Part 1—Flashes of Light—Great and Small
“The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.”—PROVERBS 4:18.
1. Why has the truth been revealed gradually?
IT IS proof of divine wisdom that, in keeping with Proverbs 4:18, the revealing of spiritual truths has taken place gradually by means of flashes of light. In the preceding article, we saw how this text was fulfilled in apostolic times. If the large body of Scriptural truth had been revealed all at once, it would have been both blinding and confusing—much like the effect of coming out of a dark cave into brilliant sunlight. Moreover, gradually revealed truth strengthens the faith of Christians in a continuous way. It makes ever brighter their hope and ever clearer the pathway they are to tread.
“The Faithful and Discreet Slave”
2. Jesus indicated that he would use whom to bring spiritual light to his followers, and of whom does that instrumentality consist?
2 In apostolic times Jesus Christ saw fit to use supernatural means to give his followers the earliest flashes of light. We have two examples of this: Pentecost 33 C.E. and the conversion of Cornelius in 36 C.E. Subsequently, Christ has seen fit to use a human agency, even as he foretold: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matthew 24:45-47) This slave could not be just one individual because he was to provide spiritual food from when the Christian congregation began at Pentecost until the Master, Jesus Christ, came to make an accounting. The facts indicate that this faithful and discreet slave class comprises all anointed Christians as a group on earth at any given time.
3. Who were included among the first members of the slave class?
3 Who were included among the first members of the faithful and discreet slave class? One was the apostle Peter, who heeded Jesus’ command: “Feed my little sheep.” (John 21:17) Other early members of the slave class included Matthew, who wrote the Gospel bearing his name, and Paul, James, and Jude, who penned inspired letters. The apostle John, who recorded the book of Revelation, his Gospel, and his letters, was also a member of the faithful and discreet slave class. These men wrote in keeping with Jesus’ commission.
4. Who are the “domestics”?
4 If all the anointed as a group, no matter where on earth they live, are members of the slave class, who are the “domestics”? They are the same anointed ones but considered from a different viewpoint—as individuals. Yes, as individuals they would be of the “slave” or they would be “domestics,” depending on whether they were dispensing spiritual food or partaking of it. To illustrate: As recorded at 2 Peter 3:15, 16, the apostle Peter makes reference to Paul’s letters. When reading them, Peter would be as one of the domestics feeding on the spiritual food provided by Paul as a representative of the slave class.
5. (a) What happened to the slave during the centuries after the apostles? (b) What developments took place in the latter half of the 19th century?
5 In this regard, the book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached stated: “As to just how the ‘faithful and discreet slave’ class existed and served down through the centuries after the death of the apostles of the Master Jesus Christ, we do not have a distinct historical picture. Apparently one generation of the ‘slave’ class fed the next succeeding generation thereof. (2 Timothy 2:2) But in the latter half of the nineteenth century there were God-fearing persons who loved the spiritual food of the Holy Bible and who desired to feed on it . . . Bible study classes . . . were formed and progressed in the understanding of the fundamental truths of the Sacred Scriptures. The sincere unselfish ones among these Bible students were eager to share these vital portions of spiritual food with others. They had the faithful spirit of the ‘slave’ appointed to give the ‘domestics’ the needed spiritual ‘food at the proper time.’ They were ‘discreet’ in discerning that it was then the right and proper time and what were the best means for serving the food. They endeavored to serve it.”—Pages 344-5.a
Early Flashes of Light in Modern Times
6. What fact stands out prominently in connection with the gradual revealing of truth?
6 One fact that stands out prominently in connection with those Jehovah used to bring this gradual increase of spiritual light is that they took no credit to themselves. The attitude of C. T. Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Society, was that the Lord was pleased to use their humble talents. Regarding epithets his enemies were prone to use, Brother Russell strongly made it known that he had never met a “Russellite” and that there was no such thing as “Russellism.” All credit went to God.
7. What evidence did Brother Russell and his coworkers give that they were indeed associated with the faithful and discreet slave?
7 Judging by the results, there can be no doubt that Jehovah’s holy spirit was directing the endeavors of Brother Russell and those associated with him. They gave evidence of being identified with the faithful and discreet slave. Though many clergymen of the time professed to believe that the Bible was God’s inspired Word and that Jesus was the Son of God, they subscribed to false, Babylonish doctrines, such as the Trinity, the immortality of the human soul, and eternal torment. In keeping with Jesus’ promise, it truly was due to the holy spirit that the humble efforts of Brother Russell and his associates caused truth to shine forth as never before. (John 16:13) Those anointed Bible Students gave proof that they were indeed part of the faithful and discreet slave class, whose commission it is to provide spiritual food for the Master’s domestics. Their efforts were a great aid in the gathering of the anointed ones.
