The Book of Books—Part 10

The Deliverer Comes—Part 2

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Having victoriously met his encounter with the adversary, Jesus embarked actively upon his ministry. His service on earth was of short duration, lasting only three-and-one-half years. Throughout the entire Old Testament period, God continued to promise the coming of a king, and the establishment of a kingdom, a worldwide government of peace and happiness through which all the families of the earth would be blessed. Throughout his ministry Jesus emphasized that he was this foretold king, and that because the king had come, the kingdom was at hand. Matthew’s Gospel, particularly, focuses attention on Jesus as the promised king.

Jesus’ oral instructions were for the most part associated with the thought of the promised kingdom, and illustrated by parables. Many of his parables were prefaced by the statement, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto.” But to understand these parables it is essential to recognize that the promised kingdom was not established in power and great glory at the time of Christ’s first visit to earth. The kingdom was then at hand only in the sense that the king had come to begin making preparations for it. But these preparations were to go through slow stages of development, during which there would be satanic efforts to thwart the purpose of God through counterfeit and otherwise.

The Wheat and the Tares

Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares illustrates Satan’s effort to produce followers of his own who would be counterfeits of the true “children of the kingdom.” (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43) In this parable the Son of man, who is Jesus, sowed the good seed, the wheat. The enemy who sowed the tares is the Devil. Tares are imitation or counterfeit wheat, and are used in the parable to illustrate the many who have professed to be Christians, but who have not been true followers of Jesus.

The parable teaches that the wheat and the tares were to be allowed to grow together until the end of the world, or age, as the Greek text states. Then there was to be a harvest, when the tares would be gathered into bundles and burned, and when the wheat would be gathered into the barn.

The burning of the tares is described as being in a great furnace of fire. This seems to symbolize clearly what the Prophet Daniel foretold as a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1) Malachi foretold the same time, saying, “The day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”—Mal. 4:1

This does not imply that the individuals involved in this trouble will be forever, or even temporarily, destroyed. The thought is that all false claims of Christianity will be destroyed in the end of the age, and that those who have been under the misleading influences of these erroneous systems of belief will become disassociated from them, thus burned as tares, but not necessarily as individuals—although doubtless many will perish in the great tribulation which is even now bringing the present age to an end.

Already the furnace of the great time of trouble—the “distress of nations with perplexity” foretold by Jesus in Luke 21:25,26—is weakening the foundations of nominal churchianity; and in the European world particularly, millions of former adherents to churchianity are now unbelievers. They have learned that the claims of the former church-state governments to be the kingdom of Christ were false.

In the parable Jesus explained that after the tares were burned, the wheat, the children of the kingdom—the true kingdom—would “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:43) In the true kingdom of the Lord, Christ is prophetically and symbolically portrayed as the “Sun of Righteousness” who will arise “with healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:2) The work of God in the earth during the present age has been the calling out from the world of a little company of people and preparing them to be associated with Jesus in his glorious kingdom to be a part of that Sun of Righteousness, and in his parable of the wheat and the tares this is emphasized.

When we look back over the age since Jesus’ first visit to earth and note the bloodshed and war, the bitter persecution of one professed Christian group by another, the horrors of the so-called Holy Inquisition, and the many other unchristian practices of the professed people of God, we could easily get the impression that Christianity has been a failure. But the parable of the wheat and the tares is seen to be prophetic of the fact that there would be this imitation of the true, and that at the end of the age this imitation of Christianity would be destroyed.

Meanwhile, the wheat has been unrecognized by the world and worldly churches. Nevertheless, God’s work of selecting and preparing these for the kingdom has gone grandly on. Soon all the wheat will be gathered, and will become associated with Jesus in the true kingdom, and the blessings of that kingdom will begin to flow out to the people.

Jesus’ Miracles

The Old Testament prophecies, over and over again, give assurance that when the promised kingdom is fully established its blessings to all nations will include the destruction of disease and death; therefore, in proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, Jesus performed many miracles of healing. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all record some of these miracles, which include the opening of blind eyes, the healing of lepers, causing the crippled to walk, and even raising the dead. In John 11:1-46, we have the beautiful, faith-strengthening account of the awakening of Lazarus from the sleep of death.

