"The prophets who declared the word of the Lord are your role models, my brothers and sisters, for what it means to live patiently in the face of suffering. Look, we bless and honor the memory of those who persevered under hardship. Remember how Job endured and how the Lord orchestrated the triumph of his final circumstances as a grand display of His mercy and compassion."—James 5:10,11; 1:2-4; The Voice.
you quote the Bible, do you sound strange to others in the congregation?
Understanding the truth of God's Word doesn't come all at once, but rather with time as we are taught by holy spirit; and we see one precious truth lead to the understanding of other truths, which then replaces the "inspired expressions of error" in which we at one time trusted. This in turn enables us to recognize how the Scriptures are in total harmony throughout. (1 John 4:1, 6)
Often we find ourselves having to untangle the confusion that results from teachings that are based on the bold interpretations of men, who have clearly gone "beyond the things that are written," deflecting from the simple and pure truth of God's Word the Bible. (1 Cor. 4:6) It's impossible to harmonize the two! It's like attempting to put new wine into old wineskins, as Jesus said. (Matt. 9:16,17) And Paul compares it to the "veil" that hung over the Jews, which was dulling their mental powers and prevented them from understanding the fulfillment of the Law under the old covenant. To them, the words of Jesus sounded strange when compared to the teachings of their religious leaders. "But when there is a turning to Jehovah, the veil is taken away." (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 3:14-18; John 8:47)
To illustrate this point: We cannot harmonize the Scriptures which are fulfilled in connection with the establishment of God's kingdom—and Jesus' return (his presence—parousia), with the Society's teaching that Jesus' presence began in 1914; and that he has been ruling in God's kingdom for the past hundred years. All the facts from the Scriptures indicate that this is still future, although "near at hand." When you ask an elder (or any Witness): "How do we know that Jesus returned in 1914?", most likely he will point to the signs Jesus gave regarding his presence (as recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke); and assert that these prove that Jesus has been present since 1914. But according to Jesus' own words, the signs would provide evidence that he is near at the doors and that the kingdom of God is near—not here. We cannot harmonize one with the other. (Matt. 24:32,33; Mark 13:28,29; Luke 21:29-31)
Now, if a person actually believes that Jesus returned in 1914, then he has a very difficult time indeed to explain the prophecies in connection with Jesus' presence, because the things that are foretold to happen in connection with his presence haven't happened yet; —such as the Master settling accounts with his slaves to whom he had entrusted his talents to do business with; and the subsequent removal of the "man of lawlessness" from God's temple, "whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (Matt. 24:45-51; 25:14-30; 2 Thess. 2:8-10) It is not possible to harmonize the teachings of the Watchtower regarding Jesus' presence and God's kingdom being established in 1914 with the inspired Scriptures. In fact, none of the prophecies regarding Jesus' presence have yet been fulfilled, although the things the Bible foretold that lead up to his presence we are seeing taking place. The same holds true with some other things that we are finding inconsistent at the moment.
For example: At one time, under Judge Rutherford and Fred Franz, much emphasis was put on the theory of types and anti-types, which were used to explain almost everything in connection with God's people in our time. Thus, our present understanding of the identity of the great crowd that comes out of the great tribulation is based on the theory that in the type, King Jehu—who was anointed as king by Jehovah to exterminate Baal worship out of Israel—represents in the antitype the King Christ Jesus, and by extension his anointed companions; while Jehonadab—a non-Israelite who shared Jehu's zeal for true worship—was said to picture the great crowd, who were therefore called Jehonadabs, or Jonadabs; who in later years became known as the "other sheep" of John 10:16.
But now the theory of types and anti-types has been discarded with the March 15, 2015 Watchtower. It is now acknowledged that this was a matter of going beyond the things that are written. And yet, many of the beliefs that were based on that now rejected theory are still being taught as fact. We can readily see the dilemma we face when we attempt to harmonize certain teachings that we hold fast with what is actually contained in the Scriptures. If we ourselves cannot grasp a scriptural matter apart from the way it is presented in the Watchtower, how do we expect to be able to explain it to someone with whom we are studying the Bible; or to the people at whose doors we call? No wonder that most of the brothers and sisters rely heavily on the magazines to do the teaching for them; thereby leaving the responsibility of what they teach in the hands of the publishers. That pretty well also describes the situation as it existed in Jesus' day. (Matt. 23:13,15, 27,28)
Jehovah does not accept just any sort of worship, or worshipers. Jesus said, "The hour is coming, and it is now [already here; AMP], when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him." (John 4:23,24) If we have come to know Jehovah, then we also have come to understand the importance of worshiping him with spirit and truth; for he has never accepted worship that was in any way tainted with falsehood and lies. That can only happen when we take the liberty of going beyond the things that are written. (John 17:17; Gal. 1:6-9)
"For as regards Jehovah, his eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him." (2 Chron. 16:9)
"God Made the World to be Lived In"
How large is the universe? Where does it begin and end? Can the universe be measured? If it is finite, what lies beyond? Scientists estimate the age of the universe at approximately 13.8 billion years (a billion being a thousand million, 1,000,000,000). What existed before 14 billion years? Seeing that scientists propose an age for the universe is at least an acknowledgment that there was a beginning; but it leaves the question as to how that beginning came about. Their Big Bang theory leaves the experts with more questions than it provides answers.
