[Watchtower study for the week of June 9, 2014 – w14 4/15 p. 8]
Study theme text: “He continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” – Heb. 11:17
Par. 1-3 – We do well to ask ourselves the question brought out in these paragraphs. “Do I have eyes of faith so that, like the “great cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews chapter 11, I can see the invisible one?” What we do by simply coming to and participating in discussion forums like this one requires faith. It takes time and effort and many of us do so at considerable risk to our social, emotional and even economic welfare. It would be so much easier to surrender ourselves to the will of others. To submit to men and their teachings and deny the reality that is revealed to us in God’s word. To just give in.
Faith allows us to see the invisible one and know what he wants of us. That imposes an obligation on each one. Moses could have ignored God and lived a comfortable, privileged life. Seeing the invisible one caused him to make the hard choice. A lack of faith causes spiritual blindness, a state many of our brothers and sisters prefer. They can live with the illusion that they are “good with God”—an illusion all too common throughout the Christian world. Doing so allows them to believe that they can surrender their conscience to men in authority and that by doing so, they are obedient to God and will be saved.
This belief is both seductive and pervasive, not just in Christendom, but throughout Satan’s world—the belief that our salvation can come through men or through an Organization. Hand in hand with this belief goes “fear of man”. Since we believe following them will deliver us, we fear displeasing them. It is easier to fear what we can see, but so unwise. Really, it is God we should be fearing to displease.
Par. 4-7 – Moses is shown to have overcome the fear of man, specifically of Pharaoh, for he had the “fear of Jehovah” which is the start of all wisdom. (Job 28:28) A modern-day example of such a faith in God is that of Ella, a sister in Estonia back in 1949. Many of the teachings we had in 1949 have been abandoned. However, her test wasn’t one of doctrinal interpretation but of loyalty to God. She would not give up her relationship with Jehovah in exchange for relative freedom. What a fine example of fearless loyalty she provided to us today.
Par. 8,9 – “Faith in Jehovah will help you to conquer your fears. If powerful officials try to restrict your freedom to worship God, it may seem that your life, welfare, and future are in human hands… Remember: The antidote to fear of man is faith in God. (Read Proverbs 29:25) Jehovah asks: “Why should you be afraid of a mortal man who will die and a son of man who will wither like green grass?”…Even if you must defend your faith before powerful officials…Human rulers…are no match for Jehovah.” We have to read past the immediate application of these quotes to the broader implications unwittingly expressed by the writer. During Israelite times, the persecution that faithful servants of God suffered came from the religious leaders within God’s own people. The early Christians likewise suffered oppression from those claiming to be led by God. As the centuries passed, the authorities that were to be feared were ecclesiastical in nature.
Is it any different for us today? How many of us have been persecuted by Catholic, Protestant or Jewish religious leaders? We have come to learn that the presence of Jesus is yet in the future, that we have no idea how close the end is, that all Christians should partake of the emblems. These are Bible truths. Yet we are afraid to declare them openly. Who causes us this fear? Catholic priests? Protestant ministers? Jewish rabbis? Or the local elders?
Paragraph 8 states: “You might even wonder if it is wise to continue serving Jehovah and angering the authorities.” In the six decades I’ve been serving Jehovah, the secular authorities have never tried to dissuade me from speaking the truth and I’ve never been afraid of angering them. The same cannot be said for the religious authorities holding sway over my life. It is for this reason that the work we do in researching Scripture and sharing our findings with each other and the world at large is done anonymously as part of an underground ministry.
Par. 10-12 – There is a thematic disconnect introduced in these paragraphs. The firstborn of Egypt were killed by God’s avenging angel. Israelites were spared by means of the blood of the Passover lamb. The Israelites didn’t go door-to-door warning the Egyptians. All of this has little to do with John’s revelation of the attack the nations bring on Babylon the great, yet we seem to be trying to connect these two scriptural elements. It appears we are making this effort to bolster a renewed call to preach the warning to get out of Babylon the great, the world empire of false religion.
The rule for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that if a religion teaches falsehood, then it is part of Babylon the great, and if you are still part of that false religion when the governments turn on all false religion, you will go down with it.