In awakening Lazarus from death, Jesus addressed the tomb, the grave, and said, “Lazarus, come forth.” John reports that he who was dead came forth. (John 11:43,44) John again reports Jesus’ power to raise the dead, and quotes him as saying, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth.”—John 5:28

Selects Co-workers

Another aspect of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the selection of his apostles, those who were to be the spiritual guides of his followers throughout the entire age of preparation for the kingdom. Matthew supplies the names of the apostles, and records Jesus’ instructions to them when he sent them out into the ministry as his representatives. (Matt. 10:1-42) John records the circumstances under which some of them were brought into contact with Jesus. (John 1:35-44) Later Jesus selected seventy believers and sent them out into the ministry.—Luke 10:1-20

These first disciples sincerely believed that Jesus was the great king whom the prophets had foretold. In his instructions he gave them reason to believe that they would share the authority and glory of his kingdom. They took this very seriously, and on one occasion two of them made bold to request that they be permitted to sit, one on his left hand, and the other on his right hand in the kingdom. In reply to this, Jesus asked them if they were willing to drink of his cup and be baptized with his baptism.—Matt. 20:22; Mark 10:35-40

Jesus’ cup was one of suffering and death, and the baptism he referred to also signified the surrender of his life in sacrifice for the sins of the world. In Jesus’ reply to his disciples’ request he indicated that before his kingdom was established, a little company of followers was to be selected from among mankind who, upon the basis of their faithfulness in dying with him, would have the privilege of living and reigning with him. To these Luke reports Jesus as saying, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”—Luke 12:32

Matthew records Jesus’ instructions when sending his disciples into the ministry. Jesus warned them to expect hardship and persecution. He indicated that they might even be put to death. But again he tells them not to fear what man might do to them. He said, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”—Matt. 10:28

The Greek word here translated hell is gehenna. It is used by Jesus to symbolize the everlasting destruction of the willfully wicked. The lesson to the disciples was that while men might put them to death, their soul, their being, would still live in God’s memory and they would be raised from the dead to live and reign with him in his kingdom.

The Sermon on the Mount

It was for the special benefit of his apostles, and all those who would believe on him through their word, that Jesus preached his well-known Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is recorded by Matthew in chapters five through seven of his book. There are probably millions of people today who know one or more of the Beatitudes which constitute the opening of this sermon.—Matt. 5:3-12

It should be emphasized that Jesus did not intend this sermon to be a guide for the world in general. The fact is that even the professed Christian world had never shaped its policies according to the precepts of love and mercy set forth in this sermon. The true individual followers of the Master, however—and it is for these that the sermon is intended—have been guided by its principles, many times at the cost of much misunderstanding and suffering.

Briefly, some of the principles of righteousness set forth in the Sermon on the Mount are: humility of spirit; purity of heart; mercy toward enemies; hatred of others is murder; sincerity in prayer; singleness of heart in serving the Lord; full trust in the Lord to supply food, shelter, clothing; and alertness against the deceptions of false teachers.

It is in this sermon that Jesus sets forth what is generally spoken of as The Lord’s Prayer. The first request in this prayer is, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Thus, even in his instructions pertaining to prayer, Jesus sought to keep the minds and hearts of his disciples reminded of the great objective of the divine plan, that it was to establish a kingdom through the agencies of which the sovereign will of God against which our first parents rebelled would again be established in the earth, that the human race would be restored to harmony with the Creator.

The Light of the World

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also said to his disciples, “Ye are the light of the world,” meaning that they had been called to fulfill this mission as his ambassadors, or representatives. Primarily, of course, Jesus himself is the light of the world, but throughout the age his followers have occupied this position, acting as his spokesmen. Jesus indicated to his disciples that their shining would not enlighten the whole world during the present age, yet he said that men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel. We are to let our light shine, but at best it will be but as the light of a candle in a dark world.

The parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43) reveals that after the end of this age the righteous, the true children of the kingdom, would shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. We saw from Malachi’s prophecy that Jesus is to be the “Sun of Righteousness” who will arise for the healing and blessing of the people during the Millennial Age. (Mal. 4:2) Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares shows that his followers of this age will then shine forth with him.

Thus, by parables and otherwise, Jesus endeavored to show his disciples that they should not expect the glory of the messianic kingdom to be manifested at that time. While they were invited into the service of the kingdom, their light would be but as candles, and they would be persecuted, at times even unto death. At the beginning, however, they did not grasp these facts too clearly.

