QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
Regarding Bible | Scriptures
♦ Are there two groups with different hopes? (Matthew 25:30-35,40,46)
On February 22, 2012, we received the following comment:
“There are errors in your writing about a heavenly hope for all Christians today, the reason for that is that Jesus Christ told us, you can only get into the kingdom of God, only if you were born again of the Spirit. John 3:5. Today only a few are born of the spirit.
“2. Only 144,000 are redeemed from the earth, the revelation 14:1-3.
“3. Those who are born again are spiritual Jews, Romans 2:29. Many decided to join the spiritual Jews, Zechariah 8:23. They are the ones that Jesus Christ gives eternal life, Matthew 25:40, 46.
“4. In Matthew 25:46 they called the righteous and the righteous would own the earth and live on earth forever, Psalm 37:29.
“5. They had helped the brothers of Jesus (the anointed), it is clear that there is therefore 2 groups with different hopes, Matthew 25:35-40.”
To the author of the comments, we first want to thank you for taking the time to visit our site and share your comments. It takes courage to put your thoughts out into the internet, and it manifests a conviction in your heart that you are determined to “make sure of all things.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) With that in mind, we respond to your comments as follows:
To your first comment: “There are errors in your writing about a heavenly hope for all Christians today, the reason for that is that Jesus Christ told us, you can only get into the kingdom of God, only if you were born again of the Spirit. John 3:5. Today only a few are born of the spirit.”
We agree with you that in order to get into the kingdom of God, you must be born again of the Spirit. See Letter No. 4 of Observing the Oneness of the Faith. In fact, the purpose of this site is to help persons see that they are indeed sons of God and heirs to the kingdom of the heavens. Once they awaken to their true hope, they will be born again – born of the spirit – and receive the token of the spirit in their hearts (2 Corinthians 1:22).
However, we wonder how you reach the conclusion that “Today only a few are born of the spirit.” Perhaps it is based on the number of partakers that are reflected in the Society’s year end report. If so, we encourage you to keep your eyes open. That number will increase, and we hope to see it increase exponentially as more and more of the “earthly class” recognize their true relationship with Jehovah.
To your second comment: “Only 144,000 are redeemed from the earth, the revelation 14:1-3.”
First, we do not dispute that 144,000 will serve as kings and priests in heaven. (See The Royal Priesthood and the Holy Nation, Letter No. 5.) However, we encourage you to look again at the scriptures at Revelation 14:1-3. It does refer to “the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth,” but it does not say that ONLY 144,000 are bought from the earth. And look at verse 4, it identifies that certain group as “firstfruits.” Think about this: if there are “firstfruits” that go to heaven, could there be “second fruits” that also go? And notice in verse 1 that the scene takes place on the top of a mountain. Are we to assume that the mountain represents the entire heavens? The point is, the Bible does not specifically state the total number who go to heaven, only that 144,000 of them will serve as kings and priests.
As to your third comment: “Those who are born again are spiritual Jews, Romans 2:29. Many decided to join the spiritual Jews, Zechariah 8:23. They are the ones that Jesus Christ gives eternal life, Matthew 25:40, 46.”
Again, we do not dispute that those who are born again are referred to as spiritual Jews or spiritual Israel. (See "The Royal Priesthood and the Holy Nation, Letter No. 5".) Your reference to Zechariah 8:23 is instructive. It establishes that gentiles will join with Jews in serving God. Is that not what has happened in the Christian congregation? The founding members of the Christian congregation were fleshy Jews who were baptized in water and spirit, thus, becoming spiritual Jews. Then the preaching turned to the gentile nations who were also baptized in water and spirit. And since, as Zechariah says, they are “taking hold of the skirt” of a Jew, does not that indicate they will be following these spiritual Jews wherever they are going – into the heavens? Finally, we also agree with you that Matthew 25:40 and 46 states that Jesus will give righteous persons everlasting life. But look again at that scripture. Does it say everlasting life on earth? No, it does not.
As to your fourth comment: “In Matthew 25:46 they called the righteous and the righteous would own the earth and live on earth forever, Psalm 37:29.”
Again, we do not dispute that the righteous will live forever on earth. (See Observing the Oneness of the Faith, Letter No. 5.) But we encourage you to re-examine both Matthew 25:46 and Psalm 37:29. Do you see any language that says that each individual righteous person would live forever on the earth? No, you do not. It simply refers to “the righteous” as a group. And we agree that at some point in the future, the entire planet will be inhabited with only righteous people – as a group. God has greater plans for us as individuals.
“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
As to your fifth and final comment: “They had helped the brothers of Jesus (the anointed), it is clear that there is therefore 2 groups with different hopes, Matthew 25:35-40.”
We agree that Matthew 25:35-40 speaks of two groups with two different destinies, but we would hardly refer to them as two hopes. The ones on his right would “inherit the kingdom.” That is the heavenly hope for the “righteous ones.” However, the ones on the left go into “everlasting cutting-off.” That is death. So the two destines referred to in that scripture are life and death, not everlasting life in heaven and everlasting life on earth.
We hope we have adequately responded to your comments. It is possible that you have not read through the entire site. If not, we encourage you to do so.
We know that the good news that all Christians are sons of God and therefore have a heavenly destiny is difficult for some to accept. But that is what the Bible teaches. Perhaps these two scriptures will be of some comfort:
“Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things of the earth.” – Colossians 3:2
“Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead. I am pursuing down toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.” – Philippians 3:13-15
Yes, pray on these thoughts, and the Spirit of Truth will confirm these truths to you.
If you have been attracted to this site, you are likely one of the anointed sons of the kingdom, in line for a glorious future! If not, you have no doubt had the baptism of water. Pray now for the token of the spirit. And may the God of all peace be with you.
♦ Can you explain John 14:21? (Jesus Plainly Showing Himself)
On February 24, 2012, we received the following comment:
“Can you explain John 14:21?” The scripture states:
“He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will plainly show myself to him.” – John 14:21
To the author of this inquiry, we want to thank you for visiting the site and submitting your query. And we commend you for your determination to understand the Christ and his teachings.
You will note that we did not post the full text of your question because we do not wish to cause any friction between you and your elders. Our purpose is to build up the spiritual house of anointed brothers and sisters in order for them to become sources of encouragement and spiritual lights to the congregations with which they are associated. So, you see, our primary concern is with Jesus’ work of the “revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19)
As such, we wish not to attempt an explanation of every scripture in the Bible. There are many other fine sources for general Biblical expository. However, your question does allow us to discuss a subject that we feel would be beneficial to the entire Body of Christ. So, with the above spirit in mind, we respond to your inquiry as follows:
We suspect that the portion of the scripture you are most concerned about is the phrase “and will plainly show myself to him.” The first portions of the scripture are quite unambiguous. They tell us that if we take Jesus’ commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) and make them our very own, we demonstrate that we love him, and, in turn, the Father loves us. However, the phrase that Jesus ‘will plainly show himself to us’ is another matter that even the other apostle Judas was not clear about:
“Judas, not Iscariot, said to him: ‘Lord, what has happened that you intend to show yourself plainly to us and not to the world.” – John 14:22
Jesus explains this by admonishing his apostles to remain in peace and not fret that he would be going away because he would be returning. (John 14:23-29) True to his words, Jesus did go his way to the Father after his resurrection, and did return shortly thereafter where he plainly showed himself to his disciples and apostles on various occasions. He first appeared to Mary Magdalene at the memorial tomb where he explained to her that she could not ‘cling’ to him because he had not yet ascended to the Father. (John 20:11-18). But eight days later, he returned, apparently after having presented himself to the Father, and showed himself to the apostles in the upper room where he did allow them to touch him and to see him ‘plainly.’ (John 20:26-29). He also appeared to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias and even ‘breakfasted’ with them. (John 21:1-17).
So, you see, the answer to your question was there in plain sight. Judas did not know the answer because the event had not yet occurred. But to us, we have the benefit of the scriptural record. And it required simply a reading of the context of the record, not isolating verses. Sons of the kingdom must be proactive in their search for truth. As the Apostle Paul said:
“For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” – Hebrews 5:12-14
We cannot emphasize this enough. The realization that we are sons is just the beginning of the journey. It is the 'unadulterated milk.’ (1 Peter 2:2) There are so many other things that must be discussed in view of the time – the meat, the “solid food,” the things of the spirit. But first, we must lay the foundation. It is as Jesus said to Nicodemus:
"If I have told you earthly things and yet you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” – John 3:9-12
Until then, we are constrained by the spirit. Jesus taught his apostles many things. He used illustrations to the crowds, and afterward, he would explain to his apostles the meaning behind the illustrations. (Mark 4:34) Still, there were many more things he could not teach even his apostles because mentally and emotionally they were unable to receive them. Jesus told them:
“I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth, for he will speak not of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming.” – John 16:12-13
Therefore, we strongly urge you to apply yourselves in your own study of the Bible. And more importantly we implore you to pray for understanding and allow the spirit of truth to direct you into all things. And above all, never forget:
“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
We sincerely hope our response has been encouraging and causes a strengthening up of your determination to follow closely in the footsteps of the Christ. If our words have proved a bit strong, please consider them the strikes of a lover (Proverbs 27:6), from those who care about your spiritual growth and your eternal future.
♦ Can you explain Acts 2:17? (Visions)
On February 25, 2012, we received the following comment:
“What do you think about the visions, has anointed Christians the opportunity to get visions today? Acts 2:17? The scripture states:
“‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I shall pour out some of my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.’” – Acts 2:17
To the author of this inquiry, we want to thank you for submitting this question as we feel this is a subject that may benefit many, especially those who are hesitant about accepting their sonship. Many such persons believe that anointing grants a person some special abilities, perhaps including visions. We hope by way of our response to assist those brothers as well as provide a satisfactory answer to your question. We will start by discussing what anointing is.
Anointing, also called being ‘baptized in holy spirit’ (Acts 1:4), also called being ‘sealed with a token of the spirit’ (2 Corinthians 1:22), is simply a realization and an awareness that you are a unique son of the Father of All – not a slave, not a servant, not a friend, not a subject. Jesus came to reveal the Father to mankind. The spirit of truth came to reveal the son. (John 16:12-13) By accepting this realization, this gift, Jesus lives through us as we manifest the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), in the same way as the Father lived through Jesus. In the fullest of our expression, we can be the exact representation of the Christ! (John 14:12) Indeed, ambassadors in his stead.
Though a simple concept, it has been associated with such grandiosity that many humble and unassuming brothers and sisters have shied away from accepting this freely given gift. They may read the account in Acts and conclude that unless they have these manifestations of the spirit, they cannot be “anointed.” Let us now dispel this notion.
The mere realization, or revelation, that you are a son of God is a powerful and liberating idea. It means that “you are enough,” for a human cannot gain a higher station than a son of God. It reminds us of Jesus admonition to his followers:
“You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp to set it, not under a measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” –Matthew 5:14-16
By the time of Jesus arrival, mankind had lived “under a measuring basket,” heads hung low believing themselves to be sinners worthy of death, prostrating and sacrificing until their lights burned out. Jesus reminded them of their true worth and that all it takes is to remove the measuring basket. And by his life and death, he demonstrated how to remove it, and then beckoned “follow me.”
As a free gift, it is not necessary to specifically pray for it. However, prayer does serve an unparalleled purpose. Prayer determines the capacity of receptivity by the individual praying believer. Prayer often digs out larger and deeper channels wherein the divine spirit of truth may flow to the hearts and souls of those who remember to maintain unbroken communion with their Father. But there is a danger, though slight.
There exists a vast gulf between the human mind and the divine mind, between man and God. The human is so largely electrically and chemically controlled, so highly animal-like in our common behavior, so emotional in our ordinary reactions, that it is exceedingly difficult for the spirit to communicate directly with the human mind.
And, unfortunately, when a spiritually growing human does find it possible to receive a communication or spiritual revelation, the person is often so blinded by the experience that it precipitates a convulsion of fanaticism or initiates some other intellectual upheaval which results disastrously. The individual may feel he is especially chosen and, as a result, many a new religion and strange "ism" has arisen from the misunderstood communications of the spirit.
If, when such an experience occurs, the mature spiritual individual understands that the message he or she receives is a normal process for a spirit-oriented soul, they can much better manage the experience. If it involves visions, likely the vision is for themselves alone and provides an insight into how to better imitate the Christ.
Rather than starting a new religion, spiritual insight can be utilized to uplift the existing house of believers. There are enough sects of Christianity, but not enough spirit-oriented Christians.
So then, while such spiritual experiences as referred to in Acts 2:17 may occur, it is not necessary in order for a person to be spirit-born. And if we are blessed with such a divine communication, let us use that insight, not for self-aggrandizement, but to uplift ourselves and our brothers as sons of God and as ambassadors of Christ.
♦ 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4 (the Manifestation and Final Sealing)
On February 26, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“Something I cannot find the answer. 2 Timothy 4:8. 1 Peter 5:4. Manifestation, it will happen during the final sealing? What do you think about it? Paul had [been] finally sealed by Jesus?” The scriptures read:
“From this time on there is reserved for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day, yet not only to me, but also to all those who have loved his manifestation.” – 2 Timothy 4:8
“And when the chief shepherd has been made manifest, you shall receive the unfadable crown of glory.” – 1 Peter 5:4
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. You are diligently searching the scriptures for understanding and that is highly commendable. We encourage you to continue, all the while praying for understanding so that your spirit will recognize truth. With that in mind, here is our response:
“Manifest” and/or “manifestation” is used as common speech in the scriptures and, as such, it has various meanings depending upon the context.
In 2 Timothy 4:8, the context refers to the time Jesus walked the earth – when he appeared before men and revealed himself as the Son of Man and the Son of God – but only as vicegerent of the Kingdom. In 1 Peter 5:4, it refers to a future time when the glorified Jesus will reveal himself, not as vicegerent, but as one who has been fully inaugurated as a result of the life he led on earth.
Notice how Paul explains this:
“Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake. For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:5-11
Prior to his bestowal mission on earth, the Son of God was “appointed” as king of the kingdom – “existing in God’s form.” And although having legal authority to act fully in that capacity, he chose to wait until he had “earned” his right – “a superior position” – after he completed the bestowal assignment. Shortly before his death, he prayed:
“I have glorified you on the earth having finished the work you have given me to do. So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” – John 17:4-5
As of the time of Peter’s writing in 1 Peter 5:4, Jesus had received that glory, but our being able to see it for ourselves – the manifestation – it is for a future time.
As to your question of whether Paul had been finally sealed, we do not know. That is between Paul, the Christ and the Father. We believe our focus should be on our own sealing, making our own calling sure (2 Peter 1:10), and then on our work as ambassadors substituting for Christ assisting others to be reconciled to God.
We hope we have satisfactorily responded to your inquiry.
♦ 1 Corinthians 15:52; Matthew 24:30,31 (Incorruption and the Last Trumpet)
On February 29, 2012, we received the following comment:
“Can you explain this. In 1 Corinthians 15:52 Paul writes, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet Shall Sound, and the dead Shall be raised incorruptible, and we Shall be changed. But in Matthew 24:30,31 it is written, And then Shall Appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: And Then Shall all the tribes of the earth Mourne, and They Shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he Shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and They Shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Is this the last trumpet?"
