Foregleams of God’s Kingdom Become a Reality
“You are doing well in paying attention to [the prophetic word] as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”—2 PETER 1:19.
1. What contrast do we find in the world today?
CRISIS after crisis—that is a major theme of today’s world. From ecological disasters to global terrorism, mankind’s problems seem to be raging out of control. Even the world’s religions have not been able to help. In fact, they often make matters worse by inflaming the bigotry, hatred, and nationalism that divide people. Yes, as foretold, “thick gloom” has enveloped “the national groups.” (Isaiah 60:2) At the same time, however, millions look to the future with confidence. Why? Because they pay attention to God’s prophetic word “as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” They allow God’s “word,” or message, now found in the Bible, to guide their steps.—2 Peter 1:19.
2. According to Daniel’s prophecy about “the time of the end,” who only are granted spiritual insight?
2 Concerning “the time of the end,” the prophet Daniel wrote: “Many will rove about, and the true knowledge will become abundant. Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” (Daniel 12:4, 10) Spiritual insight is reserved only for those who sincerely “rove about” in, or diligently study, God’s Word, submit to his standards, and strive to do his will.—Matthew 13:11-15; 1 John 5:20.
3. During the 1870’s, what important truth did early Bible students discern?
3 As early as the 1870’s, before “the last days” commenced, Jehovah God began to shed more light on “the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 13:11) At that time a group of Bible students discerned—contrary to popular opinion—that Christ’s return was to be invisible. After being enthroned in heaven, Jesus would return in the sense of focusing his royal attention on the earth. A visible, composite sign would alert his disciples that his invisible presence had begun.—Matthew 24:3-14.
When a Foregleam Becomes a Reality
4. How has Jehovah strengthened the faith of his modern-day servants?
4 The transfiguration vision was a brilliant foregleam of Christ in Kingdom glory. (Matthew 17:1-9) That vision strengthened the faith of Peter, James, and John at a time when many had left off following Jesus because he had not fulfilled their unscriptural expectations. Likewise, in this time of the end, Jehovah has strengthened the faith of his modern-day servants by shedding increased light on the fulfillment of that awesome vision and many related prophecies. Let us now consider some of these faith-strengthening spiritual realities.
5. Who proved to be the Daystar, and when and how did he ‘rise’?
5 Referring to the transfiguration, the apostle Peter wrote: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19) That figurative Daystar, or “bright morning star,” is the glorified Jesus Christ. (Revelation 22:16) He ‘rose’ in 1914 when God’s Kingdom was born in heaven, marking the dawn of a new era. (Revelation 11:15) In the transfiguration vision, Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Jesus, conversing with him. Whom do they foreshadow?
6, 7. Who are represented by Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration, and what important details do the Scriptures reveal about those represented by them?
6 Since Moses and Elijah shared in Christ’s glory, these two faithful witnesses must represent those who rule with Jesus in his Kingdom. The understanding that Jesus has corulers is in harmony with a visionary foregleam of the enthroned Messiah that the prophet Daniel was granted. Daniel saw “someone like a son of man” receiving “an indefinitely lasting rulership” from “the Ancient of Days,” Jehovah God. But note what Daniel is shown shortly thereafter. He writes: “The kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One.” (Daniel 7:13, 14, 27) Yes, more than five centuries before the transfiguration, God revealed that certain “holy ones” would share in Christ’s royal grandeur.
7 Who are the holy ones in Daniel’s vision? It is with reference to such individuals that the apostle Paul says: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:16, 17) The holy ones are none other than Jesus’ spirit-anointed disciples. In the Revelation, Jesus says: “To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Numbering 144,000, these resurrected ‘conquerors,’ along with Jesus, will rule over the entire earth.—Revelation 3:21; 5:9, 10; 14:1, 3, 4; 1 Corinthians 15:53.
8. How have Jesus’ anointed disciples served in the capacity of Moses and Elijah, and with what results?
8 Why, though, are anointed Christians represented by Moses and Elijah? The reason is that such Christians, while still in the flesh, do a work similar to that performed by Moses and Elijah. For example, they serve as Jehovah’s witnesses, even in the face of persecution. (Isaiah 43:10; Acts 8:1-8; Revelation 11:2-12) Like Moses and Elijah, they courageously expose false religion while exhorting sincere people to give God exclusive devotion. (Exodus 32:19, 20; Deuteronomy 4:22-24; 1 Kings 18:18-40) Has their work borne fruit? Absolutely! Besides helping to gather the full complement of anointed ones, they have helped millions of “other sheep” to show willing submission to Jesus Christ.—John 10:16; Revelation 7:4.