Even when Jesus told his disciples of his own coming death at the hands of his enemies, they did not fully grasp the thought. To them the idea of the promised kingdom and its glory overshadowed every other consideration. Thus when Jesus made the definite announcement that he was going to Jerusalem where he expected to be arrested and put to death, Peter remonstrated, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”—Matt. 16:22

To Peter it was unthinkable that Jesus should thus surrender to his enemies and allow them to put him to death. How could a dead king set up a kingdom? But Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: … for thou savorest not the things which be of God, but those that be of men.” This statement simply meant that Peter’s advice was contrary to the will of God. In the beginning of his ministry, Satan had endeavored to induce Jesus to preserve his life by turning stones into bread; and to avoid suffering and death by accepting the rulership of the world on the Devil’s terms. Now Jesus recognized that through Peter, as an unwitting agent, Satan was again tempting him to avoid the course of sacrifice, suffering and death.

To Jerusalem and the Cross

So Jesus went to Jerusalem, where the expected happened. He was arrested, subjected to a mock trial, and crucified. But the tour Gospel writers record a number of important incidents which occurred during those last few days of the Master’s earthly life. One of these was his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, with his disciples and friends hailing him as king. The account of this is recorded in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-40; and John 12:12-15.

This event had been foretold by the Prophet Zechariah, chapter nine, verse nine. The Jewish nation rejected Jesus as king and thereby forfeited the opportunity of reigning with him. This is foretold in Zechariah 9:10 and the assurance is given that although Jesus would be rejected, his dominion would, in God’s own due time, “be from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.”

On the night before Jesus was crucified, he gathered with his apostles in the upper room to partake of the Passover supper with them. This was a yearly commemoration of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage. While in Egypt, as we learned, the firstborn had been saved from death under the protection of the blood of the Passover lamb. Now Jesus was about to be slain as the antitypical Passover lamb. Through his death, deliverance was to come to both his church and all mankind—deliverance from the bondage of sin and death.

The record of that night in the upper room is found in Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-38; and John, chapters thirteen through seventeen. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record Jesus’ instructions concerning the commemoration of his death by an annual partaking of the bread and the cup which represent his broken body and his shed blood. These accounts also reveal Jesus’ attitude toward Judas, his betrayer. He knew that Judas was even then plotting, yet he called him “friend.”

Jesus was also concerned over his disciples, for, despite all he had said to them concerning humility and patience and love, even in that upper room, with enemies waiting for an opportunity to seize and crucify their Master, they were disputing among themselves as to who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom. Jesus gave them a lesson in true humility and service by washing their feet.

John gives us many details of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on that last night, which the other writers omit. Once again Jesus endeavored to prepare the minds and hearts of his disciples for his death, which was so near. To compensate for their sorrow, he said, “I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”—John 14:2,3

At the conclusion of that service in the upper room, Jesus prayed on behalf of his disciples. In his prayer he said, “I have given them thy Word; and the world hath hated them—because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14) Thus is stated one of the purposes of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which was to prepare his disciples to continue on with the ministry of the truth which he had begun. For this purpose he had given them the Lord’s Word; and although they had not yet fully grasped its meaning, he had patiently explained to them that, as his disciples, they would be called upon to suffer and to die with him.

In this prayer Jesus also said, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” (John 17:9) He did not mean that he was not interested in the world, nor that the divine plan of redemption and salvation did not include the world. He knew, however, that before the world could believe and be blessed, his church must be selected from the world and prepared to live and reign with him. He prayed for these, therefore, that the work of divine grace in their hearts might prosper and be completed, and that all his disciples might be one, as he and his Father were one. Then he added, “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”—John 17:21

The world did not then believe that the Creator had sent Jesus to be the savior of the sin-cursed and dying race. Comparatively few in the world since have believed it. But when his followers, the church class, the “little flock” to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom, are all united with him in that kingdom (Luke 12:32), then the world will believe. Then the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Arrest, Trial, and Crucifixion

From the upper room Jesus and his little band of disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where, a few hours later, a mob from Jerusalem apprehended him. He was put through the mock formality of a trial. Before Israel’s high priest, he was condemned because he acknowledged that he was the Son of God. This was construed as blasphemy. Before Pilate, he was charged with being a king. When questioned by Pilate concerning this, he made no denial, but explained, “My kingdom is not of this world [Greek, kosmos, meaning ‘order’].”—Matt. 26:57-68; 27:11-31; Mark 14: 53-64; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:28-37

Jesus was a king! “To this end was I born,” he said, “and for this cause came I into the world.” (John 18:37) But Christ knew that his kingdom was not to be established by military might. If that were the case, he explained, his servants would fight for him to prevent his being delivered to his enemies. Peter had attempted to do this, but Jesus bade him put up his sword. The kingdoms of this world are based largely upon selfishness. The rulers expect their subjects to defend them that they might be retained in power. But Jesus reversed this procedure and laid down his life for his subjects, that they might live forever and enjoy the peace and security to be provided by his kingdom when established in power and great glory.