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry; however, we have difficulty providing an appropriate response. The problem is that many of us have a limited perspective of the expansiveness of the Kingdom of the Heavens. We tend to apply every scripture in the context of its relation to the earthly realm and activities occurring thereon, when, in fact, many of the scriptures pertaining to prophesy and future events occurred, occur and/or will occur in the context of the heavens and heavenly activities. The two scriptures you refer to are two such scriptures.
Rather than providing a direct response, we think it best to pose some questions for you to ponder.
What transformative powers do you suppose occur in connection with mortal death? Are you of the opinion that all errors and deficiencies of personality are instantaneously corrected with the death of a person such that upon their resurrection, they are perfect and incorruptible? The Bible does tell us that at death, sins are paid for. But does that mean we are perfected simply by dying? Or could it be that there are other and further lessons and experiences we must go through before we attain to incorruption? Is it possible that these scriptures are discussing ultimate outcomes, not immediate outcomes? Remember, the Apostle Paul spoke of “the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2) Is it possible that we must ascend through three or more heavens before we attain to incorruption?
Also, please notice that the ‘elect’ or 'chosen ones' are gathered, not from one end of the earth to the other, but ‘from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.’ This scripture is referring to events occurring in a heavenly context.
As for the last trumpet, we simply do not know when that will occur. But we are confident that whenever it does occur, all those ‘seeking first the kingdom’ will find themselves on the favorable side of events. A son of God need not fear or be overanxious over anything having to do with his Father’s work.
We find ourselves in a similar quandary as did the apostle Paul who became aware of heavenly things but found it difficult to express them. At 2 Corinthians 12:1-7, Paul stated:
“I have to boast. It is not beneficial; but I shall pass on to supernatural visions and revelations of [the] Lord. I know a man in union with Christ who, fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught away as such to the third heaven. Yes, I know such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows— that he was caught away into paradise and heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak. Over such a man I will boast, but I will not boast over myself, except as respects [my] weaknesses. For if I ever do want to boast, I shall not be unreasonable, for I shall say the truth. But I abstain, in order that no one should put to my credit more than what he sees I am or he hears from me, just because of the excess of the revelations.” – 2 Corinthians 12:1-7
We are not claiming to have had ‘supernatural visions.’ But these expressions of Paul certainly expand our personal spiritual context and our expectation of what the Father has in store for us in the heavens! (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Rather than pursue what may be “unutterable” or what may cause stumbling to those not prepared for spiritual things (John 3:9-12), we simply urge you to focus on imitating the Christ to the best of your ability. You may find encouragement in Letter No. 3 of our series on “Ambassadors Substituting for Christ.”
We also urge you to continue praying for the spirit of truth to guide you, as Jesus explained to his apostles:
“I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth, for he will speak not of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming.” – John 16:12-13
We are reminded of a saying: “The fastest way to be a butterfly, is to be the best caterpillar you can be.” We pass that saying on to you and to all our brothers and sisters in the faith.
♦ Can you explain Mark 8:38? (When the Son of Man arrives)
On March 5, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“Can you explain Mark 8:38. For whoever becomes ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when he arrives in the glory of the Father with the holy angels.”
To the author, we thank you for visiting the site and submitting your inquiry; however, we are not clear on what it is you are asking. To us, the scripture appears rather straightforward and not in need of further explanation. On the other hand, if your question is not ‘what does this mean,’ but rather ‘when will this occur,’ our response is: we do not know. Nevertheless, your inquiry provides us with an opportunity to address a very important subject that we believe will be helpful to the entire Body. With that spirit in mind, here is our response:
We are finding that many of our brothers and sisters are very concerned about future events. They are perhaps thinking of Jesus’ admonition:
“Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.” – Luke 21:36
or the parable of the ten virgins, where we are counseled:
“Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.” – Matthew 25:13
It is commendable that we are taking this counsel to heart, but we want to be careful not to turn our wakefulness into negativism – what we should avoid – as opposed to positivism – what we can actively do.
If we elect positivism, we will be focused on doing the work the Christ set out for us, namely serving as ambassadors. (See our series of articles “Ambassadors Substituting for Christ” for a discussion of this work.) Whereas, if we elect negativism, we will be in fearful expectation and worried about what might happen, much like the “sluggish slave” spoken of in the parable of the Talents at Matthew 25:14-30. We encourage you to read that account.
The “sluggish slave” buried the one talent he was given in the ground and waited in fearful expectation of his master’s return. His excuse was that he ‘knew his master to be an exacting man.’ And true to his negative expectation, and in harmony with his fearful inaction, his master was displeased, and the slave suffered.
The other two slaves were called “good and faithful slaves” because they “immediately” went to work increasing the master’s interests. These faithful slaves were not fearful of their master’s return. They did, in fact, ‘know him’ as the joyful master that he was.
It appears to us that neither were the faithful slaves worried about the timing of their master’s return, for whenever he would return, the master would receive an increase. In fact, the longer the master was delayed, the greater the increase. And true to their expectation, and in harmony with their industrious action, their master was pleased with their results and so welcomed them into his “joy.”
This is a lesson for us, namely, let us not be worried about when the master will return. And let us not worry about what will happen to “sluggish slaves,” for what has that to do with us who are industrious and faithful?
We take the counsel of positivism suggested by Paul and Timothy:
“Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” – Philippians 4:8
We let go of anxiety as counseled by our Master:
“Keep on, then seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to you. So, never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.” – Matthew 7:33-34
And we live our lives in joyful expectation of our Master’s return –whenever that day arrives. Notwithstanding the above, if we have not satisfactorily answered your question, please write to us again.
♦ What is the oil of the lamp Matthew 25:4, and what are the talents 25:15.
On March 22, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“What is the oil of the lamp Matthew 25:4, and what are the talents 25:15.”
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. It appears that you are diligently searching Jesus’ words for understanding. That is commendable. However, there is need for some caution when we are looking at parables. Let’s first consider what a parable is and how Jesus used them, as well as what a parable is not.
A parable as used by Jesus was a method of teaching a multitude of people of varying intellects and temperaments. It is hard to speak different words for each class of hearer, but you can tell a story to convey your teaching and each group, even each individual, will be able to make his own interpretation in accordance with his or her own intellectual and spiritual endowments.
Parables stimulate the imagination, challenge the discrimination and provoke critical thinking. They promote sympathy without arousing antagonism and they evade much prejudice, putting new truth gracefully into the mind, all without provoking self-defense or personal resentment. They enable the teacher to present new and even startling truths while at the same time largely avoiding all controversy and outward clashing with tradition and established authority. Thus, parables are an effective teaching tool, but not expressions of direct truth.
And although parables are often confused with allegories, all parables are not allegorical. Allegories are stories where each feature has some hidden meaning. And when we seek to interpret an allegory, we give a precise meaning to each element. It is important to understand that Jesus did not give allegories; he gave parables.
Nevertheless, when we are interpreting parables for the purpose of making some specific point, we are allowed to “allegorize” them, but we must understanding that the interpretation we give is only instructive – not absolute truth.
For example, in Letter No. 4 and Letter No. 5 in “The Seven Letters to the Seven Congregation” we used two parables, and presented them in an allegorical fashion. We made the point Jesus was intending to convey without greatly offending anyone. The interpretation illustrated the need for all anointed Christians to accept their brothers. That was the point of the parable and the audience we were writing to understood that point and, we are told, gained a great deal of benefit from it. Now, with that in mind, let’s address your question.
Because “oil” is a common word and “talent” as used in Bible times referred to a monetary unit, we suspect you are asking us how are we to interpret those terms as utilized in the parables. Keeping in mind what we explained above about the purpose and use of parables, we will first show you what is the purpose of the parable – the lesson Jesus was teaching. The parable reads:
“Then the kingdom of the heavens will become like ten virgins that took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were discreet. For the foolish took their lamps but took no oil with them, whereas the discreet took oil in their receptacles with their lamps. While the bridegroom was delaying, they all nodded and went to sleep. Right in the middle of the night there arose a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Be on you way out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and put their lamps in order. The foolish said to the discreet, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are about to go out.’ The discreet answered with the words, ‘Perhaps there may not be quite enough for us and you. Be on your way, instead, to those who sell it and buy for yourselves.’ While they were going off to buy, the bridegroom arrived, and the virgins that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterwards the rest of the virgins also came, saying, ‘Sir, sir, open to us!’ In answer he said, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you.’ “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.” – Matthew 25:1-14
The lesson Jesus was teaching is set forth in the last verse: stay watchful and do not serve God based on a prescribed day or hour because we do not know when the day or the hour we are waiting for will arrive. According to the Bible, that is what Jesus was teaching – watchfulness and readiness.
Now, if we chose to, we can attempt to “allegorize” the parable and give a title to the five discreet virgins, the five foolish virgins, the oil, the receptacles, the lamps, the bridegroom, the night crier, those who sell oil, the marriage feast, and the shut door. It might be an entertaining and instructive endeavor or it might became a complicated and misguided debacle. Some parables are simply not suitable to be “allegorized.” This may be one of them.
Remember, our challenge as Christians is to get to know Jesus, get to understand what he believed, imitate him, and do the work he commissioned. As you read the parable, what do you think Jesus was trying to tell YOU? If the word “oil” stands out in your mind, contemplate that and remain watchful and ready. If the word “virgin” stands out in your mind, contemplate that and remain watchful and ready. If the word “lamp” stands out in your mind, contemplate that and remain watchful and ready, etc.
As to the next parable you referred to in Matthew 25:14-30 of the “talents” we direct you to our response in Question and Response March 5, 2012. We did not therein attempt to “allegorize” the parable in all its features, but we were able to glean important and instructive information. We saw the lesson to be: Whatever asset you have that can be used in the Father’s service, use it and be diligent about doing so, because failure to do so will result in great disappointment to you and your future hopes. Notice how this is explained in verse 29 and 30:
“For to everyone that has, more will be given and he will have abundance; but as for him that does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw the good-for-nothing slave out into the darkness outside. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be.’” – Matthew 25:29-30
Our point is to not screen the gnats, but to focus on the big picture. When considering any parable, try to discern the lesson Jesus was teaching. Engage yourself in the exciting and fulfilling adventure of spiritual insight and growth rather than mere theological understanding.
If you would like more clarification on this issue, please feel free to write again.
♦ How do you explain 2 Corinthians 1:22
On March 23, 2012, we received an unusual comment:
The author described what appears to be a personal spiritual experience and wanted to know if others have experienced the same or a similar thing. We elect not to describe the experience for the sake of privacy and to avoid undue influence upon others. But we do feel we can sufficiently respond to his or her inquiry and at the same time make a point that may be of benefit to the entire Body.
In our Questions and Response for February 25, 2012, we posted a response to an inquiry about whether anointed Christians have visions today. We explained that it is certainly possible. The spirit of truth does indeed seek to communicate with us, and in spite of the vast difference between the spiritual mind and the human mind, on occasions it meets with a measure of success – even if the communication is a bit jumbled in the translation.
We should also keep in mind that God is not partial. (Acts 10:34) He spoke with men and women of earlier times as reflected in the Hebrew scriptures, so why would he keep silent in our generation? If God is not partial to man, neither is he partial to a generation.
We should note, in terms of why there appears to be more communication in earlier times, that the people of those days who are said to have had those types of visitations were very personally conscious of God. We suspect that, on occasion, the messages were likewise somewhat jumbled, as evidenced by the sometimes misunderstanding about the loving nature of the Father. (See our article “Revealing the Awe Inspiriting Father of All”). Nevertheless, the hearer or viewer managed to translate something of value out of the experience.
Today, we have a different atmosphere. People who do not understand the unity of true science and true religion, and persons with an overly sensitive fear of the spirit world (notwithstanding that the Father and the Christ are spirits) ridicule authentic spiritual experiences. So, persons having such experiences dismiss them, ignore them, falsely define them and, in effect, shut the door to them. It is no surprise, therefore, that there would be fewer reported incidents of genuine spirit communications.
We are inclined to believe the author of this inquiry is somewhat wary of sharing his or her experience openly, but feels a measure of confidence here because it can be addressed in anonymity. And we are respecting that anonymity by refraining from expressing the nature of the experience. But we want the author to know that whether others have had your experience is not a determination of its value or validity. If the spirit is trying to communicate with you, it is likely for you and you alone. So, how are you to interpret it?
We learned some time ago that the spirit works by stimulating what is already present in your own mind. He is called the “helper” not the “originator.”
“But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.” – John 14:26
So, if you have a limited mental storehouse of spiritual information, the communication will likewise be limited. For example, if one does not know all the alphabets, there would be many words that could not be spoken to you or understood by you. It is the same with the spirit. When a communication is attempted, the receiver may only get one or two of the ideas and not the complete message because the receiver has not developed a sufficient spiritual vocabulary. When trying to translate the message, it appears cryptic and makes little sense. Thus, any attempt to understand it will be flawed or, at the very least, thwarted. This is one reason why we advocate regular and persistent study and prayer.
“How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern. Wiser than my enemies your commandment makes me, Because to time indefinite it is mine. More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, because your reminders are a concern to me. With more understanding than older men I behave, because I have observed your own orders.” – Psalms 119:97-100
If you are privileged with a spirit communication, keep in mind that it is based on the information you have already taken in and is therefore likely to be for your own edification. As such, there is no need for outside verification, confirmation, or validation. It is of no consequence whether others have shared the experience.
It is your own sublime adventure to understand its meaning by combining the spiritual images you receive with your own pre-existing spiritual words. No one can translate it for you. The Apostle Paul explains this process for us:
“For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man that is in him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God. Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. These things we also speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by [the] spirit, as we combine spiritual [matters] with spiritual [words].” – 1 Corinthians 2:11-13
Paul also explains to us the problem with attempting an interpretation of a spirit revelation without understanding how it works:
“But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know [them], because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. For “who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?” But we do have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
And, to bring the matter full circle, we gain the mind of Christ by means of the spirit of truth:
“However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.” – John 16:13-14
Having explained how spirit revelation and communication works, we caution you to be aware that we can sometimes deceive ourselves into believing that ideas that originate in our own minds are actually spirit communications. In spite of our scientific advancements, there is so much about the human mind and its workings that remain a mystery. All the more reason to apply any such insights to our own lives rather than ‘shouting them from the rooftops.’ And if they are indeed spirit leadings, they will ALWAYS manifest itself in the glory of the Father and the Christ. That is the ONLY work undertaken by the spirit of truth.
To the author of the inquiry, we urge you to examine your experience for a personal message that would lead you to a closer and deeper fellowship with the Christ. Your description contains some imagery. Ask yourself what that imagery means to you and your pursuit of the Kingdom and spiritual things. If you cannot make that connection, you may wish to set the matter aside until your spiritual vocabulary is sufficient enough to comprehend the message. Otherwise, you may find yourself heading in a dark and unprofitable direction.
We hope we have provided you with enough information to help you resolve this matter between you, the Father and the Christ. And may the Father’s peace remain with you always.
♦ What do you think of Luke 21:8, it is incorrect to say that the end is near?
On March 29, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“What do you think of Luke 21:8, it is incorrect to say that the end is near?
