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Thursday, May 28, 2009

“No One Has Love Greater Than This”

“LOOK! The man!” With those words, the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate presents Jesus Christ to the angry mob gathered outside the governor’s palace at dawn on Passover of 33 C.E. (John 19:5) Just a few days earlier, Jesus was hailed by the crowds when he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the divinely appointed King. On this night, however, the hostile crowd has a very different view of him. Jesus is decked with a purple robe like that worn by royalty, and he has a crown upon his head. But the robe, covering the ribbons of bleeding flesh on his scourged back, and the crown, braided of thorns and pressed into his now-bloodied scalp, are in mockery of his royal status. The people, incited by the chief priests, reject the battered man standing before them. The priests shout: “Impale him! Impale him!” With murder in their hearts, the people cry out: “He ought to die.”—John 19:1-7. With dignity and courage, Jesus endures the humiliation and suffering uncomplainingly. He is fully prepared to die. Later that Passover Day, he willingly submits to a painful death on a torture stake.—John 19:17, 18, 30. By surrendering his life, Jesus proved himself a real friend to his followers. “No one has love greater than this,” he said, “that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) That raises some important questions. Was it really necessary for Jesus to go through all that suffering and then to die? Why was he willing to do so? As “his friends” and followers, how can we imitate his example?

Why Was It Necessary for Jesus to Suffer and Die?

As the promised Messiah, Jesus knew what to expect. He was aware of the many prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures that foretold in detail the Messiah’s suffering and death. (Isaiah 53:3-7, 12; Daniel 9:26) More than once, he prepared his disciples for the trials that awaited him. (Mark 8:31; 9:31) On the way to Jerusalem for his final Passover, he specifically told his apostles: “The Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and will deliver him to men of the nations, and they will make fun of him and will spit upon him and scourge him and kill him.” (Mark 10:33, 34) These were no empty words. As we have seen, Jesus was indeed made fun of, spit upon, scourged, and killed. Why, though, was it necessary for Jesus to suffer and die? For several profoundly significant reasons. First, by keeping loyal, Jesus would prove his integrity and uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty. Recall that Satan falsely claimed that humans serve God only out of selfish interest. (Job 2:1-5) By remaining faithful “as far as death . . . on a torture stake,” Jesus gave the most conclusive answer possible to Satan’s baseless charge. (Philippians 2:8; Proverbs 27:11) Second, the Messiah’s suffering and death would provide atonement for the sins of others. (Isaiah 53:5, 10; Daniel 9:24) Jesus gave “his soul a ransom in exchange for many,” opening the way for us to have an approved relationship with God. (Matthew 20:28) Third, by enduring all manner of hardships and suffering, Jesus was “tested in all respects like ourselves.” He is thus a compassionate High Priest, one who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”—Hebrews 2:17, 18; 4:15.

Why Was Jesus Willing to Give His Life?

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To put into perspective what Jesus was willing to do, think about this: What man would leave his family and home and move to a foreign land if he knew that most of its inhabitants would reject him, that he would be subjected to humiliation and suffering, and that he would finally be murdered? Consider now what Jesus did. Before coming to earth, he had a favored position in the heavens alongside his Father. Yet, Jesus willingly left his heavenly home and came to earth as a human. He made this move, knowing that he would be rejected by the majority and that he would be subjected to cruel humiliation, intense suffering, and a painful death. (Philippians 2:5-7) What motivated Jesus to make such a sacrifice? Above all, Jesus was impelled by deep love for his Father. Jesus’ endurance was evidence of his love for Jehovah. That love caused Jesus to be concerned about his Father’s name and reputation. (Matthew 6:9; John 17:1-6, 26) More than anything, Jesus wanted to see his Father’s name cleared of the reproach that had been heaped upon it. Jesus thus counted it the highest honor and privilege to suffer for righteousness’ sake, for he knew that his integrity would play a part in sanctifying his Father’s good and beautiful name.—1 Chronicles 29:13. Jesus had another motive for laying down his life—love for humankind. This is a love that goes back to the very beginning of human history. Long before Jesus came to earth, the Bible reveals that he felt this way: “The things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:30, 31) His love was clearly evident when he was on earth. As we saw in the preceding three chapters of this book, in many ways Jesus showed his love for humans in general and for his followers in particular. But on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., he willingly gave his soul in our behalf. (John 10:11) Truly, there was no greater way for him to demonstrate his love for us. Are we to imitate him in this regard? Yes. In fact, we are commanded to do so.

“Love One Another . . . as I Have Loved You”

The night before he died, Jesus told his closest disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) “Love one another”—why is that “a new commandment”? The Mosaic Law had already commanded: “You must love your fellow [or, neighbor] as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) But the new commandment calls for a greater love, a love that would move us to give our own life in behalf of others. Jesus himself made this clear when he said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) The new commandment, in effect, says: “Love others, not as yourself, but more than yourself.” By his life and death, Jesus certainly exemplified such love. - Published by the WTB&TS

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What Is God’s Kingdom?

WHAT was the theme of Jesus’ preaching? According to Jesus himself, it was God’s Kingdom. (Luke 4:43) When people listened to him speak, they surely heard many references to that Kingdom. Were they puzzled or mystified? Did they ask him what this Kingdom was? No. The Gospels record no such questions. So was God’s Kingdom a familiar concept to those people?

The fact is, the ancient Scriptures that the Jews revered as holy described that Kingdom, revealing in vivid and concrete terms what it is and what it will accomplish. Today, we can learn even more about the Kingdom in much the same way—by going to the Bible. Let us consider seven truths that the Bible teaches us about the Kingdom. The first three were readily available to the Jews of Jesus’ day and earlier. The next three were revealed by Christ or by his apostles during the first century.
The last one has become apparent in our own time.

1. God’s Kingdom is a real government, one that will last forever. The Bible’s first prophecy revealed that God would send a rescuer to faithful mankind. Called the “seed,” this One would undo the terrible ills that were set in motion by the rebellion of Adam, Eve, and Satan. (Genesis 3:15) Much later, faithful King David was told something thrilling about this “seed,” or Messiah. He would rule over a Kingdom. This government would differ from all others. It would endure forever.—2 Samuel 7:12-14.

2. God’s Kingdom will put an end to all human governments. The prophet Daniel was given a vision in which he saw a succession of world powers, stretching down through history into our own time. Notice the thrilling climax to that vision: “In the days of those [final human] kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” So all the kingdoms, or governments, of this world—with their wars, oppression, and corruption—will be destroyed forever. As Daniel’s prophecy shows, God’s Kingdom will soon rule over the whole earth. (Daniel 2:44, 45) A concrete reality, it will remain the only government in existence.

3. God’s Kingdom will end wars, sickness, famine, even death itself. Thrilling Bible prophecies reveal what God’s Kingdom will do here on the earth. That government will accomplish what no human agencies have ever done or could ever do. Imagine—all weapons of war destroyed forever! “He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” (Psalm 46:9) No more doctors, hospitals, or disease of any kind. “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) No more famines, food shortages, malnutrition, or starvation. “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth.” (Psalm 72:16) No more funerals, wakes, cemeteries, morgues, or the misery that accompanies them. Death, our relentless enemy, will be vanquished at last. God “will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.”—Isaiah 25:8.

