Who are the Real Apostates?
What is Represented by "the
Olive Tree" and Its "Root"?
The Watchtower, May 15, 2011 (Study Edition) presents an updated explanation regarding some features of the symbolic olive tree of Romans 11:16-24. The article 'O THE DEPTH OF GOD’S WISDOM!’, under the subheading "The Symbolic Olive Tree" states: "The apostle Paul goes on to compare those who become part of Abraham’s seed to branches on a symbolic olive tree. (Rom. 11:21) This cultivated olive tree represents the fulfillment of God’s purpose with regard to the Abrahamic covenant. The root of the tree is holy and represents Jehovah as the one who gives life to spiritual Israel. (Isa. 10:20; Rom. 11:16) The trunk represents Jesus as the primary part of Abraham’s seed. The branches collectively represent “the full number” of those included in the secondary part of Abraham’s seed." —page 23, par. 13; (see previous explanation in The Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1983, pages 14-19).
If the root of the domestic "garden olive tree" represents Jehovah, as the Watchtower article now claims, then who is the cultivator (gardener) who lops off some of the natural branches (the natural Jews) and grafts in wild branches (Gentiles)? The apostle Paul explains that it is God himself. Since Jehovah planted the tree and therefore he is its owner and cultivator, then clearly he cannot be represented as being part of the tree, the root, can he? (compare John 15:1-6; 1 Cor. 3:9; -- For a more complete discussion see What is picture by the olive tree as described by Paul in his letter to the Romans?)
Although the term "spiritual Israel" is frequently used in the Watchtower when discussing the subject of "the Israel of God," that term is nowhere used in the Bible. (Gal. 6:16) Does it matter? Well, it becomes a matter of going "beyond the things that are written," and the originators of the term can define it to make it mean whatever they want it to. This has led them to teach the non-scriptural idea that "spiritual" Israel has replaced "natural" Israel in God's purpose. (1 Cor. 4:6) Yet they quickly condemn other religions for taking the same liberties. For example, we do not find such expressions as "trinity," "immortal soul," "hell fire," "purgatory," "mother of God," etc. in the Scriptures. And what about the term "baptism in symbol of one's dedication"? Although these things are taught as fact, yet neither the words or phrases, nor the idea, are found in the Bible. What do you think God's view is on this? Does he care? (Prov. 30:5,6; Matt. 15:9)
Can We Know the Truth?
"What is truth?" That is what Pontius Pilate replied to Jesus, after Jesus had said to him: "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice." (John 18:37,38) Pilate was not posing a question as if wanting to know what "truth" is. He simply made a statement, no doubt for the same reason that many do today. Due to the proliferation of opinions and philosophies as expressed in the countless religions and institutions, many are saying "What is Truth?" without actually expecting an answer or believing that it exists!
Can we know the Truth? Does it exist? Does it even matter? It matters if you care about your relationship with God, and want your worship to have his approval! The night before he stood before Pilate, Jesus indicated that our relationship with God depends on knowing the truth, when he said to his heavenly Father in prayer: "Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours." (John 17:17, CEV; 1 Thess. 2:13) God sets us apart as his holy people by means of the truth as revealed in his inspired Scriptures, which his spirit teaches us. (Mal. 3:17,18; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:14-16) The truth has the power to transform sinners into the sort of persons who "reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah." (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:17-24) It prevents us from "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. 3:5, 7; Heb. 4:12) Indeed, Jesus said that "the true worshipers must worship the Father with spirit and truth." Since any other worship—apart from the truth—is not approved by God, and therefore in vain, it means that we can and must know the truth. (John 4:23,24; Matt. 15:3-9)
Truth remains constant, it never changes; therefore it is reliable! Truth applies equally to everyone without exception. It cannot be diluted, contaminated, bend or stretched, and still be truth. A physical man, who has no spirituality, cannot receive the truth of God's word "for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually." (John 8:47; 1 Cor. 2:14; Matt. 7:6) We can get to know the truth if we allow God's spirit to teach us. That takes humility! (Zeph. 3:12; James 4:6, 10) God's spirit never lies! It does not confuse by leading us to contrary and diverse conclusions. It does not allow for speculation. (Rom. 3:4; 1 John 4:6) In practical terms, this means that when two individuals discuss a scriptural matter, and they reach two differing opinions, then either one of them, or neither one, is taught by the spirit. Both can be wrong, but they cannot both be right! Therefore, it is obvious that everyone's opinions are not equally valid—at least not in God's eyes, contrary to popular opinion. (2 Cor. 13:8, 11) God's household is build on the foundation of truth, with Jesus being the foundation cornerstone. (Eph. 2:20; 4:21; 1 Tim. 3:15)
"If you are being led by spirit," then "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free": Free from enslavement to sin. . .Free from falling prey to "the hypocrisy of men who speak lies"—from the "false prophets" and "false teachers" that the Scriptures foretold would abound in the last days, even among God's own people. . .And free from any fear of God's coming wrath. (John 8:31,32; Rom. 6:18; 8:21; Gal. 5:1; 1 Tim. 4:1,2; 2 Peter 2:1 John 4:18) God's people, who are sanctified by the truth of God's word, are "the righteous ones [who] shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen." (Matt. 13:43; Dan. 12:3, 10)
Are You Made to Feel Like a Stranger in Your Own Congregation?
