the buildings of the Watchtower Society represent to you God's organization? Does Jehovah
have an organization, and who decides this? It is vital that we differentiate between that which God has put in place,
and what man has established in addition to, within, or even in place of God’s
Why should we even be interested in whether or not
there is an
arrangement by which to worship God? Does it matter to God how we
worship him? Does it matter to you whether or not your worship is
acceptable to him?
The word "organization" does not appear in the Bible, at least not in most translations. Some argue that this in itself is compelling evidence that God does not have an organization. But it could be pointed out that the Scriptures use other words that convey the same thought or idea. Defining the word organization, Webster's Dictionary says: The state or manner of being organized; Something organized or made into an ordered whole; A number of persons or groups united for a particular purpose.
On the other hand, the antonym for organization is disorder, disorganization, chaos, confusion.
There certainly is no disorder, chaos or confusion when it comes to worshiping the true God, for "God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace”; and he desires that "all things take place decently and by arrangement." (1 Cor. 14:33, 40) From the moment Jehovah led his people out of Egypt he organized them, for "it was in battle formation that the sons of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt. And Jehovah was going ahead of them in the daytime in a pillar of cloud to lead them by the way, and in the nighttime in a pillar of fire to give them light to go in the daytime and nighttime." ―Ex. 13:18,21.
Jehovah wasted no time in organizing his liberated people and their worship of him. While they were yet wandering in the wilderness he gave them his Law with detailed instructions, which included a center for worship, the transportable tabernacle, or tent of meeting, constructed at Mount Sinai according to his specific instructions, and carried through the wilderness for the forty years right into the promised land. This tent was eventually replaced when Solomon built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem. ―Heb. 8:4,5; 9:6-10.
It certainly has never been left up to each individual to decide for himself how he wants to worship God. That fact was established in the Garden of Eden when Adam rebelled against God's clearly stated command, and was promptly expelled from his home, bringing sin and death upon all his offspring. (Rom. 5:12-14, 18,19) God's people have always had to learn the inescapable truth that their form of worship was not acceptable apart from what Jehovah himself had commanded. Because of their persistent disobedience the Israelites were finally led into exile and lost their glorious temple when it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Although a repentant people were restored to their homeland, and the temple was rebuilt, in time they again forgot the crucial lesson that approved worship centers around obedience. “What pleases the Lord more: burnt offerings and sacrifices or obedience to his voice? It is better to obey than to sacrifice. It is better to listen to God than to offer the fat of sheep. Disobedience is as bad as the sin of sorcery. Pride is as bad as the sin of worshiping idols." ―1 Samuel 15:22-23; NCV.
By the time of Jesus' birth the Jews were under the authority of Rome, able to maintain their own traditions, but not necessarily according to what they had received from Jehovah. In fact, some of these traditions brought them into conflict with God's laws. Jesus confronted them: "Why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” ―Matthew 15:3-9; NLT.
In view of Jesus' words, what do you think: Does it matter whether or not we worship God according to his commandments? Can we acceptably worship him apart from what he has put in place, or would that be deemed as "worshiping him in vain" (NWT), making our worship a "farce"? The Bible definitely states: "God has no use for the prayers of the people who won't listen to him." (Proverbs 28:9; The Message) Herein lies an important lesson for us today! We cannot presume to go beyond anything that Jehovah himself has put in place and expect it to be acceptable to him. Even our prayers would go unheard by him.
The religious leaders of Jesus' day had set up their own system of worship within God's arrangement, even in conflict to what Jehovah had given them at Mt. Sinai, although he had clearly commanded them: “And now, O Israel, listen to the regulations and the judicial decisions that I am teaching you to do. . .You must not add to the word that I am commanding you, neither must you take away from it, so as to keep the commandments of Jehovah your God that I am commanding you." "And you people must take care to do just as Jehovah your God has commanded you. You must not turn to the right or to the left." "Every word that I am commanding you is what you should be careful to do. You must not add to it nor take away from it." ―Deuteronomy 4:1,2; 5:32; 12:32.
What Jehovah requires of his people is obedience. That is a basic truth and has been the issue from the very beginning. Jesus taught that in order for our worship to be acceptable we must worship "with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him." (John 4:23,24) Worshiping God "with spirit and truth" means that we willingly submit to him. We listen to him and obey him without attaching our own conditions. The religious leaders of Jesus' day did not concern themselves with God's requirements. Their main worry was that if they left Jesus to continue to expose their God dishonoring teachings and traditions, and the people would listen to him, then their authority would be undermined, and this would lead to instability and disorder of their organized system. This, they feared, would cause the Romans to "come and suppress and destroy and take away our [holy] place and our nation [our temple and city and our civil organization]." (John 8:44-47; 11:48; Amplified Bible) As it turned out, that is exactly what happened.
Are All Religions Approved by God?
The countless diverse religions of this world are regarded by many as simply different avenues of worshiping the same God. But not to be overlooked is this vital fact: Without accepting God's provision for salvation, that is, the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus, one's worship is in vain, because "you can't be saved by believing in anyone else. God has given us no other name under heaven that will save us." (Acts 4:12; NIRV) How many of the world's religions acknowledge that Jesus is the only means for salvation? Rather than viewing the many religions as multiple ways of reverencing the one God, the apostle Paul declared: "I say that the things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of 'the table of Jehovah' and the table of demons. Or 'are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy'?" ―1 Corinthians 10:20-22.
The Corinthian Christians must have struggled against the influence of their demon worshiping neighbors, for Paul found it necessary to remind them a second time: "You are not the same as those who don't believe. So don't join yourselves to them. Good and evil don't belong together. Light and darkness cannot share the same room. How can there be any unity between Christ and the devil? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? God's temple cannot have anything to do with idols, and we are the temple of the living God. As God said, "I will live with them and walk with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people." (Lev. 26:11-12) "So come away from those people and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don't touch anything that is not clean, and I will accept you." (Isa. 52:11) "I will be your father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord All-Powerful." ―2 Corinthians 6:14-18; ERV.
Even among those who say they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior notable differences exist. "Attend the church of your choice" is a popular slogan in countries where most worshipers profess to be Christians. Why is there such a variety, really, a smorgasbord of Beliefs among the many denominations who quote the same Bible? Can we pick and choose to suit our individual tastes or preferences as to how we "serve [God] day and night in his Temple"? (Rev. 7:15; NLT) When his people Israel deviated from worshiping him, according to what he had commanded them, was their worship acceptable to God? Listen to what the record indicates: "During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites." (Kings 14:22-24; NLT) It is not sincerity that determines whether or not a person's worship is acceptable, but rather obedience.
standards that he himself strictly abides by. He does not accept
worship that is in the least bit tainted with worship promoted by
Satan, who is the "god of this world." (2 Cor. 4:4, NIRV; 1
John 5:19) Jesus told his disciples that worshiping God on his terms
would include the necessity to separate themselves from this world,
which in turn would result in persecution for them: "If you find the
godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If
you lived on the world's terms, the world would love you as one of
its own. But since I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer
on the world's terms, the world is going to hate you. When that
happens, remember this: Servants don't get better treatment than
their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you.
If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them. They
are going to do all these things to you because of the way they
treated me, because they don't know the One who sent me." ―John
15:17-21; The Message.
Jehovah requires that his people must be different from those in the world around them. The disciple James adds that the “external religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father” includes keeping “oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.” (James 1:27; Amplified Bible) Jehovah has made it possible for us to worship him while keeping ourselves unspotted and uncontaminated from this world, just as he had done with his people who he had liberated from Egypt and entered into a covenant with. In fact, everything that he had put in place in connection with the old covenant foreshadowed this new arrangement under the new covenant.
