12/25/12 Is a "Spiritual Resurrection" the Same as the Resurrection in the Spirit? (1 Cor. 15:44-46)
Has the Resurrection Already Occurred?
12/16/12Are You Worshiping God in His Temple?
12/9/12Does It Matter How We Worship?
A letter from the apostle Paul
to the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society::
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through God's will, to the congregation of God that is in [New York], to you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus, called to be holy, together with all who everywhere are calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:
"I have used Apollos and myself as examples for you. I did this so that you could learn from us the meaning of the words, 'Follow what the Scriptures say.' ('Do not go beyond the things that are written'—NWT) Then you will not brag about one person and criticize another. 7 Who do you think you are? Everything you have was given to you. So, if everything you have was given to you, why do you act as if you got it all by your own power?
8 "You think you have everything you need. You think you are rich. You think you have become kings without us. I wish you really were kings. Then we could rule together with you. 9 But it seems to me that God has given me and the other apostles the last place. We are like prisoners condemned to die, led in a parade for the whole world to see—not just people but angels too. 10 We are fools for Christ, but you think you are so wise in Christ. We are weak, but you think you are so strong. People give you honor, but they don’t honor us. 11 Even now we still don’t have enough to eat or drink, and we don’t have enough clothes. We often get beatings. We have no homes. 12 We work hard with our own hands to feed ourselves. When people insult us, we ask God to bless them. When people treat us badly, we accept it. 13 When people say bad things about us, we try to say something that will help them. But people still treat us like the world’s garbage—everyone’s trash. . ."
7 "You must look at the facts before you. If you feel sure you belong to Christ, you must remember that we belong to Christ the same as you do. . . 12 We don’t dare put ourselves in the same class with those who think they are so important. We don’t compare ourselves to them. They use themselves to measure themselves, and they judge themselves by what they themselves are. This shows that they know nothing."—See 1 Corinthians 1:1,2; 4:6-13; 2 Corinthians 10:7, 12; Easy-to-Read Version.
If problems existed in the Corinthian congregation in the first century—to whom Paul wrote two letters, why would we expect it to be any different today, seeing that the same condition was foretold regarding God's people for our time? "Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the system of things have arrived." (1 Cor. 10:11)
11/27/12What Would Life Under God's Rulership Have Been Like?
11/22/12Should We Love All People Unconditionally?
11/11/12We Cannot Love God If We Do Not Love Our Brothers
11/7/12Is "Faithful and Discreet" Slave a Title?
Do You Belong to the “Third Part”?
WHERE IS MICHAEL?
Michael is “the archangel” who had a dispute with the Devil. (Jude 9) He is the "great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of [Daniel’s] people,” and far stronger than the angel Gabriel; for when Gabriel was engaged in a struggle with “the prince of Persia,” Michael came to his aid. (Dan. 12:1; 10:13) In the Revelation, Michael and his angels battled with the Devil and his angels, with the result that they are cast out of heaven. Therefore, Michael is more powerful than Satan the Devil. (Rev. 12:7-9) After that, there is no further mention of Michael; unless he is the unnamed angel who seizes the Devil and hurls him into the abyss, where the Devil is bound for the thousand years. But that would mean that Michael is also a king, if he is indeed "the angel of the abyss." (Rev. 20:1-3; 9:11)
Further along in the apostle John's Revelation, Jesus—who is called by various titles and names, such as “Faithful and True,” “The Word of God,” “King of kings and Lord of lords,” and also having “a name written that no one knows but he himself”—is seen in heaven, with the armies of heaven following him, poised to war against the nations and their armies at Armageddon. (Rev. 19:11-16) This is in harmony with Jesus' words regarding his return with great power and glory: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne.” (Matt. 25:31) That raises the obvious question: If Jesus arrives "with all the angels," where then is Michael with his angels? If all the angels follow Jesus, does that indicate that Michael no longer has his angels? Perhaps Michael is among the angels who support Jesus when he comes at the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus”? (Rev. 16:14, 16; 2 Thess. 1:7-9) There is no scenario anywhere in the Scriptures that speak of two distinct heavenly armies, namely, that of Michael and his angels co-existing with Jesus and his angels. And neither do the Scriptures tell us that Michael hands over his angels to the glorified Jesus Christ. After having ousted the Devil and his angels from heaven, Michael the archangel is no longer mentioned in the Bible.
In view of the preceding, can anyone tell me: Where is Michael today?
Which "god" are They Talking
“God's people can be found in most religions!" At least that is what many former Witnesses now believe. Of course, they are correct if the god they belong to is the one with a lower case "g", the one the apostle Paul calls "the god of this world" who has "blinded the minds of the unbelievers." (2 Cor. 4:4, ESV) On the other hand, the worshipers of the true God (capital "G") Jehovah, have come out and separated themselves from the unbelievers, and therefore are no longer part of this world. That is why Jehovah has been able to welcome them into his household, "the congregation of the living God"; where he is their Father, and they his sons and daughters. (John 15:19; 1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Tim. 3:15; James 1:27) So, next time someone tells you that God's people are found in all religions, ask him which "god" he is talking about. He is obviously not referring to Jehovah and his people!
“Be Obedient to Those
Who are Taking the Lead Among You” (Heb. 13:17)
The elders in our congregations often remind us of these words by the apostle Paul, in order to establish, not only their authority within the congregation, but also the greater authority that the Society’s governing body exercises over God’s people worldwide. What, though, was Paul’s intent on speaking those words? Was he telling God’s people that they must be obedient and submit to whoever takes the lead among them? (Compare 1 Peter 5:1-3) When Paul was in Miletus and he summoned the older men of the Ephesus congregation to him, he told them: “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 and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29,30) Paul did not for a moment suggest, in any of his letters, that the congregation must submit and be obedient to such apostates.
True to Paul’s warning, soon men from among the disciples arose and preached their own twisted things, many of them succeeding in drawing some of the disciples after themselves. (Phil 3:18; Col. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:16-18) By the end of the first century “the sect of Nicolaus” had spread throughout Asia Minor, which Jesus himself mentioned in his letters to the Ephesus and Pergamum congregations. We can note the difference between the two congregations: The disciples in Ephesus hated the sect of Nicolaus, and put “those to the test who say they are apostles, but they are not, and you found them liars.” On the other hand, many of the disciples in the Pergamum congregation fell prey to this sect. (Rev. 2:1-6, 12-16) Would anyone argue that the disciples in Pergamum, or any of us today, are required to be obedient and submissive to such imposters because they are taking the lead in the congregation? Does Jehovah require us to become followers of men who lead us away from the true God? (Compare 3 John 9-11; 2 Peter 2:1-3; Psalms 146:3, 5)
The answer may seem obvious, and yet there is something else that we need to bear in mind. Although we need to be on guard against "false brothers" and "superfine apostles," yet, at the same time we are not authorized by Jehovah to rebel against what he himself has permitted to exist. (2 Cor. 11:3-5, 20, 26; 2 Thess. 2:11,12; 1 Sam. 26:8-11) In Jesus’ day, the governing body of the Jews [the Sanhedrin], although corrupt, exercised firm control over God’s people. (John 11:47,48) Jesus said that the scribes and the Pharisees had seated themselves “in the seat of Moses.” They presumptuously added their own requirements to what God had given through his mediator Moses, and they were binding up unnecessary “heavy loads upon the shoulders of men.” Jesus further condemned them for making God’s word invalid by their own doctrines and traditions, which rendered their worship unacceptable to God. Yet, in spite of all this, Jesus told his disciples: “Therefore all the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform.” (Matt. 23:1-4; 15:3-9)
Does that seem like a contradiction? Can we “do and observe” all the things that they—those who are taking the lead among us—tell us, without compromising our faith and loyalty to Jehovah? Jehovah says that we can! He does not want us to rebel against something that he is still tolerating. (1 Cor. 4:5; Amos 5:13) As in the case of the scribes and the Pharisees who had seated themselves in the seat of Moses, in our day there exists the “man of lawlessness” who has similarly seated himself prominently within God’s temple in the seat of Jesus; and he too insists on our obedience and submission. And as was true of Jesus' disciples, we too can keep our integrity under these circumstances for as long as Jehovah permits it. With the help of the holy spirit, we are able to keep our spiritual balance; always remembering that "we must obey God as ruler rather than men." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Thess. 2:3,4; Acts 4:19; 5:29)
Are the Annual Business Meetings of the Watchtower Society Sacred?
