Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Cross of Christ, and Psalm1



Following my article on why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Easter and Tony Browns excellent account of his visiting the memorial meal online, post 1 here, post 2 here, I thought it might be helpful to look at how Witnesses think about the elements of the Christian Pasch, starting with the cross. In their Insight on the Scriptures the Watchtower Society writes:


TORTURE STAKE. An instrument such as that on which Jesus Christ met death by impalement. (Mt 27:32-40; Mr 15:21-30; Lu 23:26; Joh 19:17-19, 25) In classical Greek the word (stau·ros#) rendered “torture stake” in the New World Translation primarily denotes an upright stake, or pole, and there is no evidence that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures used it to designate a stake with a crossbeam.—See IMPALEMENT; Int, pp. 1149-1151. The book The Non-Christian Cross, by John Denham Parsons, states: “There is not a single sentence in any of the numerous writings forming the New Testament, which, in the original Greek, bears even indirect evidence to the effect that the stauros used in the case of Jesus was other than an ordinary stauros; much less to the effect that it consisted, not of one piece of timber, but of two pieces nailed together in the form of a cross. . . . it is not a little misleading upon the part of our teachers to translate the word stauros as ‘cross’ when rendering the Greek documents of the Church into our native tongue, and to support that action by putting ‘cross’ in our lexicons as the meaning of stauros without carefully explaining that that was at any rate not the primary meaning of the word in the days of the Apostles, did not become its primary signification till long afterwards, and became so then, if at all, only because, despite the absence of corroborative evidence, it was for some reason or other assumed that the particular stauros upon which Jesus was executed had that particular shape.” —London, 1896, pp. 23, 24.


Isn’t that a juicy quote? Don’t you want to know who this authority John Denham Parsons is? I did, so my thinking was side-tracked, as is so often the case when the Watchtower quotes or cites an authority.

John Denham Parsons (1861-1936) was an English writer and Shakespeare theorist (he favoured Bacon as the true author of the bard’s works). To say his works are speculative and eclectic seems an understatement. He was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and had a great interest in the paranormal. In other words, he was typical of the amateur scholar of his day, an enthusiast for a range of issues.

It was the time of the fraudulent Madame Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society, Annie Besant and her allegedly forged letters form Mahatmas, Spiritualism as promoted and legitimised by the misguided Arthur Conan-Doyle. It was a period when great interest was shown in the ancient and esoteric worlds of Egypt, Greece, Alexandria, of hidden masters, and emerging world teachers. This was the world in which Mr. John Denham Parsons moved.

By now, of course, the name Johannes Greber may have sprung to mind. Between 1962 and 1983 the WBTS quoted Johannes Greber to support its rendering of John 1:1, even though they knew in 1956 that his wife acted as a spirit medium to produce Greber's translation. 

As well as his book The Non-Christian Cross, he wrote Our Sun-god, or Christianity Before Christ, in which he links Christianity with ancient sun worship via Constantine, divides Paul from Christ and emasculates the message of the New Testament in an attempt, he writes, to supply the deficiency in our true understanding. I imagine if his book was published today it would carry a title such as, ‘The Lost Message of…’ Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

Most noteworthy is the fact that the bulk of the entry on Torture Stake in Insight comprises this one quote. Indeed, of the total of 273 words, 202 are given to John Denham Parsons! Which brings us to Psalm 1. Paul, in the New Testament, writes,Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." (1 Cor.15:33) The Psalmist concurs:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.’

It does seem the Watchtower isn’t nearly as particular with the company it keeps. Next time we will go on to look at the cross...unless I find another rabbit hole in the warren of the Watchtower.




Saturday, 10 April 2021

The Three Most Important Questions in the Bible

 

1. Where Are You?

When we think about communion with God we too often think of some religious practices. We go to church to commune with God, we see the sacraments of baptism and communion, the formal act of worship, as giving us access to God. Even in our private devotions we adopt a certain posture and attitude towards God, we tend to get religious.

Hands together softly so, Little eyes shut tight.

Father just before we go Hear our prayers tonight.

We are all your children here, This is what we pray,

Keep us when the dark is near and through every day.

