Who is Greater Than John the Baptist?
Why do the Wicked Among God's People Prosper?
Jehovah is a merciful God who is willing to pardon "error and transgression and sin," and yet he says that he will by no means "give exemption from punishment." (Exodus 34:6.7) This may cause you to wonder: If Jehovah does not give exemption from punishment, how is it possible for the presumptuous and wicked ones among God's people to be pronounced happy; even being build up to the point of prospering where the righteous ones begin to envy them? Malachi wrote: "You have said, ‘It is of no value to serve God. And what profit is there in that we have kept the obligation to him, and that we have walked dejectedly on account of Jehovah of armies? And at present we are pronouncing presumptuous people happy. Also, the doers of wickedness have been built up. Also, they have tested God out and keep getting away’”? (Malachi 3:14,15)
Why do the wicked among God's people prosper and "keep getting away"? Where is their punishment that God says he does not give exemption from? Our situation today resembles that of Jeremiah's day, when the "way of the wicked ones [was] what succeeded," and they were the ones who were "unworried," having taken root as if Jehovah himself had planted them. Indeed, Jehovah was "near in their mouth and far from their heart." (Jeremiah 12:1-3, ESV; "far from their conscience," HCSB)
When King David sinned in connection with Bath-sheba, taking another man's wife, he did not escape punishment, although Jehovah forgave him because he repented. David suffered long-lasting consequences, including a revolt against his kingship by his own son, Absalom, who forced David to flee for his life. Eventually David was restored to his throne and Jehovah again blessed him. (2 Sam. 11:2-5; 12:7-14; 15:1-6, 13,14) King David certainly did not prosper when he sinned.
Perhaps you yourself are aware that Jehovah has not exempted you from punishment on account of a sin you became guilty of; yet you have reason to be encouraged. Consider what happened to a brother whose business trips took him away from his family for days at a time; and on one of those trips he succumbed to temptation as David had. And like David, he wanted to keep it hidden. Then, within a few months his company downsized and he lost his job. Not being able to find another, his wife felt compelled to go to work, moving back to her parents and former hometown where she had worked before she was married. This had consequences on their marriage and she became estranged from her husband, who at this point came to realize that the turn of events was no coincidence. He confessed his sin to Jehovah, begging for his forgiveness, and shortly after found another job. He realized that he still had to settle matters with his wife and ask for her forgiveness.
Paul writes that "whom Jehovah loves he disciplines; in fact, he scourges every one whom he receives as a son." (Heb. 12:6-11) And the same applies to his punishment, which is not to be confused with discipline. (1 Thess. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:14) No one escapes God's just punishment, for he is not to be mocked, as if we can ignore his laws and get away with it, deceiving ourselves with false reasoning that, after all, he is a merciful God. (Gal. 6:7) If a servant of Jehovah becomes the recipient of his deserved punishment, take courage, for it shows that Jehovah still considers the sinner to be his son; for God does not have dealings with wicked people, persons who are "dead" to him. (Eph. 2:1-3; 1 John 3:14, 21,22) Consider Saul's example in this regard, for when Jehovah had rejected him from being king, he no longer had any dealings with Saul―he no longer listened to his prayers, nor did he discipline or punish Saul, as he did in David's case. Saul was now "without God in the world", but his punishment caught up with him when he was slain in battle against the Philistines. (1 Sam. 15:22-29, 35; 28:6; 31:2-6; Eph. 2:12)
Jehovah does not discipline or punish the people of the world, of which Satan is the god, the way he disciplines and punishes his own people; and neither does he listen to their prayers. But that does not mean that he exempts them from punishment, for it will come upon them at God's appointed time, which will mean their destruction. (2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Thess. 1:8,9; 2:9,10; Rev. 18:20)
Therefore, if you have endured Jehovah's rage and punishment for a sin that only you know about, and you have repented, consider this to be a blessing, because Jehovah is still dealing with you as a son―or a daughter; otherwise he would not have bothered to mete out justice at this time. (Compare Micah 7:9, NWT) This is not the case with the wicked ones among his people who are seemingly prospering. Don't envy them, for they are not going to get away with anything. Their judgment is not slow in coming. They will suddenly be broken when God's judgment catches up with them. This may even happen sooner, rather than later, when the wicked ones actually become a serious danger to the congregation. (Psalms 37:37,38; Prov. 6:12-15; Heb. 10:26-31)
How Much Longer?