We cannot really appreciate the incomprehensible size of the universe. The enormous distances between stars and galaxies are measured in light years―the distance that light travels in one year, which is 10 trillion kilometers. Consider, for example, it would take 4.24 light-years to travel to Proxima Centauri, the next nearest star outside our solar system, speeding along at 300,000 kilometers per second. Our own solar system of the sun and eight planets―including the earth and moon―is just a tiny speck within the galaxy called the Milky Way. And the Milky Way itself is about 150,000 light-years across. Also, consider that the closest galaxy to us is the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2.3 million light-years away. The universe is made up of billions of such galaxies, each of which contain billions of stars, and all of them unique in glory. (1 Cor. 15:41; Psalms 8:3,4)
Many religious persons believe that God created the heavens and the earth a mere six thousand years ago. Such "unscientific" claims have caused scientists to dismiss the Bible's account of creation as mere myth, and along with it most of the Bible's other teachings. But the Bible does not even suggest such a young age for our earth or the universe! It merely states: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Since it nowhere provides any clues as to when that beginning started, it allows for the billions of years estimated by scientists. Clearly, if the universe were only six thousand years old, would not the greatest distances be limited to the distance light travels in six thousand years? Obviously we would not be able to observe light from galaxies before their existence.
The six "creation days," as recorded in the first Chapter of Genesis, which many quote in support of their belief, does not describe the creation of the universe, including the earth; but rather tells how God transformed, in six distinct stages, what was a dark, water covered, formless and waste planet earth―which already existed,―into a beautiful home suitable for a great variety of life, including man whom God was about to create in his own image. (Genesis 1:2-31) The Bible says that "Jehovah created the heavens and earth and put everything in place, and he made the world to be lived in, not to be an empty chaos." (Isaiah 45:18; The Living Bible) Yes, Jehovah created the heavens and the earth "in the beginning," however long ago that may have been. And he created it all for a purpose,―not to be an empty chaos, but to be lived in. Scientists, who reject the existence of the Creator, are definitely not able to discern the purpose behind the things He created. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14)
The Creator is not pressed for time! A million years, even a billion more, are inconsequential to him. We know that the time arrived when he chose one galaxy out of all the billions that he had created, the one we call the Milky Way. And within this one galaxy he selected one star, our sun. From the eight planets that he had created within this solar system there was one that would be suitable to sustain the abundance of life he purposed to create. But this planet was as yet not ready, for it was enveloped in darkness, and the light of the sun did not reach the surface of the waters that covered the planet. Therefore, the very first step God took in transforming this dark and formless waste into what was to become mankind's home, was to cause the light of the sun to reach the surface of the waters of the earth. The Bible calls this period of time the "first day." Now bathed in sunlight, this blue planet, which was still one large ocean, must have looked amazing in space. If Jehovah had in mind to create only sea creatures he could have left it at that. But his second step was to remove some of the water from the earth and suspend it above the earth,―calling the space in between the waters "heaven," in which the birds would eventually be flying.
The next step all geologists should be interested in, for God caused land to appear above the surface of the waters, thus forming mountains and valleys. Of course, the land that now appeared was not newly created, but simply was lifted above the waters by the readjustment of the earth itself; as the geological record testifies. And shortly following this event God caused all sorts of plants, flowers and trees, and bushes to grow. These would not only beautify the earth, but also serve as food for the abundance of life that he purposed to create after this. The time it took for this particular sequence of events is called the "third day," having had a definite beginning and end, which God pronounced as being very good.
What happened on the "fourth day" is a bit confusing to some people. No, God did not create the sun, moon, and stars during this stage as some claim, for these had already been created in the beginning. During the third day there was sufficient light for the growth of vegetation, but the source of the light was not identifiable on earth; so, during this fourth period of time God proceeded to clear up the water canopy that was suspended above the earth, thereby causing the sun, moon, and even the stars, to become clearly visible from earth. These would now serve as a means to divide time into seasons and years.
We cannot help but be deeply impressed by the sequence of events in which God went about preparing the earth as a perfect home for the life that he created upon it, especially mankind. When you come to know these things, does it not move you to want to get to know him personally? He invites us to do so, because he has so much more in store for those who love him. He will not forever allow men to ruin this home that he created for mankind over such a long period of time. Long ago he promised that he will remove all wicked ones from this earth and give it exclusively to those who love and obey him; in order for them to care for their home, and live forever upon it in peace, happiness, and perfect health. According to all the evidence, that time is now at hand. (Psalms 37:10,11, 28,29, 37-40; Rev. 11:17,18; 21:3,4)
Do We Need to Know Who
the "Anointed" Are?
When Jesus instituted The Last Supper, which we commonly refer to as the Memorial, he instructed his disciples to "keep doing this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Until the year 1938 it was understood that all of God's people in attendance at the Memorial were entitled to partake of the bread and the wine. But The Watchtower of February 15, 1938, introduced a change which for the first time differentiated between two distinct classes at the Memorial, the "anointed" and "their companions the Jonadabs." This was reflected in the invitation to the Memorial published in that Watchtower issue, which said in part: “After 6 p.m. on April 15 let each company of the anointed assemble and celebrate the Memorial, their companions the Jonadabs also being present. Let the emblems be unleavened bread and real red wine.” (Page 50, under “Memorial.”) It was explained in succeeding issues of The Watchtower that "ever since the year 1935 C.E. Jesus Christ the Fine Shepherd has brought a 'great crowd' of such modern 'Jonadabs' or 'other sheep' into association with the spirit-begotten remnant of his spiritual 'body," and that these modern Jonadabs "attended the Memorial as observers, not as partakers." (See The Watchtower as of March 1, 1938, page 75, paragraphs 50-52; w78 3/1 p. 11 Memorializing Christ’s Death—How Much Longer?)
We may ask: Did their new understanding of the "Jonadab" class―as associates of the "spirit-begotten remnant" being merely observers at the Memorial―correct a wrong way of celebrating the Lord's Evening Meal that had existed for the previous nineteen hundred centuries? Or are they saying that the "Jonadab" class did not exist until it was identified in 1935 by Joseph Rutherford? In the absence of a single scripture that restricts or even forbids anyone from partaking of the bread and the wine, can anyone forbid it, when Jesus himself instructed his disciples to keep doing it in remembrance of him? (1 Cor. 11:24-26)
But, some have wondered, if everyone were to partake at the Memorial how would we know who the anointed are, since it is at the Memorial that they identify themselves.
