Jehovah Tells “From the Beginning the Finale”
“The One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.”—ISAIAH 46:10.
1, 2. What is remarkable about the events associated with Babylon’s overthrow, and what does this fact indicate about Jehovah?
IN THE dead of night, enemy soldiers advance stealthily along the bed of the Euphrates River toward their objective, the mighty city of Babylon. As they approach the entrance to the city, an astonishing sight greets their eyes. The colossal two-leaved doors in Babylon’s wall have been left open! Out of the riverbed, they climb; into the city, they enter. Swiftly the city falls. Cyrus, their leader, promptly takes charge of the conquered land and later issues a decree releasing the Israelite captives. Thousands of exiles return home to restore the worship of Jehovah in Jerusalem.—2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4.
2 Those events of the years 539-537 B.C.E. are now well attested to by historians. What is remarkable is that the events were known some 200 years ahead of time. Jehovah inspired his prophet Isaiah to describe Babylon’s fall that far in advance. (Isaiah 44:24–45:7) God revealed not only the circumstances surrounding Babylon’s overthrow but also the name of the conquering leader.* Addressing the Israelites, who were his witnesses back then, Jehovah said: “Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isaiah 46:9, 10a) Jehovah is truly a God who can know ahead of time what will happen.
3. Answers to what questions will now be considered?
3 How much of the future does God know? Does Jehovah know in advance what each of us will do? Indeed, is our future predestined? We will consider the Bible’s answers to these and related questions in this and the following article.
Jehovah—A God of Prophecy
4. Who is the Source of the prophecies recorded in the Bible?
4 Being able to foreknow the future, Jehovah inspired his servants in Bible times to record many prophecies, which allow us to know in advance what Jehovah has purposed to do. “The first things—here they have come, but new things I am telling out,” Jehovah declares. “Before they begin to spring up, I cause you people to hear them.” (Isaiah 42:9) How privileged God’s people are!
5. What responsibility comes with advance knowledge of what Jehovah will do?
5 The prophet Amos assures us: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” This advance knowledge brought with it responsibility. Notice the powerful illustration that Amos next uses: “There is a lion that has roared! Who will not be afraid?” Just as a lion’s roar provokes an immediate reaction from both man and beast in the vicinity, so such prophets as Amos promptly gave voice to Jehovah’s declarations. “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has spoken! Who will not prophesy?”—Amos 3:7, 8.
Jehovah’s “Word” Has “Certain Success”
6. In what way did Jehovah’s “counsel” prevail in connection with Babylon’s downfall?
6 Through his prophet Isaiah, Jehovah said: “My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.” (Isaiah 46:10b) God’s “counsel,” that is, his will or purpose as far as Babylon was concerned, involved calling Cyrus out of Persia to conquer Babylon and bring about its downfall. Jehovah declared that purpose long in advance. As already noted, it unfailingly came to pass in the year 539 B.C.E.
7. Why can we be confident that Jehovah’s “word” always succeeds?
7 Nearly four centuries before Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon, King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced the combined armies of Ammon and Moab. He confidently prayed: “O Jehovah the God of our forefathers, are you not God in the heavens, and are you not dominating over all the kingdoms of the nations, and are there not in your hand power and mightiness, with no one to hold his ground against you?” (2 Chronicles 20:6) Isaiah expressed similar confidence when he stated: “Jehovah of armies himself has counseled, and who can break it up? And his hand is the one stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27) Later, when restored to his senses following a period of insanity, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon humbly acknowledged: “There exists no one that can check [God’s] hand or that can say to him, ‘What have you been doing?’” (Daniel 4:35) Yes, Jehovah assures his people: “My word . . . will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) We can have full confidence that Jehovah’s “word” always comes true. God’s purpose is infallible.
God’s “Eternal Purpose”
8. What is God’s “eternal purpose”?
8 In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the apostle Paul referred to God as having an “eternal purpose.” (Ephesians 3:11) This is not simply a plan of action, as though God had to map out the way he would work. Rather, it relates to Jehovah’s determination to accomplish what he originally intended for mankind and the earth. (Genesis 1:28) To help us appreciate the infallibility of his purpose, consider the first prophecy recorded in the Bible.
9. How does Genesis 3:15 relate to God’s purpose?
9 The promise at Genesis 3:15 indicates that immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, Jehovah determined that his symbolic woman was to bring forth a seed, or son. Jehovah also foresaw the result of the enmity between his woman and Satan and between their opposing seeds. Although Jehovah would allow the Seed of God’s woman to suffer a bruising in the heel, in God’s due time, the Seed would bruise the serpent, or Satan the Devil, in the head. In the meantime, Jehovah’s purpose unfailingly advanced through the chosen genealogical line down to Jesus’ appearing as the promised Messiah.—Luke 3:15, 23-38; Galatians 4:4.
What Jehovah Foreordains
10. Did Jehovah predetermine from the beginning that Adam and Eve would sin? Explain.
10 Speaking about the role that Jesus played in God’s purpose, the apostle Peter wrote: “He [Jesus] was foreknown before the founding of the world, but he was made manifest at the end of the times for the sake of you.” (1 Peter 1:20; footnote) Did Jehovah predetermine from the beginning that Adam and Eve would sin and that the ransom sacrifice provided by means of Jesus Christ would be needed? No. The word “founding” is translated from a Greek term that literally means “throwing down of seed.” Had there been a “throwing down of seed,” or a conceiving of human offspring, before Adam and Eve sinned? No. It was after their act of disobedience that Adam and Eve brought forth children. (Genesis 4:1) So following the rebellion but before the conception of offspring by Adam and Eve, Jehovah foreordained the appearance of the “seed.” Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the loving arrangement of the ransom, whereby inherited sin and all of Satan’s efforts are to be brought to nothing.—Matthew 20:28; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8.
