must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus preached "the good news of the kingdom." He demonstrated why the kingdom of God was indeed good news as he accompanied his preaching by "curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity among the people." Consequently great crowds followed him, and "they brought him all those faring badly, distressed with various diseases and torments, demon-possessed and epileptic and paralyzed persons, and he cured them." (Matt. 4:17, 23-25)
When people pray for God's kingdom to come, as Jesus taught us to pray, do they really understand that they are at the same time praying for God to remove and destroy all the governments of this world which are under Satan's control, for he is "the ruler of this world"? (Matt. 6:9,10; Luke 4:5-8; John 12:31; Dan. 2:44; 7:13,14) It is by means of God's kingdom that Jesus will "break up the works of the Devil"; and therefore Satan is vehemently opposed to God's kingdom and persecutes anyone who has a share in proclaiming it. (1 John 3:8; Rev. 12:7-9, 17) Yet, in harmony with Jesus' prophecy regarding the "conclusion of the system of things", this good news of the kingdom is being preached "in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations", before the end comes. (Matt. 24:14) Satan is unable to silence the preaching of the good news of God's kingdom, for even God's faithful angels have a share in declaring "the everlasting good news" as "glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people." (Rev. 14:6)
Seeing that he cannot prevent the preaching of the everlasting good news, Satan uses another tactic, namely, that of making rulership by God appear to be oppressive, undesirable, even cruel and tyrannical; not unlike when he succeeded in deceiving Eve. (Ezek. 34:4; Gen. 3:4,5) In this deception he has proved quite successful, as in recent years religious extremists have burst onto the world scene wreaking havoc with their indiscriminate bombings and acts of terrorism, all in the name of Allah―their word for the one and only true God; for the purpose of bringing all "unbelievers" under the rule of Allah. As a result, thousands have lost their lives, and many more thousands have suffered indescribable horror in many parts of the world. Has it brought peace and happiness to the constrained subjects of these extremists? Not if we judge by the joy and celebration expressed by those who have been liberated by the secular governments who are fighting extremists and winning back land that they had seized. As a result of these developments, which rivets the attention of the world almost daily, the majority of mankind have come to view rulership by God at best as unappealing and at worst unacceptable. Have you tried to share with such ones the good news of God's kingdom lately? Is it being well received?
Satan knows that he has only "a short period of time" before he will see all his works―all that he set up in opposition to Jehovah over the past thousands of years―removed by God's kingdom; which will be followed by his own removal, when he is thrown into the abyss where he will be unable to "mislead the nations anymore". (Rev. 12:9, 12; 20:1-3)
As Jesus' disciples, we too want to share zealously in declaring the good news of the kingdom of God wherever we are, because it is "the holy work of the good news of God." God's kingdom is the only hope for mankind; the only rulership that will satisfy all mankind's needs and desires, which includes everlasting life in perfect peace and happiness. (Rom. 15:16; John 3:16)
there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the
(2 Tim. 4:3,4; New Watchtower Bible)
Who is Paul talking about in his letter to Timothy, when he says that "they" will not put up with―that is, reject―the wholesome teaching? "They" are the same Paul mentioned earlier in this same letter, when he wrote: "But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; ...always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth." (2 Tim. 3:1-7)
Paul is not describing the situation that will exist in the world of mankind in general in the last days; but rather, he is referring to those within God's own household who do not "agree with the wholesome instruction, which is from our Lord Jesus Christ, nor with the teaching that is in harmony with godly devotion." (1 Tim. 6:3-5, 20,21; 3:15; NWB) It's a sad fact that God's people as a whole have always rejected God's message addressed to them when it was condemnatory, exposing their hard heartedness. (Jer. 1:16-19; John 8:44-48; Acts 7:51-54) Should we expect it to be any different in our day, especially when we see that this was prophesied for our "period of time" (which the prophet Daniel calls "the time of the end"), at which time "no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand"? (Dan. 12:9,10) Paul explains concerning those who reject God's word of truth, that "God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thess. 2:9-12)
Have you become aware of the turmoil and confusion also in your own congregation, including the lack of zeal for preaching the good news of the kingdom, as is the case in the organization everywhere? Many, if not the majority, of our brothers and sisters have come to put their trust in men in the misguided belief that to follow our leaders, the Watchtower Society's governing body, is the same as to follow Jesus. (Psalms 146:3, 5) After all, that is what we have been taught we must do, as one Watchtower article said: "In this time of the end, Christ has committed 'all his belongings'—all the earthly interests of the Kingdom—to his 'faithful and discreet slave' and its representative Governing Body, a group of anointed Christian men. The anointed and their other sheep companions recognize that by following the lead of the modern-day Governing Body, they are in fact following their Leader, Christ." (Bold added) (w10 9/15 p. 23 par. 8 “Your Leader Is One, the Christ”)
The prophesied revealing of the "man of lawlessness" within God's temple has greatly contributed to the confusion within the congregations. And although the Society blames the turmoil on their so-called apostates, in reality it is Jehovah who is doing the revealing of our errors and the false teachings; thereby giving us the opportunity to repent while there is yet time. This cleansing of his people makes clear "the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him." (Malachi 3:14-18; Matt. 13:40-43; 2 Thess. 2:3,4; Luke 12:1-3; 2 Peter 2:1-4)
The fact is, and which should be obvious to all lovers of truth, we cannot mix falsehood and errors with true worship; for that would render our worship unacceptable, "in vain", as Jesus said. Such vain and false worship will not lead to everlasting life. (Matt. 15:3-9; 23:25,26; John 4:23,24)
Who would have believed that our loyalty to Jehovah and his word of truth would result in persecution, not from the world but from our closest family members, relatives, and fellow worshipers in our congregation. They may view as spiritually mature any man who reads the Watchtower publications, and quotes them as reliable and trustworthy; yet at the same time they will consider as apostate the person who appeals to the Bible as his only authority. Imagine, your quote of the Scriptures may actually sound "strange" to your fellow brothers (as I have been told) when it differs from what the Watchtower says. (Titus 1:9) This reminds me of a return visit I had many years ago on a Seventh-Day Adventist deacon, who slammed his own Bible (King James Version) shut on my hand, which I was quoting from to refute his insistence that we must keep the Sabbath. In his frustration he said, "I don't need this (the Bible) to tell me I have to keep the Sabbath." To which I replied, "I thought your religion accepts the Bible as the word of God. Since you reject what your own Bible says, there is no further basis for me to discuss this subject, or any other."
Isn't it ironic that we experience the same opposition when we discuss the Scriptures with our spiritual brothers? Don't be surprised by this development, for it is happening just as the Scriptures foretold it must take place. We just never expected the rejection of God's wholesome teaching to come from within God's household; from those who are singing Jehovah's praises. (John 16:1-4; Matt. 10:32-37; 26:54)
of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately
chose to believe lies."