The truth of God’s word unites God's people. It is not any man but God's holy spirit, which dwells in us, that enables us to get to know the truth, “even the deep things of God.” (John 4:23,24; 8:31,32) The holy spirit is a powerful force for unity, making it possible for lovers of truth to "speak in agreement," and "be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought." (1 Cor. 1:10; 2:10)
Our governing body has positioned itself to replace the holy spirit in their desire to unite God’s people under their own authority by means of their teachings and regulations, which for the most part are based on the foundation laid by J. F. Rutherford, the second president of the Watchtower Society, from 1917-1942. It has resulted in micro-managing every aspect of our worship. That is why there is such a demand for conformity, compelling everyone within the organization to accept the doctrines, commandments, and traditions, in their entirety as presented in the publications. (Matt. 11:28-30; 23:2-4; Gal. 5:1; 2 Thess. 2:3,4) They insist that Jehovah has instructed his people to follow the lead of the governing body for the sake of unity, and that in this way we are following Jesus. (see September 15, 2010 WT, Study Edition, page 23) Never mind that all this goes contrary to what Jehovah has actually commanded his people! (Psalms 146:3-5)
The governing body entity assures us that the “truth” is revealed progressively through them, as “the light gets brighter,” and that they make adjustments in their understanding just as quickly as God reveals the latest truth to them. They make predictions in Jehovah's name and then "they wait to have a word come true." (Ezek. 13:6,7) Therefore, we are admonished to be patient and wait on them, and not become guilty of “independent thinking,” which, according to them, would be “going ahead of Jehovah.”
Jesus said in prayer to his heavenly Father: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) We can have confidence in all the things contained within the pages of God's Word. (Rom. 3:4; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16,17) As we all know, the writing of the inspired Scriptures has been completed for almost two thousand years. God is not updating the Bible periodically! That of course means that we do not need to wait for someone to update their own understanding of God's infallible word. (1 Tim. 3:15; 4:1,2) Because of failing to follow the lead of the secular corporation with its governing body, and on account of having the courage to "test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God," many of God’s sheep are barely tolerated and are made to feel as outsiders within their own congregation. (1 John 4:1, 6) They are viewed as a hindrance, even a threat, to the unity of the congregation. (Isaiah 66:5; Prov. 17:15) Some are expelled as apostates because of failing to conform! (John 12:37-43; 16:1-4; Acts 20:29,30) Are you among such ones? Does it shake your faith? Can you identify with the disciples in the First Century who were treated in similar fashion? (3 John 9,10)
Our Kingdom Halls are not God's temple; and neither are any of the Bethels or Branch Offices, nor any convention site. God has not been worshipped in a physical temple since the new covenant came into existence on the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., replacing the old arrangement under the Law covenant. (John 4:21-24; 1 Cor. 2:14; Heb. 8:13) Since that day God's temple is made up of his people. There is where God's spirit dwells. 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) If all the Kingdom Halls were to close tomorrow, we would still be God's people, his temple; and we would still be meeting together, perhaps in private houses as was the situation among the early Christians, and is still the case in many parts of the world. (Matt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Philemon 1,2)
