Serving With the Watchman
“Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.”—ISAIAH 21:8.
1. To what grand promises is Jehovah himself a witness?
JEHOVAH is the Great Purposer. The rebel angel who became Satan the Devil can do nothing to thwart His grand purpose to sanctify His own name and establish a glorious Kingdom rule over a paradisaic earth. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Under that rule, mankind will be truly blessed. God “will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.” Happy, united humans will enjoy peace and prosperity for all eternity. (Isaiah 25:8; 65:17-25) Jehovah is his own witness to these grand promises!
2. What human witnesses has Jehovah raised up?
2 However, the Grand Creator also has human witnesses. In pre-Christian times “a cloud of witnesses,” beginning with Abel, ran the race of endurance, often in the face of overwhelming odds. Their sterling examples encourage loyal Christians today. Christ Jesus is the superlative example of a courageous witness. (Hebrews 11:1–12:2) Recall, for example, his final testimony before Pontius Pilate. Jesus declared: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) From 33 C.E. down to this year 2000 C.E., zealous Christians have followed Jesus’ example and have continued to witness, courageously declaring “the magnificent things of God.”—Acts 2:11.
3. How has Satan opposed the witness given about Jehovah and his will?
3 Over the millenniums the great Adversary, Satan the Devil, has wickedly sought to discredit the testimony of God’s witnesses. As “the father of the lie,” this “great dragon . . . , the original serpent,” has been “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” He has been relentless in his warfare against those who “observe the commandments of God,” especially in these last days.—John 8:44; Revelation 12:9, 17.
4. How did Babylon the Great come to be?
4 Some 4,000 years ago, after the Flood of Noah’s day, Satan raised up Nimrod, “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Genesis 10:9, 10) Nimrod’s greatest city, Babylon (Babel), became a center of demonistic religion. When Jehovah confused the language of Babel’s tower builders, the people were scattered around the earth, and they carried their false religion with them. Thus Babylon became the source of a worldwide empire of false religion, named Babylon the Great in the book of Revelation. That book foretells the doom of this ancient religious system.—Revelation 17:5; 18:21.
A Nation of Witnesses
5. What nation did Jehovah organize to be his witness, but why did he allow it to go into exile?
5 About 500 years after Nimrod’s time, Jehovah organized the descendants of faithful Abraham into the nation of Israel to serve as His witness on earth. (Isaiah 43:10, 12) Many individuals of that nation served Jehovah loyally. Over the centuries, however, the false beliefs of neighboring nations corrupted Israel, and Jehovah’s covenant people turned away from him to the worship of false gods. Hence, in 607 B.C.E., the armies of Babylon, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed Jerusalem and its temple and carried most of the Jews off into exile in Babylon.
6. What good news did Jehovah’s prophetic watchman declare, and when was it fulfilled?
6 What a triumph that was for false religion! However, Babylon’s ascendancy was short-lived. Some 200 years before the event, Jehovah commanded: “Go, post a lookout that he may tell just what he sees.” What news did this watchman have to announce? “She has fallen! Babylon has fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he has broken to the earth!” (Isaiah 21:6, 9) Sure enough, in 539 B.C.E., the prophetic declaration came true. Mighty Babylon fell, and God’s covenant people were soon able to return to their homeland.
7. (a) What did the Jews learn from Jehovah’s discipline? (b) Into what traps did the postexilic Jews fall, and with what result?
7 The returning Jews had learned enough to abandon idolatry and spiritistic religion. However, over the years, they fell into other traps. Some were ensnared by Greek philosophy. Others came to stress human tradition over God’s Word. Still others were seduced by nationalism. (Mark 7:13; Acts 5:37) By the time Jesus was born, the nation had again turned away from pure worship. While individual Jews responded to the good news declared by Jesus, the nation as a whole rejected him and was thus rejected by God. (John 1:9-12; Acts 2:36) Israel was no longer God’s witness, and in the year 70 C.E., Jerusalem and its temple were again devastated, this time by the Roman army.—Matthew 21:43.
8. Who became Jehovah’s witness, and why was Paul’s warning to this witness timely?
8 Meanwhile, a Christian “Israel of God” had been born, and this now served as God’s witness to the nations. (Galatians 6:16) Very quickly, Satan schemed to corrupt this new, spiritual nation. By the end of the first century, sectarian influences were seen in the congregations. (Revelation 2:6, 14, 20) Paul’s warning was timely: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”—Colossians 2:8.
