Glorious Freedom Soon for the Children of God
“The creation was subjected to futility . . . on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—ROMANS 8:20, 21.
1. How was Jesus’ sacrifice typified on Atonement Day?
JEHOVAH gave his only-begotten Son as a ransom sacrifice that opened the way to heavenly life for 144,000 humans and eternal earthly prospects for the rest of mankind. (1 John 2:1, 2) As noted in the preceding article, Jesus’ sacrifice for spirit-begotten Christians was typified when Israel’s high priest sacrificed a bull as a sin offering for himself, his household, and the tribe of Levi on the annual Day of Atonement. On the same day, he sacrificed a goat as a sin offering for all the other Israelites, even as Christ’s sacrifice will benefit mankind in general. A live goat symbolically carried off the people’s collective sins of the past year, disappearing in the wilderness.*—Leviticus 16:7-15, 20-22, 26.
2, 3. What is meant by Paul’s statement recorded at Romans 8:20, 21?
2 After outlining the hope of humans who would become heavenly “sons of God,” the apostle Paul said: “The eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:14, 17, 19-21) What is the meaning of this statement?
3 When our forefather Adam was created as a perfect human, he was a “son [or, child] of God.” (Luke 3:38) Because of sinning, he came into “enslavement to corruption” and passed this condition on to the human race. (Romans 5:12) God allowed humans to be born with “futility” facing them because of their inherited imperfection, but he gave hope through the “seed,” Jesus Christ. (Genesis 3:15; 22:18; Galatians 3:16) Revelation 21:1-4 points to the time when ‘death, mourning, outcry, and pain will be no more.’ Since this is a promise to “mankind,” it assures us that a new earthly society of humans living under Kingdom rule will experience restoration of mind and body to full health and everlasting life as earthly “children of God.” During Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, obedient humans “will be set free from enslavement to corruption.” After proving loyal to Jehovah during a final test, they will be free forever from inherited sin and death. (Revelation 20:7-10) Those on earth will then “have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
They Are Saying “Come!”
4. What does it mean to “take life’s water free”?
4 What a marvelous hope is set before mankind! No wonder spirit-begotten Christians yet on earth are zealously taking the lead in telling others about it! As those who will become part of the “bride” of the glorified Lamb, Jesus Christ, the anointed remnant are involved in the fulfillment of these prophetic words: “The spirit and the bride keep on saying: ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Revelation 21:2, 9; 22:1, 2, 17) No, the benefits of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice are not limited to the 144,000 anointed ones. God’s spirit keeps on working through the remaining ones of the bride class on earth in saying “Come.” Anyone hearing who is thirsting for righteousness is invited to say “Come,” availing himself of Jehovah’s bountiful provision for salvation.
5. Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses happy to have in their midst?
5 Jehovah’s Witnesses have faith in God’s provision for life through Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12) They are happy to have in their midst honesthearted ones who desire to learn about God’s purposes and do his will. Their Kingdom Halls are open to all who wish to ‘come and take life’s water free’ in this “time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.
Changes With the Passing of Time
6. How has God’s spirit operated on Jehovah’s servants during various time periods?
6 God has a time to carry out his purposes, and this affects his dealings with humans. (Ecclesiastes 3:1; Acts 1:7) Though God’s spirit came upon his servants of pre-Christian times, they were not begotten as his spiritual sons. Beginning with Jesus, however, Jehovah’s time had come to use the holy spirit to beget dedicated men and women to a heavenly inheritance. And what about our day? The same spirit is operating on Jesus’ “other sheep,” but it is not arousing in them the hope and desire for heavenly life. (John 10:16) With eternal life on a paradise earth as their God-given hope, they joyfully support the anointed remnant in giving a witness during this period of transition from the old world to God’s righteous new world.—2 Peter 3:5-13.
7. What harvest work were the Bible Students concerned with, but what did they know about paradise?
7 God began ‘to bring many sons to glory’ with the outpouring of holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E., and he apparently set a time for completing the spiritual “Israel of God” totaling 144,000. (Hebrews 2:10; Galatians 6:16; Revelation 7:1-8) Beginning in 1879, a harvest work involving anointed Christians was often mentioned in this magazine. But the Bible Students (now called Jehovah’s Witnesses) also knew that the Scriptures hold out the hope of eternal life on a paradise earth. For example, the Watch Tower issue of July 1883 said: “When Jesus has established his kingdom, bound evil, etc., this earth will become a paradise, . . . and all that are in their graves shall come into it. And by becoming obedient to its laws they may live forever in it.” As time passed, the harvest of anointed ones diminished, and gradually individuals who did not have the heavenly hope were harvested into Jehovah’s organization. Meanwhile, God granted his anointed servants, born-again Christians, noteworthy insight.—Daniel 12:3; Philippians 2:15; Revelation 14:15, 16.