The congregations belong to God, and they exist for the benefit and upbuilding of his people. Jehovah knows we need each other. (1 Thess. 2:14,15; John 15:17-19) We can rightly expect our congregation to be a source of encouragement, “to incite to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24; Eccl. 4:9-12; Gal. 6:1,2) You ought to find “encouragement in Christ . . . consolation of love . . . sharing of spirit . . . tender affections and compassions . . . [being] of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind.” (Acts 15:31; Rom. 1:12; Phil. 2:1,2) If these things are lacking in your congregation it is due to the majority of the members being merely followers of men—the governing body—and therefore they are no different from people of other religions who refuse to submit to Jehovah. They may appear religious but have no spirituality, "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." (Matt. 13:37-42; 2 Tim. 3:1-7) And frankly, they are the ones who do not belong within God's house. (Matt. 7:23; 1 Peter 4:17-19)
Don't allow anyone to make you feel as a stranger in your congregation because of your "love of the truth," and because you "have rested [your] hope on a living God." (2 Thess. 2:10; 1 Tim. 4:10) Jehovah recognizes you as belonging there! They don't! All transgressors against God, who got "to believing the lie," and "took pleasure in unrighteousness," will soon be removed from your midst. (2 Thess. 2:11,12) Jehovah has promised: “And I will clean out from you the revolters and the transgressors against me.” (Ezek. 13:9; 14:9; 20:38; Matt. 15:40-43, 49; Psalms 37:34) Perhaps you will then find yourself the only one left over in it. (Rev. 2:24,25; 3:4,5) In the meantime, you have need of endurance! (James 1:2-4)
Is Accepting Jesus as Your
Savior All that is Required for Salvation?
Jesus said that "God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) From this, many have concluded that a person simply needs to accept Jesus as his Savior in order to be saved. But is this all that God requires? What does Jehovah tell us?
God's prophet Isaiah foretold: "This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said: 'Here I am laying as a foundation in Zion a stone, a tried stone, the precious corner of a sure foundation. No one exercising faith will get panicky.'" (Isaiah 28:16) The Scriptures identify Jesus as the cornerstone of the "sure foundation" that God laid. The Jews, who were God's covenant people, stumbled over this stone when they rejected Jesus. (Isaiah 8:14,15) The apostle Peter explains it this way: "Coming to him as to a living stone, rejected, it is true, by men, but chosen, precious, with God. . . For it is contained in Scripture: 'Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and no one exercising faith in it will by any means come to disappointment.' It is to you, therefore, that he is precious, because you are believers; but to those not believing, 'the identical stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,' and 'a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense.' These are stumbling because they are disobedient to the word. To this very end they were also appointed." (1 Peter 2:4-8, NWT) Because the Jews rejected the cornerstone of the foundation that God laid, God in turn rejected them. (Matt. 21:42-45; Luke 20:17-19)
Please note that Jesus is "the cornerstone" of the foundation. A cornerstone by itself does not make a foundation, although it is the most important part of the foundation, being the first stone laid and indicating where the building is going to be located. Of what use is "a sure foundation" unless there is a building constructed upon it? (Luke 6:47,48; 14:29,30) God himself laid the foundation, but what about that which is build upon it? In his letter to the congregation in Ephesus, Paul explains: "You are no longer strangers and alien residents, but you are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God, and you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (Eph. 2:19-22)
In Jesus' day, the Jews worshipped God in his physical temple, which was located in Jerusalem "the holy city." (Psalms 135:21; Isaiah 52:1; Jer. 3:17) That temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. (Matt. 24:1,2) Under the new covenant, God is worshiped, not in a physical location—"neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem"— but, as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "the hour is coming and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24) God's faithful and obedient worshipers are his temple, "a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Cor. 6:17,18) This temple is built "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone."