8. What basic facts regarding Jehovah, the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the holy spirit did the Bible Students clearly understand?
8 It is remarkable to see how greatly Jehovah, by means of holy spirit, favored these early Bible Students with flashes of light. To begin with, they firmly established that the Creator exists and that he has the unique name Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18; Romans 1:20) They saw that Jehovah has four cardinal attributes—power, justice, wisdom, and love. (Genesis 17:1; Deuteronomy 32:4; Romans 11:33; 1 John 4:8) These anointed Christians clearly established that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and is the truth. (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Further, they held that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, was created and that he gave his life as a ransom for all mankind. (Matthew 20:28; Colossians 1:15) The holy spirit, far from being a third person of a Trinity, was seen to be God’s active force.—Acts 2:17.
9. (a) What truths did the Bible Students have clear as to man’s nature and the destinies held out in the Bible? (b) What other truths did Jehovah’s servants see clearly?
9 The Bible Students clearly saw that man does not have an immortal soul but is a mortal soul. They realized that “the wages sin pays is death,” not eternal torment, there being no such place as a burning hell. (Romans 5:12; 6:23; Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4) Moreover, they clearly saw that the evolution theory is not only unscriptural but utterly without factual basis. (Genesis, chapters 1 and 2) They also discerned that the Bible holds out two destinies—a heavenly one for the 144,000 anointed footstep followers of Christ and a paradise earth for an unnumbered “great crowd” of “other sheep.” (Revelation 7:9; 14:1; John 10:16) Those early Bible Students recognized that the earth abides forever and will not be burned up, as taught by many religions. (Ecclesiastes 1:4; Luke 23:43) They also learned that Christ’s return would be invisible and that he would then execute judgment on the nations and usher in an earthly paradise.—Acts 10:42; Romans 8:19-21; 1 Peter 3:18.
10. What truths did the Bible Students learn regarding baptism, a clergy-laity distinction, and the Memorial of Christ’s death?
10 The Bible Students learned that Scriptural baptism is not a matter of sprinkling infants but that in keeping with Jesus’ command at Matthew 28:19, 20, it is the immersion of believers who have been taught. They came to see that there is no Scriptural basis for a clergy-laity distinction. (Matthew 23:8-10) On the contrary, all Christians are to be preachers of the good news. (Acts 1:8) The Bible Students appreciated that the Memorial of Christ’s death should be observed just once each year, on Nisan 14. Moreover, they saw that Easter is a pagan holiday. In addition, those anointed ones were so confident that God was backing their work that they never took up collections. (Matthew 10:8) From earliest times, they understood that Christians must live by Bible principles, which includes cultivating the fruitage of God’s holy spirit.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
Increasing Flashes of Light
11. What light shone on the Christian’s commission and on Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats?
11 Particularly since 1919 have Jehovah’s servants been blessed with increasing flashes of light. What a bright flash of light shone at the 1922 Cedar Point convention as J. F. Rutherford, the Watch Tower Society’s second president, drove home the point that the prime obligation of Jehovah’s servants is to “advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom”! The very next year, bright light shone on the parable of the sheep and the goats. It was seen that this prophecy was to be fulfilled in the present Lord’s day, not in the future during the Millennium as previously thought. During the Millennium, Christ’s brothers would not be sick, nor would they be imprisoned. Besides, at the end of the Millennium, Jehovah God, not Jesus Christ, will do the judging.—Matthew 25:31-46.
12. What flash of light was there regarding Armageddon?
12 In 1926 another brilliant flash of light revealed that the war of Armageddon was not to be a social revolution, as Bible Students once thought. Rather, it would be a war in which Jehovah will demonstrate his power so clearly that all people will be convinced that he is God.—Revelation 16:14-16; 19:17-21.
Christmas—A Pagan Holiday
13. (a) What light was shed on Christmas celebrations? (b) Why were birthdays no longer celebrated? (Include footnote.)
13 Shortly thereafter, a flash of light caused the Bible Students to stop celebrating Christmas. Before that time Christmas had always been celebrated by the Bible Students worldwide, and its celebration at Brooklyn headquarters was a very festive occasion. But then it was discerned that the observance of December 25 was actually pagan and was chosen by apostate Christendom to make it easier to convert pagans. Moreover, it was found that Jesus could not have been born in the winter, since at the time of his birth, shepherds were grazing their flocks in the fields—something they would not have been doing at night in late December. (Luke 2:8) Rather, the Scriptures indicate that Jesus was born about October 1. The Bible Students also realized that the so-called wise men who visited Jesus about two years after his birth were pagan magi.b
A New Name
14. Why did the name Bible Students not do justice to Jehovah’s people?
14 In 1931 a bright flash of truth revealed to those Bible Students a fitting Scriptural name. Jehovah’s people had understood that they could not accept any of the nicknames that others had given them, such as Russellites, Millennial Dawnists, and “no hellers.”c But they also began to appreciate that the name that they themselves had taken—International Bible Students—did not do them justice. They were far more than just Bible students. Besides, there were ever so many others who were students of the Bible but who had nothing in common with the Bible Students.