The truth is, we don't need to know their identity. Except for the names of the apostles, Jehovah has not identified them, as if they are somehow better or superior to any others of God's servants. Jehovah certainly knows who they are, for he is the one who has chosen them. Would it not be a temptation for them to become self-important, even presumptuous, if they were to receive special honor? (1 Sam. 15:10-12, 22,23) The apostles were not immune from having exaggerated opinions of themselves, often arguing among themselves as to who was the greater. On the night of Jesus' arrest they had once again argued this point, and again Jesus found it necessary to impress upon them the need for humility. He told them a simple illustration, asking them: "Which one is greater, the one reclining at the table or the one ministering? Is it not the one reclining at the table? But I am in your midst as the one ministering." (Luke 22:27) They certainly did not argue that Jesus was greater than any of them, and yet he was there to serve them. According to Jesus, who is the greater among God's people: The ones who have been given the responsibility to provide timely food for the members of his household; or the ones reclining at the table and being fed? Is it not obviously the ones who are reclining at the table, as in any household that has servants? (Matt. 24:45-47) Yet, according to the Society, the greatest within God's household are the ones doing the serving, namely, the governing body. They like to draw much attention to themselves, praising themselves and even going so far as to give themselves the title of "faithful and discreet." We can readily see that this is not Jehovah's way. (James 4:6)
Look at it in another way. Jehovah tells us that he has shepherds for the sake of his sheep; not sheep for the sake of the shepherds. If the shepherds have done their job well in caring for his sheep, then they will receive their wages, their reward. But if they oppress the sheep so that they run away and become lost and scattered, then Jehovah will ask back the sheep from their hand. "'Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasturage!' is the utterance of Jehovah." (Jeremiah 23:1; 1 Peter 5:1-4)
How can the sheep do good to Christ's brothers if they are not able to identify who they are, as Jesus mentions in his parable of the sheep and the goats? (Matthew 25:34-46) The point Jesus was making in his illustration was not about identifying his brothers but rather the doing of good to them, even when they did not know them. What does that mean? Since these "brothers" of his make up the foundation of God's temple, along with Jesus―as Paul explains in his letter to the Ephesians―the sheep must accept Christ's brothers, because Jehovah is directing "all those who are rightly disposed for everlasting life" to them, in order to be fed and cared for. (Luke 12:41-44; John 21:15-17; Acts 13:48; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Rev. 14:1-4) All of God's people, together, make up God's temple; some have been chosen as living stones in the foundation, while all others are built upon the foundation. This is God's building, "a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-6)
Ask any builder as to what is the more important part in the construction of a building, the foundation, or that which is built upon the foundation? Can there be one without the other? (Luke 14:28-30; 6:47-49) The person who has been chosen by God to be a part of the foundation of his temple certainly knows it, for God is bearing witness with him. He doesn't go around advertising himself as such, as if he has to promote himself in the congregation in order to gain recognition and receive a position. Jehovah is the one who appoints his chosen ones to their position within his congregations, and he directs the sheep to them. In this way, everyone who is taught by holy spirit is able to discern whether the "inspired expressions" with which they are being fed originate with God, or they are actually being fed "inspired expressions of error" from impostors. The Society with its governing body cannot prevent Jehovah from using his chosen ones. (1 Cor. 12:27-31; 10:20,21; 1 John 4:1, 6; Rev. 2:2)
After being taught for many years "inspired expressions of error," it may become a real challenge to recognize the scriptural truths according to God's inspired Word; which may even sound foreign at times, because it sounds different from what we have become used to― such as the idea that everyone should partake at the Memorial; or expressions such as the "other sheep" applying to those who rejoice at the prospect of living forever on a paradise earth; or "living up to your dedication," for which there is no scriptural basis. Jehovah has allowed this confusion among his people, but at the same time he has also provided the explanation as to why it exists; and if we accept it, we are helped to "endure to the end." (2 Thess. 2:11,12; Matt. 24:10-13) Think of the Jews in Jesus' day, and why they had such difficulty in accepting the truth that Jesus spoke; while they gladly followed their religious leaders who were the ones misleading them. That should enable us to better understand our own situation today. (John 8:45-48)
and the Weeds"
On one occasion, when the disciples asked Jesus why he was always speaking to the crowds by the use of illustrations, he answered by saying: “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. 13 That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. 14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’" (Matt. 13:10-15, NLT; Isaiah 6:9,10)
Thereupon Jesus proceeded to relate to them the parable of the wheat and the weeds, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. 25 While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. 26 When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also. 27 So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ 29 He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’” (Matt. 13:24-30)
Later, after Jesus had dismissed the crowd, the disciples asked him to explain to them the illustration of the weeds and the wheat. Jesus answered: “The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; 38 the field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, 39 and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the conclusion of the system of things. 41 The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, 42 and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where [their] weeping and the gnashing of [their] teeth will be. 43 At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen."
Almost two thousand years have passed since Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the weeds. After all these many centuries of growing together in the same field, the distinction between the wheat and the weeds has become clearly evident. No longer does the danger exist of the wheat being mistakenly uprooted along with the weeds. (Matt. 13:43); Dan. 12:3) Compared to the growing season, the harvest is a relatively short period of time. Jesus referred to it as "the conclusion of the system of things," "the end of the age." (ESV) According to the parable, the weeds, which are the sons of the Devil, are collected out first and bound in bundles to be burned up; leaving behind only the wheat, "the sons of the kingdom." (Psalms 92:7; Dan. 12:10)
Who are the reapers that separate the weeds from the wheat? Not Jesus' disciples! Jesus said that "the reapers are angels," and they are the ones who "collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness." Jesus did not authorize his disciples to judge between the wheat and the weeds; not even during the time of the harvest. He is the one appointed by Jehovah to judge mankind, and he has given his angels the authority to remove the weeds from among the wheat. (Matt. 7:1,2; John 5:22, 30; Acts 17:31) God's righteous people, who are continuing to suffer on account of any wicked weeds in their midst, are called upon to endure a little while longer. (Matt. 24:10-13; Psalms 37:9-11; James 1:2-5) Soon they will share in the joy of the harvest as the wheat is gathered into God's storehouse. (Matt. 3:12)
Who were God's People
After the Death of the Apostles?