Why is it that the vast majority of mankind put their trust in lies, falsehood, rather than the truth―when the truth is oh so much better? In fact, God's reliable promises are so amazing that most people are inclined to dismiss them as nonsense―considering them as "too good to be true". (Rom. 1:25, 28; 2 Thess. 2:10,11) But is the truth really "too good to be true"?
Consider for example the subject of what happens when someone dies. No healthy and happy person wants to die, because God has "planted eternity in the human heart." (Eccl. 3:11; NLT) In the desperate hope that death is not the end of life, many theories have been proposed to explain that life somehow continues after death; based on the concept that man has an immortal soul that continues to exist somehow, somewhere, invisibly apart from the body. Yet, this idea directly contradicts the truth of what God tells us, namely, that death is the end of life; and when it comes to death there is no difference between man and the animals. Wise king Solomon wrote: "For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return." (Eccl. 3:19,20; ESV; Gen. 2:7; 3:19) Indeed, "the living at least know that they will die! But the dead know nothing; they don’t even have their memories. Whatever they did in their lifetimes—loving, hating, envying—is long gone, and they have no part in anything here on earth anymore." (Eccl. 9:5,6; Living Bible)
The truth is: Death is the opposite of life. The dead really are dead; they are not conscious of anything at all. When God pronounced sentence upon Adam and Eve in consequence of their rebellion against his clearly stated command not to eat of a certain tree, he told them: "You will work hard for your food, until your face is covered with sweat. You will work hard until the day you die, and then you will become dust again. I used dust to make you, and when you die, you will become dust again.” (Gen. 2:16,17; 3:19; ERV) Why did Adam and Eve disobey God? Because Eve was deceived by a lie, spoken by a rebellious spirit creature which posed as a wise serpent. This "original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan," convinced Even that if she were to eat from the forbidden tree, not only would she not die, but she would "become like God". Eve believed the lie, and sadly, Adam joined his wife. (Gen. 3:1-6; John 8:44-47; Rev. 12:9)
The obvious is clear to everyone: When a person dies, he really does return to the ground. After a short time, only the person's skeleton remains. Nothing has happened behind the scene that has been unseen to the eyes—no invisible soul leaving the body. The Bible refers to those who have died as "dwellers in the dust". They are "sleeping in their graves". But how is this truth, that the dead are really dead, better than the lie that the soul continues to exist apart from the body somewhere else, such as in heaven? God's word provides this assurance: "Those of our people who have died will live again! Their bodies will come back to life. All those sleeping in their graves will wake up and sing for joy. As the sparkling dew refreshes the earth, so the Lord will revive those who have long been dead." (Isaiah 26:19; NRSV, GNT)
Have you lost a family member, a relative, or some other close friend, in death? Have the well-wishing comments that he or she is now in "a better place" brought you relief from your pain? Do you find comfort in believing that your deceased loved one is now looking down on everything you do? Think about this: God's promise is that he will bring back to life right here on this earth all who have died. He will wake them up as if from a long sleep. That is what Jesus promised, when he said: "“Do not marvel at this. For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28,29; MEV) Yes, the dead will live again, just as surely as Jesus brought back to life his friend Lazarus who had been dead for four days. (John 11:11-14, 20-27, 38-44)
God's amazing, "too good to be true" promise is that you have the opportunity to be reunited, right here on earth, with your dead loved ones who are at the present time "sleeping in the dust". Also, you will be able to meet all your ancestors who have ever lived when they too return to life in the resurrection. God has absolutely guaranteed this wonderful prospect when he sent his Son, Christ Jesus, to die for us, to redeem us from the sin and consequence that we inherited from Adam. And what is it that God requires from us in return? We need to accept his provision for life by exercising faith in Christ Jesus and his sacrifice that he paid on our behalf. By doing this, we will show obedience unlike our original parents, Adam and Eve. (1 Cor. 15:21,22)
But does the Bible not speak of a resurrection to life in heaven? Yes, it does for a few who have been chosen by God; for these ones will assist Jesus in bringing about these sure promises of God by means of God's kingdom. The prophet Daniel saw them in vision at the time when they receive the kingdom along with the "Son of man". Please read for yourself in your Bible Daniel 13-18, 27. (Matt. 19:27-29; Eph. 1:4,5; Rev. 14:1-4) It is by means of his kingdom, which Jesus taught us to pray for, that God will restore to mankind the everlasting life that he originally had purposed for Adam and all his offspring. (Matt. 4:17, 23; 6:9,10)
Listen to God's promise in which you can put your trust, which he will bring about by means of his kingdom, when he says: "For see, I am creating new heavens and a new earth—so wonderful that no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation. Look! I will re-create Jerusalem as a place of happiness, and her people shall be a joy! And I will rejoice in Jerusalem and in my people; and the voice of weeping and crying shall not be heard there anymore." And the apostle John adds: '"And I, John, saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. It was a glorious sight, beautiful as a bride at her wedding. I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, 'Look, the home of God is now among men, and he will live with them and they will be his people; yes, God himself will be among them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.'” (Isaiah 65:17-19; Revelation 21:3,4; Living Bible)
Please note, mankind will not live with God in heaven, but rather, God will reside with mankind. By saying that he will live among his people, God is assuring us that we have his approval and become precious members of his family; in the same way that when his ancient people Israel was obedient to him, he was residing among them and blessing them. (Compare Exodus 29:45,46; Malachi 3:17,18; 2 Cor. 6:14-18) "For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17; NLT)
Don't you agree that the truth of God's word is so much better than the lies and falsehood that most people have come to believe; which are taught by Satan, who is "a liar and the father of the lie." (John 8:44) Also, not to be overlooked are the consequences that result from putting one's trust in lies; for not only does that person miss out on the comfort the truth provides in a time of mourning and suffering; but when God executes his judgment upon the wicked he will also destroy "all who love to live a lie." (Rev. 22:15; NLT)
are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you."
What did Jesus mean when, after having dismissed Judas, he told his eleven faithful apostles that they were "already clean" because of the word that he had spoken to them? Remember earlier, when Jesus took a basin with water and proceeded to wash the feet of his disciples (with Judas still present), Peter objected and told Jesus, "You will certainly never wash my feet." He was startled when Jesus answered him by saying: "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." Peter immediately reversed his objection and replied: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." In turn, Jesus answered: "He that has bathed does not need to have more than his feet washed, but is wholly clean. And you men are clean, but not all." The apostle John, one of the twelve who was present, explains further: "[Jesus] knew, indeed, the man betraying him (Judas). This is why he said: 'Not all of you are clean.'" (John 13:2-11)
This may raise the question: In what way does a person become "clean"? Is it by means of God's word, as Jesus indicates above; or do we become clean when being bathed in water―that is, baptism―as some suggest regarding the washing of the feet of his disciples, for they were all baptized by John the Baptist? (John 12:49,50; Acts 22:16) Is Jesus perhaps talking about a "spiritual" cleanliness, and therefore the washing of the feet of his disciples was "in symbol" of that cleansing?
