9 After his ascension to heaven, Jesus was to wait until the time came for God to give him Kingdom power. Then he would separate “the sheep” from “the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-33; Psalm 110:1, 2) That time came when “the last days” began in 1914. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Jesus, empowered as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, began to gather to his right hand of favor those who wanted to follow the light. After World War I, that gathering work proceeded with increasing momentum.
10. What question may be asked about those Jesus is using in the gathering work?
10 Under the leadership of Christ Jesus, the ingathering work has been crowned with great success. Never in history have there been so many people from all nations gathered together in enlightened true worship. And who today are the ones following the light coming from God and Christ? Who are doing what Philippians 2:15 says, “shining as illuminators in the world,” inviting others to ‘come and take life’s water free’?—Revelation 22:17.
11. What is Christendom’s position in relation to spiritual light?
11 Is Christendom doing that? Christendom, with her divisive religions, certainly is not shining as an illuminator. In fact, the clergy are like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. They are not reflecting the true light from God and Christ. Thirty-three years ago, the magazine Theology Today said: “Regretfully it must be acknowledged that this light does not shine in the Church with commanding brilliance. . . . The Church has tended to become more and more like the communities with which it is surrounded. It is not so much the light of the world as rather a reflector of lights which shine in the world itself.” And Christendom’s condition is even worse today. The so-called light that she reflects from the world is in reality darkness because that is all Satan and his world have to offer. No, there is no light of truth coming from the conflicting and thoroughly worldly religions of Christendom.
12. Who make up the true light-bearing organization today?
12 It can confidently be said that the new world society of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the true, light-bearing organization today. Unitedly, all its members—men, women, and young ones alike—let their light from Jehovah and Christ shine before all mankind. Last year, in nearly 70,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the world, well over four million light bearers were actively telling others about God and his purposes. And each year now, we see a continuing huge ingathering of people who also want to be spiritually enlightened. Hundreds of thousands are being baptized after studying the Bible and coming to an accurate knowledge of the truth. Truly, God’s “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Timothy 2:4.
13. With what may we compare the light coming from Jehovah?
13 We might compare the enlightenment now coming from Jehovah to what happened when God’s people of ancient times left Egypt: “Jehovah was going ahead of them in the daytime in a pillar of cloud to lead them by the way, and in the nighttime in a pillar of fire to give them light to go in the daytime and nighttime.” (Exodus 13:21, 22) The cloud by day and the fire by night from God were dependable guides. They were as dependable as the sun that God created to provide us with the daylight hours. So, too, we can depend on Jehovah to continue to light the way spiritually for truth seekers in these evil last days. Proverbs 4:18 assures us: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”
Reflecting Kingdom Light
14. What must be the central purpose of light bearers?
14 While Jehovah is the Source of enlightenment, and Christ the Chief Reflector of that light, the followers of Jesus must reflect it too. He said of them: “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:14, 16) And what was the central theme of this light that his followers were to let shine before mankind? What were they to teach at this climax of world history? Jesus did not say that his followers would preach democracy, dictatorship, union of Church and State, or any other worldly ideology. Instead, at Matthew 24:14 he foretold that in the face of worldwide opposition, “this good news of the kingdom [would] be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end [would] come.” Thus, light bearers today tell others about God’s Kingdom, which will bring Satan’s world to its end and will usher in the righteous new world.—1 Peter 2:9.
15. Those who want the light will turn where?
15 Those who love the light will not be sidetracked by this world’s claims and goals. All those claims and goals will evaporate soon, since this world is nearing its finish. Instead, lovers of righteousness will want to turn to the good news being heralded by those who are letting the light of God’s Kingdom shine to the far corners of the earth. These are the ones foretold at Revelation 7:9, 10, which says: “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 [of God] and before the Lamb [Christ] . . . 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.’” Verse 14 says: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.” Yes, they survive this world’s end into the endless new world under God’s Kingdom.
The Enlightened New World
16. What will happen to Satan’s world at the great tribulation?
16 The new world will be bathed in the bright light of truth. Indeed, consider what the situation will be the day after God brings this system of things to its end. Satan, his demons, and his political, commercial, and religious systems will be gone—every one of them! Satan’s entire propaganda apparatus will be gone too. Thus, after the great tribulation, there will never again be printed a single newspaper, magazine, book, booklet, or leaflet that supports this wicked world. There will be no corrupting influences broadcast from worldly television or radio stations. The entire poisonous environment of Satan’s world will be cleared away in one mighty stroke!—Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14; 16:14-16; 19:11-21.
17, 18. How would you describe the spiritual environment after the end of Satan’s world?
17 What an enormous relief that will be! From that day on, only the wholesome, uplifting spiritual light coming from Jehovah and his Kingdom will influence mankind. Isaiah 54:13 foretells: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” With God’s rule dominating the entire earth, his promise is that, as Isaiah 26:9 says, “righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.”
18 Quickly, the entire mental and spiritual environment will change for the better. Upbuilding things will be the order of the day instead of the depressing, immoral things now so widespread. Everyone living then will be taught the truth about God and his purposes. In the completest sense, the prophecy of Isaiah 11:9 will be fulfilled, which states: “The earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”
Urgent to Follow the Light
19, 20. Why do those who want to follow the light need to keep their guard up?
19 Now, in the final years of this evil system, it is urgent to follow the light of the world. And we need to be on guard, for there is an intense war being waged to keep us from walking in the light. This opposition comes from the powers of darkness—from Satan, his demons, and his earthly organization. That is why the apostle Peter warns: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Peter 5:8.
20 Satan will place every hindrance in the path of those coming in contact with the light, because he wants to make them continue in darkness. It may be pressure from relatives or former friends who oppose the truth. It may be doubts about the Bible because of one’s being blinded by the teachings of false religion or the propaganda of faithless atheists and agnostics. It may be one’s own sinful inclinations that make it hard to live up to divine requirements.
21. What action should be taken by all who want to live in God’s new world?
21 Whatever hindrances there may be, do you want to enjoy life in a new world free from poverty, crime, injustice, and war? Do you want to enjoy perfect health and eternal life on a paradise earth? Then accept and follow Jesus as the light of the world and listen to the message of those who are holding fast to “the word of life” and who are “shining as illuminators in the world.”—Philippians 2:15, 16.
How Would You Answer?
□ How do religious leaders show they are lovers of darkness?
□ What attitude did Jesus have toward people?
□ How has the ingathering of light bearers proceeded?
□ What momentous changes will soon take place?
□ Why is it urgent to follow the light of the world today?
[Picture on page 14, 15]
The hardhearted Pharisees threw out the man whose eyes had been opened by Jesus