4. God’s Kingdom has a Ruler chosen by God. The Messiah is not self-appointed, nor is he selected by imperfect humans. He is personally chosen by Jehovah God. The very titles Messiah and Christ suggest as much. Both words mean “Anointed One.” So this King is anointed, or designated for his special office, by Jehovah. God says of him: “Look! My servant, on whom I keep fast hold! My chosen one, whom my soul has approved! I have put my spirit in him. Justice to the nations is what he will bring forth.” (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:17, 18) Who knows better than our Creator what kind of Ruler we need?

5. The Ruler of God’s Kingdom has demonstrated his worthiness before all mankind. Jesus of Nazareth proved to be the foretold Messiah. He was born in the family line God had specified. (Genesis 22:18; 1 Chronicles 17:11; Matthew 1:1) When on earth, he fulfilled scores of prophecies about the Messiah that were recorded centuries earlier. He was also identified from heaven as the Messiah. How so? Well, God spoke from heaven, identifying him as His own Son; angels pointed Jesus out as the foretold Messiah; and Jesus performed miracles—often in front of hundreds or even thousands of eyewitnesses—that clearly drew on the power of God. Jesus showed over and over again what kind of Ruler he would be. He had not only the power to help people but the desire as well. (Matthew 8:1-3) He was unselfish, compassionate, courageous, and humble. The record of his life on earth is there in the Bible for all to read.

6. God’s Kingdom has 144,000 corulers with the Christ. Jesus said that others, including his apostles, would rule in heaven with him. He called this group the “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) Later, the apostle John was told that this little flock would total 144,000 in number. They would have a thrilling work assignment in heaven, ruling as kings and serving as priests along with Christ.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1, 3.

7. God’s Kingdom, now ruling in heaven, is poised to establish its rule over the whole earth. This last truth is one of the most thrilling we can learn. The Bible gives ample evidence that Jesus has been granted his authority as King in heaven. He is ruling there now, in our own time, and very soon he will extend his rule to all the earth and fulfill the magnificent prophecies we have already mentioned. But how can we be sure that God’s Kingdom is ruling now? And when will it begin to rule over the earth?

- Published by the WTB&TS


What the Kingdom Means for Our Earth

JESUS’ model prayer continues with these words: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) God is deeply concerned with our earth, and with all who live and who have lived here. That is why the Kingdom comes, to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” to provide for the resurrection of the dead, to remove the enemy death and to make our globe a happy, peaceful home for mankind’s habitation.—Revelation 11:15, 18; 21:1, 3, 4.

2 How eagerly, then, we should pray those words, “Let your kingdom come”! This is God’s kingdom in the hands of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By means of it the will of Jehovah, who is himself the “King of eternity,” shall indeed be carried out on this earth. Consider what that will mean for the people of all nations:


3 Looking forward to Christ’s Kingdom rule, God’s prophet describes him as the “Prince of Peace,” and adds, “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” The same prophet assures us: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Though these last words are inscribed on the plaza wall across the street from the United Nations, it is not that strife-torn international body that fulfills the prophecy. For the U.N. has failed dismally as an organ for establishing peace and security among nations.—Isaiah 2:4, AV; 9:6, 7, NW.

4 True and lasting peace requires that there be justice for everyone, a real practice of righteousness. Only the kingdom of the “Prince of Peace” can guarantee this; it will be ‘firmly established and sustained by means of righteousness.’ Yes, that kingdom is God’s agency for providing “upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Isaiah 9:7; 32:17; Luke 2:14.

5 How will the Kingdom do this? It will be, outstandingly, through the ‘coming’ of God’s kingdom by his “Prince of Peace” against the warring nations of the world. Psalm 46:8, 9 invites us: “Behold the activities of Jehovah, how he has set astonishing events on the earth. He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the [war] wagons he burns in the fire.” The Kingdom will outlaw all weapons of violence. Moreover, it will not permit wicked thugs and rapists to stalk the streets, for under God’s kingdom “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:9-11.


6 Many prophecies of the Bible have reference to the captivity of Israel of old. After serving Babylon for 70 years, a faithful remnant of Israelites returned to their own land in 537 B.C.E. All those years, the land had lain in desolation, a wilderness. But now, with Jehovah’s blessing on his people, there was a remarkable transformation. Prophecy written hundreds of years in advance came to glorious fulfillment:

“The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2; see also Isaiah 65:18-25; Micah 4:4.

7 As history testifies, these prophecies had a marvelous fulfillment toward God’s restored people during the century following their release from Babylon. And when God’s kingdom ‘comes’ for the blessing of all of God’s children here on earth, will it do any less in restoring paradisaic conditions to our globe? The answer is a resounding No! The Kingdom will indeed see that God’s original mandate to mankind to ‘subdue the earth,’ making all of it into an Edenic paradise, will be carried out to completion.—Genesis 1:28; 2:8-14; Isaiah 45:18.


8 When God’s kingdom ‘comes,’ food shortages and inflation will disappear, for “there will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.” Our loving Father will again “cause food to go forth from the earth, and wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice, to make the face shine with oil, and bread that sustains the very heart of mortal man.” (Psalm 72:16; 104:14, 15) There will be no problems of food distribution among nations, no rationing, no lining up for fuel supplies. Greedy profiteers will be gone. All mankind will obey the kingly law, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” sharing with one another according to the need.—James 2:8.

9 Moreover, we can expect that the Kingdom will control natural upheavals, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Jesus indicated how this could be done when he stilled “a great violent windstorm.” Thus, his disciples took note that “even the wind and the sea obey him.” (Mark 4:37-41) In all the earthly realm of God’s kingdom, there will be nothing that hurts, harms or brings to ruin.—Compare Isaiah 11:6-9.

10 No longer will large hospitals be needed to house the physically and mentally sick. Heart disease, cancer and other crippling illnesses will be eradicated, for the Master Physician, Jesus Christ, will apply the value of his ransom sacrifice “for the curing of the nations.” Jesus’ many miracles of healing and raising the dead, performed while he was on earth, are only a small indication of what he will accomplish by his powerful Kingdom rule. Even mankind’s inherited dying condition will be removed, for we are assured that “death will be no more.”—Revelation 21:4; 22:1, 2; Matthew 11:2-5; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:18, 19.

11 And joy of joys!—cemeteries will no longer mar the landscape, for even these will have been emptied. A “firstfruits” of the resurrection, 144,000 loyal disciples of Jesus, are to be united with him in the heavens as his associates in his kingdom. There will also be fulfilled Jesus’ marvelous promise that the rest of the dead “in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out . . . to a resurrection.” These will have the delightful opportunity to be brought to human perfection as subjects of the Kingdom here on earth.—John 5:28, 29; Revelation 14:1-5; 20:4-6, 11, 12.

12 Do you wish to be one of those who will live to see this earth cleansed of all wickedness and transformed into a paradise of pleasure? Do you wish to be here to welcome back the resurrected dead? Would you like to live forever on an earth made glorious—where no one grows weak with age or ever tires of the delights that come with each day of life? You may, if you follow God’s requirements for gaining life. Jesus put it simply, when he said in prayer to his Father: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) What a privilege it will be to live eternally in paradise, when “the earth will be filled with the knowing of the glory of Jehovah as the waters themselves cover over the sea”!—Habakkuk 2:14.


13 However, we today are deeply concerned with present needs. For many of us, making a living and providing for our families have become a real challenge. So we need not only to pray for the Father to sanctify his great name and cause his will to be done on earth through the coming of his kingdom; we need also to pray to God for our daily necessities, for “our bread for this day.” This we can do with full confidence that, if we endeavor to live according to God’s righteous principles and keep the interests of his kingdom first in our lives, God will do his part as the Great Provider. It is just as Jesus goes on to tell us: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:11, 31-33.


