These Things Were Written for a Warning to Us
(1 Cor. 10:11)
4/15/13 The Man of Lawlessness Has Elevated Himself Over Everyone (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 8-10)
The Glory is in Serving
"We Are Not Listening to You"
Jehovah's people have always found it a challenge to obey him, even when they clearly understood his Word. (Deut. 30:11-15) We who love Jehovah wonder how that can be possible! Disobedience often results when people allow themselves to be deceived into thinking that acting contrary to God's word might actually be beneficial, as in the case of Eve who understood God's law regarding eating from the forbidden tree yet ate from it anyways. Others, like Adam, can be seduced into following such persons. (Gen. 3:1-6; Gal. 1:8)
Consider one example that should serve as a warning to us today. The Israelites were continuously rebellious by refusing to listen to Jehovah their God, until he finally no longer accepted their sacrifices and determined to bring the Babylonians against them, to rip away the wicked from the land, and destroy Jerusalem with its temple. He proclaimed his intention by means of his prophets—foremost among them being Jeremiah—to afford them ample opportunity to take lifesaving action. Of course, the majority failed to heed the warning as they had always refused to listen to God. There is one outrages example mentioned that demonstrates their absolute determination not to listen, even after the city with its temple had already been destroyed and most of the survivors had gone into exile. Contrary to God's command, many had fled into Egypt, thinking that they could escape his wrath there. But Jehovah further warned them by means of Jeremiah: "I will take the remnant of Judah who set their faces to enter into the land of Egypt to reside there as aliens, and they will all certainly come to their finish in the land of Egypt. They will fall by the sword; and by the famine and they will come to their finish, from the smallest one even to the greatest one; by the sword and by the famine they will die." Would they heed this final warning? They answered Jeremiah: "As regards the word that you have spoken to us in the name of Jehovah, we are not listening to you." (Jer. 44:4-6, 11,12, 15,16)
Surely we have learned from the example of God's people back then who suffered the consequences for their disobedience! Haven't we? We won't make the same mistakes; Will we? (1 Cor. 10:11,12) Since the Scriptures foretold in advance the things that will happen in the "last days" within God's household, and how this will affect God's people, how is it that there are those who now say that Jehovah does not have a people on account of these things now taking place? Are they not in effect saying: "As regards the word that you have spoken to us in the name of Jehovah, we are not listening to you"? (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 3:1-7; 2 Peter 2:1-3) Don't pay attention to them, for they can only weaken your faith in the rest of God's promises which are sure to come true, all of them. (2 Peter 2:17-21)
Is the Watchtower Society God's Spirit Directed Organization?
Ignoring Jehovah's laws always comes with terrible consequences, as the nation of Israel often experienced; although they never really learned from it. A wise proverb says: "A rebuke works deeper in one having understanding than striking a stupid one a hundred times." (Prov. 17:10) Learning how God dealt with his people in the past can serve as a rebuke to us who have "understanding," because we know that we will reap the same consequences if we too disobey. (1 Cor. 10:11) Take for example the complaint that Jehovah had against the priests who were responsible for instructing the people in God's law. Jehovah told them: "Her priests themselves have done violence to my law, and they keep profaning my holy places. Between the holy thing and the common they have made no distinction, and between the unclean thing and the clean they have made nothing known." (Ezek. 22:26; 44:23)
What is the situation among God's people today? Has Jehovah's condemnation of his priests in Ezekiel's day served as a rebuke to us? Do we make a distinction between "the holy thing and the common"? Well, are we disturbed by comments such as in The Watchtower of 1976, where it reported: "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. The Society maintains 96 Branch offices around the globe." (w76 1/15 p. 53)
The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania is still acting as the "administrative agency" for all of God's people earth wide. Is it holy? Is the Society's charter based on God's standards, his laws? Are the President and the Board of Directors, along with the maximum 500 members, appointed by Jehovah? Or is its existence not rather according to the secular laws of this world, of which Satan is the ruler? (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) Was it a sin to profane God's holy places in Ezekiel's time, while today it is not only acceptable but even blessed by Jehovah? Since Pentecost God's people are his temple. They are holy for God's spirit dwells with them. (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22) We are profaning God's holy temple when we present a secular Society as being from God, and use it as the 'administrative agency' for God's people earth wide. In the first century it was the holy spirit that directed God's people in every congregation. Jehovah has promised that this will be the case again in the near future, when he removes the "stupid" people who have not come to understand.
Why Do Most People Prefer the Lie, When the Truth is So Much Better?