9. Just as Paul had warned, what developments led to the existence of Christendom?
9 Eventually, Greek philosophy, Babylonian religious ideas, and later such human “wisdom” as the theory of evolution and higher criticism contaminated the religion of many who claimed to be Christian. It was as Paul had foretold: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) As a result of this apostasy, Christendom came into existence.
10. What developments made it evident that not everyone had surrendered to the corrupt worship practiced in Christendom?
10 Those truly devoted to pure worship had to “put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.” (Jude 3) Would the witness to pure worship and to Jehovah vanish from the earth? No. As the time approached for the destruction of the rebel Satan and all his works, it became evident that not everyone had surrendered to the apostate worship practiced in Christendom. In the latter part of the 19th century, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., a group of sincere Bible students was organized and became the nucleus of God’s modern-day witness class. These Christians drew attention to the Scriptural evidence that the conclusion of the present world system was at hand. True to Bible prophecy, this world’s “conclusion” began in 1914 and was marked by the outbreak of the first world war. (Matthew 24:3, 7) There is strong evidence that Satan and his demonic hordes were cast out of heaven following that year. The trouble-filled 20th century has provided clear proof of Satan’s activity and of a remarkable fulfillment of the sign of Jesus’ royal presence in heavenly Kingdom power.—Matthew, chapters 24 and 25; Mark, chapter 13; Luke, chapter 21; Revelation 12:10, 12.
11. What did Satan attempt to do, but how did his attempt fail?
11 In June 1918, Satan frantically tried to wipe out those Bible students, who by then were preaching in several countries. He also sought to destroy their legal corporation, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Responsible officers of the Society were imprisoned, falsely charged with sedition, as Jesus had been in the first century. (Luke 23:2) But in 1919, these officers were released, enabling them to continue their ministry. Later, they were fully exonerated.
A “Lookout” on the Watch
12. Who today make up Jehovah’s watchman class, or “lookout,” and what attitude have they had?
12 When “the time of the end” began, therefore, Jehovah again had a watchman on the scene, alerting people to events having to do with the fulfillment of His purposes. (Daniel 12:4; 2 Timothy 3:1) Until this day, that watchman class—anointed Christians, the Israel of God—has been acting in harmony with Isaiah’s description of the prophetic watchman: “He paid strict attention, with much attentiveness. And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.’” (Isaiah 21:7, 8) This is a watchman who takes his task seriously!
13. (a) What message has Jehovah’s watchman proclaimed? (b) How can it be said that Babylon the Great has fallen?
13 What did this watchman see? Again, Jehovah’s watchman, his witness class, announced: “She has fallen! Babylon has fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he [Jehovah] has broken to the earth!” (Isaiah 21:9) This time, following World War I, it is Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, that is toppled from its perch of authority. (Jeremiah 50:1-3; Revelation 14:8) No wonder! The Great War, as it was then called, started in Christendom, where the clergy on both sides fueled the conflagration by preaching the cream of their youth into the trenches. What a disgrace! In 1919, Babylon the Great could not prevent the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, from escaping from their inactive state and embarking on a worldwide witnessing campaign that still continues. (Matthew 24:14) That signaled a fall for Babylon the Great, just as the release of Israel in the sixth century B.C.E. signaled a fall for ancient Babylon.
14. What magazine has Jehovah’s watchman class used prominently, and how has Jehovah blessed its use?
14 The watchman class has always performed its task with zeal and a strong desire to do what is right. In July 1879, the Bible Students started publication of this magazine, then known as Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Each issue from 1879 until December 15, 1938, carried on its front cover the words “‘Watchman, What of the Night?’—Isaiah 21:11.”* Faithfully, for 120 years The Watchtower has kept watch on world events and their prophetic import. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) God’s watchman class and its “other sheep” companions have used this magazine in vigorously proclaiming to mankind that the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty by Christ’s Kingdom is at hand. (John 10:16) Has this witness been blessed by Jehovah? Well, from the first issue of 6,000 copies in 1879, The Watchtower has grown to a worldwide circulation of more than 22,000,000 copies in 132 languages—121 of these being published simultaneously. How appropriate that the most widely distributed religious magazine on earth should be the one that magnifies the name of the true God, Jehovah!