14 In building an intimate relationship with our Father, we need humbly to recognize our indebtedness to him, and to acknowledge our trespasses against God and our fellowmen. Appropriate it is, then, to pray to God: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”—Matthew 6:12.

15 As a marvelous kindness, completely undeserved on our part, God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world, so that he might “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many” of us humans. This provides a basis for forgiving our sins. (Matthew 20:28) How great is God’s mercy thus displayed to sinful mankind! What compelling reason we have, then, for overlooking the weaknesses of our fellowmen! We should be ready to go even farther than that: to forgive even serious sins against us. In this way we can display toward others that quality of intense love that Jesus said would be an identifying mark of true Christians.—John 13:35; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:22.


16 Finally, Jesus instructs us to pray to God: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Matthew 6:13) Let us not think that God places temptations in our path, causing us to fall. Rather, it is that wicked rebel against God, Satan, who wants to turn us away from God.

17 However, the Father equips us to “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil,” yes, to wrestle successfully with him and the wicked spirit forces that he controls. So that we may not be ‘brought into temptation,’ God provides us a complete suit of spiritual armor, which we may put on. The apostle Paul describes it at Ephesians 6:10-18. As we stand firm in using this God-given equipment, carrying on prayer, the Father will see to it that we are ‘not brought into temptation,’ but are ‘delivered from the wicked one.’—1 Peter 5:6-9.

18 May Jehovah’s illustrious name be sanctified soon through the ‘coming of his kingdom.’ May his will be done on earth by the clearing out of all badness and by making this a global paradise to his praise. As long as the present evil system lasts, may our loving heavenly Father provide us the necessities of life, help us to maintain fine relations with others and deliver us from Satan’s clutches. These are the things for which Jesus taught us to pray. His model prayer contains it all.

- Published by the WTB&TS

The Apostasy, then and now

The word “apostasy” comes from a Greek term that means “a standing away from,” “a falling away, defection,” “rebellion, abandonment.” The first one to fall away from the true worship of Jehovah was Satan the Devil. He was therefore the first apostate. (John 8:44) He caused the first human couple to become apostates. (Genesis, chapter 3) Very early in the history of Israel there was a “falling away” or ‘turning aside’ from true worship. We read:

“Even to their judges they did not listen, but they had immoral intercourse with other gods and went bowing down to them. They quickly turned aside from the way in which their forefathers had walked by obeying the commandments of Jehovah.”—Judg. 2:17.

Later, many of the kings of both Israel and Judah became apostates and led the nations they were ruling over into a course of apostasy. God first punished the northern kingdom of Israel, saying: “Against an apostate nation [Israel] I shall send him [Assyria].” (Isa. 10:6) And just before the destruction of Jerusalem, capital of Judah, by the Babylonians, Jehovah stated: “From the prophets of Jerusalem apostasy has gone forth to all the land.” (Jer. 23:15) Apostasy or falling away from the true faith certainly brought no blessings to Israel and Judah.

Apostasy Among the Early Christians

Early on during his earthly ministry, Jesus warned his followers against apostates. In his Sermon on the Mount, he said:

“Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it. Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them.”—Matt. 7:13-16.

Twenty-five years later, Paul warned the Christian elders of Ephesus: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) In the last of his inspired writings Paul named a few of such first-century apostates. He warned Timothy: “Shun empty speeches that violate what is holy; for they will advance to more and more ungodliness, and their word will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of that number. These very men have deviated from the truth, . . . and they are subverting the faith of some.” “Alexander the coppersmith did me many injuries . . . be on guard against him, for he resisted our words to an excessive degree.”—2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14, 15.

If we analyze these warnings given by Jesus and Paul, the following identifying features of typical apostates emerge:

(1) Deviation from the truth

(2) Twisted, empty speech

(3) Efforts to subvert the faith of some and draw away disciples after themselves

(4) Hypocrisy (‘wolves in sheep’s covering’)

(5) Recognizable by their fruits; they ‘advance to more and more ungodliness’
Such telltale signs were meant to enable the early Christians quickly to identify apostates and to ‘be on guard against them.’

Apostasy “in Later Periods of Time”

Additional Reading:

The apostasy that was “already at work” while some of Christ’s apostles were still alive became prolific “in later periods of time,” that is, after their death. The five telltale signs became increasingly apparent from the second century on and reached a climax in the fourth century. This mass apostasy was due to occur before the “presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the day of Jehovah.”—2 Thess. 2:1-12.

But other scriptures make it clear that even during “the last days” of the present system of things, cases of apostasy would occur within the true Christian congregation. The apostle Peter wrote:

“In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his?’ . . . You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.”—2 Pet. 3:3, 4, 17.

Peter was not merely warning his brothers against “ridiculers” and “law-defying people” in the world. Christians have always been well aware of danger from that quarter. Peter was also speaking of the danger of being “led away” by some within the Christian congregation who would become “ridiculers,” making light of the fulfillment of prophecies concerning Christ’s “presence” and adopting a law-defying attitude toward “the faithful and discreet slave,” the Governing Body of the Christian congregation and the appointed elders.

Causes and Effects of Apostasy

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Among the various causes of apostasy, one of the foremost is unquestionably a lack of faith through doubt. (Heb. 3:12) Interestingly, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology supplies the following information on the Greek verb that is often translated by “to doubt”: “Diakrinō, make a distinction, judge, . . . ; doubt, waver. . . . In some [New Testament] passages doubt appears as a lack of faith and thus as sin (Rom. 14:23). . . . In Rom. 4:20f. doubt comes close to disbelief. . . . Doubt is thus a lack of trust in the act of God which he has still to perform and which men are to await. . . . In the NT the doubter sins against God and his promises, because he judges God falsely.”

Thus the one who doubts to the point of becoming an apostate sets himself up as a judge. He thinks he knows better than his fellow Christians, better also than the “faithful and discreet slave,” through whom he has learned the best part, if not all that he knows about Jehovah God and his purposes. He develops a spirit of independence, and becomes “proud in heart . . . something detestable to Jehovah.” (Prov. 16:5) Some apostates even think they know better than God, as regards his ordering of events in the outworking of his purposes. Two other causes of apostasy are therefore ingratitude and presumption.—2 Pet. 2:10b-13a.

As to the effects of a course of apostasy, one immediate result is a loss of joy. The apostate becomes hardened in his rebellious ways. Another is he fails to take in the spiritual food provided by “the faithful and discreet slave”—this leading to spiritual weakness and breakdown of spirit. Contrasting the happiness of his loyal servants with the sad condition of apostates, Jehovah stated prophetically:

“Look! My own servants will eat, but you yourselves will go hungry. Look! My own servants will drink, but you yourselves will go thirsty. Look! My own servants will rejoice, but you yourselves will suffer shame. Look! My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart, but you yourselves will make outcries because of the pain of heart and you will howl because of sheer breakdown of spirit.”—Isa. 65:13, 14.

After having yielded to such works of the flesh as “enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects,” apostates often fall victim to other fleshly works such as “drunken bouts,” “loose conduct” and “fornication.” (Gal. 5:19-21) Peter warns us against those who “look down on lordship” by despising theocratic order, who “speak abusively” of those entrusted with responsibility within the Christian congregation, and so ‘abandon the straight path.’ He says that their “final conditions have become worse for them than the first.”—Read carefully 2 Peter, chapter 2.