Christ Completes His Conquest
9. How does Revelation 6:2 portray Jesus as he is today?
9 No longer a mere human mounted on the colt of an ass, Jesus is now a powerful King. He is portrayed as riding on a horse—a Biblical symbol of warfare. (Proverbs 21:31) “Look! a white horse,” says Revelation 6:2, “and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.” Moreover, concerning Jesus, the psalmist David wrote: “The rod of your strength Jehovah will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’”—Psalm 110:2.
10. (a) How did Jesus’ ride of conquest get off to a glorious start? (b) How did Christ’s first victory affect the world in general?
10 Jesus’ first victory was over his most powerful foes—Satan and the demons. Expelling them from heaven, he hurled them down to the earth. Knowing that their time is short, these wicked spirits have vented their violent anger on mankind, causing great woe. This woe is symbolized in Revelation by the ride of three more horsemen. (Revelation 6:3-8; 12:7-12) In line with Jesus’ prophecy concerning “the sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things,” their ride has resulted in warfare, famine, and deadly plague. (Matthew 24:3, 7; Luke 21:7-11) Like literal birth pangs, these “pangs of distress” will no doubt continue to intensify until Christ ‘completes his conquest’ by destroying every vestige of Satan’s visible organization.*—Matthew 24:8.
11. How does the history of the Christian congregation testify to Christ’s royal authority?
11 Jesus’ royal authority is also evident in that he has preserved the Christian congregation so that it can fulfill its commission to preach the Kingdom message worldwide. Despite brutal opposition from Babylon the Great—the world empire of false religion—and from hostile governments, the preaching work not only has continued but has attained a scale unprecedented in the history of the world. (Revelation 17:5, 6) What a powerful testimony to Christ’s kingship!—Psalm 110:3.
12. Why do most people not discern Christ’s invisible presence?
12 Sadly, though, most people, including millions of professed Christians, fail to discern the invisible realities behind the momentous events occurring on earth. They even ridicule those who announce God’s Kingdom. (2 Peter 3:3, 4) Why? Because Satan has blinded their minds. (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4) In fact, he began to cast the veil of spiritual darkness over professed Christians many centuries ago, even causing them to abandon the precious Kingdom hope.
The Kingdom Hope Abandoned
13. To what did the veil of spiritual darkness lead?
13 Jesus foretold that apostates, like weeds sown among wheat, would infiltrate the Christian congregation and lead many astray. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Acts 20:29-31; Jude 4) In time, these so-called Christians adopted pagan festivals, practices, and teachings, even labeling them “Christian.” For example, Christmas has its origin in rites involving the worship of the pagan deities Mithra and Saturn. But what induced professed Christians to adopt these unchristian celebrations? Says The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1974): “Christmas, the festival of the birth of Jesus Christ, was established in connection with a fading of the expectation of Christ’s imminent return.”
14. How did the teachings of Origen and Augustine misrepresent Kingdom truth?
14 Consider also the distortion of the meaning of the word “kingdom.” The book The Kingdom of God in 20th-Century Interpretation states: “Origen [a third-century theologian] marks the change in Christian usage of ‘kingdom’ to the interior meaning of the rule of God in the heart.” On what did Origen base his teaching? Not on the Scriptures, but on “the framework of a philosophy and world view quite different from the thought world of Jesus and the earliest church.” In his work De Civitate Dei (The City of God), Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.) stated that the church itself is the Kingdom of God. Such unscriptural thinking gave the churches of Christendom theological grounds to embrace political power. And they wielded such power for many centuries, often with brutality.—Revelation 17:5, 18.
15. How has Galatians 6:7 been fulfilled in regard to many of the churches of Christendom?
15 Today, though, the churches are reaping what they have sown. (Galatians 6:7) Many seem to be losing their power as well as their parishioners. Such a trend is quite noticeable in Europe. According to the journal Christianity Today, “now the great cathedrals of Europe [serve] not as houses of worship but as museums, empty of all but tourists.” The same trend can be observed in other parts of the world. What does this betoken for false religion? Will it just die from a lack of support? And how will true worship be affected?