Have you become discouraged by the situation in your congregation to the point where you want to "walk away" from all the things that you perceive as proof that this cannot possibly be God's household? (John 6:66) Don't you remember reading that Jehovah foretold that these things would exist within his household in "the last days"? The apostle Paul wrote: "Remember this: There are some terrible times coming in the last days. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud and boast about themselves. They will abuse others with insults. They will not obey their parents. They will be ungrateful and against all that is pleasing to God. They will have no love for others and will refuse to forgive anyone. They will talk about others to hurt them and will have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. People will turn against their friends. They will do foolish things without thinking and will be so proud of themselves. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. They will go on pretending to be devoted to God, but they will refuse to let that 'devotion' change the way they live. Stay away from these people!" (2 Tim. 3:1-5; ERV)
Paul is not talking about the world of mankind of whom Satan is the god―no, but he is describing the characteristics of the members within God's own household, which would result in "critical times hard to deal with" [NWT] for God's faithful servants, giving proof that we are indeed in the last days. (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Tim. 3:15; Rev. 2:4; 3:1-4) The prophet Malachi similarly foretold that the wicked ones among God's people would appear to be prospering, causing the righteous among them to wonder if it was really advantages to remain faithful to God. Malachi wrote: “You have said, ‘It is of no value to serve God. And what profit is there in that we have kept the obligation to him, and that we have walked dejectedly on account of Jehovah of armies? And at present we are pronouncing presumptuous people happy. Also, the doers of wickedness have been built up. Also, they have tested God out and keep getting away.’” (Mal. 3:14,15; Psalms 73:2-14) Have you observed this situation in your congregation? Rather than leave God's household on account of the wicked, be determined to minimize your association with such people. (Prov. 13:20) Jehovah recognizes how these things affect you, your discouragement, and how it is testing your continued faith and obedience; and therefore he explained all these things long in advance before they occurred, to help you endure. (Matt. 24:10-13; 26:54; Rom. 15:4)
This is not the first time in the history of God's people that the righteous ones have suffered at the hands of the wicked ones who continue to prosper in their midst. Like you, they too wondered: How much longer will God tolerate this deplorable situation before he brings relief to those who genuinely love him? Indeed, how much longer will Jehovah tolerate the wicked on whose account "the way of the truth is spoken of abusively?" (2 Peter 2:2) That same question troubled the prophet Habakkuk who asked God in prayer: “O Lord, how long must I call for help before You will hear? I cry out to You, 'We are being hurt!' But You do not save us. Why do you make me see sins and wrong-doing? People are being destroyed in anger in front of me. There is arguing and fighting. The Law is not followed. What is right is never done. For the sinful are all around those who are right and good, so what is right looks like sin... Your eyes are too pure to look at sin. You cannot look on wrong. Why then do You look with favor on those who do wrong? Why are You quiet when the sinful destroy those who are more right and good than they?" Did Jehovah respond to the prayer? Habakkuk says: "Then the Lord answered me and said, 'Write down the special dream on stone so that one may read it in a hurry. For it is not yet time for it to come true. The time is coming in a hurry, and it will come true. If you think it is slow in coming, wait for it. For it will happen for sure, and it will not wait." (Hab. 1:2, 3, 13; 2:2,3; NLV)
Yes, all that Jehovah has promised will come true! It will not be late, although to us who are at the present time still enduring under suffering it may seem that he is delaying. But Habakkuk's message is written for our day. We are witnessing the foretold signs that Jesus gave regarding the conclusion of "the system of things," which is the system that has been set up within God's temple in opposition to true worship, by the one whom Paul calls "the man of lawlessness." It is because of his presence, which is "according to the operation of Satan," that the present troubles and suffering are being experienced within God's household, instead of the blessings we should be enjoying. Since you are now witnessing the revealing of this "lawless one" within God's temple, and are experiencing the foretold troubles associated with his presence, you will also witness his foretold removal from God's temple, along with all who were duped into following him. His judgment from God will not be late. It is very close at hand! Keep in expectation of it! Doing so will help you to continue to endure to the end, as Jesus said we must. (Matt. 24:1-3, 13, 32-34, 42, 48-51; 13:40-43; 2 Thess. 2:3-10; Luke 21:28; 1 Peter 4:17-19)
"Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10)
"The false prophets are making my people become vain"
How do you feel about the condition of your congregation? Do you enjoy attending the meetings because of the peace and brotherly love that is there? That is what Jehovah and Jesus want for us, and that would be the case when we listen to them. On the other hand, there is "no peace for the wicked ones." (Psalms 29:11; 119:165-168; Isa. 48:22; Rev. 2:4) When joy and peace are lacking among God's people it is evidence that Jehovah's spirit is missing, for both are fruits of the spirit. (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 15:13).
At the meetings and in our publications, we have heard much about the supposed peace and the "spiritual paradise" that God's people are said to enjoy in this time of the end. We are assured that our obedience to the elders, who in turn have been loyally submissive to the "faithful and discreet slave," has made this peace within the congregation and with God possible. A recent Watchtower article said: "Even now in the Christian congregation, we have peaceful conditions. Indeed, we are enjoying a true spiritual paradise. We have peace with God and with our fellow man. Note what Isaiah prophesied about the conditions that we are experiencing today: 'They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.' (Isa. 2:3, 4) By acting in harmony with God’s spirit, we contribute to the beauty of the spiritual paradise."―w09 4/15 p. 32 par. 18.
Do those words describe your congregation? Do you enjoy peace within a "spiritual paradise" as they boast? Their lying claims result in making many of God's people vain and disrespectful of Jehovah. We should not be surprised by these things for Jehovah foretold a very different situation regarding his people "in the final part of the days" from that which we are led to believe. Listen to what the prophet Jeremiah wrote about this:
Is It Service or Sacrifice?
