[this article was contributed by Alex Rover]
First you publish some articles, then slowly but inevitably you gather some kind of following. Even if we remain humble and admit we may not have the full picture, in practice those who control the blog itself also control the message, it’s unavoidable. As the following grows, the weight of responsibility of the authors grows accordingly.
It was the same with the Watchtower Magazine. Originally some six-thousand editions were printed, now that amount is in the millions. Whoever controls the message printed in the Watchtower, exerts an incredible amount of influence and control. At Beroean Pickets we already have more unique visitors than the first Watchtower edition. Where will this lead us? As we continue to reach a bigger audience, we realize that history has a tendency of repeating itself.
The very voices of protest can turn into the very thing they were protesting. The protestant movement has produced many denominations which believe they are gathering the genuine, true worshippers. Creed is established and dogma is affirmed.
No group will claim they are perfect. We dwell in imperfect flesh is the excuse. Or: ‘this one and his or her actions are not representative of our Church.’ Think of the pedophilia scandals or immoral elders that need to be shamefully removed. When they are appointed, it is by Holy Spirit. When they are discovered, they are just imperfect men. Still the other denomination is less holy than we are. We are the true followers of Christ.
This incredible hypocrisy continues to persevere throughout Christianity. Is it possible at all for us to avoid this trap? I can honestly say that this subject keeps us up at night. I have personally prayed about this very often and intensely, and I know Meleti, Apollos and others feel exactly the same.
During my daily reading of the Scriptures I stumbled upon a prophecy in Zechariah which opened up a line of reasoning which I believe is an answer to my prayers. I’m very excited to share it with you in this article, and hope to read your feedback in the comment section afterward.
The Flock – Scattered
Please read along:
“Awake, sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is my associate,”
says the Lord who rules over all.
Strike the shepherd that the flock may be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the insignificant ones.
It will happen in all the land, says the Lord,
that two-thirds of the people in it will be cut off and die,
but one-thirdwill be leftin it.
Then I will bring the remaining third into the fire;
I will refine them like silver is refined
and will test them like gold is tested.
They will call on my name and I will answer;
I will say, ‘These are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” – Zechariah 13:7-9 NET
There is much to say about this passage, but according to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, the shepherd refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus was murdered and consequently his flock became scattered.
It dawned on me that the basic purpose of religion appears to be the gathering of the sheep of Christ. How else could a religion claim to be the only true Church on earth, if it had searched the earth far and wide to find all the scattered sheep of Christ and united them in one religion? In turn, such religion can claim that God will only accept their members.
A Question on Yahoo Answers © reads: “Is religion divisive as the big religions break up into different sects and disagree”? A presumed Jehovah’s Witness gave the following insightful answer: “False religions, yes. The one true religion, no. – Reasoning from the Scriptures, pg. 322, 199”.
So if you belong to the true religion, there is NO problem: you are approved, and everyone else might die at God’s hand if you rejected the true religion!
When and How are The Sheep Gathered?
“For this is what the sovereign LORD [Jehovah] says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will seek out my flock. I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a cloudy, dark day. I will bring them out from among the peoples and gather them from foreign countries…” – Ezekiel 34:11-13a NET
The messianic king will be the appointed shepherd of Jehovah (compare Ezekiel 34:23-24,Jer 30:9,Hos 3:5, Isa 11:1 and Mic 5:2). The sheep will be gathered on a cloudy, dark day. Also compare Ezekiel 20:34 and 41.
“For the day is near, the day of the LORD [Jehovah] is near; it will be a day of storm clouds, it will be a time of judgment for the nations.” – Ezekiel 30:3 NET
When will the nations be judged? According to Ezekiel, when the sheep that were scattered are gathered under the messianic king. For our next clue, we look at the words of the shepherd:
“Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” – Matthew 24:29-31 NET
The sheep are still scattered during the ‘suffering of those days’, so that they have to be gathered from the four winds on a dark day. It is also a time of judgment as indicated by all tribes of the earth mourning.
The gatherers are angels, not evangelists of religious denominations. This parallels Jesus’ words: “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Mt 13:39).
The conclusion is crystal clear: every religious group who claims that their flock today are ‘the gathered sheep’ is deceiving itself! Moreover, every religious group attempting to gather the sheep is going against the clear message in Scripture!
This same applies for the activities of Beroean Pickets. Even if we recognize each other as Brothers and Sisters – association with us in no means grants an exalted status as sheep.
Salvation is individually, not as a group. This is evident as in each religion there are some who clearly don’t value the spiritual. There is no such thing as a religious protective ark which guarantees salvation by association.
“For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.” – Mark 4:22
If a church did not care so much about protecting their self-glorified exalted position among men, would they hide pedophiles? Would covering up adultery by prominent leaders be to the benefit of the Church?
“Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – Matthew 7:23 NIV
Preaching or Gathering?
In what is called ‘the great commission’, Jesus Christ instructed:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28: 18-20 NET
Likewise Paul instructed the Romans:
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:13-14 NET
The purpose of preaching is so that others may hear and believe. Believe in whom? Baptism is in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – NOT in the name of a group of men.
The Scripture states that Jesus is the Shepherd appointed by the Father. Furthermore it states that he is the one who will gather his sheep after the great tribulation of Matthew 24:29. If an organization today attempts to gather Jesus’ sheep – aren’t they by extension declaring themselves to be the messianic shepherd?
How much more clearly can Scripture put it:
“You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men.” – 1 Co 7:23 NET
“In vain do they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” – Matthew 15:9 KJV
“I urge you, brothers and sisters … to end your divisions … and to be united … were you baptized in the name of Paul?” – 1 Co 1:10-13 NET
Are you baptized in the name of the Pope? Calvin? John Smyth? John Wesley? Charles Parham? Luther? Does your Church claim to be the only true Church on earth? Your identity is that of a Christian, and nothing more.
The Way Forward
The scattered body of Christ is commissioned to preach the Good News of the gospel. This good news is a message of freedom – not slavery. Do not permit anyone to bring you into bondage again after having been set free.
We are exhorted to love and encourage one another, building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12). Let all things be judged by our Lord at his Day of Judgment. We are to do all things for God’s glory, not our own.
“Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” – 1 Co 4:5 NIV
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” – Matthew 6:5 NIV
We can therefore organize to preach, but not organize to baptize in our own name. We cannot judge others – we cannot discern the motives of the heart as Christ.
We can on a local level self-organize to associate with others who prove through love that they are Christ’s sheep – but always with open doors and never self-assuming that we are the only true sheep of Christ in our area.
“Whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 18:4 NIV
As for our efforts: every visitor is free to believe what they wish and accept what we say or reject it. We all have an individual responsibility to be as the Beroeans. That means you should not let us replace your own mind and critical thinking skills. God’s Word belongs to all of us, and we will each individually answer for our actions to Christ.