- Published by the WTB&TS in 1980

2 Peter 2:1-22, NWT

1 However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among YOU. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. 2 Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively. 3 Also, with covetousness they will exploit YOU with counterfeit words. But as for them, the judgment from of old is not moving slowly, and the destruction of them is not slumbering.

4 Certainly if God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned, but, by throwing them into Tar´ta·rus, delivered them to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment; 5 and he did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people; 6 and by reducing the cities Sod´om and Go·mor´rah to ashes he condemned them, setting a pattern for ungodly persons of things to come; 7 and he delivered righteous Lot, who was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct— 8 for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds— 9 Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial, but to reserve unrighteous people for the day of judgment to be cut off, 10 especially, however, those who go on after flesh with the desire to defile [it] and who look down on lordship.

Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble at glorious ones but speak abusively, 11 whereas angels, although they are greater in strength and power, do not bring against them an accusation in abusive terms, [not doing so] out of respect for Jehovah. 12 But these [men], like unreasoning animals born naturally to be caught and destroyed, will, in the things of which they are ignorant and speak abusively, even suffer destruction in their own [course of] destruction, 13 wronging themselves as a reward for wrongdoing.

They consider luxurious living in the daytime a pleasure. They are spots and blemishes, indulging with unrestrained delight in their deceptive teachings while feasting together with YOU. 14 They have eyes full of adultery and unable to desist from sin, and they entice unsteady souls. They have a heart trained in covetousness. They are accursed children. 15 Abandoning the straight path, they have been misled. They have followed the path of Ba´laam, [the son] of Be´or, who loved the reward of wrongdoing, 16 but got a reproof for his own violation of what was right. A voiceless beast of burden, making utterance with the voice of a man, hindered the prophet’s mad course.

17 These are fountains without water, and mists driven by a violent storm, and for them the blackness of darkness has been reserved. 18 For they utter swelling expressions of no profit, and by the desires of the flesh and by loose habits they entice those who are just escaping from people who conduct themselves in error. 19 While they are promising them freedom, they themselves are existing as slaves of corruption. For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one. 20 Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: “The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.”

Additional Reading:


Apostasy (IPA: /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal religious disaffiliation or abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatizes. The word derives from Greek αποστασία (apostasia), meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "stand", "standing".

Bryan R. Wilson, who was a professor of Sociology at Oxford University, writes that apostates of new religious movements are generally in need of self-justification, and seek to reconstruct their past and to excuse their former affiliations, while blaming those who were formerly their closest associates. Wilson utilizes the term atrocity story, [a story] that is in his view rehearsed by the apostate to explain how, by manipulation, coercion or deceit, he was recruited to a group that he now condemns. Wilson also challenges the reliability of the apostate's testimony by saying that "the apostate [is] always seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to his previous religious commitment and affiliations, [so] the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation, to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim, but subsequently a redeemed crusader."

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Millennial Dawn & Studies in the Scriptures

In that same year—1881—C. T. Russell completed two large pamphlets. One was entitled “Tabernacle Teachings.” The other—Food for Thinking Christians—exposed certain doctrinal errors and explained the divine purpose.

Originally the printing of tracts and Zion’s Watch Tower was done almost entirely by commercial firms. But if literature distribution was to expand, and if the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s witnesses were then known) were to receive contributions to carry on the work, some sort of society was required. So, early in 1881, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was established as an unincorporated body with C. T. Russell as its manager. He and others generously contributed some $35,000 to get this printing organization into operation. During 1884 the formerly unincorporated Society was incorporated as Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, Russell serving as its president. Today this religious corporation is known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

“The purpose for which the corporation is formed,” said its charter, “is, the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and by the use of all other lawful means which its Board of Directors, duly constituted, shall deem expedient for the furtherance of the purpose stated.”

“The dissemination of Bible truths” took a notable step forward with a series of books entitled “Millennial Dawn” (later, “Studies in the Scriptures”). Written by C. T. Russell in easily understood language, Volume I was published in 1886. First called “The Plan of the Ages” and later “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” it covered such subjects as “The Existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator Established,” “Our Lord’s Return—Its Object, the Restitution of All Things,” “The Day of Judgment,” “The Kingdom of God” and “The Day of Jehovah.” During a forty-year period, six million copies of this publication were distributed, helping hundreds of sincere truth seekers to come out of false religious bondage into Christian freedom.

In the course, of time, C. T. Russell wrote five other books of the “Millennial Dawn” Series. They were: Volume II, The Time is at Hand (1889); Volume III, Thy Kingdom Come (1891); Volume IV, The Battle of Armageddon (1897; originally called “The Day of Vengeance”); Volume V, The At-one-ment Between God and Man (1899); Volume VI, The New Creation (1904). Russell did not survive to write an intended seventh volume of this series.

What a response there was to such Christian publications! God’s spirit prompted individuals to act. In some cases, withdrawal from false religion was quick. “Its truth captured my heart at once,” wrote one woman in 1889, after reading a volume of Millennial Dawn. “Forthwith I withdrew from the Presbyterian Church where I had so long been groping in the dark for the truth, and found it not.” A clergyman wrote in 1891: “After preaching in the M[ethodist] E[piscopal] church for three years, during all of which time I have been earnestly seeking the truth, I am now, by the help of God, able to ‘come out of her.’”—Rev. 18:4.

A keen desire to preach the good news is displayed in the thoughts others expressed to the Society by letter. For instance, in 1891 a man and his wife wrote: “We have consecrated our all to the Lord and to his service to be used to his glory; and, the Lord willing, I am going to try the colporteur work as soon as I can get things arranged, and if the Lord accepts of my service and blesses me in doing his work, then we will break up housekeeping and both wife and I will engage in the harvest work.”

Quite interesting was correspondence the Society received in 1894 from one man who had obtained volumes of Millennial Dawn from two women who were colporteurs. He read the books, ordered additional copies, subscribed to Zion’s Watch Tower, and was moved to write: “My dear wife and myself have read these books with the keenest interest, and we consider it a God-send and a great blessing that we have had the opportunity of coming in contact with them. They are indeed a ‘helping hand’ to the study of the Bible. The great truths revealed in the study of this series have simply reversed our earthly aspirations; and realizing to some extent, at least, the great opportunity for doing something for Christ, we intend to take advantage of this opportunity in distributing these books, first, among our nearest relatives and friends, and then among the poor who desire to read them and are unable to purchase.” This letter was signed by J. F. Rutherford, who dedicated himself to Jehovah twelve years later and eventually succeeded C. T. Russell as president of the Watch Tower Society.

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS


The publishing of Bible truths took a significant step forward in 1886 with the release of the first volume of a promised series of books called Millennial Dawn, written by C. T. Russell. Volume I was called The Divine Plan of the Ages. It contained studies on 16 subjects, such as “The Existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator Established,” “The Bible as a Divine Revelation Viewed in the Light of Reason,” “Our Lord’s Return—Its Object, the Restitution of All Things,” and “The Permission of Evil and Its Relation to God’s Plan.” Eventually, C. T. Russell wrote five other books of the Millennial Dawn series.

Russell did not survive to write an intended seventh volume of the series, but the widespread distribution of the six volumes that he did complete struck a responsive chord in honesthearted persons. “Your book MILLENNIAL DAWN came to me last Fall,” wrote one woman in 1889, “the first hint I ever had of such a work. I received it on a Saturday evening, commenced to read it immediately and never laid it aside, except when obliged, until finished. Its truth captured my heart at once; forthwith I withdrew from the Presbyterian Church where I had so long been groping in the dark for the truth, and found it not.”

