“Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”
– Hebrews 10:23-25
In the book of Hebrews, Paul writes to encourage the brothers to have faith in their heavenly hope and not be ashamed of it. This is a common theme in his writings along with his admonition to always exercise freeness of speech when it comes to the good news of the kingdom. Even while being held under house arrest, it was written about him:
“So he remained for an entire two years in his own hired house, and he would kindly receive all those who came in to him, preaching the kingdom of God to them and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.”
– Acts 28:30-31
Today, our brothers are taking Paul’s words to heart. Those who have accepted the offer of sonship with God with the hope of everlasting life in heaven are openly and with freeness of speech declaring their hope and encouraging one another. But their actions are being met with resistance within the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We posted an article, entitled Defending Our Living Hope, relaying the trials of many of our brothers in Nevada, as well as in other cities. Since the publication of that article, we have received emails from other brothers among Jehovah’s Witnesses who are being called into judicial hearings in connection with their heavenly hope. Of course the charge is not that they claim to have the heavenly hope. The charge is that they are causing divisions because they openly speak about their hope. We know this is, to put it mildly, appalling to those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it is nevertheless true.
A mainstay of the teachings from the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that a relatively small number of Christians have the hope of everlasting life in heaven, while the vast majority have the hope of everlasting life on earth. Those who confess the ‘earthly hope’ are welcomed to speak openly about their hope and contemplate what it would be like. The Governing Body regularly publishes magazines and books extolling their speculations about everlasting life on earth. They encourage those with the ‘earthly hope’ to imagine themselves there, to design their homes, to plan their hobbies, etc. Some go so far as to pick out houses in their neighborhoods that they hope to occupy after the war of Armageddon. Yet there is no condemnation or reprisal for these speculations. But if a son of the kingdom chances to speak openly about the heavenly hope or what heavenly life might be like, they are subject to a judicial hearing, and charged with going beyond what is written, causing divisions, and even apostasy!
This is outright, unadulterated discrimination. It is a show of favoritism and partiality that has no place within a Christian congregation. (Acts 10:34-35) Yet we have reports that it is occurring in one place after another.
What is especially noteworthy is to consider who really is causing division. Who has established two different and opposing hopes? Who teaches our brothers that some belong to one flock and the others belong to another? Who begrudgingly allows a small number to participate in the Memorial Supper and emphatically prevents others? Yes, brothers, those causing division in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are those men who unrelentingly promote the two-hope doctrine, along with their operatives. We are counseled:
“Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them. For men of that sort are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own bellies; and by smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones.”
– Romans 16:17-18
Rather than causing divisions, those with the heavenly hope are reconciling our brothers into one hope, and uniting them under the leadership of the Christ, not the leadership of men. They boldly promote obedience and adherence to the plain and open teachings of Jesus as the Father instructed:
“This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him.”
– Mark 9:7
Yes, there is an insidious division occurring within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses that is causing great testing of our brothers. But it is not coming from the sons of the kingdom! For this reason, we see the need to publish this article on how to deal with these unfair and un-Christian judicial actions by local elders, and how properly responding can give great honor to the Father and Christ Jesus, and lead to a fine public declaration of the true kingdom hope.
Understanding the Rules
The greatest disadvantage our brothers have in dealing with unfair judicial hearings is that they are not aware of the rules. The process of handling judicial matters is explained in the publication Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will, published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. Each baptized publisher should have a copy. We encourage you to read Chapter 14 - Maintaining the Peace and Cleanness of the Congregation, especially the subheadings “Resolving Certain Serious Wrongs,” “Handling Cases of Serious Wrongdoing” and “If the Decision is to Disfellowship.” We trust our brothers will do their own research, but we will make just a few points:
1. Make sure the counsel at Matthew 18:15-16 is followed before you participate in a judicial hearing;
2. During the hearing, you should remain calm and respectful according to this admonition:
“But sanctify the Christ as Lord in you hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”
– 1 Peter 3:15
You might also benefit from these articles, Letter from an Anointed Elder, January 26, 2013 and Defending Our Living Hope.
3. If the decision is to disfellowship or reprove you, take advantage of the opportunity to have the decision reviewed on appeal. In this way, you will have the opportunity to make a greater public declaration of your hope and possibly save even your accusers.
The appeal process, as stated in the Organized to Do Jehovah’s Will on pages 153-154, is as follows:
“When a judicial committee concludes that an unrepentant wrongdoer should be disfellowshipped, it should let him know of the decision, clearly stating the Scriptural reason(s) for the disfellowshipping. When informing the wrongdoer of their decision, the judicial committee should tell him that if he believes that a serious error in judgment has been made and he wishes to appeal the decision, he may do so by writing a letter clearly stating the reasons for his appeal. He will be allowed seven days for this, from the time he was notified of the committee's decision. If such written appeal is received, the body of elders should contact the circuit overseer, who will designate elders to serve on an appeal committee to rehear the case. The elders selected to care for this weighty responsibility should be men who are experienced and qualified. Every effort should be made to conduct the appeal hearing within one week after the written appeal is received. If there is an appeal, announcement of the disfellowshipping will be held in abeyance. In the meantime, the accused person will be restricted from commenting and praying at meetings or from special privileges of service.
“An appeal is granted as a kindness to the accused and allows him a further hearing of his concerns. Thus, if he deliberately fails to appear at the appeal hearing, the disfellowshipping should be announced after reasonable efforts have been made to contact him.”
Your appeal letter will be your opportunity to make a clear declaration and defense for your hope. It should be succinct, not containing a lot of unnecessary or unrelated information, and it should be abundantly supported by scripture and quotes from Watchtower publications, if possible, and it should be respectful. This is not the time to air all of your grievances and complaints against the Governing Body’s teachings or the conduct of the elders. Focus on the specific grounds asserted against you, all to the glory of the Father.
And remember, your written letter is a means to introduce the true good news of sonship with God and the heavenly hope to your elders, the Circuit servant, and the elders who are brought in to hear the appeal. And it is possible that you will find an ally or at least a ‘Gamaliel’ in a new group of men. (Acts 5:34-39) But even if they affirm the disfellowshipping, you will have given them a thorough witness so that if they fail to accept the Father’s generous offer for themselves, ‘the Father may prove to be righteous when He speaks, that He may be in the clear when He judges.’ (Psalms 51:4) And, of course, you can walk away with a clear conscience.
The Purpose of Appeal
Keep in mind that you are not begging them not to disfellowship you as if they have some special pipeline to God. You are making a defense for your hope which is required of all sons of God no matter what organization or church they are associated with. The mere existence of this appeal process proves that the decisions of elders are not the decisions of God, but merely the opinions of men. Otherwise, why would God’s perfect decisions need to be reviewed?
Nevertheless, every organization is entitled to establish and enforce their own rules. But the decisions of elders do not affect a person’s standing before God. God makes His own assessments by His own standards, on His own terms, at His own time.
“For the thoughts of you people are not my thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,” is the utterance of Jehovah. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
– Isaiah 55:8-9
Keep in mind, too, that this is not really about you. This is about their disdain for the Christ and for his provision for survival. It is those who reject sonship and the heavenly hope who have apostatized, not you. But it affords you the opportunity to be a part of a larger ministry and demonstrate to the Father without question to whom you belong. Yes, there is a far greater issue at stake than this small, relatively insignificant and disobedient organization.
As long as this organization continues to revive and relive Moses and the prophets, they will continue as blind guides who suppress the freedom of the sons of God. Only by turning to the plain and open teachings of the Lord Christ Jesus can they hope to see clearly and attain to their true glory:
“Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:15-18 - Revised Standard Version
Of course, a decision to disfellowship you will have an effect on your relations with family and friends. There is a cost for discipleship as Jesus explained. (Matthew 10:32-39) But your family and friends will be led into the pit along with the organization’s leadership unless ones such as yourself step up to show them what true discipleship looks like. Maybe your elders will not take heed, but some in your congregation may, including your family. This is your opportunity to be the light of your congregation. (Matthew 5:14-16) But if you slip silently into the night, your congregation will have to await another son of God who is willing to pick up his torture stake. So, why not you?
And if you are disfellowshiped, it is our hope that your true brothers in the faith will not forsake you, but will be a source of refreshment so you can ‘quench the burning missiles’ designed to destroy your faith. (Ephesians 6:16) And if you know of others who are disfellowshiped because of their hope, we hope you will likewise support them during their trialsome period as commanded:
“And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”
– Hebrews 10:24-25
Finally, we implore you to let no one take away the joy of your hope or your God-given freeness of speech. If you have not already read them, these articles might be of some encouragement: The Other Side of Faith, and Defending Our Living Hope. And please reflect on this scriptures:
“For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”
– Romans 10:10
“If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!”
– 1 Corinthians 9:16
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance. But let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”
– James 1:2-4
“So now, little children, remain in union with him, that when he is made manifest we may have freeness of speech and not be shamed away from him at his presence.”
– 1 John 2:28
To all who are affected by these reprehensible witch hunts, we ask that you please keep in touch with us and let us know what happens. If you are agreeable, perhaps we can publish your experience for the benefit of others.
We will pray for the courage and strength of our whole association of brothers, and, as always, we welcome your comments.