Did you know that the expression "in symbol of" is not found anywhere in the Bible; although it appears in the New World Translation (NWT *) in four places, all in connection with the baptism of John the Baptist? For example, according to the NWT, Mark 1:4 reads: "John the baptizer turned up in the wilderness, preaching baptism [in symbol] of repentance for forgiveness of sins." (Also at Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4) "In symbol" of is shown in brackets because it is acknowledged that those words do not appear in the original manuscripts. The words are added by the translators; they are spurious, an interpolation―I suppose for the purpose of explaining the meaning of John's baptism. But rather than making the meaning clear, it often causes confusion. John the Baptist was appointed by God to "prepare the way of Jehovah," by turning the people to God in advance of Jesus' ministry. (Luke 3:2-18) John was preaching and baptizing for "repentance for forgiveness of sins", because the actual forgiveness of sins would follow upon Jesus' death. (Rom. 5:6-10) After Jesus' death, baptism was for forgiveness of sins, and not merely for repentance. (Acts 2:38; 22:16) Does baptism symbolize our being washed clean of our sins?
In order for God to forgive us our sins, he has three requirements that we must meet:
1. Repentance for our sins―our past disobedience to God; for without genuine repentance there can be no forgiveness. (Isa. 1:16-20; Luke 13:3)
2. Then, complete forgiveness for our sins is made possible by Jesus' death, in which we must put faith. (John 8:24; 1 Cor. 15:22)
3. This must be followed by baptism, for baptism is a command from God. The Bible does not say that baptism is "in symbol" of anything (certainly not in symbol of one's dedication to God, which is not even mentioned in the Scriptures). By submitting to water baptism we simply demonstrate our obedience to God's command. Have we not already repented of our past disobedience? Hence, it is our obedience by which we attain a clean standing before God, not that the water itself cleanses us. (Compare Matthew 7:21-23)
The prophet Isaiah wrote: "Oh, wash yourselves! Be clean! Let me no longer see you doing all these wicked things; quit your evil ways. Learn to do good, to be fair, and to help the poor, the fatherless, and widows. Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool! If you will only let me help you, if you will only obey, then I will make you rich! But if you keep on turning your backs and refusing to listen to me, you will be killed by your enemies; I, the Lord, have spoken.” (Isaiah 1:16-20; Living Bible)
We become clean in God's eyes by our obedience, not by literal water, nor by simply hearing God's word. Therefore, when Jesus said, "you are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you," he was acknowledging that his disciples were obedient to his word; for by their obedience they continued to be branches in the vine that was Jesus, and their obedience produced good fruit. Indeed, Jesus went on to say to them: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator. Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. . . I am the vine, you are the branches. He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all. . . My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples. Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love." (John 15:1-10)
It is absolutely vital for us to be clean by remaining in God's word. Jesus said that the Father cleanses us in order for us to keep bearing much fruit; and Isaiah points out that this may include being refined even "in the furnace of affliction." (Isa. 48:10, 17,18) We are cleansed, that is, made holy by God's word, as Jesus said in his prayer to his Father: "Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:14-16) Since it is the truth of God's word that sanctifies us, can you see why it is so important that we accept only the truth of God's word? Yes, any falsehood, errors, and lies that may find their way into our worship will render us unclean; which in turn will result in our being cast out as a branch and dried up; "and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire and they are burned." (John 15:6; 4:23,24; Matt. 15:3-9; 23:25,26)
* New Watchtower Bible (2013)
With the release of the 2013 version of the New World Translation, it no
longer qualifies as a true translation. A more accurate descriptive name
would be the New
Watchtower Bible (NWB), because the
have now been removed,
which previously indicated words and phrases that had been added by the
publisher (but which do not appear in the original manuscript text),
it now impossible to identify what has been added and does not belong;
thereby giving the appearance that these spurious additions actually belong in the Bible,
and thus giving the interpolated words equal status with the original
For that reason, I cannot in good conscience refer to
the New Watchtower Bible (2013) as a translation. Ironically, the
Watchtower Society condemns other Bible translators for being guilty of
the same practice―inserting
additions, or tampering with the meaning of a word, in order to make a
text read according to
religious beliefs, rather than allowing the Bible to interpret itself.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and "the interpretation belongs to God." (Genesis 40:8) Jesus said that it is God's word of truth that sanctifies the believer. (John 17:17) God has warned us against making any additions or changes to his Word. "Every saying of God is refined. Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar." ―Proverbs 30:5,6; Deuteronomy 12:32; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Revelation 22:18.
It is not at all unusual for a chosen and anointed one of Jehovah to
become proud and presumptuous, although having previously been humble. For
example, Jehovah chose young Saul out of all the men in Israel to become king
over his people Israel. Why Saul? What special quality did Jehovah see in him?
The Bible tells us that "Saul was not only the most handsome man in Israel, but
he was also the most imposing, standing taller than all others." (1 Sam. 9:2;
The Voice) Was it because of his physical appearance that God chose Saul?
No, not entirely, for there was something more important that Jehovah saw in
him, as Samuel later reminded Saul: “Is it not true that even though you were
small (insignificant) in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of
Israel?" (1 Sam. 15:17; AMP) It was Saul's humility that made him special
in God's eyes; and yet, although his good looks must have made him popular with
his fellow Israelites, it was God's blessings that went to his head so that he
became in a short time presumptuous; for not only did he erect a monument for
himself, but he also failed to carry out God's specific instructions. (1 Samuel 15:12, 22,23)
We might ask, when a previously humble person turns presumptuous and becomes self-important and rebellious, did Jehovah not see this coming? Does the Scripture not say that "he searches all hearts and examines deepest motives"? Can Jehovah be fooled? (Jer. 17:10; TBL) Consider another example, that of Jeroboam, a servant of king Solomon. Although king Solomon himself had been chosen by Jehovah to replace his father David upon the throne, and in spite of having been richly blessed, yet, he apostatized in his later years and built high places for his foreign wives for them to worship their foreign gods; in direct violation of God's commands. (Exodus 34:12-16; Neh. 13:26) As a consequence, Jehovah chose Jeroboam to give him ten of the tribes of Israel; leaving just the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to Solomon's sons. And yet, Jeroboam too rebelled against Jehovah almost immediately upon becoming king, for he invented his own religion and set up calf worship. How shocking! In fact, the ten tribes, over which God had anointed him as king, never returned to true worship; so that Jehovah brought the Assyrians against them to destroy their cities and take them into exile. (1 Kings 11:26-35; 12:25-33)
The Scripture says that "the heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate." And therefore asks: "Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) Surely, Jehovah can know it. But, why, then, do so many of his chosen and anointed ones―who start out good―rebel against him? Why would he choose such a person in the first place? And how can we, personally, make sure that we too don't follow in the same disastrous course of leaving Jehovah?