Is the Watchtower Society God's household?
God has a household that has existed since its inception on the day of Pentecost in the first century, when 120 of Jesus' disciples (including the twelve apostles; Matthias having replaced Judas Iscariot) were "baptized in holy spirit," just as Jesus had promised. (Acts 1:4,5, 15, 24-26; 2:1-4; John 15:26,27; 1 Tim. 3:15) It was with that event that the foundation of God's household was laid; and immediately thereupon God built upon the foundation with the addition of three thousand repentant baptized believers. Thus in one day God's household came into existence. (Acts 2:37-42; 2 Tim. 2:19)
The vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses today believe that the Watchtower Society is God's household, of which the governing body is believed to be the "faithful and discreet slave." But, as we all know, there was no Watchtower Society in the first century―yet, God had a household. Many find it difficult, even impossible, to reconcile the fact that a secular corporation, called the Watchtower Society, is not God's household; but, rather, that it exists and operates within God's household? They are definitely not one and the same! The Society's presence and position of authority over God's people within his house is not from Jehovah or Jesus. How, then, did it attain its place within God's household which is causing such confusion?
In the first century, in every city and place where God's people resided, they were organized into congregations, of whom Jesus was the head. (Acts 16:5; Eph. 5:23) It was holy spirit that directed the preaching work. (Acts 13:2-4; 16:6) The congregations did not meet in "Kingdom Halls," or impressive church buildings, in which to worship; but they met together in private homes, away from the world's persecution; for the purpose of mutual encouragement, "to motivate one another to acts of love and good works." (Heb. 10:24,25, NLT; 1 Cor. 11:17-22; James 2:1-4) Their meeting places were not their places of worship, for every disciple himself belonged to God as his "holy temple," having God's spirit dwell in him; and they were all taught by holy spirit, "even the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10; 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22; John 4:21-24)
God's household has continued to exist throughout the centuries, built upon the solid foundation that was laid at Pentecost. After all, did Jesus not promise that he would be with his disciples "all the days until the conclusion of the system of things"? (Matt. 28:18-20) Is he still with his disciples today? Does that mean he is with the Watchtower Society? To the contrary! The Watchtower Society fulfills the prophecies regarding "the man of lawlessness," as foretold by Paul; and the "evil slave" spoken of by Jesus, who would exist within God's household. (2 Thess. 2:3-12; Matt. 24:48-51) This "lawless one," as he is also called, would lift himself up over everyone who worships God, while at the same time making himself equal to God; claiming that his authority is from God, and even requiring obedience that belongs only to God. Yes, he would rule over God's inheritance, his sheep, "with harshness. . . even with tyranny." (Ezek. 34:4; Acts 20:29,30; 1 Peter 5:1-4)
Whereas originally all congregations were united under the headship of Jesus (as shown in the case of the Seven Congregations to whom Jesus wrote at the end of the first century), in 1919, for the first time, Jesus came to be replaced by the president of the Watchtower Society. It was under his domination that all the congregations that desired to share in the world wide preaching work were required to register with the Society as a "service organization." Thus president Rutherford gained control over "the holy work of the good news of God," and everyone who engaged in it. (Rom. 15:16) The Proclaimers book explains: "A director, or service director as he came to be known, not subject to yearly election, was appointed by the Society. As the local representative of the Society, he was to organize the work, assign territory, and encourage participation by the congregation in the field service. Thus, alongside the democratically elected elders and deacons, another type of organizational arrangement began to function, one that recognized appointive authority outside the local congregation and that gave greater emphasis to the preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom." The footnote further adds: "Through the service director, the field service of those associated with the congregation, or class, was to be reported to the Society each week, starting in 1919."―jv chap. 15 p. 212 Development of the Organization Structure. (Bold added)
That explains how a secular corporation, namely, the Watchtower Society, came to be present within God's household; and how one man, or group of men―as it is now the case―lifted himself up within God's temple and wield authority and power over God's sheep, demanding their loyalty and obedience. Does that stumble you? (Matt. 13:20,21; 24:10-14) Does that mean that God no longer has a household? Should we be upset over the fact that Jehovah has allowed this to happen, and therefore separate ourselves from the congregation; perhaps seeking to worship Jehovah on our own? Many have done just that! Not surprisingly, Jehovah foretold that many of his sheep would be scattered and get lost, and stray "on all the mountains and every high hill." (Ezek. 34:4-10) Yet, we can find comfort in the knowledge that "Jehovah knows those who belong to him." (2 Tim. 2:19; 1 Cor. 8:3) That is why he has promised: "Here I am, I myself, and I will search for my sheep and care for them. . . The lost one I shall search for, and the dispersed one I shall bring back, and the broken one I shall bandage and the ailing one I shall strengthen." (Ezek. 34:11, 15,16)
Do you feel like a lost sheep? Do you feel like running away, not knowing where to? Perhaps you might want to consider it to be more advantages to remain where there are still brothers and sisters who have a zeal for God, although "not according to accurate knowledge"? (Rom. 10:2,3; 1 John 5:18-20) If you believe that your spiritual life is in danger in your congregation, keep in mind that Jehovah said that there exists another danger, that of a straying sheep becoming food for every wild beast of the field. (Ezek. 34:5) Jesus said that in the conclusion of the system of things, which is the harvest, he will "send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be." What will that mean for God's loyal sheep? Regarding any who will be left over after the cleansing, Jesus said: "At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen." (Matt. 13:39-43; Dan. 11:35; 12:3, 10) The foremost among the wicked that will be removed from God's kingdom will be the Watchtower Society with its governing body. Can you patiently endure until that time, leaning heavily on Jehovah for support? The reward of everlasting life is worth any suffering at this time.