8. How did an understanding of the earthly hope develop in the early 1930’s?
8 Particularly since 1931 have those with the earthly hope been associating with the Christian congregation. In that year, Jehovah enlightened the remnant of spirit-begotten Christians to see that Ezekiel chapter 9 refers to this earthly class, who are being marked for survival into God’s new world. In 1932 it was concluded that such present-day sheeplike ones were prefigured by Jehu’s associate Jonadab (Jehonadab). (2 Kings 10:15-17) In 1934 it was made clear that “Jonadabs” should “consecrate,” or dedicate, themselves to God. In 1935 the “great multitude,” or “great crowd”—formerly thought to be a secondary spiritual class that would be “companions” of the bride of Christ in heaven—was identified as other sheep having an earthly hope. (Revelation 7:4-15; 21:2, 9; Psalm 45:14, 15) And especially since 1935 have anointed ones been spearheading a search for upright people yearning to live forever on a paradise earth.
9. After 1935, why did some Christians cease to partake of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal?
9 After 1935 some Christians who had been partaking of the bread and wine at the Lord’s Evening Meal ceased to partake. Why? Because they realized that their hope was earthly, not heavenly. Said one woman who was baptized in 1930: “Though [partaking] was considered the right thing to do, especially for zealous full-time ministers, I never was convinced that I had a heavenly hope. Then, in 1935, it was made clear to us that there was being gathered a great crowd with the hope of living forever on earth. Many of us rejoiced to understand that we were part of that great crowd, and we ceased partaking of the emblems.” Even Christian publications changed in nature. While those of former years had been designed primarily for Jesus’ spirit-begotten followers, from 1935 onward The Watchtower and other literature of the ‘faithful slave’ provided spiritual food suited to the needs of both the anointed and their associates having the earthly hope.—Matthew 24:45-47.
10. How might an unfaithful anointed one be replaced?
10 Suppose an anointed one became unfaithful. Would there be a replacement? Paul indicated as much in his discussion of the symbolic olive tree. (Romans 11:11-32) If a spirit-begotten one needs to be replaced, likely God would give the heavenly calling to someone whose faith had been exemplary in rendering sacred service to him for many years.—Compare Luke 22:28, 29; 1 Peter 1:6, 7.
Many Reasons for Gratitude
11. Regardless of the nature of our hope, of what does James 1:17 assure us?
11 Wherever we serve Jehovah in faithfulness, he will satisfy our needs and upright desires. (Psalm 145:16; Luke 1:67-74) Whether we have a genuine heavenly hope or our prospect is earthly, we have many sound reasons for gratitude to God. He always does things that are in the best interests of those who love him. The disciple James said that “every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights,” Jehovah God. (James 1:17) Let us take note of a few of these gifts and blessings.
12. Why can we say that Jehovah has given each of his faithful servants a wonderful hope?
12 Jehovah has given each of his faithful servants a wonderful hope. He has called some to heavenly life. To his pre-Christian witnesses, Jehovah gave the splendid hope of a resurrection to everlasting life on the earth. For instance, Abraham had faith in the resurrection and awaited “the city having real foundations”—the heavenly Kingdom under which he will be resurrected to earthly life. (Hebrews 11:10, 17-19) Once again, in this time of the end, God is granting millions the hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Luke 23:43; John 17:3) Surely, any to whom Jehovah has given such a grand hope should be deeply grateful for it.