Even as we believe we may ‘boldly approach the throne of grace’ (Heb.4:16) yet we are, like our first parents, aware of our sinfulness (Gen.3:10). As did Adam, we hide from God, even as we hear his voice seeking us out, ‘Where are you?’ (Gen.3:9)

Before the Fall we see a very different picture. Here we witness how it was in the beginning, with God expecting to enjoy open communion with Adam, the communion of the garden. Of course, God’s question is rhetorical. He knew where Adam was and what he had done. God wasn’t in the dark, Adam was. This wasn’t God seeking information, this was God seeking relationship. The question could be framed differently, ‘Won’t you come into the light so I can see you?’

The same question is asked of us today; where are you? Like Adam, we are called into the light, to give an account of where we are and how we got there. So much of our religious posturing is our attempt to appease God, mitigate his anger with piety and acts of righteousness. However, like fallen Adam, we have no righteousness, we bring only our nakedness, our fallen nature. The LORD said to Israel:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?..Bring no more vain offerings...I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly...Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean...learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression...Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.’ (Is.1:11-20)

Our religious assembling, no matter how solemn, joyful, or well intended, is unacceptable if we don’t first honestly answer that question; where are you? How will you learn to do good if you hide in your iniquity, hide in the dark? How will you be cleansed if you don’t come to the only one who can make you clean? (Mt.19:23-26) Are you willing? Where are you? It is a question we may answer in this life, changing everything for the good, or at the judgement, completing our ruination for eternity.

2. Who Do You Say I Am?

If you met God in your daily life would you recognise him? People have all sorts of ideas about who God is, what God is like. If you answer the first question, ‘I knew I was naked and hid,’ if you stepped into the light, would you recognise the God who called you out of the darkness? The writer of Hebrews wrote of Jesus, ‘He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…’ (Heb.1:3) If you want to know what God is like look at Jesus.

The problem with that last thought about seeing God in Jesus, is people’s perception of Jesus today; gentle Jesus, meek and mild. People see Jesus as manageable, they categorise him with spiritual leaders in history and declare him ‘nice.’ That is like saying he is beige!

It is this Jesus people see in God. However, the Jesus they see as nice and manageable is the same Jesus who brought judgement and declared destruction in Matthew 23:1-24:2. The same Jesus who said, ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden…’ (Mt.11:28-30) also insisted, Don’t give to dogs what is holy…’ (Mt.7:6) He is a lot of things but please don’t call him ‘nice.’

John the Baptist declared Jesus was more than a man, someone whose sandals he was unworthy to carry (Mt.3:11). Peter declared, ‘You are the Christ,’ (Mk.8:27-30). John said of Jesus, ‘all things were made through him, and without him not anything was made that was made,’ (Jn.1:3) John went on to write, ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt (lit. ‘tabernacled) among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth,’ (1:14). Paul wrote of Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (indicating status) of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible whether thrones or dominions or rulers and authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…’ (Col.1:16-19)

It is in this Jesus that God purposed to unite all things, to fulfil his divine purposes (Eph.1:1-14). It is this Jesus who will judge the living and the dead, which is why Paul solemnly charged Timothy to ‘preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort...For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching…’ (2 Tim.4:1-5)

Come to him, then, all who labour and are heavy laden, and you will indeed find rest, but make no mistake about the Divine nature of the one to whom you come and, ‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way…’ (Ps.2:12, cf Jn.5:23)

3. What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Shopping has become a major pass-time in our bloated, privileged society. High street businesses across the western world have had to make major adjustments in the face of overwhelming competition from online companies. The pandemic has been a shock for businesses in general and people with time and money are filling their time and their lives with more stuff. Shopping has become our idée fixe or our bête noir depending on your point of view.

This obsession with material possessions has found its way into the lives of Christians, our faith becoming a market place for the next thing. From tee-shirts to Bibles, from knick-knacks to jewellery, self-help and lifestyle Christianity is all the rage. I even find people shopping for a god, picking and choosing what best suits and serves them. ‘My god wouldn’t…’ they say, ‘I could never worship a god who would…’ they declare, ‘I like Jesus, he’s nice…’

Paul addressed himself to such a world, bloated, self-satisfied, fussy and demanding. In that world, as in our own, they were spoilt for choice with theatres, galleries, stadia, magnificent public buildings, history, order and hierarchy, ‘civilisation.’ Like Rome, the eternal city, like Jerusalem of Jesus’ day, it all looked solid, indestructible. Just as Jesus would proclaim of the temple, ‘there will not be here one stone upon another’ (Mt.24:2) so Paul warned the Athenians:

