An Administration for Fulfilling God’s Purpose
“[God] operates all things according to the way his will counsels.”—EPHESIANS 1:11.
1. Why will all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses meet on April 12, 2006?
ON Wednesday evening, April 12, 2006, some 16 million people will gather to observe the Lord’s Evening Meal. In each meeting place, there will be a table on which unleavened bread, representing Christ’s body, and red wine, symbolizing his shed blood, will have been set. Toward the end of a discourse explaining the meaning of the Memorial of Jesus’ death, these emblems—first the bread, then the wine—will be passed among all present. In relatively few congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one or more in attendance will partake of the emblems. In many cases, however, no one present will partake. Why is it that only a few Christians, those who hope to live in heaven, partake, whereas the majority, those who hope to live forever on earth, do not partake?
2, 3. (a) How did Jehovah proceed to create according to his purpose? (b) For what purpose did Jehovah create the earth and mankind?
2 Jehovah is a God of purpose. In fulfilling his purpose, he “operates all things according to the way his will counsels.” (Ephesians 1:11) He first created his only-begotten Son. (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 3:14) Then, through this Son, Jehovah created a family of spirit sons and eventually the physical universe, including the earth and man upon it.—Job 38:4, 7; Psalm 103:19-21; John 1:2, 3; Colossians 1:15, 16.
3 Jehovah did not create the earth as a testing ground to enlarge his family of spirit sons in heaven, as taught by many churches of Christendom. He created it with a definite purpose in mind, for it “to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) God created the earth for man and man for the earth. (Psalm 115:16) The entire globe was to become a paradise, filled with righteous humans, who would cultivate it and take care of it. Never was the prospect of eventually going to heaven held out to the first human couple.—Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7, 8, 15.
Jehovah’s Purpose Challenged
4. How was Jehovah’s way of exercising sovereignty challenged at the dawn of human history?
4 A spirit son of God rebelled and set out to thwart Jehovah’s purpose, abusing the divine gift of free will. He disturbed the peace that comes to all who manifest loving submission to Jehovah’s sovereignty. Satan led the first human couple to embark on a course of independence from God. (Genesis 3:1-6) He did not deny Jehovah’s power, but he challenged His way of exercising sovereignty and therefore His right to rule. Thus, the fundamental issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty came into focus here on earth, at the very dawn of mankind’s history.
5. What secondary issue was raised, implicating whom?
5 Bound up with that primary issue of universal sovereignty is a secondary issue raised by Satan in the days of Job. Satan cast doubt on the motive of Jehovah’s creatures in submitting to Him and serving Him. Satan implied that they were doing so for selfish reasons and that put to the test they would turn against God. (Job 1:7-11; 2:4, 5) While raised in connection with a human servant of Jehovah, this challenge also involved the spirit sons of God, even Jehovah’s only-begotten Son.
6. How did Jehovah prove to be faithful to his purpose and to his name?
6 Faithful to his purpose and to the meaning of his name, Jehovah caused himself to become a Prophet and a Savior.* He told Satan: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) By means of the Seed of his “woman,” or the heavenly part of his organization, Jehovah would answer Satan’s challenge and provide Adam’s descendants with hope of deliverance and life.—Romans 5:21; Galatians 4:26, 31.
“The Sacred Secret of His Will”
7. What purpose did Jehovah reveal by means of the apostle Paul?
7 In his letter to Christians in Ephesus, the apostle Paul beautifully explains how Jehovah administers things to fulfill his purpose. Paul wrote: “He made known to us the sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10) Jehovah’s glorious purpose is to bring about a united universe occupied by creatures who lovingly submit to his sovereignty. (Revelation 4:11) His name would thus be sanctified, Satan proved a liar, and the divine will accomplished “as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
8. What is the meaning of the word translated “administration”?
8 Jehovah’s “good pleasure,” or purpose, would be fulfilled by means of “an administration.” Paul used a word that literally means “household management.” It refers, not to a government, such as the Messianic Kingdom, but to a way of managing things.* The wonderful way in which Jehovah would administer things to accomplish his purpose involved a “sacred secret” that would progressively be made known over the centuries.—Ephesians 1:10; 3:9, footnotes.
