Part 2 of a Two-part Series

Witnesses for God

“I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore, ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.” —Isaiah 43:1-3,11,12

IN THIS REVEALING CHAPTER the Lord indicates that his future dealings with his people, Israel, would also witness to his glory. “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”—vss. 6,7

This is apparently a reference to the regathering to their land of scattered Israel, as it is being accomplished at the present time. There are many prophecies which show that this regathering would take place at the end of the present age, preparatory to the Millennial Age. One reads: “Behold, the days come saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them.”—Jer. 16:14-16

The fact that the natural seed of Abraham are now going back to their Promised Land in unbelief, motivated, not by their love for God, but by their desire for security, does not disprove the beginning of the fulfillment of these wonderful prophecies. It should be noted that their present exodus from the nations is likened to their exodus from Egypt. At that time the motive was to escape from slavery, and it was because of their lack of faith and their rebellion against their God that they were allowed to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

That we should expect to see them return to Israel in unbelief is clearly indicated by the prophecy of Ezekiel 20:33-37, which reads: “As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: and I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. … And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”

Several important facts appear in this prophecy of Israel’s return to the Promised Land. One is that God rules over them in his ‘fury’. This language does not describe the voluntary returning of a people motivated by love for their God. They are first brought into “the wilderness of the people.” This expression indicates that for a time the returned exiles would be in the same confusion and unbelief as the world around them. God pleads with them “face to face.” He would not need to plead with them if they were wholeheartedly for him and had accepted Jesus as their Redeemer.

After they are caused to pass under God’s “rod” of punishment they are finally brought “into the bond of the covenant.” This shows that when they are first restored to Israel they are not in covenant relationship with their God. Jeremiah 31:31-34 informs us that the time is coming when the Lord will make “a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” But this will not be until they have been brought under the rod of discipline, and after their eyes have been opened to behold the glory of the Lord.

The Prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 38 and 39, gives a clue when this will take place. Israel will attract aggressor hordes from the north to mount an attack against them. It will be in this attack that God will again fight for his people as he did in the days of old. The prophecy states that God will plead against the leader of Israel’s enemies “with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.”—Ezek. 38:22

The final result of this will be the opening of the eyes of the nations to the glory of God. And not only so, but Ezekiel 39:7 declares, “So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.” As God brought glory to his name by the wonderful manner in which he dealt with Israel in the past, it will yet be so again. In this way Israel will continue to be his witnesses, not because they are diligent in making known the virtues of his character, but because, as in the past, he will protect and deliver them, and will forgive their transgressions.

Along this line the Lord further declares to Israel: “Thou hast brought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”—Isa. 43:24,25

So, after many centuries of patient waiting, during which the Lord has chastised Israel in their exile among the nations, he will bring them back to himself, and enter into covenant relationship with them. Paul informs us that this will also mean “life from the dead.” (Rom. 11:15) Yes, all Israel, the living and the dead, will again be used by the Lord as a means of revealing his glory to them and to all the nations. So again they are to be his witnesses, even though, as the Lord explains, one of their contributions to this end was their sins, calling for the exercise of his mercy and love.

Witnesses of Jesus

During the Gospel Age the light of God’s glory has been manifested in quite a different manner. When, in our text, Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), he was speaking to his footstep followers throughout the age. The era during which God miraculously manifested his hand in the protection and blessing of his chosen people, and in the punishment of their enemies, was rapidly drawing to a close. In a few short years God’s typical people were to hear those fateful words, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38) Then the light of God was to shine out through other channels, and by different means.

In this new arrangement Jesus was the Leader, the Captain, the Forerunner. He declared of himself, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) But Jesus knew that he would not personally remain in the world, and that the work of God entrusted to him would be continued by his representatives, his ambassadors, referred to as those who are “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God.”—Rev. 20:4

This language describes martyrdom, or the giving up of life in the service of Jesus and the Word of God. During the Gospel Age faithfulness leads to death; and we are encouraged by the promise, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

In the beginning of the age, and continuing through the lifetime of the apostles, miracles were employed which demonstrated the glory of God. Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. The apostles did the same, but they themselves died, and in this fact no evidence of divine overruling or care in their lives was observable. True, Jesus was raised from the dead, but few aside from the disciples believed it. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting disciples at Pentecost, but their enemies refused to accept what they saw and heard as evidence of God’s hand in their affairs. Instead they charged that the disciples were intoxicated.

Soon after the apostles fell asleep in death, all miraculous demonstrations of divine protection and love ceased, and the Lord’s people since have been called upon to walk entirely by faith. They have been witnesses of Jesus not because divine favor has been evident to others, but because they have been faithful in proclaiming the “Gospel of Christ” which, as Paul asserts, is “the power of God unto salvation.”—Rom. 1:16

The commission given to these by Jesus was that they should be his witnesses in all the world and preach the Gospel. (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8) In the ages past when the Lord’s people were called his witnesses it was because God revealed his glory by the miraculous manner in which he dealt with them. In the Gospel Age those who witness for Jesus do so by proclaiming the marvelous plan for human salvation which Jesus was sent into the world to execute. In proclaiming this Gospel they tell not only of the mighty miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, but also of the miracle of the resurrection of those who will live and reign with him.

Furthermore, the full Gospel message calls for a declaration of that great future miracle which will be necessary for the awakening of all the dead, and the restoration of the willing and obedient to full perfection of life as human beings on the earth. In proclaiming the facts concerning these miracles the witnesses of Jesus are strengthened by their knowledge of what occurred in the past; for they know that the God who delivered Israel from Egypt, who escorted them safely through the Red Sea and across Jordan to victory in Canaan, who sent an angel and destroyed an Assyrian army in one night, and who delivered the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace, is abundantly able to fulfill all his good promises pertaining to the deliverance of mankind from sin and death.

Only a handful of these witnesses ever actually saw Jesus, but they believe the testimony of those who affirm the fact that he was raised from the dead. They also believe and proclaim the testimony of Paul that when Jesus was raised from the dead he was highly exalted above angels, principalities, and powers, and above every name that is named, to the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Eph. 1:18-23) They also accept and preach the further testimony of Paul which declares that ultimately “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:9-11

These witnesses of Jesus are glad to occupy this place as his ambassadors in the arrangements of the Heavenly Father, because they delight to obey the divine command to honor the Son even as they honor the Father. Indeed, they realize that they cannot honor the Father at all, except as they do so through the Son. (John 5:23) They know that to honor and worship the resurrected and glorified Jesus, and to serve as his witnesses, does not detract from the glory of God, for they realize it was the Father’s power that exalted his Son to this high position, at his own right hand.

So as “witnesses of Jesus, and for the Word of God,” these sing songs of praise for his love in sending Jesus to be the Redeemer and Savior of the world; praise for divine wisdom which designed such a loving plan of salvation; praise for divine justice which, while it could not clear the guilty, made provision to wash away their sins at great cost to himself in the gift of his dearly beloved Son who gave his blood; and praise for the power of God by which every feature of his glorious purpose is implemented and made sure.

These do not go about constantly shouting, Praise the Lord! They praise and honor Jehovah by making known his loving plan as it is centered in Christ Jesus. They rejoice that the Spirit of God has authorized them to be witnesses of Jesus and God’s witnesses as it relates to those who are invited to be joint-heirs with Jesus in the spiritual phase of his kingdom, as well as to proclaim the glorious hope of restitution for all mankind during the thousand years of Christ’s reign.

The World Not Converted

But the glorious testimony which has been given throughout the Gospel Age by the witnesses of Jesus has not converted the world, nor will it now convert the world. It was not God’s plan that it should—his will being that the chief accomplishment of this witness work would be the reaching and development of those who would join the witness class.

Incidentally, of course, others have heard this widely broadcast message, and to some extent have been blessed. Thus they are in a measure prepared for the blessings of the kingdom which will reach the world during the Millennial Age. Millions have heard the message, but have paid no attention to it, yet it has been a witness even to these. Jesus said that “this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [of the Gospel Age] come.”—Matt. 24:14

Jesus likened his individual witnesses to candles shining in the dark. A candle does not project its light any great distance into the darkness. It is of benefit only to those who are close to it. So the light of the Gospel shining through Jesus’ witnesses is a guide and great blessing to those who, by belief and devotion, draw near to it and to the Lord whom it represents, but the outside world sees only an indistinct glimmer.

Someone has said that the light of the Gospel as it shines through the witnesses of Jesus is like a lighthouse in the ocean—it is not put there to light up the ocean, but to guide the mariner. So the truth has not enlightened the world during the Gospel Age, although it has been the only light in the world. This light, however, has been a guide to the Lord’s own people, enabling them to find and to walk in the narrow way which leads to glory, honor, and immortality.

As the Sun

Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares brings us down to the end of the age and the witnesses of Jesus are here called “children of the kingdom.” When the work of harvest is fully completed these children of the kingdom are said to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”—Matt. 13:43

This shining forth as the sun will be in association with Jesus, the foretold “sun of righteousness,” who is to arise with “healing in his wings” to enlighten and bless the whole world of mankind. (Mal. 4:2) The witnesses of Jesus will, together, as the church triumphant, become part of that sun of righteousness, and with Jesus will cause the knowledge of the glory of God to fill the whole earth, “as the waters cover the sea.”—Isa. 11:9; 40:5

Therefore we see that when Jesus said to the handful of disciples to whom he preached his sermon on the mount, “Ye are the light of the world,” he meant that ultimately they would be more, yes, much more than merely a light ‘in’ the world. It is in this limited manner that they have so far let their light shine. This has not been due to lack of zeal or enthusiasm on their part, but because of human limitations.

Not only so, but just as Jesus explained, the darkness of this world hates the light, and therefore those who dwell in darkness usually turn away from the light even when they see it. Satan is largely responsible for this, for, as the ‘god’ of this world he has blinded the minds of those who believe not, “lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”—II Cor. 4:4

But when the sun of righteousness arises, and the children of the kingdom shine forth with Jesus, Satan will be bound, that he may “deceive the nations no more.” (Rev. 20:1-3) With the prince of darkness prevented in this way from interfering with the shining forth of light from that glorious sun, all the world will have a full opportunity to become acquainted with the true God and with his beloved Son who died for them that they might live. Then will be testified to mankind, the great truth that Jesus gave himself a ransom for all.—I Tim. 2:4-6

The work of enlightening all mankind will require the entire thousand years of Christ’s kingdom. First the living generation will have the “pure language” turned to them. (Zeph. 3:8,9) This will be immediately after the “fire of God’s jealousy” has destroyed the symbolic earth in the great “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

Those who go through that fire will have been quite ignorant of the true God, hence the necessity of having the pure message of truth given to them in order that they might have an opportunity to know and serve God properly, “with one consent.” But that will be only the beginning. There will then come the awakening of the many millions who have died. As each generation of these hear the voice of the Lord calling them forth from the tomb they also will need to be enlightened, and so, although the sun will be shining throughout the millennium, it may not be until near the close that the darkness of the long night of sin and death will have been fully banished from the minds of all the people.

Zechariah gives us a beautiful illustration of this. He speaks of the thousand years of Christ’s reign—that thousand years during which the sun of righteousness will be shining—as a “day,” and he says “it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.”—Zech. 14:7

“It shall be in that day,” the prophet continues, “that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem.” (vs. 8) Also, “the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name shall be one.” (vs. 9) Because God loves natural Israel for the “father’s sake,” those regathered in the Promised Land will be the first to have the life-giving waters of the kingdom offered to them, but the river of life will quickly flow out to all nations.

This river is shown in Revelation 22:1 to flow from “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” On either side of the river are the trees of life, bearing all necessary life-giving fruit, and “the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.” It will be then that the “Spirit and the bride shall say, Come, … take the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

Thus in this beautiful combination of symbols, the future work of the present witnesses of Jesus is portrayed. Now our message to all who fully believe is to take up their cross and faithfully follow Jesus into death. Then, as through them the light concerning God’s plan is revealed to all mankind, the invitation will be, “Come, … take the water of life freely.”

How honored are the saints of God today, to be light-bearers and witnesses of Jesus; while at the same time they look forward with joy to the still greater honor of shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, causing the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth so completely that no one will need to say to his neighbor, “Know the Lord: for they shall all know him, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”—Jer. 31:31-34

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |