Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christ's "Iron Rule" and Apostate Rebellion Against His Authority

"[Jesus Christ] is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him." – 1 Peter 3:22.

"[Jehovah] raised [Christ] up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come. He also subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation." – Ephesians 1:20-22.

"Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?" – Matthew 24:45.

The "Iron Rule" Over Mankind

Many Christian people erroneously believe that when Christ's Kingdom authority is established over the earth that simply every person will be pleased with His form of government. But this will not be so. Why? Because the Kingdom regulations will be far more exacting than those of all previous human governments and the liberties of the people will be restricted to a degree that will be most galling indeed to many now clamoring for an increase of "personal liberty, freedom and independence". Under Christ's Kingdom rule the freedom to lie and deceive, to misrepresent, to defraud others, will be entirely eliminated; personal freedom to abuse food or drink, to corrupt good manners, to live in any which way one chooses to express his or her independent "personal style" will be fully denied to all. Power or license to do wrong of any kind will not be granted to any. The only personal freedom that will be granted will be the glorious freedom of the children of God - freedom to do good to themselves and others in every way. However, nothing will be allowed to injure or destroy under the rule of Christ’s Theocratic Kingdom. (Isaiah 11:9; Romans 8:21) As the Law of Christ expressed by Jesus himself partly states, all will learn to 'love one's neighbor as oneself' and one will learn to 'do to others as one would want done to oneself'. Yes, love - love for Jehovah and for fellow mankind - will be the standard of life. One will have to learn that one's rights and freedoms end where another's begins. Also to be recognized is the fact that all rights and freedoms are an expression of the undeserved kindness of Jehovah God - the Life Giver. As a result, all "rights" and "freedoms" end where His begin! Consequently, Christ's Rule will be felt by some to be a severe one, breaking up all their former selfish habits and customs and false ideas of "personal rights and freedoms".

Because of Jesus Christ's firmness and vigor for righteousness exercised throughout his Kingdom, it is symbolically called an iron rule: "He shall rule them with a rod of iron." - Isaiah 11:4; compare Revelation 2:26, 27; Psalm 2:8-12; 49:14. One should not be shocked to find that many will be rebellious against this perfect and equitable rule because of being accustomed, under the present influence of Satan and rebellious mankind, to lord it over their fellow man, and to live wholly at the expense of others without rendering any proper compensating service. How will these individuals be dealt with? Many and severe will be the stripes - disciplines - needed which the present life of self-centered indulgence and gratification will naturally demand and receive under Christ's authority before such will learn the lessons of that kingdom: self-sacrificing love, justice, and righteousness. - Psalm 89:32; Luke 12:47, 48.

These theocratic lessons on love and righteousness will come first to the living generation who exist at the establishment of Christ's Kingdom and presence and continues on during the 1000 years of Kingdom Rule! When the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ, executes the laws of righteousness and justice with the iron rod of loving theocratic authority, mankind will learn the proper way to live in harmony with each other. They will learn that Jehovah's laws are best for all concerned, and ultimately they will learn to love righteousness and hate what is bad. This begins first among God's own people through his earthly organization. As Isaiah was inspired to write in regard to Christ's rule, "when there are judgments from you for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn". (Isaiah 26:9) All who under Christ's Kingdom authority will not learn to love the right and put on the "new personality" will be judged unworthy of everlasting life and will be destroyed as the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Peter were inspired to write, 'though the wicked one will be shown favor, he simply will not learn righteousness; in the land of straightforwardness he will act unjustly and will not see the eminence of Jehovah' and "any soul that does not listen (in obedience) to that Prophet will be completely destroyed from among the people" - Isaiah 26:10; Acts 3:23; Revelation 20:9; Psalm 11:5-7.

The fallen depraved mind, so far from loving its neighbor as itself, has always been selfish and grasping - often leading even to violence and murder (either of character or person) to get for self the things possessed by others. However exercised, the selfish principle is always the same. It has been the same in every age of this world of fallen and depraved mankind, and will be, until, by the force of the iron rule of Christ Jesus, not power or greed or selfishness, but love, will decide what is right and will enforce it, until all will have the opportunity to learn the superior benefits of the rule of love and righteousness in contrast with that of selfishness and abuse of power; until, under the influence of the spirit of truth and justice, the selfish, rock-hard heart of man will become once more as when Jehovah pronounced it "very good" - restored to the image of God. – Genesis 1:26, 31; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10.

We see then that Christ's royal authority is far reaching and exacting though based upon love. What is more, his authority and the execution of that authority must be exacting if the results are to be good. Those who are in heart-harmony with the ways of Jehovah will not find His arrangement and Christ’s Headship harsh, stifling or unloving. As our Lord said, 'I will refresh you as my yoke is easy and my load is light'. (Matthew 11:28, 29) However, for those rebellious at heart and selfish, the Iron Rod Rule will be a crushing blow for justice and righteousness indeed. This is what the scriptures foresee in regard to Kingdom authority expressed over mankind. How, though, is the Headship and authority of Christ exercised over his anointed congregation? Are there more "freedoms" and a wider area for "independent thought" and action allowed for these?