Why is it often so much easier to trust in a lie rather than the truth? (John 8:44-47) When Satan tempted Eve to disobey God, he promised her that she would not die. She believed him and sinned! As a result she eventually died, and so did her husband Adam who had joined her in the rebellion. But even before they both died, they lost their son Abel who was murdered by his older brother. (Gen. 3:3,4, 19; 5:5) Satan could not prevent their death, so he covered his original lie with another lie, namely, that a person who dies is not really dead—he has a soul distinct from his physical body that cannot die. The vast majority of mankind throughout history have bought into this other lie; and thus their hope has been to go on living after their death somewhere else, such as in some underworld; and that in spite of our Creator telling us that "the soul that is sinning will die," and it "returns to the dust." (Ezek. 18:4; Eccl. 3:19,20)
Rather than believing in an invisible and immortal disembodied soul, we can put our confidence in the Creator's promise "that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous." (Acts 24:15) Not only did Jesus believe and teach the resurrection hope, but he actually proved the reality of it by bringing dead persons back to life. (Matt. 9:23-26; 11:4,5; Luke 7:12-15; John 11:43,44; 5:28,29) Since the resurrection is real, and not some crazy dream, why do most people scoff at it? (Acts 17:30-32) And yet, there is something that is even more amazing than a future resurrection of the dead. The Scriptures talk of a coming "great tribulation" whereby God will destroy all people on earth who refused to obey him; while his obedient people will enjoy his protection and survive this greatest of all calamities. (Matt. 24:21,22; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 7:9, 14; Zeph. 1:17,18) This will make room for God's own rulership, his kingdom, that Jesus preached. (Dan. 7:13,14; Matt. 4:23; 6:9,10; Rev. 20:6) It is to this great crowd that "comes out of the great tribulation" that Jesus' words apply, when he said: "And everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all." (John 11:26) Jesus will then "shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life." (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 7:9, 14-17; 21:3,4) Therefore, this great crowd will have the unique distinction and fame for all eternity of being the only ones of mankind to never have experienced death, and therefore never were in need of a resurrection!—Zephaniah 1:14, 18; 2:2,3
Is the 144,000 a Literal Number?
In his Revelation, the apostle John sees "the Lamb, standing on [the] Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads." They are "bought from the earth." (Rev. 14:1, 3; NIV1984) Earlier, John had been shown in vision that the great tribulation is held back until the final ones of the 144,000 have been sealed in their foreheads. (Rev. 7:1-4)
There are some who question whether this is a literal number, of a literal group of persons; or simply symbolic. Well, consider for example: If a Charter Bus has been booked for 48 passengers, and you are told that the Bus cannot leave until first all 48 passengers are on board and accounted for, would you enter into a debate with someone about the reality of the passengers and their number? Would you actually consider the possibility that the passengers may simply be figurative, including even the Bus? Many believe that the entire Bible is simply a figurative, or even fictitious book that should not be understood literal. How do you feel about that? Do you agree that the 144,000 is a literal number made up of real people who are "bought from among mankind"? What about the twelve apostles? Are they figurative?
Jesus told his apostles: "I am going [to my Father's house] to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am." (John 14:2-5; NCV) The Scriptures indicate that the twelve apostles are the first ones of the 144,000; and that a remnant of these ones would still be alive on earth at the time Jesus returns to receive them to himself. And just as God himself selected the apostles, likewise all of the 144,000 have been chosen by Jehovah, each one according to his own purpose, which may not reflect the way the world chooses their CEOs, as the apostle Paul explains: "Brothers and sisters, God chose you to be his. Think about that! Not many of you were wise in the way the world judges wisdom. Not many of you had great influence, and not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. And God chose what the world thinks is not important—what the world hates and thinks is nothing. He chose these to destroy what the world thinks is important. God did this so that no one can stand before him and boast about anything." (1 Cor. 1:26-29, ERV; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2:19)
Therefore, if someone feels that God has chosen him, and anointed him, let him also humbly realize that God was looking for a person considered foolish, and weak, someone despised and looked down upon by the world's standards; yes, the opposite of someone who wants to be viewed as special and looked up to. This is God's answer to Satan, who was at one time the exceedingly beautiful, powerful, and wise, covering cherub "in Eden, the garden of God;" but who made himself the Devil when on account of his glory he became vain, and his desire to make himself resemble God caused him to rebel. (Ezek. 28:13-17; Isa. 14:12-14) It is not beauty, nor wisdom, nor power, that Jehovah is looking for in a person he chooses to serve his purpose; but humility and obedience! A lowly humble and obedient person from among mankind is more powerful by the power of God's holy spirit, than the most powerful spirit creature, such as the once glorious cherub who ruined his way. (Luke 10:17-20; 1 Tim. 3:6,7; Psalms 138:6; 1 Sam. 15:17, 22,23)
How Does God Help Us?
Does Jehovah help us personally in our time of need? Many who have walked with God for many years can attest to the fact that he does. Jehovah is alert to act "in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him." (2 Chron. 16:9) He wants to help us to be successful and happy! That is why 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…” (Isaiah 48:17,18; Prov. 3:5,6) How does God help us? We are helped when we listen to him, because he is teaching us "to benefit ourselves"! There are things that we need to do. Consider for example when we have employment and go to work; don't we have to listen to our employer and do what he says in order to receive our wages? In turn, the money we earn helps to pay our expenses, such as our home, our food, and everything else that we need in order to make our life not only possible but also comfortable. Does anyone ever ask: “How does my Boss help me?” or, “What has my Boss done for me?” the way some people question God's help? If we don’t show up for work, will we get paid? Will God help anyone who doesn’t listen to him, when much of the help is contained in what he is teaching us?
The most valuable possession that anyone can have is God’s holy spirit, which he gives to those who obey him, and it is FREE. (Acts 2:38; 10:45) The world which is estranged from God cannot receive it; it cannot be bought with all the money in the world! (Acts 8:18-20) It is by means of his holy spirit that God often comes to our aid. And when we have his holy spirit we also enjoy its fruitage in our lives, which is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22,23; 1 Cor. 2:14) These are things that make for genuine happiness, and it helps us to be a better, kinder person—the sort of person that God loves. Even when we are at times hungry, we are still happy; whereas the rich man, who has plenty to eat, may be miserable, for there is wisdom in the saying: "Money cannot buy happiness." (Eccl. 5:12)
Another way in which God helps us, that money cannot buy, is a positive outlook on the future—the sure hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth, in perfect health; when there will be no more wars, no crime, everyone will own their own homes with gardens that will grow an abundance of delicious and nutritious foods, etc. (John 10:27,28; Isaiah 65:17, 21-25; Rev. 20:3,4) But even right now Jehovah helps us when we have problems, for he encourages us to "throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter." (Psalms 55:22) If you have not yet experienced God's help in your life, perhaps you need to get to know him first.
Can Truth be Debated?
According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, to debate means "to discuss a question by considering opposed arguments." The Bible tells us that when Paul was in Athens, "he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned (διελέγετο) in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate (συνέβαλλον - lit. throwing together) with him. Some of them asked, 'What is this babbler trying to say?' Others remarked, 'He seems to be advocating foreign gods.' They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.' (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)'" (Acts 17:16-19; NIV)
The account says that while Paul was "reasoning" with the people, the Greek philosophers were "debating," that is, they were presenting their opposing arguments to refute what they considered to be unrealistic. Like Paul, when he preached the good news about Jesus and the resurrection, we too can reason on the truth from the Scriptures; but can the truth be debated by considering opposed arguments? Can a fact be disputed? For example, can we debate the scripture that says "God is love," by presenting counter arguments? Those who attempt to do so demonstrate that they have not come to know God. (1 John 4:8; John 16:3; 1 Cor. 2:14; 1 Tim. 6:3-5)
In Paul's day it was popular for the people to "spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas." Similarly today, the internet allows people all over the world to debate "the latest ideas" on the many forums. Many among God's own people have been caught up in this as well, and due to having lost faith in the Watchtower Society, they are sharing in debates that question whether anyone can truly understand the Bible. Like the agnostics in ancient Greece, some have become "unwilling to commit to an opinion," debating the Scriptures with the attitude that "ultimate reality is unknown and probably unknowable." (Merriam-Webster: agnostic) This causes them to consider everyone's opinions as equally valid; while at the same time they scorn those who claim to know what Jesus called "truth." But apart from truth we cannot worship God! (John 4:23,24; Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 1:18-23; 2 Tim. 4:3-5)
Why Are There Still
Wicked Men Among God's People? (Jer. 5:26; Mal. 3:14,15)
Why has Jehovah permitted the wicked to exist along with the righteous within his household up to the present? One important reason is that he is allowing the wicked time to repent, because “he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9; Rom. 2:4) That was the intent of Jesus’ letters to five of the seven congregations in Asia Minor. (Rev. 2:1-3:22)
Another reason is that the wicked among his people have to be clearly identified, in order that no righteous person is swept away along with the wicked. That takes time! (Gen. 18:25; Matt. 13:29,30; 2 Peter 2:9) Jehovah may observe a wicked attitude develop in a person within a congregation, but it may not be grave enough at the present to remove him from his household, even if he is causing problems for the others. (Gen. 4:6,7; 15:16; Eccl. 8:11,12) Jehovah is "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment." (Deut. 34:6,7; Isaiah 48:17,18) By giving him time and allowing him to remain, Jehovah appeals to the person through Bible based counsel that he hears in the congregation. It is not likely that he will receive such help outside in the world. But, if he becomes an immediate danger to others in the congregation, Jehovah may remove him suddenly, even by putting him to death. I have seen that happen. (Prov. 6:12-15; 29:1)
Jesus illustrated in a number of his parables that the time would definitely arrive for the wicked within God’s kingdom to be identified and removed. (Matt. 13:40-43, 47-49) For that reason, when we are directly affected and suffer on account of their presence, we can bring our case before Jehovah, because he is a shield to the righteous one. (Ex. 22:22-24; Psalms 33:18-22; 1 Peter 5:7) While Jehovah allows time for the wicked among us to be exposed, at the same time it also helps to clearly identify the righteous among his people who refuse to join in their wicked works; even shunning their association when necessary. (Dan. 12:3, 9,10; Malachi 3:17,18; 1 Cor. 15:33) Does the apostle Peter's description of the wicked within God's household also describe the situation in your own congregation, such as those who “go after flesh with the desire to defile it;” and who “speak abusively of glorious ones;” who “are spot and blemishes, indulging with unrestrained delight in their deceptive teachings while feasting together with you,” “being fountains without water, and mists driven by a violent storm;” etc. etc.? Please note that he is not talking about people in the world, for he goes on to say: “For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:9-21) Be patient, and wait on Jehovah, for he has promised: "And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace." (Psalms 37:10) This prophecy is about to be fulfilled!