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. The scripture you are referring to states:
“He said: “Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The due time has approached.’ Do not go after them.” – Luke 21:8
In response to your question, we want you to understand that the “end” is ALWAYS near – our physical lives can terminate at any time and without any warning. For that reason, we are counseled to serve out of love – love for God, love for Christ and love for truth – not out of fear of the end of a “system of things.”
When our service to God is based on a concern about when the end of a system of things will come, when that time does not arrive as expected, it can crush us and leave us without hope. Perhaps you have seen this happen.
As for the scripture you refer to, please note that the persons doing the misleading are the very ones saying ‘The due time has approached’ and asserting it as though it came from Jesus himself. This is the reason we NEVER speculate as to when an “end” will come. And for those who find themselves as speculators or victims of such speculation, we caution you, as does the scripture, to neither mislead nor be misled. But rather be patient, and a source of encouragement, not “town criers” frightening people into ‘the Truth.’
We can save ourselves and our brothers from that folly by focusing our attention on imitating the faith of Jesus and doing the work he has commissioned us to do. Remember the parable of the “faithful slaves” who concerned themselves with increasing the Master’s interests not being fearful of his return. (Matthew 25:14-30) See also our Questions and Responses March 5, 2012 and our series of articles under “Ambassadors Substituting for Christ.”
If we do these things, whenever the “end” comes, we may be found “spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Peter 3:14)
Peace to you.
♦ In Matthew 24:49, what does it mean to “beat his fellow the slaves?”
On May 1, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“It's something I do not understand, read Matthew 24:49. What does it mean to beat his fellow slaves? and what it means to eat and drink with the drinkers?”
To the author, thank you for this inquiry and the opportunity to discuss this very important scriptural reference. There has been so many misunderstandings and misstatements about what this scripture means. We feel honored to defend the teaching of Jesus Christ in this matter. The scripture you refer to says:
“and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards” – Matthew 24:49
It is part of a discourse by Jesus where he responds to a question from this disciples:
“Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” – Matthew 24:3
In response, Jesus tells them many things to look for and warned them to keep on the watch because the “Son of man” would arrive at a time when they are not expecting him. (Matthew 24:4-44)
Then, Jesus used a parable about not tiring out, which includes the scriptural reference you are concerned with. As a preliminary matter, please understand that this is not a prophesy. It is a parable. It is not a statement about what will occur in the future. It is an example of two different attitudes that might arise as we wait for the master’s return. Here is the first attitude:
“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” –Matthew 24:45-47
And here is the second attitude:
“But if ever that evil slave should say in his heart, ‘My master is delaying,’ and should start to beat his fellow slaves and should eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and in an hour that he does not know, and will punish him with the greatest severity and will assign him his part with the hypocrites. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be.” – Matthew 24:48-51
In the parallel scripture in Luke, we learn that the apostle Peter asked a question that is not contained in Matthew’s account:
“Then Peter said: “Lord, are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?” And the Lord said: “Who really is the faithful steward, the discreet one, whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time?” – Luke 12:41-42
And in the parallel scripture in Mark, we learn the answer:
“But what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.” – Mark 13:37
So, we learn from this parable that it is possible that some of Jesus’ disciples would be faithfully at work caring for the household; and that some, who began faithful, could grow impatient and instead of caring for the household, would begin beating them into submission.
It reminds us of the illustration of a babysitter who was entrusted with caring for a child. The sitter did well at first, but as the night grew on and the parents were delayed, the sitter grew tired and impatient for the parent’s return. When the child became restless and started crying, instead of checking for a wet diaper, providing food or drink, cuddling the child, or seeking some way to comfort the child, the sitter began yelling and eventually beating the child in an effort to ‘shut him up.’ To the sitter, he had worked all night and done enough. It was time for the parents to come home and care for their own child. All he could see to do was to use physical force to beat the child to submission.
In Jesus’ parable, the once faithful slave went so far as to “eat and drink with the confirmed drunkards.” This was not a case of sharing a meal with sinners in an effort to preach the good news as Jesus often did; but of ‘partying’ and having a sharing with persons who had no intention of repenting – confirmed drunkards.
Thus, we believe the message of the parable is: Don’t grow tired of doing the work Jesus set out for us to do. Don’t turn our backs and become involved in matters that detract and distract from the Kingdom message. Don’t reject the sincere cries for help from our brothers. Don’t fail to provide comfort to one another. And don’t become impatient with one another.
Overall, the parable is telling us to continue providing spiritual food to one another at the proper time (Matthew 24:45) which is the uplifting message of the Kingdom as Jesus’ taught it – the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. The admonition is not for just a few of us. ‘What he says, he says to us all.’ (Mark 13:37)
♦ Matthew 24:30-31: What does heaven’s extremities mean? Aren’t the elect on earth when this happens?
On July 22, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
I have a question. in Matthew 24, 30-31 it is written the angels will gather the elect from the ends of heaven. what does heaven outer end mean? is not the elect on earth when this happens.”
Thank you for your inquiry. The scripture you refer to states:
“And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” – Matthew 24:30-31
We previously posted a response to a question similar to your second one: “Is not the elect on earth when this happens?” Please see response of February 29, 2012. We believe the scripture means that Christ will gather his “chosen ones” to himself from wherever they are located – whether that be in heaven or earth. We base that belief on Paul’s words to the Ephesians:
“This he caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and good sense, in that he made known to us the sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” – Ephesians 1:8-10
Nevertheless, if we take a literal interpretation of the scripture, it appears the “chosen ones” will be located in heaven. If you are asking whether heaven has an outer end, we would need to consider what has been discovered by scientists who study the cosmos. They tell us that the universe is ever-expanding. That means to us that there is an outer end, but it is always changing and extending further out.
We hope that answers your questions.
♦ Comment from a visitor who believes the Christian Greek Scriptures are primarily to only 144,000 people directed.
On July 29, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“The Christian Greek Scriptures were written to various churches in the first century, and those who received the letters looked at them as special letters addressed to themself. So, we must understand that when we say that the Christian Greek Scriptures are written to the 144,000 anointed Christians, we understand the letters in a different way. They were directed to the anointed Christians.
“Revelation has its fulfillment in the day to the lord Jesus Christ, which began in 1914, where we read of the great multitude who have an earthly hope. They also need the Christian Greek Scriptures.”
To the author, we thank you for posting your comments. It appears that you are new to the site and have not had an opportunity to read many of the articles. We believe if you do so, you will be enlightened and encouraged.
We do agree that the Christian Greek Scriptures are needed by those who have an “earthly hope.” They need to read those scriptures so they will know what their true hope is, namely everlasting life in the heavens, for they, too, are among the anointed – they just don’t know it yet.
But let’s be frank, and very clear. Isn’t it true that, aside from the gospels, the book of Acts and the book of Revelation, the Christians Greek Scriptures were written to the Christians in first century? Romans was written to the congregation in Rome, Galatians was written to the congregation in Galatia, Colossians was written to the congregation in Colossae, and so forth. So really, in the truest sense of the words, the Christian Greek Scriptures were NOT written to modern day Christians. But anyone who reads the writings are benefitted because they contain the most widely available record of Jesus and his teachings, and of how his audience understood him.
These same teachings were handed down from century to century, from generation to generation with the same hope being held out to all – the heavenly hope. As Paul wrote:
“I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.” –Philippians 3:14-15
In fact, Jesus commissioned his first century apostles and disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom as he taught it and exemplified it. And that message was to continue, unchanged, “until the conclusion of the system of things.”
“And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: ‘All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” –Matthew 28:18-20
No authority has been given to change the message. In fact, the Christian Greek Scriptures contain a specific warning against changing the message of Jesus:
“However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed. As we have said above, I also now say again, Whoever it is that is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:8-9
So, isn’t it time to drop the self-appointed theories of superiority and favoritism of 144,000 people over the billions of mankind who have sought and served the God over the past millenniums? Isn’t it time to humble ourselves and accept all men as our brothers? Isn’t it time to admit that we have misunderstood the Revelation, rather than arrogantly challenge the clear and plain teachings of Jesus and the apostles that we are all brothers with a heavenly hope in view? (Matthew 23:8-9; Galatians 3:26; Colossians 3:14-15)
Rather than reiterate what we have already published, we direct your attention to the following articles on the Christian hope: “The Cherished Earthly Hope,” “Moving Forward in Faith,” “Who are Led by Spirit?” and “Foreordained from the Founding of the World.” These articles will address your comments far more fully than we can in this section.
If, after reading the articles, you still hold the view only 144,000 are sons of God, that only 144,000 have a special relationship to the Christian Greek Scriptures, and that only 144,000 have the hope of going to heaven, then please write us again letting us know where you believe we err. Thank you again for your posting.
♦ Matthew 7:21-23: Why do some sons of God not come in the kingdom of heaven.
On July 29, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“You write that all who believe in Jesus are the sons of God. But can you explain Matthew 7:21-23? Why do they not come in the kingdom of heaven.”
To the author, thank you for your inquiry. The answer to your question is found right within the context of the writing. In fact, most times, when we are puzzled by the meaning of a scripture, a review of the context will solve the puzzle. When we take that path, then we will not need anyone to be teaching us. (1 John 2:27) But, since you posed the question, we will take a look at the context with you.
The scripture you refer to states:
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” – Matthew 7:21-23
Notice, the answer to your question is contained right within the verse. Those who are calling on Jesus’ name, and prophesying and performing powerful works were not doing the will of the Father. The works they were doing were fine and may have benefitted many. But they did not benefit those who were doing the works because their motives were not correct. Notice the preceding verses:
“Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those [men].” – Matthew 7:15-20
Jesus’ words at verses 21-23 were directed at false prophets who were apparently performing powerful works. But their motives, their inside, the fruits they manifested, were worthless. They were not manifesting the fruits of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We learn that unless our motives are correct, and the works we are doing are done to honor the Father, and not ourselves, we will not find ourselves in the kingdom of the heavens. And, yes, that applies to sons of God.
We need to dispel the misconception that all sons of God will be saved. That simply is not true. We need only look to the disobedient angels who were also sons of God. (Genesis 6:1-2) Yet, their status as sons does not save them from the judgment reserved for them.
“And the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.”– Jude 6
Likewise, men who are designated as sons of God must act likes sons of God to the best of their ability. (Matthew 5:48) We cannot take our position as sons for granted and presume on God’s mercy.
“Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.” – 1 Peter 2:16
While we are indeed free sons of God, we are told to behave in a manner that acknowledges our Father’s superior authority. With sonship comes responsibility. But not all who are sons of God will heed this counsel. Like the disobedient angelic sons of God, many human sons of God will find themselves in judgment.
As we reflect on Jesus’ words, we should take away the lesson which is “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) If the human sons of God heed this counsel, they will have nothing to worry about. They will be serving their brothers and will, indeed, gain entry into the kingdom of the heavens.
We hope this adequately answers your question.
♦ Visitor believes the article The Reality of the Earthy Hope contradicts with the Bible (1 Corinthians 4:6)
On September 1, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“I can agree with the contents of your letter No. 1 and The Assumed Earthly Hope. However, The Reality of the Earthly Hope and The Real Hope for Life on Earth contain some assumptions based on speculation in contradiction of 1 Cor. 4:6.
For example, you refer to Ezekiel 39 without citation, as though these post-Armageddon activities will be literal. However, we do not know the degree of literalness these events will have. Your comments on the few saved vs. the many destroyed at Armageddon are contradicted by 1 Pet.3:20; Mt. 24:37-39; 7;13,14. Your questioning the potential for happiness of some Armageddon survivors is contradicted by Ps. 37:11; 145:16; 2 Pt. 3:13; Rev. 21:4. Please see also Is. 55:8,9; Jer. 10:23; Gen 3:5 in reference to your speculation.”
First, we want to thank you for your email. You could just as easily have clicked away from our site, so we appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. We are happy to respond; however, our response is rather lengthy so please bear with us.
We expect the series of articles on the Cherished Earthly Hope to evoke some responses from people who are convinced that everlasting life on earth is the Father’s purpose for obedient mankind. Yet, in the article The Reality of the Earthly Hope, we have been careful to stick closely to what the Society teaches. And we agree that most of what the Society teaches about life on earth under the “new order” is speculative and that they have gone “beyond the things that are written” as Paul stated:
“Now, brothers, these things I have transferred so as to apply to myself and Apollos for your good, that in our case you may learn the [rule]: “Do not go beyond the things that are written,” in order that you may not be puffed up individually in favor of the one against the other.” – 1 Corinthians 4:6
So, if your concern is that the Society has gone beyond what is written, then we agree with you. That really is the point we are making in the article series. The earthly hope as the Society teaches is based on assumptions and speculation.
Now, as a rule, we have no problem with speculation. Speculation and assumptions are often the first steps toward finding new information. We publish a few articles speculating about what heavenly life might be like. (See The Glorious Heavenly Hope.) But, we make it clear that we are speculating and not teaching doctrine. Our readers are free to indulge in such speculations with us if they chose, or to formulate their own idea, or dismiss them entirely. Really, we see no other way to apply the scripture to ‘keep our minds fixed on the things above’ (Colossians 3:1-2) unless we use our God-given imaginations and speculate.
The problem arises when speculations and assumptions are taught as doctrine such that those who disagree with the speculations are considered apostates. That is a matter the Society needs to consider and, in our opinion, humbly back away from. They can continue to hold onto their ideas about eternal earthly life, but we believe they should refrain from disfellowshipping those who do not agree with their speculations.
But if your complaint is that we have ‘gone beyond’ the things the Society teaches (that are beyond the things that are written in the Bible), please let us know what that extra information is. We do not want to add to the Society’s assumptions and speculations, and we will promptly correct any information that misrepresents what the Society actually teaches.
You identify one such complaint when you say “For example, you refer to Ezekiel 39 without citation, as though these post-Armageddon activities will be literal. However, we do not know the degree of literalness these events will have.” Please know that these speculations do not originate from us. These are the teachings of the Society where they specifically cite to Ezekiel 39:11, 17-20. I will provide a quote from the book, Revelation Its Grand Climax at Hand!, at page 285, paragraphs 20-21. It is a lengthy quote, but I believe it is necessary in order to show where these ideas originate:
“In Ezekiel’s vision, after the destruction of Gog’s crowd, the birds and the wild animals are invited to a feast! They rid the landscape of carcasses by eating the dead bodies of Jehovah’s enemies. (Ezekiel 39:11, 17-20) John’s next words bring that earlier prophecy vividly to mind: “I saw also an angle standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice and said to all the birds that fly in midheaven: ‘Come here, be gathered together to the great evening meal of God, that you may eat the fleshy parts of kings and the fleshy parts of military commanders and the fleshy parts of strong men and the fleshy parts of horses and of those seated upon them, and the fleshy parts of all, of freemen as well as of slaves and of small ones and great.’” – Revelation 19:17-18
The angel is “standing in the sun,” a commanding position for attracting the attention of the birds. He invites them to be ready to gorge themselves on the flesh of those about to be slain by the Warrior-King and his heavenly armies. The fact that the dead are to be left on the surface of the ground indicates that they will die in public shame. Like Jezebel of old, they will not have an honorable burial. (2 Kings 9:36,37) The list of those whose corpses would be left lying there shows the range of the destruction: kings, military commanders, strong men, freemen, and slaves. No exceptions. Every last trace of the rebellious word in opposition to Jehovah will be eliminated. After this, there will no more be a restless sea of confused humans. (Revelation 21:1) This is “the great evening meal of God” since it is Jehovah who invites the birds to share therein.”