As in most other years, the Annual Meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania was held at the Jersey Assembly Hall, on October 6, 2012. As in the past, this 128th annual meeting was presented as being a provision from Jehovah, and having his blessing. Members of the governing body were again prominently present at the meeting, this time offering "new light" regarding their special position within God's temple. You can read about the Annual Meeting by clicking on the link (PDF file).
Why does the Watchtower Society hold annual meetings, and how do they differ from our annual Conventions? The Watchtower of 1976, January 15, explained: "The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania was originally incorporated on December 13, 1884, under the laws of the state of Pennsylvania. At present it has legal authorization to have a maximum of 500 members, but at this writing it has only 397 members listed. The Society has a board of seven directors, for the management of the Society’s affairs. According to the Society’s charter at each annual meeting members of the Board of Directors are elected by all the incumbent members of the Society. After such annual election the Board of Directors elects its own officers, such as president of the Society, etc. According to the terms of the Charter the Society acts as the “administrative agency” for all of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses earth wide.—w76 1/15 p. 53 The Coming Deliverance from the Anti-Religious “Ax”. (Bold mine)
The business of running the Watchtower Society—which includes the appointment of the Board of Directors (such as the governing body), the publishing and distributing of literature, and everything else that concerns a corporation—is attended to at the Annual Meetings, as required by its charter. This is not a sacred or holy provision from Jehovah, but rather is according to Caesar's law. (See "Distinguishing Between the Sacred and the Secular") The 1975 Yearbook reported about the Annual Meeting of 1944, under the heading “THE THEOCRACY IS OF AGE,” saying: "September 30 to October 2, 1944, were highly significant days for God’s people. Thousands of them met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Theocratic Convention and the Annual Meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Among the convention’s features were the discourses “Theocratic Organization for Final Work,” by T. J. Sullivan, “Theocratic Organization in Action, by F. W. Franz, and “The Theocratic Alignment Today,” given by N. H. Knorr. The theme of those discourses emphasized the importance of the business to be transacted at the annual meeting that year. Hence, thousands remained in Pittsburgh for the Society’s business meeting on Monday, October 2, 1944.—yb75 p. 246 Part 3—United States of America. (Bold mine)
This year's "new light," as presented at the Annual Meeting, identifies the "faithful and discreet slave" exclusively with the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society. It seems that Jehovah is making the identity of the "man of lawlessness" clearly evident to his people, for the apostle Paul explains, "He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called 'god' or an object of reverence [the holy ones of Daniel 7:27], so that he sits down in the temple of the God, publicly showing himself to be a god." (2 Thess. 3,4; 1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22) This interesting development clearly separates the "evil slave," the man of lawlessness [whose "presence is according to the operation of Satan"], from Jesus' other slaves, all of whom have been appointed to provide food for the domestics of God's house at the proper time. In fact, their future reward of ruling with Christ depends upon Jesus finding them doing that upon his sudden return. It is only at that time that the slaves who were indeed "faithful and discreet" will be identified. But at that same time, Jesus will do away with the man of lawlessness, "by the spirit of his mouth and bring [him] to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (Matt. 24:45-51; compare Matt. 25:13, 14-30) It is of the utmost importance that God's people understand the identity of this "son of destruction" prior to Christ's return, for we are warned that anyone who blindly followed this "lawless one" will perish, "as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved." (2 Thess. 2:8-12)
From Whom Have You Learned the Truth?
Have you learned the truth about God and his kingdom? It was not due to any man or group of men that you did! A certain qualified person may have studied the Bible with you, perhaps with the aid of a publication printed by the Watchtower Society; and it is natural to feel grateful for such assistance; but it was God’s holy spirit that taught you the things pertaining to God. Indeed, without "the helper," the "holy spirit," no one is able to get to know God, nor understand the truth of his holy Word, the Bible. (John 14:26; Matt. 7:6; 13:10,11) The apostle Paul wrote: “For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God. . . But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” (1 Cor. 2:10, 14) Although you may have been instructed by a capable brother, yet it was the holy spirit that taught you. That is what Jesus meant when he said that the “true worshipers must worship the Father with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23,24; Titus 1:9) It is not our own spirit—or that of anyone else—but God’s spirit, that teaches us the “truth.” It wasn’t Paul who opened Lydia’s heart, but Jehovah! (Acts 15:14)
For that reason, we must be very careful not to take credit when we have studied with someone and helped the person to the point of baptism; and neither should undue credit be given to any man, or group of men, for our knowing Jehovah; because that would amount to denying the power of the holy spirit. (Luke 12:10-12) In this regard, Paul said: “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:5-9) We often respect and have a special fondness for those who have helped us onto the road leading to everlasting life; but Jehovah knows that this can prove to be a snare, because it is also not uncommon for a teacher to turn away from the true God and begin to teach his own “good news” by going “beyond the things that are written.” If we become followers of men, any men, then we are turning our backs on the true God, for he insists on exclusive devotion. (Acts 20:29,30; 1 Cor. 4:6; Psalms 146:3-5; Ezek. 5:13) It is with this in mind that the apostle Paul warns us, saying: “Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8)
Yes, even if "an angel out of heaven" were to declare to us that "following him is the same as following Jesus," and that "we must obey him as we obey God," we would not be deceived into following him. Therefore, should we follow a group of men, such as our governing body, who tell us these very things? Paul says: "Let [them] be accursed!" (Compare Acts 12:21-23; 2 Thess. 2:3,4, 9,10) The apostle John prostrated himself before an angel of God, and he was reprimanded by the angel for doing that, when the angel told him: "Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who have the work of witnessing to Jesus. Worship God.'" (Rev. 19:10) If you have come to know the truth about Jehovah and Jesus, and God's kingdom, it was not because of any man or group of men, but it was God's holy spirit that taught you. Therefore, the praise and the honor and all thanks properly goes to Jehovah!