The apostle Paul tells us what will help us, as it did in his own case: "Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us." (Rom. 12:3; NLT) Jehovah blesses his loyal servants, for he takes notice of the love we show for his name, and our love for his word of truth. Jesus said, "for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him." (John 4:23) When we enjoy God's blessings, we may interpret that as evidence of having more faith than others in our congregation. Perhaps we are reporting more time spent in the preaching work than others, which may be acknowledged by the elders from the platform. If that is true in your case, doesn't that make you feel good? especially when this is followed by applause? (That is one of the unfortunate consequence of reporting hours spent preaching.) What, though, is often the result when this continues over a period of time? The person thus praised may begin to view himself as more "spiritually mature" in comparison to others, which would be a clear case of "judging" our fellow brothers―a thing Jesus warned against. (Matt. 7:1-5; Rom. 14:4, 10-12; Gal. 6:4) Further, others may be drawn to such a "spiritually mature" person; which in turn may result in forming cliques, something James calls "class distinction," "rendering wicked decisions," "working a sin". (James 2:4, 9)
We can see that a good beginning in a person can turn out disastrous in the end. Jehovah does not judge us by what we might do in the future, but by the person we are right now. That is why he tells us: "When I tell righteous people that they will live, but then they sin, expecting their past righteousness to save them, then none of their righteous acts will be remembered. I will destroy them for their sins. And suppose I tell some wicked people that they will surely die, but then they turn from their sins and do what is just and right. For instance, they might give back a debtor’s security, return what they have stolen, and obey my life-giving laws, no longer doing what is evil. If they do this, then they will surely live and not die. None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live.” (Ezekiel 33:13-16; NLT)
Jehovah created man with the gift of freedom of choice. It is up to us to choose what we do, whether good or bad; but this freedom to choose carries with it responsibility and consequence. Jehovah wants us to choose what is good and right. Therefore he is teaching us to benefit ourselves, just like children who listen to their caring parents benefit from their guidance. (Deut. 30:19,20; Prov. 22:6; Isa. 48:17-19) Since we are all judged and held accountable individually according to our deeds, it is up to everyone to decide for himself what sort of person he becomes; just as the Scripture says: "The intentions [arrangings, NWT] of the heart belong to a man." (Prov. 16:1; NET; Rev. 22:12) "Keep yourselves in God's love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view." (Jude 21)
5/19/17 "Out of your own mouth I judge you, wicked slave." (Luke 19:22)
The Watchtower Society has written much over the years about the "man of lawlessness." For example, Volume 2 of Insight on the Scriptures, under the heading "Temple," ―and after stating that "anointed Christians are a spiritual temple,"― it goes on to explain that "an impostor" is sitting within God's temple. It says: "The apostle Paul, in warning of the apostasy to come, spoke of 'the man of lawlessness' as setting himself up 'so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god.' (2Th 2:3, 4) This 'man of lawlessness' is an apostate, a false teacher, so he actually seats himself only in what he falsely claims to be that temple."―it-2 p. 1083 Temple.
The Watchtower identifies the "man of lawlessness" with the clergy of Christendom. But is that scripturally correct? Are the clergy of Christendom sitting within God's "spiritual temple", as they refer to "anointed Christians"? Would God accept their claim to be his temple, when they are not? The apostle Paul explains: "Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] you people are." (1 Cor. 3:16,17) Christendom with its clergy is not God's people, his holy temple. Since the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E., they have been an integral part of this world of which Satan is the god. They belong to Babylon the Great, which has "a kingdom over the kings of the earth." (2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 17:5, 18; Compare Luke 4:5-8) As such, they are an enemy of God; and never would Jehovah refer to his enemies as "my people" or his temple. (James 4:4; 1:27; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Only God's people can apostatize from true worship, by leaving the true God Jehovah. (Isa. 9:17; Jer. 5:26-31; 17:13) Who, then, is this "man of lawlessness" as described in the Scriptures? Interestingly, the Watchtower Society helps to identify him in their publications. And although they are referring to the clergy of Christendom, see how, in actuality, they are exposing themselves to be that "lawless one." Here are some of their quotes regarding the "man of lawlessness" (Bold added):
Man of Lawlessness.
An expression used by the apostle Paul at 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 3 in
warning of the great anti-Christian apostasy that would develop before
“the day of Jehovah.” The Greek word for “apostasy” here used, apostasi′a,
denotes more than a mere falling away, an indifferent sliding back.
It means a defection, a revolt, a planned, deliberate rebellion. . .
This rebellion, however, is not a political one. It is a religious one,
a revolt against Jehovah God and Jesus Christ and therefore against the
Paul warned the Christian overseers of Ephesus that after his going away “oppressive wolves” would enter in among true Christians and would not treat the flock with tenderness but would try to draw away “the disciples” after themselves (not just making disciples for themselves but trying to draw away the disciples, Christ’s disciples). (Ac 20:29, 30)
The apostle Peter drew a parallel between the apostasy from Christianity and that which occurred in the natural house of Israel. He said: “However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.” Peter goes on to point out that these would exploit the congregation but that “the destruction of them is not slumbering.”—2Pe 2:1-3.
A composite “man.” The “man” of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 is, therefore, not an individual, but a composite “man,” a collective group, as the foregoing scriptures show, and this “man” was to continue after the apostles’ death and exist down until the time of the Lord’s presence.
The “lawlessness” that this composite apostate “man” commits is lawlessness against Jehovah God the Universal Sovereign. This “man” is guilty of treason. He is called “the son of destruction,” as was Judas Iscariot, the traitor who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ and who was instrumental in bringing about his death. He, like Judas, is to be annihilated, sent into extinction forever. This “man” is not “Babylon the Great,” who also fights against God, for she is a woman, a harlot.—Joh 17:12; Re 17:3, 5.
“The man of lawlessness” sets himself in opposition to God and is therefore a “satan,” which means “resister.” And, indeed, his “presence is according to the operation of Satan.” (2Th 2:9) In the days of the apostle Paul, there was “mystery,” or a religious secret, about the identity of this “man of lawlessness.” To this day mystery shrouds his identity in the minds of many persons, because his wickedness is practiced under the guise of godly devotion. (2Th 2:7)
By his lying teachings contrary to or superseding, as it were, the law of God, “the man of lawlessness” sets himself up over Jehovah God and other ‘gods,’ mighty ones of the earth, and also against God’s holy ones, true spiritual brothers of Jesus Christ. ―Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 pp. 310-312 Man of Lawlessness
It is vital that we identify this man of lawlessness.
