to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, in order for them to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by their faith in me.”—Acts 26:16-18.
7. How did Saul, later known as Paul, give evidence of his acceptance of his commission?
7 Saul’s immediate acceptance of his commission to be a witness is shown by what he went on to say to King Agrippa: “I did not become disobedient to the heavenly sight. . . . I continue to this day bearing witness to both small and great . . . that the Christ was to suffer and, as the first to be resurrected from the dead, he was going to publish light both to this people [the Jews] and to the nations.” (Acts 26:19-23) Saul rightly understood and got the point of what Jesus had said to him. The question is, Do you too get the point of Jesus’ words and how they should affect you? Consider.
8. (a) Explain how some expressions can have both a literal and a figurative meaning. (b) What shows whether the Bible uses figurative language?
8 Jesus was obviously using figurative language when speaking to Saul about seeing certain things and opening the eyes of others to turn them from darkness to light. There was nothing new or unusual about this. Physical sight and the mind are closely linked, and we frequently use expressions that can have either a literal, physical meaning, or a figurative and sometimes a spiritual meaning, as related to the mind and heart. Do you not often say, “Oh! yes, I see,” meaning that you understand and appreciate what has been said? We have a good example of this when, in a certain letter, Paul prayed that God “may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the accurate knowledge of him; the eyes of your heart having been enlightened.”—Eph. 1:17, 18.
9. What do light and darkness, in contrast, each symbolize?
9 From the foregoing it can be seen that light is used as an apt symbol of truth and of related things that welcome inspection, such as righteousness. In contrast, darkness is used as a symbol of error and ignorance, and also of related things that shy away from inspection, such as shameful conduct and evil deeds.
10. (a) Was it truth in general to which Paul bore witness? (b) Acceptance of Bible truth results in what progressive benefits?
10 Paul evidently realized that, under the direction of the risen Lord Jesus, he was to bear witness to the light by “making the truth manifest” to others. (2 Cor. 4:2) That is, not truth in general, but the truth as contained in God’s Word, the Bible. (John 17:17; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:15) Those who responded would get their mental eyes opened and would see the steps they must take, not only to come into the light, but to gain life.
12. What objective was set forth in Saul’s commission, leading to what question?
12 When speaking to Saul, Jesus said that the objective for opening the people’s eyes was “to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God.” (Acts 26:18) These words thus mention a root source and a governing authority as regards both darkness and light, or, we might say, as regards both death and life. We certainly want to know under whose authority we come, and how a transfer can be made, if desired, from one to the other.
The crowning act of earthly creation came when “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul,” “in God’s image.” Adam, and then Eve, were created perfect, with all the senses and faculties, physical and mental, for the full use and enjoyment of both life and light.—Isa. 45:18; Gen. 1:1, 3, 16, 27; 2:7.
14. On what basis is Jehovah seen to be the Supreme Authority, this giving rise to what question?
14 From this it is evident that, not only is Jehovah God the Source and Author of life and light, the Creator and Life-Giver, but by virtue of such he is rightly the Supreme Authority, the Supreme Ruler in government. (Ps. 103:19; Dan. 4:17, 35; Rev. 4:11) Accepting this, we naturally want to know how there could possibly be an authority in opposition to Jehovah. What is the “authority of Satan” that Jesus mentioned? How did it come about? And how can we come out from under its domination?
15. (a) How did Satan subtly seek to undermine God’s authority? (b) How was God’s word involved in this? (c) What prompted Adam and Eve in their course of action?
15 As the inspired account shows, Satan attempted to use his influence in a subtle way, and in this he was successful. How so? By insinuation and falsehood. He put forth error, under cover of a lie, as a substitute for truth. In other words, he put darkness for light. Interestingly, it was regarding life, saying that Eve would not die but would continue to live in the flesh on earth if she did as he suggested. He promised her increased enlightenment when he said, through the serpent: “In the very day of your eating from it [the forbidden fruit] your eyes are bound to be opened.” Then, implying she would become free to exercise authority independent of God, he added: “You are bound to be like God, knowing [for yourselves] good and bad.” (Gen. 3:1-5) Satan thus claimed that God’s word and command given to Adam were not to be relied on as a true light to guide and keep him and his wife in the right roadway leading to life. First Eve and then Adam decided to disobey God’s simple and direct command, and to strike out on the roadway of selfish independence, a roadway leading away from life and light in God’s favor into darkness and death.—Ps. 119:105; see also 2 Corinthians 11:14.
17. To what extent was man himself responsible for becoming increasingly subject to Satan’s influence?
17 From the time of the rebellion in Eden, mankind in general came increasingly under Satan’s influence and control. Though Satan was primarily responsible, yet man himself was also to blame to a large extent. Keep in mind that God did not leave himself without a witness to the world of mankind. Though he is invisible, yet “his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.” Closely in line with Psalm 36:1-3, Paul went on to say that “although they [men] knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened.” (Rom. 1:19-23) True, Satan put darkness for light, but it must be admitted that men in general preferred darkness and ungodliness to light. Enoch’s inspired prophecy confirms this, with fourfold emphasis on ungodliness. (Jude 14, 15) The three reported exceptions up to the time of the flood, namely, Abel, Enoch and Noah, only served to show up the inexcusableness of the majority. Those men ‘walked with God.’ Of Noah it was said that he ‘showed godly fear and condemned the world.’—Gen. 5:22; 6:9; Heb. 11:4-7.
