Cultivate Obedience as the End Draws Near
“To [Shiloh] the obedience of the peoples will belong.”—GENESIS 49:10.
1. (a) In the past, what has obedience to Jehovah often involved? (b) What prophecy concerning obedience did Jacob make?
OBEDIENCE to Jehovah has often involved obedience to his representatives. These have included angels, patriarchs, judges, priests, prophets, and kings. The throne of the kings of Israel was even called Jehovah’s throne. (1 Chronicles 29:23) Sadly, though, many of Israel’s rulers disobeyed God, bringing woe upon themselves and their subjects. But Jehovah did not leave his loyal ones without hope; he comforted them with a promise to install an incorruptible King, whom the righteous would delight in obeying. (Isaiah 9:6, 7) The dying patriarch Jacob prophesied about this future ruler, saying: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.”—Genesis 49:10.
2. What is the meaning of “Shiloh,” and what would his royal rule embrace?
2 “Shiloh” is a Hebrew term meaning “He Whose It Is,” or “He to Whom It Belongs.” Yes, Shiloh would inherit nothing less than the right to rulership, as symbolized by the scepter, and the power to command, as represented by the commander’s staff. Moreover, his royal rule would embrace, not just the descendants of Jacob, but all “peoples.” This is in line with Jehovah’s promise to Abraham: “Your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:17, 18) Jehovah confirmed the identity of this “seed” in 29 C.E. when he anointed Jesus of Nazareth with holy spirit.—Luke 3:21-23, 34; Galatians 3:16.
Jesus’ First Kingdom
3. What rulership did Jesus receive when he ascended to heaven?
3 When Jesus ascended to heaven, he did not immediately take up the scepter of rulership over the peoples of the world. (Psalm 110:1) However, he did receive a “kingdom” with subjects that obeyed him. The apostle Paul identified that kingdom when he wrote: “[God] delivered us [spirit-anointed Christians] from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” (Colossians 1:13) This deliverance began at Pentecost 33 C.E. when holy spirit was poured out on Jesus’ faithful followers.—Acts 2:1-4; 1 Peter 2:9.
4. In what ways did Jesus’ early disciples display their obedience, and how did Jesus identify them as a group?
4 As “ambassadors substituting for Christ,” the spirit-anointed disciples obediently started to gather others who would become “fellow citizens” in that spiritual kingdom. (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 2:19; Acts 1:8) Additionally, these had to remain “fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought” in order to enjoy the approval of their King Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:10) As a group, they constituted a “faithful and discreet slave,” or a faithful steward class.—Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42.
Blessed for Obeying God’s “Steward”
5. From ancient times, how has Jehovah taught his people?
5 Jehovah has always provided teachers for his people. For example, after the Jews returned from Babylon, Ezra and a number of other qualified men did not just read God’s Law to the people, they “expounded” that law, ‘putting meaning into it and giving understanding’ of God’s Word.—Nehemiah 8:8.
6, 7. How has the slave class provided timely spiritual food through its Governing Body, and why is submission to the slave class fitting?
6 In the first century, when the issue of circumcision arose in 49 C.E., the governing body of that early slave class prayerfully considered the matter and came to a Scriptural conclusion. When they announced their decision by letter, the congregations obeyed the direction given and enjoyed God’s rich blessing. (Acts 15:6-15, 22-29; 16:4, 5) Likewise in modern times, the faithful slave through its Governing Body has clarified such important issues as Christian neutrality, the sanctity of blood, and the use of drugs and tobacco. (Isaiah 2:4; Acts 21:25; 2 Corinthians 7:1) Jehovah blessed his people for their obedience to his Word and the faithful slave.
7 By submitting to the slave class, God’s people also show their subjection to the Master, Jesus Christ. Such subjection has taken on additional significance in modern times because of Jesus’ enlarged authority, as foretold in Jacob’s deathbed prophecy.
Shiloh Becomes Earth’s Rightful Ruler
8. How and when was Christ’s authority expanded?
8 Jacob’s prophecy foretold that Shiloh would command “the obedience of the peoples.” Clearly, Christ’s rulership would extend beyond spiritual Israel. What would it embrace? Revelation 11:15 answers: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” The Bible reveals that Jesus received that authority at the end of the prophetic “seven times”—“the appointed times of the nations”—in 1914.* (Daniel 4:16, 17; Luke 21:24) In that year, Christ’s invisible “presence” as Messianic King began, as did his time to “go subduing in the midst of [his] enemies.”—Matthew 24:3; Psalm 110:2.