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, for he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man who he has appointed; of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’ (Acts 17:30-31)

Our Creator calls to us to come out of the darkness and into the light. Just as he covered the shame of Adam and Eve by means of a sacrifice (Gen.3:21) so God has provided for us a covering for the shame we finally confess and bring into the light, ‘redemption through [Christ’s] blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.’ (Eph.1:7)

We don’t shop for God, he calls out to us (Gen.3:9)

We don’t choose him, ‘he chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.’ (Eph.1:4)

In light of this, our response should not be, ‘let me see what you’re offering.’ Rather, we should cry with the Philippian jailer, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ The reply of Paul and Silas is the best news anyone can ever hear:

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…’ (Acts 16:31-32)

From the Baptist’s message in the Jordan, through Peter’s message at Pentecost, to the cry that goes out to the world today and every day ‘till he comes, the message is the same:

Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ (Acts 2:38-39)

These are the three vital questions:

Where are you?

Who do you say Jesus is?

What must I do to be saved?

Addressing these questions changes everything.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

My Visit to The Memorial Meal of Jehovah's Witnesses (part 2)

 


I was completely unaware. There appeared no reason for me to be concerned. The two softly spoken, well dressed and extremely friendly people opened their bibles and, showing me various verses, they told me what the future held for me.

They said that my recently deceased mother, though not a Jehovah’s Witness, will be resurrected to the earth and given a second chance. When I asked if I would see her again, they offered me three potential scenarios:

1)  If I died before Armageddon - God’s coming judgement which was to happen very soon - I may also be given a second chance and be reunited with my mum.

2)  If Armageddon comes whilst I am still alive, they told me this was very possible, I will probably be annihilated.

3)  If I became a loyal and obedient follower of Jehovah, I could survive Armageddon and be reunited with my mother. We can then join the great crowd who are tasked with restoring earth to its paradisical beginnings.

So, I bought the suit and the briefcase and began to study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now let us return to the Memorial Meal.

The brother was now to address his next question:

Who will benefit from Jesus’ loving sacrifice?

As the brother asked this second question, a picture appeared on the screen.

It showed Jesus sitting on a throne in heaven, with 144,000 behind him. Before him, as if on earth, were a great crowd wearing white and waving palm branches.

If you are attending the Memorial Meal as a Jehovah’s Witness, the picture, and its meaning, would have not needed any explanation; but if you were an invited non-witness guest you were about to be taught a belief peculiar to the Watchtower.

Though they never call it such, the picture portrayed a two-tier salvation. Watchtower theology teaches that only those with a heavenly hope are in the new covenant. They are the only ones that need to be born again and they alone have Jesus as their mediator.

Oblivious to the eternal implications of this false teaching, most Jehovah’s Witnesses blindly follow what their leaders tell them. They are taught that, because they only have an earthly hope, they need not be born again, but what did Jesus say:

“Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 (NWT)

Note the word ‘anyone’. Jesus did not say ‘unless you as one of the 144,000 is born again.’

Also, what of the devastating teaching that Jesus is only a mediator for the 144,000? This is what The Watchtower says:

 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. “This great crowd” of “other sheep” that is forming today is not in the 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.’[1]

Could this sound any more like a two-tier salvation?

The brother, perhaps pre-empting people’s thoughts, was quick to point out that whether your future lies in heaven or on the earth, Jehovah loves you just the same. In other words, there is no need to feel bad if he has not chosen you for heaven. Jesus’ loving sacrifice benefits all, but it appears he especially loves those called to a heavenly hope. 

Who gets to heaven and who will be on the earth?

If you asked the question: How do you get to heaven as a Jehovah’s Witness?

The answer would be: Well, Jehovah just chooses you.

If you asked: How do you know Jehovah has chosen you?

The answer is: Well, you just know.

We were told that if you we in any way unsure, if we have any doubts about whether we are called to heaven, then we are not.

The verse often wheeled out at this point will be familiar to evangelical Christians. Romans 8:16 (NWT)

The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Rather than understanding Paul’s words to be applicable to all those who are born again of the Spirit of God, the Watchtower teaches that Paul was speaking to a limited number of ‘born-again’ ones. With zero exegetical reasoning, the Watchtower inexplicably rationalises that Paul was speaking about the 144,000 found in Revelation 7.