9. How did Jehovah progressively reveal the sacred secret of his will?
9 By means of a series of covenants, Jehovah gradually revealed how his purpose concerning the Seed promised in Eden would be fulfilled. His covenant promise to Abraham revealed that the promised Seed would come to earth in Abraham’s lineage and would be the means whereby “all nations of the earth” would bless themselves. That covenant also intimated that others would be associated with the primary part of the seed. (Genesis 22:17, 18) The Law covenant made with fleshly Israel disclosed Jehovah’s purpose to have “a kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) The covenant with David showed that the Seed would be the Head of a Kingdom to time indefinite. (2 Samuel 7:12, 13; Psalm 89:3, 4) Once the Law covenant led the Jews to the Messiah, Jehovah revealed further aspects of the fulfillment of his purpose. (Galatians 3:19, 24) Those humans who were to be associated with the primary part of the seed would form the foretold “kingdom of priests” and would be brought into “a new covenant” as the new “Israel,” a spiritual one.—Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:7-9.*
10, 11. (a) How did Jehovah reveal the foretold Seed? (b) Why did God’s only-begotten Son come to earth?
10 In line with the administration of the divine purpose, the time came for the foretold Seed to appear on earth. Jehovah sent the angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she would give birth to a son who was to be called Jesus. The angel said to her: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:32, 33) The identity of the promised Seed thus became clear.—Galatians 3:16; 4:4.
11 Jehovah’s only-begotten Son was to come to earth and be tested to the limit. The perfect answer to Satan’s challenge would be in Jesus’ hands. Would he remain faithful to his Father? This involved a sacred secret. The apostle Paul later explained Jesus’ role: “The sacred secret of this godly devotion is admittedly great: ‘He was made manifest in flesh, was declared righteous in spirit, appeared to angels, was preached about among nations, was believed upon in the world, was received up in glory.’” (1 Timothy 3:16) Yes, by his unflinching integrity until his death, Jesus provided the definitive answer to Satan’s challenge. But other details of the sacred secret remained to be uncovered.
“The Sacred Secret of the Kingdom of God”
12, 13. (a) What is one aspect of “the sacred secret of the kingdom of God”? (b) What was involved in Jehovah’s selecting a limited number of humans to go to heaven?
12 During one of his preaching tours of Galilee, Jesus indicated that the sacred secret was closely related to his Messianic Kingdom government. He told his disciples: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens [“kingdom of God,” Mark 4:11].” (Matthew 13:11) One aspect of that secret involved Jehovah’s selecting a “little flock” of 144,000 humans to be associated with his Son as part of the seed, to reign with him in heaven.—Luke 12:32; Revelation 14:1, 4.
13 Since humans were created to live on earth, “a new creation” by Jehovah was required in order for some humans to go to heaven. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Speaking as one of those chosen to share this exceptional heavenly hope, the apostle Peter wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.”—1 Peter 1:3, 4.
14. (a) How were non-Jews involved in “the sacred secret of the kingdom of God”? (b) Why are we able to understand these “deep things of God”?
14 Another part of the sacred secret with regard to the future Kingdom government was God’s will to include non-Jews among the small number of humans who would be called to reign with Christ in heaven. Paul explained this facet of Jehovah’s “administration,” or way of managing the fulfillment of his purpose: “In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news.” (Ephesians 3:5, 6) The comprehension of this part of the sacred secret was revealed to the “holy apostles.” Similarly today, if it were not for the help of the holy spirit, we would not understand these “deep things of God.”—1 Corinthians 2:10; 4:1; Colossians 1:26, 27.
15, 16. Why did Jehovah select Christ’s associate rulers from among mankind?
15 “The hundred and forty-four thousand” seen standing with “the Lamb” on heavenly Mount Zion are said to have been “bought from the earth,” “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb,” Christ Jesus. (Revelation 14:1-4) Jehovah chose the first of his heavenly sons to become the primary part of the seed promised in Eden, but why did he select Christ’s associates from among mankind? The apostle Paul explains that this limited number was “called according to his [Jehovah’s] purpose,” “according to the good pleasure of his will.”—Romans 8:17, 28-30; Ephesians 1:5, 11; 2 Timothy 1:9.
