FOCUS OF CHAPTER
Jehovah progressively reveals understanding of his purpose, but only to those who fear him
1, 2. How has Jehovah revealed his purpose for mankind?
CARING parents include their children in discussions about family matters. They are discreet, however, about the amount of information that they share. They reveal only details that they feel their children are mature enough to absorb.
2 Similarly, Jehovah has progressively revealed his purpose for the human family. But he has done so only when he knew that the time was right. Consider a brief overview of how Jehovah has revealed truths about the Kingdom throughout history.
Why the Need for the Kingdom?
3, 4. Did Jehovah predestinate the path of human history? Explain.
3 Originally, the Messianic Kingdom was not part of Jehovah’s purpose. Why not? Because Jehovah did not predestinate the path of human history; after all, he created humans with free will. Thus, he told Adam and Eve his purpose for mankind, stating: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28) Jehovah also required that they respect his standards of good and bad. (Gen. 2:16, 17) Adam and Eve could have chosen to remain loyal. If they and their descendants had done so, we would not need the Kingdom ruled by Christ to fulfill God’s purpose. Right now, the globe would be teeming with perfect people, all worshipping Jehovah.
4 The rebellion of Satan, Adam, and Eve did not cause Jehovah to abandon his purpose to fill the earth with a perfect human family. Instead, Jehovah adapted his method of fulfilling it. His purpose is not like a train that must run on a certain track to reach its destination and can be derailed by the actions of others. Once Jehovah states his purpose, no force in the universe can prevent its fulfillment. (Read Isaiah 55:11.) If a challenge threatens to block one track, Jehovah uses another. * (Ex. 3:14, 15) When he sees fit, he informs his loyal servants of the new method he will use to accomplish his purpose.
5. How did Jehovah respond to the rebellion in Eden?
5 In response to the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah purposed to set up the Kingdom. (Matt. 25:34) At that dark point in human history, Jehovah began to shed light on the instrument that he would use to restore mankind and undo the hurt caused by Satan’s futile grab for power. (Gen. 3:14-19) Even so, Jehovah did not disclose details about the Kingdom all at once.
Jehovah Begins to Reveal Truths About the Kingdom
6. What did Jehovah promise, but what did he not reveal?
6 With the very first prophecy, Jehovah promised that a certain “offspring” would crush the serpent. (Read Genesis 3:15.) However, the identities of that offspring and the offspring of the serpent were not revealed at that time. In fact, Jehovah did not shed more light on such details for some 2,000 years. *
7. Why was Abraham chosen, and what key lesson do we learn from this?
7 Eventually, Jehovah chose Abraham as the one through whom the promised offspring would come. Abraham was chosen because he “listened to [Jehovah’s] voice.” (Gen. 22:18) We learn a key lesson from that fact—Jehovah reveals his purpose only to those who have a reverential fear of him.—Read Psalm 25:14.
8, 9. What facts about the promised offspring did Jehovah reveal to Abraham and Jacob?
8 When speaking to his friend Abraham through an angel, Jehovah for the first time revealed this vital fact about the promised offspring: He would be human. (Gen. 22:15-17; Jas. 2:23) But how would this human crush the serpent? Who was the serpent? Later revelations would shed light on those questions.
9 Jehovah determined that the promised offspring would come through Abraham’s grandson Jacob, a man who displayed great faith in God. (Gen. 28:13-22) By means of Jacob, Jehovah disclosed that the Promised One would be a descendant of Jacob’s son Judah. Jacob prophesied that this descendant of Judah would receive a “scepter,” a rod symbolizing royal authority, and that to this one ‘the obedience of the peoples would belong.’ (Gen. 49:1, 10) With that pronouncement, Jehovah indicated that the Promised One would become a ruler, a king.
10, 11. Why did Jehovah reveal his purpose to David and Daniel?
10 Some 650 years after Judah’s day, Jehovah revealed more about his purpose to King David, a descendant of Judah. Jehovah described David as “a man agreeable to his heart.” (1 Sam. 13:14; 17:12; Acts 13:22) Because David had a reverential fear of God, Jehovah chose to make a covenant with him, promising him that one of his descendants would rule forever.—2 Sam. 7:8, 12-16.