With no consideration to the context, and no reference to historical Christian belief, the brother began to explain the image on the screen. Beginning with the words ‘The Bible teaches that…’  he said that a limited number (144,000) will be in heaven with Jehovah and Jesus and a limitless number of people will live on a paradise earth. There was no in-depth Bible study to show why this was true. He showed no working out – he just declared that what he was saying was what the Bible teaches.

He then made a statement and posed a question: ‘This is the hope that the Bible holds out for two groups of obedient mankind, but who goes to heaven?’

Do good people go to heaven?

The brother rightly pointed out that the popular belief that only good people go to heaven is not true. None of us are good. So, who gets to heaven?

Well, that is limited to the 144,000.

Revelation chapter 7 not only informs the reader of the number 144,000, but also that these ones are from the 12 tribes of Israel. The Watchtower contends that the listed tribes of Israel are to be understood spiritually. Can you guess who they teach spiritual Israel to be?  

Welcome to the inconsistent and baffling hermeneutic of the Watchtower Society. They believe 144,000 (Revelation 7:4) to be a literal number, but the then listed 12 tribes (Revelation 7:4-8) to be only figurative – go figure!

They also consider everything else mentioned about the 144,000 to be figurative: from the tribes of Israel; having the name of Lamb and Father on their foreheads; they are virgins; having no falsehood in their mouths; and without blemish… If all this is figurative then why should the 144,000 be literal? Or, if the 144,000 is literal, why can’t everything else in the following context be understood literally?

There is no rhyme nor reason for their interpretation, other than to support their erroneous man-made doctrine.

In fact, if one reads Revelation 6:12 through to Revelation 7:17, noting that there were no chapters and verses in the original language, we find the opposite of what the Watchtower teaches. The 144,000 are seen to be on the earth (note the description of their location), with the great crowd in heaven (note the description of their location).

If you were to have Jehovah’s Witnesses read these verses in their own bible, pointing out that it says the opposite of what they have been taught, you will quickly hear a denial. They will respond with things like: ‘you need to consider all that the Bible says’ or ‘you don’t understand the context’ or something similar. In reality, it is they who fail to consider the immediate and entire biblical context. They will believe whatever their ‘real’ authority tells them.

This can be demonstrated by asking them the following question: Where is the great crowd located?

They will always say the great crowd is on the earth. You should then ask them to read Revelation 19:1 in their bible:

‘After these things I heard what was as a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said: “Praise Jah, YOU people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God…’

Even though this verse clearly places the great crowd in heaven, they will still insist that the great crowd are on the earth. This clearly shows that they are not following biblical truth, but rather Watchtower doctrine.

In part three next week, we will conclude my visit to the Memorial Meal. We will consider who may partake of the emblems and how a person can show appreciation to Jehovah and Jesus.



[1] The Watchtower, 4/1/79, p. 31

 


Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom


As we are in Easter week here is a sermon from John Chrysostom (the golden mouthed) Read it and you will see why he was called John the Golden Mouthed. These are eloquent truths couched in honest and inspiring invitation. This is the invitation we bring to those to whom we witness and we should never forget the power in it.

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!


The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom (circa 400 AD)


Saturday, 3 April 2021

An Empty Cross and an Empty Tomb Change Everything

 


Many will be aware of the protests of parents outside a grammar school in Yorkshire. It is over an image shown in a classroom setting in which racism and blasphemy were being addressed. Feelings have been so strong, voices so strident and demanding, that a teacher has had to go into hiding, fearing for their safety. Students of the school have now signed an online petition asking for the teacher to be reinstated, insisting he is not racist.

Clearly, the sacred is important to people of faith, important enough for the voices of the faithful to be raised when they believe what they regard as sacred is being desecrated. As Christians we honour what is sacred to us and understand when people of other faiths might raise their voices in protest when what is sacred to them appears to have been abused.

People may wonder then why Christians don't normally react in such strident and intimidating ways when the name of Jesus is traduced, mocked, and used as a blasphemy. We are jealous for his name, we revere it, glorify it, and worship him as Lord. But we don't react like this because, 2,000 years ago, they put him on a cross, nailed him there, and believed him as shamed and humiliated as a man could possibly be.