It took real courage in those days to withdraw from one’s church. Demonstrating this was a woman in Manitoba, Canada, who came into possession of Millennial Dawn in 1897. At first, she tried to stay with her church and teach in local Sunday schools. The day came, in 1903, when she decided to make a break. She stood up and told all present why she felt she must separate from the church. The nearest neighbor (dear to people in small communities in those days) tried to persuade her to go back to church. But she stood firm, even though there was no congregation of Bible Students nearby. As her son later described her situation: “No study servant [elder] to lean on. No meetings. A contrite heart. A worn Bible. Long prayerful hours.”

What was it about Millennial Dawn, the Watch Tower, and other publications of the Society that captured the hearts of people and moved them to take such decisive action? C. T. Russell took an approach to explaining Bible teachings that was distinct from many writers of his day. He believed the Bible to be the infallible Word of God and that its teachings should be harmonious. Therefore, if any part of the Bible is difficult to understand, he felt, it should be clarified and interpreted by another part of the inspired Word. He did not try to support the explanations he presented with the testimony of theologians of his day or with the views of the so-called early church fathers. As he wrote in Volume I of Millennial Dawn: “We believe it to be a common failing of the present and all times for men to believe certain doctrines because others did so, in whom they had confidence. . . . Truth-seekers should empty their vessels of the muddy waters of tradition and fill them at the fountain of truth—God’s Word.”

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, WTB&TS


While the Society had been circulating a bound book entitled “Day Dawn,” written by an early associate, J. H. Paton, it was decided for Russell to become writer of a new book to be called “Millennial Dawn,” which after many difficulties appeared in 1886 as Volume 1 of a promised series. Later this became known, instead, as Volume 1 of “Studies in the Scriptures” as well as “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” More than six million copies were distributed over a forty-year period. It covered more clearly subjects previously explained in Food for Thinking Christians and in Tabernacle Teachings (later called “Tabernacle Shadows”). Its sixteen chapters (352 pages) included “Our Lord’s Return,” “Ransom and Restitution,” “Plan of the Ages,” and “The Kingdom of God.” Chapter 15, “The Day of Jehovah,” amazingly foreshowed the great preaching work now being done.

“The ‘Day of Jehovah’ is the name of that period of time in which God’s kingdom, under Christ, is to be gradually ‘set up’ . . . while the kingdoms of this world are passing away and Satan’s power and influence over men are being bound. It is everywhere described as a dark day of intense trouble and distress and perplexity upon mankind. . . . That some of the saints will still be in the flesh during at least a part of this burning time seems possible. Their position in it, however, will differ from that of others, not so much in that they will be miraculously preserved (though it is distinctly promised that their bread and water shall be sure), but in the fact that, being instructed from God’s Word, they will not feel the same anxiety and hopeless dread that will overspread the world. . . . The troubles of this ‘Day of Jehovah’ will give opportunity for preaching the good tidings of coming good, such as is seldom afforded, and blessed are they who will follow the footsteps of the Master, and be the good Samaritans binding up the wounds and pouring in the oil and wine of comfort and cheer.”

By end of the ‘80’s they had outgrown the quarters at 151 Robinson Street (earlier designated as 44, and then 40, Federal Street), Allegheny, Pennsylvania. They decided to build, and in 1889 they moved into their own large, handsome four-story brick structure costing $34,000, located at 58 and 60 (later renumbered as 610-614) Arch Street, Allegheny (North Side, Pittsburgh), containing quarters for a small “Bible House family,” printing works, shipping rooms, an assembly place for about 200, an office, an editorial department and a store front. They named it “Bible House.” Years later, the Society’s board of directors accepted the donation of title to this plant, the board valuing the building’s net equity and all of its equipment at $164,033.65.

By 1890 there were about 400 active associates of the Society. The only report available shows the placement of 841,095 tracts, 395,000 extra copies of the Watch Tower magazine, and 85,000 Millennial Dawn bound books between 1886 and 1891.

- February 1, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Young Man in Search of God

In 1870 a zealous young man, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), began to ask many questions about Christendom’s traditional teachings. As a youth, he worked in his father’s haberdashery in the bustling industrial city of Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, U.S.A. His religious background was Presbyterian and Congregational. However, he was perturbed by such teachings as predestination and eternal torment in hellfire. What were his reasons for doubting these basic doctrines of some of Christendom’s religions? He wrote: “A God that would use his power to create human beings whom he foreknew and predestinated should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men.”—Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35; 1 John 4:8, 9.

While still in his late teens, Russell started a weekly Bible study group with other young men. They began to analyze the Bible’s teachings on other subjects, such as immortality of the soul as well as Christ’s ransom sacrifice and his second coming. In 1877, at the age of 25, Russell sold his share in his father’s prospering business and began a full-time preaching career.

In 1878 Russell had a major disagreement with one of his collaborators, who had rejected the teaching that Christ’s death could be an atonement for sinners. In his rebuttal Russell wrote: “Christ accomplished various good things for us in his death and resurrection. He was our substitute in death; he died the just for the unjust—all were unjust. Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man. . . . He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” He continued: “To redeem is to buy back. What did Christ buy back for all men? Life. We lost it by the disobedience of the first Adam. The second Adam [Christ] bought it back with his own life.”—Mark 10:45; Romans 5:7, 8; 1 John 2:2; 4:9, 10.

Always a staunch advocate of the ransom doctrine, Russell severed all ties with this former collaborator. In July 1879, Russell started to publish Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known worldwide today as The Watchtower—Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. In 1881 he, in association with other dedicated Christians, established a nonprofit Bible society. It was called Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, known today as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the legal agency that acts in behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the very beginning, Russell insisted that there would be no collections taken at congregation meetings nor contributions solicited through the Watch Tower publications. The people who joined Russell in deep Bible study became known simply as the Bible Students.

A Return to Bible Truth

As a result of their Bible study, Russell and his associates came to reject Christendom’s teachings of a mysterious “Most Holy Trinity,” an inherently immortal human soul, and eternal torment in hellfire. They also rejected the need for a separate seminary-trained clergy class. They wanted to return to the humble origins of Christianity, with spiritually qualified elders to lead the congregations without thought of a salary or remuneration.—1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9.

In their investigation of God’s Word, those Bible Students were keenly interested in the prophecies of the Christian Greek Scriptures related to “the end of the world” and to Christ’s “coming.” (Matthew 24:3, KJ) By turning to the Greek text, they discovered that Christ’s “coming” was, in fact, a “pa‧rou‧si′a,” or invisible presence. Therefore, Christ had given his disciples information about the evidence of his invisible presence in the time of the end, not a future visible coming. Along with this study, those Bible students had a keen desire to understand the Bible’s chronology in relation to Christ’s presence. Without understanding all the details, Russell and his associates realized that 1914 would be a crucial date in human history.—Matthew 24:3-22; Luke 21:7-33, Int.

Russell knew that a great preaching work had to be done. He was conscious of the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) There was a sense of urgency to the activity of those Bible Students prior to 1914. They believed that their preaching activity would culminate in that year, and therefore they felt they should expend every effort to help others to know “this good news of the kingdom.” Eventually, C. T. Russell’s Bible sermons were being published in thousands of newspapers around the world.

Additional Reading:

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1990

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why So Many False Alarms?

