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"Then Is Finished The Mystery Of God"



Chapter 7

Congregations Producing 144,000 Sealed Ones

Revelation 1

LOVERS of good government for the peoples of earth hail the cheering fact that the slaves of God, who are sealed in their foreheads with the "seal of the living God," 144,000 of them, will rule as "kings of the earth" together with the resurrected Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the heavens. (Revelation 7:4-8) On earth while undergoing training, discipline and proving, these prospective heavenly rulers who gain the divine seal of approval have been grouped together in congregations.

That these congregations of sealed slaves of God were being prepared for their part in the heavenly kingdom after the end of today's wicked system of things is plainly pointed out by the apostle John toward the close of the first century of our Common Era. After identifying himself as the favored slave who received the marvelous Revelation from God through Jesus Christ, John writes these words of salutation to certain named congregations, saying:

"John to the seven congregations that are in the district of Asia: May you have undeserved kindness and peace from The One who is and who was and who is coming,' and from the seven spirits that are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, 'The Faithful Witness,' The first-born from the dead,' and The Ruler of the kings of the earth.' To him that loves us and that loosed us from our sins by means of his own blood — and he made us to be a kingdom, priests

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to his God and Father — yes, to him be the glory and the might forever. Amen." — Revelation 1:1-6.

It is the "seven congregations that are in the district of Asia" to whom the inspired apostle John says: "He [that is, Jesus Christ] made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father." This proves that some members of the 144,000 sealed ones of spiritual Israel were to be found among those seven particular churches. Why so? Because the 144,000 spiritual Israelites are to rule as kings with Jesus Christ the Lamb on the heavenly Mount Zion, in the "holy city, New Jerusalem." What was specially written to those seven congregations would therefore be of interest and spiritual benefit to the remnant of spiritual Israelites on earth today. These are being sealed with the "seal of the living God" in this shortening time before Jehovah God signals to the four angels at the four corners of the earth to let loose the "four winds of the earth" and bring the greatest storm of trouble that has ever struck the human family since the creation of man almost six thousand years ago. — Revelation 7:1-3; 14:1-3.

Those seven congregations in Asia Minor were not far from where the apostle John wrote down the Revelation, that is, within a radius of 175 miles from the island of Patmos that hugs the coast of Asia Minor along the Aegean Sea. Because of his Christian activity as an apostle of Jesus Christ, the aged John was a prisoner on this penal island, suffering persecution by the Roman Empire. First of all, in the Revelation given him here on this island, he has a vision of the one who is the principal caretaker of the seven Asian congregations and who is also the one whom God delegated to give the Revelation to John. In opening up his account John writes: "A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent forth his angel and presented it in signs through him to his slave John, who bore witness to the word God gave and to the witness Jesus

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Christ gave, even to all the things he saw. Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it; for the appointed time is near." — Revelation 1:1-3.

Being the principal caretaker appointed by Jehovah God over the congregations of those whom he loosed from their sins by means of his own blood, Jesus Christ would send this Revelation from God for the benefit of these congregations. Though the Revelation was sent first directly to the seven Asian congregations named, all the other congregations from that first apostolic century down to our twentieth century have benefited from it. They have been made happy by hearing the words of that marvelous prophecy of the Revelation and by observing obediently the things written in it. And this is very important to us today, for certainly now, so late in this twentieth century, it must necessarily be true that "the appointed time is near."

The glorified Jesus Christ did not materialize to the apostle John on Patmos in order to reveal himself as he did to his disciples during the forty days after he was raised from the dead, as "The first-born from the dead," on Nisan 16 of 33 C.E. Instead, he appeared in a glorious vision, picturing him as the High Priestly Caretaker among the congregations on earth of his faithful followers who are sealed with the holy spirit of God. John was careful to note all the distinguishing features about his glorious appearance, and we should likewise be careful to do the same. So John writes:

"I John, your brother and a sharer with you in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in company with Jesus, came to be in the isle that is called Patmos for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus. By inspiration I came to be in the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a strong voice like that of a trumpet, saying: 'What you see write in a scroll and send it to the seven congregations, in Ephesus

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and in Smyrna and in Pergamum and in Thyatira and in Sardis and in Philadelphia and in Laodicea.'"  — Revelation 1:9-11.