"A Shadow of the Good Things to Come"
The Jewish temple that stood in Jerusalem and was the center for
worshiping the true God is long gone, destroyed by the Romans in 70
C.E. (Matt. 24:1,2) It had served its purpose and became "obsolete"
with the "vanishing away" of the old covenant. But even before its
destruction there had already come into existence a new "holy temple
for Jehovah. . .a place for God to inhabit by spirit." This holy
temple is likewise God's arrangement for worshiping him under the new and
“correspondingly better" covenant. Jehovah is the builder of this
temple for he himself has laid its foundation. It is the only place
where sacred service is rendered today that is
acceptable to him. As we shall see, there is no other. ―Eph. 2:21,22; Heb. 8:6, 13.
The system of organized worship that Jehovah had given his people under the old covenant did not consist of irrelevant statutes, idle ceremonies and burdensome observances. They had deep significance, although his people did not understand this at the time. But we today can understand how this involves our worship of God under the new covenant. The Scriptures tell us that the Law was "our tutor leading to Christ." The tent, or tabernacle, first constructed in the wilderness, served "as a pattern and as a foreshadowing of [what has its true existence and reality in] the heavenly sanctuary." ―Gal. 3:24; Heb. 8:5; Amplified Bible.
Therefore, let us briefly consider Jehovah's arrangement of his worship under the old covenant. Because these things, "the tabernacle and the system it represented," served as "an illustration pointing to the present time (for the appointed time that is now here―NWT)," it is evident that God still has a system of worship in place that we need to abide by, if our worship is not to be in vain. Consider: If Jehovah insisted on, and enforced, even on pain of death, worship that was intended as "a shadow of the good things to come," then of how much greater importance is the reality itself. For example, Jehovah required that all sacrifices presented to him had to be offered at the entrance to the tabernacle, "the tent of meeting." Any Israelite, or even alien resident, offering up his burnt offering at some other place, such as in the field, would be "cut off from his people."―Lev. 17:9; Col. 2:17; Heb. 10:28,29.
According to Insight on the Scriptures, "the entire arrangement, including the courtyard of the tabernacle and the temple courts, was a holy place. (Ex 38:24; 2Ch 29:5; Ac 21:28) The primary items located in the courtyard were the altar of sacrifice and the copper basin. These were holy objects. Only those persons ceremonially clean could enter into the tabernacle courtyard at any time; likewise, no one could go into the temple courts in an unclean state. . .Evidently even a state of continued uncleanness on the part of the Israelites was considered to be a defiling of the tabernacle. (Le 15:31) Those presenting offerings for cleansing from leprosy brought their sacrifice only as far as the gate of the courtyard. (Le 14:11) No unclean person could partake of a communion sacrifice at the tabernacle or the temple, on pain of death. (Le 7:20, 21)." ―it-1 pp. 1133-1134; Holy Place.
Inside the tent were two compartments, or rooms. The first, or larger compartment, was the Holy Place, as distinguished from the innermost room, the Most Holy. It was two thirds the total length of the structure. Inside the Holy Place of the tabernacle were located the golden lampstand, the altar of incense, and the table of showbread. Describing the inside of the Holy Place Insight on the Scriptures says, "When inside the tabernacle’s Holy Place, the priest would see, between the parts of the panel frames of the walls, and on the ceiling, the colorful embroidered cherubs of the tabernacle’s inner covering. (Ex 26:1, 15) Suspended from four golden pillars was the curtain to the Most Holy, likewise embroidered with cherubs. (Ex 26:31-33) The screen to the tabernacle entrance was also of colorful material. (Ex 26:36) In the temple, the walls of this room had carvings of cherubs, palm-tree figures, gourd-shaped ornaments, and garlands of blossoms, all covered with gold. —1Ki 6:17, 18, 22, 29."
What was the significance of this arrangement? The apostle Paul explains: "When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use. This is an illustration pointing to the present time." ―Heb. 9:6-9; NLT.
Note that while the priests served in the first room, the Holy, only the high priest was able to enter into the Most Holy Place, and that only once a year, on the day of Atonement, to present before Jehovah the blood of the sacrifice in behalf of himself and the people. Paul continues to explain the greater significance of this: "Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come to pass, through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. . .For Christ entered, not into a holy place made with hands, which is a copy of the reality, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the person of God for us." —Heb. 9:11, 23-25.
Upon his resurrection and ascension to heaven Christ appeared before the very presence of Jehovah with his sacrificial blood, entering into what was pictured by the innermost compartment of the tabernacle, namely, the Most Holy. (Heb. 8:1-5; NCV) Since the Most Holy compartment represented heaven itself, then what about the first room, the Holy Place? What did it foreshadow? The answer will help us understand Jehovah's arrangement for worshiping him today, and how it involves us.
God's Spiritual Temple
“And they will certainly become mine,”
Jehovah of armies has said, “at the day when I am producing a
special property. And I will show compassion upon them, just as a
man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him.
formation of the Christian congregation, under the old covenant,
priests officially represented God to the people they served. They
were primarily the ones instructing them about God and
teaching the Law, reading and explaining it to those coming to the
sanctuary to worship. (Neh. 8:1-8; Mal. 2:7) They also represented the people before God.
They interceded and pleaded on behalf of the people, and their
duties involved every aspect of offering the sacrifices, including
slaughtering and cutting up the animals, sprinkling the blood on the
altar, keeping the altar fire burning, cooking the meat, and
accepting all other offerings, such as the grain offerings. Although
their responsibilities kept them busy at the temple, it is of
special interest to note that "no other priest could be in the
sanctuary when the high priest went into the Most Holy to make
atonement. (Lev. 16:17)." —it-2 pp. 685, Priest.
Under the new covenant there is no longer any need for priests to represent God to his people, or his people before God, for God has "reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself; not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us." (2 Cor. 5:18,19) Now that we have been reconciled to God, that is, God has "received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself" (Amplified Bible) by means of Christ, we have only the one mediator, Christ Jesus, to represent us before God. (1 Tim. 2:5,6) He is the one who now pleads for us. (Rom. 5:34; 1 John 2:1) Since he, as high priest, has entered into the Most Holy to make atonement for our sins, therefore, as was foreshadowed under the old covenant, there are no other priests serving in the sanctuary at this time who represent God to his people, or his people before God.
All of Jehovah's people today are worshiping in his temple. That is evident from the fact that those of the "great crowd," that come out of the great tribulation, are "before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple." Yes, "the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them," placing them inside the tent, or tabernacle. This tent is not in heaven for we are told that "the tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people." (Rev. 7:14,15; 21:3; compare Psalms 15:1) Remember, it was the Most Holy compartment in the temple that represented heaven, Jehovah's presence, as Paul explained. The larger Holy Place pictured where Jesus served before entering heaven, that is, here on earth. This is where his disciples also worship Jehovah. The members of the great crowd are permitted to render God sacred service inside his temple because they are clean, having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Their sins have been forgiven them. —Rev. 7:14; Matt. 26:27,28; Acts 22:16.
Since God's people are "rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple," what is this temple? Remember, when Paul was admonishing the Corinthian congregation to keep themselves separate from unbelievers he had told them, according to the Contemporary English Version, "Can people who follow the Lord have anything in common with those who don't? Do idols belong in the temple of God? We are the temple of the living God, as God himself says, 'I will live with these people and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'" (2 Cor. 6:14-18) Yes, Jehovah's clean worshipers are his temple: "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple? God's Spirit lives in you. If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. God's temple is holy. And you are that temple."—1 Cor. 3:16,17; NIRV.