"The Harvest is a Conclusion of
a System of Things"
Jehovah is sifting his people at this time! (Luke 22:31) Those who don’t belong within his temple are being removed; with many leaving voluntarily. This is in fulfillment of the many prophecies regarding God's household in the conclusion of the system of things. But Jesus also gave us this encouragement: “At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen.” (Matt. 13:40-43, 49; Dan. 12:9,10) Jehovah has not authorized any of his "righteous ones" to speak out and sit in judgment of their brothers, and to correct all the obvious wrongs in the congregations. Only Jesus has that authority! (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 4:5) Besides, if we were to do so we would bring unnecessary grief upon ourselves; and then what would we tell Jehovah as we cry out to him for help? What Jehovah does require of us, though, at the present time, is to patiently wait until he will act against the wicked, as he has assured us he will; even though in the meantime we are suffering on account of his patience. (Lam. 3:22-26; Psalms 37:34, 39,40; Mal. 3:14-18; 2 Peter 3:9-11) But this should not surprise us! If Jesus suffered, and that without complaining, then we too need to have the same mental attitude. (John 15:20,21; 1 Peter 2:19-23) Paul explains: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he 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.” Who is there among God's people today who does not need to "learn obedience" from the things he is suffering, in order to be "made perfect"?
Nicodemus Should Have
Understood What Jesus Meant . . . Do You?
When Jesus told Nicodemus: "Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" and, "You people (Israel) must be born again;" was he unduly critical of Nicodemus when he failed to understand the meaning of it? For when Nicodemus asked: "How can these things come about?" Jesus replied: "Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things?" (John 3:1-10) As a teacher of the Jews, Nicodemus—along with all their other teachers—should have been familiar with God's prophecies regarding the coming Messiah and future ruler in Israel, for it was in answer to Nicodemus' acknowledgement that Jesus had "come from God," that Jesus replied about the need to be born again.
For example, the prophet Micah wrote that the coming ruler in Israel would be born in Bethlehem: “And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to get to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out to me the one who is to become ruler in Israel, whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite. Therefore he will give them up until the time that she who is giving birth actually gives birth. And the rest of his brothers will return to the sons of Israel. And he will certainly stand and do shepherding in the strength of Jehovah, in the superiority of the name of Jehovah his God." (Micah 5:2-4)
In fulfillment of this prophecy, the account in Matthew tells us that upon Jesus' birth the astrologers, who had seen "his star in the east," came to Jerusalem to do obeisance to the "king of the Jews." When King Herod heard of it he became greatly agitated, and he called together "all the chief priests and scribes of the people" to "inquire of them where the Christ was to be born." They answered correctly by pointing to Micah's prophecy, saying "Bethlehem." (Matt. 2:1-6) Nicodemus certainly would have understood that. But Micah foretold more than just the place of Jesus' birth; he further spoke of "the time that she [Zion] who is giving birth actually gives birth," thus echoing the prophet Isaiah's words, of whom Micah was a contemporary. Yes, according to Isaiah and Micah, Zion was to give birth to "a male child," and "to her sons," whom Micah calls "the rest of his brothers." (Isaiah 66:6-8) This too Nicodemus, as a teacher, would have, or should have, been familiar with. All the teachers in Israel should have understood these prophecies in light of Jeremiah's words regarding the new covenant that God promised he would conclude with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. If God was going to replace the old covenant, which had established them as God's people, then naturally they would have to renew their relationship with Jehovah when that covenant became obsolete. (Deut. 29:10-13; Heb. 8:13) That is why God spoke in the future tense when he said, "I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people." (Jer. 31:31-34) Thus, if any Jew wanted to continue to belong to Jehovah, and see the kingdom of God, he needed to be born again by being brought into new covenant, once it had replaced the old one. At Pentecost, with the outpouring of the holy spirit, when the new covenant became operative with Jesus as the mediator, God's new nation was "born at one time," and Zion gave "birth to her sons." (Isaiah 66:8; Micah 5:3) It was then that Jehovah laid the foundation of his temple with the 120 chosen disciples; and he immediately built upon that foundation when he added 3,000 repentant Jews who were baptized and likewise received the "free gift of the holy spirit." These ones were "born from water and spirit," thereby again becoming God's sons. (Act 1:15; 2:1-4, 37-41; Eph. 2:19-22; John 3:5; Gal. 3:26-29)
Of course, Jesus did not expect Nicodemus to understand all the details regarding the new covenant, and the need to be born again; for even his own disciples did not understand everything, at least not until they had received the helper, the holy spirit. (John 14:25,26) But Jesus expected Nicodemus to know the Scriptures, and to have a desire, yes, a hunger, to learn more about these things. (Matthew 5:3, 6; 1 Peter 1:10-12)
God's People are Not Found Among the Many Religions of Christendom!
In fact, unless we get out from among them, we cannot be God's people. That is why God's word tells us: "Stop forming inappropriate relationships with unbelievers. Can right and wrong be partners? Can light have anything in common with darkness? 15 Can Christ agree with the devil? Can a believer share life with an unbeliever? 16 Can God’s temple contain false gods? Clearly, we are the temple of the living God. As God said, 'I will live and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.' 17 The Lord says, 'Get away from unbelievers. Separate yourselves from them. Have nothing to do with anything unclean. Then I will welcome you.' 18 The Lord Almighty says, 'I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.'” (2 Cor. 6:14-18, GW)
Satan the Devil is "the god of this world," and therefore any worship that is not rendered to Jehovah "with spirit and truth," goes to him. (2 Cor. 4:3,4; 1 John 5:19; John 4:23) For that reason we need to separate ourselves from this world and its religions. The apostle Paul explains: "What I am saying is that these sacrifices which people make are made to demons and not to God. I don’t want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the Lord’s cup and the cup of demons. You cannot participate at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons." (1 Cor. 10:19-22, GW; Rev. 18:4) Clearly, God accepts us as his people only after we have removed ourselves from any association with the religions of this world.
The requirement for God's people to keep themselves "without spot from the world" is no different today from that of Christ's disciples in the First Century; or from what God required of his people throughout their history. (James 1:27; 4:4; Deut. 7:2-6) Jesus told his disciples that they "are no part of the world." They could expect to be hated and persecuted on account of that. But he also promised that he will be with them "all the days until the conclusion of the system of things." (John 15:19; Matt. 28:18-20) Since God had a people "for his name" in the First Century, who were organized into the many congregations of whom Jesus was the head, we can be certain that he still has a people for his name today; and Jesus is still with them. The many serious problems facing us within our congregations do not void Jesus' promise. (Acts 15:14, 17; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:1-13) It is for our benefit, in order for us not to lose our spiritual balance and be stumbled, that Jesus forewarned us, saying: "I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the [congregation]. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me. Nevertheless, I have spoken these things to you that, when the hour for them arrives, you may remember I told them to you." (John 16:1-4; Rom. 8:31-39)
Why would Jesus tell us these things if they were not going to happen? Are you in danger of stumbling in spite of Jesus' reassurance? (John 6:66) The fact that an "evil slave" exists within God's household, teaching his own "inspired expressions of error"—and also "wicked men and imposters"—does not in any way indicate that God does not have a people, nor that we can worship God apart from his household. (Compare Rev. 2:24,25; 3:1-5) The Scriptures do not tell us to separate ourselves from God's people on account of the wicked ones among us. We are no longer in the world! God will take care of them. It is for that reason that "the judgment [will] start with the house of God." (Matt. 13:40-43; 24:48-51; 2 Tim. 3:12,13; 1 Peter 4:17-19; 1 John 4:1,6) Although we are suffering grief at present, we can find encouragement in knowing that Jesus' long awaited promised presence is indeed near. (Luke 21:28) Your "sighing and groaning over all the [present] detestable things that are being done in the midst of [us]," is noted by God; and by your endurance it marks you for survival through the coming "great tribulation." (Ezek. 9:4, 6; Rev. 7:13-15)
"Wise people will understand these things. A person with insight will recognize them. The Lord’s ways are right. Righteous people live by them. Rebellious people stumble over them."—Hosea 14:9, GOD’S WORD Translation
Does God Have a People?