A foundation is constructed according to specific dimensions, predetermined, and is limited in size. (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:3-5) On the other hand, that which is build upon the foundation is limited only by what the foundation can bear. After having added 120 disciples to the cornerstone of the foundation on the day of Pentecost, God immediately build upon the foundation by adding "about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:37-41) From among these new disciples God may have chosen a few to add to the foundation, making it grow according to the need. Three and a half years later the first Gentile believer was also added to the foundation. (Acts 10:44-48) This foundation will have been completed by the time Jesus returns. (Rev. 7:1-4)
The "whole building," which is "growing into a holy temple for Jehovah," consists of: (1) The foundation, which is limited in size to 144,000 "living stones," and has Jesus as the foundation cornerstone. These are the "Lamb's wife," and are the "real foundations" in "the holy city"—"New Jerusalem"—"the builder and maker of which city is God." (Eph. 3:17; Heb. 11:10; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Rev. 14:1, 3; 21:2, 9,10, 14, NWT) Also included in the "whole building," and being built upon the foundation, are (2) Countless others "who [are] rightly disposed for everlasting life." They too worship the Father with spirit and truth and are "harmoniously joined together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit." Therefore they too are members of God's temple, having God's spirit dwell in them. They too are holy! Their hope of everlasting life on earth is assured them by Jehovah. (John 3:16; Acts 13:48; Rev. 7:9,10; 1 John 4:9; Lev. 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15,16)
God is the builder of his temple, for he himself laid its foundation. (2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 5:4,5) This is where we must render sacred service to God. (Rev. 7:15, NWT) All other worship is in vain! (Matt. 15:9; Luke 6:49; Rom. 10:2,3) Is it enough to exercise faith in Christ Jesus, the cornerstone, to receive everlasting life? (Matthew 7:21-23) Jesus answers: "The king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom. . .[for] to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers you did it to me.' Then he will say, in turn, to those on his left, 'Be on your way from me, you who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. . . [for] to the extent that you did not do it to one of these least ones, you did not do it to me. And these will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones into everlasting life." (Matt. 25:40, 45,46; John 17:21-23; Heb. 6:10; 2 Thess. 1:9,10)
The Jews stumbled over the one chief cornerstone of the foundation. Today many stumble over the 144,000 stones who complete the foundation! (John 14:20; 15:20,21; 17:22,23)
Elder who is Appointed by Holy Spirit from the one Appointed by the Society
Within God's household today there are two types of overseers: the one who is appointed by holy spirit; and the other who is appointed by the Watchtower Society. (Acts 20:28; 2 Cor. 11:4,5) It is quite easy to tell them apart!
The overseer who is appointed by holy spirit is also guided by holy spirit. (Acts 13:2, 4; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; 12:7-11; Gal. 5:16-18) He accepts the inspired Scriptures as the word of God, and holds "firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching." He appeals to God's word for authority when "reproving those who contradict." (1 Thess. 2:13; Titus 1:5-9; Heb. 4:12) His faith is in Jehovah, his heavenly Father, to whom his obedience and loyalty belongs. (Psalms 4:3; 146:3-5)
On the other hand, any overseer appointed by the Watchtower Society is guided by the Society's governing body and their commands and teachings, which he enforces within the congregation. He confuses loyalty to God with loyalty to men and therefore cannot receive "the things of the spirit of God, because they are examined spiritually." This hinders him from distinguishing between "the inspired expression of truth and the inspired expression of error." (1 Cor. 2:14; 1 John 4:1, 6) Although professing faith in the Bible, he will more likely quote the Society's publications for proof when establishing a point. He may refer to the Watchtower Society as "Mother," and be prone to denounce as apostate anyone who does not share that same loyalty. (Psalms 4:2; Isaiah 30:1, 9,10; Jer. 5:26-31; 23:1; Rev. 3:1-3)
Blessed is your congregation if the majority of overseers are appointed by holy spirit. (1 Peter 5:2-4; Rev. 2:9,10; 3:8-10)
Not All of God's Lost Sheep Will
God's promise of delivering his lost sheep out of all the places to which they have been dispersed, and bring them back into his fold, does not include the "plump animal" which had been slaughtered at the hands of his shepherds, nor the sheep that became "food for every wild beast of the field." (Ezek. 34:3, 5, 15) Their having been slaughtered or fallen prey to wild beasts signifies that they are beyond being brought back. (Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20,21) Today some of God's sheep have been "slaughtered," that is stumbled on account of wicked shepherds and the "man of lawlessness" within God's temple. (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 9) Among them are brothers who at one time prominently served as elders, traveling overseers, or even in branch offices. They were among the "plump sheep," but because of having been stumbled they "went off to the things behind," as was the case with many of Jesus' disciples who would no longer walk with him. These ones no longer recognize that God has a household. (Luke 17:1,2; John 6:66,67; 15:5-7; 2 Tim. 4:10)
Others have become "food for every wild beast of the field" by falling prey to the "false prophets" that the Scriptures warned would abound in the last days. These too will fail to return. (Ezek. 22:25, 27; Matt. 24:24; Phil. 3:18; Col. 2:8; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1; Rev. 3:1) On the other hand, the unjustly disfellowshipped, or "disassociated" ones (as judged by the Society), will be among the lost and hurt sheep that Jehovah will bring back. This will take place immediately after the "man of lawlessness" (who had kept God's sheep in subjection "with harshness," "even with tyranny") is done away with "by the manifestation of [the Lord Jesus'] presence." (Ezek. 34:4; 2 Thess. 2:8)
Jehovah has promised: "The lost one I shall search for, and the dispersed one I shall bring back, and the broken one I shall bandage and the ailing one I shall strengthen, but the fat and the strong one I shall annihilate." (Ezekiel 34:16; Jer. 23:3,4; Zech. 9:16)
Great Crowd Come Out of the Great Tribulation by Going to Heaven?
