I haven't been attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall for a couple of years now,
so when I went to the memorial this past April the elders told me that they are
concerned about me and that I need to return to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall
which they said is our place of worship. My question to you is, can we worship
Jehovah without attending the meetings? I find it more discouraging to attend
than to stay away, but I do care about my relationship with Jehovah.
Referring to the Kingdom
Hall as "our place of worship" betrays a lack of understanding of what true worship
is according to the Scriptures, and demonstrates to what extent we have been influenced by
the religions of this world who view their church buildings and temples as their
places of worship.
J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, gave in 1935 the name "Kingdom Hall" to a meeting place of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hawaii, and from that time on this name has been popularly used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for their meeting halls. (w84 2/1 p. 25 par. 14) The Kingdom Halls, as well as other places used for our gatherings, are considered to be our place of worship, as has often been explained in the Watchtower. One such article, entitled Do You Respect Your Place of Worship?, wrote: "For millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no place closer to their heart than their regular place of worship, the Kingdom Hall. They show proper respect for that place. They manifest an industrious spirit in caring for it, and they strive always to use it properly. May you too follow the admonition that Jehovah himself gives: 'Guard your feet whenever you go to the house of the true God.'—Ecclesiastes 5:1." (w93 6/15 p. 31) Another article likewise stated: “The Kingdom Hall is our place of worship. We are there at the invitation of Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ. In that sense, we are guests at Jehovah’s house. (Psalm 15:1; Matthew 18:20) Are you a good guest when you come to the Kingdom Hall? To be such, we must show due consideration and respect not only for the host but also for the other guests." (w89 6/15 p. 16) (Bold added)
Is it true that the Kingdom Halls are "our regular place of worship," "the house of the true God"? When we attend the meetings, are we guests at Jehovah's house? Can we worship Jehovah away from the Kingdom Hall?
Of course, we all know that there were no "Kingdom Halls" in the first century. Early Christians met together in private homes; and it should be noted that neither the meetings nor the homes in which they gathered were ever referred to in the Christian Greek Scriptures as a place of worship. (Some modern translations, such as The New English Bible, use "place of worship" at James 2:2, where James uses the Greek word synagogue, which meant a bringing together in fellowship, such as Paul describes in Hebrews 10:25. See Footnote below.)
Since the days of Solomon, the true God was worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem, "the city that Jehovah had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put his name there." (1 Kings 14:21) But with the coming of the Messiah there was going to be a change, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman in his conversation with her at the well. The account in John relates: "The woman said to [Jesus]: 'Sir, I perceive you are a prophet. Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.' Jesus said to her: 'Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when 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 4:19-24; Acts 8:27, 35-38)
After the new covenant became operative at Pentecost, Jehovah would no longer be worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem, just as Jesus had foretold. Does that mean that the temple, where God had been worshiped, was now replaced by private homes, or large church buildings, or even Kingdom Halls? Are our Kingdom Halls a place of worship? The understanding of this, which Jesus includes as worshiping the Father with "truth," seems to be one of God's "sacred secrets," for it appears that very few have an understanding of this vital feature of true worship under the new covenant. (Col 1:24-27; Luke 10:21)
God's temple is no longer any physical material building, as the apostle Paul explains: "Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] you people are." (1 Cor. 3:16-17) Also, "What! Do you not know that the body of you people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God? Also, you do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people." (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Instead of the Kingdom Hall being our place of worship, we worship Jehovah in our bodies, which is his temple. We glorify God every day in everything we do, rather than just at the meetings during the week at the Kingdom Hall. (Rom. 12:1) Seeing that we have God's holy spirit dwell in us, we must keep ourselves physically, morally, and spiritually clean. After all, it is the holy spirit within us that teaches us and enables us to "worship the Father with spirit and truth," something we would never want to lose. (John 14:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:7, 10-14) Consider how Paul explains this further in his letter to the congregation in Ephesus: "You are no longer strangers and alien residents, but you are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God, and you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (Eph. 2:19-22)
Please note that God's holy temple, which consists of all of his people, is made up of two parts, the foundation and the building that is built upon that foundation. The foundation itself has a cornerstone which is Jesus, (as the cornerstone is always placed first, and determines where the building is erected), and includes his twelve apostles and other "holy ones". All the "living stones" of the foundation are chosen and placed in their respective positions by Jehovah himself, as it is his temple. They do not choose themselves. (Rom. 9:11; Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9) These are the ones who will rule together with Jesus in God's kingdom. They are the "holy ones" that the prophet Daniel saw in vision whose time arrives to receive the kingdom; and the ones to whom Jesus refers as "my brothers." (Isa. 28:16; Dan. 7:13-14, 27; Matt. 19:27-28; 25:40, 45-46; 1 Peter 2:4-5; Rev. 14:1-3; 20:6) Many accept Jesus as "their savior," but know nothing of God's temple and its foundation, without which it is not possible to worship God. (Matt. 7:21-23) The first 120 "living stones" of the foundation of God's temple were placed with the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, which then continued to be added to throughout the centuries until every last stone has been put in its place, which, according to John's vision in the revelation, will be accomplished when the last ones are sealed just prior to the outbreak of the great tribulation. (Rev. 7:1-4)
After having started to lay the foundation at Pentecost, Jehovah immediately built upon that foundation by adding about 3,000 souls, persons who responded to Peter's call to repentance and "be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of [their] sins." (Acts 2:1-21, 37-42) A foundation is limited in size; but the structure that is built upon it is only limited in height by what the foundation can carry, as is evident by modern sky scrapers. All of Jehovah's true worshipers are members of his holy temple, whether they are a part of the foundation, or the numberless others who are built upon the foundation. Since this is God's temple, he being the builder of it, and it being his only arrangement for rendering sacred service, Jehovah does not accept worship outside his temple. (2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 3:4-6; 11:10; Rev. 7:14-15) Anyone who argues against God having a people who are his temple; nor accepts the foundation upon which the temple has been built; does so because he is neither part of God's temple, nor does he have God's spirit which teaches a person about his temple where we "worship the Father with spirit and truth."
