There has been a debate over what the Good News really is. This is no trivial matter because Paul says that if we don’t preach the right “good news” we will be cursed. (Galatians 1:8)
Are Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching the real good news? We can’t answer that unless we first can establish precisely what the good news is.
I have been looking for a way to define it when today in my daily Bible reading, I stumbled across Romans 1:16. (Isn’t it great when you find a definition of a Bible term right in the Bible itself, such as that given by Paul about “faith” at Hebrews 11:1?)
“For I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Ro 1:16)
Is this the good news that Jehovah’s Witnesses preach? Salvation is tied up in it, certainly, but it gets shoved off to one side in my experience. The good news that Jehovah’s Witnesses preach is all about the kingdom. The phrase, “good news of the kingdom”, occurs 2084 times in The Watchtower from 1950 to 2013. It occurs 237 times in Awake! during the same period and 235 times in our Yearbooks reporting on our worldwide preaching work. This focus on the kingdom ties in with another teaching: that the kingdom was established in 1914. This teaching is the basis for the authority which the Governing Body confers upon itself, so it is understandable from that perspective that overmuch emphasis is put on the kingdom aspect of the good news. However, is that a Scriptural viewpoint?
In the 130+ times the phrase “good news” appears in the Christian Scriptures, only 10 are linked with the word “kingdom”.
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasize “kingdom” over everything else when the Bible doesn’t? Is it wrong to emphasize the kingdom? Isn’t the kingdom the means by which salvation is achieved?
To answer, let us consider that Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that what matters—pretty much all that matters—is the sanctification of God’s name and the vindication of his sovereignty. The salvation of mankind is more of a happy side effect. (In a recent Bible Study at the Kingdom hall one got the impression that we should just be grateful that Jehovah took account of us at all while he was out seeking his own vindication. Such a position, while trying to honor God, actually brings dishonor to him.)
Yes, the sanctification of God’s name and vindication of His sovereignty are vastly more important that the life of little old you or me. We get that. But JWs seem to ignore the fact that His name was sanctified and His sovereignty was vindicated 2,000 years ago. Nothing we can do can come close to topping that. Jesus gave the final answer to Satan’s challenge. After that, Satan was judged and cast down. There was no more room for him in heaven, no more reason to tolerate his calumny.
Time for us to move on.
When Jesus began his preaching, his message didn’t focus on the message which JWs preach from door to door. That part of his mission was up to him and him alone. For us there was good news, but of something else. Good news of salvation! Of course, you cannot preach salvation without also sanctifying Jehovah’s name and vindicating his sovereignty.
But what of the kingdom? Certainly, the kingdom is part of the means for the salvation of mankind, but to focus on that would be like a parent telling his children that for their vacation they are going to take a custom rented bus to Disney World. Then for months before the vacation he keeps raving about the bus. The bus! The Bus! THE BUS! Yea for the bus! His emphasis is even more skewed when the family learns that some members are getting to Disney World by plane.
God’s children are saved not by the kingdom, but by faith in Jesus Christ. By means of that faith, they become the kingdom. (Re 1:5) For them the good news of the kingdom is the hope of forming part of that kingdom, not of being saved by it. The good news is about their personal salvation. The good news is not something we enjoy vicariously. it is for each and every one of us.
For the world at large it is also good news. All can be saved and have everlasting life and the kingdom plays a large role in that, but ultimately, it is faith in Jesus that provides the means for him to grant life to repentant individuals.
It is for God to decide which reward each one gets. For us to preach a message of predetermined salvation, some to heaven, some to earth is unquestionably a perversion of the Good News Paul defined and preached.