The "Iron Rule" Over The Christian Congregation

After his resurrection, Jesus said: "All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth." (Matthew 28:18; compare John 3:31, 35; 13:3) The Bible explains to us what this means to the anointed members of the Christian Congregation.

When Christ Jesus ascended to Jehovah's right hand in the heavens he was stationed over the entire spiritual realm – all spiritual creatures are in subjection to him. Paul said when speaking about the power used by Jehovah to raise up his Son that "he raised him up from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every government and authority and power and lordship and every name named, not only in this system of things, but also in that to come." (Eph. 1:19-22) Additionally Paul informs us at Ephesians 1:3 that Jehovah "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ" and at Ephesians 2:6 that Jehovah "raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus." Thus all anointed Christians serve in the symbolic "Holy" or "Holy Place" of Jehovah’s spiritual temple arrangement as spirit-begotten sons. Paul stated this again when he wrote to the Colossian congregation that "He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation." (Col. 1:13-18) Just who these "thrones" and "lordships" and "governments" and "authorities" could be is not clearly explained by Paul. However, he does states that they are "in the heavenly places". Peter, however, was inspired to give us the key to identify them. In his first letter Peter states about Christ’s resurrection that "he is at God’s right hand, for he went his way to heaven; and angels and authorities and powers were made subject to him." (1 Peter 3:22) Thus we see that "angels" – spirit sons – make up part of these "authorities" and "powers". Consequently, all these are divisions within the heavenly household of Jehovah God – spirit sons organized in various ways to accomplish the divine will. How does this relate to the anointed on earth?

We do well to note that Paul said that the Lord Jesus Christ was seated at Jehovah’s right hand "far above" all these divisions of Jehovah’s spirit sons and he included in this arrangement that Christ is Head over the anointed congregation which is made subject to him. (Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:27) One may now ask, "If the appointed times of the nations were in operation from 607 BCE until 1914 CE and thus Christ had no right to exercise authority over any human, government or mankind as a whole until these ended, how did he rule over his brothers of the anointed Christian Congregation? After all, they are humans, are they not?" (Psalm 110:1) This is a good question and one easily answered. When speaking about being "born again" Jesus gave the key as to why he would exercise authority over these humans. Jesus said, "unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. (John 3:5, 6) By virtue of these Christians being "born again" or "born from spirit" they become "new creation" – no longer looked upon as mere human creatures, but as spiritual sons of Jehovah. For this reason even angels – who are superior to mere humans - now call anointed Christians "our brothers". (Revelation 12:10) Consequently, not having to wait for the "gentile times" to end, these anointed ones could be taken under the arrangement of subjecting the spiritual realm under Christ as Lord. – 1 Peter 1:3, 4, 23; James 1:18; Romans 8:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:16, 17.

Jesus Christ is advanced above all others; he is set in authority over all others as they are made subject to him. All the glory and all the powers are entirely devoted to him. The Father has put all things under his feet (Eph. 1:22), according to his own promise as recorded at Psalm 110:1. All creatures must either yield him sincere obedience or fall under the weight of his iron scepter of complete authority and receive their judgment of eternal destruction from him.

Now having the absolute authority of Jesus over Jehovah’s household firmly established we next must take note of how, in what way, by what means he would exercise authority over and provide for his anointed brothers, the Congregation of God. We find recorded in the Bible that Jesus would provide two excellent ways to care for and direct the Christian congregation. We will now discuss these.

On the night in which he was to be handed over to his enemies, Jesus made these promises to the entire congregation through its representatives the apostles: "If YOU love me, YOU will observe my commandments; and I will request the Father and he will give YOU another helper to be with YOU forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. YOU know it, because it remains with YOU and is in YOU. I shall not leave YOU bereaved. . . While remaining with YOU I have spoken these things to YOU. But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach YOU all things and bring back to YOUR minds all the things I told YOU. . . When the helper arrives that I will send YOU from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me; and YOU, in turn, are to bear witness. . . I am telling YOU the truth, It is for YOUR benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to YOU; but if I do go my way, I will send him to YOU. . . I have many things yet to say to YOU, but YOU are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide YOU into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to YOU the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to YOU. All the things that the Father has are mine. That is why I said he receives from what is mine and declares [it] to YOU." (John 14:15-18, 25, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7, 12-15) Jesus said before his ascension to heaven, "YOU will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon YOU, and YOU will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth." – Acts 1:8.

According to these promises Jesus would use the holy spirit as the medium to teach the congregation of God of both things Jesus had taught while on earth – recorded in scripture – and things yet to be revealed through inspired apostles and governing elders or explained from scripture. The understanding of this function of holy spirit is verified by the apostle John. – 1 John 2:20, 27.

The holy spirit would also function as that energizing force that would impart power for the preaching work which, in time, would spread worldwide as Jesus foretold for the last days. – Matthew 24:14.