15. What name did the Bible Students adopt in 1931, and why is it appropriate?
15 How did the Bible Students come to have a new name? For years The Watch Tower had been making the name of Jehovah prominent. Therefore, it was most appropriate that the Bible Students should adopt the name found at Isaiah 43:10: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and have faith in me, and that you may understand that I am the same One. Before me there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none.’”
Vindication and the “Great Crowd”
16. Why could the restoration prophecies not apply to the natural Jews’ return to Palestine, but to whom do they apply?
16 In the second volume of Vindication, published by the Watch Tower Society in 1932, a flash of light revealed that the restoration prophecies recorded by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets did not apply (as once thought) to the fleshly Jews, who were returning to Palestine in unbelief and with political motivations. Rather, these restoration prophecies, which had a minor fulfillment when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity in 537 B.C.E., had their major fulfillment in spiritual Israel’s deliverance and restoration beginning in 1919 and in the resultant prosperity in the spiritual paradise enjoyed by Jehovah’s true servants today.
17, 18. (a) In time, through a flash of light, what was shown to be Jehovah’s chief purpose? (b) What flash of light regarding Revelation 7:9-17 occurred in 1935?
17 In time, flashes of light revealed that Jehovah’s chief purpose was, not the salvation of creatures, but the vindication of his sovereignty. The most important theme of the Bible was seen to be, not the ransom, but the Kingdom, for it will vindicate Jehovah’s sovereignty. What a flash of light that was! Dedicated Christians were no longer primarily concerned with their getting to heaven.
18 In 1935 a bright flash of light revealed that the great crowd mentioned at Revelation 7:9-17 was not a secondary heavenly class. It had been thought that the ones mentioned in those verses were some of the anointed who had not been fully faithful and so were standing before the throne instead of sitting on thrones reigning as kings and priests with Jesus Christ. But there simply is no such thing as being partially faithful. One is either faithful or unfaithful. So it was seen that this prophecy referred to the numberless great crowd from all nations who are now being gathered and whose hopes are earthly. They are “the sheep” of Matthew 25:31-46 and the “other sheep” of John 10:16.
The Cross—Not a Christian Symbol
19, 20. Why can the cross not be a symbol of true Christianity?
19 For many years the Bible Students made the cross prominent as a symbol of Christianity. They even had a “cross-and-crown” pin. According to the King James Version, Jesus asked his followers to take up their “cross,” and many came to believe that he was executed on a cross. (Matthew 16:24; 27:32) For decades this symbol also appeared on the cover of the Watch Tower magazine.
20 The book Riches, published by the Society in 1936, made clear that Jesus Christ was executed, not on a cross, but on an upright pole, or stake. According to one authority, the Greek word (stau·rosʹ) rendered “cross” in the King James Version “denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake. [It is] to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed cross. . . . The latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz.” Far from being idolized, the instrument on which Jesus was impaled should be viewed with revulsion.
21. What will be considered in the following article?
21 There are further examples both of great flashes of light and of those that might be considered small. For a discussion of these, please see the following article.
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
b In time, it was seen that if the most important birth that ever took place could not be celebrated, we should not celebrate any birthday. Besides, neither the Israelites nor the early Christians celebrated birthdays. The Bible mentions only two birthdays, one of Pharaoh and the other of Herod Antipas. Each celebration was marred by an execution. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays because these observances have pagan origins and tend to exalt the ones having a birthday.—Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-28.
c This was a mistake made by a number of Christendom’s denominations. Lutheran was a nickname that enemies of Martin Luther gave his followers, who then adopted it. Likewise, the Baptists adopted the nickname that outsiders had given them because they preached baptism by immersion. Somewhat similarly, Methodists adopted a name given them by an outsider. Concerning how the Society of Friends came to be called Quakers, The World Book Encyclopedia says: “The word Quaker was originally meant as an insult to Fox [the founder], who told an English judge to ‘tremble at the Word of the Lord.’ The judge called Fox a ‘quaker.’”
Do You Recall?
◻ Who is “the faithful and discreet slave,” and who are the “domestics”?
◻ What were some of the early flashes of light in modern times?
◻ Why was the new name, Jehovah’s Witnesses, appropriate?
◻ What striking truths were revealed in 1935?
[Picture on page 17]
C. T. Russell and his associates spread spiritual light, but all credit went to Jehovah