11 About 500 years later, Jehovah used the prophet Daniel to disclose the exact year when this Anointed One, or Messiah, would appear on earth. (Dan. 9:25) Jehovah considered Daniel to be “someone very precious.” Why? Because Daniel deeply respected Jehovah and served him continually.—Dan. 6:16; 9:22, 23.
12. What was Daniel told to do, and why?
12 Even though Jehovah used such faithful prophets as Daniel to record dozens of details about the promised offspring, the Messiah, it was not yet Jehovah’s time for his servants to understand the full significance of what he inspired them to write. For example, after being given a vision involving the establishment of God’s Kingdom, Daniel was told to seal up the prophecy until the time appointed by Jehovah. At that future time, true knowledge would “become abundant.”—Dan. 12:4.
Jesus Sheds Light on God’s Purpose
13. (a) Who was the promised offspring? (b) How did Jesus shed light on the prophecy recorded at Genesis 3:15?
13 Jehovah clearly identified Jesus as the promised offspring, the descendant of David who would rule as King. (Luke 1:30-33; 3:21, 22) When Jesus began his ministry, it was as if the sun rose on mankind’s knowledge about God’s purpose. (Matt. 4:13-17) For instance, Jesus removed any doubt about the identity of “the serpent” mentioned at Genesis 3:14, 15, calling the Devil “a murderer” and “the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) In the revelation that he gave to John, Jesus identified “the original serpent” as “the one called Devil and Satan.” * (Read Revelation 1:1; 12:9.) In that same revelation, Jesus showed how he—the promised offspring—will finally fulfill the prophecy given in Eden and crush Satan out of existence.—Rev. 20:7-10.
14-16. Did the first-century disciples always discern the full significance of the truths Jesus revealed? Explain.
14 As we saw in Chapter 1 of this book, Jesus spoke extensively about the Kingdom. However, he did not always disclose all the details his disciples wanted to know. Even when he provided specific details, it was not until later—sometimes many centuries later—that followers of Christ began to discern the full significance of the truths their Master had revealed. Consider some examples.
15 In 33 C.E., Jesus made it clearly known that the corulers who would assist the King of God’s Kingdom would be taken from the earth and raised to life as spirit creatures in heaven. His disciples, though, did not immediately understand this revelation. (Dan. 7:18; John 14:2-5) In that same year, Jesus indicated by means of illustrations that the Kingdom would not be established until a long time after he ascended to heaven. (Matt. 25:14, 19; Luke 19:11, 12) The disciples did not comprehend this vital point and later asked the resurrected Jesus: “Are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” Jesus, however, chose not to reveal any more details at that time. (Acts 1:6, 7) Jesus also taught that there would be “other sheep,” who would not be part of the “little flock” of his corulers. (John 10:16; Luke 12:32) Followers of Christ did not properly understand the identity of those two groups until well after the Kingdom was established in 1914.
16 Jesus could have told his disciples many things while with them on earth, but he knew that they were not able to bear them. (John 16:12) Without a doubt, much knowledge about the Kingdom was revealed in the first century. However, that was not yet the time for such knowledge to become abundant.
True Knowledge Becomes Abundant in “the Time of the End”
17. What must we do to understand truths about the Kingdom, but what is also needed?
17 Jehovah promised Daniel that during “the time of the end,” many would “rove about, and the true knowledge” of God’s purpose would become abundant. (Dan. 12:4) Those who want that knowledge must work hard to gain it. One reference work says that a form of the Hebrew verb “rove about” conveys the idea of someone examining a book very carefully and thoroughly. No matter how thoroughly we examine the Bible, though, we cannot properly understand truths about the Kingdom unless Jehovah grants us that privilege.—Read Matthew 13:11.