When we go from house to house; conduct Bible studies; or otherwise spend time preaching the "good news of the kingdom," we refer to it as our "service," and hence we turn in our "service report" at the end of each month. After his baptism, Jesus himself "went throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom." (Matt. 4:23) Was Jesus rendering "sacred service" to God, or was it "sacrifice" he was offering? Is there a difference? (Eph. 5:1,2)
In John's Revelation, the great crowd that comes out of the great tribulation is seen "standing before the throne and before the Lamb," and "they are rendering [God] sacred service day and night in his temple; and the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them." (Rev. 7:9,10, 14,15) When it says that the great crowd is rendering "sacred service" day and night in God's temple, does it mean that they are out in the field service at all times? Note that they are not serving God out in the world, but within his temple. God's temple is his people, "a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22)
Jesus said that the time would come when God will no longer be worshiped in Jerusalem, where the temple was located, because "the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24) Since God is no longer worshiped in a physical building, we are rendering sacred service to God in connection with his people, in "spirit and truth." Our sacred service to God has to do with our worship. It is our worship, because "worship" (λατρεύω - latrev'o) means to serve! And to serve God includes having love for our brothers. That is why Jesus commanded us to love one another, when he said: "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves." And the apostle John adds: "If anyone makes the statement: 'I love God,' and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen." (John 13:34,35; 1 John 4:20,21) Our worship is not acceptable to God if we do not love our brothers "intensely from the heart." (1 Peter 1:22)
Rendering sacred service to God means that we obey Him at all times, "day and night." John states: "For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5:2,3) And James explains further: "If any man seems to himself to be a formal worshiper and yet does not bridle his tongue, but goes on deceiving his own heart, this man’s form of worship is futile. The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world." (James 1:26,27) It becomes evident that our sacred service within God's temple involves our wholehearted love for God and our brothers. It also includes the effort we make in putting on "the new personality which was created according to God's will in true righteousness and loyalty." (Eph. 4:22-24)
From the foregoing it can be seen that according to the Scriptures, our service to God does not refer to the preaching work. That is more appropriately viewed as "offering to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name." Also included should be "the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." (Heb. 13:15,16; Hos. 14:2; Phil. 2:16-18) Jehovah tells us that if we do not obey him then neither does he accept our sacrifices, because "to obey is better than to sacrifice." (1 Sam. 15:22; Prov. 15:8; 21:3)
Perhaps it would sound strange if we were to refer to the preaching work as our "sacrifice" rather than "service." But if we are doing it for the Society, rather than for Jehovah, then I guess we are indeed "serving" the interests of the Society by placing their literature.
Why No Exemption From Punishment?
Jehovah gave Moses a glimpse of his glory while at the same time declaring his name, thereby revealing what the name exemplifies, when he said: "Jehovah, Jehovah, 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, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons and upon grandsons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation." (Ex. 34:6,7)
How can it be said that Jehovah is "merciful and gracious," and yet refuses to pardon "error and and transgression and sin", even to the fourth generation? Paul answers that "every transgression and disobedient act received a retribution in harmony with justice." (Heb. 2:2) Not only is Jehovah a God of love and mercy, but he is also a God of justice. Perhaps we fail to see the benefit of God's justice when we are the recipient of his punishment. Some sins and transgressions are clearly more serious than others, for they may affect not only us and our immediate family, but even our offspring for several generations, such as in the case of adultery when it results in divorce. We should not expect Jehovah to shield us from the consequence of our sins.
If we have become guilty of a serious sin, can we ever worship Jehovah again with a clean conscience? Is it enough for you to know that Jehovah has forgiven you? Will forgiveness alone cleanse your conscience? Suppose a man committed a serious crime a long time ago, and he seemingly got away with it because he was not caught and the trail leading to him has gone cold. If he has a conscience, will it ever allow him to have peace? He will always be looking over his shoulder, for until his crime has been dealt with there is no closure for him. The point being, he has not paid for his crime and therefore his conscience has not been absolved of his criminal act. It is different with the man who has been brought before a judge and had a penalty imposed on him, whether a fine or imprisonment; for once he has paid his debt he can continue to live his life without his conscience smiting him.
Jehovah wants us to love him with all our hearts, which is possible only by having a clean conscience. (Matt. 22:37,38; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19) Simply knowing that God has forgiven us our sin does not in itself give us a good conscience; it may even harden us to continue in a sinful course because there has been no punishment. (Eccl. 8:11) When Jehovah exacts punishment for a sin, it not only helps us to grasp the seriousness of the sin but it also enables us to have our conscience cleared of having committed it; because once we have felt Jehovah's fury rage against us, and we have suffered the consequence, he then restores us to his favour. We have paid the debt and been refined by the punishment. (Micah 7:8-10; Lam. 3:1-9, 22-24, 39; Psalms 119:67, 71, 75; Isa. 48:10) Jehovah forgives completely, and thus he will never again hold the sin against us. It is as though he has cast it into "the depth of the sea." Yes, once the "error has been paid off" he will "comfort" us, and we can once again serve him with a clean conscience. (Isa. 40:1,2; Micah 7:19)
Punishment is not discipline, although many use the words interchangeably. Punishment is administered on account of God's justice, from which he does not give exemption. Discipline on the other hand is motivated by his love, for it teaches and reproves us, at times reinforcing the teaching in a way that is sure to get our attention. The Scriptures say that "whom Jehovah loves he disciplines,"―it never says that whom he loves he "punishes." (Prov. 3:11,12; Heb. 12:5,6; Rev. 3:19) It's good for us to accept both: discipline to guide us; and punishment when deserved, for it will allow us to continue to worship Jehovah with an honest conscience. (Isaiah 12:1)
What is "Worldly"?
"They're worldly"―"that's my worldly friend"―"they're nice for a worldly person"! Terms such as these are quite often used to refer to individuals outside "the truth." But is it appropriate for us to use such unflattering terminology to describe our neighbours? (Luke 10:29-37)
The word "worldly" appears only once in the New World Translation but not in reference to describing individuals who do not share our beliefs:
"It trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things, while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of our Savoir, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to set us free from every sort of lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people who are his own special possession, zealous for fine works.―Titus 2: 12-14."