13. How has God’s holy spirit operated on his people?
13 Jehovah imparts his holy spirit as a gift to his people. Christians given a heavenly hope are anointed with holy spirit. (1 John 2:20; 5:1-4, 18) Yet, God’s servants having earthly prospects have the spirit’s help and guidance. Among these was Moses, who had Jehovah’s spirit, as did the 70 men appointed to assist him. (Numbers 11:24, 25) Under the influence of holy spirit, Bezalel served as an expert craftsman in connection with Israel’s tabernacle. (Exodus 31:1-11) God’s spirit came upon Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, David, Elijah, Elisha, and others. Though these individuals of ancient times will never be brought to heavenly glory, they were guided and helped by holy spirit, as are Jesus’ other sheep today. So, then, possession of God’s spirit does not mean that we necessarily have the heavenly calling. Yet, Jehovah’s spirit provides guidance, helps us to preach and fulfill other God-given assignments, gives us power beyond what is normal, and produces in us its fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (John 16:13; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; Galatians 5:22, 23) Should we not be thankful for this gracious gift from God?
14. How do we benefit from God’s gifts of knowledge and wisdom?
14 Knowledge and wisdom are gifts from God for which we should be grateful, whether our hope is heavenly or earthly. Accurate knowledge of Jehovah helps us to “make sure of the more important things” and “to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9, 10) Godly wisdom serves as a protection and a guide in life. (Proverbs 4:5-7; Ecclesiastes 7:12) True knowledge and wisdom are based on God’s Word, and the few remaining anointed ones are especially drawn to what it says about their heavenly hope. However, love for God’s Word and a good understanding of it do not constitute God’s way of indicating that we have been called to heavenly life. Men like Moses and Daniel even wrote portions of the Bible, but they will be resurrected to life on the earth. Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, all of us receive spiritual food through Jehovah’s approved “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) How grateful all of us are for the knowledge thus acquired!
15. What is one of God’s greatest gifts, and how do you view it?
15 One of God’s greatest gifts is the loving provision of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice, which benefits us whether we have a heavenly prospect or an earthly hope. God loved the world of mankind “so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) And Jesus’ love motivated him “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) As the apostle John explained, Jesus Christ “is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins [those of the anointed], yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:1, 2) Hence, all of us should be deeply grateful for this loving provision for salvation to life eternal.*
Will You Be Present?
16. What notable event will be commemorated after sundown on April 11, 1998, and who should be present?
16 Gratitude for the ransom provided by God by means of his Son should move us to be present at Kingdom Halls or other places where Jehovah’s Witnesses will assemble after sundown on April 11, 1998, to commemorate the death of Christ. When he instituted this observance with his faithful apostles on the last night of his earthly life, Jesus said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19, 20; Matthew 26:26-30) The few remaining anointed ones will partake of the unleavened bread, representing Jesus’ sinless human body, and the unfortified red wine, signifying his blood poured out in sacrifice. Only spirit-begotten Christians should partake because only they are in the new covenant and in the Kingdom covenant and have the undeniable testimony of God’s holy spirit that theirs is a heavenly hope. Millions of others will be present as respectful observers who are grateful for the love shown by God and Christ in connection with Jesus’ sacrifice that makes eternal life possible.—Romans 6:23.
17. What should we remember with regard to spirit-anointing?
17 Former religious views, strong emotions arising from the death of a loved one, hardships now associated with earthly life, or the feeling of having received some special blessing from Jehovah might lead some to assume mistakenly that heavenly life is for them. But all of us should remember that the Scriptures do not command us to partake of Memorial emblems to show our gratitude for Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Moreover, spirit-anointing “depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God,” the One who begot Jesus as a spiritual Son and who brings only 144,000 other sons to glory.—Romans 9:16; Isaiah 64:8.
18. For most of those serving Jehovah today, what blessings lie ahead?
18 Everlasting life on a paradise earth is the God-given hope of the vast majority of humans serving Jehovah in these last days. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Soon, they will enjoy this marvelous paradise. Princes will then administer earthly affairs under heavenly rule. (Psalm 45:16) Peaceful conditions will exist as earth’s inhabitants comply with God’s laws and learn more about the ways of Jehovah. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Revelation 20:12) There will be plenty of work to do, building homes and subduing the earth. (Isaiah 65:17-25) And think of the happy family reunions as the dead return to life! (John 5:28, 29) After a final test, all wickedness will be gone. (Revelation 20:7-10) Forever afterward, the earth will be filled with perfect humans who are ‘set free from enslavement to corruption and who have the glorious freedom of the children of God.’
How Would You Answer?
□ What does it mean to “take life’s water free”?
□ Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, what reasons do we have for gratitude to God?
□ What annual observance should all of us attend?
□ For most of Jehovah’s people, what does the future hold?
[Picture on page 18]
Millions have begun ‘taking life’s water free.’ Are you among them?