Why? Because he is intent on undermining our good standing with God and
our hope of eternal life. How? By getting us to abandon the truth and to
believe falsehoods in its place, thus diverting us from worshiping God
“with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)
The evidence shows that they are the body of proud, ambitious clergymen of Christendom, who over the centuries have set themselves up as a law unto themselves. . . What all these religions have in common is that they do not hold fast to the Bible’s teachings, having violated the rule: “Do not go beyond the things that are written.”—1 Corinthians 4:6; see also Matthew 15:3, 9, 14.
Why have Jehovah’s servants powerfully exposed the man of lawlessness all these years? Because the millions of the great crowd of Jehovah’s sheep that are already on the way to salvation must be protected from Satan’s world and its false religion. (John 10:16; Revelation 7:9-14) ―w90 2/1 pp. 10-25, Identifying “the Man of Lawlessness
Where else, then, could
the apostasy be expected to start from but in the Christian
congregation? It was to the Christians, as represented by the
congregation at Thessalonica, that the apostle wrote: “Paul and Silvanus
and Timothy to the congregation of the Thessalonians in union with God
our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: May you have undeserved kindness
and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2) These Christians could apostatize from God,
could revolt and rebel against God, because they were in union with Him
and with his Messiah Jesus and were receiving undeserved kindness
and peace from God their heavenly Father and through his Son Jesus
Christ. Who, therefore, are such rebels from the Christian congregation?
In the light of what the apostles Paul and Peter say about the apostasy, who really is “the man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction”? To “elders,” the “overseers” who represented the congregation of Ephesus, the apostle Paul said that men would rise and “speak twisted things,” in the religious field. This narrows the matter down to the religious leaders of the Christian congregation, those ordained or appointed to “shepherd the congregation of God.” ―God's Kingdom Has Approached (ka) chap. 18 pp. 368-397 pars. 12-72, Bringing the “Man of Lawlessness” to Nothing
Although the foretold "man of lawlessness" is present within God's temple today, not everything that is taught originates with this "lawless one." Jesus also spoke of a "faithful and discreet slave" who would be rewarded for having provided "food at the proper time" for the domestics of God's household, right up until the day of Jesus' return—"in favorable season, [and] in troublesome season." (Matt. 24:45-51; 2 Tim. 4:1-5)
5/2/17 "Whom Jehovah loves he disciplines" (Hebrews 12:5,6; New Watchtower Translation)
Our conscience may smite us when we have sinned against Jehovah. That is a good thing --- no, not the sinning, but the repentance we show after we have sinned or made a mistake. Note David's remorse expressed in his heartfelt prayer after he had sinned and committed adultery with another man's wife, Bathsheba, and had even devised the murder of her husband. (Psalms 51:1-19) Jehovah forgave him, although he did not exempt David from punishment; and he will likewise forgive us when we sin, although we too may come to suffer the consequence of our sinful action, like in David's case. (Exodus 34:6-7; 2 Sam. 12:9-13) The apostle John assures us: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we make the statement: 'We have not sinned,' we are making him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s." (1 John 1:19-2:2)
There is no need for you to feel hopeless on account of having committed many repeated sins, perhaps feeling guilty and worthless to the point of giving up on yourself. Your attitude towards your sins is important though! If you find yourself in a position that you know is contrary to God's law, and that you are thereby sinning, then you need to show that you are genuinely repentant by doing everything possible to get out of that situation. You will need to "produce fruits that befit repentance." That in itself may take time, like it takes time for a tree to produce fruit. (Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20; Compare 1 Cor. 6:9-11) God's word assures us: “'Come, now, you people, and let us set matters straight between us,' says Jehovah. 'Though the sins of you people should prove to be as scarlet, they will be made white just like snow; though they should be red like crimson cloth, they will become even like wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)
When you strive to worship Jehovah "with spirit and truth," you can be assured that he will accept you as his son, even though you may find yourself sinning at times. (John 4:24) It is a constant struggle to keep doing what is right, and for that reason we all may fall short many times. It is as Paul expressed it: "I find, then, this law in my case: that when I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me. I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members. Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death? Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, with [my] mind I myself am a slave to God’s law, but with [my] flesh to sin’s law." (Rom. 7:21-25; Heb. 12:7-13)
When we sin we demonstrate that we are in need of discipline -- of being corrected -- to keep us in God's love and on the path that leads to everlasting life. (Jude 21) Paul expresses it this way: "As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong." (Heb. 12:7-13, New Living Translation)
So, don't give up on yourself on account of your constant battle against the desires of the flesh, even when you find yourself struggling again and again over a period of many years, against the temptations and weaknesses that are "common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13) How does Jehovah help you to endure the temptation? He helps you by means of his discipline, giving you the needed correction which will eventually see results over time. And he also helps you to endure his loving correction in order for you not to become downhearted to the point of giving up. (2 Cor. 2:5-11; Compare 2 Peter 3:9)
If you are a parent, you know how discipline works for the good of your child when it is administered in love. God's discipline will continue for all of us until the day when we will no longer need it, having reached perfection of mind and body, and in perfect obedience; just as Jesus himself "learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him." (Heb. 5:8,9; 2:10, 17,18) Therefore, never give up, for "whom Jehovah loves he disciplines."