18. What development occurred after the Flood regarding Satan’s authority?
18 After the Flood, the time came when Satan began to exercise authority by way of specific visible rulership. For the first time we read of a kingdom. Satan found a willing tool for his ambitious purpose in Nimrod, and concerning him we read: “He made the start in becoming a mighty one in the earth. He displayed himself a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah. . . . And the beginning of his kingdom came to be Babel . . . in the land of Shinar. Out of that land he went forth [in conquest] into Assyria and set himself to building Nineveh.”—Gen. 10:8-12.
19. (a) How did opposition to Jehovah manifest itself, and what was Jehovah’s reaction? (b) Though halted, how did this opposition continue to develop?
19 Fired with that same ambitious and defiant spirit, certain men thus determined to set up and retain authority in their own hands. They said: “Come on! Let us build ourselves a city and also a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a celebrated name for ourselves, for fear we may be scattered over all the surface of the earth.” This suited Satan’s purpose, but it was in direct opposition to Jehovah, the Sovereign Lord, and his declared purpose. He did not shut his eyes to the situation. God “proceeded . . . to see the city and the tower that the sons of men had built.” He then made this observation: “Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.” So Jehovah broke up their united purpose by confusing their language, and causing them to be scattered over all the earth. (Gen. 9:1; 11:1-8; Acts 4:24) The majority of men, however, still preferred human rulership, and there were always those who had Satan’s spirit of ambition for power and authority. This resulted in man-made kingdoms, sometimes just a city-kingdom, then expanding to embrace an entire region, such as the kingdoms of Moab and Ammon, and finally the great empires and world powers.
20. (a) What part has religion played in man-made kingdoms? (b) What exception to this does the Bible record? (c) How and to what extent has Satan held rulership over most of mankind?
20 Religion played a large part in all these kingdoms, but the rulers and their subjects did not recognize Jehovah as the Supreme Ruler to whom worship and subjection were due. (Jer. 10:10; Dan. 6:26) The Bible mentions only one exception, namely, Melchizedek, king of Salem. He served also as “priest of the Most High God,” and, when blessing Abram, he said: “Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth.” Abram himself made similar reference to God when addressing the king of Sodom. (Gen. 14:18-23) Otherwise, through false religion and deception, Satan held rulership over all the kingdoms, along with the disobedient angels who joined in with him. This is generally not realized because Satan and his demon hosts are invisible to human eyes. Invisible, yes, but all the same effective. On three occasions Jesus spoke of Satan the Devil as ‘the ruler of this world.’ And telling of the Christian’s fight against the Devil, Paul says it is a fight “against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”—John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Eph. 6:11, 12; see also 2 Corinthians 4:4.
21. (a) What is involved in being delivered from Satan’s authority? (b) How have things today reached a climax on both sides?
21 From this it is evident that when Jesus spoke to Saul about turning people “from the authority of Satan to God,” this is a transfer from one rulership to another. As Paul wrote: “He [Jehovah] delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” (Col. 1:13) Today, the situation has reached a great and tense climax on the two opposing sides, that of Jehovah God and that of Satan the Devil. The foretold “enmity” between the two sides has indeed come to a climax. (Gen. 3:15) Under Satan’s rule, the darkness is of greater density than ever. The rulers and the ruled do not know which way to turn to solve their many vexing problems. It is a ‘gloomy darkness that may be felt.’ (Ex. 10:21, 22) But under Jehovah’s rule by his Messianic King, Christ Jesus, the light of truth and righteousness is shining with a greater intensity than ever, giving clear direction and confidence to his subjects, besides many spiritual pleasures and delights. The issue before mankind thus centers around the theme of rulership and kingdom authority.
22. Where and how are authority and rulership stressed regarding (a) the Messianic kingdom, and (b) Satan’s bid for supremacy?
22 Notice how this theme is emphasized in the book of Revelation. In a vision given to John, he hears loud voices in heaven saying: “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.” This was fulfilled in 1914 C.E., at the end of the uninterrupted rule of the world by Gentile powers, permitted by God for 2,520 years from 607 B.C.E. Then, after seeing the birth of the Messianic kingdom, the war in heaven and the hurling of the dragon, Satan the Devil, out of heaven, John hears the proclamation: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” In contrast, the next vision tells how the dragon gives the “wild beast” (a symbol of Satan’s worldwide political organization) “its power and its throne and great authority,” so that all peoples of the earth give it their worship. Similar authority and worship are further mentioned regarding the “image of the wild beast,” a symbol of the present-day United Nations organization. In fact, Satan’s organization “puts under compulsion all persons” to receive its mark of identification, without which life is made next to impossible.—Rev. 11:15; 12:10; 13:2, 15-17.
23. In view of this, what questions should we ask ourselves? (b) How is the latter part of Psalm 36:9 to be understood, this leading to what fine conclusion?
23 Under whose authority are you? Are you content to be identified as a supporter of Satan’s world order? Or do you sincerely desire to escape from under his authority but are uncertain as to what steps to take and fearful of what might be involved? As a source of encouragement, turn again to Psalm 36. After describing the bad attitude of those who are always right in their own eyes and, hence, cannot see or learn to hate their errors, the psalmist then turns to Jehovah. He extols His loving-kindness, faithfulness and righteousness, and the blessings that come to those who take refuge under His wings. After saying that Jehovah is “the source of life,” he adds: “By light from you we can see light.” In other words, it is only by learning how to look at things, including ourselves, from his viewpoint, that we can be turned from darkness to light and can come to see and appreciate the steps we must take to gain eternal life under God’s authority.