An unusual number of powerful and deadly tornadoes ripped through large areas of seven southern US states during the past few days, uprooting trees, picking up cars and trucks and hurling them through the air as if toys, and in some cases obliterating entire neighborhoods. The latest reported death toll has risen to more than 350, with many more victims thought to be buried under the rubble of their homes.
Mr. Johnson was sitting at his desk in his office across town from where he lived, when he heard the news that a tornado had torn through his neighborhood. He immediately phoned home to see if his house had been spared, but could not reach anyone. Just then a close friend of his rushed in to tell him that his house, along with the entire neighborhood had disappeared, simply been wiped off the map. Jumping up from his chair he asked about his wife and three children. "They have come out of it," was his friend's reply. Heaving a big sigh of relief he sat back down and answered, "Thank God! At least they are safe." "Yes," his friend assured him, "they are now in heaven and in the presence of the Lord."
This story is simply to illustrate what many are saying will be the situation of the great crowd who “come out" of the great tribulation, when “the four winds of the earth” will be let loose to devastate the earth. (Rev. 7:1-3, 9, 10, 13-15) According to the Scriptures, to "come out" indicates deliverance and survival. (Num. 22:5; Isaiah 49:8,9; Acts 7:6,7) Likewise the call to "get out" of Babylon the Great before her destruction means survival for those who heed the warning. (Rev. 17:16,17; 18:4) Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?" (John 11:15,26)
3/13/11Has Satan Been Ousted from Heaven Yet?
3/7/11"Be On Guard Against the False Prophets" (Matt. 7:15)
"If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among men whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain." —1 Timothy 6:3-5; HCSB.
Rejecting one scripture in order to explain another is never a winning formula! They become guilty of the very thing they condemn others of doing, that is, tailoring the Scriptures to suit their own ideas or agenda. (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 4:3-5; Phil. 4:8; 1 Thess. 2:3-4)
Should You be
Submissive to the Society?
Satan is "the god of this world." (2 Cor. 4:4, ESV) He is "misleading the entire inhabited earth." (Rev. 12:9; 16:14; 2 Cor. 11:14) Jesus referred to him as "the ruler of this world," and as such "the whole world" lies in his power. (John 12:31; 14:30; 1 John 5:19) Satan could offer Jesus "all the authority and the glory of [all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth]" in return for "an act of worship before [him]," because, as he said, "it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it." (Luke 4:5-7)
Although Satan is the ruler of this world, and all governments are under his authority, yet God requires his people to "be submissive to every human institution and authority. . . whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him." (1 Peter 2:13-17, Amplified) Yes, the apostle Paul explains that "every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God (by His permission, His sanction; Amplified Bible). Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. . . for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." (Romans 13:1-7, NASB)
Seeing that Jehovah requires his people to be in subjection to the governing authorities of this world, what then should be our attitude regarding the governing authority within God's own household, namely, the Governing Body of the secular corporation—the Watchtower Society, set up in accordance with Caesar's Law—and which, as the foretold "man of lawlessness," is exercising authority over our "sacred service"? (2 Thess. 2:3-12; Heb. 9:14) Since this presence is also "according to the operation of Satan," should we then oppose it? Has Jehovah not tolerated this lawless element until now, along with the rest of Satan's system of things? It is still "a minister of God to you for good," enabling us to worship Jehovah and preach the good news of the kingdom; while at the same time it serves as "an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil." We must subject ourselves to the governing authorities that exist by God's permission, for if we were to oppose the ordinance of God we will come under his condemnation! Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders as being "from your father the Devil," yet he did not oppose their authority; nor did he ever encourage his disciples to rebel against them. (John 8:44; Matt. 10:16-22; 23:1-5) True, we may suffer at the hands of some in authority who are clearly "from your father the Devil," yet Jehovah wants us to be submissive, as Peter explains:
"You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly." —1 Peter 2:18-23, NLT;
Subverting the Faith of Others
God's people do not need to understand every detail there is to know about God's kingdom in order to preach it as good news. (Matt. 24:14; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:2-5) That is why Jesus told his disciples, "It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction." (Acts 1:7; 1 Peter 1:10-12) Jehovah has provided us with enough information regarding the kingdom to enable us to share it with others, and then for them to act on it. (Acts 13:48; 14:1; 1 Thess. 2:13) There is no need on our part to embellish it! Jesus set us the example not to speak out of our “own impulse,” as he himself only spoke the things his Father had told him. (John 7:16,17) We have been admonished not to go beyond the things that are written, not to speculate out loud! God's Word contains everything we need to qualify us to preach the good news. (Prov. 30:5,6; 1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Cor. 3:5)