4/15/17 "Not many of you should become teachers" (James 3:1)
To preach and to teach in God's name is a serious matter, because it carries with it the responsibility to teach only God's word of truth. (John 17:17) False prophets and false teachers are condemned by God. After the apostle Peter warns that there will be false teachers among God's people in our time, just as there were false prophets among God's people in ancient times, he goes on to say that "as for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering." (2 Peter 2:1-3)
That is why James cautions: "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. For we all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body." (James 3:1) James is saying that teachers may make mistakes, since we are all imperfect, but any falsehood on the part of a teacher can result in serious consequence. James compares the tongue to a fire, and it only takes a spark to set a forest ablaze. In the same way, a falsehood, although uttered in innocence, may result in actually causing the listeners to become guilty before God. Jesus definitely taught that God does not accept or tolerate falsehood mixed with pure worship. After all, is that not what the religious leaders of his day had become guilty of? (Matt. 15:3-9; 23:13, 15; compare Ezek. 14:9,10)
Presenting a teaching as truth when in fact it is a falsehood, is as serious as playing false to the holy spirit. Consider the example of the man Ananias and his wife Sapphira. After the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, the number of disciples increased rapidly. The account in the book of Acts relates that "all those who became believers were together in having all things in common, and they went selling their possessions and properties and distributing the [proceeds] to all, just as anyone would have the need." Ananias also sold a possession of his, but "secretly held back some of the price, his wife also knowing about it." There was no sin in keeping some of the price, if that is what Ananias wanted, as Peter explained to him: "As long as it remained with you did it not remain yours, and after it was sold did it not continue in your control? Why was it that you purposed such a deed as this in your heart? You have played false, not to men, but to God.” Ananias really was a hypocrite, for he presented himself as more generous than he really was. Did he not realize that God would see the falsehood? He did not act out of a pure heart, and neither did his wife who knew about the matter yet covered for him. This act of deceit cost them their lives! (Acts 2:44,45; 5:1-11; Matt. 5:8)
Jehovah has provided us with his word of truth, the Bible, which he caused to be written by his holy spirit. (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Peter 1:20,21) In his book of truth he has included everything we need to know in order for us to worship "with spirit and truth." (John 4:23,24) That is why the apostle Paul warns all of us not to go "beyond the things that are written." Of course, when he says not to go beyond the things that are written he is referring to the inspired written word of God, and not to publications that attempt to interpret God's word. (1 Cor. 4:6) A person would become guilty of playing false to God and the holy spirit if he were to go "beyond the things that are written," and in the process contradicts the things written by holy spirit. God's word says: "Every saying of God is refined. . . Add nothing to his words, that he may not reprove you, and that you may not have to be proved a liar." (Prov. 30:5,6; 1 Sam. 13:13,14; 15:22,23)
God warns us to be on guard against the false prophets and false teachers "that come to [us] in sheep's covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves." Serving their own selfish interests, they "speak twisted things to draw the disciples after themselves," and succeed in "subverting the faith of some." (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29,30; 2 Tim. 2:15-18) Jehovah's judgment against the false teachers within his household is not slumbering. Their end will come suddenly. All of us need to be on guard, not just against the false teachings, but also against becoming guilty by sharing in the distribution of their falsehood. We must strictly stick to God's word of truth, for that is what Jesus meant when he commissioned us to "make disciples of people of all the nations. . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things." (Matt. 28:18-20)
No, Jehovah is not to blame when some among his own people become false teachers who speak falsehood in God's name; and it is not God's fault when many among his people prefer the lies to God's word of truth. (2 Thess. 2:9,10)
"The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold."
We have reason to rejoice, for our God Jehovah is a happy God and he wants us to be happy. (Psalms 104:31; Prov. 27:11) The sons of Korah expressed their joy in songs of praise: "What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises," yes, "what joy for those who trust in you." (Psalms 84:4, 12; NLT) King David likewise found joy in worshiping Jehovah, singing: "Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah." (Psalms 144:15) Everything that Jehovah has given us is meant to bring us joy, including preaching "the glorious good news of the happy God." (1 Tim. 1:11) In fact, joy is a fruitage of God's spirit, for it reflects the very nature of God. Therefore, we can rightly expect to be happy when we have God's spirit. (Gal. 5:22; Acts 13:52)
Why, though, is joy lacking sometimes in our life; which is then reflected in our lack of feeling motivated? Some can't remember the last time they were truly happy. Perhaps it was when they first learned of Jehovah and his promise of everlasting life on a righteous earth, and the hope of a resurrection for loved ones who have died. But that joy seems to have evaporated over the years. (Matt. 5:5,6; John 11:25,26, 39-44) When joy is lacking, it may indicate a problem; just as physical pain indicates a physical problem. No, it does not necessarily mean that we have lost God's spirit.
In the time of the prophet Ezekiel, Jehovah took notice of the ones among his people who were "sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that [were] being done in the midst of [them]." Their lack of joy was a good thing, for it marked them for survival. You see, God's people had become extremely wicked, and because nothing of any consequence was happening to them they actually began to believe that Jehovah was not seeing them, or not caring; prompting them to say: "Jehovah has left the land, and Jehovah is not seeing." Yet, they did not realize that Jehovah was about to execute his judgment upon them, for he said: "And as for me also, my eye will not feel sorry, neither shall I show compassion. Their way I shall certainly bring upon their own head." (Ezek. 9:3-10; compare Malachi 3:14-18) Within a few short years, Jehovah brought the Babylonian army against his people. Jerusalem with its temple was destroyed, and most of the inhabitants did not survive. But those who had been marked for survival, as described by Ezekiel of the man with the secretary's inkhorn, had God's protection and even prospered in their place of exile, Babylon ― such as the prophet Daniel; and king Jehoiachin who surrendered to the Babylonian king. (2 Kings 24:12-15; 25:27-30; Dan. 1:3-7; 2:48,49)
If you are "sighing and groaning over all the detestable things" that are happening within God's household today; and you no longer enjoy attending the meetings in your Kingdom Hall, or even at the larger conventions, take courage. Don't feel that it is because you have lost God's spirit. Your sighing and groaning may actually be marking you for survival, as Jehovah sees your "streams of water" that "have run down [your] eyes over of the fact that they have not kept [God's] law." (Psalms 119:136; 2 Peter 2:7-9) Also, if you have come to view your sacred service to Jehovah ― such as preaching the good news of the kingdom ― as having become burdensome, and robbing you of your joy, then be assured that this burden is not from God. It is more likely that you are chafing under a heavy load that has been imposed upon you by men; and you mistakenly view it as from Jehovah. Jesus invited the people to "come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)
The heavy load that many are experiencing today originates with the foretold man of lawlessness. For example, the unscriptural doctrine regarding "Dedication" demands that God's people must "live up to their dedication" in order to receive everlasting life. And since such a thing is not mentioned in the Scriptures, this man of lawlessness is free to explain whatever he wants it to mean. (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 9; Acts 20:29,30; Gal. 4:15-17) Many years ago, a young married brother and father told me that he did not expect to survive Armageddon because he could not live up to his dedication, that is, all that the Society teaches is essential for survival. Worshiping Jehovah had become too great a burden for him. According to his understanding, this required him to attend all the meetings (which were three times a week back then); preparing for the meetings; commenting at the meetings; conducting a regular weekly family study; perhaps conducting a Bible study with an interested person; participating in the preaching activity, preferably twice a week, and spending at least the number of hours averaged by the congregation. This was especially hard since his job took him away from his family for a few days each month. Having lost the "joy of Jehovah," he was about to give up on himself.
In order for us to hold on to our God-given joy ― which is vital in helping us endure ― we need to distinguish between the things that God requires of us, and the needless burden that is placed upon us by men. (Matt. 23:1-4; 1 John 4:6) Remember, Jesus said that his yoke is kindly and his load is light. If your yoke and load has become heavy and burdensome, robbing you of your joy, then you can be certain that it is not the yoke Jesus invites you to accept. By means of his prophet Ezekiel, Jehovah addresses the wicked shepherds and accuses them of scattering his sheep, because "with harshness you have had them in subjection, even with tyranny." Soon, Jehovah will "break the bars of their yoke" and "deliver [his sheep] out of the hand of those who had been using them as slaves." (Ezek. 34:2-10, 26,27) Be assured that Jehovah cares for his sheep. He tells us: "You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my people, and I am your God." (Ezekiel 34:31; NLT)
"It does not belong to you..."