Due to the present problems within most of our congregations, many, who until recently considered themselves to be God's people, no longer believe that God has a people. But, if God does not have a people, then neither is there a new covenant; otherwise, with whom did God make the new covenant? (Heb. 8:7-13; 9:15; Acts 15:14-17) And if God does not have a people, then neither does he have a temple where "the spirit of God dwells." And further, if there is no temple then neither can Jesus be the "foundation cornerstone" of the temple, as the Scriptures explain—if God does not have a people who are his temple. (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8)
Upon delivering the Israelites out of Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai—which was some distance from the boundary of the promised land—where he concluded the covenant with them, and they thus became God's people. (Deut. 29:10-13) Perhaps contrary to their expectations, Jehovah did not immediately lead them to their destination by the shortest route, but instead directed them to wander through the wilderness for what he intended to be only a couple of years. This was for the purpose of allowing time for his people to get acquainted with him. They could prove successful—at the present time and in the future—only if they had the necessary faith in their God; and they could acquire that faith only by them personally experiencing his love, his wisdom, his justice and his power, which he would display on their behalf. That would take time! (Deut. 8:2-5; 2 Thess. 3:2) But they were a "stiff-necked people" who totally missed the purpose of God's dealings with them. There was no attempt on their part to get to know Jehovah. Whenever they would suffer from hunger, or thirst, or from the heat of the day, or the cold nights (besides many other inconveniences), they would loudly object and complain, and grumble about how much better off they had been in Egypt, although living as slaves. Due to their lack of faith they quickly lost sight of their destination, living only for the present; and they even appointed leaders for the purpose of taking them back to Egypt. (Numbers 16:1-3) They never got to know Jehovah in the way that he wanted to reveal himself to them! Finally, Jehovah got incensed with them to the point where he expressed his anger to destroy them and make a great nation out of Moses instead. (Exodus 32:9,10; Psalms 78:40,41) Thus they were forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years, much longer than he had originally intended, until all the ones who had come out of Egypt perished; with the exception of only two faithful men, Joshua and Caleb. (Heb. 3:6-11, 16-19)
We might reason that all this happened a very long time ago, and although it makes for interesting reading, it has nothing to do with us today. But God's Word is not dead history! Jehovah has put us on notice that "these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived." (1 Cor. 10:11) Do we not observe similar rebellious talk among many today, wanting to return to where they once had been, claiming that they had it better then? (Numbers 16:12-14; 2 Peter 2:21,22) To them the promised land is too far away and the journey too difficult to endure. But Jehovah has not changed! His dealings with his people today is still the same. He is affording us the opportunity to get to know him better, to build up our faith in him and thus prepare us for what still lies ahead; because he wants us to succeed. We certainly cannot do that on our own strength! How are you personally affected by the present "critical times hard to deal with," and the revealing of "the man of lawlessness" within God's temple? Do they draw you closer to Jehovah, or do they have the opposite effect? (2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 John 2:17, 19)
"Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God."—Hebrews 3:12.
The Foretold 70 Year Babylonian Exile Did Not Begin in 607 BCE
The following is additional information to the previous Food for Thought discussion regarding the supposed date of Jerusalem's destruction in 607 BCE:
It seems that the prophet Daniel himself did not fully understand the foretold Seventy Years period—when they began, and when they would end with the release of the Jewish exiles that was to follow its completion—until after the fall of Babylon, as he wrote: "In the first year of [Darius'] reigning I myself, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years." (Dan. 9:1,2) If it had been simply a matter of calculating seventy years from the destruction of the city to the time that the exiles would return, Daniel could have marked the years off on his calendar. But that was not the case! It was only after Babylon's own fall that Daniel discerned the significance of that event, namely, that the exiles were about to return home; because when Jehovah foretold the seventy year devastation upon Jerusalem, he had more in mind than just the physical city itself, but also everything that Jerusalem represented. In this regard, INSIDE ON THE SCRIPTURES Vol. 2 explains: "Since Jehovah’s praise and his will are effected primarily by his intelligent creatures, it was not the buildings forming the city that determined his continued use of the city but the people in it, rulers and ruled, priests and people. (Ps 102:18-22; Isa 26:1, 2) While these were faithful, honoring Jehovah’s name by their words and life course, he blessed and defended Jerusalem. (Ps 125:1, 2; Isa 31:4, 5) Jehovah’s disfavor soon came upon the people and their kings because of the apostate course the majority followed. For this reason Jehovah declared his purpose to reject the city that had borne his name. (2Ki 21:12-15; 23:27)"—it-2 pp. 48-49 Jerusalem. (Italics mine)
Since Jehovah's judgment was against his people, as represented by Jerusalem, the year of the actual destruction of the physical city with its buildings becomes irrelevant. This also explains why Jehovah would not start counting the seventy years from the city's destruction but rather from the time he began to abandon his people, especially the rulers and priests, to the Babylonians. (Dan. 1:1-6; 2 Chron. 36:5-7; see it-1 p. 775 Exile; p. 1269 Jehoiakim, as quoted in the previous Food for Thought.) One thing we can be quite sure of is the fact that the date of the destruction of Jerusalem cannot be used to determine the future establishing of God's kingdom, as Jesus himself indicated when he said: "Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36; Luke 21:29-31; Acts 1:7)
Was Jerusalem Destroyed
in 607 BCE?
That is what we are being taught! One AWAKE! article reasoned: "There is general agreement that Babylon fell to Cyrus on October 5/6, 539 B.C.E. From the Scriptural record at 2 Chronicles 36:21-23 and Ezra 3:1-3, which tells of Cyrus’ decree liberating the Jews and their return to their homeland, the indications are that the Jews arrived back in their homeland around the early part of October of 537 B.C.E., ending the seventy years of desolation. Jerusalem must, therefore, have been destroyed seventy years earlier, in 607 B.C.E."—g72 5/8 p. 27 When Did Babylon Desolate Jerusalem?
Yes, Jehovah had pronounced upon his unfaithful people Israel seventy years of exile in Babylon, during which time the land would lie desolate, as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. (Jer. 29:10; Dan. 9:2) But, determining the year Jerusalem was destroyed is not a simple matter of counting back seventy years from the year of their release and return to their former homeland, as explained above. We need to also consider that there were faithful Israelites who were taken into exile years prior to Jerusalem's destruction, including the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel. Regarding this, INSIDE ON THE SCRIPTURES (Vol. 1) states: "In 617 B.C.E., King Nebuchadnezzar took the royal court and the foremost men of Judah into exile at Babylon." (it-1 p. 775 Exile; p. 1269 Jehoiakim) That was at least ten years before the claimed destruction of the city. (Dan. 1:1-7; Ezek. 1:1-3)
If Jerusalem fell in 607 BCE, as we are taught, are we to assume that any Israelite who obeyed Jehovah by going over to the Chaldeans prior to the destruction, spent longer than seventy years in exile? (Jer. 21:8-10; 27:12-14) For example, did the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel spent at least eighty years in Babylon, seeing that they were among the earlier exiles? Ezekiel himself sheds light on this when he recorded: "At length it occurred in the twelfth year, in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month of our exile, that there came to me the escaped one from Jerusalem, saying: 'The city has been struck down.'" (Ezekiel 33:21; 40:1) We see that Ezekiel, along with many others, had already been in exile for over eleven years before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. If we calculate the year that Jerusalem was "struck down" by counting back seventy years from the release of the exiles and their return to Palestine in 537 BCE, that would mean that many of the early exiles spent almost eighty-two years in Babylon, not the seventy as determined by Jehovah. Would that be just? Surely, Jehovah's reckoning of the beginning of the seventy years differs from ours. It would not be 607 BCE!
