3/23/14  If Jesus Returned in 1914, Why Are We Still Celebrating the Annual Memorial?

Why do we celebrate the annual Memorial? (Which this year falls on Monday, April 14.) Because Jesus told us to "keep doing this in remembrance of me." And the apostle Paul further explains that "for as often as [we] eat this loaf and drink this cup, [we] keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives." (Luke 22:19,20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26, NWT) Last week the Watchtower Study presented as fact that Jesus arrived in 1914, and how he has been ruling in God's kingdom for the past hundred years. That raises the valid question, if Jesus has already arrived, then why are we still proclaiming his death by observing his memorial?

That question was posed in a Watchtower article back in 1956, when it asked: "But why was eating [the Lord's evening meal] not discontinued after October, 1914, when the Lord Jesus came into his kingdom at Jehovah’s right hand in the heavens? Why was it not discontinued, at least, after Jehovah God came to his spiritual temple accompanied by Jesus Christ as his 'messenger of the covenant' in the spring of 1918?" (Actually, Malachi's prophecy was fulfilled in the first century, and not in 1914-1918.) The answer the Watchtower provided was: "Well, at the time of either of those events Jesus Christ did not take his followers from their fleshly condition into his personal presence. He left them in the flesh and hence they were still “absent from the Lord. (w56 1/15 pp. 58-61 pars. 10-19) A more recent Watchtower clarified this further by explaining: "When does the Lord ‘arrive’? When he comes to take the last of his anointed bride class to their heavenly home." (w10 3/15 p. 27 par. 16)

According to the Society's custom of celebrating the Memorial, it is not so much about proclaiming the death of the Lord until he arrives, as it is proclaiming his "anointed bride class" until they depart. It has become their celebration, an evening when they get to identify themselves and demonstrate before all onlookers that they are the only ones who are in the new covenant with God, while also exclusively claiming Jesus as their mediator. How they love the attention! (Compare Matt. 23:2-7, 13-15) That is why a considerable amount of time is spend on explaining to the observers who accepted their invitation as guests, why they, as the anointed "little flock" members, are the only ones entitled to partake of the bread and the wine. Why wouldn't they want to invite as many as they can fit into the Kingdom Hall or whatever other place they may rent for that occasion? It doesn't matter to them that many of the invited ones may not even be believers. (John 15:14; Matt. 7:23,24) All this is far from the manner in which the Lord's evening meal was observed in the first century, as Paul indicates in his letter to the congregation in Corinth. (1 Cor. 11:20-22) Those brothers did not engage in a campaign of inviting strangers as observers to an elder giving a talk on why the invited ones should not partake of the Lord's evening meal.

Why has Jehovah tolerated this God-dishonouring routine for so long? It's not as though he is not aware of what is happening within his temple, or that he doesn't care. He not only foretold these things, but has also told us what he will do about it at his appointed time. All the evidence indicates that that time is now very near at hand, when suddenly the Lord does arrive, unexpected to those who believe that he already arrived in 1914; and then he will settle accounts with his slaves, finally removing the evil slave from within his house. (Luke 12:40, 45,46; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; see Malachi 3:14-18)

3/15/14  Do the Elders in Your Congregation Listen to Jesus?

The Watchtower study for March 10-16, 2014 (pages 12-16), considers the question: "100 Years of Kingdom Rule—How Does It Affect You?" It states at the outset: "Toward the end of the 19th century, light began to shine on a 2,500-year-old prophecy recorded by Daniel: 'In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.' (Dan. 2:44) The Bible Students spent decades pointing out that the year 1914 would be significant. Many people at that time were optimistic. As one writer states: 'The world of 1914 was full of hope and promise.' With the outbreak of World War I later that year, however, Bible prophecy came true. The subsequent famines, earthquakes, and pestilences as well as the fulfillment of other Bible prophecies proved conclusively that Jesus Christ had begun to rule in heaven as King of God’s Kingdom in 1914." (Italics added)

Do the signs that Jesus gave regarding his future presence (parousia) "prove conclusively" that he has been ruling "in heaven as King of God's kingdom" for the past hundred years? Not according to Jesus' own words! In summing up the signs he had given his disciples regarding his future presence, Jesus used the illustration of "the fig tree and all the other trees," pointing out that "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, according to Jesus, the signs provide evidence that "the kingdom of God is near," and that Jesus is "near at the doors." (Luke 21:29-31; Matt. 24:32,33; NWT)

Therefore, everything the Watchtower says in connection with Jesus already ruling as King of God's kingdom since 1914, and what it means for us, is what the apostle John calls "inspired expressions of error"; the same inspired expressions of error that Pastor Russell (who incorporated the Watchtower Society) confidently taught for many decades, when he preached that Jesus had begun to rule in God's kingdom in 1874, and that "the elect" would all go to heaven in 1914. Those inspired expressions of error were rejected after his death, when it became evident that his expectations were based on error, untruth―yes, lies, and in need of re-interpretation. (Ezek. 13:6-10; Acts 1:7) Clearly, if Jesus did not arrive a hundred years ago, then neither were the directors of the Watchtower Society and its president appointed by Jesus to any special position within God's house. The appointment to feed the "domestics" was made by Jesus shortly before his death; and the reward, the wages, for faithfully carrying out that commission will come upon his return―yet future. (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 12:41-46; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Isaiah 62:11)