Upon creating Adam, God told him: "Here I have given to you all vegetation bearing seed which is on the surface of the whole earth and every tree on which there is the fruit of a tree bearing seed. To you let it serve as food." The account in Genesis goes on to say that "Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one's sight and good for food and also the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad." (Gen. 1:29; 2:9) Adam was permitted to eat the fruit of every tree in the garden, with just the one exception, for God told him: "From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Gen. 2:16,17)
Clearly, Adam had everything he needed in the way of food; he did not need to eat from the one tree that God commanded him to stay away from, not even to touch it. (Gen. 3:1-3) The tree of the knowledge of good and bad belonged to Jehovah. He kept it "in his own jurisdiction," and therefore it did not belong to man. To eat from the tree would be a violation of God's clearly stated command and an act of rebellion, the penalty for which would be death. (Acts 1:7; Rom. 5:12)
It was Adam's wife, Eve, who first ate from the forbidden tree when Satan, "the original serpent," deceived her by telling her that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad was going to give her knowledge that God was keeping from her. She began to look at the tree as "good for food and something to be longed for to the eyes." (1 Tim. 2:14; Rev. 12:9) Eve then offered the fruit also to her husband who accepted it. Thereby they both turned their backs on their Creator; and, as God had warned, they eventually died and returned to the dust from which they were created. (Gen. 3:6-19; 5:5)
What could possibly have induced Adam and Eve to violate God's clearly stated command not to eat from the one tree that was out of bounds for them? They lacked nothing! After all, they were permitted to eat from every other tree in the garden, including the "tree of life" that was in the middle of the garden, the fruit of which represented their right to life as long as they continued obedient to God; just as the tree of the knowledge of good and bad represented God's right to tell them what is good and bad, and the consequence for disobedience, namely death. Upon sinning, God removed them from the garden in order to prevent them from eating any further from the tree of life, to which they had now lost access. (Gen. 2:9, 16,17; 3:24; 1 Cor. 15:22; compare Rev. 2:7; 22:1,2)
We certainly do not want to be like Adam and Eve; and yet there is the danger that we too may be deceived into considering something as "good" ― yes, "something to be longed for" ― but which God "has placed in his own jurisdiction," and therefore does not belong to us; and the reaching out for it would be just as rebellious as in the case of Adam and Eve.
The resurrected Jesus had shown himself to his disciples throughout forty days as proof that he had risen from the dead, and to strengthen them. The time had arrived for him to ascend to heaven, and thus he was meeting with his disciples for the last time. Of course, they still had many questions regarding the kingdom that he had promised them and commissioned them to preach to all the nations. And so they were moved to ask: "Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” It is natural to want to know when certain events will happen in fulfillment of God's promises; but Jesus' blunt answer may have surprised them when he told them: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction"; or as other translations say, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority." (Acts 1:3, 6,7; Matt. 24:14; Luke 9:1,2; 12:32)
Jesus was not about to divulge the Father's times or seasons, not only because it did not belong to them to get that knowledge, but neither did he have the authority to provide that information. In fact, Jesus had told them earlier that even he did not receive that information from his Father. (Matt. 24:36) It goes without saying that since Jesus himself did not know "that day and hour," there is simply no way of calculating it, and searching for it in the Scriptures would be futile. But even more serious, it would be rebelling against God to try and get hold of the forbidden knowledge that we are told does not belong to us but to God alone. This is not any different from the command that God gave Adam and Eve regarding the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and bad. Like in their case, Satan can make something that is forbidden appear to be very attractive, even beneficial for us, so that we may be tempted to want to reach out for it. Even Satan himself would love to have that knowledge, for it would enable him to more effectively oppose God's kingdom. (1 Peter 1:10-12; Eph. 3:8-11)
Charles Taze Russell's attempt at calculating the times or seasons for the establishment of God's kingdom was in direct violation of Jesus' words, "it does not belong to you." While Russell, like many others of his time, believed that Jesus had actually returned invisibly in 1874, he also widely preached―according to his own interpretation of certain Scriptures―that God's chosen ones would be taken up to heaven in 1914 to rule with Christ in his newly established kingdom. This hope turned out to be a great disappointment to everyone who had put his trust in Russell's promise, yet who was still on earth the following year. Joseph Rutherford, who succeeded Russell as president of the Watchtower Society, held on to the date of 1914; while at the same time discarding most of Russell's other teachings regarding God's "Divine Plan of the Ages." Why would Rutherford, like his predecessor, cling to a date (times or seasons) that Jesus had clearly told his disciples belongs only to God, and therefore we cannot get to know? Because it is this date of 1914 that is used by the Watchtower Society as their basis to exercise authority over God's people.
Rather than being able to calculate a date according to some mysterious formula, Jehovah has provided us with signs, events, which when observed will clearly indicate the nearness of God's kingdom; especially the prophecies that are fulfilled in connection with God's household in the last days. (Luke 21:28; 2 Tim. 3:1-7, 13) These signs are recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit, to give us hope during the time when we experience the foretold suffering and testing of our faith. Jesus told his disciples: "So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up! For your salvation is near. Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see the events taking place that I’ve described you can be just as sure that the Kingdom of God is near. I solemnly declare to you that when these things happen, the end of this age has come." (Luke 21:28-32, TLB)
We anxiously await "the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels," while in the meantime we lean on Jehovah God to provide us everything we need to help us endure, and to keep our faith in his promises alive. (2 Thess. 1:6-10) James writes that "every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights." (James 1:17) Our hearts fill with gratitude for Jehovah's many loving provisions; while at the same time we realize that it does not include the things he has kept "in his own jurisdiction."
"Keep yourselves in God's love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view." (Jude 21)
will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"
Can we know the truth? Jesus said: "If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31,32) Does that not sound like we can know the truth, when we accept Jesus' words; and that the truth sets us free from falsehood and deception? Jesus further said that "the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him." (John 4:23,24)
Many are of the opinion that we cannot know the truth at this time. That is undoubtedly due to the confusion created by the Watchtower's ever shifting ideas and teachings, which, although at one time were considered God's truth, have been abandoned in favor of some "new" or "updated" insight. But if we cannot know the truth, then neither can we worship Jehovah with spirit and truth, for God does not accept lies and errors mixed with his true worship. (Ezek. 13:6-10) Jesus emphatically told the scribes and Pharisees: "You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” (Matt. 15:3-9)
You see, when we make God's word invalid by teachings that contradict the Scriptures, then our worship is in vain. And when our worship is in vain, then we will miss out on the everlasting life that God has promised to those who obey him. (Heb. 5:9)
Can we know the truth? Yes, of course --- when we are taught by holy spirit. Paul says that it is "to us God has revealed [his hidden wisdom] through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10) All of God's people have his spirit, which teaches us. In fact, we are God's temple and his spirit resides in us. (1 Cor. 3:16,17) We could lose that spirit, though, if we were to continually grieve it by rejecting the truth that we are taught by the spirit in favor of man-made teachings, doctrines, and traditions; such as we receive from the Watchtower Society, the teachings of which -- for the most part -- have been based on Joseph Rutherford's own peculiar interpretation of the Bible; which in turn he based on his then theory of types and anti-types (which idea the Watchtower recently abandoned, see WT 3/15/2015).