God's Word is truth, and it is written in such a way that it can be understood only with the help of God's holy spirit. In other words, not everyone is allowed to understand things pertaining to God's kingdom. "A physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually." (1 Cor. 2:10, 14; 1:18-21) That is why Jesus told his disciples, "To you it is granted to understand the sacred secret of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted." (Matt. 13:10,11; 7:6) Who do you suppose "those people" refers to?
Consider as an example the historic day of Pentecost, with the outpouring of the holy spirit upon the 120 disciples gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem. The event signalled the end of the former way of worship under the old covenant, making it obsolete, and established the new covenant. (Acts 2:1-4; Heb. 8:13) To the vast majority of the Jews Pentecost was a non-event. What happened on that day did not matter to them, nor did they understand its significance. And what can be said about the many disciples of Jesus who had a short time earlier stumbled over his words and would no longer walk with him? (John 6:60, 66) God established his household on the day of Pentecost, laying its foundation, and immediately built on it by adding 3,000 souls; and no one except those who were personally included understood anything about it. (Acts 2:41) To this very day the wonderful truth about God's kingdom remains a "mystery" to outsiders. (Mark 4:11, NASB) It goes without saying that anyone who is a "stranger" to God's household cannot get to know it, much less explain it! (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15) By paying undue attention to any contrary talk originating from such ones, could we ourselves perhaps become confused? Although God's people do not need to understand every detail about the heavenly kingdom, such as "times or seasons," yet what does it indicate about our own status within God's household—his temple, when we start to question the basics about it, although extensively explained in the Scriptures? (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18) We are assured that "the foundation that God has laid is solid. On it is written, 'The Lord knows who his people are. So everyone who worships the Lord must turn away from evil.'" (2 Timothy 2:19, CEV)
Being able to quote from the Scriptures is no guarantee in itself that a person is correct, or even understands the things he is strongly asserting. Why, even the Devil can quote scriptures! (Luke 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 11:12-15)
Just as the situation developed in the First Century among the disciples, today also many voice their own contrary opinions and views, including new and often bizarre interpretations regarding God's kingdom. (Acts 20:29-31) Many of them were themselves at one time members of God's household but have experienced "shipwreck concerning [their] faith." (1 Tim. 1:19) Paul explains: "These ones have deviated from the truth, and they are subverting the faith of some," and "their word will spread like gangrene." (2 Tim. 2:16-18) Having lost God's spirit it becomes impossible for them to discern what is truth, and they may even start questioning whether there is such a thing! (John 17:17; 18:38) Some have written to argue that the many Bible prophecies dealing with events in "the conclusion of the system of things" ("at the close of the age", ESV) were all fulfilled in the First Century, and therefore have no further application for us today. Thus they strongly assert that God does not have a household at present, as he did in the time of the apostles. This allows their conscience to worship God in whatever way they choose for themselves. (Matt. 13:39-43, 47-50; 1 Cor. 10:11,12; Rom. 10:1-3) How true Jesus' words are proving to be, "For to everyone that has, more will be given and he will have abundance; but as for him that does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him." (Matt. 25:29; Dan. 12:9,10)
In order to protect the congregation, Paul instructed Timothy to "command certain ones not to teach different doctrine, nor pay attention to false stories and to genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith. . . certain ones have been turned aside into idle talk, wanting to be teachers of law, but not perceiving either the things they are saying or the things about which they are making strong assertions." (1 Timothy 1:3-7, 19,20; 2 Tim. 2:16-19; Phil. 3:18,19) With the help of God's spirit let us grow to Christian maturity and "no longer be babies in the faith. We won't be like ships tossed around by the waves. We won't be blown here and there by every new teaching. We won't be blown around by the cleverness and tricks of people who try to hide their evil plans." Sticking faithfully to God's word of truth, we "will be able to use true teaching to comfort others and build them up. [We] will be able to prove that people who oppose it are wrong." (Eph. 4:14; Titus 1:9, NIRV; Heb. 5:12-14)
Having God's holy spirit also enables us to see through the insidious teachings of the "man of lawlessness," who has seated himself right at the top within God's own temple, and whose foretold "presence is according to the operation of Satan." At present he still controls every aspect of our worship. (2 Thess. 2:3-12) Satan wants to destroy our faith, our relationship with Jehovah, and along with it our prospect for everlasting life. (Eph. 6:11,12; 1 Peter 5:6-9) It is only by keeping ourselves "in God's love" that we will maintain our spiritual balance in these troubled times. (Jude 21) As members of God's household, and taught by God's holy spirit, we are able to understand these things, even the deep things of God.