The many "inspired expressions of error" that are taught in God's name are really the teachings of ambitious, yes, presumptuous men. (1 Sam. 15:17, 22,23) That is why the apostle John tells us to "test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God." (1 John 4:1, 6; 1 Tim. 4:1,2) We do this by comparing everything that is presented as coming from God with God's own Word, which alone contains his "inspired expressions of truth." (John 17:17) Have you tried sharing Jesus' words regarding his presence from the Bible with fellow worshippers in your congregation? What has been their response? Do most love the truth and gratefully accept what the Scriptures say; or do they accuse you of apostasy? When I quoted to an elder (a close relative) Jesus' words regarding what the sign of his presence really means―that he is not yet here, but near (according to our own Bible)―he simply answered, "What difference does it make!" Isn't that the sort of reply one would get from an unbeliever?

The above picture, as it appears in one of the Society's publications, aptly illustrates the attitude of God's people today, for they have become mere followers of the foretold "man of lawlessness." This "lawless one" has seated himself within God's temple, basing his assumed position of authority on the false claim that Jesus appointed him (as a group) in 1919. (2 Thess. 2:3-12) Many of God's servants have come to "love the lie," reasoning that Jehovah wants his people to accept the ever changing "inspired expressions of error," even when these clearly contradict God's Word of truth. (See Footnote) "Stare in amazement, O you heavens, at this; and bristle up in very great horror,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘because there are two bad things that my people have done: They have left even me, the source of living water, in order to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot contain the water.’" ―Jeremiah 2:12,13; NWT.

3/2/14  The Real Person We are at Heart is often Revealed in a Moment of Testing

In June of 2011, a riot broke out in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, when a crowd of about 100,000 hockey fans crowded into the downtown core of the city in anticipation of their team winning the coveted Stanley Cup. The mood of the crowd quickly turned ugly when their team lost. Fist fights broke out; 17 cars were set on fire (including police cars); businesses were vandalized, having their store front windows smashed; while many onlookers took advantage of the situation by streaming into the stores, ransacking and looting them, and emerging with stolen items which they proudly displayed to the crowd as though they were trophies. Over 1,000,000 photos and almost 1,600 hours of video were taken during the riot, which later enabled the police to identify and lay hundreds of charges against many of the rioters. What is of special interest is the fact that many of the rioters and looters were otherwise law-abiding citizens, with no previous criminal records. In court, their defence lawyers argued that they had simply been "caught up in the moment." But it is what a person does at such "moment" that defines what sort of person he is. After all, not everyone was "caught up in the moment." The majority of the 100,000 did not participate in the riot, nor the looting. Many walked away, while a few even tried to prevent the rioters from causing all that damage, only to be themselves turned upon.

Rather than pleading innocence because of being "caught up in the moment," we reveal who we really are at heart by how we respond in a moment influenced by circumstance. We may not instigate a riot, and yet may allow ourselves to be persuaded to join the crowd. (Exodus 23:2,3) Do we really know ourselves? Do you know what you would do when suddenly confronted by some unexpected situation? In a brief moment of time we may be tested, and then the "secret person of the heart" will become manifest. (1 Peter 3:4) You might be shocked at your response, or it may confirm that you truly are the sort of person that has God's approval. (Psalms 15:1-5; Col. 3:12-14) 

Our heavenly Father Jehovah sees the person we really are, the inner person at heart―our thoughts, our desires, even discerning our motives. (1 Sam. 16:7; Jer. 17:9,10) Not only does he see the good in us, but also the things that we need to change, personality traits and habits that we need to overcome, and these he makes us aware of by bringing them to our attention. How? In the same way that he did with his people in the past, by allowing us to face situations which reveal how we respond to discomfort and suffering, doing so "in order to put you to the test so as to know what was in your heart, as to whether you would keep his commandments or not... so as to do you good in your afterdays." (Deut. 8:2,3, 16) Jehovah is not testing us in order for him to know what is in our hearts, he already knows that; but he wants us to get to know ourselves, for we are often inclined to see only what we want to see, and thus we may be in danger of fooling ourselves. (James 1:22-25)

We cannot rightly claim to be loving Jehovah, and to be obedient to him, unless that love and obedience has been proved under test. (Matt. 22:37,38; Psalms 26:2-4) We know that Jesus has always been obedient to his God and Father, and yet Paul wrote: "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered." Yes, Jesus was made "perfect through sufferings." (Heb. 5:8; 2:10) Until he came to earth and was born as a man, living among "a faithless and twisted generation," Jesus' own love and obedience to his Father had never been put to the test. (Matt. 17:17; Acts 2:40) Peter wrote that when you "suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly." (1 Peter 2:20-23; NLT)

Like Jesus, we prove the sort of person we truly are at heart by enduring suffering, except that in our own case the suffering may reveal a weakness or shortcoming that is thereby drawn to our attention, which we must then strive to overcome. Your response to suffering gives you insight into your heart, the inner person that Jehovah sees, which may come at an unexpected moment of testing. This insight in turn will enable you to "put on the new personality which was created according to God's will in true righteousness and loyalty." (Eph. 4:24) Don't get "caught up in the moment" and be induced to follow others into doing things which you may later regret. (1 Peter 3:12)

2/27/14  We are not in Darkness

The apostle Paul wrote: "For you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: 'Peace and security!' then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape." (1 Thess. 5:1-5; NWT) Rather than calling it Jehovah's day, as does the New World Translation, other Translations say "the day of the Lord" (ESV), or "the day of the Lord’s return" (NLT). Is the coming sudden destruction "Jehovah's day," or "the of the Lord's return," referring to Christ Jesus? Does it matter?