16 Jehovah’s purpose is to sanctify his great and holy name and vindicate his universal sovereignty. By his incomparably wise “administration,” or way of managing things, Jehovah sent his firstborn Son to earth, where he was tested to the limit. Furthermore, Jehovah determined that the Messianic Kingdom government of his Son would include humans who had also upheld His sovereignty until death.—Ephesians 1:8-12; Revelation 2:10, 11.
17. Why can we be glad that Christ and his associate rulers once lived as humans?
17 Jehovah showed his great love for Adam’s descendants by having his Son come to the earth and by selecting from among mankind those who would be the Son’s joint heirs in the Kingdom government. How could that benefit others who have proved faithful to Jehovah, from Abel onward? Born slaves to sin and death, imperfect humans would need to be spiritually and physically healed and brought to perfection, in line with Jehovah’s original purpose for mankind. (Romans 5:12) How comforting it is for all of those who look forward to everlasting life on earth to know that their King will show them love and kind understanding just as he did to his disciples during his earthly ministry! (Matthew 11:28, 29; Hebrews 2:17, 18; 4:15; 7:25, 26) And how reassuring it is for them to realize that Christ’s associate king-priests in heaven were once men and women of faith who themselves contended with personal weaknesses and experienced life’s challenges as we do!—Romans 7:21-25.
Jehovah’s Unfailing Purpose
18, 19. Why are Paul’s words at Ephesians 1:8-11 clearer to us, and what will be considered in the following article?
18 We are now better able to understand the import of Paul’s words to anointed Christians, as found at Ephesians 1:8-11. He said that Jehovah had made known to them “the sacred secret of his will,” that they were “assigned as heirs” with Christ, and that they were “foreordained according to the purpose of him who operates all things according to the way his will counsels.” We perceive that this fits into Jehovah’s marvelous “administration” of things for the fulfilling of his purpose. This also helps us to understand why only a few Christians attending the Lord’s Evening Meal partake of the emblems.
19 In the following article, we will see what the Memorial of Christ’s death means to those Christians whose hope is heavenly. We will also learn why millions whose hope is to live forever on earth should be intensely interested in what the Memorial symbolizes.
The divine name literally means “He Causes to Become.” Jehovah can become whatever is necessary to fulfill his purpose.—Exodus 3:14, footnote.
Paul’s words show that the “administration” was functioning in his day, whereas the Scriptures indicate that the Messianic Kingdom was not established until 1914.
For a detailed discussion of these covenants involved in the outworking of God’s purpose, see The Watchtower of February 1, 1989, pages 10-15.
Gathering Things in Heaven and Things on Earth
“It is according to his good pleasure . . . to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”—EPHESIANS 1:9, 10.
1. What is Jehovah’s “good pleasure” for heaven and earth?
UNIVERSAL PEACE! Such is the glorious purpose of Jehovah, “the God of peace.” (Hebrews 13:20) He inspired the apostle Paul to write that His “good pleasure” is “to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10) Just what is implied by the verb translated ‘gather together again’ in this verse? Bible scholar J. B. Lightfoot notes: “The expression implies the entire harmony of the universe, which shall no longer contain alien and discordant elements, but of which all the parts shall find their centre and bond of union in Christ. Sin and death, sorrow and failure and suffering, shall cease.”
“Things in the Heavens”
2. Who are “the things in the heavens” that need to be gathered?
2 The apostle Peter summed up the wonderful hope of true Christians when he wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) The “new heavens” here promised refer to the new governing authority, the Messianic Kingdom. “The things in the heavens” mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians are to be gathered “in the Christ.” They are the limited number of humans chosen to rule with Christ in the heavens. (1 Peter 1:3, 4) These 144,000 anointed Christians are “bought from the earth,” “bought from among mankind,” to be joint heirs with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:3, 4; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:11; 3:6.
3. How can it be said that anointed ones are ‘seated in the heavenly places’ even while on earth?
3 Anointed Christians are brought forth, or born again, by the holy spirit to become Jehovah’s spiritual sons. (John 1:12, 13; 3:5-7) Being adopted by Jehovah as “sons,” they become Jesus’ brothers. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5) As such, even while on earth, they are said to be ‘raised up and seated together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus.’ (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) They occupy this elevated spiritual position because they have been “sealed with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of [their] inheritance” reserved for them in the heavens. (Ephesians 1:13, 14; Colossians 1:5) These, then, are “the things in the heavens,” of whom the total number foreordained by Jehovah needed to be gathered.
The Gathering Begins
4. When and how did the gathering of “the things in the heavens” begin?
4 In line with Jehovah’s “administration,” or way of managing things, the gathering of “the things in the heavens” was to begin “at the full limit of the appointed times.” (Ephesians 1:10) That due time arrived at Pentecost 33 C.E. That day, holy spirit was poured out on the apostles and a group of disciples, men and women. (Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-4) This gave evidence that the new covenant had come into operation, marking the birth of the Christian congregation and of the new nation of spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16; Hebrews 9:15; 12:23, 24.
5. Why did Jehovah create a new “nation” to replace fleshly Israel?
5 The Law covenant made with fleshly Israel did not produce “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” that would serve forever in heaven. (Exodus 19:5, 6) Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) That nation, spiritual Israel, is composed of anointed Christians taken into the new covenant. To these, the apostle Peter wrote: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) Fleshly Israel were no longer Jehovah’s covenant people. (Hebrews 8:7-13) As Jesus had foretold, the privilege of being a part of the Messianic Kingdom was taken from them and given to the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel.—Revelation 7:4-8.
Taken Into the Kingdom Covenant
6, 7. What special covenant did Jesus make with his spirit-begotten brothers, and what does this mean for them?
6 On the night that Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, he told his faithful apostles: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30) Jesus here referred to a special covenant that he made with his 144,000 spirit-begotten brothers, who would remain “faithful even to death” and prove themselves ‘conquerors.’—Revelation 2:10; 3:21.
7 Those of this limited group forgo all hopes of living forever on earth as humans of flesh and blood. They will reign with Christ in heaven, sitting on thrones to judge humankind. (Revelation 20:4, 6) Let us now examine other scriptures that apply only to these anointed ones and that show why the “other sheep” do not partake of the Memorial emblems.—John 10:16.
8. What do the anointed indicate by partaking of the bread? (See box on page 23.)
8 The anointed share in Christ’s sufferings and are willing to submit to a death like his. As one of that group, Paul stated that he was prepared to make any sacrifice so that he might “gain Christ . . . so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and a sharing in his sufferings.” Yes, Paul was willing to submit himself “to a death like his.” (Philippians 3:8, 10) Many anointed Christians have endured in their fleshly bodies “the death-dealing treatment given to Jesus.”—2 Corinthians 4:10.
9. What body is represented by the Memorial bread?
9 When instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus said: “This means my body.” (Mark 14:22) He was referring to his literal body, soon to be beaten and bloodied. Bread without leaven was a fitting symbol of that body. Why? Because in the Bible, leaven can denote sin or wickedness. (Matthew 16:4, 11, 12; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8) Jesus was perfect, and his human body was without sin. He would offer that perfect body as a propitiatory sacrifice. (Hebrews 7:26; 1 John 2:2) His doing so would benefit all faithful Christians, whether they hoped for life in heaven or everlasting life on a paradise earth.—John 6:51.
10. In what way do those who partake of the Memorial wine ‘share in the blood of the Christ’?
10 Concerning the wine that anointed Christians partake of at the Memorial, Paul wrote: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of the Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16) In what way do those partaking of the wine ‘share in the blood of the Christ’? They certainly do not share in providing the ransom sacrifice, since they themselves need redemption. Through their faith in the redeeming power of Christ’s blood, their sins are forgiven and they are declared righteous for life in heaven. (Romans 5:8, 9; Titus 3:4-7) It is by means of Christ’s shed blood that the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ are “sanctified,” set apart, cleansed from sin to be “holy ones.” (Hebrews 10:29; Daniel 7:18, 27; Ephesians 2:19) Yes, it is with his shed blood that Christ “bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and . . . made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10.
11. What do the anointed indicate by drinking the Memorial wine?
11 When Jesus inaugurated the Memorial of his death, he handed the cup of wine to his faithful apostles and said: “Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27, 28) Just as the blood of bulls and goats validated the Law covenant between God and the nation of Israel, Jesus’ blood made valid the new covenant that Jehovah would make with spiritual Israel, beginning at Pentecost 33 C.E. (Exodus 24:5-8; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:14, 15) By drinking the wine that symbolizes the “blood of the covenant,” the anointed indicate that they have been taken into the new covenant and are receiving the benefits of it.
12. How are the anointed baptized into Christ’s death?
12 The anointed are also reminded of something else. Jesus told his faithful disciples: “The cup I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am being baptized you will be baptized.” (Mark 10:38, 39) The apostle Paul later spoke of Christians’ being “baptized into [Christ’s] death.” (Romans 6:3) The anointed live a life of sacrifice. Their death is sacrificial in that they renounce any hope of everlasting life on earth. The baptism of these anointed Christians into Christ’s death is completed when after dying faithful they are resurrected as spirit creatures to “rule together as kings” with Christ in heaven.—2 Timothy 2:10-12; Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 50.
Partaking of the Emblems
13. Why do those with an earthly hope not partake of the Memorial emblems, but why do they attend the Memorial?
13 Since sharing in the bread and wine passed during the Memorial involves all of this, it would obviously be inappropriate for those having an earthly hope to partake. Those with an earthly hope discern that they themselves are not anointed members of the body of Christ, nor are they in the new covenant that Jehovah made with those who will rule with Jesus Christ. Since “the cup” represents the new covenant, only those in the new covenant partake of the emblems. Those looking forward to everlasting life in human perfection on earth under the Kingdom are neither baptized into Jesus’ death nor called to rule with him in heaven. Were they to partake of the emblems, it would signify something that is not true with respect to them. Thus, they do not partake, though they do attend the Memorial as respectful observers. They are thankful for all that Jehovah has done for them by means of his Son, including the extending of forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s shed blood.
14. How are the anointed strengthened spiritually by partaking of the bread and the wine?
14 The final sealing of the relatively small number of Christians called to reign with Christ in heaven is nearing completion. Until the end of their life of sacrifice on earth, the anointed are spiritually strengthened by partaking of the Memorial emblems. They feel a bond of unity with their brothers and sisters as members of Christ’s body. Their partaking of the emblematic bread and wine reminds them of their responsibility to remain faithful until death.—2 Peter 1:10, 11.
Gathering of “Things on the Earth”
15. Who have been gathered to the side of anointed Christians?
15 Since the mid-1930’s, a growing number of “other sheep,” who are not of the “little flock” and whose hope is everlasting life on earth, have rallied to the side of the anointed. (John 10:16; Luke 12:32; Zechariah 8:23) They have become the loyal companions of Christ’s brothers, giving valuable assistance in preaching “this good news of the kingdom” for a witness to all the nations. (Matthew 24:14; 25:40) In so doing, they have put themselves in line to be judged by Christ as his “sheep,” placed on his “right hand” of favor when he comes to judge the nations. (Matthew 25:33-36, 46) Through faith in Christ’s blood, they will make up the “great crowd,” who will survive “the great tribulation.”—Revelation 7:9-14.
16. Whom will “the things on the earth” include, and how will all of these have the opportunity to become “children of God”?
16 The final sealing of the 144,000 will clear the way for the unleashing of the “winds” of destruction against Satan’s wicked system of things on earth. (Revelation 7:1-4) During the Thousand Year Reign of Christ and his associate king-priests, the great crowd will be joined by untold numbers of resurrected ones. (Revelation 20:12, 13) These will have the opportunity to become permanent earthly subjects of the Messianic King, Christ Jesus. At the end of the Millennial Reign, all these “things on the earth” will be subjected to a final test. Those proving faithful will be adopted as earthly “children of God.”—Ephesians 1:10; Romans 8:21; Revelation 20:7, 8.
17. How will Jehovah’s purpose be fulfilled?
17 Thus, by means of his infinitely wise “administration,” or way of managing things, Jehovah will have fulfilled his purpose “to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” All intelligent creatures in heaven and on earth will have been gathered together in universal peace, joyfully submitting to the righteous sovereignty of the Great Purposer, Jehovah.
18. How will both the anointed and their companions benefit from attending the Memorial?
18 How faith-strengthening it will be for the small number of anointed ones and their millions of other sheep companions to gather on April 12, 2006! They will observe the Memorial of Christ’s death, even as Jesus commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) All attending should remember what Jehovah has done for them through his dear Son, Christ Jesus.