The World’s End—How Near?
THE story is told of a boy who watched the sheep of the villagers. To stir up a bit of excitement, one day he cried out, “Wolf! Wolf!” when there was no wolf. The villagers rushed out with clubs to drive off the wolf, only to find that there was none. It was such great fun that later on the boy repeated his cry. Again the villagers rushed out with their clubs, only to discover that it was another false alarm. After that a wolf did come, and the boy sounded the warning, “Wolf! Wolf!” but the villagers dismissed his cry as another false alarm. They had been fooled too often.

So it has become with those who proclaim the end of the world. Down through the centuries since Jesus’ day, so many unfulfilled predictions have been made that many no longer take them seriously.

Gregory I, pope from 590 to 604 C.E., in a letter to a European monarch, said: “We also wish Your Majesty to know, as we have learned from the words of Almighty God in Holy Scriptures, that the end of the present world is already near and that the unending Kingdom of the Saints is approaching.”

In the 16th century, Martin Luther, progenitor of the Lutheran Church, predicted that the end was imminent. According to one authority, he stated: “For my part, I am sure that the day of judgment is just around the corner.”

Concerning one of the first Baptist groups, it is reported: “The Anabaptists of the early Sixteenth Century believed that the Millennium would occur in 1533.”

“Edwin Sandys (1519-1588), Archbishop of York and Primate of England . . . says, . . . ‘Let us be assured that this coming of the Lord is near.’”

William Miller, generally credited with founding the Adventist Church, is quoted as saying: “I am fully convinced that sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844, according to the Jewish mode of computation of time, Christ will come.”

Additional Reading:

Does the failure of such predictions to come true convict as false prophets those who made them, within the meaning of Deuteronomy 18:20-22? That text reads: “The prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak.”

There are some who make spectacular predictions of the world’s end to grab attention and a following, but others are sincerely convinced that their proclamations are true. They are voicing expectations based on their own interpretation of some scripture text or physical event. They do not claim that their predictions are direct revelations from Jehovah and that in this sense they are prophesying in Jehovah’s name. Hence, in such cases, when their words do not come true, they should not be viewed as false prophets such as those warned against at Deuteronomy 18:20-22. In their human fallibility, they misinterpreted matters.

Undeterred by previous failures, some seem to have been spurred on by the approach of the year 2000 and have made further predictions of the end of the world. The Wall Street Journal of December 5, 1989, published an article entitled “Millennium Fever: Prophets Proliferate, the End Is Near.” With the year 2000 approaching, various evangelicals are predicting that Jesus is coming and that the 1990’s will be “a time of troubles that has not been seen before.” At the time of this writing, the latest occurrence was in the Republic of Korea, where the Mission for the Coming Days predicted that on October 28, 1992, at midnight, Christ would come and take believers to heaven. Several other doomsday groups made similar predictions.

The flood of false alarms is unfortunate. They are like the wolf-wolf cries of the shepherd boy—people soon dismiss them, and when the true warning comes, it too is ignored.

But why has there been such a tendency through the centuries and down to our day for false alarms to be sounded, as Jesus said they would be? (Matthew 24:23-26) Jesus, after telling his followers about different events that would mark his return, said to them, as we read at Matthew 24:36-42: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. . . . Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

They were told not only to be on the watch and to be prepared but also to watch with eagerness. Romans 8:19 says: “For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.” Human nature is such that when we fervently hope and yearn for something and wait in eager expectation of it, a powerful temptation arises within us to see it at the door even when the evidence is insufficient. In our eagerness false alarms may be sounded.


Additional Reading:

Additional reading :

Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus’ second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions ‘in the name of Jehovah.’ Never did they say, ‘These are the words of Jehovah.’ The Watchtower, the official journal of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has said: “We have not the gift of prophecy.” (January 1883, page 425) “Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible.” (December 15, 1896, page 306) The Watchtower has also said that the fact that some have Jehovah’s spirit “does not mean those now serving as Jehovah’s witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this magazine The Watchtower are inspired and infallible and without mistakes.” (May 15, 1947, page 157) “The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic.” (August 15, 1950, page 263) “The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers. (2 Tim. 3:16) And so, at times, it has been necessary, as understanding became clearer, to correct views. (Prov. 4:18)”—February 15, 1981, page 19.

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1993

Monday, May 4, 2009

Was Jesus Really the Son of God?

WITH deep conviction the apostle Peter said to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) This is but one of many references in the Bible to Jesus as the Son of God, an expression that has stirred a wide range of responses among the religiously inclined.

Many who believe that Jesus Christ is God have difficulty explaining why he is called the Son of God. Logic suggests that he cannot be both. Others think of Jesus as an important historical character, a wise man, or perhaps even a bona fide prophet of God, but nothing more. What does the Bible really teach? Does it matter what you believe?

God’s Firstborn

The Bible indicates that there was a time when God was alone. In his love he decided to share the gift of life by becoming a father—but not in the human sense. Rather, Jehovah used his unfathomable creative power to form a living, intelligent spirit person—“the beginning of the creation by God,” whom we now know as Jesus Christ. (Revelation 3:14; Proverbs 8:22) Because Jesus was directly created by God when God was all alone, Jesus is rightly called the “only-begotten son” and “the firstborn of all creation.”—John 1:14; Colossians 1:15.

Clearly, then, as the very first of God’s creations, Jesus could not be the Creator, “the only God.” (1 Timothy 1:17) On the other hand, God granted his Son many privileges. For example, through Jesus, God created “all other things,” including even the angels. These angels are referred to as “sons of God”—Jehovah being their Life-Giver as well.—Colossians 1:16; Job 1:6; 38:7.

After preparing the earth for human habitation, God, apparently speaking to his firstborn Son, said: “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26; Proverbs 8:22-31) Thus, Jehovah also created the first human son of God, Adam, through the spirit creature who would become Jesus.—Luke 3:38.

Jesus Becomes a Human Son of God

The apostle John reveals that at the appointed time, God’s spirit Son “became flesh and resided among us.” (John 1:14) In order to accomplish this change in Jesus’ nature, God miraculously transferred Jesus’ life from heaven into the womb of the Jewish virgin girl Mary. In that way Jesus remained God’s Son, even though a human. Furthermore, since God, not any man, gave Jesus life, Jesus was born perfect, without sin. “What is born will be called holy, God’s Son,” said the angel Gabriel to Mary.—Luke 1:35; Hebrews 7:26.

A confirmation of Jesus’ sonship while in the flesh came from the Father himself. At the time of Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptizer witnessed the heavens open up and heard a voice from heaven say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:16, 17) No wonder John told his disciples: “I have seen it, and I have borne witness that this one is the Son of God.”—John 1:34.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus did not trumpet the fact that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 8:29, 30) He often allowed people to draw that conclusion for themselves by listening to his teachings, by observing his way of life, and by witnessing his many miracles, most of which were performed in public view. For example, he cured “all those faring badly, distressed with various diseases and torments.” (Matthew 4:24, 25; 7:28, 29; 12:15) The blind, the deaf, the lame, and the diseased all came to Jesus, and he healed them. He even raised the dead! (Matthew 11:4-6) Before the eyes of his disciples, Jesus miraculously walked on water and calmed the winds and waves during a fierce storm. This display of power moved the disciples to say: “You are really God’s Son.”—Matthew 14:24-33.

How God’s Son Can Benefit You

Additional Reading:

Why did God transfer his only-begotten Son from heaven to earth, there ultimately to die a cruel death? “In order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Yes, only by dying could Jesus “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Truly, in all history, no one has shown greater love for humankind than Jehovah and his firstborn Son.—Romans 8:32.