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, saying that "you yourselves know quite well," he was indicating that they already knew of "Jehovah's day," and that was because God's ancient prophets had spoken of it. For example, The Interlinear Bible (with the Literal Translation of the Bible in the English text) translates the prophet Zephaniah as saying: "The great day of Jehovah [
יהוה] is near; it is near and rushing greatly, the sound of the day of Jehovah [יהוה]... Their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of Jehovah [יהוה]." (Zeph. 1:14-18) According to the same Interlinear Bible, Isaiah prophesied, saying: "Behold, the day of Jehovah [יהוה] comes, cruel and with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land waste. And He shall destroy its sinners out of it... in the day of His fierce anger." (Isa. 13:6-13; 2:12) Likewise, many others of God's prophets proclaimed the coming of Jehovah's day, as "a day of darkness and gloominess; a day of clouds and thick darkness;" for "the day of Jehovah is near on all the nations." (Joel 2:1,2; Ezek. 30:1-3; Obadiah 15) The coming of God's wrath upon all the nations will be Jehovah's day, "the war of the great day of God the Almighty," at Armageddon. (Rev. 16:14,16)

When that fear inspiring day of Jehovah suddenly arrives, "exactly as a thief in the night," Christ Jesus will lead the powerful angelic forces in heaven against all the nations, "as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus;" for "he will make an extermination, indeed a terrible one, of all the inhabitants of the earth." (Rev. 19:11-21; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Zeph. 1:18)

It is Jehovah' day, a day belonging to Him, his day when the nations will have to know that "I am Jehovah." (Ezek. 36:23,24) By the time Jehovah's day of judgment arrives upon "all the inhabitants of the earth," he will already have a cleansed people, for his judgment starts with his own house. (1 Peter 4:17-19; 1 Tim. 3:15) The "man of lawlessness" and his followers will by then already have been identified and removed from within God's temple, and Jehovah will have brought back his scattered and lost sheep, a people for his name who will experience his protection on his day of fury. (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 8-12; Mal 3:16-18; Matt. 13:43; 24:21,22; Rev. 7:9,10, 14-17)

And who is it that will be saying: "Peace and security?" It will be the ones upon whom the sudden destruction comes, for they will not see it coming. (Luke 17:26-30) "But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that that day should overtake you as it would thieves, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We belong neither to night nor to darkness. So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses." (1 Thess. 5:4-6)

2/16/14  Moses Did Not Picture Any Modern-Day Governing Body

Miriam, and even Aaron, began to find fault with Moses their brother, because they were not satisfied to serve Jehovah in the shadow of the one whom God had chosen to lead his people. They both kept saying: "Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?" (Num. 12:1,2; 16:1-3) Miriam and Aaron wanted greater recognition, respect, and authority before all the people, like Moses had. Although Miriam was prominent among God's people, that evidently was not enough for her. (Ex. 15:20,21; Mic. 6:4) And what was Aaron's complaint? He enjoyed prominence as God's anointed spokesman and high priest. (Ex. 4:14-16, 27-30; 30:30) Does that give evidence of two humble individuals? Moses, on the other hand, "was by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground." It is humility that Jehovah looks for in a person. "Before glory there is humility." (Num. 12:3; Prov. 15:33; James 4:6, 10)

Moses indeed enjoyed a special relationship with God, as Jehovah told the two complainers: "'Hear my words, please. If there came to be a prophet of yours for Jehovah, it would be in a vision I would make myself known to him. In a dream I would speak to him. Not so my servant Moses! He is being entrusted with all my house. Mouth to mouth I speak to him, thus showing him, and not by riddles; and the appearance of Jehovah is what he beholds. Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant, against Moses?' And Jehovah’s anger got to be hot against them." Both of them were not left unpunished. Miriam was struck with leprosy and quarantined outside the camp for seven days, not having received a heavier punishment only on account of Moses' intervention; while Aaron too, although seemingly not condemned on this occasion, was eventually stripped of his official priestly garments and sentenced to die on Mount Hor, not being allowed to enter the promised land. (Num. 12:6-15; 20:23-26)

Moses enjoyed his special relationship with Jehovah on account of the work he had been anointed to do, whereby he pictured the greater Moses, Christ Jesus. (Deut. 18:18,19; Acts 3:19-23) Therefore, as many things as were going to be fulfilled in Jesus were foreshadowed by Moses.(1 Cor. 10:4,5; Gal. 3:24; Heb. 3:5,6) It was for that reason that Jehovah also permitted Moses to see his glory, and reflect that glory when he came down from Mont Sinai, when "the skin of his face emitted rays because of his having spoken with [God]." (Ex. 33:17-23; 34:29-35; Acts 9:3-5; Heb. 9:24) Also, it was on account of Aaron picturing Jesus in the capacity of high priest that Jehovah acted mercifully with Aaron on a number of occasions. (Heb. 5:4,5)