How can we be sure that what we are taught, by anyone, is indeed God's truth? We do as the Beroeans did to whom Paul preached the good news. They did not just accept every word he said, but were "carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11,12) We must do that too. Indeed, the apostle John tells us that it is our responsibility to do so if we do not want to fall victim to any false prophets. He says: "Test out the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world." (1 John 4:1) We are not so much in danger of the false prophets of this world, including those in Christendom, as we are in danger of the false prophets among own God's people. (2 Peter 2:1-3) That is why the apostle Paul warned: "I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise up and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:29,30)
The foretold "man of lawlessness" has seated himself within God's temple (the temple being God's people) where he has lifted himself up over everyone, including God's chosen ones ("everyone who is called 'god' or an object of reverence" --- compare Jude 8, 10,13). But, Paul foretold that his presence within God's temple is revealed in the days leading up to Jesus' return, "whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." This "lawless" one's presence is not from Jehovah or Jesus, but rather is "according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth." (2 Thess. 2:3-12)
In view of Paul's words, we can see why it is so important for us to know and understand the truth, in order to avoid falling prey to the "unrighteous deception" of the man of lawlessness, who is sitting in "opposition" to the truth. (v. 4) If there are those who prefer the lie -- including any elders in the congregations -- and they want to put their trust in man, then Jehovah allows them to "get to believing the lie." (Psalms 146:3,5; Ezek. 14:9,10) It is our personal and individual responsibility to read God's word, and familiarize ourselves with God's teachings; for only then will we be able to distinguish between "the inspired expression of truth and the inspired expression of error." (Psalms 1:1-3, 6; 1 John 4:6; 1 Tim. 4:1,2) God's Word alone is truth. God cannot lie! And he gives his "holy spirit to those asking him," in order that we may be taught the truth that is contained in his Word. (Luke 11:13; John 14:15-17, 26; 17:17; Rom. 3:4; 2 Peter 1:21)
The truth of God's word never changes. It never becomes outdated or obsolete. What we see happening within God's household at the present time proves the reliability of God's word regarding his people in the time of the end. We can put our trust and confidence in everything it says, which in turn serves as an anchor that keeps us from drifting away. (Matt. 26:54; Heb. 2:1; 6:19)
"No one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of
(1 Corinthians 2:11)
What is God's spirit? God is holy, and therefore so is his spirit. In the Scriptures, God is spoken of in an illustrative way as a "sun." The sons of Korah sang, "Jehovah God is a sun and a shield. Favor and glory are what he gives!" (Psalms 84:11)
All life on earth is dependent on the sun, which is situated at just the perfect distance from the earth --- and not by coincidence. The sun is an incredible source of energy. It not only illuminates our earth, bathing it in light, but it also powers the weather and produces the abundant vegetation that supplies food for all living things. In many ways, it well illustrates the glory of Jehovah. Just as all life owes its existence to God, we also owe our continued existence to the sun that God created. Further, we cannot gaze at the brilliant sun with our naked eyes, without causing blindness. Similarly, it is impossible to look upon the Creator of the sun. When Moses requested to see God's face, God told him: "You are not able to see my face, because no man may see me and yet live." (Deut. 33:18-20) Of course, Jehovah must be greater in glory and power than all the things he has created, such as the universe with its billions of galaxies, each consisting of billions of stars, many of them dwarfing our own sun.
God is a spirit person who dwells in the spirit realm called heaven, and which is invisible to physical mankind. Since we cannot see God, he describes himself for us in terms that we humans can understand. There is no darkness at all with God, and when we walk with Him, we are said to be walking in his light, in contrast to those who are estranged from God, for they are dwelling in darkness. (Psalms 27:1; Isa. 30:26; 60:19,20; 1 Thess. 5:4,5)
The comparison in the Scriptures of Jehovah to that of the sun in glory and power, in an illustrative way, helps us to understand what his holy spirit is and how it operates; for his holy spirit is his glory and power that emanates from him, similar to the light and the power of the sun which makes possible and sustains the vast variety of life on earth. The basic fact is, there can be no life on earth without the sun and its life-giving power. In the same way, there can be no life anywhere apart from God and his holy spirit. Those who cut themselves off from God, also cut themselves off from his spirit and life, as the Scripture says: "If you conceal your face, they get disturbed. If you take away their spirit, they expire, And back to their dust they go. If you send forth your spirit, they are created; And you make the face of the ground new. The glory of Jehovah will prove to be to time indefinite. Jehovah will rejoice in his works." (Psalms 104:29-31)
God created all things by the power of his holy spirit. (Gen. 1:2) This spirit is not something separate from him. It is the very essence of who he is, his power and glory that emanates from him and by which he accomplishes his purpose. He can give his spirit to his creatures, which enlightens us; teaches us; empowers us; it can fill us, or reside in us; etc.. Jesus referred to God's spirit as a "helper," which we receive from the Father; and since Jehovah is the "God of truth" his spirit is "the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive." Also, since the spirit proceeds from God, it is at times personified, being referred to as "he." This does not mean that it is a person, distinct from God with its own personality. (Psalms 31:5; John 14:16,17, 26; 16:7,8)
What a blessing it is to have God's holy spirit in our lives. It is something that we should treasure and cling to at all cost, for it is evidence of God's favor upon us, and makes us the happiest people on earth. And not only that, it draws others to us when we display the fruitage of the spirit in our lives, such as "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control," the very things that personify God himself. It transforms us to be the sort of person who reflects God's qualities and personality. (Gal. 5:22,23; Eph. 4:20-24) When we are taught by holy spirit, we will not fall victim to "the unrighteous deception" of the man of lawlessness, who is sitting so prominently within God's temple. (2 Thess. 2:9-12) And another thing, when we appreciate what the holy spirit is, it also helps us to understand the seriousness of blaspheming the holy spirit, for which there is no forgiveness, as Jesus warned. (Matt. 12:12:31,32)
(8/9/16 ― 7/20/17)
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