So, you can see that the Society views the Ezekiel prophesy as a literal part of the post-Armageddon experience. That is what the article was explaining. We, however, agree with you that we do not know if it is literal. In fact, we are more inclined to believe that it is not literal. But whatever one believes, it is speculation at this point. We hope the Society realizes that those who disagree with it being literal should not be chastised or shunned.
Next, you state: “Your comments on the few saved vs. the many destroyed at Armageddon are contradicted by 1 Pet.3:20; Mt. 24:37-39; 7;13,14.” What we said in the article, The Real Hope for Live on Earth is that “we doubt that a loving Father would destroy 7 billion people in favor of just 7 million.” We stand firmly by that statement. We do not believe that only the 7 million or so Jehovah’s Witness are the only ones that will be saved, as the Society teaches. Neither do the scriptures you cite support that idea. Let’s look at those scriptures:
“[w]ho had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.” – 1 Peter 3:20
“For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” – Matthew 24:37-39 - 37
“Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
These scriptures tell us that a majority will not find the survival path. But they do not provide a formula for determining percentages or the number of those who would be saved. However, we are not inclined to believe that only Jehovah’s Witnesses will find it – especially since 99.85% of Jehovah’s Witnesses actually reject Jesus as their elder brother and joint heir, reject membership in the body of Christ, and reject God as their personal heavenly Father. While we do believe that the road leading to life is narrow, we also believe it is wide enough for all who choose life, including all Jehovah’s Witnesses who accept their relationship to the Father in the way that Jesus taught. So, the article is not at all in conflict with these scriptures.
You also state: Your questioning the potential for happiness of some Armageddon survivors is contradicted by Ps. 37:11; 145:16; 2 Pt. 3:13; Rev. 21:4. Dear brother, we do not question the happiness of some Armageddon survivors. We question the eternal happiness of some Armageddon survivors under the scenario presented by the Society. The scriptures you refer to clearly show that people will be happy on earth.
“But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” –Psalms 37:11
“You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” – Psalms 145:16
“But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” – 2 Peter 3:13
“And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
As the article The Real Hope for Earth explains, we believe that the earth will someday be a happy paradise-like place. But we do not believe that earth is faithful man’s final destination. As Paul explained, if we are not seeking the heavens as our final destination, we need to have our minds readjusted:
“I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.” –Philippians 3:14-15
Finally, you state: Please see also Is. 55:8,9; Jer. 10:23; Gen 3:5 in reference to your speculation. These scriptures state:
“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
“I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” – Jeremiah 10:23
“For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” – Genesis 3:5
These scriptures apply to ALL mankind, in all nations and all walks of life, including the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yet neither of these scriptures discourage us from using our God-given imagination to bask in eternal possibilities. They are simply reminders that we cannot know all that the Father knows, and we cannot teach as doctrine mere commands and speculations of men. As Jesus stated:
“You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” – Matthew 15:7-9
We do not do that. When we speculate, we openly reveal that we are speculating. We encourage the Society to do the same.
Having now addressed your concerns, we wonder whether you believe that the hope for the majority of obedient mankind is eternal life on earth.
As we have shown in numerous articles, each with significant scriptural support, it is the Father’s will that all of his obedient children be gathered to him in the Heavens. (See Who Are Led by Spirit?, Moving Forward in Faith, Hold Fast to the Sacred Secret, Freedom of the Children of God, Being Born of Spirit, and Foreordained From the Founding of the World to name a few.)
The teaching that millions will live forever on earth is a teaching that arose 1900 years after Jesus. No Christian Bible writer taught Christians to pursue life on earth. To the contrary, all the writings tell us to leave the earthly things behind and pursue the upward call. Notice these verses:
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be dissolved, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. For in this dwelling house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven.” – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
“Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on [it]; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead. I am pursuing down toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.” – Philippians 3:13-15
“For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ, and their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things of the earth. As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has, even to subject all things to himself.” – Philippians 3:18-21
“We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. This [hope] you heard of before by telling of the truth of that good news which has presented itself to you, even as it is bearing fruit and increasing in all the world just as [it is doing] also among you, from the day you heard and accurately knew the undeserved kindness of God in truth.” – Colossians 1:3-6
“If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above not on the things upon the earth.” – Colossians 3:1-2
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5
Even the writer of the Revelation did not tell us to pursue earthly things. It was only in an effort to interpret the signs of Revelation that such an idea arose. You should also note that the interpretations of the signs and symbols in Revelation have changed from generation to generation. Thus, we do not believe it is wise to base our eternal hopes on signs and symbols, especially when we have the plain and open teachings of Jesus Christ and those who listened to him, as set forth in the pages of the Christian Greek Scriptures.
The most profound scripture we can refer you to on this subject is what Jesus himself said:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me. In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you. Also, I go my way and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be. And where I am going you know the way.” – John 14:1-4
If the majority of his followers were not going to enter the heavenly abodes that he was preparing, Jesus would have told us. In all of the gospel accounts, he never did.
We hope we have addressed all your concerns, and perhaps given you food for thought. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to email us again.
♦ Visitor does not believe the Divine Spirit Fragment and the Spirit of Truth are the two witnesses that bear witness that we are sons of God pursuant 8:16
On September 17, 2012, we received an inquiry regarding the following comments that appears in the article “The Divine Spirit Fragment of the Father”:
“With the advent of Christ Jesus, and the subsequent pouring out of the spirit of truth at Pentecost, the divine fragments were activated and we understood, we knew, we were children of God. We had the testimony of two witnesses (Matthew 18:16): the divine fragment and the spirit of truth. This is what Paul meant when he said that ‘all creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.’ (Romans 8:19)”
This is the inquiry:
“I do not agree that our human spirit that was born anew, and the holy Spirit are two witnesses. The Holy Spirit bears witness to our born again Spirit that died to its union to Holy Spirit at the fall. Romans 8 talks about 2 helpers, Christ Jesus as our mediator, and perfector of our faith and the indwelling Holy Spirit aasdfs the resurrected life he died and lived to give us.
“I don't agree that the treasure in clay pots is our OWN renewed spirit, as Paul said no good dwells in me, but the resurrected life in Holy Spirit ..this is the treasure.
“Christ Jesus said he and his Father are two witnesses. 1 John 5:9-13 states besides the eyewitness accounts at Christ's baptism and death, the Father states that the Holy Spirit will be our personal witness as we believe that the eternal life is in him.”
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. You have clearly given much thought to these matters and have tried to harmonize them, without success. When this occurs, sometimes the problem is that we do not have all the facts or are lacking in some manner of clarity. Under those circumstances, a complete harmonization may have to await further study and prayer and often, the passage of time. In the meantime, we respond as follows:
Please note that nothing in the subject article identifies something as the “human spirit.” We refer to man’s indwelling spirit as the Divine Spirit Fragment of the Father. And we firmly believe the Spirit of the Father that dwells within us is good. We are certain that Paul was not contradicting that.
It appears to us that the nature of our difference in views derives from an incomplete understanding of the variety of spirit influences that converge on human nature – all of which can be referred to generically as Holy Spirit. You may wish to review the articles “The Bestowal of the Spirit of Truth” and “The Ministry of the Holy Spirit.”
If you have read those articles and continue to see a difference in our understanding, then unfortunately, there is not much more we can say at this time. A greater appreciation of these matters would have to come to you by way of revelation or further study. If that is the case, then we encourage you to pray to the Father and the Christ for a deeper understanding of the operation and nature of Holy Spirit.
In our work, we refrain from engaging in debates over general theology. Our mission is spiritual in nature, meaning that our mission is to preach and teach that we are all children of God by our faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26) Sonship with the Father is the ‘mustard seed’ that will grow into a mighty tree and provide refreshment and clarity for all. (Please see the article “The Mustard Seed.”) When we individually accept the kingdom seed, and follow Jesus’ example of faith in the Father, all other things will work themselves out – if not in this system, then in that to come. And it will be as John wrote, ‘the anointing will teach us.’ (1 John 2:27)
Until then, we will accept that your current understanding of the operation and nature of Holy Spirit differs from our own. And we respect that. Notwithstanding our differences in theology, we believe that we are united in spirit, in our love for the Father and the Christ, and in our determination to keep on seeking, asking and knocking. And for that, we are grateful.
♦ Visitor does not believe Daniel or John the Baptizer will be in heaven because they were not born again. (John 3:3; Matthew 11:11-12)
On February 21, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Dear brothers, this question is about a discussion I read on the supposed resurrection of Daniel to the heavens. I was not convinced by your explanation as a couple of crucial issues were not dealt with.
“The first is: John 3:3 - "unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." The second is: Matthew 11:11,12 - regarding John the Baptist, "...a lesser one in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is. But from the days of John the Baptist until, now the Kingdom of the heavens is the goal towards which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it".
“If we agree on what it means to be born again, born of water and spirit, namely baptism and receiving the promised holy spirit, then by the account in John, Daniel would be required to be born again in order to see the kingdom of the heavens would he not?
“Also, why is a lesser one in the Kingdom of the heavens greater than John the Baptist, when by Jesus's own admission, "among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist". Presumably, it has something to do with John not having been born again, born of water and spirit?
“I note however, that a promise of "...you will be with me in paradise" was made to a man who was not I assume born again. So is it reasonable to assume that he would see the kingdom of the heavens?
“If you could spend some of your precious time answering these questions for me I will be most grateful.”
To the author, thank you for your email and, of course, we will be happy to spend time responding to your question. We provided a response privately, but we believe it would be beneficial to our visitors if we publish our response as well.
Your first question has to do with being born again. We discuss this matter in detail in the article Being Born of Spirit. But cursorily, we will offer a few points:
Being born of spirit is an event that occurs after death. The pouring out of holy spirit while we are alive is called a ‘token’ not the actual spirit birth. Ephesians 1:13-14. Since both John the Baptizer and Daniel experienced actual physical death, they are in the proper condition to be re-born ‘of spirit’ by way of the promised resurrection. (See The Promised Resurrection.)
Being born of water is symbolic of dying to our past life and being made anew in our thinking. It is not an actual death or an actual rebirth. Romans 6:4. Again, since John the Baptizer and Daniel experienced actual physical death, they have no need of being baptized in water.
Daniel was promised a resurrection. Daniel 12:13. (See The Promised Resurrection.) The only place where people are resurrected to is the heavens.
As to John the Baptizer, Jesus did not say that John the Baptist would not be a part of the Kingdom of the Heavens. Here is what Jesus actually said:
“I tell you, Among those born of women there is none greater than John; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.”– Luke 7:28
We believe Jesus is referring to the fact that while John preached that the kingdom was near, he had no real concept of what the kingdom was. He died before Jesus began his ministry about the kingdom of the heavens. This does not mean that John would be excluded from the Kingdom, only that he would have a ‘lesser’ position in the heavenly kingdom than a ‘lesser’ one who had the benefits of Jesus’ teachings. Also, please note this scripture:
“But I tell you that many from eastern parts and western parts will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens.” – Matthew 8:11
So not only will faithful pre-Christian Jews be in the kingdom of heaven, but even men from the east and the west. Yes, all mankind is invited! We also point you to a recent article we published entitled Faith Sons and the Heavenly Hope that shows that many of the pre-Christian Jews had the heavenly hope!
As for the evildoer, Jesus promised that he would be in paradise. The only paradise ever referred to in the Bible is a heavenly paradise. (See The Promised Resurrection and What is God's Purpose for the Earth?) Thus, if Jesus could promise the heavenly paradise to an evildoer, surely faithful prophets like Daniel and John the Baptizer could receive the same reward, along with ‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and those from the eastern and western parts.’ (Matthew 8:11)
We find the best way to understand the good news of the Bible is to look at the plain and open teachings of Jesus. And if we attempt to interpret prophecy, those interpretations should be in harmony with what Jesus actually taught, rather than in conflict with, or going beyond, what Jesus taught. A fair and honest look at Jesus’ teachings shows that Jesus encouraged a heavenly hope for all. So did the Christian Bible writers. Never did any of them teach us to seek everlasting life on earth.
Also, remember, all the pre-Christian prophets prophesied about Jesus, and Paul explained that the good news would come from Jesus, not the early prophets or anyone else. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Therefore, it is error, and even arrogance, when men, proposing to be prophets 1900 years later, decide to change what Jesus and the early Bible writers taught based on their own limited comprehension of Bible prophecy. (See Proving Ourselves Worthy of the Christ.) We also note that many of the interpretations of this group of men in the early 19th century had to be changed or withdrawn many times; whereas Jesus’ teachings remain consistent and reliable, and even more so today.
We hope we have satisfactorily answered your questions. But if not, please feel free to write again.
♦ Is the great crowd of Revelation 7:9 the same as the crowd of people of Revelation 5:8-10?
On March 7, 2013, we received a comment regarding our recent article The Great Crowd of Partakers where we stated that the 144,000 are not prophesied to be the kings and priests pursuant to Revelation 5:8-10, but rather the kings and priests are said to be a great crowd, as identified in Revelation 7:9.
Here are the scriptures we were referring to:
“And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense, and the [incense] means the prayers of the holy ones. And they sing a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.’” – Revelation 5:8-10
“After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.” – Revelation 7:9
And here is what the article said:
“Here, John is told that a multi-national great crowd are the ones who would be kings and priests! How did we miss this point? How did those who developed the Doctrine of the 144,000 fail to see that the kings and priests are not the 144,000, but are really a ‘great multi-national crowd?’ This clarification makes a huge difference in the fundamental teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It reveals that the teaching that only a limited number of mankind would qualify as kings and priests is a misinterpretation – an error.
“Instead, John the Revelator tells us that those who would serve as kings and priests are unnumberable! No man is able to count the number of those who would serve as kings and priests. Doesn’t that now effect our view of who can and should participate in the Memorial Supper? And doesn’t it now effect our view of who can enter the Kingdom of the Heavens? It certainly should!
Here is the visitor’s comment:
“‘You bought persons’ [from Revelation 5:8-10] does not say ‘a great crowd.’ It could mean one person of each tribe, tongue, people and nation. In that case, the crowd is maybe great, but it is perhaps less than 144 000. It could mean a lot of people, but it is not sure that it refers to Revelations 7:9. So ‘kings and priests’ must not be the ‘great crowd.’”
To the author, thank you for your email. You make a good point. We did not mean to say that the ‘great crowd’ of Revelation 7:9 is the same group as the persons ‘out of every tribe and tongue and people and nations’ of Revelation 5:9-10. Although they could be the same. We mentioned that the group at Revelation 5:9-10 who are said to be kings and priests are an unnumbered crowd – we do not know the number.
As you said, it could be smaller than 144,000; but you must also realize that it could be quite a bit larger. It could be millions. John does not reveal the number. So, our point is that since we do not know the number of those who will be kings and priests, the Governing Body cannot use the number of 144,000 to teach that there is a limit to those who would be in the ‘covenant for a kingdom’ or who would have the heavenly hope.