Point out any religion to a Jehovah’s Witness and ask him if it is part of Babylon the great, and he’ll answer with a firm Yes! Ask him how he knows and he’ll respond that all other religions teach falsehood. Only we have the truth. Then point out the Philippines-based Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ). The Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) was founded in 1914 and boasts more than 5 million members worldwide. It doesn’t believe in the Trinity nor the immortal soul. It teaches that Jesus is a created being. Members do not celebrate Christmas. They have to study the Bible and pass a series of evaluation questions before being baptized. They believe the end is near. They believe the last days began in 1914. All of this parallels our own teachings. Like us, they believe that one cannot understand the Bible without the benefit of God’s Organization. Like us, they have a Governing Body. Like us, they believe the leadership of their church is God’s appointed channel of communication. Like us, they will expel members for drunkenness, fornication or disagreeing with church doctrine as revealed through their leadership. They believe the Father is to be worshipped and that he has a name, though they seem to prefer Yahweh to Jehovah. They also believe they are the true faith and all others are false. Again, just like us. They preach, though their methods differ from ours and they conduct Bible studies with new recruits. They are given training in public speaking. Their ministers work for free, like ours do. They do not disclose Church finances. Neither do we. They claim to be persecuted.
The question is, On what basis would we condemn them as false? Most of their core teachings agree with ours. Surely some do not. If they have even one or two major teachings that are false, that would invalidate all the correct ones and allow us to identify them as part of Babylon the great, the worldwide empire of false religion, would it not? I think the average JW would agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. After all, a little leaven ferments the whole lump, so even a couple of false doctrines would qualify them as part of the Babylon the great.
The problem with that position is that there is but one yardstick. If they do not measure up due to one or two false doctrines, then neither do we. In fact we have many false teachings, some minor and some major. By our own measure, we must be part of Babylon the great.
We can’t have it both ways. We cannot condemn the INC for whatever false teachings they may have while exempting ourselves from the same measure.
Par. 13, 14 – (I can only speak for myself here, but every so often, despite my best efforts at being understanding and magnanimous, there comes a statement that simply sticks in my craw.)
“We are convinced that “the hour of judgment” has, indeed, arrived. We also have faith that Jehovah has not exaggerated the urgency of our preaching and disciples-making work.”
Seriously!? What does Jehovah have to do with any exaggeration of the urgency in our preaching work? Our leadership, not Jehovah, has been exaggerating the urgency for 140 years. They are still doing it. This article does it. They’ve had one embarrassing failure after another, but instead of owning up to them, they’re suggesting that if we personally have a problem with this, we are lacking faith in God?!
“By faith, do you see those angels poised to release the destructive winds of the great tribulation on this world?” Let us hope you do. Let us also hope that you realize those angels have been holding the metaphorical winds back since the time John wrote the Revelation. Whether they release the winds this year or a hundred years from now shouldn’t change our faith nor lessen our sense of urgency. But that is not what we are saying in these paragraphs. What we are saying is expressed at the end of paragraph 14: “Faith…will motivate us to have a full share in the preaching work before time runs out.”
Par. 15-19 – “By the climax of the great tribulation, the governments of this world will have devastated and completely destroyed the religious organizations that were larger and more numerous than ours.” The implication is that our religious organization—which is already larger and more numerous than hundreds of other Christian sects—will be somehow ignored by these governments. We can have no doubt that true Christians who have gotten out of false religion will be passed over when the Governments strip Babylon the great of her vast wealth and confiscate her extensive property holdings; effectively stripping her naked and eating up her fleshy parts. (Re 17:16) However, the Bible only speaks of a salvation for a people, that is individuals of like mind and faith. There is no provision in the prophecy for the nations sparing a wealthy organizational entity like ours. Right now, officials in Detroit and Atlanta are very happy with the wealth our conventions will be bringing into their respective cities. (Rev. 18:3, 11, 15)
When Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea, they were not an organization. They were not even a nation. They were a loose affiliation of family groupings under tribal leaders. All these individuals were being led by one man, not an organizational hierarchy. The Greater Moses is Jesus. The salvation parallel is clear. Only if we fear God and not man can we be saved. Only if we obey the Greater Moses’ teachings as expressed to us in Scripture, not the teaching of men, can we expect to find his favor.
There will come a time when God will remove all impediments to true worship by eliminating the religious authority of men embodied in the organizational hierarchies of Christendom. Then the words of Ezekiel 38:10-12 will come true and then, with his chief weapon against true worship gone, will Satan make one final attack against God’s people.
So the main point of the article is valid: Fear God, not man, and be saved.