The term "worldly" refers to us, not to others, for it's up to us to reject worldly desires. So what do we mean by "worldly" when making reference to those who do not share our faith? Most of us consider the term a harmless reference, meaning they don't live by God's standards in contrast to us applying Bible principles in our lives. But is this reference an innocent description, or could it be a subtle conditioning of our mind, building an "us" and "them" scenario? There is an easy test for this "theocratic speech"— would you address any individual as "worldly" in their presence? (Isaiah 5:20)
We want to avoid making rules on the use of words, whether or not some are unChristian for us to use, but we need to show consideration to everyone by always showing a loving attitude. Even though some may view the term "worldly" as an insignificant expression, it does subtly condition our mind into viewing others as inferior by our supposed blessed standing with Jehovah. (Phil. 2:3; 4:8; James 4:6; Matt. 5:43-48) Jesus said that we show what sort of person we are at heart by what comes out of our mouth, which may even condemn the person. (Matt. 12:34-37) Most of us would never think of the term "worldly" in reference to us being superior to our neighbours, but repeatedly referring to those outside the "truth" as such does it not show that we view them as inferior? If our neighbours heard us referring to them as "worldly" they would likely be offended and certainly not view us as a loving person; and I'm positive we would feel nothing but embarrassment if we knew that they knew we viewed them as such. (Prov. 25:11)
"Now if I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!" (1 Corinthians 9:16)
How Safe is Your Treasure in Heaven?
“A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:16-21; NLT)
Do you value and work for a good relationship with God; or do you perhaps resemble the man in Jesus' illustration who believed that his material riches guaranteed him a comfortable life, both now and in his future retirement years. Jesus said that we cannot do both―slave for God and for Riches. Therefore he said: "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:20,21, 24) Material wealth can provide a life of ease at the present time; but the treasure that is stored up in heaven will give its owner everlasting life in unending happiness. (Rev. 7:14-17; 21:3,4)
Responding to Jesus' words, many of God's people have been motivated by an appreciative heart to devote their entire life to "seeking first the kingdom," rendering "sacred service" to God by engaging in the "holy work" of preaching the "good news of the kingdom", and often doing so far from their home in a foreign country where they had to learn its language. They relinquished the opportunity of pursing a career by which they could have build a comfortable life for themselves and their family. (Matt. 6:33; 24:14; 28:19,20; Rom. 15:16; Rev. 7:15) The question that many are asking themselves at this time, though, is: Since I spent my entire life accumulating treasure in heaven, and seeing that now in my old age I am poor in material possessions, how secure is my treasure in heaven? Can I lose it all through one act of indiscretion and sin?
Jesus assures us that there is no safer place for our treasure―our relationship with God―than in heaven. No one can rob you of it, and it will never ever diminish in value as may happen in the case of earthly treasures, such as when keeping your hard earned money in a trusted bank, as was recently reported (July 13) in a Financial newspaper, which said: "Bank of Cyprus customers whose deposits were seized as part of an extraordinary move to rescue the island from financial collapse are cutting their losses and selling stakes in the bank at discount. Last year, thousands of customers with money in Bank of Cyprus, including many British and Russians, became unwilling shareholders in the lender when their deposits were turned into equity as part of a controversial €10bn emergency rescue."
The treasure that you have stored up in heaven over the years is safe, as Paul assures you: "Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39; NCV) Even if you should become guilty of sin, your heavenly account will not be automatically closed, as the apostle John says: "My little children, I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin. But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His name is Jesus Christ, the one who is all that is good and who pleases God completely. He is the one who took God’s wrath against our sins upon himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and he is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s." (1 John 2:1,2; TLB)
The only person in the entire universe who has the means to close your treasured account with God in heaven is YOU, if you leave Jehovah. (1 Chronicles 28:9)
Due to being skinned and mistreated, many sheep have come to the conclusion that Jehovah doesn't have an organization, his sheepfold. (Psalms 100:3; John 10:1) The reality is quite different―for he does, but it has been hijacked by terrorists who have put outrageous demands on the passengers. These selfish hijackers want to fly the plane to a destination of their own choosing, assuring the passengers that it will be a destination of "peace & security." The passengers need not fear them, the plane under their control is secure, a flying paradise. Even though these terrorists think they are in control of flying the plane, they are not; they are merely delusional, drunk with narcissistic power, so focused on their own abilities and not appreciating their lack of qualifications that they haven't been relying on the planes instrumentation to discern their true course! (2 Thess. 2:9) Unbeknown to them, the plane has been on auto pilot the whole time, God's holy Spirit, and directed by the control tower manned by none other - Jesus Christ, flying the terrorists to a destination they are not expecting. When the plane lands these terrorists will be ejected and the qualified pilots put in the cockpit to fly the plane and its passenger's to the true holiday destination. (Luke 12:45,46) ―Contributed.
The Skin of Your Conscience
Few people give consideration to the amazing conscience with which man was created. A good conscience serves as much of a protection to your mental and spiritual health as does the skin protect you against dangerous diseases by preventing pathogens such as a virus, bacterium, prion, fungus or protozoan, from entering your body.
