QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
Regarding Jesus Christ | Jesus' Teachings
07/28/13a | We worship the Father, but do we pray to Jesus or the Father?
09/22/13 | Did we misstate the sign of Jonah so that The Ninevite Possibility is not consistent with what Jesus taught?
01/20/14 | Visitor has different opinion of what Jesus’ ‘new commandment’ is.
03/10/14 | Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus? (WT 5/1/14)
01/19/15 | Where does the Watchtower say that Jesus is the mediator only for 144,000?
05/12/15a | Visitor disagrees with our view of the Bride of Christ.
05/24/15 | How do I show my JW friend that JW’s are not in union with Christ?
11/03/15 | Did Jesus die on a cross and is it appropriate to wear a cross?
♦ Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
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 your 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 theirexpectation, 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 theses 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.
♦ Parable of the Sheep and Goat (Matthew 25:31-46)
On March 8, 2012, we received the following inquiries:
“Questions about the parable of the sheep and goats. In Matthew 25:37, 38 sheep says: "when did we see you?" Why do the sheep [say] this, they already know the meaning of the parable today, and know that Jesus speaks of the anointed ones. So why do they ask when did we see you?”
“Question 2. Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, 45 "one of the least of These my brethren." Why does not Jesus say, my brothers, why he say one of the least?”
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry, but we are a bit at a loss. The first question as phrased, presents a problem for anyone trying to provide an answer. It is incongruous. What you are basically asking is ‘why do the people in the parable do what they do in the parable if they already know what the parable meant before the parable was spoken.’ Perhaps you can see why we are unable to answer the question as posed.
Having said that, and keeping in mind that this site is about revealing that all Christians have one hope – the heavenly hope – we presume that your question is meant to address this assertion and perhaps suggest that the sheep must not be anointed since anointed Christians would not ask that question.
The second question appears to us to be making the same suggestion, namely that by Jesus referring to the “least of these,” that perhaps there are two classes of “brethren.” Based on these presumptions, we will provide a response. If, however, we have misunderstood your questions, please feel free to write us back with a clarification.
The illustration at Matthew 25:31-46 (encompassing both of your scriptural references) is meant to explain the basis for certain people inheriting the kingdom, and certain other people going into “everlasting cutting off” or death. Please note at the outset that there are two options: (1) an inheritance in the kingdom; or (2) death. Since an inheritance only goes to sons, this illustration is about the heavenly hope. The idea or provision for an earthly hope is not mentioned.
As to why the sons of the kingdom would ask “when did we see you,” and why Jesus would refer to “the least of these,” the illustration appears to be emphasizing the importance of showing brotherly love to all Christ’s brothers (who are also our brothers). In other words, we cannot be selective about which ones of our brothers we will love and support.
As humans, we have a tendency to be drawn to the more well-to-do, or the more knowledgeable, or the more beautiful, or the more skilled among us. Or we might be committed to only our small circle of family and friends, and reject or ignore the remainder. Jesus was admonishing us to widen out in our affections and look upon the entire brotherhood with the eyes of the spirit, seeing Jesus in each of them, even the lesser ones among us.
Thus, we see the illustration as a tool to broaden our spiritual perspective and appreciation for the entire brotherhood. We do not see it as providing any support to a “two hope” theory.
We hope we have adequately responded to your questions. Again, if we have misunderstood you, please feel free to write us with a further clarification.
♦ 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.
♦ 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 thisis 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 began 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 continuing 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)
♦ What happened to Jesus at his baptism?
On June 18, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“As you read in Matthew 3 verse 16, Jesus was the first to be born again of the spirit. can you explain what happened when the spirit came upon him?”
To the author, we thank you for posting your question. The scripture you refer to states:
“After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him.” – Matthew 3:16
As you can imagine, Jesus’ baptism was not like any other. So we will need to start with some background.
Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptizer, had been preaching in Palestine to all of Jewry to “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 3:2) At this time, the Jews were engaged in serious and solemn self-examination and their sense of racial solidarity was very profound. They not only believed that the sins of the father might afflict his children (Exodus 20:5), but they firmly believed that the sin of one individual might curse the nation.
Accordingly, not all who submitted to John’s baptism regarded themselves as being guilty of the specific sins which John denounced. Many devout souls were baptized by John for the good of Israel. They feared that some sin of ignorance on their part might delay the coming of the Messiah. They felt themselves to belong to a guilty and sin-cursed nation, and they presented themselves for baptism that they might by so doing manifest fruits of race penitence. It is therefore evident that Jesus in no sense received John's baptism as a rite of repentance or for the remission of sins. In accepting baptism at the hands of John, Jesus was only following the example of many pious Jews.
When Jesus went down into the Jordan to be baptized, he was a mortal of the realm who had attained the pinnacle of human ascension in all matters related to the conquest of mind and harmony with the indwelling spirit. He stood in the Jordan that day as a perfected son of man.
We understand that if any mortal achieves the level of personality perfection as did Jesus, that person would immediately be transformed “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52) and be taken into the heavens. But when Jesus was baptized and the ‘heavens opened up’ to him, he chose not to be thus transformed. It was at that time that the spirit indwelling Jesus of Nazareth left, and the spirit of the Son of God, Creator of our universe (Colossians 1:15-16), descended ‘in the likeness of a dove’ upon the man standing in the water. And then:
“Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.”– Matthew 3:17
At that time, Jesus became fully conscious of his pre-human existence as Son of God. He knew he had completed his commission as respects his own training – he was approved. And he knew that when he discarded his fleshly abode, he would return to that position and be given “the name that is above every other name.” (Philippians 2:9).
In the meantime, Jesus elected to remain on earth for the purpose of revealing his God to mankind as a loving merciful Father of all, and to begin a ministry that would spread over the entire globe with the goal of uplifting the spiritual state of the entire planet. Thus, immediately thereafter, Jesus went away alone to the Perean Hills to formulate the plans and determine upon the technique of proclaiming the kingdom of God to the men of his day. It was during that 40-day period of isolation that it is recorded that the Devil tried to tempt Jesus from doing that work. (Matthew 4:1-11) But Jesus emerged from the mountain with the glory of spiritual victory, moral achievement, and a plan.
We hope this answers your question.
♦ Is the Society correct that Jesus returned in the 1918 era and that Jesus decided they were the only true Christians?
On August 19, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“Thank you for this site. I have a query after much searching. We are told the Lord Jesus returned in 1918 era. On his return he told the saints the Society were the only true Christians in their beliefs. Yet at that point in time the Society were believing that Jesus returned in 1874!! Am I correct in my assumption?”
To the author, thank you for your inquiry and your words of appreciation. It means a great deal to us. As for your question, we believe your question could better be answered by the Society since these dates and interpretations originate with them.
Please note also, that we refrain from answering questions pertaining to the fulfillment of prophecy because, frankly, we have not yet been given any information that would make our comments of any value. I hope you understand. However, we can remind you what is written in the book of Revelation:
"Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him. Yes, Amen.”– Revelation 1:7
Given the confusion about Jesus’ return, it does not appear that ‘every eye’ saw him return in the 1918 era. Thus, we consider the 1918, 1914, or 1874 interpretations as inconsistent with actual events.