Yes, listen to what Jesus tells us! If we are his sheep, and we belong to Jehovah, then we are assured of his protection, for Jesus said: "My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father." (John 10:27-29; Rom. 8:35-39)
"Types" and "Antitypes"
Once upon a time, many years ago, it was believed by the formulators of our doctrines within the Society―such as Joseph Rutherford and Fred Franz―that every incident, every experience, and every affair that took place among God's ancient people as recorded in the Scriptures, has a modern equivalence or "antitype" that finds its fulfillment among God's modern Witnesses. The Watchtower of September 15, 1950, defined a "type" and an "antitype" this way: "A type is an image or representation of something that will come to pass at some future time. The antitype is the reality of the thing which the type represents. The type may properly be called a shadow; the antitype, the reality."
Today, sixty-five years later, this idea of types and antitypes has been, for the most part, debunked and officially scrapped. The Watchtower of March 15, 2015 (pages 17-18), explains:
Many years ago, our publications stated that such faithful men and women as
Deborah, Elihu, Jephthah, Job, Rahab, and Rebekah, as well as many others, were
really types, or shadows, of either the anointed or the "great crowd." (Rev.
7:9) For example, Jephthah, Job, and Rebekah were thought to represent the
anointed, while Deborah and Rahab were said to foreshadow the great crowd.
However, in recent years we have not drawn such comparisons. Why not? . . .
"Some writers in the centuries after Christ's death fell into a trap―they saw types everywhere. Describing the teachings of Origen, Ambrose, and Jerome, The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia explains: 'They sought for types, and of course found them, in every incident and event, however trivial, recorded in Scripture. Even the most simple and commonplace circumstance was thought to conceal within itself the most recondite [hidden] truth ..., even in the number of fish caught by the disciples on the night the risen Saviour appeared to them―how much some have tried to make of that number, 153!'". . .
"If such interpretations seem farfetched, you can understand the dilemma. Humans cannot know which Bible accounts are shadows of things to come and which are not. The clearest course is this: Where the Scriptures teach that an individual, an event, or an object is typical of something else, we accept it as such. Otherwise, we ought to be reluctant to assign an antitypical application to a certain person or account if there is no specific Scriptural basis for doing so. (Bold added)
This now adjusted view of "farfetched" interpretations of non-Scriptural types and antitypes presents a dilemma for the self-proclaimed "faithful and discreet slave," the Society's Governing Body; although they do not yet publicly acknowledge it. The fact is that many of their enduring doctrines are based on Joseph Rutherford's interpretation of such types and antitypes as mentioned in the above Watchtower article, but which have now been rendered obsolete. Take for example their doctrine on the "other sheep," who were once popularly referred to in Rutherford's day as "Jonadabs." These ones are still not considered to be in the new covenant. Why not? Because Rutherford believed that they were prefigured by Jehonadab (Jonadab), a non-Israelite; while king Jehu of Israel pictured Jesus and his anointed "Israel of God" who represent Jesus on earth. (w98 1/1 p. 13) This is what the book, Jehovah's Witnesses Proclaimers of God's Kingdom (printed in 1993) said regarding the Jonadabs:
In 1932 it was explained that Jehonadab (Jonadab), King Jehu’s associate, prefigured a class of persons who would enjoy everlasting life on earth. (2 Ki. 10:15-28) The Jonadabs, as they came to be known, counted it a privilege to be associated with Jehovah’s anointed servants and to have some share with them in advertising the Kingdom. But at that time, there was no special effort to gather and organize these individuals with an earthly hope.
Rutherford's now outdated interpretation of Jonadab having been a type
has nothing to do with the identity of the "other sheep" of John 10:16; of
whom Jesus spoke when he was addressing the crowd of non-believing Jews.
(John 10:16, 25-28)
The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus was referring to the Gentiles who were
about to be brought into the one fold under the one shepherd, starting with
Cornelius, in fulfillment of the many prophecies. (Isa. 2:2; Acts 10:30-33,
44-48; 13:44-48; 15:13-18; Gal. 3:7-9; Eph. 2:11-16)
According to the July 15, 2013, Watchtower, the Governing Body claims to have received divine authority from Jesus to make whatever doctrinal changes and adjustments whenever they see fit; rendering a former "truth" obsolete with the stroke of a pen. (Matt. 15:6-9) In fact, they like to point to these "new truths" as prove that they are "the faithful and discreet slave." In reality, these things help to identify them as the foretold "man of lawlessness," who is sitting in God's temple. The Governing Body's authority over God's people is not from Jehovah or Jesus, but, as Paul explains, "the lawless one's presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that the may get to believing the lie." (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 2 Thess. 2:3-12)
We are anxiously awaiting the day when the Lord Jesus will do away with the lawless one "by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (2 Thess. 2:8) "Here is where it means endurance for the holy ones, those who observe the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus," (Rev. 14:12)
1/10/15"It is not mine to give" ― What did Jesus mean?
God Answer Your Prayers?