Jehovah is a lover of justice and righteousness; and he hates everything wicked. (Psalms 33:4,5; 37:27,28, 37,38) When God created the man Adam in his own image he also created him with the same capacity to love what he loves and abhor what he hates. (Rom. 12:9) To enable him to choose the course that would always be the most beneficial for him, he endowed him with a conscience. Our conscience performs the function of sounding the alarm when we approach that which we know is a danger and detriment to our happiness, preserving our mental and emotional well-being, which at the moment may not always be readily discernable. A violated conscience will result in grief to a righteous person just as a wound in the skin may cause an infection in an otherwise healthy man. (Psalms 32:1-5) Immediately upon Adam's rebellion against God's clearly stated command in Eden, when he allowed a forbidden desire to get past the barrier of his good conscience, his peace with the Creator suffered serious damage, and for the first time he experienced the dreaded sensation of fear, which is absent and totally foreign to a good conscience. It drove Adam into hiding from God. (Gen. 2:15-17; 3:3, 6-11; 1 John 4:18)
The primary reason people reject God is not due to the teaching of evolution, which does away with the need for God, but on account of conscience. (Psalms 53:1-5) A healthy conscience serves as a powerful deterrent to wrongdoing. When violated it can fill a person with fear, anxiety, terror, sleeplessness, even drive some insane and to suicide. (Psalms 38:4-10, 18; Rom. 2:14,15; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 1 Peter 3:16) In order to "hide" from God, as Adam tried, they simply deny that he exists, hoping in this manner to neutralize or shutdown their conscience altogether, including any dread that might result from their violated conscience. Is this to their benefit? Do they not realize that it robs them of a purposeful life and peace? To help them cope, many turn to alternative means in their search for feeling good or to deaden their pain, including drugs and other causes of addiction, from which they would in better times have stayed far away. They violate their other amazing protective armour, their skin, by puncturing it with poison containing needles, sometimes with fatal results. The outcome from these substitute sources of happiness often result in loss of self-respect; broken marriages; destroyed families; unemployment and poverty; homelessness; and in extreme cases prostitution; robbery; and murder; resulting in a loss of freedom when imprisoned. That is not the road to happiness! That is not what our Creator wants for us.
Jehovah did not just give us life, but he also has made our lives meaningful by giving us everything we need to be happy; and then he has provided us with the means to protect that happiness with the amazing barrier of a conscience. Treat it with the awe that it deserves. Care for it as you do for your skin. Let it enhance your appearance and make you feel good about yourself whenever you peer into the mirror. (Psalms 19:7-11; James 1:22-25)
"God’s laws are perfect. They protect us, make us wise, and give us joy and light. God’s laws are pure, eternal, just. They are more desirable than gold. They are sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb. For they warn us away from harm and give success to those who obey them." (Psalm 19:7-11, Living Bible)
A King Like That of the Nations
Israel wanted a king! Although Jehovah was their King, they wanted a king like the other nations; a king who would sit on a throne they could see, and who would lead them into battle. For that reason the older men of Israel approached Samuel, who was judging God's people at that time, and told him: "'Look! You yourself have grown old, but your own sons have not walked in your ways. Now do appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.' But the thing was bad in the eyes of Samuel inasmuch as they had said: 'Do give us a king to judge us,' and Samuel began to pray to Jehovah. Then Jehovah said to Samuel: 'Listen to the voice of the people as respects all that they say to you; for it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them. In accord with all their doings that they have done from the day of my bringing them up out of Egypt until this day in that they kept leaving me and serving other gods, that is the way they are doing also to you. And now listen to their voice. Only this, that you should solemnly warn them, and you must tell them the rightful due of the king who will reign over them.'” (1 Samuel 8:19-22)
Accordingly, Jehovah gave them a king, and history tells us how disastrously that turned out to be for the nation. (Hosea 13:10,11) Their first king, Saul, whom God himself had chosen, quickly became disobedient and presumptuously overstepped God's orders; for which he was rejected from being king. (1 Sam. 15:22,23) Apart from king David, and a small handful of other good kings, the vast majority of them turned out to be even worse than the kings of the nations who did not know Jehovah; for just as the kings did, so the people followed, even into idolatry. Jehovah kept sending against them his prophets, time and again appealing to them to repent and to return to him, in order to escape his wrath. (2 Chron. 36:15,16; Ezek. 33:11) Although the nation left Jehovah for other gods, yet they were still God's covenant people, always having a few remaining faithful individuals among them. (1 Kings 19:13,14, 18)
How did matters change for God's people under the new covenant, with Jesus as their only King and Leader? (Matt. 21:4,5; 23:10; Rev. 1:5) After Jesus' ascension to heaven they were again without a visible king. Did his disciples then choose someone to sit in for Jesus in his absence, such as a body of governors like the Jews had with their Sanhedrin, one that would exercise authority over the congregations and keep them united? No! Jesus was still their only head, now sitting at God's right hand in heaven, yet very much involved in the congregation affairs by means of the holy spirit. (Heb. 8:1; Acts 13:2-5; 1 Cor. 11:3) Jesus had also appointed twelve of his disciples, whom he called apostles and to whom he gave authority, to carry on after his ascension. (Luke 6:12-17; 9:1,2; Rev. 2:2) Although many persons presented themselves as having apostolic authority (see Revelation 2:2), yet Jesus did not recognize any of them, certainly not a governing body. That is also evident from the fact that Jesus addressed his letters to the Seven Congregations directly. (Rev. 2:1,2, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14) The governing body, the Sanhedrin, actually sat in opposition to true worship, much like the wicked kings had done. They rejected the Messiah and persecuted his followers. Their system of worship came to a sudden end when it was destroyed in 70 CE by the Roman armies.