This Pasch (Easter) weekend Christians all over the world, followers of the humble carpenter from Nazareth, now the Lord of glory, mark again that terrible day, but more than that, on Sunday we celebrate his victory over that day, and over all the days of shame and rejection suffered by his followers, experienced by those who have bowed the knee and confessed him Lord.

The worst has happened and we are the other side of it, victors because of him. Whatever this dying world says and does now is hollow, empty, and no threat to him or to us. We pity the world, call out to the world to repent, to come join us in his victory, but the world's actions don't affect us as it might affect others.

Nobody needs to go into hiding because of us. People sometimes mistake this for weakness, timid surrender. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have strength on which to draw that this world cannot possibly know or understand. We are called now to follow the one who said:

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30

Our Saviour said the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, who recognise their own spiritual poverty, that those who mourn because of their poverty will be comforted, that the earth will be inherited by the meek, who know that our own hearts are the issue not the hearts of others, and that a consequent hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied without drawing a sword, or throwing a stone. He has said that it is the merciful who will receive mercy, the pure in heart who will see God, and the peacemakers who are the sons of God. Matthew 5:2-10

We are not silent, but led by a different light, and simply choose to use our voice to warn the world, even as it insults us, of the coming day when the one they hung on a cross will sit on the seat of judgement and all will stand before him. Will we be among those who mourn because of spiritual poverty, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? Will we be found to have been merciful, pure-hearted, peacemakers? This is his yoke and burden.

The Christian message to the world is never clearer than at this Easter weekend. A Saviour hung on a cross crying 'it is finished,' declaring his work of atonement was complete, our sins can be forgiven, and we can be complete at last too. Those who hunger for these things know there is yet a work of healing, fulfilling, completing to be done and it is only by faith in the finished work of the man on the cross, the man who walked away from an empty tomb, that we find ourselves at last all that God always intended us to be.

In light of this:

'I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' Romans 8:38-39

Have a Blessed Easter

 




Thursday, 1 April 2021

My Visit to The Memorial Meal of Jehovah's Witnesses

 




I was invited, so I went along. It would have been rude not to. My Jehovah’s Witness friend said: ‘I hope you enjoy the yearly celebration.’

After attending, virtually of course, I cannot say I my overriding emotion was one of joy; I’d rather describe my feelings as ‘disturbed’ and ‘saddened’.

So, what happened?

After the initial introductions a song ‘A Special Possession’ was sung. The lyrics of the song prepares the ground for the soon to be delivered address:

God has a new creation,

His spirit-anointed sons.

He has bought them from mankind;

His approval they’ve won.

 

Faithful to their commission,

They gather the other sheep.

To the Lamb they are loyal.

His commandments they keep.[1]


Noticeably absent from the song was Jesus, the one we had apparently gathered to honour.

The theme for the evening was then announced ‘Appreciate what God and Christ has done for you’ after which the ‘brother’ who was to give the talk was introduced.

He began by reading John 3:16 – the New World Translation version:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.

Christians, who know this verse well, will perhaps notice an extra word in the NWT version. The addition of the word ‘exercising’ reinforces the idea that faith alone is not enough, you need to ‘do something’. In this case the ‘something’ is to be obedient to Jehovah’s organisation.

The brother then spoke about why we were gathered; it is ‘to show appreciation to Jesus who rescued us from sin and death and gave us a future.’  He then read:

Luke 22:19-20 (NWT)

Also, he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: “This means my body, which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” Also, he did the same with the cup after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.

He then said that Jehovah’s Witnesses gather from around the world to remember what Jesus did for them. Millions[2] attend each year because the memorial is the most important meeting of the year. People attend out of love for what Jesus did for them.

Now the brother said he would address the following four questions during his talk:

1) How does Jesus’ death open the way to everlasting life?

2) Who benefit from Jesus’ loving sacrifice?

3) Who partake of the bread and the wine?

4) Besides attending this meal, what else must we do to show our appreciation?

Let us consider what was given as the answer to these questions.

How does Jesus’ death open the way to everlasting life?

The brother spoke about Adam and the fall, pointing out that through Adam’s disobedience sin entered the world, and sin brought death. Adam’s fall affects each one of us. We are all sinners, and we are separated from God because of this.