Just as Moses had been anointed by God to mediate the old covenant and lead his people, so likewise Jesus is the only anointed leader of God's people under the new covenant, of which he is the mediator. (Matt. 23:10; Luke 22:20; 1 Tim. 2:5,6; Heb. 9:14,15) But just like in the case of Miriam and Aaron, who envied Moses' special relationship with God, there are those today who envy Jesus' position, in effect saying: "Is it just by [Jesus] alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?" In their publications they actually say: "In this time of the end, Christ has committed 'all his belongings'—all the earthly interests of the Kingdom—to his 'faithful and discreet slave' and its representative Governing Body, a group of anointed Christian men. The anointed and their other sheep companions recognize that by following the lead of the modern-day Governing Body, they are in fact following their Leader, Christ." (w10 9/15 p. 23 par. 8) These men should take to heart how "Jehovah’s anger got to be hot" against Miriam and Aaron for the same reason. Jesus told his disciples regarding the "conclusion of the system of things, that there will be "false Christs and false prophets" who will "give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones." Then, to emphasize the danger, he added: "Look! I have forewarned you." (Matt. 24:23-25; 13:40-43) What makes the situation so dangerous for God's people today is the fact that these false Christs and false prophets are actually operating right within God's temple, having given themselves the glory and authority over God's inheritance that they crave. (Acts 20:29,30; 1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 Peter 5:1-3)

Like Jehovah's faithful worshipers in the Sardis congregation, we need to remain loyal to Jesus as our only leader, not by separating ourselves from the congregation of which he is the head, but by not defiling our "outer garments," keeping ourselves clean by not submitting to those who would have us compromise our obedience to God. Our loyalty would not be hidden from others as our "outer garment" is visible to all. Granted, that is not easy, but Jesus speaks of those who remain faithful as conquering, just as he conquered the world that existed among God's people in his day. By conquering, Jesus will "by no means blot out [your] name from the book of life, but will make acknowledgement of [your] name before [his] Father and before his angels." (Rev. 3:1-5, 21; 2:7, 11, 17, 24-26; John 16:3) Only Jehovah can give us everlasting life. And only Jesus is the one who will lead us to it. (John 3:16; Psalms 146:3)

1/28/14  Jehovah Does Not Tolerate Any Rivalry (Isa. 45:22,23; 46:5)

Moses had gone up Mount Sinai to meet the true God and speak with him "face to face," where he received the "two tablets of the Testimony." (Ex. 24:18; 31:18; 33:11) While Moses was absent for many days [40 days], the people became impatient and incited Aaron to make for them "a god who will go ahead of us, because as regards this Moses, the man who led us up out of the land of Egypt, we certainly do not know what has happened to him.” Aaron complied and made for them a statue of a calf from the gold they contributed for that purpose. This, of course, was a grave sin, especially since Jehovah had just finished commanding them not to do such a thing; but here they were even attaching his name to the golden image, calling for a "festival to Jehovah" the following day. (Ex. 20:23; 32:4,5) Thus, Jehovah said to Moses: "'Whoever has sinned against me, I shall wipe him out of my book. . . and on the day of my bringing punishment I shall certainly bring punishment upon them for their sin.' And Jehovah began plaguing the people because they had made the calf, which Aaron had made." (Ex. 32:9,10, 33-35; Mal. 3:16,17)

Jehovah had delivered his people out of Egypt with powerful signs, and was providing them with all their necessities as he was leading them through the wilderness on the way to the promised land by means of Moses, his mediator; and yet so many of the people failed to appreciate all that. They had not come to know Jehovah! They were indeed a "stiff-necked people," as Jehovah told Moses. It was only because of Moses' intervention that Jehovah did not exterminate the people on the spot. (Ex. 32:11-14, 28; Num. 12:5-8; Deut. 8:2-5; John 16:3)

The greater Moses, Christ Jesus, also went up "to appear before the person of God for us," and has been away for a long time―far too long for the liking of many of God's people, who today have become impatient at his seeming delay. (Matt. 25:14, 19; Acts 1:9-11; Heb. 3:5,6; 9:24) Like in Moses' day, they have made for themselves another god to go ahead of them from the "gold" they have contributed for that purpose, forming a secular corporation to lead them, even attaching God's name to it. As to their anointed leader and mediator Jesus, they seem to have the attitude, "we do not know what has happened to him." Interestingly, this development was foretold, even by Jesus, regarding God's household in the time of the end. (Matt. 23:10; 24:23-25; Luke 12:45,46) The apostle Paul explains that anyone who worships today's golden calf, namely, the "man of lawlessness," who has seated himself within God's temple and is showing himself to be a god, will perish "as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved." This will be at the time when Jesus returns. (2 Thess. 2:3-12; Matt. 7:21-23)

We need to take to heart the things that happened to God's people in the past―though thousands of years ago, because "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; Acts 20:29,30; 1 Tim. 4:1,2; 2 Peter 2:1-3)

1/19/14  Satan's Effective but Simple Question: "Is It Really So. . .?"