The situation is very similar today, in fulfillment of the many Scriptures that deal with God's household in the time of the end. God's people are again ruled and oppressed by a governing body, who Paul calls the "man of lawlessness." He is sitting and has elevated himself above everyone within God's temple, even showing himself to be a god. But, just as the situation has always been in the past with God's people, they want a human "king" like the rest of the nations. Therefore they willingly give their loyalty to their rulers, who in this case are merely directors of a secular corporation, having no kingly powers except for their claim that their authority comes from Jesus. After allowing sufficient time to make a record for themselves, Jehovah will then reveal, that is, make known, this lawless ones presence and identity; and after which "the Lord Jesus will do away with [him] by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (2 Thess. 2:3-12; 1 Peter 4:17-19) Paul explains that all who fall prey to the "unrighteous deception" of this apostasy will "perish, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved." (2 Thess. 2:9-10)
Now that you have come to know about the lawless ones presence and identity, what should you do? Please consider: God tells us to be "in subjection to the superior authorities" of this world, which includes "paying taxes," and we have no problem accepting that. Does Jehovah not also tell us to be submissive to "the superior authorities" within his household, seeing that he has allowed them to exist? (Rom. 13:1-7) Neither the man of lawlessness, nor the rulers of this world, have been appointed by God (contrary to what they all claim), and yet we need to be in subjection to them out of fear of going against God's word, until they have all finally been removed by God's heavenly armies at Armageddon. (Rev. 19:19-21) In the meantime we obey them to the extent they don't require us to disobey God. (Acts 4:19,20; 5:29)
Antarctica Was Once a Tropical Paradise
The danger exists for us to be lulled into complacency by the people around us, as they believe that everything will continue as it always has. But that is not true. Things don't always continue as they have. That is why Jesus warned: "In the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking. They were getting married. They were giving their daughters to be married. They did all those things right up to the day Noah entered the ark. They knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be when the Son of Man comes." (Matt. 24:37-39, 42, NIRV) The end came suddenly upon the people in Noah's day, and there was no place to hide. (2 Peter 2:5)
The account in Genesis describes the flood waters as covering “all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens.” (Gen. 7:19) Some have wondered, where did all that water come from? Insight on the Scriptures explains: "The Genesis account of creation tells how on the second 'day' Jehovah made an expanse about the earth, and this expanse (called “Heaven”) formed a division between the waters below it, that is, the oceans, and the waters above it. (Ge 1:6-8) The waters suspended above the expanse evidently remained there from the second “day” of creation until the Flood. This is what the apostle Peter was talking about when he recounted that there 'were heavens from of old and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God.' Those 'heavens' and the waters above and beneath them were the means that God’s word called into operation, and 'by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.' (2Pe 3:5, 6)"― it-1 pp. 609-610 Deluge.
The waters that were suspended above the atmosphere at that time protected the planet against the seasonal extremes, making the whole earth a pleasant tropical paradise. With the collapse of the water canopy came a drastic change in earth's climate, plunging the polar regions into instant deep freeze, which scientists have tried to explain with their theory of the ice age. You may rightly ask, if there was such a vastly different climate on the earth at one time, should there not be some evidence of this?
In fact, there has been much evidence printed on these discoveries, which has not received the wide publicity it deserves. The scientific paper, PRISM (Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurement), in its article entitle "Tropical Greenland" wrote:
"Greenland was once upon a time a tropical country. That is proved absolutely by the remains of an extensive tropical flora which are found there. Where now a sheet of solid ice over a mile thick covers mountain and valley, and mighty frozen rivers called glaciers make their way to the sea and hatch icebergs, there was in earlier days a verdure-clad wilderness of luxuriant vegetation. Together with the palms and tree ferns, there were trees related to the giant sequoias of our own west coast; also representatives of the "gingko," the sacred tree of Japan and of the Eucalyptus family, which today is restricted to Australia. Climbing vines festooned the trunks of these monarchs of an ancient forest with draperies of foliage, while close to the ground grew those curious dwarf trees called "cycads," somewhat resembling palms in miniature, in the midst of a tangled undergrowth of ferns and other flowerless plants that carpeted the densely wooded areas. . .
"All the evidence seems to point to the conclusion that climates all over the world in that ancient epoch were pretty much the same. The same plants grew contemporaneously in Greenland and in California, in Spitzbergen and in Virginia. There was a uniformity of vegetation in all parts of the earth. Nobody can say just why this was, although several theories have been advanced to account for it. One theory is that the atmosphere in those days was heavily charged with watery vapor, so that warmth was readily distributed through it, and the sun's rays did no have a chance to strike the earth uninterrupted, making differences in climate by the degree of their slant. In the course of time the atmosphere thinned gradually, and then there can [sic] to be climatic variations marking a series of zones around the globe."
The article, "When Antarctica was a tropical paradise," in The Guardian, said something similar regarding the Antarctic continent: "Antarctica is the coldest, most desolate place on Earth, a land of barren mountains buried beneath a two-mile thick ice cap. Freezing winds batter its shores while week-long blizzards frequently sweep its glaciers. Yet this icy vision turns out to be exceptional. For most of the past 100 million years, the south pole was a tropical paradise, it transpires. 'It was a green beautiful place,' said Prof Jane Francis, of Leeds University's School of Earth and Environment. 'Lots of furry mammals including possums and beavers lived there. The weather was tropical. It is only in the recent geological past that it got so cold."