To be fair to this ‘brother’, his presentation of the problem facing mankind was thoroughly sound and biblical. I'm afraid I cannot say the same about the solution he presented.

The two greatest acts of love ever shown.

We were told that Jehovah was not willing to leave things as they were so, he initiated two of the greatest acts of love ever shown.

Firstly, Jehovah was willing to send his first-born son to the earth as a perfect man.

When we understand who Jehovah’s Witnesses believe Jesus to be, this does not sound as great an act of love as the Watchtower would have us believe.

The brother said: ‘Jesus was the first thing that Jehovah created.’ Is this true? Is Jesus just a thing? If he is only a created thing, was it really a great hardship for the Almighty God to send him to earth? After all what is this ‘thing’?

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus is an angel. Answering the question: ‘Is the Archangel Michael?’ they respond:

Put simply, the answer is yes…. Jesus Christ is Michael the archangel…. So Michael the archangel is Jesus in his prehuman existence. After his resurrection and return to heaven, Jesus resumed his service as Michael, the chief angel, “to the glory of God the Father.”[3]

So, the first thing Jehovah created was an angel. Did Jehovah send an angel to be the second ‘obedient’ Adam? Well apparently, not.

Somehow, when the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, Michael vanishes. The child born to her is not the Archangel Michael, but rather a sinless human she is to name Jesus. Where did he come from? If he was not Michael, then how was he Jehovah’s first-born son? Was he a further special creation of Jehovah? And where did Jesus, the obedient human, go when, after his resurrection, he ‘resumed his service as Michael’? More importantly, where is any of this in the Bible?

The brother said: ‘We cannot even imagine how close their bond would have been yet, in the greatest act of love, Jehovah sent him.’ Sent who?

Now if we are to believe what the Bible really teaches, that Jesus was the eternal, not created, Son of God who has existed eternally with the Father – then we could appreciate how gut wrenchingly difficult it must have been for both the Father and the Son. This truly is the greatest act of love and we stand in awe of the one who was willing to go to such lengths to save us. He truly deserves our adoration and praise. 

The second greatest act of love ever shown, according to the brother, was that Jesus would be willing to give his life for mankind.

Indeed, this was a great act of love, but only if you have the genuine Jesus. Verses like the ones below are far more meaningful to those who hold to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Historic, biblical Christianity holds that the Lord Jesus Christ was far more that a created angel:

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father.

Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human.

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.

He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.[4]

The Jesus of Jehovah’s Witnesses is merely a replacement Adam. An obedient perfect human who got right what the the first disobedient perfect human got wrong, but Jesus was far more than that. 

The Bible reveals to us that the perfect man who died on the cross was not merely a perfect human.

Acts 20:28  ‘Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.’

Jesus was the God-Man. He was fully God and fully man. 

God so loved the world that He shed His own blood! That is what was needed to redeem fallen mankind.

But what, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, did Jesus’ death truly accomplish? The brother addressed this question by asking us to turn to Romans 5:19 (NWT):

For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one person many will be made righteous.

His comment was that just as through Adam all sin, so through his obedience Jesus ‘passes on the opportunity to live forever.

This, probably unbeknown to the brother, is classic Watchtower eisegesis. The verse must be interpreted through Watchtower glasses.

The verse actually says that many are made righteous, not because of our obedience, but through the obedience of Jesus. But according to The Watchtower, Jesus' death was only to ‘pass an opportunity to live forever’.

For them, Jesus’ death only paid for Adam’s sin and by doing so, he opened the way for obedient humans to possibly live forever. How miserable!

Why did Jesus’ die?

The brother read Hebrews 2 and verse 9:

But we do see Jesus, who was made a little lower than angels, now crowned with glory and honor for having suffered death, so that by God’s undeserved kindness he might taste death for everyone.

He then said:

'Jesus did not die because he was a sinner. He was a perfect man offering a perfect sacrifice. Jesus proved it was possible for a human to be obedient to the point of death. He paid back what Adam lost. Jesus died that we might have life.

But the question is – where?'

Find out his answer next week.



[1] https://www.jw.org/en/library/music-songs/sing-out-joyfully/25-a-special-possession/

[2] It was said that last year 17,844,773 people attended the memorial meal.

[3] “Is Jesus the Archangel Michael?” The Watchtower, 1 April 2010, p.19.

[4] The Nicene Creed