The Devil is "a liar and the father of the lie, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition." (John 8:43-45) Satan introduced the first lie ever spoken with a simple question, when he asked Eve: "Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?" It's not as though he did not know the answer. God had not forbidden Adam and Eve to eat from every tree―just the one tree that was in the middle of the garden, as Eve correctly replied. The serpent did not dispute that. The real intent of the question was to draw Eve's attention to the tree in order to prepare her for the lie he was about to follow his question up with, by contradicting God's clearly stated consequence that eating from the forbidden tree would result in death. Eve was deceived and believed the lie that she would not die by disobeying God. She then succeeded in winning her husband over to join her. (Gen. 2:9, 16,17; 3:1-6; 1 Tim. 2:14)

Satan is still using this age old tactic. We are now living in the time Jesus spoke of when people everywhere are becoming "faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth." (Luke 21:25-28; 2 Tim. 3:1-7) The whole world is in turmoil, and people everywhere are seeking answers. By posing the simple question, "Is it really so...?", Satan is drawing people away from the obvious, away from the significance of what the real issue is behind what we are witnessing as happening. To many, everything, all the problems facing the "inhabited earth," big or small, are all due to government conspiracies. Thus they fail to understand that we are living in the "last days," and that this entire system of things is about to be destroyed. The "ruler of this world," and everything that is his, will shortly be removed and replaced with God's kingdom, the "good news" of which Jesus preached and taught us to pray for. (Matt. 6:9,10; 9:35; 24:14; Dan. 2:44; Rev. 19:17-21)

Consider for example the influence conspiracy theorists have on many people today. Their alternative explanations on world events, and who it is they are holding responsible, seems to be filling a void as they are appealing to a growing number of people, mostly those who are disillusioned with the governmental authorities, and who have lost faith in their religion. This has also enticed many of God's people to "be turned aside to false stories." (2 Tim. 4:2-5) Some former zealous Witnesses [relatives of mine included] have no problem acknowledging that the Watchtower magazines contain "inspired expressions of error," but will become defensive when their version of what is making the evening news is challenged. (1 John 4:1, 6; 1 Tim. 4:1,2) Their concern seems to be that while Jesus' presence may still be years away, there are things happening right now that pose a real threat to our immediate existence. They become impatient when we mention God's kingdom as the sole solution.

Whatever your views may be regarding these matters, by giving them your undue attention it may eventually divert your focus away from the real issue, and the only hope for mankind's problems, namely, God's kingdom. The seemingly innocuous question, "Is it really so...?", is still the means Satan uses to divert people away from the truth, and blind them to the real significance of what is causing distress to mankind at this time. (Dan. 12:9,10; Matt. 24:37-39) 

1/8/14  The "Covenant of Circumcision"

The law on circumcision, given to Abraham one year before the birth of Isaac, is often called the "Covenant of Circumcision." The two volume Bible Encyclopaedia Insight on the Scriptures (published by the Watchtower Society), under the main subject, "Covenant," lists "Covenant of Circumcision" right after discussing the "Covenant With Abraham," as if these were two separate covenants. Regarding the "Covenant of Circumcision," it states: "Circumcision served as a seal of the righteousness Abraham had by faith while in the uncircumcised state, and it was a physical sign of the covenant relationship of Abraham’s descendants through Jacob, with Jehovah." (it-1 p. 523 Covenant)

Was the command on circumcision a separate covenant, distinct from the covenant God made with Abraham prior to this? (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:18) Immediately before he told Abraham that he must get circumcised, Jehovah first changed his name from Abram to Abraham, and then once more he repeated the blessings of the covenant, assuring Abraham: "I am God Almighty. Walk before me and prove yourself faultless. And I will give my covenant between me and you, that I may multiply you very, very much. . . And I will carry out my covenant between me and you and your seed after you according to their generations for a covenant to time indefinite, to prove myself God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give to you and to your seed after you the land of your alien residences, even the entire land of Canaan, for a possession to time indefinite; and I will prove myself God to them." It is then that God further says: "As for you, you are to keep my covenant, you and your seed after you according to their generations. This is my covenant that you men will keep, between me and you men, even your seed after you: Every male of yours must get circumcised. And you must get circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it must serve as a sign of the covenant between me and you." (Gen. 17:1,2, 9-11)

Rather than being a separate covenant, a so-called "covenant of circumcision," circumcision served as a "sign of the covenant" that God had already made with Abraham. The law of circumcision would protect the lineage of Abraham, keeping it holy and uncontaminated from any intermarriage with uncircumcised people of the nations, until the appointed time the promised seed would arrive. The covenant with Abraham was fulfilled once the Messiah, Jesus, appeared according to God's promise. It is by means of him that "all the families of the ground will bless themselves." (Acts 10:25-28, 44-48; Rom. 3:1,2; Gal. 3:7-9.― For more information see a recent Question Box reply.)

12/29/13  We Cannot Associate God's Holy Name With Lies

"Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty." With those words, the mighty angelic seraphs, who are always in the presence of Jehovah, offer constant "glory and honor and thanksgiving to the one seated upon the throne." (Rev. 4:8-11; Isaiah 6:1-3) Yes, our God Jehovah is holy! He is a righteous God, a God of love, with whom there is no injustice. All his works are perfect. As the God of truth he cannot lie, and that means that we can have full confidence in everything he says and promises. (Deut. 32:4-6; John 17:17; Heb. 6:17,18)

What does that mean for us who want to worship God? To his covenant people Israel, Jehovah said: "I am Jehovah your God; and you must sanctify yourselves and you must prove yourselves holy, because I am holy." (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 1:15,16) To be holy as Jehovah is holy means that we are always truthful. Jesus said that those worshiping God "must worship with spirit and truth." (John 4:23,24) Because Jehovah God is holy, he cannot accept worship that includes untruths and lies. His holiness does not permit it! That is why, as Jesus stated, if we introduce any teaching or doctrine, or idea, into our worship that is contrary to what is contained in God's inspired Word of truth, then our worship is in vain. That means that God will not accept us nor our worship, no matter how sincere we may be. (Matt. 15:6-9; Gal. 1:8,9) If we are taught by holy spirit, then we will know the truth. God's holy spirit does not teach lies! Never! (John 8:32; 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:10, 14; 1 John 4:1, 6)

What can be said about the many teachings in our publications that are presented as being from God, and yet are often replaced with "new truths"? For example, we no longer believe that the generation of 1914 will still be alive when the end of this system of things arrives, although this was taught for the better part of fifty years (from about 1945 to 1996). Many sincere persons had placed all their hopes in that promise. Did time not expose it to have been a lie, leading to disappointment? Clearly, that false hope did not originate with God! Is it not obvious that when the Watchtower replaces one teaching with another, it is at the same time acknowledging that the previous teaching was not from God? Is this perhaps proof that God is guiding his people by constantly readjusting their understanding; or is it not rather evidence that the foretold "man of lawlessness" is sitting within God's temple, whose "presence is according to the operation of Satan"? Jesus said regarding the Devil: "That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie." (2 Thess. 2:3-12; John 8:44)

Jehovah is holy! He cannot allow himself, or his holy name, to be associated with lies. For that reason, he has warned the false prophets, who prophesy in his name, that he will destroy them at his appointed time. And Paul further warns that those who are deceived into following the "man of lawlessness" will likewise perish, because "they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved." (Ezek. 14:9,10; 2 Thess. 2:9,10)

Can we worship Jehovah and yet belong to a congregation that comes under his condemnation? That was the situation some faced in both the Thyatira and Sardis congregations, where Jesus acknowledged the few names who had not come to know "the deep things of Satan," and who were worthy to walk with him in white robes. They endured the undoubtedly constant pressure to conform, for by their love for the truth they condemned those who took pleasure in unrighteousness. We must do the same today! (1 Tim. 4:1,2; Rev. 2:24,25; 3:1, 4,5; Matt. 13:41-43)

11/15/13  The Meetings are not for God's Worship but for Our Encouragement

One insightful Circuit Overseer once told our congregation that we do not worship Jehovah at our meetings, but rather, we are taught at the meetings how to worship him. We worship God when we put into practice in our daily lives the things we learn from the Scriptures. (Rev. 3:22) Many, who consider the congregation meetings as their "place of worship," wear their finest clothing; they join in singing praises to Jehovah; and may participate in Question and Answer discussions, even quoting the Scriptures; and perhaps from time to time give a short student talk. And yet, away from their "place of worship," by their conduct they demonstrate that they have not learned what true worship really involves. (Matt. 15:8,9; John 4:23,24; James 2:1-4) The disciple James pointedly states: "Do what God’s teaching says; don’t just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves. Hearing God’s teaching and doing nothing is like looking at your face in the mirror and doing nothing about what you saw. You go away and immediately forget how bad you looked." (James 1:22-24; ERV; Matt. 13:9)  

In the world we are having tribulation! (John 16:33) The congregation meetings should be a place of refuge, where we find peace and love; and where we can be an encouragement to fellow worshipers of Jehovah. (Isa. 25:4; James 2:14-17; 1 John 3:10,11) The apostle Paul explains that this is the purpose for our meetings, when he says: "Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Yes, we need each other's encouragement to help us keep a firm grip on our integrity and faith in God's promises. This is so vital, because as Paul goes on to say, "if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies." (Heb. 10:23-27; NLT) The encouragement we receive from fellow believers helps us to keep our focus on God's promises.

Many are unable to attend the congregation meetings for various reasons, yet Jehovah cares for these ones too, not leaving them without help. He understands their situation and sustains them by means of his holy spirit, which is evident to anyone who visits with them in their homes. (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:10, 14) Over the years I had the privilege to meet some who had to deal with enormous hardships in order to associate once a year with their fellow believers for the Memorial. And I was always amazed at their zeal and expressions of love for Jehovah and our hope. They clearly have Jehovah's spirit; unlike the many who attend regularly and yet are lacking the fruitage of the spirit. (Gal. 5:19-23; Jude 21)

11/9/13  Do You Call Upon the Name of Jehovah?

Since none of the numerous ancient Greek manuscripts available today contain God's name, Jehovah, many have argued that we should not call "upon the name of Jehovah." (Rom. 10:13) After all, they reason, if God wants us to use his name in our worship, would he not have preserved it in the Greek Scriptures? And since Jesus called God his "Father," and taught us to pray to "our Father in the heavens," they also strongly suggest that it may even be disrespectful to address God by his personal name, Jehovah. Do they have a legitimate argument?