God's People Are God's
Do you ever stop and meditate on what that really means for you — the blessings, and the responsibility that are included; and how it touches your everyday life? Just think: You belong to God, no, not because you dedicated yourself to him, but rather because he purchased you at great cost to himself. (Rom. 14:8; 1 Cor. 6:19,20; 1 Peter 1:18,19) God's spirit dwells in you! That indicates that you are someone precious to Jehovah, for he does not give his holy spirit to just anyone. (Matt. 7:6) He takes a personal interest in you and the things you do, because everything that involves you also involves his temple. Paul explains to what extent Jehovah is concerned about 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. 3:17; Zech. 2:8; Psalms 105:14,15) Therefore, Jehovah is alert to listen to your prayers, and he will come to your assistance because you, along with your fellow worshipers, are “being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit.” (Prov. 15:8; Eph. 2:21,22)
It is God's holy spirit that gives you the power to succeed in making adjustments in your personality that you are struggling with, thereby reflecting more closely the glory of your heavenly Father. Every day you become more like him, in the same way that Jesus reflected God's glory in his personality. And others will be able to notice these changes in you. (John 14:9; Eph. 4:20-24; Gal. 5:22,23; 2 Cor. 3:18; Heb. 1:3) It is God's holy spirit that teaches you and enables you to know the truth; and also helps you to discern between the "inspired expression of error" as taught by the foretold false prophets, and the "inspired expression of truth" that originates with God, which no fleshly minded person can receive. (John 14:26; Luke 10:21; 1 Cor. 2:10, 14; 1 John 4:1, 6)
Yes, God’s temple is holy, “which temple you people are”! That is why Jehovah is not ashamed to be identified with you, calling you his son or daughter. (2 Cor. 6:17,18; Gal. 3:26; Heb. 11:16) For all these reasons your precious relationship with your heavenly Father is worth safeguarding at all cost, for only you have the power to destroy it. (Rom. 8:31-39; Jude 21)
Critical Times Hard to Deal With in the Congregations
We have read and discussed many times the Scripture that foretold "critical times hard to deal with" in the last days. (2 Tim. 3:1-7) What may not be so obvious to many, though, is that it refers to the condition that will exist within God's own household at that time, and not the world in general where wickedness has always been the norm. (Dan. 12:9,10; Matt. 13:40-42, 49; 2 Peter 2:9-21)
Why does God allow wicked people to carry on within his house? Why does he not remove them before they take root? Jeremiah was troubled by this same situation in his day, and therefore prayed for an answer: "Lord, you always give me justice when I bring a case before you. So let me bring you this complaint: Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy? You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered. Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts. But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts. Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered! How long must this land mourn? Even the grass in the fields has withered. The wild animals and birds have disappeared because of the evil in the land. For the people have said, 'The Lord doesn’t see what’s ahead for us!'" (Jeremiah 12:1-4, NLT; Zeph. 1:12,13; 1 Peter 4:17,18)
Jehovah is not the cause of our affliction. Neither is he unaware of our suffering on account of allowing the wicked ones to exist in our midst. By his tremendous patience toward the sinners he accomplishes two important things, namely, (1) He demonstrates his great love, even for those who have no love for him; giving them time to repent and make necessary changes in their personality and dealings; (2) and it helps identify the righteous ones among his people, even as Jeremiah noted when he said, "But as for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts." Although God's servants suffer on account of the wicked ones within his household—often being targeted by them—they nevertheless loyally stick with Jehovah and patiently wait for the time when he will "set them aside to be slaughtered!" (Rom. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Mal. 3:17,18; Matt. 13:43; Eccl. 8:11-13) In the meantime, Jehovah sustains his loyal ones by means of his spirit, enabling them to know the truth; and in the future he will generously make it up to them and undo any harm that came to them. "And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away." (Rev. 21:4; Isaiah 65:17) Hold on to your integrity! Your endurance under present suffering within God's house will not have been in vain. (compare Job 42:10-13)
Worshipers of Jehovah, or Followers of Men?
Many of our brothers and sisters have difficulty understanding how the "man of lawlessness" can co-exist with God's faithful servants within the same household; although this was prophesied. (2 Tim. 2:3-12) Jehovah knows that everyone wants to have everlasting life; that is what draws people to him. (Acts 13:48; John 3:16) But not everyone cares about worshiping him "with spirit and truth," which involves listening to God and obeying him. (John 4:23,24) History tells us that God's people as a whole rarely listened to him. And neither did they listen to Jesus, as would also be the case with them in the time of the end. Jesus said: "He that is from God listens to the sayings of God. This is why you do not listen, because you are not from God." But his sheep do listen to him: "My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 8:44-47; 10:27)
The Watchtower, August 1, 2012, may help illustrate how Jehovah instructs his people, within his temple, while at the same time he allows "an operation of error" go to them. The opening articles in the magazine honor God by discussing the Miracles of the Bible and why we can believe them. These may strengthen our faith in God and his promises. Another interesting, yet self-condemning article, is entitled, Jehovah Hates Injustice, which observes that "humans tend to abuse power, no matter who they are or where they live. All too often they victimize the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. . . In his Law to Israel, Jehovah made it clear that those in positions of authority must never misuse their power. . . Ezekiel's words teach us these two lessons about Jehovah and injustice: First, he hates it; second, he has compassion for its innocent victims. God has not changed. (Malachi 3:6) He promises that soon he will remove injustice and those who foment it." (page 27) How true that is! And his judgment starts with his own house. (1 Peter 4:17,18)
Those two articles express God's thoughts, based on his Word, and are for that reason beneficial. Yet, on pages 16-17, LEARN FROM GOD'S WORD, under the heading When Did Jesus Become King? it discusses the 2,520 years (as they calculate the "seven times" from Daniel's prophecy) and how they point to 1914 as the year for Jesus' enthronement as king. It states: "Events since 1914 confirm that Jesus became King in that year.—Read Matthew 24:14; Luke 21:10,11,31." God's people recognize that this teaching is among the "inspired expressions of error," for we can be certain that if there were some way of calculating the year that Jesus would return as king, Jesus himself would have been able to do so. Yet he said "concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matt. 24:36; 1 John 4:6) Not only was there no way of calculating in advance the day and hour (or year or century), but Jesus also emphasized that it does not belong to us to get that knowledge, which "the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction." (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7) When we look up the Scriptures referred to in that article, we find that the article actually contradicts Jesus' own words regarding the signs he gave in connection with the conclusion of the system of things and his return as king, when he said: "Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near." Yes, rather than confirming that Jesus is already ruling (and has therefore already identified and appointed his "faithful and discreet slave"), the signs would be evidence of Jesus being "near at the doors," and that "the kingdom of God is near." It was Charles Taze Russell who taught that Jesus had returned in 1874, which was later changed to 1914 under Joseph Rutherford's rule. Therefore, all of us within God's temple face the clear choice: Do we listen to Jesus, or to the Society and Rutherford's "inspired expressions of error"? (1 John 4:1)
Another article (pages 28-31) covers the 132nd Gilead Graduation, Champions of the Truth, and has "brother" Lösch list "five ways by which we know we have the truth": (1) "We remain in Jesus' teaching," [that's a funny one, considering just the one above example]; (2) "we love one another," [conditional love is love too, isn't it?]; (3) "we adhere to God's high moral standards," [no pedophiles, adulterers, liars, etc. in our midst, that we should know about]; (4) Perhaps best of all: "we remain neutral in the controversies of this world," [being an NGO, or a member of the OSCE, "where representatives of civil society sit with governments on an equal footing to discuss the implementation of OSCE commitments on the protection of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy," does not count according to "brother" Lösch]; (5) "we are God's name people," [can't argue against this one. One out of five is at least 20%].
