“You were once not a people, but now you are God’s people.”
1, 2. What change did Jehovah make on Pentecost of the year 33? Who became members of Jehovah’s new nation? (See opening picture.)
ON Pentecost of the year 33, Jehovah made a historic change. He created a new nation called “the Israel of God,” or spiritual Israel. (Galatians 6:16) Jehovah used his holy spirit to select the individual members of this nation. Paul wrote that those in this new nation do not need to be circumcised as the descendants of Abraham did. Instead, their “circumcision is that of the heart” by holy spirit.
2 The first members of God’s new nation were the apostles and over a hundred other disciples of Christ who had met together in an upper room in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:12-15) God poured out holy spirit on them, and they became sons of God. (Romans 8:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 1:21) This proved that Jehovah had accepted Christ’s sacrifice and replaced the Law covenant with a new covenant. (Luke 22:20; read Hebrews 9:15.) These anointed disciples became members of Jehovah’s new nation, or people. Holy spirit gave them the ability to speak and understand many languages and to teach “the magnificent things of God.”
THE NEW PEOPLE OF GOD
3-5. (a) What did Peter tell the Jews on the day of Pentecost? (b) How did the new nation grow during its early years?
3 Jehovah used the apostle Peter to invite Jews and proselytes to become members of His new nation, the congregation of anointed Christians. On the day of Pentecost, Peter boldly told the Jews that they had killed Jesus and that now they needed to accept him as their “Lord and Christ.” When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter told them: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” (Acts 2:22, 23, 36-38) That day, about 3,000 people became part of the new nation of spiritual Israel. (Acts 2:41) Afterward, the apostles continued to preach with zeal, and more people accepted the truth. (Acts 6:7) The new nation was growing.
4 Later, Jesus’ disciples began preaching to the Samaritans. Many of them accepted the truth and were baptized, but they did not receive the holy spirit. The governing body in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to visit these new Samaritan brothers and sisters. These two apostles laid their hands on them, “and they began to receive holy spirit.” (Acts 8:5, 6, 14-17) In this way, these Samaritans were anointed and became members of spiritual Israel.
5 In the year 36, God used Peter to invite another group into the new nation of spiritual Israel. This happened when Peter preached to the Roman army officer Cornelius and his relatives and friends. (Acts 10:22, 24, 34, 35) The Bible says that while Peter was speaking, holy spirit was given to all the non-Jews who were listening. “The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the free gift of the holy spirit was being poured out also on people of the nations.” (Acts 10:44, 45) From that time on, uncircumcised non-Jews were invited to be a part of spiritual Israel.
“A PEOPLE FOR HIS NAME”
6, 7. What did the members of the new nation do as a people for Jehovah’s name?
6 At a meeting of the governing body in the year 49, the disciple James said: “Symeon [Peter] has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) This new “people for his name” included Jewish and non-Jewish Christians whom God formed into one nation. (Romans 11:25, 26a) Later, Peter wrote: “You were once not a people, but now you are God’s people.” Peter explained the purpose of this new nation by saying: “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 who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) They had to be courageous witnesses for Jehovah and publicly praise him as the Universal Sovereign.
7 Jehovah was now using the new nation of spiritual Israel and could call them “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.” (Isaiah 43:21) They courageously told people that Jehovah is the one true God and that all other gods were false. (1 Thessalonians 1:9) They were witnesses of Jehovah and of Jesus “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the most distant part of the earth.”
Like the first-century Christians, the anointed “sons of the Kingdom” are witnesses of Jehovah
8. What warning did the apostle Paul give to God’s people in the first century?
8 Paul was a brave witness for Jehovah and defended him as the only true God, even when he spoke to pagan philosophers. He reasoned that Jehovah “made the world and all the things in it” and that he is the “Lord of heaven and earth.” (Acts 17:18, 23-25) Paul also warned the congregation: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) By the end of the first century, there were already many apostates.
9. What happened to God’s people after the apostles died?
9 After the apostles died, the apostates spread throughout the congregations and created the churches of Christendom. Instead of being a people for Jehovah’s name, these false Christians have removed God’s name from many of their Bible translations. They have also dishonored God in many other ways. They have followed pagan rituals and taught doctrines that are not from the Bible. They have fought so-called holy wars and claimed to have been fighting for God. They have been corrupt and sexually immoral. For hundreds of years after the apostasy began, there were only a few faithful worshippers of Jehovah on the earth and no organized group who were “a people for his name.”