Be Prepared for God’s Great Day
16. Why is the growing ill will toward Babylon the Great significant?
16 Just as smoke and ash spewing from a previously dormant volcano may portend an imminent eruption, the simmering hostility toward religion in many parts of the world is an indication that the days of false religion are numbered. Soon, Jehovah will move the world’s political elements to unite in efforts to expose and devastate the spiritual harlot Babylon the Great. (Revelation 17:15-17; 18:21) Should true Christians fear that event and the other aspects of the “great tribulation” that will follow? (Matthew 24:21) Not at all! They will actually have reasons to rejoice when God acts against the wicked. (Revelation 18:20; 19:1, 2) Consider the example of first-century Jerusalem and the Christians who lived there.
17. Why can Jehovah’s faithful servants face this system’s end with confidence?
17 When Roman forces besieged Jerusalem in 66 C.E., spiritually alert Christians were neither shocked nor terrified. Being good students of God’s Word, they knew ‘that the desolating of her had drawn near.’ (Luke 21:20) They also knew that God would open the way for them to flee to safety. When that happened, Christians fled. (Daniel 9:26; Matthew 24:15-19; Luke 21:21) Likewise today, those who know God and who obey his Son can face this system’s end with confidence. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) In fact, when the great tribulation strikes, they will joyfully ‘raise themselves erect and lift their heads up, because they know their deliverance is near.’—Luke 21:28.
18. What will be the result of Gog’s all-out assault on Jehovah’s servants?
18 After the destruction of Babylon the Great, in his role as Gog of Magog, Satan will launch an all-out attack against Jehovah’s peaceful Witnesses. Coming up “like clouds to cover the land,” Gog’s hordes will expect an easy victory. What a shock awaits them! (Ezekiel 38:14-16, 18-23) The apostle John writes: “I saw the heaven opened, and, look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True . . . Out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it.” This invincible “King of kings” will rescue Jehovah’s loyal worshipers and annihilate all their enemies. (Revelation 19:11-21) What a culmination that will be of the fulfillment of the transfiguration vision!
19. How will Christ’s total victory affect his loyal disciples, and what should they strive to do now?
19 Jesus will be “regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith.” (2 Thessalonians 1:10) Do you want to be among those who will stand in awe of the victorious Son of God? Then continue to nourish your faith and to ‘prove yourself ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.’—Matthew 24:43, 44.
Keep Your Senses
20. (a) How can we show our appreciation for God’s provision of “the faithful and discreet slave”? (b) What questions should we ask ourselves?
20 “The faithful and discreet slave” regularly exhorts God’s people to stay spiritually vigilant and to keep their senses. (Matthew 24:45, 46; 1 Thessalonians 5:6) Do you appreciate these timely reminders? Do you use them in setting priorities in life? Why not ask yourself: ‘Do I have clear spiritual vision that enables me to see the Son of God ruling in heaven? Do I see him poised to execute divine judgment against Babylon the Great and the rest of Satan’s system?’
21. Why may some have allowed their spiritual vision to grow dim, and what is it urgent that they do?
21 Some now associated with Jehovah’s people have allowed their spiritual vision to grow dim. Could it be that they lack patience or endurance, as did some of Jesus’ early disciples? Have anxieties of life, materialism, or persecution affected them? (Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23; Luke 21:34-36) Perhaps some have found certain information published by “the faithful and discreet slave” hard to grasp. If any of this has happened to you, we urge you to study God’s Word with renewed zeal and to supplicate Jehovah so that you may regain a strong, close relationship with him.—2 Peter 3:11-15.
22. How has consideration of the transfiguration vision and related prophecies affected you?
22 The transfiguration vision was given to Jesus’ disciples when they needed encouragement. Today, we have something far greater to strengthen us—the fulfillment of that spectacular foregleam and many related prophecies. As we contemplate these glorious realities and their future significance, may we too express with all our heart the sentiments of the apostle John when he said: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”—Revelation 22:20.
In the original Greek, the word rendered “pangs of distress” literally means “pangs of birth.” (Matthew 24:8, Kingdom Interlinear) This suggests that like birth pangs, the world’s problems will increase in frequency, intensity, and duration, climaxing in the great tribulation.
Do You Recall?
• In the 1870’s, what did a small group of Bible students come to understand about Christ’s return?
• How has the transfiguration vision been fulfilled?
• What effect does Jesus’ ride of conquest have on the world and on the Christian congregation?
• What must we do to be among those who will survive when Jesus completes his conquest?
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A foregleam becomes a reality
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Do you know what happened when Christ began his conquest?