Why do many prayers seemingly go unanswered? One reason may be, as the Bible says, "When people do not listen to God’s teachings, he does not listen to their prayers." (Proverbs 28:9; ERV) Therefore, if we want God to listen to us, we must first listen to him. That is reasonable enough! But, perhaps you feel that you are listening to God, after all, you are conducting a family Bible study; you attend the meetings regularly, even preparing in advance; and you also spend much time talking to your neighbors about the good news of God's kingdom. You pray to God on a regular basis, and yet you are not receiving the things you are asking for. You may start to wonder if God is even hearing your prayers. (Lam. 3:44)
Rest assured that Jehovah does listen to the prayers of his servants, those who concern themselves with his teachings. King David expressed his joy in song over the many times that God had acted on his behalf in answer to his prayers. He sang: "Come, listen, all you who fear God, and I will relate what he has done for my soul. To him I called with my mouth, and there was an extolling with my tongue. If I have regarded anything hurtful in my heart, Jehovah will not hear me. Truly God has heard; He has paid attention to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned aside my prayer, nor his loving-kindness from me." (Psalms 66:16-20)
Jehovah listened to David's prayers because David listened to Jehovah, he concerned himself with God's teachings. That is why David said: "How I do love your law, all day long it is my concern." David looked to God for guidance on a daily basis in every undertaking of his. He goes on to say, "From your judicial decisions I have not turned aside, for you yourself have instructed me. How smooth to my palate your sayings have been, more so than honey to my mouth! Owing to your orders I behave with understanding. That is why I have hated every false path. Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway." (Psalms 119:97, 102-105)
If you have felt that your prayers have gone unanswered in the past, have you ever considered that perhaps Jehovah may have already provided the answer that you are looking for, and which might help your particular circumstance, in the Book that he has written for our benefit, to teach us? (Isa. 48:17,18) The Bible contains so much more than most people give it credit for. David referred to it is a lamp, and a light to guide us in our darkest hours. Money or good health is not necessarily the solution to all problems. Perhaps the answer to your prayers lies in something that you may not have considered as particularly useful; yet that may not be how God sees it. How would you know unless you are familiar with God's Word? Will Jehovah give us the answer when he has already provided it in his Word the Bible? Is it his fault when we are not familiar with what is contained within its pages? Jehovah did not burden us with a book that is so large that it would take a lifetime to read through it. No, it is compact enough for us to read from cover to cover in just 52 weeks by setting aside fifteen to twenty minutes each day. (Deut. 30:11-14)
When Joshua was chosen by God to succeed Moses in leading his people into the promised land, God told him: "This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8,9) By reading God's Word on a regular basis, "day and night," we will come to know God intimately, his teachings and promises, and his amazing personality; because he gives us the helper, his holy spirit, to help us in making our way successful and act wisely. (1 Cor. 2:10-14) And after all, isn't that what our prayers are mostly about? "Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones, and in the way of sinners has not stood, and in the seat of ridiculers has not sat. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed." (Psalm 1:1-3)
Like an archaeologist who keeps digging on the same site and constantly keeps unearthing new and interesting items, that is how it is when we read the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation many times over; there will always be new details and precious truths to discover and add to our treasure chest of knowledge, helping us to grow in wisdom. (Matt. 13:51,52) If reading the Bible on a regular basis is not yet a part of your daily routine, why not start now. You will find that the answer to many of your prayers are contained within its pages. By setting aside just fifteen minutes each day, which averages four pages, you will have read the entire Bible in one year.
"The Mystery of This Lawlessness is Already at
According to Jesus' own words, it is not possible for anyone to calculate the time of his return. (Acts 1:7; Matt. 24:36, 42, 44; 25:13) But that has never prevented some from trying to do so anyways, even in the first century. There were those in the congregation in Thessalonica who believed that the "presence of our Lord Jesus Christ" was imminent. Paul found it necessary to address their false expectations by telling them that certain developments had to occur first. For example, he wrote that the "day of the Lord" will not come "unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction." And although, as Paul explained, "the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work," yet this "man of lawlessness" within God's temple would remain a mystery until the time of his being revealed; which at that time would be further evidence that Jesus' presence was imminent; "whom the Lord Jesus will [then] do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (2 Thess. 2:1-10) What did Paul mean when he said that "this lawlessness is already at work"; and in what sense did it remain a "mystery" until the time of his revealing?
We can glean much information regarding this matter from Paul's letter to the congregations in the Roman province of Galatia, where his preaching had yielded much success. (Acts 14:1-7, 19-23) His work among the Gentiles became known by the brothers in the Jerusalem congregation, which included the apostles and older men, and also those who belonged to "the sect of the Pharisees" who had become believers. (Acts 15:4,5; 23:6) Some from among these disciples in Jerusalem strongly felt that believers of the nations needed to become circumcised, and for that reason "certain men" of theirs went to see Paul in Antioch, after he had returned from Galatia. When there occurred no little disputing over the matter of circumcision, it was arranged for Paul to return with them "to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem." Luke's report of this incident, as recorded in Acts 15:1-32, does not mention some important details that Paul includes in his letter to the Galatians, on whose account the issue on circumcision arose.
Who primarily wanted to impose circumcision on Gentile believers? Was it just some of the disciples who were of the sect of the Pharisees, as Luke relates; or did it also include some of the apostles and the older men who acknowledged to Paul that "some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them any instructions." (Acts 15:24) Paul relates to the Galatians how on one occasion he found it necessary to rebuke the apostle Peter before everyone, when this one had come to visit him in Antioch. Peter had no qualms about associating and eating with the uncircumcised disciples; yet when certain men from James also arrived, he went separating himself from them because of his fear of "those of the circumcised class." Evidently James, the brother of Jesus, was of the "circumcised class." (Gal. 1:19) This was a very serious matter, for Paul says that Peter "stood condemned" for his pretense, for he was "not walking straight according to the truth of the good news." Peter had become a danger to the other disciples who were following his bad example, including Paul's companion Barnabas. (Gal. 2:11-14) Is it possible to become condemned by God simply for following the wrong course of someone who is no less than one of the most prominent of the apostles? For Peter to have become intimidated the way he did by the "men from James," they must have held very strict opinions on the matter of circumcision. And imagine how disappointed Paul must have been with Barnabas, his close traveling companion in his work among the Gentiles, when this one sided with Peter. Truly, the heart is treacherous, and we too might find ourselves unexpectedly, and unprepared, in a situation where we might be induced to compromise what we know to be the truth on account of fear and intimidation from fellow believers and follow their wrong course. (Jer. 17:9,10) There is a lot of information contained in Paul's letter to the congregations in Galatia which are not mentioned in Luke's account in Acts. Yes, the Galatians were in real danger of being misled by "false brothers." (Gal. 1:6,7; 2:4,5)
It is of interest to note that when the circumcision issue was debated in Jerusalem, the holy spirit directed Peter and James to take the lead in addressing the matter. Both of them had humbly accepted correction at Jehovah's hand, and they continued to faithfully shepherd God's inheritance, his sheep. (Acts 15:7, 13, 28,29; 1 Peter 5:1-4)
When Paul says that "the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work," he was referring to the opposition that he had encountered at the hands of some of the "outstanding men" who seemed to be "pillars" within God's temple; and therefore the last place from where he would expect resistance to true worship. (1 Cor. 3:16,17; Eph. 2:19-22) From the letters that Jesus wrote to the Seven Congregations in Asia Minor at the end of the first century, we can see that by then many prominent overseers within God's household had become "lawless," prompting Jesus to call them to repentance. (Acts 20:28-30; Rev. 2:2-5, 14-16, 20-23; 3:1-3, 15-17) Should we be surprised that the same situation was foretold to exist within God's household in our day, in view of what Paul writes regarding the revealing, at God's appointed time, of the "man of lawlessness" within God's temple? As was the situation with the congregations in Galatia, we too are facing the challenge today of taking a firm stand for true worship in the face of opposition from within.