This command to write down the message from heaven was given, not to any Christian apostle in earthly Jerusalem, for Jerusalem in the Middle East was then out of existence if, as the second-century Christian Irenaeus expressly says, the Revelation to John was written at the close of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, who died in 96 C.E., twenty-six years after Jerusalem's destruction by the Romans. Neither was the command to write down the Revelation given to any Christian apostle in the imperial capital of Rome. It was given to the aged apostle John on the penal island of Patmos, nine hundred miles southeast of Rome.

There, "by inspiration," John was transported out of the first century down to this twentieth century of our Common Era, for he "came to be in the Lord's day." That "day" must begin when the crowned rider on the white horse, described in Revelation 6:2, begins to ride forth with his bow, "conquering." As all the evidence bearing upon the matter proves, this began in the year 1914 C.E., the year marked by the outbreak of World War I. The Lord, whose "day" it is, is the crowned and installed Jesus Christ; and his "day" must continue on till he completes his conquest at "Armageddon" and binds and abysses Satan the Devil and on to the end of his thousand years of reigning with his 144,000 faithful followers over all mankind. (Revelation 19:11 to 20:7) What the apostle John describes as an eyewitness and records in the Revelation spans for the most part this "day" or special time period of activity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What appearance did the glorified Lord Jesus Christ have here in the vision to John? It was nothing of the modern psychedelic style of coloration induced by the drug LSD, but was a radiant appearance having a definite form and describable features. John was able to describe it in these words:

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"And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me, and, having turned, I saw seven golden lamp-stands, and in the midst of the lampstands someone like a son of man, clothed with a garment that reached down to the feet, and girded at the breasts with a golden girdle. Moreover, his head and his hair were white as white wool, as snow, and his eyes as a fiery flame; and his feet were like fine copper when glowing in a furnace; and his voice was as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars, and out of his mouth a sharp, long two-edged sword was protruding, and his countenance was as the sun when it shines in its power. And when I saw him, I fell as dead at his feet." — Revelation l:12-17a.

In this vision the glorified Lord Jesus Christ appeared to be barefooted, like the high priest when ministering in Jehovah's ancient temple in earthly Jerusalem. However, he wore no bonnet or headgear like that of the ancient high priest, his head being crowned with beauty of hair that had grown snow-white in the way of righteousness. (Proverbs 16:31) He was not clad in sacrificial garments, for he was girded at the breast with a golden girdle, betokening glorious divine service. His face, not sad or humiliated, shone like the enlightening sun at midday, but his eyes were ablaze, either with searching, testing power or with indignation against disapproved persons. His voice was resonant, resounding like many waters in motion. Such vocal power would add to the pronouncing of adverse judgment to be executed, as symbolized by the sharp, long two-edged sword that protruded out of his mouth. In his right hand he controlled seven stars or what they symbolized. The Lord Jesus Christ later mentions some of these distinguishing features in referring to his identity when speaking to the seven congregations.

Little cause for amazement that at such a glorious appearance the apostle John should fall as if dead to the ground before the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ! But the realism of the vision was very powerful, and

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it had the effect of reality, so much so that John was reacting to it in both speaking and acting as if to reality. John saw seven lighted lampstands and the glorified Lord Jesus Christ standing in among them. In ancient Israel, in the temple at Jerusalem as constructed by wise King Solomon, the high priest served in the midst of ten golden lampstands in the Holy of the temple. (1 Kings 7:48, 49; 2 Chronicles 4:7, 19, 20) In the vision that John saw there was a special reason for there being just seven lampstands, aside from the fact that seven is the Bible number denoting spiritual completeness or perfectness. When writing to the congregation in Ephesus, John was told to refer to the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand as well as "who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands." (Revelation 2:1) Stars, lampstands and the Lord's glorious appearance — everything was brightness.

Before being told what to write specifically to the seven congregations in the Roman province of Asia, the apostle John was revived from his deathlike condition and calmed. As he tells us: "And he laid his right hand upon me and said: 'Do not be fearful. I am the First and the Last, and the living one; and I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Ha'des. Therefore write down the things you saw, and the things that are and the things that will take place after these. As for the sacred secret [the mystery, AS; RS; the secret meaning, NEB] of the seven stars that you saw upon my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars mean the angels of the seven congregations, and the seven lampstands mean seven congregations.'" — Revelation l:17b-20.

