Tuesday, September 1
Though you never saw him, you love him. —1 Pet. 1:8.
Jesus showed fellow feeling for Martha and Mary. When he saw their grief over the death of their brother, Lazarus, “Jesus gave way to tears.” (John 11:32-35) He did not weep just because he had lost the company of a close friend. After all, he knew that he was going to resurrect Lazarus. Rather, Jesus wept because he understood and was touched by the heartache of his dear friends. We benefit greatly from learning about Jesus’ fellow feeling. Of course, we are not perfect as he was. Yet, we love him for the way he treated others. We are encouraged to know that he is now ruling as King of God’s Kingdom. He will soon eliminate all suffering. He is in the best position to help humanity recover from the wounds inflicted by Satan’s rulership, for Jesus too was once human. Indeed, we are blessed to have a Ruler who can “sympathize with our weaknesses.”
The account of the life and work of Jesus Christ is very moving. It is so extraordinary and hope-inspiring many people simply do not believe it. Others who do believe that Jesus performed miracles do not grasp the significance of what those miracles portend. To illustrate the point, once Jesus empowered 70 of his disciples to go ahead of him preaching the message that the Kingdom of God has drawn near. Jesus empowered them to perform miracles too. When the disciples returned from their first campaign and reported to the Teacher the results, that even the demons had been made subject to them, Jesus exclaimed: “I see Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven.”
What did he mean? Was the Devil cast down from heaven in the first century? No. That is not what Jesus meant. The 12 chapter of Revelation reveals that Satan and the demons are not thrown from heaven until the Kingdom comes to power which initiates the violent ending of the world.
Jesus said he already beheld Satan falling from heaven because Jehovah had exalted this little band of ordinary men, some simple fishermen, to have power over the superhuman wicked spirits in the heavens. Jesus later explained that those who are faithful to the end will rule with him in his Kingdom. So, the fact that those 70 disciples were given power over Satan, the ruling god of this world, was a guarantee that God’s purpose to establish a Kingdom that would eventually destroy the demons would succeed. It was as if Satan had already fallen because his eventual end was assured.
The vast majority of people who consider themselves to be Christians do not understand God’s purpose. They do not know that only a relatively small number of persons, whom Jesus called the little flock, are bought from the earth to rule with Christ in heaven. They do not discern that the miracles Jesus performed when he was on earth are portentous —meaning, they foreshadow the things Jesus will accomplish for mankind when the Kingdom begins ruling.
For example, in the 5th chapter of John Jesus said: “Most truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have paid attention will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because he is the Son of man. Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”
In his saying that the hour had come for the dead to hear the voice of the Son of God Jesus was speaking of actual living persons, who, from God’s standpoint are dead in sin. Jesus was spiritually awakening those who believed him to a new hope, the hope of having life in themselves, life such as only God himself possesses, which is to say —immortality. Those who will rule in God’s Kingdom with Christ will be immortal, indestructible spirits.
But those who were literally dead in the graves also heard the voice of the Son of God —well, at least one man did — a Jew named Lazarus. Jesus resurrected four individuals but only his personal friend was actually entombed. That was the occasion when the Son of God went to the burial site and called out with a loud voice —“Lazarus, Come out!.” And the dead man awoke and walked out of his tomb wrapped in burial cloth!
As amazing as that was Jesus said that all of those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out too. Of course, not all the dead are entombed. Some have been buried at sea or cremated. Whatever the case, Jesus clearly meant to say that all of the dead will hear his voice and wake up, just like Lazarus did.
Being given a resurrection of judgment simply means that they will be on probation. Unlike those who experience the first resurrection, over whom the second death has no authority, those who are given a resurrection of judgment will be fully human here on this earth, and they will have the wonderful privilege of living forever if they follow the program, so-to-speak. Or, they may die again if they do not strictly obey Christ; hence, the second death, which is permanent death.
The Daily Text goes on to say that we are encouraged to know that Jesus is now ruling in his Kingdom. This is a very odd statement. Is it really encouraging that Jesus has supposedly been ruling the world for over a century and has done nothing to bring about any sort of positive change? It ought to be extremely discouraging if Christ were actually ruling because we would have to assume he is impotent to reverse the prevailing evils. How discouraging it must be for Jehovah’s Witnesses to think that Satan was cast down in 1914 and yet his tyrannical empire goes on and on just as before.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will object to that view, citing the accomplishments of the Kingdom, such as the good news being preached throughout the world. But did not Jesus’ first-century followers preach the Kingdom far and wide and accomplish the work given to them? They surely did.
A small detail many have overlooked is that Jesus did not say that the good news will be preached during the conclusion. In fact, when Jesus commanded his followers to go make other disciples, teaching them to observe the things he commanded them, Jesus further said: “I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system.”
Those 70 whom Jesus sent out were thrilled that they had been given miraculous powers to heal and cast out demons. In spite of the gift that had been given them they were still laboring under the delusion that the Kingdom they were sent out to preach was going to be an earthly kingdom. They were imagining that Jesus was somehow going to be enthroned in the city of Jerusalem and restore the literal throne of David and throw off the Roman yoke. The density of their minds was impenetrable.
Even after Jesus was resurrected the apostles still asked if he was restoring the kingdom to Israel at that time. It was only after they were anointed that they finally understood that the Kingdom is heavenly, that Jesus is going to rule from the heavens —and so were they.
It is interesting that all the preaching and disciple-making work carried out during the first century took place before Jerusalem was destroyed —at least as far as the Bible record is concerned. That is not to say that the disciples outside the region of Judah did not carry on the work after the Romans obliterated the city where Christianity originated and was headquartered, just that the Bible does not have any record of it. That is because it is a pattern.
As stated already, the preaching and disciple-making work is accomplished before the beginning of the time of the end, before the destruction of the antitypical holy city, Jerusalem, which is the centerpiece of Jesus’ prophecy concerning his return and the conclusion of the system.
Of course, the book of Revelation was written about a quarter of a century after Jerusalem was destroyed. But Revelation is unique, in that, it is the only book in the Christian collection that is entirely prophetic. Although the seven congregations actually existed in the first century they are merely symbolic of Christ’s congregation that will be on earth during the Lord’s day.
In many ways, Jehovah’s Witnesses are in the same position as the first century Christians prior to the end of Jerusalem. Jehovah’s Witnesses are laboring under the delusion that the Kingdom has already come, that Satan has already been cast down like lightning. Their density of mind is impenetrable. Just as it took the power of God to open the apostle’s minds, only the earth-rocking ouster of Satan and the demons in the days ahead will jolt them to their senses. Then will begin the time of the end and a whole new phase of God’s purpose —the final confrontation between the dragon and the sons of the Kingdom.