9. What did Jesus do when he received his Kingdom, and what indirect effect did this have on mankind, especially on his disciples?
9 Jesus’ first act after receiving kingly power was to hurl the very personification of disobedience—Satan—along with his demons “down to the earth.” Since then, these wicked spirits have fomented unprecedented woe for mankind, besides fostering an environment that makes obedience to Jehovah a challenge. (Revelation 12:7-12; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) In fact, the main target of Satan’s spiritual warfare consists of Jehovah’s anointed ones, “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus,” and their “other sheep” companions.—Revelation 12:17; John 10:16.
10. The fulfillment of what Bible prophecies guarantees the failure of Satan’s warfare against true Christians?
10 Satan is doomed to failure, however, because this is “the Lord’s day,” and nothing can prevent Jesus from ‘completing his conquest.’ (Revelation 1:10; 6:2) He will, for example, ensure the final sealing of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites. He will also protect “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:1-4, 9, 14-16) Unlike their anointed companions, however, these ones will become Jesus’ obedient earthly subjects. (Daniel 7:13, 14) Their very appearance on the world scene already provides tangible evidence that Shiloh truly is Ruler over “the kingdom of the world.”—Revelation 11:15.
Now Is the Time to “Obey the Good News”
11, 12. (a) Who only will survive the end of the present system of things? (b) What personality traits develop in those who imbibe “the spirit of the world”?
11 All who want everlasting life must learn obedience, for the Bible clearly states that “those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus” will not survive God’s day of vengeance. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) However, the present wicked environment and its spirit of rebellion against Bible laws and principles make obedience to the good news a challenge.
12 The Bible describes this God-defying spirit as “the spirit of the world.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) Explaining its effect on people, the apostle Paul wrote to the first-century Christians in Ephesus, saying: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.”—Ephesians 2:2, 3.
13. How can Christians effectively resist the spirit of the world, and with what beneficial results?
13 Happily, the Ephesian Christians did not remain slaves of that spirit of disobedience. Rather, they became obedient children of God by submitting to his spirit and reaping its abundant and wholesome fruitage. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Likewise today, God’s spirit—the most powerful force in the universe—is helping millions to become obedient to Jehovah, with the result that they can have “the full assurance of the hope down to the end.”—Hebrews 6:11; Zechariah 4:6.
14. How did Jesus alert all Christians living in the last days to specific things that would test their obedience?
14 Keep in mind, too, that we have the powerful backing of Shiloh, who along with his Father will let no enemy—demon or human—test our obedience beyond what we can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13) In fact, to aid us in our spiritual warfare, Jesus described a number of specific problems that we would face during these last days. He did so by way of seven letters, which he gave in a vision to the apostle John. (Revelation 1:10, 11) To be sure, they contained vital counsel for Christians back then, but their main application is to “the Lord’s day,” since 1914. How fitting, therefore, that we give attention to these messages!*
Avoid Apathy, Immorality, Materialism
15. Why must we guard against the problem that affected the congregation at Ephesus, and how can we do so? (2 Peter 1:5-8)
15 Jesus’ first letter was to the congregation in Ephesus. After commending the congregation for its endurance, Jesus stated: “Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:1-4) Today, some once-zealous Christians have likewise lost the fervent love they formerly had for God. Such a loss can weaken one’s relationship with God and must be urgently addressed. How can such love be reinvigorated? By regular Bible study, meeting attendance, prayer, and meditation. (1 John 5:3) True, this takes “earnest effort,” but it is surely worth it. (2 Peter 1:5-8) If honest self-examination reveals that your love has cooled off, then correct the situation promptly, in obedience to Jesus’ exhortation: “Remember from what you have fallen, and repent and do the former deeds.”—Revelation 2:5.
16. What spiritually dangerous influences existed in the congregations at Pergamum and Thyatira, and why are Jesus’ words to them appropriate today?
