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The Truth Shall Make You Free



CHAPTER XX

FROM DEATH TO IMMORTALITY

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"WE HAVE found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ)." Of this discovery the Jewish fisherman Andrew came hastening to tell his brother Simon Peter. (John 1:40,41, A.R.V.) Andrew had heard John the Baptist identify Jesus as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world", and then he followed Jesus and heard him preach the Messianic kingdom.

Christ Jesus told his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. He did that very thing himself. He did not indulge in the political affairs of this world, but applied himself exclusively to proclaiming the kingdom of the new world of righteousness. In the synagogue at his home town of Nazareth in Galilee he publicly declared his commission from God to preach, and he was always diligent to discharge his obligation to bear witness to the greatest truth of God's written Word, the Kingdom. (Luke 4:16-21) He was the anointed Ruler of that Theocratic Government, and he was present. So he was right in preaching, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat-

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thew 4:17) He did not build a synagogue or a religious building and install himself therein as pastor and ring a bell in a steeple and invite the people to come and hear him preach, and then take up a money collection. He went to the people and freely preached to them, at their private homes and at the synagogues where they congregated and also at the temple in Jerusalem. "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him." —Luke 8:1.

Of those that heard and followed Christ Jesus he chose and appointed twelve apostles. He did not select learned scribes and doctors of the law and astute lawyers and Pharisees and Sadducees. Such men taught the traditions of men instead of God's commandments and practiced what one of their number called "the Jews' religion". They challenged Jesus' authority and commission, and rejected him. Jesus said new wine could not be put in old bottles without disaster. He chose humble, teachable, honest, Godfearing men. He came in his Father's name, and therefore he declared Jehovah's name to them. He taught them that the vindication of God's name by his kingdom is of first importance. So he taught them to pray: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6: 9,10) He commissioned them and sent them forth to preach from city to city and from house to house. His instructions were:

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"As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. . . . And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. . . . And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." —Matthew 10:1-23; also Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-16.

Satan the Devil discerned that Jesus was God's Heir to the kingdom he was preaching. He was the foretold Seed of God's "woman", and also the promised Seed of Abraham. Satan's enmity knew no bounds, and he was determined to destroy Jesus and to maintain his own domination of the wicked world. Again he used religion as the pretext for opposing Jehovah's witness, this time the Chief Witness. The religious clergymen came out against him, and slandered him, and sought to kill him. The reason was, as Jesus told them: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth." (John 8: 44) Those religious clergymen of Jewry nourished selfish hopes in their hearts as regards the Messianic kingdom. They felt envious at Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom and refused to join in bearing the Kingdom fruits to the common people, who heard Jesus gladly. —Mark 12: 37.

Three and a half years after his anointing as King at the Jordan river Jesus rode trium-

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phantly on an ass's colt amid jubilant crowds hailing the kingdom of God. Into Jerusalem he rode and went to the temple, where of old the kings of the nation of Israel had been anointed and acclaimed. At the temple Christ Jesus the Anointed King judged the nation by offering himself then and there as God's appointed King. The Jewish religious leaders refused the opportunity and objected to the people's demonstration. So doing, they rejected him as King at this judgment at the temple. Hence Jesus said to them: "Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes ? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Matthew 21:23-46) The religionists now plotted to kill him.

The passover feast of A.D. 33 came a few days thereafter, and Jesus assembled with his apostles to eat the passover. On that occasion also he took bread and wine and instituted a memorial to God's name and in symbol of his own faithful course unto death for the vindication of God's name. To the eleven faithful apostles who took the memorial he said: "You are they who have continued with me in my trials. And I covenant for you, even as my Father has covenanted for me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink

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at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." —Luke 22:28-30, Diaglott; Rotherham.

Then, emphasizing that he had faithfully represented his Father Jehovah as his witness on earth, he said to them: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9) He told them his going away to the Father was cause for rejoicing: "For my Father is greater than I." (John 14: 28) On an earlier occasion he had declared his perfect agreement with Jehovah in His purpose and work, by saying: "I and my Father are one." Now, on this passover night, Jesus led his disciples in prayer and prayed that the same agreement and unity might be established among his disciples, by means of the truth. He said to God: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is -truth. . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; ... And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them."  —John 17:16-26.

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Having thus spoken, Jesus led them forth to the Garden of Gethsemane. His betrayal by Judas, then trial before the Jewish religious court, then a hearing before Pontius Pilate and King Herod, and, last, a rehearing by Pilate, quickly followed. All the while the Jewish chief priests and other clergymen led the people in howling for Jesus' execution on a tree to hang there till dead. "Shall I crucify your King?"





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asked Pilate. "The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar." —John 19: 6,15.

What, then, was the issue over which Christ Jesus was tried and tested and on which the Jewish religionists made their decision ? Was it the salvation of humankind? No, not that primarily; it was God's kingdom, the King of which must vindicate God's name by keeping his integrity faithfully toward God even to the most reproachful death. God's kingdom is of first and highest importance, because His holy name and universal domination are bound up with it. Therefore Jesus chose to die on the tree, his kingship mocked at by the superscription above his head. He died in outward disgrace to the eyes of religionists and politicians, but he died in the truth and for the truth of the Kingdom. His was the death of a free man. He died with clean hands, free from the bondage to man, devil or religion. He died honoring Jehovah God. In the fight of the Devil to make him break his integrity Jesus had won!