"THE FIRST AND THE LAST"

"The First and the Last"! In the prophecy of Isaiah 44:6 Jehovah God says: "I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is no God." And in Isaiah 48:12, 13 he says: "I am the same One. I am the first.

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Moreover, I am the last. Moreover, my own hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my own right hand extended out the heavens." Also, in the Greek alphabet the first letter is called Alpha and the last letter Omega (Great O); and so Jehovah God again emphasizes his being "the First and the Last" by saying, in Revelation 1:8: " 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says Jehovah God, 'the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.'" And in Revelation 22:13 he says: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Hence, in speaking of himself as "the First and the Last," is the Lord Jesus Christ claiming to be Jehovah God the Almighty? Not at all, but he is referring to himself as "the First and the Last" in another sense, in another connection. How is that?

This was in connection with death and life. The glorified Jesus Christ in heaven was then, as he says, "the living one." But what about before then? "I became dead," he says. That was when he became a man and lived for thirty-three and a half years down here on earth. His enemies then put him to death by impaling him on a stake outside Jerusalem. But on the third day "the King of eternity, incorruptible, invisible, the only God," resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Timothy 1:17) From then on the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ could say: "Look! I am living forever and ever." (Revelation 1:17, 18) At his resurrection he was clothed upon with immortality in the heavenly spirit realm, and thus can die no more. (1 Peter 3:18, AS; RS; 1 Corinthians 15:45-54; Romans 6:9) At his death Jesus Christ on earth went to Ha'des, which is the common grave of mankind. On the third day Jehovah God used the 'key of Ha'des' and let his faithful Son out and restored him to life, to live forever, immortal. — Acts 2:22-36; 13:33-37; 26:23.

Can we see now how, in this connection, Jesus Christ could speak of himself as "the First and the Last"? He was the first one whom Jehovah God the

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Almighty raised directly, without another agency, from the dead, not to live a little while longer and then die once more, but to live forever. That is why the apostle John could speak of him as "Jesus Christ, 'the Faithful Witness,' 'The first-born from the dead.' " (Revelation 1:5) Furthermore, he was the first one to be resurrected from human death to life as a spirit in the heavenly realm. The purpose of Jehovah God the Almighty is to raise no others from the dead directly, without some agency, not even from human death to spiritual, heavenly life. For that reason Jesus Christ is also "the Last" to have this direct divine intervention. Will there, then, be no other resurrection from the dead but that of Jesus Christ? No, but thereafter God will use his resurrected Son in raising all others for whom he laid down his perfect human life in sacrifice. — John 5:21-29.

This explains why Jesus, after saying, "Look! I am living forever and ever," added the words: "And I have the keys of death and of Ha'des." Jehovah God has committed to Jesus the use henceforth of that key of death and that key of Ha'des.* He is the one whom Jehovah God will use to release mankind from the death that they inherited from their sinful first human father Adam and also from the common grave of mankind, that is to say, Ha'des, to which the general mass of mankind goes at death.

Very fittingly Jesus could say: "I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all." (John 11:25, 26) Jesus, when on earth as a flesh-and-blood man, also said: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and


* In six (6) Hebrew translations of the Revelation the word "Ha'des" In Revelation 1:18 is rendered as "She-ol"'; and in the Syriac (Philoxenian Harkleian) Version it is rendered as "Shi-ul'." Hence the Ha'des of the pagan Greeks is not meant here, but the Sheol of the inspired Hebrew Bible, namely, the common grave of mankind.
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drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day; for my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. . . . Just as the living Father sent me forth and I live because of the Father, he also that feeds on me, even that one will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. . . . He that feeds on this bread will live forever." — John 6:53-58.

Because the glorified Jesus Christ is alive from the dead forevermore and has the power to wipe out the death and the grave to which sinful mankind is subject, there was solid basis for him to tell the apostle John: "Therefore write down the things you saw, and the things that are and the things that will take place after these." (Revelation 1:19) The ever-living, mightily empowered Jesus Christ will see to it that all the things that are due to take place according to the purpose of Jehovah God "will take place after these." Now among the things that John saw in the vision were the seven stars in the right hand of the glorified Jesus Christ and also the seven golden lamp-stands. What is the mystery, the sacred secret, about



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these? What do they symbolize? The Lord Jesus Christ himself explains their meaning.