16 The Christians in Pergamum and Thyatira were commended for their integrity, endurance, and zeal. (Revelation 2:12, 13, 18, 19) Yet, they were influenced by certain ones manifesting the wicked spirit of Balaam and Jezebel, who by means of sexual immorality and Baal worship acted as corrupting influences in ancient Israel. (Numbers 31:16; 1 Kings 16:30, 31; Revelation 2:14, 16, 20-23) But what about our time—“the Lord’s day”? Are the same evil influences evident? Yes, for immorality is by far the leading cause for disfellowshipping among God’s people. How important, therefore, that we avoid association with all individuals—inside and outside the congregation—who are a morally corrupting influence! (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 15:33) Those who want to be Shiloh’s obedient subjects will also eschew questionable entertainment as well as printed and Internet pornography.—Amos 5:15; Matthew 5:28, 29.
17. How did the view and attitude of those in Sardis and Laodicea compare with Jesus’ view of their spiritual condition?
17 With the exception of a few individuals, the congregation in Sardis received no commendation at all. It had “the name,” or the appearance, of being alive, but spiritual apathy had taken such a hold that to Jesus it was “dead.” Obedience to the good news was all but perfunctory. What an indictment! (Revelation 3:1-3) The congregation in Laodicea was in a similar state. It boasted material wealth, saying, “I am rich,” yet to Christ it was “miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.”—Revelation 3:14-17.
18. How can one avoid becoming spiritually lukewarm in God’s eyes?
18 Today, some once-faithful Christians have also fallen into the same pattern of disobedience. Perhaps they have allowed the spirit of the world to sap the sense of urgency from their lives, thus developing a spiritually lukewarm attitude toward Bible study, prayer, Christian meetings, and the ministry. (2 Peter 3:3, 4, 11, 12) How important that such ones obey Christ by investing in spiritual riches—yes, “buy from [Christ] gold refined by fire”! (Revelation 3:18) Such genuine wealth includes being ‘rich in fine works, liberal, ready to share.’ By investing in these truly precious assets, we ‘safely treasure up for ourselves a fine foundation for the future, in order to get a firm hold on the real life.’—1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Commended for Their Obedience
19. What commendations and exhortations did Jesus give to the Christians in Smyrna and Philadelphia?
19 The congregations in Smyrna and Philadelphia stand out as examples in obedience, for Jesus’ letters to them contained no reproof. To those in Smyrna, he said: “I know your tribulation and poverty—but you are rich.” (Revelation 2:9) What a contrast to those in Laodicea, who boasted of worldly wealth but who were actually impoverished! Of course, the Devil was not pleased to see anyone showing faithfulness and obedience to Christ. Hence, Jesus warned: “Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) Similarly, Jesus commended those in Philadelphia, saying: “You kept my word [or, obeyed me] and did not prove false to my name. I am coming quickly. Keep on holding fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”—Revelation 3:8, 11.
20. How have millions today kept Jesus’ word, and despite what circumstances?
20 In “the Lord’s day,” beginning in 1914, a faithful remnant and their other sheep companions, now numbering millions, have also kept Jesus’ word by sharing zealously in the ministry and by holding fast to their integrity. Like their first-century brothers, some have suffered for their obedience to Christ, even being thrown into prisons and concentration camps. Others have kept Jesus’ word by maintaining a ‘simple eye,’ despite being surrounded by affluence and greed. (Matthew 6:22, 23) Yes, in every environment and in every circumstance, true Christians, through their obedience, continue to make Jehovah’s heart rejoice.—Proverbs 27:11.
21. (a) What spiritual obligation will the slave class continue to fulfill? (b) How can we show that we truly want to obey Shiloh?
21 As we approach the great tribulation, “the faithful and discreet slave” remains resolved not to compromise its obedience to the Master, Christ. This includes preparing timely spiritual food for God’s household. So let us continue to appreciate Jehovah’s wonderful theocratic organization and what it provides. In this way, we demonstrate our submission to Shiloh, who will reward all his obedient subjects with everlasting life.—Matthew 24:45-47; 25:40; John 5:22-24.
For an explanation of the “seven times,” see chapter 10 of the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For a detailed discussion of all seven letters, please see the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, beginning on page 33.
Do You Recall?
• What role was Jesus to play as foretold in Jacob’s deathbed prophecy?
• How do we acknowledge Jesus as Shiloh, and what spirit must we avoid?
• What relevant counsel for our day is contained in the letters to the seven congregations of Revelation?
• In what ways can we imitate those in the congregations in ancient Smyrna and Philadelphia?
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Jehovah blesses his people for obeying the faithful “steward”
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The influence of Satan makes obedience to God a challenge
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A strong relationship with Jehovah helps us to be obedient to him