Don't Blame God for the Consequence of Your
It is not God's fault when people do bad things! Yet he has been blamed for all the suffering throughout mankind's history, although it was not God who has been the source of it. We often hear the question asked: If there is a loving God, why does he permit wickedness and suffering? And, if God is Almighty, then why does he not do something about it? That is perhaps the number one reason why so many intelligent people have walked away from God and embraced the alternative explanation to the origin of life, the theory that life and everything else came from nothing.
But God, in turn, also addresses them with the question: Why is it that you don’t listen to me? 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!” (Isaiah 48:17-19) It is not Jehovah’s fault when people, especially his own, ignore his commandments and guidance that he has provided them with. He wants them to be happy, “for not out of his own heart has he afflicted or does he grieve the sons of men.” (Lam. 3:33; Psalms 40:4) Bad things happen when we ignore God’s laws. This becomes especially obvious in the case of God’s own people, who, although having his Word to guide them, suffer the same consequences as the rest of the world which is estranged from God. And all too often they too blame God by walking away from him; while others may become impatient and take it upon themselves to act on the things that God has already told us he will do, and then blame him for any harm that comes to them as a result.
Away back in the Garden of Eden, when the original rebellion against God occurred, God promised that he would not tolerate opposition to him indefinitely, but that at his appointed future time he would rip away from this earth all the wicked, and give it to those who genuinely want to live in pea0ce and happiness, by loving him and obeying him. (Jude 14,15; Matt. 5:5; 24:36) You may ask, why hasn’t he already done that before now? Suppose he had, where would you be? If we see that we need to make adjustments in our lives and personalities, we still have the time to do so. But that window of opportunity is fast closing.
“Watch the blameless one and keep the upright one in sight,
For the future of that man will be peaceful.
But the transgressors themselves will certainly be annihilated together;
The future of wicked people will indeed be cut off.” —Psalms 37:37,38.
Do You Do Good to Christ's Brothers?
Jesus would often conclude an important point he had just made with the words: "Let him that has ears listen." (Matt. 13:9; Rev. 3:22) Undoubtedly, the best known verse in the Bible is the one where Jesus told Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16; New King James Version) You may even find this scripture hanging framed in countless Motel rooms across the nation. But, as we all know, Jesus said many other things that touch on the matter of everlasting life, which must likewise be considered.
Take for example his words meant for all his listeners who would follow him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" (Matt. 7:21-23; NKJV) Clearly, Jesus is saying that if we want to have everlasting life, more is involved than simply believing in him, calling him "Lord," and being zealous in performing works in his name. It includes the doing of his Father's will! What is the Father's will? Of course, we must obey Him; but how many of Christ's professed followers accept the fact that doing "the will of my Father" includes the doing good to Christ's "brothers"? Jesus is saying that we cannot believe in him without accepting his brothers. Please read for yourself again his explanation as recorded in Matthew 25:31-46. In harmony with his earlier words to those whom he denied knowing, he tells them at the time of judgment: "'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these [my brothers], you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous (those who did good to his brothers) into eternal life.” (Matt. 25:45,46; ESV)
Many professed Christians give no consideration at all to Christ's brothers. But are Jesus' words regarding the doing of good to his brothers any less valid than his words to Nicodemus? The popular phrase "Believe unto the Lord Jesus and you will be saved," may be all they feel is necessary; but do they have ears to listen? Who are Christ's brothers? Since Jesus said that our eternal salvation depends on doing good to them, we can be sure that the Scriptures help us to identify them, even the least among them. (Matt. 11:11; Rev. 14:1, 3)
(1/2/13 - 4/20/13)
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