11. What development did Jehovah foreordain in the outworking of his purpose?
11 God foreordained another development in the outworking of his purpose. This is indicated by what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, namely that God will “gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” Then, with reference to “the things in the heavens,” that is, those who are chosen as heirs with Christ, Paul explained: “We were foreordained according to the purpose of him who operates all things according to the way his will counsels.” (Ephesians 1:10, 11) Yes, Jehovah determined ahead of time that a limited number of humans would make up a secondary part of the seed of God’s woman and share with Christ in dispensing the benefits of the ransom. (Romans 8:28-30) The apostle Peter refers to these as “a holy nation.” (1 Peter 2:9) The apostle John had the privilege of learning in a vision the number of those who would become Christ’s joint heirs—144,000. (Revelation 7:4-8; 14:1, 3) United with Christ as King, they serve “for the praise of [God’s] glory.”—Ephesians 1:12-14.
12. How do we know that the 144,000 are not predestined as individuals?
12 The foreordination of the 144,000 does not mean that certain individuals were predestined to serve God faithfully in this way. Indeed, the admonition in the Christian Greek Scriptures was written primarily to guide and strengthen anointed ones to maintain integrity and keep themselves worthy of their heavenly calling. (Philippians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 11; 2 Peter 1:10, 11) Jehovah knows in advance that 144,000 individuals will qualify to serve his purpose. Who they prove to be depends on how those invited individually choose to live their life, a decision that each one of them must make personally.—Matthew 24:13.
What Jehovah Foreknows
13, 14. With what does the way Jehovah exercises his foreknowledge harmonize, and why?
13 Since Jehovah is a God of prophecy and purpose, how does he exercise his foreknowledge? To begin with, we are assured that all of God’s ways are truthful, righteous, and loving. When writing to Hebrew Christians of the first century C.E., the apostle Paul confirmed that God’s oath and his promise make “two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:17, 18) In his letter to the disciple Titus, Paul also expressed this thought when he wrote that God “cannot lie.”—Titus 1:2.
14 Furthermore, although Jehovah has unlimited power, he never acts unjustly. Moses described Jehovah as “a God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) Whatever Jehovah does harmonizes with his wonderful personality. His actions manifest the perfect harmony of his cardinal qualities of love, wisdom, justice, and power.
15, 16. What prospects did Jehovah lay before Adam in the garden of Eden?
15 Consider how all of this relates to the events in the garden of Eden. As a loving Father, Jehovah provided everything human creatures needed. He endowed Adam with the ability to think, to reason on a matter, and to reach a conclusion. Unlike the animal creation, which is largely guided by instinct, Adam had the ability to make choices. The result of this was that God looked down from his heavenly throne and saw “everything he had made and, look! it was very good.”—Genesis 1:26-31; 2 Peter 2:12.
16 When Jehovah chose to lay a command upon Adam not to eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad,” He provided adequate instruction so that Adam could decide what to do. He allowed Adam to eat from “every tree of the garden” except one and warned of the fatal results of eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. (Genesis 2:16, 17) He laid before Adam the consequences of his actions. What would Adam do?
17. Why can we say that Jehovah’s exercise of foreknowledge is selective?
17 Jehovah apparently chose not to foresee what Adam—and Eve—would do, even though He has the ability to know everything in advance. It is therefore a question, not of whether Jehovah can foresee the future, but of whether he chooses to do so. Furthermore, we can reason that Jehovah, being a God of love, would not knowingly and cruelly predetermine that rebellion—with all its sad consequences—should take place. (Matthew 7:11; 1 John 4:8) Thus, as far as Jehovah’s exercise of foreknowledge is concerned, it is selective.
18. Why is Jehovah’s selective exercise of foreknowledge no indication of imperfection on his part?
18 Does Jehovah’s selective exercise of his foreknowledge mean that he is somehow lacking, imperfect? No. Moses described Jehovah as “the Rock,” adding: “Perfect is his activity.” He was not to blame for the consequences of human sin. The disastrous effects felt by all of us today stem from that unrighteous act of disobedience. The apostle Paul clearly reasoned that “through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Deuteronomy 32:4, 5; Romans 5:12; Jeremiah 10:23.
19. What questions will be considered in the next article?
19 So far in our discussion, we have seen that there is no injustice with Jehovah. (Psalm 33:5) Rather, Jehovah’s abilities, moral qualities, and standards support his purpose. (Romans 8:28) As the God of prophecy, Jehovah tells “from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isaiah 46:9, 10) We have also seen that his exercise of foreknowledge is selective. Where, then, do we fit in? How can we make sure that our decisions conform to God’s loving purpose? And what blessings will doing so bring us? The next article will consider these questions.
See the brochure A Book for All People, page 28, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Can You Explain?
• What ancient examples testify that God’s “word” always has “certain success”?
• What has Jehovah foreordained in connection with his “eternal purpose”?
• In what way does Jehovah exercise his foreknowledge?
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Jehoshaphat had confidence in Jehovah
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God foretold Jesus’ death and resurrection
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Did Jehovah foreordain what Adam and Eve would do?