Since the Kingdom Hall is not Jehovah's house, and neither a place of worship, then why are we encouraged in the Scriptures "not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom"? Because, as Paul explains, it is in order to encourage one another, "to consider one another to incite to love and fine works, ... and all the more so as [we] behold the day drawing near." (Heb. 10:23-25) When we consider the condition that Paul foretold would exist among God's people in the "last days," even in your own congregation, then we can all agree that we do need each other for encouragement, and to build one another up in love and fine works. (2 Tim. 3:1-7) We are supposed to be able to find this at our meetings, among our brothers. We certainly won't find it in the world! (1 John 3:13-18)
It can be said that Jehovah's holy spirit is at the Kingdom Hall when we, who are his temple and have his holy spirit, are in attendance. It is not as though the holy spirit resides in the Kingdom Hall and remains there after the doors are locked and everyone has gone home; like in the case of the tent of meeting in the wilderness, or the temple in Jerusalem; where Jehovah's presence was indicated by the ark of the covenant. Even if you are the only one in your congregation who has God's holy spirit―because you are the one who listens to Jehovah and obeys him―then his holy spirit can be said to be there at the meeting on account of your presence. Jesus said that "at that time," in the conclusion of the system of things, "the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt. 13:43; Mal. 3:17-18) As your steadfastness and loyalty to Jehovah becomes known, others may feel drawn to you, for their and your own encouragement. (John 6:44) If we accept that people of the world are drawn to us on account of the truth, then why not also our brothers in our congregations? Even when the entire congregation is putting their trust in the "unrighteous deception" of the "man of lawlessness," keep in mind that you are God's temple, and you are recognized as such by Jesus and your heavenly Father, as was true in the congregations of Thyatira and Sardis in the first century. (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 9-10; Rev. 2:24; 3:1, 4-5) Isn't it on account of having God's spirit that you have come to understand the truth pertaining to God, and so you continue to worship him with spirit and truth, in spite of much opposition? (John 16:1-4)
Jesus said that "where there are two or three (or a dozen, or a hundred) gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst." (Matt. 18:19-20) A congregation that Jesus recognizes as belonging to God, and of which he is the head, can be as small as two or three, or as large as may fit into an auditorium. But that is only true if they are build upon the foundation that God has laid. Another thing, don't let others intimidate you by telling you that you are no longer considered to be one of Jehovah's people because of not attending the meetings at the Kingdom Hall. They are saying that because of their mistaken belief that the Kingdom Hall is our place of worship, and that you cannot worship Jehovah if you are not there. Perhaps it may even be that you are the only one in attendance who Jehovah recognizes as belonging to him. (Jude 1:21) By all means, if at all possible, and if you are able to bear it, continue to attend the meetings with your congregation at the Kingdom Hall. It may be on your account that God's spirit is at the Kingdom Hall. Or in time you may find that there are others just like you, who are likewise holding on to their integrity to Jehovah.
In the Greek Septuagint the two words ekklesi′a, meaning “assembly” or “congregation,” and synagoge′ (a bringing together) are used interchangeably. The word “synagogue” eventually took on the meaning of the place or building where the assembly was held. However, it did not completely lose its original meaning, for the Great Synagogue was not a large building but an assembly of noted scholars, credited with settling the Hebrew Scripture canon for the Palestinian Jews. It is said to have had its beginning in the days of Ezra or of Nehemiah and to have continued until the time of the Great Sanhedrin, about the third century B.C.E. James uses the word in the sense of a Christian meeting or public gathering.—Jas 2:2. (it-2 p. 1050 Synagogue)