We do know that the Society points to the parable at Matthew 24:45-47 as the basis for their assertion that all of Jesus’ belongings on earth were given to the Society at Christ’s return in either 1914 or 1918. What the Society has done, which we believe is an error, is to turn Jesus’ parable (which is not an allegory) into a prophecy.
A parable is an illustration used to make a certain point. An allegory is an illustration where every element has a specific meaning. Jesus did not give allegories; he gave parables. It is also important to note that Jesus’ parables were not prophecies. They were object lessons on how to apply Jesus’ teachings and how to live our lives. So in looking at the parables of the masters’ return in Matthew 24:45-47 and Matthew 25:14-17, we ask ourselves “What is the point Jesus was trying to make?”
We believe the point of both parables is simply that the master would reward his faithful servants when he arrives. The one who was faithful in his use of the ‘talents’ was given more talents. The one who was faithful in feeding the domestics was given more responsibility over the household. The point is that those who are faithful will be rewarded. All will reap what they sow. We see no other prophetic implication.
Like you, we find it unlikely that Jesus would have designated the very small number of people associated with the then-known Bible Students, out of millions of Christians worldwide, as the only true Christians on earth. Especially since hindsight reveals they did not have accurate beliefs at that time, as is evidenced by their frequent re-interpretation of prophecy and repeated doctrinal changes.
Instead, it appears to us that the Society was a fledgling association that was finding its way. As with any babe, it would stumble and fall many times. Even now, it does not yet appear that the Society is fully upright. We hope to effect a positive change in its stature by encouraging a return to the unfiltered, plain and open teachings of Jesus.
We hope this response was sufficient. If not, please feel free to contact us again.
♦ Visitor challenges explanation of ransom in Part 4 - Who is Jesus Christ?
On October 1, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiries:
“I've read with interest your article "Who is Jesus Christ?" and in particular the section where you deal with the doctrine of the ransom. I share with you the same perplexity about the explanation that depicts Jehovah as being the captor and the provider of the ransom at the same time; But I find dumbfounding your explanation that there was no real need for a ransom for the atonement of sin from all mankind - that Jesus only allowed that the Jews understood his death as a sacrificial death because they had their beliefs formatted in a way that only a sacrificial life with blood shed could atone sins.
“In your article you disregarded texts like Colossians 1:13, 14: "He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins." ; also Ephesians 1:7 : "By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of [our] trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness." In both these passages, Paul connects the ransom with the atonement of sins and specifically with the blood shed. How come you have ignored these passages? Paul wasn't writing for the Hebrews here.
“You also ignored 1 Timothy 2:5, 6: "Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all" - yes, a 'corresponding ransom". Corresponding (or equivalent) to what? The only possible explanation is that is corresponding to the exceptional loss that Adam, by sinning, had- for him, and for all of us to follow. And not only to the Jews; Paul says: "For all". In the context, Paul was talking about his ministry for the nations. So it wasn't merely a dramatization to help the jews think out of the box. It was a real ransom, a real price that needed to be paid - not only for the benefit of the rigid-thinking Jews, but also for the gentiles who knew nothing about the sacrificial rites of the Hebrews.
“I also don't see any mention of Jesus' own words: "Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many." (Matthew 20:28). “Dear brothers, the Scriptures encourage us to "test the inspired expressions" to see whether they originate from God. (1 John 4:1) While you don't claim to be inspired, nor do you propose your explanations as doctrinal teachings, I perceive that this particular explanation "fails the test.”
To the author, we thank you for submitting your comments. We suspect that there are others who share your concerns. The ransom doctrine is a deeply ingrained teaching that, we believe, has been misunderstood and may require time to resolve. Therefore, we will attempt to clarify the matter further.
First, you will find a reference to Matthew 20:28 in response to Question 2 of that article that serves as the introduction to the ransom explanation. Jesus did indeed come to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many, as the response to Question 3 explains.
As for each of the other scriptures you refer to, Colossians 1:13, 14; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6, please note that they were all penned by the Apostle Paul, who was himself a Jew and a prior Pharisee, and thus also a possessor of the entrenched Jewish mind. He was an outstanding apostle for sure, but he was still a man who had to work out his own salvation to the best of his ability. And he was doing so by explaining that Jesus’ death brought the Law Covenant to an end. Notice also what he wrote to the Corinthians:
“But their mental powers were dulled. For to this present day the same veil remains unlifted at the reading of the old covenant, because it is done away with by means of Christ. In fact, down till today whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts.”– 2 Corinthians 3:14-15
You will continue to have difficulties with doctrines that originate with the Law Covenant as long as you attempt your interpretation of Jesus and his ministry through that veil. The belief that we must reconcile the Christ through Moses is the error of pouring new wine into old wineskins. We are counseled not to get to caught up in the old wine:
“Moreover, no one puts new wine into old wineskins; but if he does, then the new wine will burst the wineskins, and it will be spilled out and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. No one that has drunk old wine wants new; for he says, ‘The old is nice.’”– Luke 5:37-39
We need to let go of the old ways and its partial understanding of God and his purposes. We must accept the new wine as brought by Jesus. We are people most to be pitied if after all Jesus taught, we still look at the Father as a vengeful God who wants blood. You might want to read the articles Foreordained from the Founding of World, Everlasting Life Now, and even Freedom of the Children of God. These articles will lead you to the new wine.
But more importantly, we do not believe you can dispute that the ransom doctrine is inconsistent with the loving God and Father that Jesus taught about. You even admit as much. So clearly the ransom doctrine as it is traditionally understood is the ‘inspired expression’ that ‘fails the test.’ However, if you have another explanation of how the ransom doctrine harmonizes with our loving heavenly Father that does ‘pass the test,’ please share it with us. We are open to your view.
In the meantime, as the article stated:
“If you have difficulty digesting this understanding, then we encourage you to pray for the Spirit of Truth to guide you in this matter. He will provide the needed conviction and understanding, and bear witness with your spirit as to its truthfulness. Until then, if you are so inclined, you are free to hold onto your belief in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind, while at the same time continuing to serve God whole-souled. The ransom doctrine is a matter of theology, not salvation. Whether Christ died as a ransom sacrifice or for some other reason, the fact remains that your sins have been forgiven (1 John 2:12), that you are a child of God by having faith in the living Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26), and that you are an heir to the Kingdom of the Heavens. (Romans 8:17)
The bottom line, brother, is that we differ only in theology, not in spirit. The ‘fire’ will test all theological doctrines that we build on the foundation of the true good news – the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man with a heavenly destiny. And if in the end, our doctrines are revealed as worthless, we can still be saved.
“Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is. If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward; if anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved; yet, if so, [it will be] as through fire.”– 1 Corinthians 3:12-15
Therefore, we remain in brotherly union with you, despite our current, and perhaps temporary, theological difference as we look forward to your response.
♦ Visitor challenges the honor and glory we give to Jesus.
On May 11, 2013, we received the following email from a visitor challenging the honor and glory we give to Jesus.
“I have read your article on truth [What is Truth?] I agree whole heartily, in John 14:1-6, that the Son of God came to earth to do something about the truth. What was that? He came to show us the way TO THE FATHER,....not make himself out to be the source of truth. He explained many times, what he spoke came from his Father. The anointing spirit of truth comes not from Christ, but from Father Jehovah.