At this point in our ministry, we do not attempt to interpret prophecy. So we are not trying to interpret the identity the ‘great crowd’ or the ‘144,000.’ We are simply showing that it is unwise to use the symbolic and prophetic book of Revelation to establish doctrines, especially doctrines having to do with matters of eternal salvation.
If you have any more thoughts on this matter, please feel free to write us again.
♦ Visitor shows that the number of sons of God are not limited to 144,000 (1 John 5:1 and John 1:12)
On March 14, 2013, we received the following comment:
“1 John 5:1 is a clear answer to any attempt to limit the number of the anointed: [According to the New English Translation of the Bible (NET)] ‘EVERYONE who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been fathered by God.’ Also from the NET Bible. ‘The verb gennao- here means to be fathered by God and thus a child of God. The imagery in 1 John is that of a male parent who fathers children.’ A similar thought is found at John 1:12 from the NET Bible ‘But to ALL who have received him--those who believe in his name--he has given the right to become God's children.’ CAN ANYTHING BE CLEARER!! And these words were written AFTER the book of Revelation!”
To the author, thank you for your email. We agree with you. The matter is quite clear. There is no limit to those who could be faith sons of God and thus, no limit to those who have the heavenly hope. You make an excellent point that the words in 1 John 5:1 and John 1:12 were written AFTER the book of Revelation, after John received the vision of the 144,000.
According to the book, “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., the writing of the book of Revelation was completed circa 96 C.E., whereas the writing of the books of 1 John and the Gospel According to John were both completed circa 98 C.E.
In your email, you quoted from the New English Translation of the Bible (NET). For the benefit of our visitors, we will provide a few more translations so that all can be sure of what John the Revelator himself believed as to how many believers could become sons of God.
Regarding 1 John 5:1:
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” – King James Version
“Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child.” – Revised Standard Version
“Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God, and everyone who loves the one that caused to be born loves him who has been born from that one.” – New World Translation
Regarding John 1:12:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” – King James Version
“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” – Revised Standard Version
“However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” – New World Translation
These scriptures leave no doubt that ‘all who believe’ have the power to become sons of God by virtue of their faith. Thus, anyone who attempts to limit that number is in direct conflict with the words of Jesus as recorded by John the Revelator.
Thank you again, and please continue to share your observations.
♦ Visitor asks why we refer to the Gospel Accounts as hearsay.
On May 18, 2013, we received the following email from a visitor, pertaining to an article we published entitled “Receiving Truth”:
“Three days ago I received your newsletter relative to the subject mentioned above. I’ve read that article several times. With the first part I can agree. But the conclusions that are reached at the end of the article I find very problematic. . . .In your article you say that the known 4 Gospels are not necessarily authentic. In the last 5 points accentuated you expatiate:
“1. That Jesus didn’t write down anything.
“2. That it was years after his death that his teachings were written down derived from recall and from compared notes
“3– 5. That it were rather arbitrary decisions that led to the known canon of the Christian books and that multiple translations and filterings of the material conducted to the results that are at our disposal
“There are no words about inspiration of God’s word. But only the divine inspiration imparts the certainty that we are reading true things about Jesus’ teachings. If not, how could we recognize the “plain and open” teachings of Jesus? If we cannot trust in the words of the 4 Gospels, how could we evaluate which teachings are really the teachings of Jesus and which are not? If the Gospels are not reliable, we have no chance to recognize what Jesus really was teaching.
“I think this course of action is very dangerous. Anyone could claim that he received the real truth from our Master Jesus by the spirit of truth – but no one would be able to verify this pretension. Another person could pretend any other differing statements – also “communicated” by the “spirit of truth”. Who among men would be able to attest which of the both “truths” is the right one? Surely, you can say that the “spirit of the truth” can do this. And really the spirit can. But what’s on if different persons pretend that the “spirit of the truth” revealed them the “real truth”, but these “truths” are inconsistent with one another?
“If the Word of God i.e. the Bible we have at our disposal is not sufficient to know the “plain and open” teachings of Jesus it will be too dubious for me to read more about that subject. I’m really curious about your response.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We are so pleased that you had the courage and confidence in us to frankly express your concerns. You could have considered the comments in the article to be a “deal breaker” and walked away. But you did not. Thank you as we believe many will benefit from your email. The matters you discussed deserve a full explanation which we intend to provide in the remaining articles in the Truth Symposium. Please bear with us in this regard as we believe it best to properly develop the subject matter. However, we do want to clarify in this response what we meant by the comment that the Gospel accounts are hearsay.
While we did refer to the gospel accounts as hearsay, we did not say they were unreliable or inauthentic. We recounted five (5) factual matters to show that they are hearsay. If you believe one of those factors is in error, please let us know immediately and we will correct it. But please know this: Hearsay does not mean the matter is not true.
You know this personally. When something happens to you and you tell another about it, to that other person, that experience is hearsay, even though you know it to be true. The person you told it to did not experience it firsthand, therefore all he can do is believe you or not believe you. He cannot prove to another person that it actually happened.
Hearsay only means that we know ‘about’ something by the words of another, not by our own personal experience. Hearsay information does not prove anything to the listener. A listener can believe it and accept it as true. But as followers of Christ, we are told to prove truth to ourselves. That means we must experience it firsthand.
“And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2
In harmony with this scripture, we explained that Jesus said he is ‘the truth.’ Next, we began to explain how to prove to ourselves that Jesus is indeed the truth. We suggested that we empty ourselves from previously held thoughts and beliefs and start over with a fresh perspective. We have only just begun explaining how to do this, but we can tell you, in anticipation of the remainder of the symposium, these things:
Jesus is the only one who has seen and been with the Father. He came to earth as a revealer of the Father, not by word, but by the way he lived his life. A true believer in Jesus will exercise faith and walk in Jesus’ footsteps so that he, too, can be a revealer of the Father. This is the way to know truth as provided by the Spirit of Truth. Everyone who asks, seeks and knocks for truth shall find it, and when it is given, we are to keep seeking ways to personally be a perfected example of the revealed truth as portrayed by Jesus. Each one must discover in his own heart the reality of what is truly inspired of God.
Yes, you are correct, only divine inspiration imparts the certainty. But certainty to whom? To the one who receives the divine inspiration. The gospels were written by divine inspiration:
“But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you." – John 14:26
The Spirit of Truth inspired them to write the gospels, and it gave them the conviction that what they wrote was true. Now, how does that effect you and I? Isn’t it still hearsay even though the gospel writers were themselves inspired? The writers can say “But the spirit of truth confirmed it to me!” Yet, all we can do is accept it. That mere statement is not truth. Divine inspiration is a personal possession of the individual aided by the Spirit of Truth based on that individual’s capacity to receive it. And it can and will be given to each person who asks in faith for its assistance. And when the Spirit of Truth arrives in our lives, then we, too, will have the conviction that what the gospel writers wrote is true, not by just reading it, but by living it. This is the point the Apostle John was making when he wrote:
“These things I write you about those who are trying to mislead you. And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but, as the anointing from him is teaching you about all things, and is true and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.” – 1 John 2:26-27
This divinely constituted operation of the Spirit of Truth is only problematic for those who are trying to corral and control God’s people. Resisting the Spirit’s method is what causes divisions and sects as each person tries to convince others that only their understanding is the true understanding. We should not try to force our views on others; we must let another’s ‘faith make them well,’ so to speak. (Matthew 9:22) Otherwise, it will only lead to following men. Whereas the method as authorized by Jesus requires and inspires courage. This, dear brother, is how the spiritual man is separated from the physical man. As Paul wrote:
“But a physical man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know [them], because they are examined spiritually. However, the spiritual man examines indeed all things, but he himself is not examined by any man. For “who has come to know the mind of Jehovah, that he may instruct him?” But we do have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-16
A spiritual man learns to examine things spiritually, not by reading about something, but by experiencing it. And when a person experiences something firsthand, no one – no clergyman, no deceiver, no self-appointed leader – can convince him otherwise. Such a person is solid in their faith and can then put his attention on serving his brother rather than on vacillating from one idea to another. Such a person becomes a competent, not a hearsay, witness of Jesus. We know of what we speak.
We will be writing more on this subject as we continue with the Truth Symposium. But we want to develop it properly or at least in the best way we can. So please stay tuned. We have a great deal more to share. And thank you again for your email.
♦ How do you understand Matthew 27:52-53? (the mass resurrection)
On July 28, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Do you have a thought on Matthew 27:52 and 53? As a Witness I never saw this.”
To the author, thank you for your email. It is not our intention to answer every question one may have about the Bible. We like to focus our ministry on matters of sonship with God, the brotherhood of man, and the heavenly hope. However, the scriptures you refer to have a bearing on things heavenly so we will provide our thoughts.
Let’s look at the scriptures you refer to in context. Here is what they state:
“Again Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up [his] spirit. And, look! the curtain of the sanctuary was rent in two, from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rock-masses were split. And the memorial tombs were opened and many bodies of the holy ones that had fallen asleep were raised up, (and persons, coming out from among the memorial tombs after his being raised up, entered into the holy city,) and they became visible to many people. But the army officer and those with him watching over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things happening, grew very much afraid, saying: “Certainly this was God’s Son.” - Matthew 27:50-54
We can see how these verses raise many perplexing questions. They seem to indicate that immediately after Jesus’ death, there was a physical resurrection of people who walked out of the grave sites and into Jerusalem, and that many people saw these walking resurrected ones. But taking this in context with the rest of the Christian writings, we know that is not what is being conveyed.
First, we can assume that the resurrections referred to occurred, not at the time and location of Jesus’ death, but at the memorial tombs because they could not occur until after Jesus had been resurrected.
“[T]hat the Christ was to suffer and, as the first to be resurrected from the dead, he was going to publish light both to this people and to the nations.” – Acts 26:23
Second, the resurrection of the dead is a raising to spiritual life.
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised up in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised up in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
And third, we know Jerusalem was not considered to be a ‘holy city.’
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her, —how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” – Matthew 23:37-38
Based on these conclusions, we will share with you what we believe the verses are conveying.
It appears that the writer is giving some information and then supplementing that information with other events that are used to explain the impact of the original event. Specifically, the writer is speaking about Jesus’ death and explains that an earthquake occurred shortly after he expired. The writer then adds some supplemental information when he explains the later-discovered impact the earthquake had, i.e., it caused some memorial tombs to split open. This event is then used as part of the writer’s evidence confirming that a mass resurrection took place. Then the writer returns to his original event, the death of Jesus, when he describes how the army officer, standing near Jesus at his death, reacted to the earthquake.
Hence, we believe the writer is telling us that Jesus’ resurrection was followed by a resurrection of those who were sleeping in death up until that time, possible as far back as the days of Adam. When the verse says “they became visible,” it reminds us of the body Jesus had when he was resurrected – the body was invisible, but it could become visible at will. Then those who were resurrected eventually entered into the ‘holy city’ in heaven, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), though, of course, that part was conveyed to the writer in some manner other than by sight, since human eyes could not have seen this event. It is much like what Paul wrote when he said ‘Christ entered into a holy place to appear before the person of God.’ (Hebrews 9:24) Paul did not witness this event, but it was made known to him in some other manner. And finally, before the resurrected ones ascended to heaven, many people were granted a glimpse of this mass resurrection as a witness that such a resurrection had occurred. Matthew made a written record of it.
We want to emphasize that this is how we understand these verses. There may be other ways to understand them and, if they are consistent with the rest of the Christian writings, would be just as much a possibility, and equally as valid, as is our understanding. Whatever its true and actual meaning, this is an interesting scriptural reference that will likely give rise to much conversation and conjecture until the matters are further revealed to mankind either during our earthly sojourn or when we attain to our places in heaven.
♦ Are we a breakaway group? Are these new scrolls?
On September 6, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“Hello, could you tell me if you are a breakaway from the organization or are these just new scrolls now being understood, thank you.”
To the author, thank you for your email and for visiting our site. We suspect others have asked one or two of these questions, so we respond privately and publicly.
You asked: “Could you tell me if you are a breakaway from the organization.” No, we are not a breakaway group, nor are we encouraging such. We are simply working to uplift the spiritual conversation worldwide among all followers of Christ Jesus by showing from the Bible that we are all sons of God and heirs to the kingdom of the heavens.
“You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:26
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” – Romans 8:15-17
We were tutored by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society for over 30 years. Thus, we have a special fondness for the worldwide association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, though we recognize that their message is a bit off track. But we do not believe the solution lies in leaving the organization or forming a new sect, and we are definitely not seeking followers after ourselves. It is our hope that when our brothers realize their true relationship with Jehovah, they will be spiritually built up so that they can be bright lights to others in the congregation as sons of God, not slaves to men.
You asked: “Are these just new scrolls now being understood.” You will notice that the support for every article on our site is the Bible. Our thinking is that before our generation is ready for any new scrolls, we must first understand the old one. So much of Christ’s original teachings have been submerged under so much manmade dogma that Christianity as a whole has lost its way. There is a need to return to the authentic, actual, plain and open teachings of Jesus. Once the superfluous baggage of the ideas of man are stripped away from Christ’s teachings, perhaps then our generation will be ready for new scrolls.
We hope we have sufficiently responded to your questions. However, if you have any other comments or questions about any of the information on our site, please do not hesitate to write us again.
♦ Was ‘obeisance’ the wrong word used by the Society at Acts 10:25-26?
On September 12, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Hey brothers! I was just following up on a further question about obeisance versus worship. There's a scripture in the [New Testament] where someone does "obeisance" to either Peter or Paul and he says "rise, I myself am just a man". Why would Peter (or Paul) tell them this unless this was an act devoted to worship and not merely just an act of respect? Either the Society has placed the wrong word here or obeisance must have a higher importance than just respect. Your thoughts? Hope all is well!"
To the author, it is good to hear from you again. We will address your specific question below, but first, the question you ask gives us an opportunity to explain something very important.
You know that the Bible writers were not scholars. They were ordinary common place men who were writing to the best of their ability. They were not giving a lesson in theology; they were conveying a message to their audience. Their message was inspired of God, but it is not the infallible word of God. Jesus is the word of God. (John 1:1,14) We discuss this in much more detail in the article Is The Good News Really From God?
As such, we do not believe it is necessary to dissect each individual word used by the writers as a means to gain an understanding of its meaning. It is likely the words were used and understood according to the common usage of the day rather than the way a scholar or linguist might use or understand it.
Think of how many times you, or someone you know, has used the wrong word while trying to convey a certain meaning. The listener understood exactly what was meant because of the context. However, if those words were recorded, someone of a later generation might not clearly understand the meaning. And if they looked up the misplaced word, they might come away with a far different meaning that what was intended. Remember slang and colloquialisms are not uniquely modern creations!
Here is a crude example: Suppose someone wrote “After work, I’m going to the crib.” A person of the 21st century would understand that to mean the person was going home after they left their place of employment. But if those words were read 2,000 years from now, a debate might arise as to whether that was proof that infants in the 21st century had jobs!
Really, it is not at all unusual that the same word is used to convey two different meanings. The key is to consider the word in the context of the surrounding words – looking for the substance of what was being communicated. This way, you will have much greater success at understanding the original writer or speaker’s intent.
Accordingly, if indeed your goal is to understand the meaning of the word used in the scripture you are concerned about, we believe it would be much better for you to consider the context of the scripture rather than seeking the etymology or lexicology of one word. And then make sure the understanding you take away is consistent with the plain and open teachings of Jesus.
To your question, the scripture you are referring to states:
“As Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying: “Rise; I myself am also a man.” – Acts 10:25-26
The context reveals that Cornelius, an Italian army officer, was a very devout man who “made many gifts of mercy to the people and made supplication to God continually.” (Acts 10:2) Prior to meeting with Peter, an angel appeared to him with instructions to summon Peter to his presence. The account says that Cornelius was frightened but he obeyed. (Acts 10:3-8) When Peter arrived, Cornelius thought to give Peter great honor. Imagine what you would have done if you were in Cornelius’ shoes. And angel appeared to you and told you to see a certain man. You would expect this man to be someone of unusual importance so when he arrived, you would likely grant him unusual honor. Thus, we can see that the ‘obeisance’ done to Peter, whether we refer to it as worship or undue respect, it was inappropriate. Peter let Cornelius know that he would not accept such an extreme gesture. We believe this is the meaning we should take away from the verse.
So, you see, we were able to respond to your question without resorting to etymology or lexicology. But since you already knew the meaning, your question about the word ‘obeisance’ arises as purely an academic exercise. For our part, we refrain from those matters since they merely “furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.” (1 Timothy 1:4) Please keep this in mind as you continue your study of the Bible.
Our suggestion to you is to be more concerned with meanings and values than with lexicology and etymology. One does not need to be a Biblical scholar to understand the plain and open teachings of Jesus.
♦ Why do we refrain from holidays that have pagan origins when we do so many other things in our daily lives that have pagan origin? (Galatians 4:8-11)
On November 5, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry from a visitor:
“Excellent article! [Bringing Heaven Down - An Historic Overview] Me and my brother have been discussing these things as well, and we were talking about the events that took place in Heavens... that war... and we were getting to the same conclusions as you. I do have a question thou. You wrote: “We do not have to search out the origin of every practice and holiday and custom, and meticulously avoid those with questionable roots."
"...You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." – Galatians 4:8-11
I thought these verses suggested the contrary. How you came up with such conclusion? I'm going to agree with you. It is tiresome to read all the articles from certain "Christians" on why holidays are pagan, etc. But do not realize that there are so many things that has pagan origins and we practice/use them on a daily basis. Thoughts? Hope to hear from you soon! With love.”
To the author, thank you for your email. This is a subject many among Jehovah’s Witness are interested in. Although the teaching of the Governing Body is that Christians should not celebrate birthdays or most holidays because of so-called pagan origin, we know firsthand that a very large number do participate in such celebrations though they might do it a day before or after, or they might call it something else, or they simply do it in secret. These brothers and sisters are not allowed to exercise their God-given free will or to make personal decisions based on their own conscience without coming under judgment or condemnation from their brothers. Of course, this results in many of our brothers and sisters leading double-lives, which is a mild way of saying that they are practicing hypocrisy.
It is hypocrisy, not because they are celebrating pagan holidays. It is hypocrisy because they are not living truthfully. They are not being true to what they hold themselves out to believe. They are not worshiping ‘with spirit and truth.’ (John 4:24) Thus, it behooves all of our brothers, whether Jehovah’s Witnesses or not, to endeavor to live truthfully in all things. If one holds the belief that celebrating certain days or holidays is wrong, be true to that belief and refrain from celebrating. And conversely, if they believe they are free to make a personal decision in this regard, they should do so without shame.
Now to the author’s question. We made the above statement and supported it by quoting Galatians 4:8-11. We understand these verses to mean that, after they had been released from the Mosaic Law, some of the Jewish Christians continued to strictly observe the holidays and special anniversaries under the Law. Paul was telling them that this was no longer necessary, and he expressed frustration that they did not understand that after all he had taught them. He wondered if he was wasting his time teaching them about Christian freedom that released them from obligation to these mundane observances.
Paul explained that under ‘The Way’ for Christians, we are not obligated to observe any holidays, memorials or celebrations other than the one celebration instituted and commanded by Jesus – the Memorial Supper. The operative word here is ‘obligated.’ As Christians, we are free from obligatory religious observances with that one exception. While many Christians understand this freedom, they actually use that freedom to create another form of slavery. In other words, they are free from celebrating under the Law, but they are restricted from celebrating anything else. They are giving freedom and then taking it away!
Jesus’ teachings freed us from dominion by priests along with their rites. Our spiritual lives are now in our own hands to do as our own spirit directs us. It is true freedom, and it carries with it the freedom to celebrate certain events if we so choose, as long as they are not in direct conflict with the plain and open teachings. We are free people with free will. But we are counseled:
“Be as free people, using your freedom, not as a cover for doing wrong, but as slaves of God. Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, honor the king.” – 1 Peter 2:16-17
So, really, we are free to do most anything we want to do. But we are not to use our freedom to ‘do wrong,’ whereas we can use our freedom to honor men of all sorts. To us, that means we can celebrate significant events in our lives and the lives of others such as birthdays, anniversaries, memorials, etc. We can even make up our own special days to celebrate, if we choose. But when doing so, we should remember that in everything, we must be ‘in fear of God’ – careful not to do things that grieve the Father’s Spirit that dwells within us. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
For example, if we chose to celebrate a birthday, we, obviously, would not want to behead anyone such as occurred during Herod’s birthday celebration (Matthew 14:6-10), nor would we want to hang someone as occurred at the Pharoah’s birthday celebration. (Genesis 40:20-22) And if we are invited to a celebration where we can expect gross loose conduct, such as a modern-day bachelor party, we might refrain. This is apparently why the early Christians refrained from certain celebrations. Not specifically because of the type or name of the event but based on what would occur at those events.
Whatever the celebration, the decision is up to the individual. There are so many variables that it is difficult and unfair to lay down hard fast rules in these matters. Each celebration, and the way it is carried out, must be considered on its own merit. Jesus did not lay down doctrine in this regard. Therefore, we must follow the leading of the spirit and the spirit of Christ. In all things, we remain sons of God and heirs to the Kingdom of the Heavens. (Romans 8:16-17) In all of our dealings we are ambassadors ‘substituting for Christ’ conducting ourselves in a way that honors the Father and the Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20) And it is as a matter that rests within each individual’s own free will to decide for themselves and their families in this regard. That’s how we see the matter and that is the way we conduct ourselves.
♦ Visitor is worried that we might be going ‘beyond the things written. (1 Corinthians 4:6 and John 10:13)
On January 23, 2014, we received an email containing the following comment and inquiry:
“We do not want to go "beyond the things that are written" (1 Corinthians 4:6) As The Spirit "will guide us into all the truth." (John 16:13)"
To the author, thank you for your email. The above portion of your email is what caught our attention. We respond to that portion publicly because we believe many of our brothers have similar concerns. They are cautions about accepting any teaching or idea that is not expressly stated in the Bible and they rely on 1 Corinthians 4:6 to support that fear. We believe this scripture has been misunderstood and misapplied. We believe a closer look at Paul’s words in context will shed light on this matter. Here is the scripture:
“Now, brothers, these things I have applied to myself and Apollos for your good, that through us you may learn the rule: “Do not go beyond the things that are written,” so that you may not be puffed up with pride, favoring one against the other.” – 1 Corinthians 4:5-6
The first question is, what is Paul referring to when he said, ‘do not go beyond the things written?’ At the time of Paul’ writing (55 C.E.), there were no Christian scriptures. They only had the Hebrew scriptures. Other writers had penned letters and narratives about Jesus’ life, but the ‘authorized’ Christian Bible canon did not appear until 325 C.E. So, if we are to take Paul's words literally, it seems that the entire Christian writings are ‘beyond the things written’ in the Hebrew scriptures. Surely that is not what Paul meant.
If we read the context, we can get a better understanding. It is possible that Paul was referring to his own writings, telling them not go beyond what Paul had written and read into his writings something that is not there. It appears he is referring to prophecies that he himself may have written in this or other letters to the congregation. We reach this conclusion by looking at the preceding verses:
“A man should regard us as attendants of Christ and stewards of God’s sacred secrets. In this regard, what is expected of stewards is that they be found faithful. Now to me it is of very little importance to be examined by you or by a human tribunal. In fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am not conscious of anything against myself. But by this I am not proved righteous; the one who examines me is Jehovah. Therefore, do not judge anything before the due time, until the Lord comes. He will bring the secret things of darkness to light and make known the intentions of the hearts, and then each one will receive his praise from God.” – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
It appears that some in the congregation were trying to decipher the ‘sacred secrets’ Paul was privy to and interpret his prophetic words. They were trying to ‘judge things before the time’ for their fulfillment. Paul explains at verse 6 that they were doing this so as to appear wiser than the rest and getting ‘puffed up with pride.’ But their assumptions were wrong:
“Are you already satisfied? Are you already rich? Have you begun ruling as kings without us? I really wish that you had begun ruling as kings, so that we also might rule with you as kings.” – 1 Corinthians 4:8
Paul was counseling the congregation against trying to assert themselves as having special knowledge of interpreting prophecy. He viewed such actions as ‘going beyond the things written.’
This tendency is rampant in this 21st century. So many Christian teachers have set themselves up (and puffed themselves up) with their own interpretations of prophecy. The wiser course, as Paul stated, is to allow things to unfold in their own time as ‘the Lord’ reveals them and ‘brings the secret things that are hidden into the light.’ This, we believe, is what he meant when he said, ‘do not go beyond the things written.’ We agree with this counsel wholeheartedly and have explained this on many occasions, especially in the articles The Plain and Open Teachings of Jesus, and Converting Pauls into Sauls.
We further know that Paul was not limiting our spiritual quest for understanding to the ‘four corners’ of the ‘authorized’ Bible canon because of the obvious conflict between the two scriptures mentioned in the inquirers email – 1 Corinthians 4:5 and John 16:13. The latter scripture, and the verse preceding it, reads:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now. However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come.” – John 16:12-13
Here, Jesus told them that he had other things he wanted to teach them, but they were not able to receive them, so the Spirit of Truth would teach them those things Jesus withheld. By this statement, Jesus was telling his apostles that the Spirit of Truth would go beyond the things Jesus taught (and thus beyond the things they wrote about) and that this was a good thing. Notice this verse:
“This is the disciple who gives this witness about these things and who wrote these things, and we know that his witness is true. There are also, in fact, many other things that Jesus did, which if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” – John 21:24-25
From this, we know that the gospel accounts do not contain everything Jesus said and did. There is more truth out there. The challenge is being able to discern what is true and what is false. That is the role of the Spirit of Truth – to help us hear the ring of truth in all wise sayings.
We must say, rather candidly, that this morbid fear of expounding on, and growing in understanding of, ancient writings is the thing that holds the children of God hostage and chained to primitive ideas. God’s Word remains ever alive (Hebrews 4:12) in the hearts of his breathing children now and forever. The notion that the only valid statements of truth originated in God's earlier-born children paints the loving Father as the most partial being in all the Universe of Universes. Mankind’s continued experience of revealed truth, as stimulated by the bearing witness by the Spirit of Truth with our spirit, makes what modern man has been given of superior value. It is the Parable of the Talents at work, doing business and increasing what Jesus gave. (Matthew 25:14-30)
By believing that we are spiritually limited to the 66 books of the Bible, we are stifling our own growth and abandoning the very purpose of the Spirit of Truth. We are forced to live by what took place over 2,000 years ago. We will have done nothing more than hide what Jesus taught in the ground and wait for his second coming. As the parable shows, that will not work in our favor!
The discovery of scientific findings and the advancement in critical thinking presents a golden opportunity to train one’s thinking ability to harmonize with our ever-changing Universe and the real world around us. Rather than ‘dumbing down’ the plain teachings of Jesus, we should be increasing the depth of our understanding. Really, if man expects to ever see Christ in an actual sense, then one’s reliance on the Spirit’s potential to surpass the written word of incomplete knowledge (as Jesus acknowledged in John 16:12 is paramount.
We must learn to trust the everlasting capable guidance of the Spirit of Truth. This inherently means that we must use our thinking abilities and apply the principles Jesus taught, as activated and illuminated by the Spirit of Truth, to our modern experiences so that we can advance along with the rest of the world and not be left behind as primitives and Neanderthals! It is this very thinking that causes non-Christians to view the Master’s teachings as useless and foolish. Never may that be the case with the Father’s children!
If the Spirit of Truth moves us to a greater understanding of the plain and open teachings of Jesus, then we should welcome that insight, not reject it because it is not ‘written!’ How long will it take for man to grow up spiritually and let go of silly superstitions that stifle us? How long before we learn to walk by faith and not by sight? We must accept our liberty and be the free sons of God we were purposed to be. Otherwise, what is the point of Christianity? It becomes no different that the ‘old wine’ under the Jewish religious system that relied on the word written on stone tablets and ancient parchment. The ‘new covenant’ is written on our hearts (Hebrews 10:16) and actuated by the Spirit of Truth. We must trust it and never forget that. We hope we have answered your question or at least given you food for thought.
♦ Are those who are not anointed under the authority of the darkness? (WT 1/15/14 - Colossians 1:13)
On March 9, 2014, we received the following comment:
“According to the January 15, 2014 Watchtower, “However, as in times past, Jehovah remained in control. On the third day, he resurrected his Son, and on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., Jesus established a spiritual kingdom over the Christian congregation of his anointed brothers. (Col.1:13)” (wt 15/1/2014, page 11, paragraph 17.) Col. 1:13 says: "He rescued us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son."
“If only "anointed brothers" have been “transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son" that would logically mean that those who believe they are not of the anointed, even though they are faithful Christians, are still under "the authority of the darkness." A pretty absurd idea don't you think? Doesn't that show how absurd the "two class" theory is?”
To the author, we certainly agree with you. The two-class theory is absurd! And we also agree that those who are not in the spiritual kingdom of anointed Christians, are indeed under the authority of the darkness. Their minds are veiled and that is why they cannot see what is so obvious to you, to us, and to so many others the world over. We further note that when Jesus offered sonship and discussed the pathway to heaven, he was speaking to a multitude, not just his apostles and disciples. (John 1:12) How much more clearer need the scriptures be?
We lay this blame directly at the feet of the blind guides who call themselves ‘the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ who are promoting this gross error and dragging the majority of our brothers into the pit of darkness and non-existence. (Matthew 15:14)
It is only by means of the incorruptible seed of the Father that we can navigate through the valley of decision and arrive at the doors to the kingdom. But the unholy acts of those who are proving themselves unworthy of partaking with the Christ are being accused, not excused, and they have no shelter to hide over them. They are becoming like cornered animals who choose to fight to the death rather than surrender to the Lamb, the light of the world! They are going after those who have the work of bearing witness to Jesus. But they will not prevail.
And so, we say to you, as we have said since this year began, expect the unexpected! The patience of the Most High is quickly running out, but the Father’s loving-kindness is being manifest to all who confess union with His son.
Thank you for your email.
♦ What version of the Bible do you use?
On May 6, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiries:
“Hello, I have 2 questions for you. What version of Bible do you use? I had recently found a facebook page for ex-jw's and it has infuriated me the last few weeks. I was raised a witness and for the past 7 years I have been disfellowshipped. I have spent the past 7 years with no friends, feeling guilty for not going back to the religion and then- reading peoples posts and realizing that I was lied to most of my life is very upsetting. I see the [Jehovah’s Witness] organization for what it is. Money. That is all. I am curious if you are all in this for Money? Thank you for your time.”
To the author, thank you for your email and for visiting our site.
On the website www.AnointedJW.org, we use the New World Translation and the Revised New World Translation because one of the main purposes of the site is to reach out to Jehovah’s Witnesses. On our new site, www.TheFaithSonsofGod.org, we use other translations, primarily Today New International Version, because we are reaching out to all people and that is a widely accepted version.
As to your question about money, we have been asked similar questions before. We posted our response on the Questions and Response page under “Donations.” We understand your hurt and anger against the Watchtower organization, but it is not fair to paint everyone who carries out a ministry with the same brush. Part of the journey of a son of God is to train our perceptive powers to be able to discern right from wrong, and truth from error. (Hebrews 5:14) Unfortunately the Watchtower Society has done a great deal to poison our brothers against giving to anyone other than themselves, including all other charitable and philanthropic organizations, both religious and non-religious. Their doctrines are so fear inducing that many refrain from giving gifts to their own family and friends for fear of being accused of celebrating birthdays or holidays. So we do understand your paranoia against supporting a ministry of any kind.
We also understand that it takes time for these deeply ingrained wounds to heal. But there is a great need for true spiritual refreshment, especially among Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we choose to carry out this ministry tirelessly and unselfishly using our own personal resources, along with gifts from a few others who know how much we appreciate them. And we are not ashamed to say that a good work that one is benefitting from should always be supported, if one is able to do so. Nevertheless, whether those who benefit from the information on this site show their appreciation or not has no bearing on whether we continue.
We hope in time, the damage done by the Watchtower Society to the spirit of giving is assuaged by gaining a proper understanding of our loving and generous God and His Son Christ Jesus, and the true Christian spirit. (Matthew 6:2-4; Matthew 7:11; Matthew 10:42; Luke 6:38; Acts 10:1-2; Acts 28:10) As Paul wrote, ‘there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. (Acts 20:35)
♦ Do you think there needs to be a reformation of Paul’s teachings?
On May 26, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Good evening! Many thanks for your last article about leadership. A spirit led reformation is truly what is needed if the Watchtower wants to survive as organization. When It comes to leadership I wonder if the rules and polices written by Paul, as well directed to ancient congregations, is the right way to go. For example Paul meant that leadership and teaching in the congregation was given to men and restricted for women. He gave specific instructions about who and whom to appoint or rule out as servants in the congregations. Paul explained how women should remain silent in the congregation and wear head-coverings etc. etc. Some things Paul wrote is for me like timeless principles but other things seem to be rules and practices that make me think that Paul was more influenced by the Jewish community of his day rather than the spirit. To the point, do you think that a reformation of the writings of Paul, specially dealing with leadership, is needed? Or do you think that a reformation of the applications of his writings is enough? Best regards.”
To the author, thank you for your email. You raise good and important questions, so we are publicly posting your email and our response.
As you know by now, this ministry is about re-introducing the authentic, original, actual, plain and open teachings of Jesus. We are not reforming them, we are re-stating them as Jesus presented them, in their simple form. And we respect the ministry of anyone who attempts to follow Jesus’ plain teachings and example, both Bible writers and those whose writings are not included in the Bible canon. That would, of course, include the Apostle Paul as the foremost writer of the Christian Bible canon. Paul had special insight into heavenly matters that the remaining 11 faithful apostles did not have – information that he likely obtained in an “out of body” experience which he described to the Corinthians:
“I know a man in union with Christ who, fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know; God knows—was caught away as such to the third heaven. Yes, I know such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, God knows— that he was caught away into paradise and heard unutterable words which it is not lawful for a man to speak.” – 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
However, as we showed in an earlier article, The Spiritual Equality of Women Part II, some of Paul’s writings were not concerning heavenly matters and were not direct teachings of Jesus Christ, but were influenced by his Jewish roots and traditions. Most of these additional teachings had to do with administrative and congregational arrangements, not with matters of godly devotion and salvation. They were quite suitable for their time and location, but many of those arrangements are out of step with modern society and life as it is lived in this 21st century.
However, if you take an unbiased look at Jesus’ teachings, you will discover that they were timeless and applicable by every generation everywhere, whereas some of Paul’s writing had limited appeal and application. That is because Paul was not only a teacher, but he was also a congregator. He formed congregations, and congregations need some kind of order. So, Paul reached back to his Jewish roots and provided the needed order.
We further note that Paul’s writings were limited to the congregations in the surrounding territories that he started. The many congregations that were started by other Christians, who had been scattered by the persecution in Jerusalem to far distant lands, had their own congregational arrangements and mores that were suitable for their locale that served as effective guides in those regions. Yet we know that those writings were not included in the standard Bible canon when it was comprised in the 4th century by the Nicaean Council.
For these reasons, we believe it is error to require the free sons of God to strictly adhere to antiquated outmoded mores such as the repression and suppression of women in the congregation setting as suggested by Paul. We further believe it is inappropriate to tenaciously hold onto ideas that science has long since proven false or inaccurate just because those in antiquity believed them. Past generations are no closer to God than are we, for God’s spirit also dwells in us. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19)
The Father expects us to move forward and grow in our understanding of our world. That was the gist of the command to ‘subdue the earth.’ (Genesis 1:28) And it is what Jesus expects of us as illustrated in the Parable of the Talents, namely to ‘do business’ with the knowledge and understanding we have in order to have an increase and spiritual growth. (Matthew 25:14-30) Hence, it is expected that modern man have a far better understanding of our world, of God, of Jesus and of heavenly and spiritual matters than those who lived thousands of years ago. If we have not progressed morally, socially, religiously or spiritually any farther than the ‘men of old,’ then we are people much to be pitied. It is just this type of frozen ideologies that has caused the Christian community to be so far behind in their Christian Jubilee.
Jesus freed us from the rules and laws of men and allows us to establish new rules that comport with our advancements. Jesus taught matters of salvation and demonstrated what the will of God is. (See The Perfect Will of God.) He did not bog us down with specific rules on how a congregation should be arranged. And he certainly did not want us to imitate the Jewish religious system with its priestly overlords that he expressly condemned throughout his ministry. Yes, his ‘yoke is kindly and his load is light.’ (Matthew 11:30) So when we consider what is required in a modern day congregation, we should keep in mind these principles and not overburden the brothers with rules and regulations that put us so out of step with modern society that we appear to be backward small minded oddities instead of the free children of God.
We can surely take Paul’s suggestions to heart and consider the underlying principles, but it is up to us in this 21st century to create rules of conduct suitable to our time. Religions and religious people must keep up with the rest of society or else religion becomes dead weight holding back progress, as unfortunately it has. Much of the desired progress in our world is thwarted and stifled by those who relentlessly try to impose antiquated standards of behavior ‘in the name of God.’ We can do much to improve our life on earth by helping others to understand the simplicity of Jesus’ teachings and the concept of spiritual freedom.
Taking all of this into consideration, we see no need to reform Paul’s teachings. We are not disciples of Paul. We were not baptized in the name of Paul. (1 Corinthians 1:13) And we, of course, would never try to reform the teachings of Jesus. However, what absolutely must be reformed are the teachings of men that go against Jesus’ plain teachings as well as the rules and regulations of men that burden the children of God. That is the only reformation we are concerned with in this ministry.
We would recommend that as free congregations are established, those taking the lead consider their locale and make rules and arrangements that do not overstep the commands of God or the teachings of Jesus, and are designed to support the ministry, not control thinking and behavior. Our godly devotion and our pursuit of the heavenly kingdom, augmented by the Spirit of Truth, are sufficient guides as to how we should think and behave.
The days of spiritual policemen over the sons of God should be long gone. In their place should be men and women whose only interest is in building up the brotherhood and getting on with the true Christian ministry. We should all be striving to do the will of God – the best and right thing under the circumstances – knowing that the errors and shortcomings that we have not managed to perfect will be perfected in the heavens by the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our Faith, Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2) We will be writing more on this subject as we move forward.
♦ Should we not pay attention to Paul’s writings and are you encouraging us to read the aprocryphal?
On June 1, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“In Question and Response 5/26/14, you wrote: "For these reasons, we believe it is error to require the free sons of God to strictly adhere to antiquated outmoded mores such as the repression and suppression of women in the congregation setting as suggested by Paul." From this, I concluded that one should not pay attention to some of Paul's writings because we no longer live in his time, and therefore, these tips are excessive. Would you say that the Sisters in congregations have the same status as men to be elders, servants, etc.?
You also wrote: "And we respect the ministry of anyone who attempts to follow Jesus' plain teachings and example, both Bible writers and those whose writings are not included in the Bible canon." Without interpreting this sentence, I concluded that anyone could follow even the apocryphal writings which are not included in the canon of the Bible today. What do you base this reasoning on? God waited 2,000 years for us to be able to read and follow the earlier writings, so on what basis would this permission be given?”
To the author, as always, thank you for your email. We are not saying that one should not pay attention to Paul’s teachings. We are saying that we should put them into perspective, as Paul himself does. He wrote a few times that what he was writing was his own opinion, not the opinion of the Lord. We must likewise learn to distinguish the difference between his opinion, or the opinions of others, and the words of the Lord. We do not believe Paul ever thought that he was writing the ‘word of God’ that would be canonized and put on display for all eternity. He was writing to his friends. He knew Jesus was the word of God and he was only seeking to encourage and organize. Paul was trying to develop fellowships of believers and establish congregations. In so doing, he no doubt pulled from his own Jewish experiences.
According to Jesus, women have equal standing before God, so if a religious fellowship offers women equal position as overseers in a congregation, we do not think that would be wrong or offensive to Jesus or the Father, although our personal opinion is that the best position of oversight would be one held jointly by husband and wife.
The fact is that most modern-day Christian religions do not strictly adhere to Paul’s counsel. Paul said women should not speak in the congregation, yet among Jehovah’s Witnesses, women comment more than men at meetings, women give talks on the platform, women take the lead in the ministry, and it is said that many of the talks given by husbands are written, reviewed and edited by their wives. Common sense has taught them that Paul’s counsel must be acclimated to modern day circumstances. This is not error, nor it is disrespecting the counsel of Paul. It is using our perceptive powers to work what is good and workable under the circumstances. We provide more details on this matter in the article The Spiritual Equality of Women, Part II. Take another look at it.
As to your second point, we do not suggest that one should follow the apocryphal writings. What we said is that we respect any writing that supports the plain and open teachings of Jesus. If certain apocryphal writings do, then we have no problem with them. Remember, the Watchtower publications are also extra-Biblical (not part of the authorized Bible canon), yet Jehovah’s Witnesses have no problem reading them. Raymond Franz’ writings are not a part of the Bible canon, yet many ex-Witness read it intently. And the writings of many websites, including this one, are not a part of the canonized Bible, yet common sense tells the readers that it is okay to read this information when it is in harmony with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. But, let us not forget that the some of the writers of the apocryphal were contemporaries with Jesus and the apostles. Thus, their writings should not be dismissed if they are in harmony with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. Of course, all of this requires that we use our thinking abilities, our perceptive powers. Jesus does not want us to run from knowledge, he expects us to be mature enough to throw back the “unsuitable fish.” (Matthew 13:47) So with all of these writings, the key is in the content. Are they supporting the plain and open teachings of Jesus? When they do, we have no problem with them.
Of course, others may not agree with our view and choose instead to limit their own spiritual reading to the Bible and to restrict their own behavior according to Paul’s opinions. As free sons of God, they can choose how much of their freedom to exercise. But they must recognize and respect the freedom of others who may be a bit more progressive in their thinking, a bit freer in their spiritual understanding, and courageous enough to live as free as Jesus did. We are of that sort, and we have no intention of changing.
♦ Why does the Revised New World Translation omit John 8:1-11?
On November 2, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“I am sure you are aware of the beautiful compassion and mercy that Jesus revealed to us at John Chapter 8:1-11. What is your opinion, if you have one, why the Governing Body removed these versus from the current New World Translation? I always thought that these verses were an excellent example of how we should treat our fellow brothers and sisters, as well as other humans that we share this planet with. Thank you, and may God continue to bless your ministry. With Christian love, your brother.”
To the author, thank you for your email and brotherly love. The verses you refer to are the account of the woman caught in adultery where Jesus is said to have made the famous statement “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” According to the footnote in the Revised New World Translation at John 7:53-8:11, those verses were omitted because “a number of ancient and authoritative manuscripts omit them.” But, of course, this language correspondingly means that a number of ancient and authoritative manuscripts do contain those verses, and the Watchtower committee who created this revised translation decided to follow in the footsteps of those who omitted the verses.
It is interesting that the Watchtower committee who created the older version of the New World Translation reached a different conclusion, and decided to include those verses in the footnote, whereas the new Watchtower committee omitted them completely. This is not unusual for the Watchtower organization. They have a long public history of flip flopping on doctrines and policies, sometimes going back and forth on the same issue many times, as many long time Jehovah’s Witnesses well know.
As you said, the omitted verses are a beautiful compassionate account of Jesus’ mercy and a wonderful lesson in forgiveness for all. Who is not touched by the tenderness of the account and the stark contrast between the way a son of God responds to the sins of others and the way selfish intolerant hypocritical people respond. So, whether this account is true or spurious, the lesson is of great value.
We are inclined to believe the account really occurred, even if it was not contained in some ancient manuscripts, because of its bold and unexpected wisdom, its profound insight, and its consistency with everything else Jesus taught. Recall that John wrote that the vast majority of the things Jesus said and did are not contained in writings of the day.
“There are also, in fact, many other things that Jesus did, which if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” – John 21:25
So, the fact that some ancient manuscripts do not contain accounts that other manuscripts contain is not an automatic disqualifier of the accounts. The way we see it, because practically every Christian is familiar with this particular account, the outright omission of these verses from the Revised New World Translation may move many people to choose another Bible translation for their personal study. We have made that decision for ourselves and only use the New World Translation, revised or older version, for the purposes of our ministry to Jehovah’s Witnesses. In our personal study, we use various other translations so that we can get as broad an understanding of the scriptures as possible, and so that our understanding is not colored and dominated by the sectarian decisions of one group.
So, brother, even though the account is omitted from the Revised New World Translation, it is readily available in many other Bible translations such as the New International Version, the Modern English Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Good News Translation, the King James Version and many others. In truth, the lesson of the account is not lost to those who keep their minds open to the teachings of Jesus wherever they may be found, and who take his advice to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking. (Matthew 7:7-8) When we understand the character of Jesus, it is not difficult to know what is true.
“I am the fine shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me, . . . My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” — John 10:14, 27
♦ How should I understand 1 Corinthians 5:5 to hand a person over to Satan?