Is it true that Jesus never used his heavenly Father's name, Jehovah? In his "Lord's Prayer," the first thing that Jesus mentions, indicating that it should be our primary concern, is the sanctification of God's name―for it to be hallowed, that is, made holy by having all reproach from it removed; for Jehovah has been blamed for all the suffering that mankind has experienced under Satan's domination. (Matt. 6:9; 1 John 5:19,20; Psalms 74:10) In fact, by his preaching, and the many miracles he performed, Jesus was sanctifying God's name, making it holy. In his personal prayer, Jesus said to his heavenly Father: "I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. . . I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them." (John 17:6, 26) Please note that in his prayer, Jesus indicates that the "love" and "unity" of his disciples is closely associated with his Father's name. God's personal name has united his people throughout all the centuries, from Moses' day to the present. We can be certain that Jesus not only used God's name when talking to his disciples, but also drew much attention to it in his preaching. After all, the Jews were a people for God's name. (Exodus 6:2,3; Acts 15:14-18; Isa. 43:5-7; Mal. 3:16-18)

The fact that God's name Jehovah is missing in all the thousands of available Greek manuscripts, does not at all prove that the eight Bible writers of the Greek Scriptures, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, and Jude, failed to use God's name, since none of their original writings have survived. All it proves is that subsequent copyists omitted the name Jehovah from their manuscripts. (Jehovah's name is preserved in the word “Hallelujah!", meaning "Praise Jah," a shortened form for Jehovah, as used in Revelation 19:1, 3,4, 6; which also appears 24 times in the book of Psalms.)

When Jesus quoted Psalms 110:1, do you suppose that he failed to mention the name Jehovah, as it appears in the Hebrew text? (Luke 20:41-44) Look at the verse below as Jesus would have read it: (Hebrew reads right to left.)

     7272             1916             341                7896        5704        3225       3427       113             3068       5002       4210 
lə·raḡ·le·ḵā.   hă·ḏōm   ’ō·yə·ḇe·ḵā,       ’ā·šîṯ         ‘aḏ-     lî·mî·nî;     šêḇ    la·ḏō·nî,      Yah·weh   nə·’um  miz·mō·wr   lə·ḏā·wiḏ,  
מִ֫זְמ֥וֹר   נְאֻ֤ם    יְהוָ֨ה ׀   לַֽאדֹנִ֗י  שֵׁ֥ב   לִֽימִינִ֑י  עַד־   אָשִׁ֥ית      אֹ֝יְבֶ֗יך     הֲדֹ֣ם   לְרַגְלֶֽיךָ׃    
.. .. .. Your footstool Your enemies I make   Until at My right  Sit  to my Lord The LORD  said    A Psalm    of David
("The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'"

Does the reading of Jesus' words, as translated in most Bible Versions, make sense? "The Lord said to my Lord..."; rather than in Hebrew: "Jehovah [Yahweh] said to my Lord..."? Contrary to the claims of many, Jehovah's name draws us close to him; it unites us, as Jesus himself mentioned in his prayer. No, it is not Jesus, but the false prophets who object to using God's name. The sacred name is for the most part unknown in the realm of Christendom, and this has contributed to them failing to distinguish between Jehovah, the only true God, and his only begotten Son, Christ Jesus. (John 3:16)

“I have heard what the men say who speak false words in My name. They say, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ How long will there be lies in the hearts of those who speak false words in My name, who speak the lies of their own heart? They plan to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they tell one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal." (Jeremiah 23:25-27; New Life Version)

11/3/13  Who was Nicolaus and His Sect, Whom Jesus Said He Hated?

In his letters to the congregations in Ephesus and Pergamum, Jesus mentions "the sect of Nicolaus"; and while he praises the Ephesians for hating the deeds of the sect, as he himself also does, he rebukes those in Pergamum who are "holding fast the teachings of the sect of Nicolaus," and warns them to repent. (Rev. 2:6, 14,15)

Who was this Nicolaus whose followers posed such a danger to the congregations by the end of the first century? Is he the one mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts, one of the seven qualified men whom the congregation recommended to the apostles for appointment as food distributors among the early Jerusalem congregation following Pentecost, 33 C.E? (Acts 6:1-6) Insight on the Scriptures notes that of the seven, "Nicolaus is the only one called 'a proselyte of Antioch,' which suggests that he may have been the only non-Jew of the group, the Greek names of the others being common even among natural Jews." But then it further adds: "There is no reason to connect the sect with Nicolaus the Antiochian Christian just because he is the only person of that name in the Bible, as has also been done by some of the early church writers. Nor is it warranted to say that some apostatized sect took his name to give weight to their wrongdoing." (it-2 p. 498 Nicolaus)  

It wasn't just some, but most of the early church writers, who identified Nicolaus the Antiochian Christian with the sect bearing his name. For example, Irenaeus Of Lyons (c.120-202), who was born a mere twenty years after Jesus wrote his letters to the Seven Congregations, wrote: “The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolaus who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles." (Against Heresies, 1:26:3) Tertullian (c.160-c.230) was another writer who made the connection, even claiming that the woman Jezebel, in the Thyatira congregation, was a disciple of Nicolaus, writing that "the angel of the Thyatirene Church was secretly introducing into the Church an heretical woman, who had taken upon herself to teach what she had learnt from the Nicolaitans." (On Modesty, 19)