What, now, of the second way in which Jesus would provide for and lead his congregation? Jesus gave two illustrations to show that channel he would use; he said as recorded by Matthew: "Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time?" (Matthew 24:45) This illustration as recorded by Luke states: "Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?" (Luke 12:42) The "master" of this illustration is Christ Jesus himself. The "measure of food supplies" is that spiritual information discerned and provided from the Bible which seems in line with truth and appears appropriate for the time. Next we ask as to the identity of the "slave" or "steward" who was to provide this food. We note from the illustration that at some time future from the appointing of the slave, the master was to return to inspect and see if the slave had executed his responsibility. Since Jesus is the "master", the commission to preach and teach and provide spiritual information was given before he went his way to heaven in 33 C.E. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) Since Jesus promised to return after preparing places for his anointed disciples in his Father’s house and take them to himself – and this would take place after a long period of time (Matt. 25:14, 19; Luke 19:11, 12, 15) – it is only reasonable that this "slave" is not one person as just one person could not live the entire period of time from 33 C.E. until the Lord’s return. (John 14:1-6; Matthew 24:46; Lk. 12:43) As a result, it is only reasonable to believe that this "slave" is a composite group of anointed servants from the time the preaching/teaching commission was given until the Lord’s return and Presence. Now, this may be "reasonable" but is it scriptural? Yes! The scriptures show that a group of people can be considered as functioning as one person over a long period of time. – Isaiah 43:10, 20, 21; 60:21, 22.

On the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., the glorified Lord Jesus Christ poured out holy spirit upon his congregation thus making them the visible part of Jehovah’s spiritual household and thus in subjection to his authority. This also divinely commissioned them as his united Bride Class, his faithful and discreet "slave", to provide spiritual food supplies – spiritual information from Jehovah’s word – by means of the Kingdom preaching and teaching work. Since this is the work that Jesus himself commissioned – commanded – them to do, it was binding upon that one united congregation to execute this work to the best of their ability and discernment. - Matthew 25:15; Mark 13:34.

This united preaching work we find was organized and directed by a central body of anointed elders who Jesus himself placed in charge of his body of anointed brothers. This governing body, established by Jesus himself, was first comprised of the apostles. This is established from Matthew 10:1-11:1 and Luke 9:1-6. These scriptures show that Jesus trained the apostles in the ministry and gave them special authority as his representatives to the people. It was this body of spirit appointed men to take the lead in the first century after Pentecost. (Acts chapters 1-5) When doctrinal matters arose in the worldwide congregation, it was the governing body – now enlarged to include others beside apostles - who researched and matter and with the backing of holy spirit made decisions that was binding upon all congregations to obediently observe. (Acts chap. 15; 16:4, 5; 21:17-25) Paul explained that this arrangement is of God. – 1 Cor. 12:27, 28; Eph. 4:1-14.

The benefit of obedience to and observing this theocratic arrangement and structure of the anointed Slave class was Jehovah’s blessing and growth of the congregation – all to Jehovah’s honor and praise. – Acts 16:4, 5.

What does this mean for the anointed today? The "iron rule" of Christ is the arrangement of God and submission to Christ’s royal authority is not an option. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who gave the preaching and teaching commission (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; Acts 1:8); it was the Lord Jesus Christ who gives the holy spirit only to those who obey theocratic direction (Acts 5:32; 2:33); it is the Lord Jesus Christ who appointed his composite and united Slave Class to give spiritual food supplies to the household of God. (Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42; Mark 13:34-37) Consequently, submission to the theocratic authority of the anointed Slave Class and its Governing Body is required of all member domestics of the united Slave. As Paul was inspired by God to state: "Remember those who are taking the lead among YOU, who have spoken the word of God to YOU, and as YOU contemplate how [their] conduct turns out imitate [their] faith. . . Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among YOU and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over YOUR souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to YOU." - Hebrews 13:7, 17.

Some may argue, however, that if Jesus is not yet in his royal Presence than the "slave" has not been appointed over all his domestics – that it is still future when the Kingdom will be established. However, even if this were true, those who thus argue are still bound by the authority of Christ to obediently observe his divine appointment of the "slave" over them. You see, in the illustrations of Matthew 24:45-47 and Luke 12:42-44, Jesus made clear that the "slave" or "steward" was appointed over the household of anointed ones to feed them the food supplies before he returned! Yes! If the slave was found to be doing what was expected of him, then he would be appointed over all his belongings. So, if one accepts the Lord’s return in 1914 or argues for some date in the future, either way all anointed ones on earth today are divinely required to be obedient and submissive to the Slave arrangement established and required by Jesus Christ himself. To disobey is rebellion and will only meet up with bitter disappointment, withdraw of holy spirit, inactivity in the Lord’s Kingdom preaching work, and eventual judgment of eternal destruction.

So, who is the "slave" that Jesus appointed over his body of anointed attendants until his return? The composite, united Bride class presided over and directed by its governing body. This is the divine arrangement of Christ. Are you to be found in agreement with Jesus’ Headship and theocratic arrangement? All creatures must either yield him sincere obedience or fall under the weight of his iron scepter of complete authority and receive their judgment of eternal destruction from him. When your Lord is revealed, will you be found in his favor?

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