There exists abundant geological evidence throughout the earth
Our Obligation to Help the Poor
Looking after the poor among us has always been an essential part of true worship. In fact, Jehovah included it in the Law covenant, when he commanded his people: “In case some one of your brothers becomes poor among you in one of your cities, in your land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not harden your heart or be closefisted toward your poor brother. For you should generously open your hand to him and by all means lend him on pledge as much as he needs, which he is in want of. Watch out for yourself for fear your eye should indeed become ungenerous toward your poor brother, and you should give him nothing, and he has to call out to Jehovah against you, and it has become a sin on your part." (Deut. 15:7-11)
We have often been reminded in the publications of our responsibility toward the poor among God's people. One article recently said: “'If you love those loving you, what reward do you have?' asked Jesus. 'Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing?'” (Matt. 5:46, 47) True Christians do not show partiality toward people of certain educational or ethnic backgrounds; nor do they extend love only to those who are able to reciprocate. Rather, they help the poor and the sick, the young and the old. In such ways, Christians can imitate Jehovah’s love and thus be perfect in a relative sense." (w10 11/15 p. 22 Questions From Readers) What is the situation in your congregation?
Jesus and his apostles set aside funds to help the poor, which the apostles considered "this necessary business." (Matt. 19:21; John 12:4-6; 13:29; Acts 6:1-3; Gal. 2:10) Do the elders in your congregation share that same concern for the poor and needy in your congregation, or those living nearby? Do they have provision in place for this "necessary business" of helping them? Indeed, does anyone qualify as elder without demonstrating a genuine concern for the physical needs of the members of God's household? (Titus 1:5-9; 2 Tim. 3:1,2, 5) Addressing elders, James wrote: "My brothers, you are not holding the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, our glory, with acts of favoritism, are you? For, if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in splendid clothing enters into a gathering of you, but a poor man in filthy clothing also enters, yet you look with favor upon the one wearing the splendid clothing and say: 'You take this seat here in a fine place,' and you say to the poor one: 'You keep standing,' or: 'Take that seat there under my footstool,' you have class distinctions among yourselves and you have become judges rendering wicked decisions, is that not so? . . . Of what benefit is it, my brothers, if a certain one says he has faith but he does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it? If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: 'Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,' but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it?" (James 2:1-17)
The apostle John likewise tells us: "But whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth." (1 John 3:17,18) Jehovah requires that we have intense love for one another and be generous toward the poor among us, that we may "prove ourselves sons of our Father who is in the heavens." (Matt. 5:45-48; 2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Peter 4:8)
When you drop your money into a Contribution Box, do you have the satisfaction of knowing that a good portion of it goes toward helping the poor among God's people; or will it instead be used to enlarge the Society's properties? If you note a lack of that sort of concern for the needy among the elders in your congregation, perhaps it is because of the great emphasis that is placed on sending your contribution to the Society, where they use it for the purpose of "tearing down their storehouses in order to build bigger ones, and to lay up many good things for many years." (Luke 12:16-21)
To view where your contributions are going, click on the Link: http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/activities/construction/wallkill-warwick-projects/
Nicodemus Was not "Without God" or a "Stranger to the
Covenant of Promise"
We are all born into sin and death. That is why Jesus came, in order to buy back for us what Adam lost―the right to life. The apostle Paul explains: "For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man. For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:21,22) Are we "born again" when we are "made alive" in the Christ?
When Jesus told Nicodemus, a Jew, that "unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," adding, "you people (the Jews) must be born again," Jesus was not talking about a spiritual rebirth (passing over from death to life). Jesus did not tell Nicodemus that he was "dead in [his] trespasses and sins," needing to be "made alive," or "born again"; as many understand Jesus' words to mean when they attempt to explain it by appealing to Paul's letter to the Ephesians for support. The congregation in Ephesus was made up of Gentiles, non-Jews, who before becoming disciples were "at that particular time without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise," with "no hope and were without God in the world." (Eph. 2:1-6, 11-14; 2 Peter 3:15,16)
Jehovah Will "Fool" His People When They Take Pleasure
in the Lie (1 Kings 22:20; 2 Thess. 2:11,12)
Ahab was king over the ten northern tribes of Israel in Samaria, and although he was an apostate Baal worshiper Jehovah had given him two decisive victories over the far superior armies of the Syrian king Benhadad and the thirty-two kings who had aligned themselves with him. (1 Kings 20:1-34) The victories must have emboldened king Ahab, perhaps drawing the mistaken conclusion that Jehovah was with him, because after three years he decided to war against Syria in order to retake Ramoth-gilead, which was still in the hands of the Syrians; and so he invited good king Jehoshaphat of Jerusalem to accompany him into battle. But before Jehoshaphat agreed, he requested that Ahab first inquire of Jehovah.
All the prophets that served king Ahab were called, and they all assured him of victory. When Jehoshaphat realized that these were prophets of Baal, he asked: "Is there not here a prophet of Jehovah still?" Ahab replied that there was still one prophet of Jehovah, whom he hated because he never prophesied anything good for the king. Thus Micaiah was summoned from the detention place where he was being held. At first Micaiah spoke in accord with what the king wanted to hear, and thus agreed with all the words of the other prophets, assuring Ahab
4/17/14 The Terminator
"The line that separates day and
night is called the terminator. It is also referred to as the "grey line" and
the "twilight zone." It is a fuzzy line due to our atmosphere bending sunlight.
In fact, the atmosphere bends sunlight by half a degree, which is about 37 miles
(60 km). It is commonly thought that while half of the Earth is covered in
darkness, the other half is covered in sunlight. This is actually not true
because of the bending of the sunlight results in the land covered by sunlight
having greater area than the land covered by darkness.
"The shape of the terminator curve changes with the seasons. This difference is especially noticeable when the terminator curve from an equinox is compared to the terminator curve from a solstice. . . During the equinox, the sun can be observed directly over the equator. This means that day and night are approximately the same length. The equinox is also thought of as the start of spring and fall. Because at equinox there is no tilt of the Earth with respect to the sun, the terminator line is parallel to the axis of the Earth and to lines of longitude. The solstice occurs when the Earth's axis tilts most toward or away from the sun, causing the sun to be further north or south of the equator than any other time. The shortest day of the year is winter solstice and the longest day is summer solstice. When the Earth is tilted away from the sun, the sun appears south of the equator and when the Earth is titled toward the sun, the sun appears north of the equator. During solstice, the terminator line is at its greatest angle with respect to the axis of the Earth, which is approximately 23.5 degrees." (From Science On a Sphere, http://sos.noaa.gov/Datasets/dataset.php?id=111 )
This is a picture of earth’s (and moon's) terminator. The interesting thing is, this phenomenon is only visible from space. It cannot be seen by standing on the earth’s surface. So, how could Job have known this?
God Does not Accept Worship that Mixes Truth With Lies
Jesus' letters to the Seven Congregations are just as applicable to God's congregations today as they were in the first century. (Rev. 2:1-3:22; 1 Tim. 3:15) A recent Watchtower article noted that Jesus closely "observed the spiritual condition of individual congregations in the first century C.E. In our day [he] exercises active headship over the congregations worldwide and their overseers. As such, nothing that occurs within the more than 100,000 individual congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses escapes his notice." The article further noted that Jesus "rebuked members of [the Thyatira] congregation for their immoral, self-indulgent lifestyle, telling them: 'I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds.' (Rev. 2:23) That statement indicates that Christ observes not only the collective conduct of each congregation but also the lifestyle of its individual members." (w10 9/15 p. 27 pars. 8-9) (Bold added)
In his message to the congregation in Thyatira, Jesus began with words of commendation, saying: "I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance, and that your deeds of late are more than those formerly." (Rev. 2:19) That certainly sounds like the congregation enjoyed Jesus' approval, don't you think? Ah, but Jesus goes on to say: “‘Nevertheless, I do hold this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess ["self-anointed prophetess"; The Voice], and she teaches and misleads my slaves to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her fornication." (vs. 20,21) Although the congregation in Thyatira displayed such vital works as increasing in deeds, and love, and faith, and endurance, yet their worship was not acceptable because they tolerated the false prophet in their midst. And not only did they tolerate her, they were even misled into following her. How could that be possible? How can a congregation have deeds and love and faith and works and endurance, and yet be misled by a false prophet? (Ezek. 13:8-10)
Good deeds do not validate false worship! We cannot attach Jehovah's holy name to false worship without reaping the consequence, a lesson the Israelites often had to learn. (Ex. 32:1-10, 25-28; 1 Kings 12:26-30; Ezek. 33:12,13; 1 Cor. 10:11) Yet, in spite of the numerous scriptural examples, many in the congregations today believe that all we need in order to have God's approval is to be zealous in fine works―which usually involves many hours spent in the ministry, and regular meeting attendance; also to have brotherly love; and to have faith in those taking the lead in the organization, who we are told we must follow as we follow Jesus. (Matt. 23:10) But what happens when the ones who take the lead prove themselves to be like that false prophet in Thyatira, whom Jesus gave time to repent? In consequence of her unwillingness to repent, Jesus was about to "throw her into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation." And her children, all her followers, he was going to "kill with deadly plague, so that all the congregations will know that I am he who searches the kidneys and hearts, and I will give to you individually according to your deeds." (vs. 22,23) In view of the graveness of Jesus' words, please consider the condition that at present exists in your congregation, in your area. Is it the sort of meeting place that Paul describes we want to attend; or is it on "a sickbed"? Keep in mind that Jesus was addressing his words to his disciples, and not to people in the world. (Heb. 10:23-25; Compare Rev. 2:8-11)
We cannot mix truth with lies. That is clear! For that would make our worship unfit and unacceptable to Jehovah, the God of truth. (Matt. 15:9; 23:25-28; John 4:23,24; Rom. 1:18, 28) If we follow the lead and the teachings of the foretold "man of lawlessness" in our modern day Thyatira congregations (whose "presence is according to the operation of Satan"), then that would void any benefits that would come from our good deeds that Jesus mentions. Following Jesus as our Leader is not burdensome. That is why he assured the faithful in the congregation in Thyatira: “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come." Yes, "Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations." (Rev. 2:24,25, 29, NLT; Matt. 11:28-30; Rev. 7:13-17)
Wicked Shepherds were Foretold to be in Charge of God's
Sheep in the Time of the End
Did you expect God's people to be dwelling in a "spiritual paradise" during "the time of the end"? (Dan. 12:9,10) Not according to God's word, for Jehovah foretold that his sheep would suffer on account of the wicked ones in their midst, and even more significant, at the hands of his appointed yet "worthless" shepherds. To his prophet Zechariah, God said:
(4/1/14 - 10/19/14)
Additional pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 PRESENT
Food for Thought Index