"One Body With Many Members"
(1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Living Bible)
12 Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ. 13 Each of us is a part of the one body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But the Holy Spirit has fitted us all together into one body. We have been baptized into Christ’s body by the one Spirit, and have all been given that same Holy Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And what would you think if you heard an ear say, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye”? Would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?
18 But that isn’t the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. 19 What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! 20 So he has made many parts, but still there is only one body.
21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 And some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. 23 Yes, we are especially glad to have some parts that seem rather odd! And we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, 24 while of course the parts that may be seen do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that might otherwise seem less important. 25 This makes for happiness among the parts, so that the parts have the same care for each other that they do for themselves. 26 If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. (Compare Ephesians 2:19-22; 4:25)
"Do You Love Me More Than These?"
It was after his resurrection, when for the third time Jesus appeared to seven of his disciples, that he put the question to Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15) What was the intent of the question? Who or what did Jesus point at when he said "these"? Seeing that there were six other disciples present, including John, many feel that Jesus was pointing to these other disciples of his and he wanted to know whether Peter had greater love for him than the other six; and this is reflected in the way some Bible Versions translate Jesus' words. For example, the Easy-to-Read Version has Jesus asking: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these other men love me?” Similarly, the God's Word Translation has Jesus' asking more directly: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than the other disciples do?" And the Expanded Bible adds their explanation in the main text, although in brackets, that “'these' probably refers to the other disciples (rather than the fishing gear), and could mean 'Do you love me more than you love your friends?' or 'Do you love me more than they love me?' The latter is more likely."
The added words such as "other men love me"; or "the other disciples do," or similar words in some of the other translations, are not found in the original text. If they were added for the purpose of clarifying Jesus' words, their place belongs not in the main text but in the margins, or footnote. A trustworthy translation will stick faithfully to the original text as preserved in the oldest available manuscripts. Since the Bible is the inspired word of God, we should allow that its Author may have had good reason for wording a particular scripture the way it was written; and the key in understanding it may exist in other scriptures, or in the setting, or the context in which it was presented. (2 Tim. 3:16) The making of unlawful additions and other changes to God's Word has not only contributed to the existence of the many conflicting religious beliefs, where truth no longer matters and everyone's opinions on a scriptural matter is viewed as equally valid, but it also makes a person accountable to God. (Eccl. 3:14; Matt. 11:25; John 4:23,24; Rev. 22:18,19)
With that in mind, let us consider the setting and context of Jesus' words to Peter: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" (John 21:1-8)
On several occasions Jesus had found it necessary to counsel his disciples on humility, for they were often arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest among them. (Mark 9:33-35; Luke 22:24-27; Matt. 18:1-3) In view of that, is it logical to reason that Jesus was asking Peter, in front of six of his other disciples―including John, who was present on the occasion and known as the disciple whom Jesus loved―whether Peter loved Jesus more than all the other disciples did? Would that not have fueled a rivalry among them, the very opposite of what Jesus had told them on previous occasions? (John 13:23,24; 20:2; 21:20-24) What parent would ask their child, in the presence of all their other children, whether that child loved the parent more than the others, while even pointing at the others? A good parent would not do that, not even if all their other children had been adopted. Look at what happened in the case of Joseph who was shown special favor by his father Jacob [Israel], and how that affected the attitude of his brothers towards him. (Gen. 37:3,4, 18-28)
Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen, in the process of casting their net into the sea, when Jesus came walking by and called them to be his disciples, telling them that he would make them "fishers of men." (Matt. 4:18-20) Peter and Andrew were chosen to be among the twelve apostles, and as such they accompanied Jesus wherever he went; being taught by Jesus to continue to do the work the Father had given him to do, after he would be taken from them and return to the Father. That work included the continuing feeding of God's sheep as Jesus himself had done. (Matt. 10:2-4; 24:45-47; 28:16-20; 1 Peter 5:1-4) After Jesus' death and resurrection, the eleven faithful apostles seemed at a loss as to what to do next. According to John's account, Simon Peter, along with six others―including Thomas, Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew), and James and John―returned to Galilee where they were fishing in the "Sea of Tiberias" (another name for the Sea of Galilee) when Jesus appeared to them, although they did not recognize him immediately. Interestingly, it was Peter who decided to go fishing while the others agreed to go with him. But although the fished all night, they caught nothing. It was when Jesus told them where to cast their net, and they caught a great many big fish, 153 to be exact, that they recognized that it was Jesus.