"And calling out with a loud voice Jesus said, Father! into thy hands I commend my spirit. And this saying, he ceased to breathe." (Luke 23:46, Roth.; Diaglott) He knew he was dying faithful, and hence was worthy to commend his power of life to the great Life-giver in hope of a resurrection. He knew the scripture, at Psalm 16:10, which read: "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." While he was living in the flesh and looking ahead to this death, he was

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never disturbed, but his flesh rested in hope and was at ease. He knew there would be a resurrection to life in the spirit, to which life he had been begotten at the Jordan river.

Satan the Devil had heard Jesus speak privately to his disciples of a resurrection and of returning to his Father. In his uneasiness the Devil caused his religious agents to have a guard thrown about the sepulcher where Jesus' body was laid, and the great stone in front to be officially sealed. (Matthew 27: 57-66) Foolish precaution that! On the third day from the burial Jehovah's mightiest miracle took place, the resurrection of his dear Son out of death and unto life divine, unto immortality.

No human eye saw that resurrection early that first day of the week. The sepulcher guards experienced an earthquake and were terrified at the sight of a dazzling angel who rolled away the stone, exposing to view the sepulcher's empty interior. The resurrected Jesus they saw not, nor were any of the Devil's servants thereafter made witnesses to the fact of Jesus' resurrection. What had happened to the fleshly body of Jesus? It was not "spiritualized"; for that is impossible according to Jesus' own words: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit." (John 3: 6) Paul, who had a vision of the resurrected Jesus, also says: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 15:50) According to Psalm 16:10 and Acts 2:27-31 the body was not

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permitted to corrupt. Hence Jehovah God disposed of that body in his own way, just as he disposed of the body of Moses, who was a type of Christ Jesus; but no one knows how.  —Deuteronomy 34: 5, 6.

At the resurrection Almighty God answered Jesus' prayer: "And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (John 17: 5) That was glory in heaven, or the unseen realm, and in a spirit body whose glory was not veiled or shrouded with a fleshly body bearing a spear gash in the side, nail prints in hands and feet, thorn scratches on the brow, and welts and stripes on the back from the scourge lashing. The fleshly body is the body in which Jesus humbled himself, like a servant, and is not the body of his glorification, not the body in which he was resurrected. The apostle Peter, who saw him after his resurrection, testifies: "Christ also died once for our sins, the just for the unjust: that he might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but ENLIVENED IN THE SPIRIT, in which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison." (1 Peter 3:18,19, Douay; A.R.V.) He was raised to life divine in a spirit body. The resurrection of his faithful disciples will be like his; concerning which it is written: "If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. . . . We shall be changed. For this corruptible must

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put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." —Romans 6: 5; 1 Corinthians 15:44,52-54.

Beginning with his resurrection day Jesus showed himself alive to his faithful disciples at intervals during forty days. Since a spirit does not have flesh and bones, how, then, did Jesus appear or make himself visible to them? By materializing fleshly bodies on the occasions of his appearances, bodies fully clothed, not with his burial clothes, but with clothing suitable to the time and purpose of his appearing. This was nothing new or unusual; for the angel Gabriel appeared thus to priest Zacharias inside the temple, and six months later to Mary, Jesus' mother. That very resurrection morning two angels fully clothed in white appeared to Mary Magdalene at the sepulcher. So now Jesus made his presence visible to his disciples, even within the room behind closed doors. Examine every one of the accounts of his resurrection appearances, and you will observe that he materialized bodies of different form, and hence it became necessary for him to disclose his true identity by various signs and tokens.

Mark 16:12 reads: "After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country." This verse is today understood to be no part of the original book of Mark, yet the authentic accounts by other witnesses bear out that the risen Christ used his 'all power in heaven and in earth' to appear under various forms of body, thereby to prove

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that he is glorified and is no longer an earthly, fleshly creature. On at least one occasion, likely two, he appeared in a form like that of the body in which he was crucified, so as to identify himself to doubting Thomas. —Luke 24:36-43, A.R.V.; John 20:19-30.

Due to these different manifestations Mary Magdalene mistook her resurrected Lord as a gardener. The two disciples whom he joined on the road to Emmaus did not know him till reaching the house and he disclosed himself at the meal. When he appeared in familiar form to satisfy Thomas, that disciple, now convinced, broke out with an exclamation of amazement: "My Lord and my God!" not meaning that Thomas was claiming that Jesus was Almighty God or Jehovah himself. "But these [signs] are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the SON of God." —John 20: 28-31.

When Jesus manifested himself to seven disciples at the sea of Galilee while fishing and they came ashore to the fish breakfast he miraculously provided for them, at first "the disciples knew not that it was Jesus". But after the miracle "none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord". (John 21: 4,12) Thereafter, when he appeared at a mountain in Galilee, "they worshipped him: but some doubted." (Matthew 28:16,17) Years later he appeared without a fleshly body to Saul of Tarsus, the future apostle Paul; for Saul's companions saw no one, but heard the sound of the voice. Jesus miraculously permitted Saul to

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see some of his heavenly glory as a divine spirit. To Saul, who did not identify him by any 'print of the nails in his hands and his feet', the Lord said in reply to his question: "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutes!" The vision cost Saul his eyesight for three days. Hence for the forty days after his resurrection Jesus did not appear in this way to his disciples, but in fleshly form.

Christ Jesus truly is risen. In resurrection glory he said: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore," because clothed now with immortality. (Revelation 1:5,18) He is the "firstborn from the dead", the "firstfruits of them that slept". (Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15:20) He is the first one to be resurrected to life eternal. His resurrection is the beginning of "the first resurrection", in which his faithful disciples are promised to share. (Revelation 20:5,6) He is God's firm and immortal Foundation for a new and free world without end.



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