REBIRTH OF GOD’S PEOPLE
10, 11. (a) What did Jesus foretell about “the wheat” and “the weeds”? (b) How was Jesus’ parable fulfilled after 1914?
10 Jesus used his parable of the wheat and the weeds to foretell that the apostasy would make it very difficult to identify the true religion. He said that “while men were sleeping,” the Devil would plant weeds in the field where the Son of man had sown wheat seeds. The wheat and the weeds would grow together until “the conclusion of the system of things.” He explained that “the fine seed” means “the sons of the Kingdom” and that “the weeds” are “the sons of the wicked one.” During the time of the end, the Son of man would send angels to separate the weeds from the wheat. Then the angels would gather the sons of the Kingdom. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) How did this happen? How did this make it possible for God to have an organized group of worshippers on earth again?
11 “The conclusion of the system of things” began in 1914. At that time, there were only a few thousand anointed Christians on earth. During the war that began that year, these anointed “sons of the Kingdom” were still in captivity to Babylon the Great. But in 1919, Jehovah freed them, and the difference between these true Christians and false Christians became very clear. He gathered “the sons of the Kingdom” to be an organized people, just as Isaiah had prophesied: “Will a land be brought to birth in one day? Or will a nation be born all at once? Yet, as soon as Zion went into labor, she gave birth to her sons.” (Isaiah 66:8) In this context, Zion is Jehovah’s organization of angels. Zion “gave birth” when the nation of anointed sons on earth was created.
12. How are the anointed a people for Jehovah’s name?
12 Like the first-century Christians, the anointed “sons of the Kingdom” today are witnesses of Jehovah. (Read Isaiah 43:1, 10, 11.) They stand out as different because of their good Christian conduct and because they preach the good news of the Kingdom “for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14; Philippians 2:15) In this way, they have helped millions to develop their own close relationship with Jehovah.
“WE WANT TO GO WITH YOU”
13, 14. What must those who are not anointed do so that their worship is acceptable to Jehovah? How was this foretold in the Bible?
13 The previous article showed that in ancient Israel, Jehovah accepted the worship of non-Israelites when they worshipped with his people. (1 Kings 8:41-43) Today, those who are not anointed must worship Jehovah with his anointed Witnesses.
14 Long ago, prophets foretold that many would worship Jehovah with his people in this time of the end. Isaiah foretold: “Many peoples will go and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For law will go out of Zion, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Zechariah foretold that “many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to beg for the favor of Jehovah.” This group would come out of “all the languages of the nations.” They would worship God along with spiritual Israel and say: “We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.”
15. What does it mean that the “other sheep” “go with” spiritual Israel?
15 The “other sheep” “go with” spiritual Israel by preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Mark 13:10) They become a part of God’s people. They and the anointed are “one flock” under “the fine shepherd,” Christ Jesus.
BE PROTECTED WITH JEHOVAH’S PEOPLE
16. What will Jehovah do that will lead to Armageddon?
16 After Babylon the Great is destroyed, there will be an all-out attack on God’s people. We will need Jehovah’s protection to survive. At his chosen time, Jehovah will direct matters on earth, which will result in the attack on his people. This will trigger the final part of the “great tribulation,” Armageddon. (Matthew 24:21; Ezekiel 38:2-4) So Gog will attack “a people regathered from the nations.” (Ezekiel 38:10-12) When that happens, Jehovah will immediately intervene to rescue his people and wage war against Gog and his armies. Jehovah will magnify his sovereignty and sanctify his name. He says: “I will certainly magnify myself and sanctify myself and make myself known before the eyes of many nations; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.”
17, 18. (a) When Gog attacks Jehovah’s people, what instructions will Jehovah give them? (b) If we want to be protected by Jehovah, what must we do?
17 When Gog begins the attack, Jehovah will tell his servants: “Go, my people, enter your inner rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for a brief moment until the wrath has passed by.” (Isaiah 26:20) During that time, Jehovah will give us instructions about what we need to do to be protected. The “inner rooms” may be connected with our local congregations.
18 If we want to be protected during the great tribulation, we must accept that God has a people on earth today and that he has organized them into congregations. We must take sides with Jehovah’s people and stay close to our local congregation. Just like the psalmist, may we say with all our heart: “Salvation belongs to Jehovah. Your blessing is upon your people.”