Should We Separate
Ourselves From the Congregation?
You are most likely familiar with the letters that Jesus wrote to the Seven Congregations in Asia Minor at the end of the first century—as recorded in the book of Revelation, chapters two and three. Perhaps you have also scrutinized them carefully to gain some personal benefit from them. (Rev. 2:1-3:21; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) If Jesus were to write a letter to your congregation today, what congregation would that be? Where is your congregation? Would Jesus be able to praise the brothers and sisters—including you—as he did the congregations in Smyrna and Philadelphia, taking note of their integrity despite great suffering and much tribulation? (2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 2:9) Or would your congregation resemble the five in Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea, whom Jesus had to censure, admonishing them to repent; while at the same time taking note of the few loyal ones among them, such as Antipas "the faithful one" in Pergamum; some in Thyatira "who did not get to know the deep things of Satan"; and the "few names" in Sardis "that did not defile their outer garments"? (Rev. 2:13, 24; 3:4) [Obviously, congregations existed long before the Watchtower Society was incorporated and claimed control of them.]
The majority of the disciples belonging to the five notorious congregations most probably held a different opinion of themselves from that expressed by Jesus, and must have been stung by his rebuke! (Rev. 3:1) As a consequence, might some have decided to remove themselves from their congregation, either because they were offended by Jesus' letter; or because they wanted to distance themselves from the bad influence of others? (compare John 6:66; Phil. 3:18; 2 Tim. 4:10)
What about God's people today? Should we not expect to be inspected as were the Seven Congregations? In fact, Jehovah foretold that immediately prior to his coming "day of fury" at Armageddon, he "will search with lanterns in Jerusalem’s darkest corners to punish any who sit complacent in their sins," and who mistakenly believe that he "will do nothing to them, either good or bad." (Zeph. 1:12, NLT; compare John 3:19,20) This inspection did not occur way back in 1918, involving only a handful of prominent men, as the Watchtower would have us believe; but it is taking place today, and includes all of his disciples in every congregation. (2 Thess. 2:8) Jesus as head of the congregation is drawing to our attention the reality of our present situation—the way we actually appear to him and Jehovah—just as he did by means of his seven letters in Revelation. Each of us will receive according to what we are at the time of the Lord's arrival. (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46; James 1:22-25) If we become aware that we need to make adjustments in our attitude or actions (or lack of them), we should do so without delay.
Do you "restrain your tongue from what is bad and your lips from speaking deception"? (1 Peter 3:10-12) Do you have "the love of the truth" while hating the lies that are taught in God's name, for which you are willing to suffer? (2 Thess. 2:10-12) Then be assured that Jesus' message to you is: "I am not putting upon you any other burden. Just the same, hold fast what you have until I come." (Rev. 2:24,25) Rather than telling his disciples to separate themselves from what they perceive to be disapproved congregations, Jesus is encouraging all of us to hold fast to our integrity until his arrival, even if this means enduring much suffering and persecution at the hands of fellow believers. (compare 3 John 9-11)
(1/12/11 - 9/5/11)
Additional pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 PRESENT
Food for Thought Index