The sect of Nicolaus proved to be a serious threat to the integrity of the congregations. According to Hippolytus Of Rome (d. c. 236), Hymenaeus and Philetus had also been disciples of Nicolaus. He writes: “The origin of the heresy of the Nicolaitans. Now this was Nicolas, one of those deacons who were chosen at the beginning, as he makes known in the Acts. This man first introduced this way, being moved by a strange spirit, saying that there had been a resurrection to him, for he thought this, that the resurrection was that we should believe in Christ, and be washed, but he denied a resurrection of the flesh. Since from him many took occasion, heresies they set up, but especially arose from them those who are called Gnostics, of whom were Hymenaeus and Philetus, concerning whom the Apostle wrote, saying: 'They say that the resurrection has already happened, and overthrow the faith of many.’” (Discourse Upon The Resurrection To Mammea, The Queen) Paul called the teachings of Hymenaeus and Philetus a "deviation from the truth," which was spreading like gangrene, and succeeded in "subverting the faith of some." (2 Tim. 2:16-18) It is from this beginning that the popular doctrine of "Born Again," as a spiritual resurrection, spread throughout Christendom.

Paul's warning to the elders in Miletus soon proved true, when he told them that "from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves." (Acts 20:29,39) That warning is just as valid today as it was two thousand years ago, for Satan is still bent on destroying our relationship with Jehovah. In our day we have been tremendously impacted by the "times and seasons" as calculated by Charles Taze Russell; in fulfillment of the Scriptures regarding the apostasy, and "the man of lawlessness" within God's temple, whose presence is "according to the operation of Satan". Like in the case of "the sect of Nicolaus" in the first century, Satan has succeeded in subverting the congregations today by means of the teachings of those who were greatly influenced by "the sect of Russell." The Watchtower Society (which was founded by Russell), has acknowledged that, "For some 35 years, Pastor Russell thought that the Great Pyramid of Gizeh was God’s stone witness, corroborating Biblical time periods. But Jehovah’s Witnesses have abandoned the idea that an Egyptian pyramid has anything to do with true worship." That was nothing less than divination, as one Watchtower acknowledged, stating "that Jehovah needed no stone monument built by pagan pharaohs and containing demonic signs of astrology to confirm the witness given in the Bible." (jv chap. 14 p. 201; w00 1/1 pp. 9-10) And although the Society claims to have abandoned Russell's idea of how he arrived at his Biblical time periods, yet they have not abandoned his results; having built an entire form of worship on his date of 1914.

Since Satan infiltrated God's congregations in the first century, what prevents him from doing the same today? In fact, it was prophesied that he would! (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 9) God's people are not in danger of the false prophets of this world, but from the false prophets within our midst, within God's own household. If we do not heed the warning, we may fall victim to the modern day "sect of Nicolaus," our "sect of the Governing Body." (Compare 2 Thess. 2:3-12; Gal. 1:8,9; 2:11-14; Matt. 15:3-9; 24:24; Luke 21:7,8; 2 Peter 2:1-3)

* Others, who identified the Nicolaus of Acts with "the sect of Nicolaus," included Eusebius Of Caesarea (c.260-c.337); Gregory of Nyssa (d. c.387); Pacian Of Barcelona (c.310-391); Epiphanius Of Salamis (c.311-403); Augustine Of Hippo (354-430). And Jerome (c.340-420) adds the following information: "Then Nicolas, one of the seven Deacons, and one whose lechery knew no rest by night or day, indulged in his filthy dreams. I say nothing of the Jewish heretics who before the coming of Christ destroyed the law delivered to them…” (The Dialogue Against The Luciferians, 23) "Bands of women accompanied Nicolas of Antioch that deviser of all uncleanness." (Letter 14:9) "And Nicolas of Antioch — a deacon like yourself — disseminated the Nicolaitan heresy and all manner of uncleanness." (Letter 133:4)


The Society's book, "God's Kingdom has Approached" (1973), said the following regarding the "man of lawlessness" and those deceived into following him:

God does not directly send an “operation of error” to these deceived ones. He lets it go to them, in order to prove what it is that they want and also because this is really what they want. This is what the apostle Paul pointed out to his fellow missionary Timothy in a final letter to him. Paul explained why he wanted Timothy to preach God’s Word urgently in all seasons in the Christian congregation. Paul said: “For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4) By means of the inspired Word of God a person can protect himself against an “operation of error” during the presence of the “lawless one.” But by letting Satan carry on an “operation of error” and by thus letting this operation go to the professed Christians, Jehovah God puts them to the proof as to whether they “accept the love of the truth” or love the lie.

More than ever before during the remaining time of the “presence” of the clerical “man of lawlessness” and during the presence or parousia of the Lord Jesus, an “operation of error” has gone to the people by God’s permission. The approaching execution of adverse judgment against those who do not “accept the love of the truth” and who take “pleasure in unrighteousness” makes the world situation a very serious one for all the people. Bible students with spiritual discernment have, since the year 1914 C.E., long seen the “sign” of Christ’s invisible presence or parousia, and they appreciate that the time will suddenly be upon us for the “manifestation of his presence” against the clerical “man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8) What, therefore, do we desire—to suffer destruction with the “lawless one” or to experience salvation with lovers of the truth? ―"God's Kingdom has Approached" (1973) - chap. 18 pp. 392-393 pars. 62-63 Bringing the “Man of Lawlessness” to Nothing.
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