18. How have those who fear Jehovah displayed faith and humility?
18 Just as Jehovah progressively revealed truths about the Kingdom in the period leading up to 1914, he continues to do so during the time of the end. As Chapters 4 and 5 of this book will show, over the past 100 years, God’s people have had to adjust their understanding on a number of occasions. Does that fact mean that they do not have Jehovah’s backing? On the contrary! He supports them. Why? Because those who fear Jehovah have displayed two qualities that he loves—faith and humility. (Heb. 11:6; Jas. 4:6) Jehovah’s servants have faith that all the promises in God’s Word will come true. They show humility when they admit that they misunderstood exactly how those promises would be fulfilled. That humble attitude is reflected in the March 1, 1925, issue of The Watch Tower, which said: “We know that the Lord is his own interpreter, that he will interpret his Word to his people in his own good way and in his own due time.”
“The Lord . . . will interpret his Word to his people in his own good way and in his own due time”
19. What has Jehovah now allowed us to understand, and why?
19 When the Kingdom was established in 1914, God’s people had only partial knowledge of how prophecies relating to the Kingdom would be carried out. (1 Cor. 13:9, 10, 12) In our zeal to see God’s promises fulfilled, we have on occasion drawn wrong conclusions. Over the years, the wisdom of another statement made in The Watch Tower quoted in the preceding paragraph has become apparent. The article stated: “It seems to be a safe rule to follow, that prophecy can not be understood by us until it is fulfilled or in the course of fulfillment.” Now that we are deep into the time of the end, many Kingdom prophecies have been and are being fulfilled. Because God’s people are humble and willing to be corrected, Jehovah has allowed our understanding of his purpose to become more complete. True knowledge has become abundant!
Refinements in Understanding Sift God’s People
20, 21. How did refinements in understanding affect first-century Christians?
20 When Jehovah refines our understanding of truth, our heart condition is tested. Will faith and humility move us to accept the changes? Christians living in the middle of the first century faced such a test. For example, imagine that you were a Jewish Christian living at that time. You deeply respect the Mosaic Law and take pride in your national heritage. Now you receive inspired letters from the apostle Paul stating that the Law is no longer binding and that Jehovah has rejected natural Israel in favor of gathering a spiritual Israel made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Rom. 10:12; 11:17-24; Gal. 6:15, 16; Col. 2:13, 14) How would you have responded?
21 Humble Christians accepted Paul’s inspired explanation and were blessed by Jehovah. (Acts 13:48) Others resented the refinements and wanted to cling to their own understanding. (Gal. 5:7-12) If they would not change their viewpoint, those individuals would lose the opportunity to be corulers with Christ.—2 Pet. 2:1.
22. How do you feel about clarifications in our understanding of God’s purpose?
22 In recent decades, Jehovah has refined our understanding of the Kingdom. For example, he has helped us to see more clearly when those who will be subjects of the Kingdom are to be separated from unresponsive ones as sheep are separated from goats. He has also taught us when the full number of the 144,000 will be filled, what the Kingdom illustrations given by Jesus mean, and when the last of the anointed will be raised to heavenly life. * How do you respond to such clarifications? Is your faith strengthened? Do you see them as evidence that Jehovah continues to educate his humble people? The following material in this book will reinforce your conviction that Jehovah is progressively revealing his purpose to those who fear him.
^ par. 6 Although this amount of time may seem extensive today, we must remember that human life spans used to be much longer; there were only four lifespans that overlapped from Adam to Abraham. Adam’s life overlapped the life of Lamech, Noah’s father. Lamech’s life overlapped that of Shem, Noah’s son. Shem’s life overlapped that of Abraham.—Gen. 5:5, 31; 9:29; 11:10, 11; 25:7.
^ par. 13 The term “Satan,” when used to identify an individual, appears 18 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, “Satan” appears more than 30 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Appropriately, the Hebrew Scriptures did not give undue emphasis to Satan but focused on identifying the Messiah. When the Messiah arrived, he exposed Satan fully, a fact recorded in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
^ par. 22 For a discussion of some of these refinements in understanding, see the following issues of The Watchtower: October 15, 1995, pages 23-28 (w13 7/15 1:10-13); January 15, 2008, pages 20-24 (w08 1/15 5:1-18); July 15, 2008, pages 17-21 (w08 7/15 4:1-21); July 15, 2013, pages 9-14 (w13 7/15 2:1-19).