That is the reason why we need to keep ourselves clean if we want our worship to be acceptable, as Peter strongly admonishes, "So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'” (1 Peter 1:14-16; NLT) If Jehovah enforced his clean standards under the old covenant, then what about today? Is it any less important?
Just as the tent in the wilderness had been set up according to Jehovah's instructions, Jehovah is also the builder of his spiritual temple, for he himself put in place its cornerstone. The apostle Peter explains: "You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor." In addition to the cornerstone there are other foundation stones as Peter goes on to say, "And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, 'I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.' Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, 'The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.' And, 'He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.' They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them." —1 Peter 2:4-8; NLT.
It is clear that Jesus is the cornerstone of God's temple, as Peter explains. (Mark 12:10,11; Acts 4:10, 11) But who are the ones Peter refers to when he says, "you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple, . .you are his holy priests"? The apostle Paul helps shed light on this when writing to the congregation in Ephesus: "Certainly, therefore, 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.
At Pentecost, when the foundation of God’s temple was laid, there were 120 disciples present, the twelve apostles, including Matthias who had been chosen to replace Judas, and 108 other "prophets" who all received the holy spirit. We know who the apostles are, but who is meant by the "prophets" Paul mentions? That he is not talking about ancient prophets is seen a little later in the same letter when he writes: "God did not reveal [this plan regarding Christ] to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets." (Eph. 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:28,29) And, of course, these "prophets" had to be present at Pentecost. Everyone of these have been personally chosen and anointed by Jehovah. They comprise the foundation stones of his holy temple and together with the twelve apostles number 144,000.
Paul could not have known the full number of these foundation stones because this was not revealed until John received the Revelation a few decades later. These are the ones Peter calls "holy priests," for they "will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years." (Rev. 20:6; 14:1-3) But please note, they will be priests of God and of the Christ only during the thousand years, not before. First they have to prove themselves worthy of this honor by humbly serving and caring for God's people within his temple arrangement.—Matthew 24:45-47.
Paul speaks of God's "holy temple" as a building, and as we know, a building does not consist of only a foundation; and neither is a foundation made up of only the cornerstone. (compare Luke 14:28-30) Therefore, Jehovah has been building upon his solid foundation by collecting "out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues" countless others, "all those who [are] rightly disposed for everlasting life" by becoming obedient believers. This he started to do immediately after the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, when "on that day about three thousand souls were added." These had listened to Peter's stirring witness and responded by repenting of their sins and getting baptized. Yes, unitedly they are "rendering [God] sacred service day and night in his temple."—Rev. 7:9,10; Acts 2:37-41; 13:48; 1 Cor. 12:12,13.
Those who make up the foundation stones of God's temple are
primarily the ones who support or care for the members of God's
household. That is their responsibility and that is where Jehovah is
directing all who would worship him. That's how it was in the first
century and has continued until today. (Acts 2:46,47)
There is no other place, no other arrangement that God acknowledges.
"But the foundation that God has laid is solid. On it is written,
'The Lord knows who his people are.'" (2 Timothy 2:19; CEV)
Curiously, many who claim to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior
as the foundation upon which they base their faith, refuse
to recognize the temple that he is the foundation of.
The Scriptures demonstrate that Jehovah has an organized way of worshiping him. After all, it is his temple arrangement. Therefore, it can be said that God has an organization, and it does not matter what identifying label one attaches to it. It is not up to any man or group of men to decide otherwise. We may recoil at the idea of an organization, because of the negative connotations attached to this word. Organizations are seen, at best, as impersonal; and tyrannical and oppressive at their worst.
This has also been true in the case of God's organization, for from it has emanated deceit and lies, resulting in much suffering and the stumbling and scattering of God's precious sheep. But this has not originated with Jehovah. Rather, there are false prophets "in the intimate group of [his] people," yes, right inside God's temple, that have "visioned what is untrue." Jehovah emphatically states that although they speak in his name, he "himself has not sent them," yet "they have waited to have a word come true." Thankfully, they will be unmasked in connection with "the day of Jehovah." (Ezek. 13:3-10) The apostle Paul also prophesied regarding this wicked element within "the temple of The God" at that particular time. (2 Thess. 2:2-4) Who are these, and why has God allowed them to remain for so long?
The "Man of Lawlessness" Within God's Temple
Understanding that God has a holy temple arrangement for his worship, and being able to identify it, enables his people to realize another important fact, namely, there is no such thing as "antitypical Jerusalem." Knowing this has far reaching implications for those within God's household who have been led to believe that God's condemnatory pronouncements and judgment, which are addressed to "my people," do not actually apply to his people, but rather to the churches of Christendom, so-called antitypical Jerusalem. This term, of course, does not appear anywhere in the Scriptures. In an effort to deflect Jehovah's criticism away from themselves this label was invented by the very ones Jehovah levels his scathing denunciations against, his own wicked people and leaders within his temple.
Jehovah's temple came into existence on the day of Pentecost and has survived throughout the centuries right into our day. Although it seemed that shortly after the last of the apostles had died it had been oversown and eclipsed by weeds, sown by the Devil, yet over the many years there have always been individuals that God has acknowledged as members of his temple. He is the one that has kept its foundation solidly in place, adding more living stones to it as he continued to built on it. The temple itself is not completed until his day of judgment arrives. By then the last foundation stone will have been put in place. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-42; 28:20) As we can see, there has been no need to lay another, a second foundation.
When Jesus' disciples asked him about "the conclusion of the system of things" (NWT), or "the end of the world" (CEV), Jesus mentioned, as part of the sign, that the "good news of the kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end would come." (Matt. 24:14) This time period immediately before the end would be a time of busy activity for his disciples, as many people would respond to the preaching work and be directed to God's temple arrangement, just as it took place in the first century. In fact, the Bible reveals that a "great crowd" of worshipers would survive the "great tribulation," as Jesus described the end of the world. Therefore we could expect Jehovah to add the final foundation stones of his temple at that time. It is clear from the scriptures that he would have his holy ones on earth then. (Dan. 7:27; Matt. 24:21,22; Rev. 7:3,9,14) But, the scriptures also reveal that then there would be a wicked element prominently present within his temple. The apostle Paul calls this "the man of lawlessness," "the son of destruction." Everyone of God's servants would be impacted by his presence, which is "according to the operation of Satan."
Almost from the very beginning wicked persons made their appearance within God's temple. The couple Ananias and Sapphira played false to the holy spirit and were put to death by Jehovah, as an example to others. The apostle Paul mentions finding himself in dangers among "false brothers," fellow believers who became enemies of the faith. And certain "superfine apostles," who also opposed him, had become "arrogant, dictatorial, and overbearing" (Amplified Bible), coveting authority and rulership over the congregations. Yes, even the apostle Peter on one occasion "stood condemned" for "not walking straight according to the truth of the good news," having become a dangerous influence to other disciples so that even Barnabas, Paul's companion, "was carried away by their hypocrisy." To Peter's credit, he humbly allowed himself to be corrected. —Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 4:8; 2 Cor. 11:5, 12,13, 26; Gal. 2:4, 11-14; Phil. 3:18; 1 Peter 5:2-4.
By the end of the first century Jesus, as head of the congregations, wrote letters to seven of them in Asia Minor, detailing some of the problems that had developed. (Revelation, chapters 2 & 3) Only two were commended for their faithful endurance (Smyrna and Philadelphia). Although Jesus took note of "a few names in Sardis that did not defile their outer garments," as a whole, members of the congregation in that city, along with the four other congregations (Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Laodicea) were reprimanded and given time to repent and make necessary changes. (Rev. 3:4) Failing to do so would mean rejection and losing out on their reward. What is of interest to us, though, is what the Scriptures reveal about developments within God's household, his temple, for our own time, the "last days."
The apostle John states: "We are certain that we come from God and that the rest of the world is under the power of the devil." (1 John 5:19; CEV) That being the case, we realize that the world around us has always reflected the influence of the devil in its selfishness, greed, immorality, hatred and violence. That has been true from the very beginning and comes as no surprise to God's people. But what does come as a shock is that this influence of Satan the Devil would also penetrate God's holy temple. In the last days worldly conditions would not be uncommon also inside the congregations.
Paul describes the situation we could expect among God's own people during the time of the end in these words: "Remember this! In the last days there will be many troubles, because people will love themselves, love money, brag, and be proud. They will say evil things against others and will not obey their parents or be thankful or be the kind of people God wants. They will not love others, will refuse to forgive, will gossip, and will not control themselves. They will be cruel, will hate what is good, will turn against their friends, and will do foolish things without thinking. They will be conceited, will love pleasure instead of God, and will act as if they serve God but will not have his power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NCV) The prevalence of such individuals within God's household would cause God's faithful servants much suffering, but for our encouragement Jesus made this promise: "He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved." (Matt. 24:10-13) Do you experience such things in your own family or congregation?
How could it be possible, though, for Satan to have such great power over God's people? Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day as being "from your father the Devil," because it was really the Devil who exercised the greater influence over them. (John 8:44) Their dominance over the people prevented these from believing in Jesus. Because of submitting to their leaders instead of Jehovah they had in reality become followers of men, and no miracle on Jesus' part could convince them otherwise. That is why Jesus told them: "You do not believe, because you are none of my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life." (John 10:26,27) Contrary to what we have been taught by our leaders, the Bible foretold a similar situation for our time.
Paul explains that there would be a wicked element right inside God's temple. A "man of lawlessness" would seat himself within this temple, elevating himself above everyone, yes, even to the point of making himself a god. Paul calls it "the mystery of this lawlessness" that is "according to the operation of Satan." But before the great day of Jehovah, and Christ's return, the presence and identity of this man of lawlessness would be revealed, "whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." Surprisingly, many of God's people would accept and willingly submit to this "son of destruction," even to the point of loving it that way. (compare Jer. 5:30,31) For that reason Jehovah allows "an operation of error" to go to them for embracing this "unrighteous deception," because "they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved."
Here is what Paul makes known about this man of lawlessness:
respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being
gathered together to him, we request of YOU
2 not to be quickly shaken from YOUR
reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or
through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to
the effect that the day of Jehovah is here.
3 "Let no one seduce YOU in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. 4 He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called “god” or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god. 5 Do YOU not remember that, while I was yet with YOU, I used to tell YOU these things?
6 "And so now YOU know the thing that acts as a restraint, with a view to his being revealed in his own due time. 7 True, the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work; but only till he who is right now acting as a restraint gets to be out of the way. 8 Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence. 9 But the lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents 10 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. 11 So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, 12 in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness. —2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; NWT.
Let us now take a closer look at what the apostle Paul is telling us would need to transpire before the coming of Jehovah's day, in connection with developments within God's temple and the revealing of the man of lawlessness. How would God's people be affected by this presence?
The Revealing of "the Man of Lawlessness"
A good indicator as to the nearness of Jehovah's day is not necessarily studying world events, but more importantly witnessing certain developments within God's household. These things must first take place as foretold in the Scriptures. (Matt. 26:54) Having convinced ourselves that we are nothing but wonderful in Jehovah's eyes, and shrugging off his condemnatory prophecies as applying to the world, particularly the churches of Christendom rather than to ourselves, we have failed to comprehend our true situation before Jehovah. (Amos 3:2; 4:12) Jehovah's people have been led astray by being told that they have "peace, when there is no peace." (Jer. 8:11; Ezek. 13:10) For that reason it will be just as Jesus warned, we will be caught by surprise when he arrives to settle accounts with his slaves at a time we do not think to be it. (Luke 12:40; Rev. 3:3) Paul wrote for our benefit—those living in the last days—that Jehovah's day will not come unless there are first certain developments taking place, and this in connection with an apostasy and revealing, or identifying, of "the man of lawlessness."
Apostasy, from Jehovah's standpoint, is a turning away from him and a rejection of his word. (Isaiah 9:16,17; Jer. 17:13, NWT) It is clear that apostasy can develop only from among God's own people, within his household, his temple. It is not at all unusual for an anointed one of Jehovah to become presumptuous and apostatize. We can recall such well known examples as the anointed cherub (who made himself Satan the Devil), Saul, Solomon, and Jeroboam, just to mention a few, each of these having been anointed for their privileged position before apostatizing. Sadly, the great majority of God's anointed kings proved rebellious; some becoming extremely wicked and cruel, resulting in much suffering for their subjects. It should therefore not be at all surprising to God's people today that a wicked "man of lawlessness" would be seating himself prominently right inside God's temple, "publicly showing himself to be a god." This "son of destruction," as he is also called, is said to be actually sitting in "opposition" to true worship.
Paul says that the man of lawlessness, in his ambition to be "someone or something considered to be extremely valuable or important" (Webster's definition of "god"), has elevated himself over those who are "called 'god' or an object of reverence." (John 10:34-36) Who does the Bible identify these ones to be? The Scriptures speak of them as "holy" (NWT) or "chosen ones" (CEV), who will receive "the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens," and upon their proving faithful unto death will "rule as kings with the Christ for the thousand years." Yes, they are the ones who make up the foundation stones of God's temple, each one of them chosen and put in place by Jehovah God himself. Evidently, the man of lawlessness has desired to especially dominate these within God's temple. —Dan. 7:18, 27; NWT; 1 Cor. 8:5; Rev. 2:10; 3:21; 20:6.
In agreement with what Paul foretold, among God's people today there is actually a small group of men who have fulfilled this prophecy in great detail. It is the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society. The members of this elite group of men assert that there was such a governing body arrangement over God's people in the first century, and therefore justifies their exalted position within God's household. A recent Watchtower article states: "The apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation acted as a governing body. Christ used this instrument to lead the entire group of his anointed 'brothers' on earth. (Heb. 2:11; Acts 16:4, 5) In this time of the end, Christ has committed 'all his belongings'—all the earthly interests of the Kingdom—to his 'faithful and discreet slave' and its representative Governing Body, a group of anointed Christian men." —September 15, 2010 Study Watchtower.
Contrary to their claim, though, there is no scriptural evidence to support the idea of a governing body in Jerusalem that Christ used to "lead the entire group of his anointed brothers on earth." The apostle Paul certainly did not recognize any "special leaders" (CEV) exercising authority over him or other fellow believers; nor, as he says, did he submit to any such ones. And neither did Jesus acknowledge such an entity when he wrote directly to the seven congregations in Asia Minor. (Gal. 1:15-19; 2:47; Rev. 1:11, 19,20) In fact, the very idea of a governing body goes contrary to what Jesus told his disciples on his last night with them, when once again they argued as to who the greatest among them was: "The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving." —Luke 22:24-26, HCSB; Matt. 20:25,26.
In imitation of the kings of the nations, and in connection with a secular corporation, the governing body members have elevated themselves within God's household over God's people, and "dominate them." They have publicly shown themselves to be a "god" by the authority they have claimed for themselves, and by presenting their teachings as equal in authority to God's Word, considering their publications as official as the Bible itself. (Matt. 23:2-4) For example, in one Watchtower article elders were told: "If the Bible and the publications of the 'faithful and discreet slave' do not clearly outline a course, the elders should not impose their personal likes and dislikes, as if these were rules to be followed by the others." (w75 8/1 p. 474 par. 12, Elders Presiding in a Fine Way) Another article addressing congregation elders stated: "What is your attitude toward directives from 'the faithful and discreet slave'? Loyalty should move you to be 'ready to obey.' (Jas. 3:17) Always try to capture the spirit of information published by the 'slave' class. Then convey this to the congregation. The brothers need your loyal example as you cooperate with the rest of the body of elders." (w81 12/1 pp. 11-14 “Kingdom Loyalty”—What Does It Mean to You?) You may have noticed in your congregation that the visiting Circuit Overseer will frequently refer to the Society's publications as the authority for establishing a scriptural matter, or "proving" one of their many traditions. This, of course, is in an effort to instill trust and confidence on the part of God's people in the self-proclaimed "faithful and discreet slave," and encourage loyally following their leadership. You can see many of the elders imitating this.
They also teach that we cannot enjoy a relationship with Jehovah apart from the governing body: "We cannot hope to acquire a good relationship with Jehovah if we ignore those whom Jesus has appointed to care for his belongings. Without the assistance of 'the faithful and discreet slave,' we would neither understand the full import of what we read in God’s Word nor know how to apply it. (Matt. 24:45-47)". The same Watchtower says further: "The anointed and their other sheep companions recognize that by following the lead of the modern-day Governing Body, they are in fact following their Leader, Christ." (September 15, 2010 Study Watchtower) Another article admonished: “It is vital that we. . .respond to the directions of the 'slave' as we would to the voice of God, because it is His provision." —Watchtower 6/15/1957, p. 370, JEHOVAH’S CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION.
Compare the above Watchtower statements with Jesus' own words: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Also note the apostle Peter's statement regarding the uniqueness of Jesus' position: "There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved." (Acts 4:12) The governing body should be teaching God's people to obey Jehovah's command, "Don't put your trust in human leaders. Don't trust in people. They can't save you." —Psalms 146:3, NIRV.
Aaron, as high priest, was called by God and blessed with a prominent and prestigious position within the nation of Israel, as did his sister Miriam as prophetess. (Heb. 5:4,5; Ex. 15:20) Yet both of them coveted the superior appointment of their brother Moses, for God had "entrusted [Moses] with all his house," and spoke with him "face to face." (Ex. 33:11; Num. 7:89; 12:7,8; Heb. 3:5,6) Therefore Aaron and Miriam started to complain: "Is it just by Moses alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?" The account goes on to say: "And Jehovah was listening," and "Jehovah's anger got to be hot against them. . . and, look! Miriam was struck with leprosy as white as snow." (Num. 12:1,2, 9,10) Has the governing body not become guilty of the same aspiration as that of Aaron and Miriam? Are they not in effect saying, as expressed in the above Watchtower quotes, "is it by Jesus alone that Jehovah has spoken? Is it not by us also that he has spoken?"
In coveting the glory and the authority that has been given only to Jesus—the greater Moses—the governing body members have also become guilty of imitating the ambitions of the infamous rebels Korah, Dathan and his brother Abiram. By wanting to elevate themselves to the position of Moses as leader over God's people, those three men, along with their 250 followers, became guilty of rebelling against Jehovah. By the awesome display of power that Jehovah used in executing them and everything that belonged to them he proved beyond any doubt to all onlookers that those rebels had "treated Jehovah disrespectfully." Yes, it was not only Moses that they had opposed, but also Jehovah himself.—Num. 16:12-14, 30-35; Jude 11; Matt. 23:10; 1 Peter 3:22.
The modern-day Korah-Dathan-Abiram claims to be God's channel of communication for us. Thus in one Watchtower it was stated: "God spoke to his people through Moses and other prophets. Then, Jehovah spoke to them through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1, 2) Today, we have God’s complete inspired Word, the Holy Bible. We also have 'the faithful and discreet slave,' appointed by Jesus to provide spiritual 'food at the proper time.' (Matthew 24:45-47) Thus, God is still speaking. But are we listening?" (w98 7/15 p. 12 par. 15 Beware of a Lack of Faith) Yes, today Jehovah is still speaking to his people; no, not by any men or group of men, but rather by means of his Son Christ Jesus, as Paul tells us: "God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things." (Heb. 1:1,2; 2:16-18; 8:1,2) The above Watchtower appropriately notes, "today, we have God's complete inspired Word." It is within the pages of that inspired Word that we find Jesus' teachings preserved for our benefit, by means of which God is speaking to us. There is no need for anyone else to replace Jesus, for he himself promised his disciples: "And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things."—Matthew 28:20.
We are commanded not to add anything to God's Word, nor take away from it. (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18,19) In fact, it is this food—Jesus' teachings—that God's appointed servants ought to be dispensing. (John 6:35; Luke 12:42) Rather than any governing body, Jehovah has provided "the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive," which not only teaches his people but also unites them. That has not changed since the first century! This truth never changes. (John 14:16,17, 26) The man of lawlessness, whose "presence is according to the operation of Satan," has replaced Jesus as head in the congregation. He has also blasphemously replaced the holy spirit within God's household. Therefore, he does not have "the spirit of the truth," and neither can he receive it. To him it is not about truth, but about authority and domination! The apostle Paul explains, "because they did not accept the love of the truth," but "took pleasure in unrighteousness," God allows "an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie." (2 Thess. 2:10-12) This explains why many of their predictions have failed to materialize, and the reason certain "truths" taught at one time are now no longer valid. That is why the apostle John wrote: "Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world." —1 John 4:1.
The apostle Paul says that the existence of the man of lawlessness, and his identity, would be revealed in God's due time. Jesus also said: "For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all." (Luke 8:17, NLT) Thanks to the internet, the ambitions and errors of our leaders have now become widely known. They have been humiliated yet it has not humbled them. Neither have they felt embarrassed. On the contrary! Their insistence on absolute trust and obedience has become even more pronounced. It is as Jeremiah wrote: "Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth. My people are broken—shattered!—and they put on Band-Aids, Saying, 'It's not so bad. You'll be just fine.' But things are not 'just fine'! Do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage? No, they have no shame. They don't even know how to blush. There's no hope for them. They've hit bottom and there's no getting up. As far as I'm concerned, they're finished."—Jer. 6:13-15, The Message.
They have not blushed in connection with their bold promise as expressed back in a 1969 Awake! magazine: "If you are a young person, you also need to face the fact that you will never grow old in this present system of things. Why not? Because all the evidence in fulfillment of Bible prophecy indicates that this corrupt system is due to end in a few years. Of the generation that observed the beginning of the 'last days' in 1914, Jesus foretold: 'This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.' Therefore, as a young person, you will never fulfill any career that this system offers." (Awake! 1969 May 22 p.15) Ironically, many of the ones especially trusting in the Society's leadership and their promises are now suffering the most, finding themselves destitute. Contrary to their expectations, they have grown old in this present system of things and are now working at menial jobs way past their retirement age, not having prepared financially for their old age. But do not allow the failed promises of the self-professed "faithful slave" throw you off your spiritual balance! You can continue to have full confidence in Jehovah's promises, for they will never fail to come true, nor lead to disappointment, although appearing to delay.—Habakkuk 2:2-4.
The Governing Body members, in their effort to hold on to their lofty position within God's temple, have hired powerful lawyers whom they trust and who have become their advisers rather than Jehovah or Jesus, even when their advice goes contrary to what the Scriptures teach. (John 13:34,35) Under the direction of these lawyers they have dealt harshly with many of Jehovah's sheep. It is not unusual to have one of the Society's lawyers represent in a court of law a prominent elder who has been charged with child molestation, or sexual harassment of a sister. Thus they protect their own interest and wealth from lawsuits, and attempt to hide wrongdoing, and in the process deny justice to the innocent ones, although they know full well Jehovah's view of such matters: "Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the afflicted among my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless. What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth?"—Isaiah 10:1-3, HCSB.
Anyone not submitting to their authority is expelled from the congregation as being apostate; even God's chosen ones. (Matt. 24:22,24,31; Col. 3:12) They are Diotrephes personified, of whom the apostle John wrote in his short third letter: "I wrote something to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them, does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation." (3 John 9,10) Do they imagine that God approves of their action, and that there will be no accountability? —Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13.
If we seem surprised, even shocked, by all this development within God's organization we should remember Paul's words: "Do you not remember that, while I was yet with you, I used to tell you these things?" (vs. 5) Yes, these things must take place in order for the Scriptures to be fulfilled. (Luke 21:22) This wicked element was already evident in Paul's day, in the form of the "superfine apostles" who had elevated themselves over their fellow believers and had started to rule over them. But as Paul said, any such authority they felt they had was not from Jehovah. (1 Cor. 4:8-10) In fact, their presence and position of authority within God's temple is "according to the operation of Satan," and reflects his own ambitions. —2 Thess. 2:9.
The End of "the Man of Lawlessness"
Regarding the judgment that is to come upon the man of lawlessness, the apostle Paul foretold: "Then, indeed, the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will do away with by the spirit of his mouth and bring to nothing by the manifestation of his presence." (2 Thess. 2:2) The "lawless one" will be done away with at Jesus Christ's presence. It will be clear evidence of his return. Jesus himself foretold the judgment of this "evil slave" upon his unexpected return: "But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." —Matthew 24:48-51, NLT.
We can be absolutely certain of one thing: The man of lawlessness gets revealed, his cover blown, before Jesus returns. And all the evidence indicates that this is now in progress. Why, though, has Jehovah waited so long for the revealing of this wicked element that has been responsible for the beatings and so much suffering among his faithful servants? Why not before now? The answer is simple: An important feature of the last days was the preaching of the good news of God's kingdom, as Jesus said, "in all the nations the good news has to be preached first." (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10) We can well imagine that the revealing of the man of lawlessness would greatly impact the preaching activity in a negative way, as has already become evident. If there is one positive thing that can be said about the Society and its leadership is that they have organized the preaching of the good news in an efficient way, functioning like any successful secular corporation. This all-important work has acted as a restraint to the revealing before now, for Jehovah has not allowed anything or anyone to prevent or hinder the proclamation of the reality of the good news of his kingdom. Even God's angels have been sharing in this activity of preaching the good news as a blessing and only hope for mankind, seeing to it that it is accomplished. —Revelation. 14:6.
But now the due time has arrived, from God's standpoint, to shift the emphasis from the announcing of his kingdom to the revealing of the man of lawlessness. It portents that his day is very near. (Zeph. 1:7) Although the preaching is continuing it is not with the same zeal and urgency as was evident in previous decades. And you can expect the enthusiasm on the part of many witnesses to continue to decline, necessitating further adjustments in the organizing and reporting of it. Many have already stumbled at learning about the presence and identity of the man of lawlessness and thus no longer participate in the preaching of the good news. This was to be expected for this too had been prophesied: "And some of those who are wise, prudent, and understanding shall be weakened and fall, [thus, then, the insincere among the people will lose courage and become deserters. It will be a test] to refine, to purify, and to make those among [God's people] white, even to the time of the end, because it is yet for the time [God] appointed." —Daniel 11:35; Amplified Bible.
Of course, the Governing Body is not going to sit idly by while the revealing, that is, exposing of them and their sins and errors is progressing. They blame apostates for they have not come to understand that the revealing is from Jehovah; and therefore they see no need to repent and humble themselves. But was it any different in Jeremiah's time? (Jer. 1:17-19) Has Jehovah not always given the wicked the opportunity to repent and thus escape any judgment foretold to come upon them? (Isaiah 3:12-14; Ezek. 33:11) Rather than fight against those whom they would label apostates for speaking the truth, they should take to heart Gamaliel's wise words: "So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” —Acts 5:38,39, NLT.
If they believe that they are representing Jehovah, then they should definitely refrain from expressing an attitude like that of apostate king Jeroboam, to whom Jehovah had sent his prophet. In a fit of rage Jeroboam gave the command to seize the prophet, no doubt with the intention of doing away with him; but his outstretched hand became paralyzed, so that "he was not able to draw it back to himself." (1 Kings 13:4-5) With this demonstration of Jehovah's anger Jeroboam should have humbled himself and taken to heart the prophet's message of doom for him. Perhaps it was not too late to repent and turn around, and undo his works of rebellion.
In our day we should not expect the small group of governing body members, as a whole, to humble themselves; but rather become more and more entrenched in their authoritarian office, and to act decisively against anyone who is perceived posing a threat to their position. Paul foretold that they would sit in opposition. Too late will they, and any who loyally followed them, realize that they were not what they professed to be, a "faithful and discreet slave."
Jehovah long ago foretold the coming judgment upon the "man of lawlessness" who is sitting upon his "divine throne" in the heart of "the sea," that is, his people; and "publicly showing himself to be a god"; whereas his "presence" is actually "according to the operation of Satan." (2 Thess. 2:3,4, 9,10; Rev. 17:15) Therefore God addresses his denunciation upon the "man of lawlessness" in an illustrative way upon the figurative "prince of Tyre" (after which he addresses Satan himself as the "king of Tyre" in verses 11-19):
“Son of man, give the prince of Tyre this message from the Sovereign Lord:
“In your great pride you claim, ‘I am a god! I sit on a divine throne in the heart of the sea.’
But you are only a man and not a god, though you boast that you are a god.
3 You regard yourself as wiser than Daniel and think no secret is hidden from you.
4 With your wisdom and understanding you have amassed great wealth—
gold and silver for your treasuries.
5 Yes, your wisdom has made you very rich, and your riches have made you very proud.
6 “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because you think you are as wise as a god,
7 I will now bring against you a foreign army, the terror of the nations.
They will draw their swords against your marvelous wisdom and defile your splendor!
8 They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die in the heart of the sea,
pierced with many wounds.
9 Will you then boast, ‘I am a god!’ to those who kill you?
To them you will be no god but merely a man!
10 You will die like an outcast at the hands of foreigners.
I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”—Ezekiel 28:2-10, New Living Translation.
There existed a similar element in the Corinth congregation to whom Paul referred as the "superfine apostles," who were causing problems for the brothers, making themselves "masters over [their] faith," and who accepted nothing with respect even from the apostle Paul. (Compare 3rd John vs. 9) Paul wrote: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their works." (2 Cor. 1:24; 11:5, 13-15; 1 Cor. 4:8) The presence of "the man of lawlessness" within God's temple 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." (2 Thess. 2:9,10) Since Satan, as the king of Tyre, is addressed in Ezekiel 28:11-19, the "man of lawlessness" is likewise given attention in verses 2-10.
Please note that in Ezekiel 28:2-10 it is the the prince of Tyre ("the leader," New World Translation), that Jehovah addresses, and not the king, as he does in verses 11-19. The prince would be in subjection to the king, who is his father. (compare John 8:44) Jehovah uses the city of Tyre in a figurative sense because of its location, sitting "in the midst the sea." (Ezek. 27:32-34) Therefore, the "prince of Tyre" is sitting upon his "divine throne in the heart of the sea." In an illustrative way the "sea" refers to the people over whom he has elevated himself. Insight on the Scriptures says:
At Revelation 17:1,15 the “waters” on which Babylon the Great “sits” are said to mean “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.” Isaiah further prophesied to God’s “woman” Zion: “Because to you the wealthiness of the sea will direct itself; the very resources of the nations will come to you.” (Isa 59:20; 60:1,5) This seems to mean the turning of many persons from among the multitudes of earth toward God’s symbolic “woman.”—it-2 p. 882 Sea
The man of lawlessness, as the figurative "prince of Tyre," has seated himself on his "divine throne in the heart of the sea," yes, in "the temple of The God," the temple being God's people. (1 Cor. 3:16,17) He has indeed become very rich, for the "wealthiness of the sea" has been directed to him in the form of vast amounts of money contributed over the decades by "the sea" of God's people, intended for the worldwide preaching work. Consequently, the Watchtower Society with its governing body has "amassed great wealth—gold and silver for your treasuries," including much valuable real estate properties. And on account of their wealth they have become proud and arrogant. If they would individually discern the time of their being inspected they would realize that very soon now they will be brought "down to the pit, and you will die in the heart of the sea, pierced with many wounds." All their acquired riches will be of no use at that time to deliver them: "Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah's fury." —Matt. 24:48-51; Luke 19:44; Zeph. 1:18.
What Will You Do?
Many within God's organization are convinced that we need a governing body to organize the preaching work and to provide us with all the many publications, our spiritual food "at the proper time." It is Jehovah's arrangement they feel. But as has already been mentioned, there was no governing body in the first century, neither was there any need for one. The holy spirit, which Jesus had promised as a helper, was very active at that time. (John 14:26) It served as a teacher and helper, enabling the disciples to remember and understand the things they were learning, even the deeper things of God. (1 Cor. 2:10-13) It directed the preaching work, even assigning certain ones their territory. (Acts 13:2-4; 16:6, 10) It appointed elders, and also gave the members in the congregations different gifts, so that no one was expected to do the same, or as much, as anyone else; nor was anyone's work compared to someone else's work, thus avoiding any rivalry or reason for boasting. Everyone did just as the spirit enabled them to do. And since a fruitage of the spirit is joy, the brothers experienced much joy in worshiping Jehovah. In fact, the Scriptures have much to say about the joy of all the disciples. Together the congregations functioned as one body, under the same head, Christ Jesus. —1 Cor. 12:12-18.
Since it was the same holy spirit for everyone, for there is only one spirit, it taught every disciple the same truths. Thus, the holy spirit was also the power that united the congregations in love and understanding of the truth. (Eph. 4:3-6) By having Jehovah's holy spirit the disciples would also enjoy all the fruitages of it, such as love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control. (Gal.5:22,23) A person cannot "cultivate" this fruitage just as one cannot cultivate the spirit. It was a natural result of having the spirit, the powerful force which helped a person to put on the new personality. (John 15:1-5; Eph. 4:23,24) Since this was Jehovah's spirit it enabled the person to reflect God's qualities, just as Jesus did. One cannot obtain these qualities from any other source. Only when the spirit was grieved would problems arise, leading to the loss of the fruitage of the spirit, perhaps being replaced with works of the flesh. (Gal. 5:19-21) Then it would be easy to quickly identify a problem. For that reason Paul and other Bible writers have much counsel on how to hold on to that precious possession of the spirit, and keep ourselves in God's love. (Jude 21)
When Judge Rutherford seized control of God's organization back in 1917, maneuvering to become its president, and his fellow corporate directors a governing body (although at that time without any real power or authority), the holy spirit no longer continued as the helper Jehovah meant it to be. Leaders who had placed themselves at the helm of God's organization now replaced that spirit. Through the Corporation that had been set up, with its many Societies and Associations, this small group of men started to direct God's people in every aspect of their lives, and in every part of the earth where they were active. Right from the beginning all this was viewed by many as Jehovah's arrangement. After all, if Jehovah did not agree with it why would he permit it?
But Jehovah did express his indignation upon them. He sent them to a federal penitentiary where they could sit and reflect on what they were doing and the course they had embarked upon. And, actually at that time, they say that they did discern that Jehovah was disciplining them, yet it failed to prevent them from acting on their ambition to dominate their brothers, even fellow anointed ones. What's more, they had used a worldly court to bring this maneuvering about, perhaps believing that God uses such means to arrange affairs within his temple. It did not bother this small group of men at all that they had expelled from God's temple fellow anointed ones who had refused to go along with their ambition, accusing these as being disloyal and "the wicked slave" that Jesus had mentioned. In reality, they had now become that evil slave who will be confronted at their Master's return. —Matt. 24:48-51.
These men, particularly Judge Rutherford, produced numerous books, including prophecies that they expected God to fulfill. (compare Ezek. 13:6) But Jehovah did not support them, he did not act on their visions; thus many of their prophecies failed to come true. These are now part of the record they have made for themselves. Thus, many stumbled and left God's household, with some even claiming that God doesn't have one. But it was not Jehovah's fault. He was merely permitting this "as a retribution" because "they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness." —2 Thess. 2:10,12.
Whereas Jehovah's holy spirit used to appoint elders, these were now appointed by the Society, the qualifications being mostly a zeal for the preaching activity, and of course, loyalty to their Leaders. Although the claim is still made that everyone is appointed by holy spirit, the truth is that the spirit has very little to do with today's appointment of elders, or anything else the Governing Body is doing. Take for example how it is determined who qualifies as elder or servant. Rutherford instituted that every member in the congregation was now required to report his activity in the preaching work on a monthly basis, which reports were forwarded to the appropriate branch offices. Records started to be kept for every "publisher," which would be reviewed by the travelling servants when they visited the congregations.
For many decades monthly reports for the congregation were even posted at the front of the meeting place for all to either admire or be shamed by. On the basis of his personal record a person might be recommended to a position of oversight. Compare this with what Jesus said about our "gifts of mercy," that the preaching work is often compared to: "But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you." (Matt. 6:3,4) Jehovah sees what the heart of a man is like and makes appointments accordingly. (1 Sam. 16:7) Of course, man cannot do that, so for that reason he has to judge according to what appears to the eyes. Therefore, record cards. This is just another of the many traditions that Rutherford put in place, that continue to this day, whereby God's word has been made invalid, but that is claimed to be from God and directed by his spirit. Outrages!
The holy spirit is no longer a real force in the lives of God's people as a whole. In fact, they teach that it's power and operation was unique to the first century and would be done away with. But in reality, it would only be the special gifts that would no longer be needed and would in time disappear. Jehovah's holy spirit, its power and fruitage upon his people will never disappear, although a person can lose it for himself. (1 Cor. 13:8-13) No longer is there any room for the spirit to get involved in the preaching assignments the way it was in the first century. Can you imagine what might transpire if a person today is directed by the spirit for a certain assignment apart from the Governing Body? What if he acts upon the operation of the spirit, as Paul and Barnabas did? Is this, perhaps, a reason why some have been expelled from their congregations? Did Paul not say that the man of lawlessness is "set in opposition," "publicly showing himself to be a god?" (2 Thess. 2:4) And all this, of course, is presented by them as Jehovah's arrangement to which all must submit.
Much of what was taught by Rutherford has become the foundation of what we presently believe. Therefore it is not an exaggeration to say that we have built on Rutherford's foundation rather than on God's. Although it has become evident that many of our traditions and teachings do not have scriptural support it is impossible for today's Governing Body to abandon what has been built upon their foundation, without being afraid of losing everything they have accumulated over the decades. They are expressing the same identical fears as did the religious leaders in Jesus' day, that of losing their place in God's temple, and their civil organization. But their fall has already been determined.
How do you feel about all this? Are you outraged at the presence of the man of lawlessness, or do you view all these things that have been put in place by a Governing Body as being from Jehovah? Do you find yourself actually thanking God for "the faithful and discreet slave," when Jehovah tells us that his presence is according to the operation of Satan? We are told that in connection with the coming day of Jehovah the man of lawlessness would first need to be revealed. We are now seeing this taking place. But do you realize that also in connection with the nearness of this day the prophet Zephaniah foretold that Jehovah would take a close look at his people. It would be the "time of [our] being inspected." (Luke 19:44; NWT) Yes, he examines us and exposes any who are sitting at ease, greatly satisfied with the way things are. These too will lose out.
"At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps. I will punish those who are so contented. They are like wine that has not been shaken up. They think, 'The Lord won't do anything. It doesn't matter whether it's good or bad.'
"Their wealth will be stolen. Their houses will be destroyed. They will build houses. But they will not live in them. They will plant vineyards. But they will not drink the wine they produce. —Zephaniah 1:12,13, NIRV.
What's wrong with sitting "contented"? After all, are we not in a spiritual paradise? Are we not rich and well fed spiritually because of "the faithful and discreet slave," while the rest of the world is starving? Jesus' message to the Laodicean congregation is likewise applicable to us: "You do not know you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked." (Rev. 3:17) Rather than sitting contented ("complacent"—NLT; "unworried"—CEV; "satisfied with themselves"—NCV; "amusing themselves and taking it easy"—The Message) we ought to be greatly concerned, yes, "sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of [us]." Only such ones will be marked for survival and be protected through the coming great tribulation. —Ezek. 9:4, 6; Rev. 7:9, 14.
The day of Jehovah is fast approaching. We are now witnessing the developments within God's organization as foretold by God's prophets. Jehovah's judgment will start with his own household. Therefore, the identity of the man of lawlessness is now in the process of being revealed. "For the time [has arrived] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will [be] the end of those who do not respect or believe or obey the good news (the Gospel) of God? And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the godless and wicked?" —1 Peter 4:17,18; Amplified Bible.
Lest anyone thinks that this "judgment" already occurred back in 1918/19, according to Rutherford's tradition, we should be aware that this judgment is not a mere inspection of God's people but rather the carrying out of a sentence that has already been determined prior to it's execution. It follows examination of the evidence. Like in a court of law, the evidence is presented over a period of time, and then sentence is pronounced and quickly carried out. (Isaiah 3:13,14) Thus we are told that Jehovah will "execute judgment on his people," and then after also "he will execute judgment among the nations; He will cause a fullness of dead bodies." (Ps. 1:5,6; 50:4; 110:6) Therefore, the judgment that he will execute on his people, and then the nations, has not yet occurred, but rather is immediately ahead of us.
The apostle Peter pondered: "And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the godless and wicked?" Can you see how we are all included, whether we are righteous or wicked? If the righteous one within God's household, that is, his organization, members of his temple, is "barely saved" ("saved with difficulty," NWT), then what about those who refuse to submit to God and his arrangement of worshiping him? Do the letters that Jesus wrote to the seven congregations have any meaning for us? Is there anything in them that we need to take to heart?
If, today, you are associated with a congregation such as was Smyrna or Philadelphia at the end of the first century, you are blessed. There are still loving brothers and sisters, and caring elders, in some congregations, but they are getting harder to find. It seems the ratio of good to bad is about the same as it was back then. I know one brother, in a large city in the United States, who moved with his family to eight different congregations, before he found the one where he felt "at home." What is the situation like in your area?
Ask any Witness how we know that we are God's people, and he will most likely answer by saying it is because "we have the truth;" "we have love among ourselves;" and "we preach the good news of the kingdom." Although these are necessary things that God requires of his people, yet they are not what makes us his people. (And no, it's not because Jesus chose us in 1914.) The Scriptures are very clear on this subject, and all of God's people ought to understand it, and be able to explain it to others. (1 Peter 3:15) After all, how can we endure the foretold persecution within God's house if we are not even sure as to why, or if, we are God's sons and daughters.
The apostle Paul explains in simple terms who God's people are, and the basis for it. First of all, he points out that under the new covenant God is no longer worshiped in a physical temple, as was the case under the old covenant, because now his people are his temple, and there is where his spirit dwells. (John 4:19-24; 1 Cor. 3:16,17; Heb. 9:1-10, 24) His people are not scattered throughout other religions, for they are all built upon the one "real" and "solid" foundation, the builder and maker of which is God. (2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Tim. 2:19; Heb. 11:10) Jesus is the foundation cornerstone of God's temple, and with him are 144,000 "holy ones" who make up the foundation. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains this as God's arrangement: "Certainly, therefore, 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; 1 Peter 2:4-9; Isa. 28:16) All of God's people constitute his temple—either as part of the foundation, or built upon that foundation. Thus they are all harmoniously joined together and built into a "holy temple" for God to inhabit by spirit.
How exactly is a worshiper of Jehovah built upon the foundation? By accepting and acknowledging that this arrangement is from Jehovah; and that it includes not only Jesus, but also the "holy ones." (Dan. 7:13,14, 27) Any person who desires to worship God must accept not only the foundation cornerstone, but the entire foundation upon which God's temple is built. That is what Jesus meant in his parable of the sheep and the goats, for the sheep did good to Christ's "brothers," and he views it as having been done to him personally. The "sheep" are built upon the foundation of his brothers. (Matt. 25:31-46) There is no other people on earth who accept the 144,000 brothers of Christ as an essential part of worshiping God in his temple. To all others these foundation stones remain God's mystery, his sacred secret. (Eph. 3:8-11, 17,18; Rev. 7:14,15)
We do not need to know the individual members of the foundation in order to exercise faith in their position within God's temple arrangement. God never purposed to give them glory while serving him on earth. The only names that we have been given are those of the twelve apostles, and a few others including Paul. (1 Cor. 4:8-13) God's temple has continued to expand in size throughout the many centuries since Pentecost, as Jehovah has kept adding to the foundation until it finally will be complete just prior to the great tribulation. (Rev. 7:1-4) Soon thereafter, Jesus will be glorified in connection with his holy ones, which will be witnessed by those who exercised faith. (2 Thess. 1:7-10) On account of your faith you have become a member of God's household, built upon the solid foundation; and therefore Jesus is truly your Lord, even when there are only two or three of you gathered together in his name! (Col. 1:23; Matt. 18:19,20; 7:21-23) God's temple came into existence at Pentecost; and it should not be confused with the Watchtower Society that has imposed itself upon God's people for the past hundred years. That secular corporation, along with its leaders, the foretold "man of lawlessness," will soon be removed at Jesus' presence. (See 2 Thess. 2:3-12)