A Progressive Cleansing
15. What progressive cleansing began even before 1914?
15 During some 40 years up until Christ’s heavenly rule began in 1914, the Bible Students had been freed from many of the non-Biblical doctrines of Christendom, such as infant baptism, immortality of the human soul, purgatory, hellfire torment, and a Trinitarian God. But it took additional time to purge all wrong ideas. For example, in the 1920’s many Bible Students wore a pin featuring a cross-and-crown emblem, and they celebrated Christmas and other pagan holidays. However, for worship to be pure, all vestiges of idolatry must be discarded. God’s Word, the Holy Bible, must be the sole basis of the Christian’s faith and way of life. (Isaiah 8:19, 20; Romans 15:4) It is wrong to add to God’s Word or to take anything away from it.—Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18, 19.
16, 17. (a) What false idea did the watchman class hold for some decades? (b) What is the correct explanation of the “altar” and the “pillar” in “Egypt”?
16 One example will underline how important this principle is. In 1886 when C. T. Russell published a book that came to be called The Divine Plan of the Ages, this volume contained a chart linking the ages of mankind with the Great Pyramid of Egypt. It was thought that this memorial of Pharaoh Khufu was the pillar referred to at Isaiah 19:19, 20: “In that day there will prove to be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to Jehovah beside its boundary. And it must prove to be for a sign and for a witness to Jehovah of armies in the land of Egypt.” What relationship could the pyramid have with the Bible? Well, as an example, the length of certain passages in the Great Pyramid was said to indicate the time for the beginning of the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:21, as it was then understood. Some Bible Students became engrossed with measuring different features of the pyramid to determine such matters as the day they would be going to heaven!
17 This so-called Bible in Stone was held in esteem for some decades, until the Watchtower issues of November 15 and December 1, 1928, made clear that Jehovah needed no stone monument built by pagan pharaohs and containing demonic signs of astrology to confirm the witness given in the Bible. Rather, Isaiah’s prophecy was seen to have a spiritual application. As at Revelation 11:8, “Egypt” is symbolic of Satan’s world. The “altar to Jehovah” reminds us of the acceptable sacrifices made by anointed Christians while they are temporary residents in this world. (Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15, 16) The pillar “beside [Egypt’s] boundary” points to the congregation of anointed Christians, which is “a pillar and support of the truth” and which stands as a witness in “Egypt,” the world that they are about to leave.—1 Timothy 3:15.
18. (a) How has Jehovah continued to clarify matters for sincere Bible students? (b) If a Christian finds a Scriptural clarification difficult to understand, what is a wise attitude to have?
18 As the years pass, Jehovah continues to give us further clarification of truth, including a clearer understanding of his prophetic word. (Proverbs 4:18) In recent years, we have been encouraged to look again with deeper understanding at—among other things—the generation that will not pass away before the end comes, the parable of the sheep and the goats, the disgusting thing and when it will stand in a holy place, the new covenant, the transfiguration, and the temple vision of the book of Ezekiel. It may be difficult at times to understand such updated explanations, but the reasons for them become clear in due course. If a Christian does not fully understand a new explanation of a scripture, he does well humbly to echo the words of the prophet Micah: “I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation.”—Micah 7:7.
19. How have the anointed remnant and their other sheep companions shown lionlike courage in these last days?
19 Recall that the watchman “proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights.’” (Isaiah 21:8) The anointed remnant have shown lionlike courage in exposing false religion and showing people the way to freedom. (Revelation 18:2-5) As “the faithful and discreet slave,” they have provided Bibles, magazines, and other publications in a multitude of languages—“food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) They have taken the lead in gathering the “great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” These too are cleansed by the ransoming blood of Jesus and show themselves lionhearted in rendering God “sacred service day and night.” (Revelation 7:9, 14, 15) What has been the fruitage this past year of the small surviving group of anointed Witnesses of Jehovah and their companions, the great crowd? Our next article will tell.
From January 1, 1939, this was changed to “‘They shall know that I am Jehovah.’—Ezekiel 35:15.”
Do You Recall?
• What witnesses has Jehovah raised up through the years?
• What is the origin of Babylon the Great?
• Why did Jehovah allow Jerusalem, the capital city of his nation of witnesses, to be destroyed in 607 B.C.E.? in 70 C.E.?
• What spirit have Jehovah’s watchman class and their companions shown?
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“Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly”
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Jehovah’s watchman class take their task seriously