THE MYSTERY OF THE STARS AND THE LAMPSTANDS

The seven stars upon the right hand of the Lord Jesus are symbolic of the "angels of the seven congregations" in the ancient Roman province of Asia (now part of modern Turkey). Are such "angels" invisible ones? No. The apostle John received the entire Revelation from Jesus Christ by means of a heavenly angel, and it would be unreasonable for him to be writing back to angels in heaven, in invisible realms. They do not need the messages written to the seven congregations in Asia. The basic meaning of the title "angel" is "messenger; message bearer." The "stars" of the seven congregations are seven human messengers sent forth by Jehovah God to be in charge of those seven congregations. As these seven symbolic stars are seen to be upon Jesus' right hand, they are in his care and charge and under his direction, his "right hand" of applied power being able to direct and protect them. So they correspond with the presiding minister or overseer, superintendent, in each of the seven congregations of spirit-begotten, anointed Christians. Being symbolized as "stars," heavenly luminaries, they are means, agencies, for beaming spiritual heavenly light of God's truth to members of the congregations.

What, then, do the "seven golden lampstands" symbolize? Jesus explained: "The seven lampstands mean seven congregations." (Revelation 1:20) Not only the 'seven messengers,' the symbolic "stars," the congregational overseers, must themselves shine, but the congregations must as a whole also shine in the darkness of this wicked world. Under the direction of the glorified Jesus Christ, who was seen to be "in the midst of the lampstands," the seven symbolic stars must see to it that these lampstands shine, are constantly lit up. They must attend to these symbolic lampstands just as the priests of ancient Israel tended

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to the lampstands in the Holy of Jehovah's temple at Jerusalem. The human "angels," the symbolic stars, set the example for the congregations by themselves shining, with power greater than that of any lamp on a lampstand. They must remember and act on the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, when he said to his followers:

"You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father." — Matthew 5:14-16.

The apostle John addressed the written Revelation to "the seven congregations that are in the district of Asia." The glorified Jesus Christ told him to do so. (Revelation 1:4,10,11) The apostle Paul had earlier written letters to the congregations in Ephesus and Laodicea. (Ephesians 1:1, 2; Colossians 2:1; 4:16) It is possible that the apostle John made seven copies of the Revelation and sent a separate copy to each of the seven congregations named by the glorified Jesus Christ, at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

However, the information contained in the entire Revelation was of benefit to all the true Christian congregations, the allness being indicated by the number of the congregations directly addressed, namely, seven, this number symbolizing spiritual perfection, completeness. So, doubtless, in course of time copies were made from the original seven manuscripts of the Revelation and sent to all other congregations or circulated among them, translations being made thereof into other languages as needed.

None of those seven original Asian congregations remains till today, but we have copies and translations of the Revelation that was sent to them in the first century C.E. In the vision of the Revelation the apostle John found himself by divine inspiration "in

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the Lord's day." (Revelation 1:10, 11) To a limited degree the congregations in that first century needed the Revelation, but those who specially and immediately need the Revelation in its final application are the true Christian congregations of spirit-begotten, anointed Christians actually in existence "in the Lord's day.'" That would mean the symbolic "seven congregations," or all such congregations, in existence since the year 1914 C.E., when the "day" of the Lord Jesus Christ began. Such congregations will not continue on earth till the end of "the Lord's day" at the close of the thousand years of Christ's reign over mankind. Yet they urgently need the Revelation and the unraveling of its mysteries for as long as any members of such spiritual congregations are in the flesh on this earth, that is, till their glorification in the heavens with Jesus Christ the reigning King.

As the "seven lampstands" in the visionary "Lord's day" pictured all the true Christian congregations in this present, real "Lord's day" since 1914 C.E., so the "seven stars" symbolize all the spirit-begotten, anointed angellike overseers of such congregations of today. These human "angels," in being compared to "stars," are reminded that, as the apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Ephesus, God "raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-6) Such symbolic stars of today need to take note of what the apostle John wrote to the "seven stars" of his day and make a present-day application thereof. The first-century Asian congregations did not exist in any succession to one another, like links in a chain, but they all existed at the same time. So the conditions described in what was written to those seven congregations exist in the spirit-begotten, anointed congregations contemporaneously (at the same time) in the present "Lord's day," since 1914 C.E.

Therefore all members of such congregations are vitally affected and should take serious heed to what is written.



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