On November 6, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“I'm researching the subject of disfellowshipping. How should I understand 1 Corinthians 5:5 which says, "you must hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord"?
To the author, thank you for your email. This is an important verse and we are very happy to respond.
First, let’s look at the scripture in context. Paul wrote:
“Actually sexual immorality is reported among you, and such immorality as is not even found among the nations—of a man living with his father’s wife. And are you proud of it? Should you not rather mourn, so that the man who committed this deed should be taken away from your midst? Although absent in body, I am present in spirit, and I have already judged the man who has done this, as if I were actually with you. When you are gathered together in the name of our Lord Jesus, and knowing that I am with you in spirit along with the power of our Lord Jesus, you must hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (Revised New World Translation)
Paul had apparently heard of one particular situation involving a man in the congregation who was having sexual relations with either his mother or his stepmother. Paul was outraged that no one in the congregation seemed to mind that such a man remained in their midst. In essence, Paul said he didn’t have to have personal knowledge of all the facts, he knew this was wrong without even being there.
We can understand Paul’s disgust. There are certain sins that can be mitigated or excused based on the circumstances and mental disposition of the sinner. Some sins are committed out of weakness or ignorance. But there are other sins that are more than just wrong. They are criminal and inexcusable, such as child abuse, domestic violence, and, in this case, incest. Sins such as these require a firmer response.
In this case, Paul said to ‘hand the man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.’ What did he mean? Looking at other translations of verse 5 are helpful. For example:
“You are to deliver this man over to Satan for physical discipline [to destroy carnal lusts which prompted him to incest], that [his] spirit may [yet] be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (The Amplified Bible)
“And cast out this man from the fellowship of the church and into Satan’s hands, to punish him, in the hope that his soul will be saved when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.” (The Living Bible)
This carries the idea that certain sinners should be removed from the loving and protective association of the congregation. They should not be able to take advantage of congregational confidentiality, but should instead be allowed to suffer the punishment, indignation or discipline that the world at large would dole out for such conduct. The sinner needs to suffer the consequences in hopes that he or she might be shocked their senses.
We interpret this to mean that there are some sins that cannot and should not be handled by the congregation. There are some occasions when a sinner simply must be removed from the congregation to show that the behavior is not condoned. This could include sins that rise to the level of crimes against innocent persons, such as child abuse and domestic violence. Any person hearing about such conduct would know, without being privy to the underlying facts, that such behavior should not be tolerated in a Christian congregation. In these cases, such persons should be handed over to the governmental authorities for civil punishment so that the congregation is not aiding and abetting or becoming a ‘sharer’ in the sin.
This is a drastic measure, but with regard to certain sins, this would be the proper response. And this is what we believe Paul was referring to.
♦ Can you what “the spirit of slavery” is? (Romans 8:14)
On May 7, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Can you explain what "the spirit of slavery" is?”
To the author, thank you for your email. The easiest way to answer your question is to consider the context of the scripture that refers to the spirit of slavery. The Apostle Paul wrote:
"For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs—heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ—provided we suffer together so that we may also be glorified together.” – Romans 8:14-17
Paul was writing to Roman Christians, a people who were very familiar with slavery. Using that practice as an appropriate setting, Paul contrasted the mind and inclination of a slave with the mind and inclination of a son of God. He explained that God’s sons are led by spirit and the spirit leading them – the Spirit of Truth – is not characterized by fear, but by a confident assurance and a strong faith that God is their personal intimate father.
A slave approaches his master with eyes turned down not knowing what to expect. But a son approaches his father looking him straight into his eyes knowing that the father always has his best interests at heart. A slave is always doing and working so as to please his master. But a son is born with the father’s favor. A slave works and works but receives no pay. He may receive a small reward during his lifetime depending on the master, and a hearty "thank you" as he returns to the dust. But a son carries on the family business and gains the inheritance.
Paul was telling the Roman Christians not to cower away from God or view God as an angry potentate who would strike them down for any wrong, as a slave might think – the spirit of slavery. But to see God as their own father, one who loves and welcomes them. Although their actual adoption is for a future time, for now they have a faith-based sonship – the spirit of adoption – knowing in their hearts that their future adoption as spirit sons of God is assured. When one comes to know God and the one he sent, Jesus Christ, then the desire by faith to be adopted comes naturally.
Whether one has a spirit of slavery or a spirit of adoption as sons is a question of life or death – either one accepts sonship and gains the inheritance of everlasting life, or one accepts slavery and returns to the dust.
♦ Does 2 Timothy 3:1-7 have any real significance for today?
On June 30, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“In light of recent events, is it your opinion that scriptures such as 2 Timothy 3:1-7, have no real significance for today?”
To the author, thank you for your email. Here are the verses you are referring to:
“But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power; and from these turn away. From among these arise men who slyly work their way into households and captivate weak women loaded down with sins, led by various desires, always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth." – 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Some Christians view these verses as a prophecy that will be fulfilled in our generation during ‘the last days of the system of things.’ But there are some important factors that must be taken into consideration.
First, it is believed that this letter was penned in or about 65 C.E., just few years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Paul, the writer of the letter, was not prophesying. He was expressing an observation of what was actually occurring at that time. They were in “the last days” of the Jewish religious system and Paul was reminding Timothy that these things are to be expected when an oppressive system is nearing its end. Not prophecy, but more like a wise observation.
Second, these verses are part of a personal letter from Paul to his protégé Timothy encouraging him to stand faithful in the face of the expected destruction of Jerusalem. Paul was not writing an open letter to a congregation, or to a community of believers; it was a personal communique between brothers. (It is similar to a Circuit Overseer’s personal letter of encouragement to an Elder who was serving in a difficult territory.) Subsequent generations have had the privilege of reviewing some of Paul’s personal letters, but we are all only spectators and third-party beneficiaries of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, not the direct intended recipients.
Does it have real significance today? Yes, wise observations and sound counsel is good for every age. The verses you refer to would apply to any generation facing the concluding phase of an era or the ‘last days of a system of things.’ The Jews experienced this prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. The Romans faced similar conditions as their empire began to crumble. And if we examine history, we will see that prior to the destruction or conclusion of an oppressive government, an oppressive religious authority, or an outgrown way of doing things, conditions such as those described in 2 Timothy were present. In fact, every generation since the destruction of Jerusalem that faced a major upheaval has applied Paul’s words to their own time.
Accordingly, it is not unusual that people today would look at Paul’s personal letters and see similarities. We, too, are nearing a concluding phase of oppressive regimes, both religious and political. Some people, as Paul described in his day, are responding to these times with a gross lack of faith and a hopeless resignation. But we can look to Paul’s words to Timothy as encouragement to not fall victim to the common attitude. In chapter 4, Paul goes on to say to Timothy:
“You, though, keep your senses in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5
When a generation is faced with ‘critical times hard to deal with,’ it is not the time to give up hope. These times, while challenging, are also a time of great hope, as Jesus reminded his followers who would live to see the destruction of Jerusalem:
“But as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near.” – Luke 21:28
The response of those who follow Jesus is to continue in their ministry of spreading the good news of deliverance and of better times ahead. And when this ministry has reached into all the inhabited earth, it will bring an end to critical times.
“But the one who has endured to the end will be saved. And this good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:13-14
So, Paul’s words to Timothy need cause no fear. For the one who endures to the end – either of the end of their mortal life, or the end of the critical times – will experience a kind of salvation that they could not have ever imagined.
“But just as it is written: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9
♦ When can we see the fulfillment of Revelation 21:3-4?
On October 14, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Dear Brothers, Thank you for your response to my recent letter regarding the resurrection. Please help me to understand your views on the scripture in Revelation chapter 21:3,4...in relation to "the tent of God is with Mankind". Are we not to understand that this means that there is a purpose for people to live on the earth in a world without suffering and even death? Thank you very much for your attention to this letter. Your brother.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We are happy to respond to your emails, but, as you may know, we refrain from commenting on prophecies and prophetic fulfillment because we believe it can serve as too much of a distraction from the purpose and message of Jesus’ actual ministry. The focus on end times has led many religious people down a path of disappointment and loss of faith. And it has been the demise of many well-intentioned religious associations. In fact, we believe that the Watchtower organization is on that path to self-destruction if it does not return to the plain and open teachings of Jesus. However, in this instance, since your question concerns a fundamental teaching on this site, namely that the so-called ‘earthly hope’ is a fallacy, we will make a few comments.
We note that the prophecy that “the tent of God will be with mankind” does not mean that the hope for man is to live forever on earth. It simply means that when the time comes for God to engulf the entire planet with his glory, the earth will be filled with righteous, God-oriented people, and these conditions will continue forever. However, the individual man or woman will still attain to the purpose God has for his children that was established “before the founding of the world,” that they be adopted as His sons into heaven, as recorded at Ephesians 1:3-5. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates God’s original purpose has changed or will change.
As for death being done away with, it might be helpful to know that death and resurrection is just one way of terrestrial escape. Recall that Paul spoke about some being transformed in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52) So it is quite possible that, in a world populated with righteous people, when each one’s time on earth is complete, they, too, will twinkle away instead of experiencing the sleep of death.
As to when the prophecy at Revelations 21:3-4 will have its fulfillment, we believe it will be fulfilled long in the future when man has matured and has reached a physical and spiritual apex. We reach this conclusion because righteousness does not come automatically. It takes time and effort, and the world as we know it is quite a long way away from that point. However, when the teachings of Jesus will have permeated the entire earth and the majority of the people are seeking the heavenly kingdom, then we will see the end of the sorrowful conditions and the beginning of the fulfillment of these divine promises.
Of course, we understand why millions of people are hoping for its fulfillment in their lifetime. Every generation since John recorded his prophecy had this hopeful expectation. It seems the fear of one’s own mortality creates a great sense of urgency and a compulsion to see the ‘signs’ of its fulfillment in every day events that must naturally occur as mankind progresses and matures. But as Jesus said, wars, famine, earthquakes, tribulation and things like these are just the ‘beginning’ (not the ending) of pangs of distress, and they will not end until Jesus’ message is preached throughout the entire inhabited earth. (Matthew 24:7-14) The relief we all hope for will come by the ‘word of God’ not by destruction.
Nevertheless, 21st century Christians are determined to make this prophecy come true in their lifetimes. And it is this need that fuels the growth of end times religions and the gross abuse of the faith and hopes of otherwise intelligent and Godly people. Hopefully, as the erroneous prophetic interpretations fail, Christians will settle down and return to the plain and open teachings of Jesus as the means to bring relief to our world. We are doing what we can to promote that outcome. Please see our article “Bringing Heaven Down-Turning Back Destruction.”
Having said all of this, to those who continue to be convinced that the end of the world is just around the corner, consider this: If the whole world were to crash before the end of this year and everything as we know were to be torn down, what can you do to protect yourself? What steps can you take to assure your salvation? Where can you hide for safety? There is only one thing you can do. Exercise faith in Jesus. No other knowledge or activity or person or organization will be able to protect you or save you. That being the case, why not focus your attention on learning as much as you can about Jesus and his ministry. Learn what Jesus wants you to do with your time AND DO THOSE THINGS.
If more Christians can display that mental attitude, we can hasten the spiritual and material apex of our world so that these divine prophecies can have their fulfillment.
♦ Visitor asserts that the Bible is infallible.
On February 21, 2016, we received the following inquiry:
“Brothers: Beautiful Brochure! [The Good News from God Poster] You continue, however, to re-cycle some old myths, such as that the 66 Bible Books are not much more than human effort. Since this viewpoint is popular today, I understand your position, albeit erroneous. But you really owe to yourself, and your readers, to check the facts about the myth that the 325 Council of Nicea even discussed, much less settled the Bible canon. This is 100% myth, with no supporting facts! History seems to indicate it was Voltare who apparently first floated this fiction. Please do a little research for yourself. The evidence shows the Old Testament Canon was closed circa 400 BCE, and the New Testament Canon closed by around 100 CE. But to continually re-cycle known myths, such as the 325 Council even discussing the Bible Canon, does not help your case, nor does it edify anyone. "We did not follow cleverly contrived myths." (2 Pt. 1:16)”
To the author, thank you for your email. We did some further research, and we see your point. Accordingly, we deleted the reference to the Council of Nicaea from the article since it appears their role was more in codifying teachings, not canonizing the New Testament. Thank you again.
As to your representation that to us “the 66 Bible Books are not much more than human effort,” we must disagree. We firmly believe the 66 books of the Bible were inspired by the writers’ understanding of God, by the holy spirit and, with regard to the New Testament writings, by the Spirit of Truth. But we do not believe any of the books are the infallible word of God. Neither, by the way, did the Apostle Paul. He wrote this about the Old Testament:
“Since we have such a hope, we are using great freeness of speech, and not doing what Moses did when he would put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel might not gaze intently at the end of what was to be done away with. But their minds were dulled. For to this present day, the same veil remains unlifted when the old covenant is read, because it is taken away only by means of Christ. In fact, to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts. But when one turns to Jehovah, the veil is taken away. Now Jehovah is the Spirit, and where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” – 2 Corinthians 3:12-17
If the writings of Moses were infallible, why do they dull the mind and blind the heart?
“If, then, perfection was attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for it was a feature of the Law that was given to the people), what further need would there be for another priest to arise who is said to be in the manner of Melchizedek and not in the manner of Aaron? . . . So, then, the former commandment is set aside because it is weak and ineffective. For the Law made nothing perfect, but the introduction of a better hope did, through which we are drawing near to God.” – Hebrews 7:11, 18-19
If the ‘former commandment’ was infallible, why wasn’t it able to bring about perfection? And why was it set aside as weak and ineffective? Infallibility is perfection. Completeness. Eternally true and unchangeable. One cannot improve on perfection. Yet time and time again, Paul writes that the old covenant, the ‘former commandment,’ and the writings of Moses, required improvement and were ‘near to vanishing away.’
“If that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second. For he does find fault with the people when he says: “‘Look! The days are coming,’ says Jehovah, ‘when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day I took hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not remain in my covenant, so I stopped caring for them,’ says Jehovah. . . . In his saying “a new covenant,” he has made the former one obsolete. Now what is obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away.” – Hebrews 8:7-9, 13
Based on these writings, it is clear that the Apostle Paul, and those who believed his writings, did not hold the view that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Yes, he did write:
“All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
But he never wrote that all scripture is “infallible.” No Bible writer ever wrote such a thing. Jesus referred to Old Testament stories in order to teach important lessons, but he was not affirming those stories as absolute truth anymore than Paul was confirming the absolute truth of the ‘unknown God’ when speaking to the men of Athens. (Acts 17:16-31) He was using information that was familiar to them, information that had meaning to them, in order to teach greater, more perfect things. And yes, the Bible is beneficial for teaching and reproving, and so we use it for that purpose, all the while knowing that Jesus is the one and only infallible ‘word of God.’ (See John 1:1-3, 14.) Seeking infallibility in anything else is unwise.
That is our view. We have learned from our past communications with you that you do believe the entire Bible to be the infallible word of God, and the only writing approved by God, so we will not belabor this point any further. At the very worst, you have only limited your spiritual world. You have not excluded yourself from it. And for that we can be thankful and will continue to view you as our brother in faith. How you view us is up to you.