I think we all can appreciate that these things help identify who we truly are at heart: Worshipers of Jehovah, or followers of men! (Psalms 146:3-5) If we "love the truth" we will recognize it, as we are taught by God's spirit. If we know the truth but reject it, then in time we will likewise be rejected by God, and lose his spirit. (Matt. 7:6) That is why it serves God's purpose to tolerate for a while the man of lawlessness within his temple, "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. 2:11,12) It makes possible the separation of "the wicked from among the righteous." (Malachi 3:17,18; Daniel 12:9,10; Matthew 13:41-43, 49) Where do you see yourself in this?
A brief summary of what Jesus meant
when he told Nicodemus that "You people must be born again." (John 3:7)
• The nation of Israel was born as God's people at Mount Sinai when God made the covenant with them, with Moses as the mediator, "for the purpose of establishing you today as his people and that he may prove himself your God." (Deut. 29:12,13)
• God foretold a new covenant: "Look! There are days coming and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers . . . I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people." (Jer. 31:31-33; Heb. 8:6-13) With the new covenant they would renew their relationship with God as his people; he would become their God again, and they his people again.
• The foretold new covenant became operative on the day of Pentecost, with Jesus as the mediator, when he poured out the holy spirit upon the 120 disciples, and about 3000 were joined to them. (Acts 2:1-42; Heb. 9:13-15, 18-22)
• Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled with the new covenant at Pentecost: "Before she began to come into labor pains she gave birth. Before birth pangs could come to her, she even gave deliverance to a male child. Who has heard of a thing like this? Who has seen things like these? Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at one time? For Zion has come into labor pains as well as given birth to her sons." (Isaiah 66:7,8) The Jews, who exercised faith in the mediator Christ Jesus, became the nation that was born at one time, in one day. They were thus born again, again becoming God's people while He again became their God. The Jews who failed to enter into the new covenant, by rejecting the mediator, ceased being God's covenant people. (Paul in his letter to the Galatians illustrates the two covenants by comparing them to the birth of Hagar's son and Sarah's son; Gal. 4:21-31; Rom. 10:1-4)
Nicodemus, as a teacher of Israel, should have known these prophecies, as Jesus indicated to him. (John 3:9,10) When he went to visit Jesus that night, he had the privilege of being instructed by the mediator of the new covenant. This is what Jesus was impressing on him. (For further information see "Born Again"—What Did Jesus Mean?)
Don’t Let Others Rob You of
Don't be too quick to judge God's patience by present circumstances among his people, getting all upset about the things you observe taking place and wondering why he has allowed it to exist and fester within our congregations. It is not that he is not aware of these things, or that he doesn't care (remember that he foretold these things). Never should we express an attitude that we are more righteous than God. There are still developments to take place in the days to come that may affect, even change, our present understanding of things; and we may discover that all the concerns that we have today may be deemed irrelevant tomorrow. (1 Cor. 4:5; Luke 21:28; 1 Peter 4:7,8; 2 Peter 3:9)
Don’t allow others to rob you of your joy, “for the joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
What We Do Reflects on God
Jehovah wants us to be happy! Imagine, he even pleads for us to listen to him, because he knows what is best for us. Therefore, he says: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk. O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17,18) When we fail to listen to God, we end up making the same mistakes that are common to the world, and, of course, with the same consequences. We get hurt, not because Jehovah is punishing us, but because of the law of cause and effect; for every action there is a reaction, whether good or bad. Naturally, we want the outcome of everything we do to be successful, so that we have a happy and prosperous life. And Jehovah knows how we can attain that!
Bear in mind that as members of God’s household, what we do reflects also on God. Thus we have the opportunity to demonstrate to everyone — our family, relatives, friends, neighbors, in fact the whole world — that God’s way is definitely the very best. And that in turn will draw others to God as well. (compare 1 Peter 3:1,2; 2:12) But when we fail to listen to Jehovah, and suffer the same problems that others have who do not know God, then they may come to the mistaken conclusion that there is no advantage in obeying God. Not only do we then reap the natural consequences of breaking God’s laws by getting hurt; but because we belong to Jehovah, he may also discipline us as any loving father does his children, to impress on us the safety of obedience, which we may not appreciate until we have grown older. (Heb. 12:7-14) And as long as that is the case, we can be assured that he has not given up on us! (Micah 7:9; 2 Chron. 36:15,16)
You Need God's
We need to recognize and appreciate our dependence on God’s holy spirit, for it is God's spirit that enables us to know the truth; helps us to put on the new personality; and makes us members of God’s household — which is his temple where his spirit dwells. (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22; 4:21-24) That is why Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:44, 65) A person can come to Jesus only when he has God's holy spirit, without which he cannot know the truth about him or the Father. (John 8:47; 10:26,27; 16:3) Without the holy spirit we cannot “worship the Father with spirit and truth,” which Jesus said God requires of his true worshipers. (John 4:23,24; ) The “spirit” with which we must worship God is not our spirit, but God’s spirit, which he gives to those asking him. (Luke 11:13) The emphasis is not on sincerity but rather TRUTH, accurate knowledge, as taught us by holy spirit! (Rom. 10:2,3; 1 Cor. 1:18-2:10-14) And the Scriptures tell us that Jehovah does not give his holy spirit to just anyone. (Matt. 7:6; Acts 5:32; James 1:6-8)
We must treasure God's spirit, for were we to lose it for some reason, we would not only lose our close relationship with our heavenly Father, but also lose everything we have in the way of accurate knowledge. (Matt. 25:28-30; Heb. 6:4-6) God's holy spirit is the most valuable possession anyone can have. (Jude 21) It is important that we recognize that it is on account of God's spirit that we know the truth; and not because of any man or group of men! To take credit for what God accomplishes by means of his spirit is a denying of the power of the holy spirit. (Luke 12:10-12; Acts 7:51) We simply plant, and water, but it is God who makes it grow by means of his spirit. (1 Cor. 3:5-7)
Congregations Must be "a Pillar and Support of the Truth."
(1 Tim. 3:15)
The congregation meetings are God's provision for our encouragement and upbuilding, especially in these "last days." (2 Tim. 3:1-7) The apostle Paul wrote: "We must hold on to the hope we have, never hesitating to tell people about it. We can trust God to do what he promised. We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works. We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer." (Heb. 10:23-25; 13:17, ERV) Our meetings are not simply for our own benefit, but just as importantly, they are a place where we can be a source of encouragement to our brothers and sisters. That is one vital way in which we prove that we are truly Christ's disciples "in favorable season, in troublesome season." (John 13:34,35; 2 Tim. 4:2)
The congregations belong to God, while Jesus is the undisputed head. (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:12, 27-31; Eph. 5:22,23, 28,29; Rev. 2:1-3:22) The meetings also exist for the purpose of rendering sacred service to God, as Paul notes, qualifying us to tell people "the hope we have." That is no different today as it was in the first century. (Rom. 12:1,2) For that reason both, Jehovah and Jesus, take an active interest in what is happening within our congregations. The apostle Paul explains further: "And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2:19-22) The congregations must be "a pillar and support of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15)
All of God's people have God's spirit, which teaches us and enables us to contribute, in some measure, to "the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (1 Cor. 3:16,17) Do you see why it is important for you to continue to attend the meetings to the extent that your circumstances allow? Rather than being quick to judge our brothers as unworthy of our association, we should be a source of encouragement to them. "But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. Because it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. So stop judging each other. Instead, this is what you should decide: never put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister." (Rom. 14:10-13, CE Bible; Luke 6:27-33, 37,38)
Can Man Make the Secular Holy?
Can the secular be made holy by joining the two together? Long ago God sent his prophet Haggai to the priests to address that issue: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Ask, please, the priests as to the law, saying: “If a man carries holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and he actually touches with his skirt bread or stew or wine or oil or any sort of food, will it become holy?”’” And the priests proceeded to answer and say: “No!” And Haggai went on to say: “If someone unclean by a deceased soul touches any of these things, will it become unclean?” In turn the priests answered and said: “It will become unclean.” Accordingly Haggai answered and said: “‘That is how this people is, and that is how this nation is before me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and that is how all the work of their hands is, and whatever they present there. It is unclean.’" (Haggai 2:10-14) Clearly, something unclean or common will not become holy simply by coming in contact with the holy; while on the other hand, the holy will be made unclean by the common, or profane.
In the same way, the secular Watchtower Society that was originally formed for the purpose of printing and distributing God's holy Word, is not thereby made holy! But it is possible to make the holy things of God unclean by trying to combine the two. That would render all our worship unclean, as Jehovah told the priests, and as Jesus said, "in vain." (Matt. 15:3-9; 7:21-23) We ourselves must be holy, and that is not possible if we fail to distinguish between the holy and the common, the secular. —2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 1 Peter 1:14-16; Revelation 22:10-12. (see also "Distinguishing Between the Sacred and the Secular")
5/22/12Are We Doing OK as Long as We Attend all the Meetings?
Not Much Different From That of Jesus' Day
Whenever we start to feel impatient, perhaps even overwhelmed, by the situation in our congregations, and realize that this reflects the condition of the organization as a whole at this time, it is good to remind ourselves that this is really what it was like also in Jesus’ day.
The Jews were God’s people, yet the majority refused to listen to Jehovah on account of their governing body, the Sanhedrin, which at that time consisted of seventy members, and to whom the masses were obedient and in fear of. (Luke 22:66,67; John 9:22; 12:42,43) These rulers resembled whitewashed graves, as Jesus noted. They appeared outwardly indeed beautiful to the people, but "inside [were] full of dead men's bones and every sort of uncleanness." (Matt. 23:27,28) Jesus further condemned them as being “from your father the Devil.” Why? They had no regard for truth! They rejected God’s word of truth and commandments in favor of their own doctrines and traditions, which were based on lies. Thus they made God’s word invalid; and they worshiped God in vain! Their main concern revolved around holding on to their lofty position of authority and glory, and for that reason they stubbornly rejected the truth and opposed anyone, including Jesus, who posed a threat to them. (John 4:2324; 8:44,45; 11:47,48) And, for the sake of unity, they would expel from the synagogue anyone who did not submit to them, not unlike today. —Matthew 5:20; 6:1,2, 5, 16; 16:11,12; 23:2-7; John 7:47-49; 16:1-4.
Jesus himself, though, felt pity for the crowds, viewing them as sheep without a shepherd, “skinned and thrown about.” (Matt. 9:36; Ezek. 34:2-10) And although the vast majority of the Jews rejected Jesus on account of their governing body, yet there were individuals who recognized the truth and were refreshed by his teachings. (Matt. 11:28,29; John 7:37,38; Acts 3:19) These loyal disciples remained steadfast even under persecution. —Acts 4:15-20; 5:27-29, 40,41; 7:58-60.
The apostle Paul explains that if God required his people to be obedient to all the things that he had commanded them, according to the terms under the old covenant, then how much more important is it for us today to be obedient to the reality that was pictured by those things. (Heb. 10:28,29; 1 Cor. 10:11) Jesus never encouraged anyone to separate themselves from their fellow Jews who were under the authority of the Sanhedrin, or to stop going to the temple. Neither did he, in any of his letters to the seven congregations at the end of the first century, advise his disciples to “get out” from among the congregations that he found necessary to rebuke, as some are doing today, for he was still their head. While Jesus gave the spiritually "dead" congregations time to repent, his faithful disciples needed to endure their suffering. —Revelation 2:24,25; 3:1-6; 18:4; Philippians 3:18.
Once we understand why the present situation exists within God’s household, and why Jehovah has allowed it, exposing the wicked among us to give them time to repent (as it was foretold), it certainly helps us to endure and put up with whatever he permits; while we take advantage of the opportunity to prove our loyalty to him, and patiently wait for him to carry out all his promises, including the removal and destruction of the “man of lawlessness.” This of course will take place immediately upon Christ’s return. —2 Thessalonians 2:8.
I think we can all appreciate why Jehovah did not reveal the presence of the man of lawlessness in our midst decades earlier. Imagine how that would have affected our joy, our zeal in the preaching of the good news of the kingdom, and our love for each other, long before the present time. Our suffering at this time is therefore cut short, shorter at least than it might have been. —Matthew 24:14, 44; Revelation 3:3.
4/17/12Who Was Abishag?
A "Man of Lawlessness" Within God's Temple
All of God’s people are prone to make mistakes when it comes to understanding the Scriptures, because we do not as yet have full knowledge of everything there is to know; at least not until God’s will has been accomplished. For now, it is still as the apostle Paul wrote: “If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.” Or as the New Life Version puts it: “The person who thinks he knows all the answers still has a lot to learn.” (1 Cor. 8:2; 13:9-12, ESV) That is why James counseled that “not many of you should become teachers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment.” (James 3:1)
It is not knowledge that recommends us to God, for “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1; 4:6) Jehovah will not condemn anyone simply for believing an error, for he will in due time correct such a person. (Compare Acts 18:24-28) That is why it is so important for us to “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” (1 John 4:1, 6; Acts 17:11) His holy spirit, our helper, will enable us to grow in accurate knowledge of the truth as we prayerfully study the Scriptures and humbly make any necessary adjustments as we discover the need to. (John 14:26; Eph. 3:18,19; Heb. 5:12-14)
But when a person refuses to be corrected, and continues to teach what he knows to be error, even going so far as to hide the truth—for whatever reason, then it is no longer a matter of making a mistake, but rather the error becomes a lie. Such a person will eventually be rejected by Jehovah, for willful liars will not inherit the kingdom. (Rev. 21:8) Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day as being “from your father the Devil,…because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) Teaching lies and hiding the truth is what Satan does! And that was reflected in the way the religious leaders prevented God’s people from accepting their long awaited Messiah. (John 7:47-49; 12:42,43)
The apostle Paul foretold a shocking situation that would exist within God’s temple, but which would be exposed in connection with Christ’s return. He spoke of a “man of lawlessness” who had elevated himself over all others, even showing himself to be a god; but whose “presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and...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.” This lawless one “the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence.” (2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 Cor. 3:16,17) Paul emphasizes the great danger he poses to God’s people, because his lies render as vain, futile, the worship of those who follow him, and thus they will perish along with him. ( Matt. 15:9; Luke 12:45,46) It is presently a real challenge to remain within God's temple while keeping one's spiritual balance, and render sacred service that is acceptable to God. But with the help of God's holy spirit it is possible. (Rev. 7:15)
The Memorial Celebration Belongs to Jesus
As we all know, the annual Memorial (April 5, this year) is celebrated in remembrance of Jesus Christ, as he directed his disciples to keep doing when he said: "Keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19,20) The apostle Paul found it necessary to explain the importance of this occasion to the Corinthian congregation, many of whom had failed to appreciate the significance of it, when he reminded them, saying: "For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives." (1 Cor. 11:25,26) Clearly, the Memorial belongs to Jesus! It is not celebrated for the purpose of remembering or identifying any of his disciples who will rule with Christ in his kingdom!
From the time of Christ until Joseph Rutherford's day (second president of the Watchtower Society, 1917-42), everyone of God's people partook of the emblems at the Memorial. Then, in 1935 Rutherford identified, in a convention discourse, the great crowd of Revelation as "an earthly class," whom he dubbed "the Jonadabs," and who it was said are not included in the "covenant for a kingdom" that Jesus is claimed to have made with his disciples on the night that he instituted the Lord's evening meal with them. (Please see covenant for a kingdom.) It has been explained that these ones are therefore not entitled to partake at the Memorial of Christ's death. (In fact, until Rutherford's death in 1942, these ones were not even acknowledged as being Jehovah's Witnesses. See the book, Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, page 83, footnote; page 721, 1935.)
Search as we might the Scriptures, we will not find any prohibition at all for anyone to celebrate the Memorial just as Jesus directed. For that reason, Jehovah's people face the same dilemma every year at this time: Whose disciples are we? Do we obey Jesus, or the ones who perpetuate Rutherford's teaching? Although some elders view partaking of the emblems by anyone other than the anointed as being guilty of sin, in reality is it not those who refuse to obey that are in danger of disobedience? We do not sin by being obedient to Jesus' command to "keep doing this in remembrance of me." On one occasion Jesus explained that if we make God's word invalid by our own traditions, then our worship is in vain, useless. (Matt. 15:6-9)
For this reason, some of God's people have, for conscience sake, after attending the Memorial at the Kingdom Hall—in recognition that Jehovah has a household (where he is still allowing the "man of lawlessness" to operate), celebrated with their family and perhaps likeminded friends, the Lord's evening meal at home in the manner that Jesus instructed. In the first century it was observed as a communal meal. Because some in the Corinth congregation missed the purpose of the gathering—starting to eat and drink as soon as they arrived and before everyone was present, perhaps leaving little food for the others; and some even becoming drunk from too much wine—Paul had to correct them. That is why he explained that a person can become guilty by his disrespect of the occasion, for the Memorial is about "proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives." Once he arrives, there will be no more need to remember him. (If Jesus did indeed arrive in 1914, as Rutherford taught, why are we still "proclaiming the death of the Lord" every year?) In the meantime it is proper for all of us to set a day aside each year, according to Jesus' instruction, in which we appreciatively consider what his death accomplished, namely, reconciling us to God by having our sins forgiven. That day belongs to Jesus!—1 Corinthians 11:18-31; Romans 5:6-11, 18,19.
Not Missing the Purpose of the Memorial
The Memorial will be celebrated this year (2012) on Thursday, April 5, after sundown. It is a good time for us to again meditate on Jesus' words: "Keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) What did Jesus have in mind when he said those words? Many today don't realize that his disciples interpreted Jesus' directive to mean two different things; one of which resulted in introducing the pagan Trinity doctrine into the Christian congregation. (For a discussion on the Memorial and partaking see Question Box.)
In the years following Jesus' death and resurrection, some of his followers started to question what it was that Jesus wanted them to remember about him. Was it Jesus the person; or his death as the Passover Lamb? (John 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7; Rev. 7:14) Those who believed that Jesus wanted them to remember him as the Son of God who had performed miracles, and taught the people to love one another, began to scrutinize him more closely as the man. Who really was Jesus? Did he exist in heaven before he was born to Mary? Jesus had said that he was the “only-begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16, 18) They analyzed what that might mean! Was he divine? In what respects was he greater than the other spirit creatures? (Matt. 28:18) If he was created like them, then how would he be different from them? Eventually many came to the conclusion that he was God himself, but this was by no means accepted by everyone. Yet, over the centuries this became church dogma. The Website About.com provides the following information regarding the dispute that ensued as a result of remembering Jesus as the person:
Opposing Images of God: Trinitarian Church
fathers, Bishop Alexander of Alexandria and his deacon Athanasius, believed
there were three persons in one god. The Trinitarians were pitted against the
Monarchianists, who believed in only one indivisible god. These included Arius,
Presbyter in Alexandria, and Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia.
Homo Ousion (same substance) vs. Homoi Ousion (like substance): The sticking point at the Nicene Council was a concept found nowhere in the Bible: homoousion. According to the concept of homo-ousion, Christ the Son was consubstantial (the Roman translation for the Greek, meaning 'sharing the same substance') with the Father. Arius and Eusebius disagreed. Arius thought the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were materially separate from each other, and that the Father created the Son.
Arius and his followers, the Arians (not to be confused with the Indo-Europeans known as Aryans), believed if the Son were equal to the Father, there would be more than one God. The opposing Trinitarians believed it diminished the importance of the Son to make him subordinate to the Father.
Wavering Decision of Constantine: The Trinitarian bishops prevailed. Emperor Constantine was not himself a Christian (although this is a matter of dispute: Constantine was baptized before he died). Despite this, he had recently made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. This made heresy akin to revolt, so Constantine exiled the excommunicated Arius to Illyria (modern Albania).
Constantine's friend Eusebius, who eventually withdrew his objection, but still wouldn't sign the statement of faith, and a neighboring bishop, Theognis, were also exiled -- to Gaul (modern France). Constantine reversed his opinion about the Arian heresy, and had both exiled bishops reinstated three years later (in 328). At the same time, Arius was recalled from exile.
Constantine's sister and Eusebius worked on the emperor to obtain reinstatement for Arius, and they would have succeeded, if Arius hadn't suddenly died - by poisoning, probably, or, as some prefer to believe, by divine intervention.
Arianism regained momentum and survived until the reigns of Gratian and Theodosius, at which time, St. Ambrose set to work stamping it out.
On the other hand, the disciples of Jesus who
understood his words, “keep doing this in remembrance of me,” to refer to
his sacrificial death—as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the
world”—focused on what his death accomplished, and how the annual Passover
celebration under the old Law covenant had foreshadowed it. That is what they
preached! That is what the apostle Paul taught when he said, “For as often as
you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the
Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Cor. 11:26; Rom. 5:6-10) There is no confusion among
God's people as to the identity of Jesus or his Father Jehovah, whom we worship.
that, the solid foundation of God stays standing, having this seal: 'Jehovah
knows those who belong to him."
(1/30/12 - 12/25/12)
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