It was while they were all sitting together, eating bread along with the fish, that the conversation between Jesus and Peter went like this: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.'" (John 21:15-17; ESV)
When Jesus asked Peter, "do you love me more than these," Jesus was undoubtedly pointing at the stack of 153 big fish that Peter had just now dragged to shore; which at the same time might have reminding Peter that Jesus had told him three years earlier that he was going to make him a fisher of men. What was Peter doing back in Galilee anyways? Perhaps Jesus had not yet instructed his disciples not to withdraw from Jerusalem, but to "keep waiting for what the Father has promised." (Acts 1:4) Peter was facing the choice of returning to his fishing business, or to continue in the course he set out when Jesus had invited him to follow him. Peter undoubtedly had been terribly discouraged by the fact that he had denied Jesus three times on the night that he was arrested, and might at this point have felt unworthy. (Luke 22:54-62) But here now, Jesus was inviting him to feed and care for his sheep. This was in harmony with Jesus' earlier words to him, when Jesus had told him, "and, you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32) The Scriptures show that Peter loved Jesus more than all the fish in the world, and he proved outstandingly faithful in feeding the sheep for whom Jesus had died.
A Tactful Explanation to an Elder Regarding 1914
This is a letter I received from a brother who explains to an elder in his congregation why he cannot accept a part on the meeting program. I let him tell the story:
"You are the Salt of the Earth"
What did Jesus mean when he told his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its strength, how will its saltness be restored? It is no longer usable for anything but to be thrown outside to be trampled on by men"? (Matt. 5:13; NWT)
Salt has been highly valued for thousands of years as a food preservative, especially for meat, and for that reason many believe that Jesus was telling his disciples that they serve as a preserving factor for the world. That idea is reflected in the way some translations render Jesus' words, such as the Good News Translation, which reads: “You are like salt for the whole human race." Similarly, the Names of God Bible quotes Jesus as saying: “You are salt for the earth." Other Bible Translations emphasize the seasoning quality of salt, and thus interpret Jesus' words as follows: "You are the world’s seasoning, to make it tolerable" (TLB); and the Voice Bible reads: "You, beloved, are the salt of the earth," and explains that "salt draws out the good flavors subtly hidden in food and preserves what would otherwise spoil, as do those who claim to be children of God." Similarly, the Message Bible reads Jesus as saying: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage."
Was Jesus saying that we, as his disciples, have a preserving effect on this world of mankind; or that we bring out the "God-flavors of this earth"? Mark includes a conversation that Jesus had with his disciples, but which is missing in Matthew's account, that helps us understand what it means for us to be "the salt of the earth." After Jesus arrived in Capernaum with his disciples, he put the question to them: "What were you arguing over on the road?" The account says that "they kept silent, for on the road they had argued among themselves who is greater." (Mark 9:33,34) Jesus then illustrated to them the importance for humility; and to guard against, not only of becoming a stumbling block to others, but also not to allow anything to stumble us, even if it means figuratively cutting off a hand or a foot or an eye. Therefore he told them: "For everyone must be salted with fire. Salt is fine; but if ever the salt loses its strength, with what will you season it itself? Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another.” (Mark 9:49-50)
Salt is recognized in the Bible as an essential part of man's diet and a seasoning for food; and under the Mosaic Law Jehovah commanded that anything offered on the altar to him had to be salted, as Insight on the Scriptures notes, "not because of flavor, but doubtless because salt represented freedom from corruption or decay. Large quantities of salt evidently were stored on the temple grounds for this purpose." (it-2 p. 842 Salt; bold added) Jehovah commanded the priests "not to allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing upon your grain offerings. Along with every offering of yours you will present salt." (Lev. 2:13) Salt was added as an ingredient to the incense, which was "salted, pure, something holy." (Exodus 30:35) Ezekiel saw in vision the restoration of true worship, when the Levitical priests were commanded, "‘On your making an end of the purifying from sin you will bring near a young bull, the son of the herd, a sound one, and a ram from the flock, a sound one. And you must bring them near before Jehovah, and the priests must throw salt upon them and offer them up as a whole burnt offering to Jehovah.'" (Ezek. 43:23,24) As we can see, salt symbolized purity which made an offering to God holy and acceptable.
Jesus told his disciples that they are the "salt of the earth" because they are the ones among mankind who are acceptable to God; and as Paul says, "to God we are a sweet odor of Christ," because we have been reconciled to God on account of our faith in Christ; and, having our sins forgiven, we are clean and free from corruption and its consequence. (2 Cor. 2:15; Acts 22:16; Rom. 5:6-11; Heb. 9:13,14; 1 John 2:1-6) We must always treasure our precious relationship with God, and continually act accordingly, that is, have salt in ourselves. That is why Peter wrote: "In accord with the Holy one who called you, do you also become holy in all your conduct, because it is written: 'You must be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:15,16) Being holy in all our conduct includes having intense love for one another. (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:20,21)
As God's sons and daughters, we are disciplined and refined as though by fire, or, as Jesus said, "salted by fire." (Mark 9:49; 2 Cor. 6:17,18; Mal. 3:17,18) Therefore Jehovah says: "Look! I have refined you, but not in the form of silver. I have made choice of you in the smelting furnace of affliction." (Isa. 48:10) Jehovah refines us through suffering which results in the removal, or smelting away, of our bad habits and inclinations; and, when endured, leaves behind the good qualities that he highly values in us. Our suffering helps us to put on the "new personality" which more closely resembles that of Himself and of his Son. (Col. 3:5-14; 4:6; Isa. 12:1; Mic. 7:9) As the Psalmist expressed himself: "Before I was under affliction I was sinning by mistake. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, in order that I may learn your regulations." (Psalms 119:67, 71) This refining of us proves God's love for us, for it makes us pure, like salt. (compare Heb. 12:7-13)
How can a person lose his "saltness," that is, his purity, his righteous and blameless standing with Jehovah, as Jesus warned us about? This would happen where a person stubbornly and deliberately sins after having come to an accurate knowledge of the truth, as Paul explains. It would be impossible to revive such a person again, like salt that has lost its saltness. (Heb. 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:21)
(10/28/14 - 5/22/15)
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Food for Thought Index