Following his death Jesus “was declared God’s Son” in a very special and powerful way, “by means of resurrection from the dead” back to life as a spirit Son of God. (Romans 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18) Then, after waiting patiently at his Father’s side for almost 19 centuries, Jesus was enthroned as King of God’s Kingdom—a heavenly government that will soon rule over the entire earth.—Psalm 2:7, 8; Daniel 7:13, 14.

Do you want to gain the favor of this mighty Son of God? If so, then we encourage you to look into his teachings and apply them in your life. Jesus himself said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Yes, what one believes about the Son of God really does matter!—John 3:18; 14:6; 1 Timothy 6:19.

- Publised by the WTB&TS, 2006

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Is Mary the “Mother of God”?


SUCH a prayer sums up the feelings of millions of men and women devoted to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. In their eyes she is a kindly mother figure who can intercede for them with God and in some way temper his judgments toward them.

However, is Mary really the “Mother of God”?

Mary—“Highly Favored” by God

Mary was without doubt “highly favored”—more favored, in fact, than any other woman who has ever lived. (Luke 1:28, The Jerusalem Bible) The angel Gabriel appeared to her and explained just how privileged she would be. “Listen!” he said. “You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High.” How was this miraculous event possible? Gabriel continued: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, . . . and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.”—Luke 1:31, 32, 35, JB.

“‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary, ‘let what you have said be done to me.’” (Luke 1:38, JB) Thus Mary humbly acceded to this divine direction and in time gave birth to Jesus.

During the following several centuries, however, her devotees elevated her from being a lowly “handmaid of the Lord” to the position of “queen mother” with immense influence in the heavens. Church leaders officially proclaimed her “Mother of God” in 431 C.E. at the Council of Ephesus. What triggered this transformation? Pope John Paul II explains one factor: “True devotion to the Mother of God . . . is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity.”—Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

Therefore, accepting Mary as the “Mother of God” hinges on believing in the Trinity. However, is the Trinity a Bible teaching? Examine, please, what the apostle Peter wrote in the Bible. He warned that “false teachers . . . will subtly introduce dangerous heresies [and] will try to exploit you too with their bogus arguments.” (2 Peter 2:1, 3, The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips) One such heresy was the teaching of the Trinity. Once that was accepted, the idea that Mary was the “Mother of God” (Greek: Theotokos, meaning “God-bearer”) was quite logical. In his book The Virgin, Geoffrey Ashe states that “if Christ was God, the Second Person of the Trinity,” as the Trinitarians reasoned, “then his mother in his human manifestation was the Mother of God.”

If Jesus were “God whole and entire,” as the new Catechism of the Catholic Church states, then Mary rightly could be called the “Mother of God.” It must be said, though, that many early Trinitarians found it hard to accept this teaching when it was first proposed—as do Trinitarian Protestants today. It has been called a “devotional paradox, ‘he whom the heavens could not contain was contained in her womb.’” (The Virgin)—Compare 1 Kings 8:27.

But is Jesus Christ really “God whole and entire”? No, he never made that claim. Instead, he always acknowledged his subordinate position to his Father.—See Matthew 26:39; Mark 13:32; John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 15:27, 28.

‘Worship in a Way That Is Worthy of Thinking Beings’

The Bible, however, encourages Christians to use their power of reason in worship. We are not asked to put blind faith in what is clothed as a mystery. Rather, says the apostle Paul, we should ‘worship in a way that is worthy of thinking beings.’—Romans 12:1, JB.

“We were never encouraged to think about it,” says Anne, who was brought up as a Catholic. “We never questioned it. We just believed Jesus was God, so Mary was the ‘Mother of God’—it was the strangest thing!” Remember, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that each member of the “divine Unity” is “God whole and entire.” It states that there are not three separate gods. Should we believe, then, that as the living cells in Mary’s womb divided and redivided, “God whole and entire” was contained within an embryo that during the first month of her pregnancy grew to less than one quarter of an inch in length and had only rudimentary eyes and ears?

Keep in mind that the angel Gabriel told Mary her child was to be called “Son of the Most High” and “Son of God,” not “God the Son.” If, in fact, Jesus were Almighty God, why did the angel Gabriel not use the same term used by Trinitarians today—“God the Son”? Gabriel did not use the term because the teaching is not found in the Bible.

We are limited, of course, in our understanding of the works of God. But proper understanding of the Scriptures helps us to believe that Almighty God, the Creator of all life, had the power miraculously to transfer the life of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, into the womb of Mary and then to protect its development by means of His active force, or holy spirit, until Mary became the mother of Jesus—the Son of God.

Yes, Mary was greatly blessed as the mother of the one who became the Christ. It is no disrespect to her to accept that the clear teaching of the Bible—including the record of Mary’s own humility—rules out giving her the title “Mother of God.”

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1996


Was Mary always a virgin?

Matt. 13:53-56, JB: “When Jesus had finished these parables he left the district; and, coming to his home town, he taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers [Greek, a‧del‧phoi′] James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters [Greek, a‧del‧phai′], too, are they not all here with us?’” (On the basis of this text, would you conclude that Jesus was Mary’s only child or that she had other sons as well as daughters?)

The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967, Vol. IX, p. 337) admits regarding the Greek words a‧del‧phoi′ and a‧del‧phai′, used at Matthew 13:55, 56, that these “have the meaning of full blood brother and sister in the Greek-speaking world of the Evangelist’s time and would naturally be taken by his Greek reader in this sense. Toward the end of the 4th century (c. 380) Helvidius in a work now lost pressed this fact in order to attribute to Mary other children besides Jesus so as to make her a model for mothers of larger families. St. Jerome, motivated by the Church’s traditional faith in Mary’s perpetual virginity, wrote a tract against Helvidius (A.D. 383) in which he developed an explanation . . . that is still in vogue among Catholic scholars.”

Mark 3:31-35, JB: “His mother and brothers now arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you’. He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Here a clear distinction is drawn between Jesus’ natural brothers and his spiritual brothers, his disciples. No one claims that the reference to Jesus’ mother means anything different from what it says. Is it consistent, then, to reason that his natural brothers were not that but were perhaps cousins? When what is meant is not brothers but relatives, a different Greek word [syg‧ge‧non′] is used, as at Luke 21:16.)

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1989

Friday, May 1, 2009

1914 and Great Expectations

At that time there also were reasons for rejoicing. For years God’s people had pointed forward to 1914 as the year that would mark the end of the Gentile Times. Their expectations did not lead to disappointment. On July 28, 1914, World War I erupted, and as time marched on toward October 1 more and more nations and empires got involved. As Jehovah’s Christian witnesses know from their Scriptural studies, the period of uninterrupted Gentile world rule ended in 1914, with the birth of God’s heavenly kingdom with Jesus Christ as king. (Rev. 12:1-5) But there also were other expectations regarding 1914. Concerning these, Brother A. H. Macmillan wrote in his book Faith on the March: “On August 23, 1914, as I well recall, Pastor Russell started on a trip to the Northwest, down the Pacific coast and over into the Southern states, and then ending at Saratoga Springs, New York, where we held a convention September 27-30. That was a highly interesting time because a few of us seriously thought we were going to heaven during the first week of that October.”

The idea of going to heaven in 1914 was strong among some Bible Students. “Our thought,” remarks Sister Dwight T. Kenyon, “was that the war would go into revolution and into anarchy. Then those of the anointed or the consecrated at that time would die and be glorified. One night I dreamed that the whole ecclesia (congregation) was on a train going somewhere. There was thunder and lightning, and all at once the friends began dying all around me. I thought that was all right, but try as I would, I couldn’t die. This was quite upsetting! Then all at once I died and felt so relieved and satisfied. I tell this just to show how sure we were that all was going to end soon as far as this old world was concerned and that the remnant of the ‘little flock’ was to be glorified.—Luke 12:32.”