Pilate sensed that Jesus’ claim to be a king posed no threat to the Roman Empire at that time, and would have released him, but his enemies cried, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Pilate had little choice, so consented to Jesus’ death. He ordered an inscription placed over the head of the cross stating the crime for which Jesus was being crucified—“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” In the beginning of his ministry, Satan offered Jesus the opportunity of becoming a king. Now he was being crucified on the technicality that he claimed to be a king.

Satan had also tempted Jesus to establish his claim to being the Son of God by leaping from the pinnacle of the Temple. Now the crowd which watched him hang on the cross cried out, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matt. 27:40) But again Jesus made no attempt to demonstrate the truthfulness of his claim to divine sonship.

Again “the chief priests … with the scribes and elders” shouted, “He saved others; let him save himself.” (Matt. 27:41,42; Mark 15:31; Luke 23:35) How little they realized that by his refusal to save himself, Jesus was providing salvation for them and for all the families of the earth, even as his Heavenly Father had promised!

Luke records a conversation between Jesus and one of the malefactors being crucified at the same time. This criminal, noting the inscription stating that Jesus was a king, asked to be remembered when he comes into his kingdom. Jesus replied, “Verily [so be it, or surely, Dr. Strong] I say unto thee today, with me thou shalt be in the paradise.” (Luke 23:43, Emphatic Diaglott word-for-word Greek text) One of the great objectives of Christ’s kingdom when established will be the restoration of paradise conditions worldwide. Jesus had full confidence, even though he was then being crucified, that he would be raised from the dead, and in God’s due time would set up the long-promised kingdom. The misplacement of the comma in the King James’ translation of Jesus’ promise to the thief has given many the idea that Jesus and the thief went to paradise the day they died. But this is not true. The paradise of Jesus’ kingdom did not exist at that time, nor does it yet exist. Jesus’ promise to the thief is yet to be fulfilled.

Hanging on the cross, and just before he died, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) This was a quotation from Psalm 22:1. The entire psalm is a prayer which Jesus may have offered in his mind while hanging on the cross, being too weak to express audibly more than the opening words. Jesus died to take the sinner’s place in death. It was necessary, therefore, that he bear the full penalty for sin, and so he gave himself fully into his Father’s care, saying, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” that is, my being, my life. (Luke 23:46) Jesus said this in full confidence that his Father would raise him from the dead and that in due time he would be the foretold King of kings, and Lord of lords.


Jesus’ faith was rewarded. On the third day, God did raise him from the dead. All four of the Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—record the fact of his resurrection. They also record several incidents of his appearances to his disciples after his resurrection. He appeared to Mary as a gardener. To two of his disciples journeying to Emmaus he was a stranger. Because Thomas expressed doubts of the resurrection unless he could see the nail prints in Jesus’ hands resulting from the crucifixion, he appeared to Thomas and others with him displaying a body such as the doubter demanded. John explains that this was a “sign.”—John 20:30

Jesus had told his disciples that he would give his flesh for the life of the world, so the varying manner of his several appearances to them after his resurrection helped to emphasize that he was no longer a human being. To Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, he had explained that those who are born of the Spirit can come and go as the: wind; invisibly, that is, to human eyes, yet exerting influence and power. Jesus was now “born of the Spirit.” (See Colossians 1:18.) On one of his appearances to his disciples he announced, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18) He was no longer hampered by fetters of flesh.

Jesus’ last appearance to his disciples is recorded by Luke, not in the Gospel of Luke, but in the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles. On this occasion they made bold to ask Jesus about the kingdom—“Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1;6) The kingdom of Israel had been overthrown in 606 B.C. and it had never been reestablished. The disciples associated their hopes of Christ’s kingdom with the reestablishment of Israel as a nation, hence the question.

To their question Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7) He then reaffirmed a promise made while he was still with them in the flesh; that he would send the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide them. He said that they were to become his witnesses in “Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8

The Ascension

“And when he had spoken these things,” the record continues, “while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) Then two men, probably angels appearing in human form, addressed the amazed disciples, saying, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”—Acts 1:11

So Jesus, the promised redeemer and king, had completed his first visit to earth. He had selected a little company of followers to be his witnesses, he had given his life as the world’s redeemer, and had been raised from the dead. Now he had returned to heaven. The angels’ promise that he would come again became the inspiration of those early disciples. They knew that until he did return his kingdom would not be established. So, inspired by the blessed hope of his coming, they continued to be his witnesses, and to offer the prayer he taught them, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

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