“And you made a strange reference in your article,.....you said Jesus as 'the Creator'.. had to come down to earth and explain the truth......Jesus could have dematerialized his body and gone back to heaven.....and Jesus could have had angels come rescue him, etc, or something to that effect. You are doing something here I sense is very similar to what several on [another site] did, aren't you? Beginning to glorify Jesus, instead of the Father as the source of truth, holy spirit, and our worship? . . .The scripture's thrust in John 14 is this; Jesus Leads us somewhere...where? TO the FATHER...not himself as the source of truth and worship. It appears you are saying Jesus is the truth....not so...the Father is. "Sanctify them by means of the truth. YOUR WORD is truth." John 17:17. It is Jehovah your God you should worship....him alone", he said to Satan.
“Do what Jesus did, place the source of all truth where it rightly belongs; the Father. Your readers may misunderstand, and begin to be led along with Jesus-worship. . . .We must listen to Jesus HIMSELF.......teach about his FATHER, not himself. He always sought his Father's glory, not his own. Just because WT did not acknowledge Jesus, and put his Lordship in the proper place, we need to be careful of the Satan-trap of going clear the other way, and worship Jesus to the exclusion of our very God and Father....Jehovah....(Jesus'(s) included.) Not everything WT taught is wrong, they had much right, you know.
“This is the gospel; truth. Jesus came to speak his Father's words..."Just as I hear, I speak." I do not do a single thing on my own initiative" he said. (John 8:28) I think it would be good to make sure of what your emphasis is on in your follow -up article. Clarify to the readers, ....to worship the one who made all things... Jesus only helped him in this at his side..... ."Let US make man in our image." Rev. 5:13....."To the one sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb, be the blessing and the honor, and the glory, and the might might forever. " "Father, glorify your name. ' (Jesus prayed).... "Therefore a voice came out of heaven, "I both glorified it and will glorify it again." (Jehovah speaking ) John 12:28 Father Jehovah is still on the throne, is he not? Magnify his name, as his son did, my brother. (John 12:49......7:28,29 )
“When we love Jesus, we will seek to imitate him, giving all due honor and glory to the Father, just as he did... not make himself the object of our worship. That may be the impression you are giving, unknowingly to your readers. I hope that is not your intention. (Phil. 2:5-11)”
To the author, we are deeply distressed at your email. Nevertheless, we appreciate you sending it so that we can make our position known on this issue. We agree with you that the Father is the only one to be worshiped. We have never published anything suggesting that Jesus is to be worshipped. But Jesus certainly has earned man’s glory and honor.
“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 2:9-11
We firmly believe this. No, Jesus did not come to earth to “do something about truth,” he IS truth. Jesus unambiguously said:
“I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”– John 14:6
We believe him. Paul and John explained that Jesus is our direct creator when they wrote:
“All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.”– John 1:3
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him.”– Colossians 1:15-16
We believe them. Yes, John wrote:
“Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.”– John 17:17
And he also wrote:
“In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in [the] beginning with God.”– John 1:1-2
So according to John, Jesus IS the word of God. We believe him.
Brother, there is no competition between the Father and Jesus.
“This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.”– Matthew 17:5
“I do nothing of my own initiative; but just as the Father taught me I speak these things.”– John 8:28
“I and the Father are one.”– John 10:30
“I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak.”– John 12:49
Christians are to exercise faith in Jesus if they want life:
“He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”– John 3:36
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.”– John 6:40
“I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all.”– John 11:25-26
“Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.”– John 14:1
And we are to be witnesses of Jesus, not Jehovah:
“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.”– Matthew 28:19-20
“You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”– Acts 1:8
And, for all those who seek salvation:
“Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”– Acts 4:12
This is no disrespect to the Father. He authorizes all of this, and we believe and exercise faith in all of this!
But the most reprehensible thing you wrote was your suggestion that properly honoring Jesus is a “Satan-trap.” It is a trap of Satan to glorify the Son of God?? Shame on you, brother! You hold yourself out as a student of the Bible? We suggest you read it again! Especially the writings of the apostle John. We have little tolerance for this.
The problem is that you do not understand the concept of Deity, therefore you cannot fully grasp the relationship between the Father and the Son. We will be writing an article soon on that topic.
In the meantime, we stand firm in our position that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who is our direct creator (Colossians 1:15-16) and our Eternal Father (Isaiah 9:6). See our articles Who is Jesus? You Will Be Witnesses of Me, and Lastly He Sent His Son. As Jesus himself said:
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”– Matthew 28:18
For our part, we honor Jesus Christ, bend our knees to Jesus, exercise faith in him, follow him, and glorify him. AND ... WE ... WILL ... NOT ... YIELD. But we will pray for you.
♦ Emails from visitors regarding whether we are to worship Jesus.
On May 12, 2013, we received two emails regarding whether we should worship Jesus. One asked:
“I have a question. With so much debate on the relationship of Jesus to his Father and Jesus receiving all the authority....can we pray to Jesus? Do you? Just curious.”
The other wrote:
“Referring to the [response given on 5/11/13 regarding the Honor and Glory Given To Jesus]:
“Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God." – John 6:68, 69. Jesus has the sayings of life as He is the way, the truth and the life John 14:6. Not a group of 8 men claiming to be divinely appointed in 1919 as the Faithful and Discreet Slave of Matt chapter 24:45-47.
Jesus also invited Christians to come to him to learn and be refreshed Matt 11:28-30
and to come to him to receive life John 5:40. He also stated that gaining everlasting life also required coming to know him the Greek at John 17:3 meaning much more than taking in knowledge about him as well as his Father but having a close personal relationship with him. a close companionship.
“JW's are denied such a relationship with Jesus as they have been told they are not to pray, communicate with or call on the name of Jesus despite his invitation at John 14:14 where in the Greek he states "If you ask ME anything in my name, I will do it". The scriptural evidence shows the early Christians responded to his invitation. see Acts 7:59, 9:14, 9:21; 1 Cor 1:2, 2 Cor 12:8-10 and also Paul's personal relationship with Jesus is demonstrated at Acts 23;11. In Rev 5:6-14 The Lamb is prayed to, sung to and worshipped.
“Never at a Kingdom Hall meeting of JW's will you hear a prayer directly addressed to Jesus. The vast majority of JW's deny being in a covenant relationship with Jesus and he being their mediator (1 Tim 2:5-6) when at their annual memorial meeting of his death they do not partake of the bread and wine despite his counsel at John 6: 48-58.
“By refusing to partake of the bread and the wine they are in effect whether they realize it or not refusing to confess union with Christ. Jesus stated at Matt 10:32-33 "Everyone then, that confesses union with me before men, I will also confess union with him before my Father who is in the heavens; but whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens."
To the authors, thank you both for your emails. Whether we should pray to and/or worship Jesus is a valid question, especially in light of our repeated statements of the importance of following Christ, honoring him, and glorifying him. Our response to the first email is contained within our response to the second.
We agree with all of what was written in the second email, with one exception. We do not believe it is proper to worship Jesus. We believe the author’s conclusion is based on Revelation 5:13-14, where it says:
“And every creature that is in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them, I heard saying: “To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever.” And the four living creatures went saying: “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”– Revelation 5:13-14
Based on what we understand about Jesus and what he taught while on earth, worship goes only to the Father. Here is an excerpt from an article we published entitled The Significance of Substituting for Christ:
In all that he did, Jesus always worshiped the Father and he always directed his followers to worship to the Father. The discussion in the gospel of John continues as Jesus says:
“‘If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him.’
“Philip said to him: ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’
“Jesus said to him: ‘Have I been with you men so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father [also]. How is it you say, “Show us the Father?” Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? The things I say to you men I do not speak of my own originality; but the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me; otherwise, believe on account of the works themselves.” – John 14:7-11
Jesus made it clear that he always does the will of the Father in both his actions and in his speech. And he taught that the Christian congregation – as members of his own body – should likewise worship only the Father:
“Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’” – Matthew 4:10
So then, all worship goes to the Father. To no one else do we render sacred service. Yes, Jesus is a worshiper of the Father. Jesus does not accept worship! Understanding this about Jesus makes it easier to follow his example, for though he was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man.
We note, however, that petitions can be made directly to the Son and he will answer all such requests:
“Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father. Also, whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” – John 14:12-14
Although the Revelation is presented in signs and symbols, we can rightly assume that, in the scripture cited at the beginning of the response, “the One seated on the throne” is the Father, and “the Lamb” is Jesus Christ. And we note that the scripture does not indicate to whom the worship was directed. The 24 elders fell down and worshiped in the presence of both the “One seated on the throne” and in the presence of “the Lamb,” among others.
Based on what Jesus taught, we believe what happened was that the 24 elders fell down and worshiped the Father, “the One seated on the throne,” not “the Lamb.” Think about it. It is certainly possible that one could worship the Father in the presence of another. We do it all the time. Have you not worshiped the Father in the presence of others, such as your family? This is what we believe the 24 elders were doing.
Therefore, we remain firm in our conclusion that while Jesus is to be given glory and honor, and will respond to our prayers for assistance, worship is to be directed only to the Father. Jesus’ arrival did not change to whom we worship. It only changed to whom we look to for truth and direction.
We also received two emails in support of our response:
May 12, 2013 - Dear Brothers: I read the reader's reply to your article on Jesus being the "the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6) The Bible is very clear as to the importance of witnessing to the Son and glorifying him. John 16:14 shows that the holy spirit would be active in the present age "glorifying [the Greek word means to "praise, honor, magnify"] me [Jesus]." So if God's holy spirit is truly active in a Christian his or her heartfelt desire would be to glorify the Son. To do otherwise would put a Christian in mortal danger since he would be disrespecting our heavenly Father's desire to see His dearly beloved Son honored or glorified. John 5:22, 23 says: "For the Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." According to John's first letter the antichrist, literally "against Christ" would made up of those who do not 'confess the Son.' The Greek word used for confess carries the idea of "declaring publicly, acknowledging, confessing."
May 12, 2013 - Thank you, dear Brothers. Your answer is quite correct in my eyes and that are the thoughts in my elaboration I sent to the Governing Body last year. Thank’s for this testimony in favor of our Father Jehovah and his beloved son Jesus Christ.
♦ Visitor asked about the difference between giving obeisance and/or worship to Jesus.
On May 14, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“In Revelation why doesn’t Jesus ever bow to the Father and worship him? And it says in John to honor Jesus just as we honor the Father. And in the places in which we see the word "obeisance" in the New Testament, the term in the Greek and concordances renders the term "worship." And if the translation should be rendered worship and not obeisance, then why, when these individuals "worshipped" didn’t Jesus correct them? I’m not saying this is how we should render these verses. But I have learned to be very cautious when looking at an English translations, specifically one with as many discrepancies as in the [New World Translation of the Bible, published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society]. Although I know this may not be evidence enough to say we should perform an act of worship to Jesus, the question is, how else do we honor Jesus "just as" we honor our Father? Why is the Greek term used for "worship" sometimes used as "obeisance" without any indication to do so in the Greek format? I admit were this essential to salvation, perhaps Jesus would have told us plainly, but it is curious.”
To the author, thank you for your email. The matter of our relationship to Jesus Christ and our relationship to the Father is an important one, and it can be a little confusing. We believe the reason for the confusion is that people in general do not understand ‘Deity.’ We have for some time wanted to write an article explaining this matter, but other matters seemed to take precedent. However, we are now pushing it up the list. We may have to write that article before we complete the Truth Symposium. At any rate, we will answer your specific questions now and let you know when we publish the article on Deity.
You asked why some Bibles interchange the words obeisance and worship. We are not scholars in Greek or Biblical lexicology, but we believe the reason for the confusion is that the translators did not understand the fine distinction between the two. When we look at the plain and open teachings of Jesus, we can discover that distinction.
Obeisance is defined as: (1) a movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy, or other similar gesture; (2) deference or homage: The nobles gave obeisance to the new king. ‘bowing down.’ It is customary in some countries to bow before nobles as a gesture of respect. However, bowing down is not the same as worship. Notice:
“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 2:9-11
Yet, Jesus was very adamant about not worshiping him:
"Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, "It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service."’"– Matthew 4:10
This tells us that bowing down and worshiping are not the same.
Worship is more than a respectful courtesy. It has to do with adoration, reverence, and soul submission. You might want to see our articles The Mustard Seed and Worshiping with Spirit and Truth. These articles discuss the nature of worship. And after you have read those articles, if you still have a question in this regard, please feel free to write again.
♦ 07/28/13a | We worship the Father, but do we pray to Jesus or the Father?
On July 28, 2013, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“When you pray is it to our older brother Jesus or the Father? I understand that the Son can and does send the helper and that worship goes only to the Father. I have read each of the articles but still I still find myself praying to Jehovah almost entirely?”
To the author, thank you for your email. We know that others are likewise confused about this subject matter. The problem is that many do not understand Deity, or more specifically, the unity of Deity. It is our intention to write an article on that subject this year which we believe will provide a great deal of clarity. However, whether one understands Deity or not, the answer is ultimately the same: We can pray directly to Jesus, or to the Father ‘in the name of Jesus.’ The important thing is that we recognize the authority of Christ Jesus when we pray. Jesus said:
“Also, whatever it is that you ask in my name, I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”– John 14:13-14
Of course, ‘the name of Jesus’ is not a talisman that we can recite by rote as if it has some magical power. It is the person who carries the name that has the power. Jesus’ authority is real and deserving of conscious respect and honor.
“And, look! they were bringing him a paralyzed man lying on a bed. On seeing their faith Jesus said to the paralytic: ‘Take courage, child; your sins are forgiven.’ And, look! certain of the scribes said to themselves: ‘This fellow is blaspheming.’ And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said: ‘Why are you thinking wicked things in your hearts? For instance, which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up and walk? However, in order for you to know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins—‘ then he said to the paralytic: ‘Get up, pick up your bed, and go to your home.’ And he got up and went off to his home.”– Matthew 9:2-7
“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 2:9-11
When we pray to Jesus, it is the Father who is glorified. There is no rivalry between the two. Jesus and the Father are one – wholly united in purpose. Jesus said: “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) So we can in confidence leave our prayers at Jesus’ feet and know that they will be heard.
“I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth.”– John 17:20-21
This is the Father’s will:
“While he was yet speaking, look! a bright cloud overshadowed them, and, look! a voice out of the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved; listen to him.”– Matthew 17:5
We can also look to this scripture for some direction:
“In like manner the spirit also joins in with help for our weakness; for the [problem of] what we should pray for as we need to we do not know, but the spirit itself pleads for us with groanings unuttered. Yet he who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in accord with God for holy ones.”– Romans 8:26-27
Here, we learn that sometimes we may pray without using words at all, yet our prayers will reach their proper destination. Consider this:
The Father is a God of order. (1 Corinthians 14:33) So there is a certain methodology to His ways. There is so much about heavenly operations that is unrevealed. But we are certain that once they are revealed, many of those ideas will be logical and reasonable to the human mind. So let us speculate for a moment. We know there are radio and broadcast circuits through which we communicate with one another. We believe there are likewise spirit circuits through which divine communications travel and by which we are drawn to the Father. (John 6:44) We believe our prayers ‘made in accord with God’ travel such a circuit and reach their ultimate and appropriate destination. They are not lost in the ethers.
And finally, the Father remembers we are dust (Psalms 103:14) and He will not punish us for not fully understanding his ways. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Thus, there is no reason for alarm or great concern. The key is to pray with a whole soul and a pure heart (Matthew 22:37) and if you are confused, let the spirit plead on your behalf. If you approach your prayers with these thoughts in mind, you will always gain the right listening ear.
♦ 09/22/13 | Did we misstate the sign of Jonah so that The Ninevite Possibility is not consistent with what Jesus taught?
On September 22, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“Regarding to your great article "Perfect Will of God" - it seems to me, that one can't prove whether the sign of Jonah includes your view or not. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:40, the sign of Jonah is him staying three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, not him preventing the great calamity. So I can't see that your interpretation in this case is based on the gospel, since Jesus himself gives another interpretation, doesn't he. What do you think about this aspect?”
To the author, thank you for your email. For the benefit of others, here is the scripture and the explanation we published in the article, Bringing Heaven Down - Perfect Will of God:
On one occasion when Jesus expelled a demon, the Pharisees asked him for a sign as proof that the works he did were from God.
“In reply he said to them: ‘A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached, but, look! something more than Jonah is here.” – Matthew 12:39-41
The only sign Jesus would give is his message of salvation. As with Jonah, the proof of Jesus’ authority comes from the changes that occur in the hearts of men who listen to him. It is the message, not the miracles, that lead to salvation. And like the Ninevites, all who listened to Jesus and turned to the true God were saved from the calamity that befell Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
On the surface, it does seem that Jesus gives the scripture a meaning different from what we assert. However, a closer look reveals that we were more likely on the right track. We will explain that in a moment. First, we want to explain why our viewpoints differ.
The understanding you assert, that the sign of Jonah is Jonah being in the belly of the huge fish for 3 days, is the common understanding by Christianity in general. When one looks at that scripture today, rather than looking intently into what was being communicated, one simply adopts the understanding that has been asserted for hundreds of years. This is where our ministry differs from most.
We do not accept an understanding simply because it has been around for many years. We always go straight to the source, or as close to the source as possible. In this case, we go back to the words of book of Matthew and consider its context. We do not come to the table with any preconceived ideas of what is being conveyed. We come with fresh eyes and open minds, as we explained in the articles, Preparing for Truth and Receiving Truth. We imagine ourselves in the audience of the speaker or the writer, whatever the case may be, and endeavor to understand the matter as an audience member of the day would have understood it. In this way, we strip away all of what we consider to be superfluous baggage and find our way to the plain and open and unadulterated teachings of Jesus.
Because we pursue our studies in this way, our understanding often differs from what is considered mainstream Christian theology. But we believe our understanding is more in line with what was actually being conveyed. So far, the evidence indicates we have been correct. But we remain open to correction and will make such corrections when they are needed. However, in this case, we do not believe a correction is in order. Let us explain.
Again, the scripture states:
“In reply he said to them: ‘A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached, but, look! something more than Jonah is here.”– Matthew 12:39-41
Jesus says the sign of Jonah caused the men of Nineveh to repent. If we assume the sign of Jonah is Jonah being in the belly of the huge fish for 3 days, then we have to ask: how did Jonah being in the belly of the fish cause the Ninevites to repent? A review of the account in the book of Jonah does not indicate that the people of Nineveh had any knowledge of Jonah’s ordeal with the fish. It clearly states that the people repented because of Jonah’s preaching. Thus, we conclude the sign was not his miraculous rescue from the fish, but his preaching.
Reading the context, Matthew 12:22-45, reveals that Jesus had just performed some miracles. The Pharisees, who did not believe in Jesus, could not deny that Jesus had the power to perform miracles. But they wanted him to prove that the power behind his miracles was God and not demons. Jesus had already explained why his power could not have come from the ruler of the demons, but the Pharisees were not satisfied. This prompted Jesus to call them ‘a wicked and adulterous generation’ because they ‘keep on’ seeking for a sign.
That is when Jesus said the only sign he will give to them is the same sign Jonah gave to the Ninevites – his preaching about a coming destruction – which sign Jesus did give just before his death as recorded in the 23rd and 24th chapters of Matthew. Since Jesus said he would not give them a further miraculous sign, he surely would not have been referring them to his miraculous resurrection.
We further know that Jesus was referring to preaching not miracles because of the very next illustration he used:
“The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but, look! something more than Solomon is here.”– Matthew 12:42
In this illustration, Jesus is praising the one who sought wisdom, not miracles. This is consistent with the commendation of the Ninevites who heeded Jonah’s preaching and acted wisely. Just as Jesus was ‘something more than Jonah’ because of his superior preaching, Jesus was ‘something more than Solomon’ because of his greater wisdom. Both references concern a message, a teaching – not miraculous interventions. Both the queen of the south and the Ninevites will judge that generation because they listened to the ‘greater’ one.
But if we are correct that the sign of Jonah was his preaching and not his ordeal with the huge fish, then what did Jesus mean when he referred to Jonah being in the belly of the fish and him being in the heart of the earth? To us, it seems that Jesus was simply establishing a common ground with Jonah. We might illustrate it like this:
Two men were on a golf course. One was a lawyer, one was a doctor. The doctor noticed that the lawyer was a very good golfer, so he said: “You remind me of my brother. He is also a lawyer. The last time I golfed with him, he made a hole in one!” The doctor was commenting on was the skill of the lawyer as a golfer. The reference to him being a lawyer was just to establish a commonality between the lawyer and his brother.
In the same way we believe Jesus’ reference to Jonah being in the belly of the fish and Jesus being in the heart of the earth is a reference that establishes commonality between Jesus and Jonah so that those in the audience, especially the Pharisees, could get the sense of the seriousness of Jesus’ ministry.
As we said above, this is our understanding. This is how we see the matter. You may still disagree, and that is fine. The most important thing we want you to take away from our response is that whatever the sign of Jonah was, the account of the Ninevites continues to serve as a lesson and a possibility for our generation. Paul wrote:
“For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”– Romans 15:4
We find the account of the Ninevites comforting for it shows that man does have a say in his own destiny. It demonstrates that the Father does listen to His people, so we can rest assured that if our generation does find its way to repentance, our merciful Father will act according to His nature and be merciful. That is the point of the article, Bringing Heaven Down - Perfect Will of God. And we stand by that article.
♦ 01/20/14 | Visitor has different opinion of what Jesus’ ‘new commandment’ is.
On January 20, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“We have not had the most pleasant of conversations recently, and this reply is in no way vindictive. However, I do take issue with you again over "A New Commandment." You claim that the love of brother is new and different from that of love of neighbor. "Blood is thicker than water" they say. In fact, Isn't AGAPE love the greatest show of love, when the love for strangers is greater for no other reason than the sacrifice is greater? I think the "New Commandment" is more to do with the insular and inward looking attitude of the Jewish nation that did not look upon or fraternize with Gentiles. I believe Jesus was asking them to love Gentiles, who were "Afar off, and alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, but now you are drawn close." A penny for your thoughts please.”
To the author, thank you for your email. Please know that we never take personal offense at the comments of our visitors. We understand the challenge of this type of ministry and we willingly subject ourselves to it. Please do not think we have any negative feelings toward you because we happen to disagree on some matters. We view you as a brother and we will continue to do so.
Now, to your question regarding the article “A New Commandment.” You stated: ‘You claim that the love of brother is new and different from that of love of neighbor.’ That is not correct. The article said "it was not concerning our neighbors; it was concerning our brothers." In our opinion, brotherly love and love of neighbor is the same thing – what the Greeks would call ‘philia.’ What the article states is that the love of the new commandment is a fatherly love, and is new and different from the love of the ‘second commandment,’ which was brotherly love.
You also asked whether ‘agape’ is the greatest show of love. We believe so. Agape is defined as ‘the love of God or Christ for humankind.’ It is consider a spiritual type of love and an unconditional love. This aptly describes a fatherly love which is different and greater than brotherly love, or ‘philia.’ In our view, and apparently in the view of the Associated Writer, the love in the ‘second commandment’ is philia, whereas the love in the ‘new commandment’ is a type of agape. It was going the extra mile, beyond common courtesy and beyond humane dealings. It is what is mentioned by Paul when he wrote:
“So, then, as long as we have the opportunity, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”– Galatians 6:10
We believe if you read the scripture in context, remembering that Jesus gave this ‘new commandment’ on the night of the Memorial Supper, you might come to the same conclusion as the Associated Writer of the article. This night, Jesus was making extra efforts to unify the apostles because he knew that he would soon be gone and all they would have was each other. Thus, they would need a greater bond than the love they would have for those whom they were to preach to.
Jesus washed the feet of his apostles as a demonstration of the type of love they were to have for one another. This is a more personal type of love and it was directed specifically to the apostles when we said: ‘each other.’ The second commandment is to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.” The new commandment is to “love each other as I have loved you.” And we note that although Jesus washed the feet of Judas, the ‘new commandment’ was not given until after Judas left.
Nevertheless, if after considering these matter, you still disagree with the article, that is fine. Our difference in opinion is merely semantics. The important thing is that we continue to love one another ‘just as Christ loved us.’ If you chose to widen that love out to include your neighbors, all the better.
♦ 03/10/14 | Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus? (WT 5/1/14)
On March 10, 2014, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“I'm enjoying the articles you've published. The May 1, 2014 public edition of the Watchtower has an article that is an imaginary conversation with a householder who brings up an objection that [Jehovah’s Witnesses] do not believe in Jesus (page 8). Have you seen this? Do you have any response to it? In particular, [Jehovah’s Witnesses] believe that when Jesus said, "No one comes to the Father except through me," he was referring to prayer ("in Jesus name, Amen") Any thoughts on this?”
To the author, thank you for your emails. We are glad you are enjoying what you are reading here.
Our response to your comment is that Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in Jesus. But, as a whole, they do not choose to unite with him. That is their problem. This imaginary conversation is nothing more than smoke screen designed to lull Jehovah’s Witnesses into a belief that are all Christians, when they are not.
Only those who ‘eat and drink’ of Christ (John 6:53), who confess union with him (Matthew 10:32), who are baptized into his death (Romans 6:3), and who are in pursuit of the heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:14) are members of his body, belong to the Christian congregation. (Colossians 1:24) That’s the real issue. Remember, even the Devil believes in Jesus. So do all anti-Christs. (1 John 2:18) More than belief is necessary. We must also exercise faith in the ways described above.
That is an interesting conversation cited in the Watchtower, but we fear that far too many Jehovah’s Witnesses will find themselves in this conversation:
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, but only 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 then I will declare to them: ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’”– Matthew 7:21-23
Dear brother, there is so much foolishness in the Watchtower publications that we could spend our entire ministry trying to debunk it all. As you surely know, there are many, many other websites who have chosen to take on that task. Instead, we pick our battles and focus on building up our brothers with matters that are ‘in connection with faith’ (1 Timothy 1:4), like sonship with the Father and the heavenly hope for all. If our brothers don’t understand, accept and exercise faith in these two concepts, it does not matter what theology they hold. They will return to the ground and all their theological thoughts and doctrines will perish with them. (Psalms 146:4)
♦ 01/19/15 | Where does the Watchtower say that Jesus is the mediator only for 144,000?
On January 19, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Hello. I just read the email of the former Elder [January 18, 2015]. Could he give us the references of the Watchtower in question, which states that only through the Governing Body can we have a relationship with the Father. Thank you kindly for an answer.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We contacted the brother and here is his response:
Here are the two references:
*** w79 4/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers *** Is Jesus the “mediator” only for anointed Christians?
The term “mediator” occurs just six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and Scripturally is always used regarding a formal covenant.
Moses was the “mediator” of the Law covenant made between God and the nation of Israel. (Gal. 3:19, 20) Christ, though, is the “mediator of a new covenant” between Jehovah and spiritual Israel, the “Israel of God” that will serve as kings and priests in heaven with Jesus. (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; Gal. 6:16) At a time when God was selecting those to be taken into that new covenant, the apostle Paul wrote that Christ was the “one mediator between God and men.” (1 Tim. 2:5) Reasonably Paul was here using the word “mediator” in the same way he did the other five times, which occurred before the writing of 1 Timothy 2:5, referring to those then being taken into the new covenant for which Christ is “mediator.” So in this strict Biblical sense Jesus is the “mediator” only for anointed Christians.
The new covenant will terminate with the glorification of the remnant who are today in that covenant mediated by Christ. The “great crowd” of “other sheep” that is forming today is not in that new covenant. However, by their associating with the “little flock” of those yet in that covenant they come under benefits that flow from that new covenant. During the millennium Jesus Christ will be their king, high priest and judge.
*** w13 7/15 p. 20 pars. 2-3 “Who Really Is the Faithful and Discreet Slave?” ***
Paragraph 2: The timely spiritual food we receive is proof that Jesus, the Head of the congregation, is keeping his promise to feed us. Through whom is he doing so? When giving the sign of his presence, Jesus said that he would use “the faithful and discreet slave” to give “food at the proper time” to his domestics. (Read Matthew 24:45-47.) That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3.
Paragraph 10: Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, however, that the word “slave” in Jesus’ illustration is singular, indicating that this is a composite slave. The decisions of the Governing Body are thus made collectively.
We hope that answers your question. If not, let us know.
♦ 05/12/15a | Visitor disagrees with our view of the Bride of Christ.
On May 12, 2015, we received an email in response to our article, “The Bride of Christ.” The email itself is 3 pages long and basically regurgitates the traditional belief that the Bride of Christ is the Christian Church, referring to Old Testament concepts and symbolism in the book of Revelation. For those who wish to read the brother’s entire email, you can click HERE. And here is our response:
To the author, it is good to know you still visit us and read our articles. Yes, we are aware of the second earthquake in Nepal and we will continue to pray for those in that region, as we do for all who are suffering around the world. And we are certain all faith sons of God will do the same.
As for our recent article The Bride of Christ, we knew this topic would ruffle the feathers of some, but without agitation, there can be no growth. So we appreciate you taking the time to write us which allows us to further our discussion on this topic.
We have reviewed your analysis/critique of our article in detail, and we strongly disagree with your conclusion for the reasons set forth in the article. We note that you provided no instance when Jesus told his followers that they would be his future bride, not even in your references to the book of Revelation. As for Paul’s writings, we believe he is using the husband and wife relationship as a metaphor, not as a fact. Paul wanted the congregation to be chaste and loyal and in submission to Jesus, but that does not mean they will be his wife. Recall that Jesus is obedient and in subjection to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28) and, in fact, belongs to the Father. (1 Corinthians 3:23) But does that make Jesus the Father’s wife? Of course not!
During his ministry, Jesus spoke about marriage, weddings, and the bridegroom often. He had ample opportunity to tell his followers directly or in a parable that they, or some of them, would be his future wife, but he never did. In all of his recorded discourses, he consistently identified himself as a bridegroom, and his followers as his brothers, sons of God, guests and friends of the bridegroom. NEVER did he ever refer to them as his bride. If the truth is that the congregation was to be his composite bride, why would Jesus hide this information from his apostles, most of whom all died before the Revelation was given to John?
We believe Jesus when he said he is ‘the way, the truth and the life.’ (John 14:6) So if any one of his followers, or any other person, writes or says anything that appears to be in conflict with Jesus’ plain and open teachings, then we side with Jesus and we look at all other comments through the lens of Jesus’ plain words. That applies to the writings of Peter, Paul, John and any other Bible writer.
We know the view that the bride is the Christian church is a longstanding view having its origin in the Roman Catholic Church. However, we are not beholding to tradition. (Matthew 15:8-9) We look to what Jesus openly and plainly said. That is why our ministry is so different from other Christian ministries – we dare to rely on the things Jesus taught openly and plainly, and we view all other portions of the Bible through the lens of Christ’s teachings, not the other way around. By this method, we know from Jesus’ plain and unambiguous words that we are his brothers, sons of God, guests and friends of the bridegroom. But the idea that we are also his bride is pure speculation, evidenced by the fact that you rely heavily on your interpretations of the symbolic book of Revelation and the assumption that Paul was correcting or adding to Jesus’ words.
We find it amusing that so many self-proclaimed Bible scholars cannot accept the fact that their interpretations of prophecy are merely opinions, not facts. Where is the humility? Where is the meekness that is supposed to characterize Christ’s brothers? Why can’t those who claim to follow Christ just accept what he said as true? Why do so many paint Jesus as so incompetent as to forget important things like “Oh yeah, most of you won’t be with me in heaven” or “The faithful ones will go to heaven and the unfaithful will go into destruction, but there’s a third class that will live forever on earth!” or even “You’re my brothers, sure, but if you act right, you can also be my wife!”
Additionally, we find it sad that so few Bible readers dare to rely solely on Jesus’ teachings instead of falling back to the elementary doctrines and concepts under the old Hebrew religious system – the things Jesus called “old wine.” He specifically taught that his followers should not mix old wine with the new wine he brought. (Mark 2:22) Yet, too many Bible readers and self-professed scholars refuse to accept his simple instructions and his clear message. Like you, they are determined to scour the old wine seeking to apply ancient meanings to Jesus’ plain unpretentious words, as if God was a great puzzler who hides truth so that it can only be found by scholars and so-called learned men.
A humble reader of Jesus’ words would never suspect that they were part of the bride of Christ. A humble reader would accept Jesus words for just what they are. He said we are brothers, sons, guests and friends of the bridegroom, and so we accept that as true. Any other supposed relationship that is conjectured out of symbolic prophecy might be interesting to consider, but should be not asserted as fact. Especially if, as in this case, it is in direct opposition to what Jesus plainly said.
Prophetic interpretations are not built on solid foundations, only his plain teachings – the sayings of Jesus – are:
“Therefore, everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does them will be like a discreet man who built his house on the rock. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded on the rock. Furthermore, everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house, and it caved in, and its collapse was great.”– Matthew 7:24-27
Jesus clearly encouraged his following to rely on his own sayings, not the sayings of the prophets, or even the sayings of Moses. He is greater than Moses (Hebrews 3:3), and one through whom the Father speaks today. (Hebrews 1:1-2) He is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) Accordingly, when trying to understand what is true, we lay our foundation on the plain and open teachings of Jesus, and examine all other matters as to how they relate to Jesus’ actual words. Thereby, we choose the path of the discreet, not the path of the foolish.
Having said all of that, whether the Christian church is the bride of Christ or not is merely a doctrinal theological matter, not a matter of salvation. Those who make it to heaven will all know who the bride of Christ truly is. Until then, we hope that you can open your mind to Jesus’ plain words and trust that he did not leave behind crumbs and clues, but that he faithfully told us the truth.
♦ 05/24/15 | How do I show my JW friend that JW’s are not in union with Christ?
On May 24, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I am a born again Christian, and I have a friend who is a Jehovah Witness, he says that 8 million witness today are in union with Christ, I told him that in my research the Watchtower and Bible and Tract Society teaches that only the 144000 are in union, the point that I'm making with his is that he is still in the flesh and in sin with no hope if he is not in union with Christ, but he's sure he says that all [Jehovah’s Witnesses] are in union .... how can I provide proof to show him that what I'm saying is the truth ......”
To the author, thank you for your email. You are correct in your assessment. According to the records of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, only 14,212 out of the 8,201,545 Jehovah’s Witness are in union with Christ. That means that 99.998% of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not in union with Christ, likely including your friend. The reason you are having difficulty explaining this to your friend is because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not know what it means to be in union with Christ. They have a blind spot in this area that is difficult to show to them. They are told by their leaders that they all are in union with Christ, and that conclusory statement is all the evidence they have. But if one looks at their actual teachings, it is clear they are not.
We published an article entitled Who Are Jehovah’s Witnesses? Most people are shocked to know what they believe about being in union with Jesus. In fact, even Jehovah’s Witnesses are shocked when you put the information directly before them. We suggest that you read the article for yourself and then ask your friend about the 8 specific points enumerated in the article. Ask him if they apply to most Jehovah’s Witnesses. If he is honest, he will see that most Jehovah’s Witnesses reject each of the factors that put one ‘in union’ with Christ.
Nevertheless, if he is a typical Jehovah’s Witness, he will immediately get defensive. It is a common reaction by people who love their religion more than they love truth. Rather than react in kind, simply ask if you can show him some scriptures. If he allows you to continue, show him these scriptures:
Romans 8:1-17. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses believe this chapter refers to the anointed, of which most of them are not a part. See particularly these verses:
“1. Therefore, those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation. 2. For the law of the spirit that gives life in union with Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
“9. However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this person does not belong to him.”
“12. So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh; 13. for if you live according to the flesh, you are sure to die; but if you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live.”
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are seeking a fleshly future – everlasting life on earth in the flesh, not in heaven. They set their minds on the things of the flesh. According to Paul, those setting their minds the flesh are sure to die.
“14. For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons. 15. 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!” 16. The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.
You can ask if he has the spirit of adoption as a son of God. If not, he is not in union with Christ. He’s more like a neighbor’s child.
See also 2 Corinthians 1:21-22:
“But the one who guarantees that you and we belong to Christ and the one who anointed us is God. He has also put his seal on us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.”
It is the anointing that guarantees we belong to Christ. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses freely acknowledge that they are not anointed.
And see Galatians 3:26-29:
“You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring, heirs with reference to a promise.”
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe they are part of Abraham’s seed, nor heirs to the heavenly kingdom, thus they do not belong to Christ.
The facts are clear. The challenge you have is whether your friend will listen to what the Bible clearly says, or whether he will listen to the babbling of the Governing Body. The sad truth is that many people prefer the lies of men over the truth of God.
“That is why God lets a deluding influence mislead them so that they may come to believe the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.” – 2 Thessalonians 2: 11-12
Of course, the blind will follow the blind and be led into the pit, but among Jehovah’s Witnesses, in many cases, it is the seeing who are willingly following the blind. Sad indeed.
We are trying very diligently to get Jehovah’s Witnesses to open their minds to see that their beliefs do not put them in line for survival. They are being taught by their Governing Body to reject the very things that will save them.
We hope we have given you some ideas and we wish you the very best in your endeavor to reach the heart of your friend. Please let us know how it turns out.
♦ 11/03/15 | Did Jesus die on a cross and is it appropriate to wear a cross?
On November 3, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Is the cross real? i.e. did Jesus die on a cross? The "torture stake" has always rankled with me and the reasoning behind the [organization’s explanation] does not sit right. A Christian would wear a cross as an identifying sign to others of their faith and as a mark of utmost respect to Our Lord not as a worship object but a daily reminder of that sacrifice. But I do need another’s point of view because I would not want to cause offense, just asking. ”
To the author, thank you for your email. The issue of whether Jesus died on a cross or an upright stake is an issue that has served no other purpose than to divide followers of Christ. It is a non-salvation issue that has no bearing on faith. Whatever way one believes Jesus died or which instruments were used, does not validate nor invalidate one’s faith in Jesus, nor does it in any way interfere with our hope for eternal life.
To us, it is also an illusory dispute, meaning that there is really no dispute at all. It is only a matter of not having a full understanding of the issue. According to what we have learned, there are different ways victims were crucified or impaled. To crucify means to affix to a cross. To impale usually means to pierce or skewer (often into the anus and out the mouth.) In modern times, impaling can also refer to being affixed to a pole, but the original word has the more gross connotation. Based on the Biblical record, we can say for a certainty that Jesus was not impaled in the truest sense. Thus, the other options are that he was either affixed to a pole or affixed a cross. Understanding how crucifixion were carried out in Jesus’ day will shed some light on why we call this a contrived and unnecessarily divisive issue.
During the time of crucifixions, there was often a place that was used almost exclusively for crucifixions. At that place, there may be one or several upright poles (probably the size of modern day telephone poles) that were already inserted in the ground. They were strong enough to hold a human body and durable enough to be reused as needed. In Jesus’ case, that place was called Golgotha, ‘the Skull Place.’ (Matthew 27:33)
There was also a cross that was used. This cross is of much lighter weight than the upright pole. It has a long beam, at least the length of the victim, and a shorter cross bar. Sometimes the victim had to carry his own cross to the site. In Jesus’ case, since he was so weakened after the beatings and lashings he had already suffered, the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry Jesus’ cross. (Matthew 27:32)
When the victim arrives at the site, his cross is laid on the ground and he is laid upon his cross. His arms are tied to the cross beam and then his hands are nailed down. There is also a wood peg nailed about midway down the long beam that serves as a kind of seat to support the weight of the victim. The legs are also tied and bound to the cross and then his feet are nailed together with one long nail into the cross.
The victim, attached to his cross, is then hoisted up to the upright pole and his cross is nailed to the more study pole. The wooden peg and the bindings assure that the weight of the victim will not cause the hands to strip and the victim to fall to the ground. This assured a slow painful death that would serve as a warning to others.
Here’s an artist’s rendition of Jesus’ crucifixion to help you visualize this description. (Note that in this picture, instead of a saddle peg, this artist drew a pedestal block. Nevertheless, we believe you can get a good idea of how Jesus’ crucifixion was carried out.
According to this method of crucifixion, it appears that Jesus was both nailed to a cross AND hung on a pole. So you see why we say this dispute is illusory. There is no real or valid dispute. Both are correct, and not mutually exclusive. It is a case of people having incomplete knowledge. We find that many of the disputes between Christian sects are similarly illusory and based on incomplete knowledge.
Now, as to whether it is right or appropriate to wear a cross, we believe that is a personal decision, just as is the decision to wear any other item, insignia or emblem. It cannot be said that the cross itself is a pagan symbol since the evidence shows that Jesus did die on the cross. So any other objection to using or wearing a cross would be based on personal preference.
Many groups wear signs, insignia or symbols to designate their associations. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have long worn badges when attending conventions hosted by the Watchtower organization. They are specifically told to wear the badges to advertise the conventions and let people know they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Recently, they have become fond of wearing the blue jw.org emblem to identify them and their places of worship as belonging to the Watchtower organization. Yet not one of them would say that their badges or their blue emblem are objects of worship. They view them as simply symbols for identification.
This is no different from Christians who choose to wear the cross to identify themselves as a Christian who belongs to Christ Jesus, not any particular sect or organization. Most are not worshiping the cross anymore than Jehovah’s Witnesses are worshiping their emblems. Thus, if someone decides that wearing the cross is wrong, then wearing the other symbols and emblems is also wrong. Only a hypocrite would condemn one and not the other.
The fact is, the symbol of the cross is a universally accepted symbol of Christ and Christianity. It is a silent way of acknowledging Christ and openly confessing union with him that speaks volumes! As Christians ourselves, we have no problem with the cross. In fact, when we see a person wearing one, we know that we can have a pleasant interchange of encouragement by acknowledging it or commenting on it. So rather than being an object that causes division, it can be an object that fosters unity. That is our view.
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