Hazelle and Helen Krull recall that during 1914 discussions at the Bethel dining table often centered on the end of the Gentile Times. From time to time, they say, Brother Russell made extended remarks, urging faithfulness and explaining that the time features had been reviewed and still seemed accurate, but also that “if we were expecting more than what the Scriptures warranted, then we must bow to Jehovah’s will and adjust our minds and hearts in faith to His way, still faithfully watching and waiting for the outworking of associated events.”

An incident at the Saratoga Springs convention in 1914 highlights Brother Macmillan’s view of “going home” to heaven in that year. He wrote: “Wednesday (September 30) I was invited to talk on the subject, ‘The End of All Things Is at Hand; Therefore Let Us Be Sober, Watchful and Pray.’ Well, as one would say, that was down my road. I believed it myself sincerely—that the church was ‘going home’ in October. During that discourse I made this unfortunate remark: ‘This is probably the last public address I shall ever deliver because we shall be going home soon.’”

The next morning, October 1, 1914, about five hundred Bible Students enjoyed a lovely ride down the Hudson River on a steamer from Albany to New York. On Sunday the conventioners were to open sessions in Brooklyn, where the assembly would end. Quite a few delegates stayed at Bethel, and, of course, members of the headquarters staff were present at the breakfast table on Friday morning, October 2. Everyone was seated when Brother Russell entered. As usual, he said cheerily, “Good morning, all.” But this particular morning was different. Instead of proceeding promptly to his seat, he clapped his hands and joyfully announced: “The Gentile times have ended; their kings have had their day.” “How we clapped our hands!” exclaims Cora Merrill. Brother Macmillan admitted: “We were highly excited and I would not have been surprised if at that moment we had just started up, that becoming the signal to begin ascending heavenward—but of course there was nothing like that, really.” Sister Merrill adds: “After a brief pause he [Russell] said: ‘Anyone disappointed? I’m not. Everything is moving right on schedule!’ Again we clapped our hands.”

C. T. Russell made some remarks, but it was not long before A. H. Macmillan became the object of attention. Good-naturedly, Russell said: “We are going to make some changes in the program for Sunday. At 10:30 Sunday morning Brother Macmillan will give us an address.” That brought hearty laughter from everyone. After all, just that past Wednesday Brother Macmillan had given what he thought would probably be his “last public address.” “Well,” wrote A.H. Macmillan years later, “then I had to get busy to find something to say. I found Psalm 74:9, ‘We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.’ Now that was different. In that talk I tried to show the friends that perhaps some of us had been a bit too hasty in thinking that we were going to heaven right away, and the thing for us to do would be to keep busy in the Lord’s service until he determined when any of his approved servants would be taken home to heaven.”

C. T. Russell himself had warned against private speculations. For instance, he discussed the end of the Gentile Times and then said in The Watch Tower of December 1, 1912: “Finally, let us remember that we did not consecrate [dedicate] either to October, 1914, nor to October, 1915, or to any other date, but ‘unto death.’ If for any reason the Lord has permitted us to miscalculate the prophecies, the signs of the times assure us that the miscalculations cannot be very great. And if the Lord’s grace and peace be with us in the future as in the past, according to His promise, we shall rejoice equally to go or to remain at any time, and to be in His service, either on this side the veil or on the other side [on earth or in heaven], as may please our Master best.”

Even as the climactic year 1914 began, Russell wrote in The Watch Tower of January 1: “We may not read the time features with the same absolute certainty as doctrinal features; for time is not so definitely stated in the Scriptures as are the basic doctrines. We are still walking by faith and not by sight. We are, however, not faithless and unbelieving, but faithful and waiting. If later it should be demonstrated that the Church is not glorified by October, 1914, we shall try to feel content with whatever the Lord’s will may be.”

So, there were great expectations concerning 1914 on the part of many of the Bible Students. Yet, they also had received sound admonition in pages of The Watch Tower. Indeed, some Christians thought they were ‘going home’ to heaven in the autumn of that year. “But,” says C. J. Woodworth, “October 1st, 1914, came and went—and years accumulated after that date—and the anointed were still here on earth. Some grew sour and fell away from the truth. Those who put their trust in Jehovah saw 1914 as truly a marked time—the ‘beginning of the end’—but they also realized their previous concept was wrong concerning the ‘glorification of the saints,’ as it was stated. They now perceived that much work yet remained for the faithful anointed ones—and of that group my father [Clayton J. Woodworth] was one.”

But disappointments about going to heaven in 1914 really were very minor, compared with the great expectations realized in connection with that year. During the first six months of 1914, nothing happened to the Gentile nations, though the Bible Students long had pointed out that the Gentile Times would expire in that year. Hence, religious leaders and others ridiculed C. T. Russell and the Watch Tower Society. Yet, Jehovah certainly had not forsaken his people or allowed them to be misled. Moved by his holy spirit, they carried on their witness work, not expecting the end of the Gentile Times until autumn of that year. As the months wore on, tension increased throughout Europe, and still ridicule against the Kingdom message was mounting. When nation after nation became enmeshed in the first world war, however, there was a difference. The work of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses was brought prominently into view.

A typical press reaction of the time appeared in The World, then a leading New York city newspaper. Its Sunday magazine section of August 30, 1914, contained the article “End of All Kingdoms in 1914.” There it was stated, in part:

“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students,’ best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of travelling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ . . .

“Rev. Charles T. Russell is the man who has been propounding this interpretation of the Scriptures since 1874. . . . ‘In view of this strong Bible evidence,’ Rev. Russell wrote in 1889, ‘we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914.’ . . .

“But to say that the trouble must culminate in 1914—that was peculiar. For some strange reason, perhaps because Rev. Russell has a very calm, higher mathematics style of writing instead of flamboyant soap box manners, the world in general has scarcely taken him into account. The students over in his ‘Brooklyn Tabernacle’ say that this was to be expected, that the world never did listen to divine warnings and never will, until after the day of trouble is past. . . .

“And in 1914 comes war, the war which everybody dreaded but which everybody thought could not really happen. Rev. Russell is not saying ‘I told you so’; and he is not revising the prophecies to suit the current history. He and his students are content to wait—to wait until October, which they figure to be the real end of 1914.”

True, the Bible Students were not ‘taken home’ to heaven in October 1914. But the 2,520-year-long Gentile Times then ended. And, as Jehovah’s servants later realized more fully, they had plenty of work to do after that time right here on earth in preaching the good news of God’s established kingdom. Evidently many would yet respond favorably to Bible truth. Regarding this, Russell wrote in The Watch Tower of February 15, 1915: “There are certain indications that the Lord has a great work for all His people, His watching saints, at the present time. . . . There are some of the Lord’s children who seem possessed with the idea that ‘the door is shut,’ and that there is no further opportunity for service. So they become indolent in regard to the Lord’s work. We should lose no time dreaming that the door is shut! There are people who are seeking the Truth—people who are sitting in darkness. There never was a time like the present. Never have so many people been ready to hear the good Message. In all the forty years of Harvest there have not been such opportunities to proclaim the Truth as now present themselves. The great war and the ominous signs of the times are waking people up, and many are now inquiring. So the Lord’s people should be very diligent, doing with their might what their hands find to do.”

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS