Those of us who have awakened to the unscriptural nature of our unique JW teachingsl, upon hearing an account like this, will nod our heads and turn to each other muttering, “Understandable. It’s just their indoctrination speaking.” I’m not so sure anymore. Certainly, indoctrination is a major factor, but focusing on it takes the spotlight away from the individual and puts most or all the blame on the indoctrinator. It’s like people who blame every bad thing that happens to them on Satan. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is it really that simple? I began to think otherwise just recently after trying to preach the real good news to some longtime JW friends. There was an immediate, almost instinctive, rejection of what I was showing them, even though they couldn’t defend their beliefs from the Bible. Dwelling on it afterwards, I recognized a familiar pattern, one I’d seen many times before when witnessing to Catholics in Latin America. Were Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses really so much alike? The thought surprised me. It forced me to realize that I was still viewing Jehovah’s Witnesses as something apart from the rest of Christendom; thinking we were somehow still special. When it comes to indoctrination, we are definitely in a tightly controlled minority within Christendom. It is true that there are many alarming similarities between the religious methodology of Jehovah’s Witnesses and that of mind-control cults, but I don’t see the Organization as a cult, any more than I see the Catholic Church as one. True, we do have disfellowshipping, which the Catholic Church had for centuries, but has now mostly abandoned. Yet what we practice institutionally, Catholics practice communally. I have seen many who upon becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses were shunned by Catholic family and friends; teenagers even being thrown out of the family home. (This reaction is not exclusive to Catholics, by the way.) Without the same level of indoctrination and absent the enforcement of excommunication by the local priest, why did these people act in exactly the same way as my JW brethren do? Are Catholics as indoctrinated as Jehovah’s Witnesses, or is something else at work here? Does the similarity in reaction indicate a similarity in mindset?
A Bill of Goods
Indoctrination is lying. It is lying crafted on a carefully fabricated framework of ideas, and like all good lies, it is based on some truth. But when you boil it all down, it is still lying, and lying originates with Satan. (John 8:44, 45) For a lie to work it has to sell something the hearer wants. Satan sold Eve a false bill of goods: She was to be like God and would never die. As it turned out, part of that was true, but only in a sense; the really important part—the part about not dying—well, that was false. Yet, she bought it. Every Christian denomination today does this. They are like corporations that are selling their own version of Christianity. They have a product all nicely packaged, gift wrapped, and tied up with a pretty bow. The core product is the promise of life eternal. (Even non-Christian religions sell this core product. Satan knows what the client wants.) Each corporate division of Christianity, Inc. adds its own features to the products, selling its exclusive brand and model.
The Purchase Price
To continue the analogy, Jehovah was offering Eve eternal life in paradise on Earth; but so was the Devil. However, Satan sweetened the deal by offering a product feature God did not. “Eternal Life on Earth 2.0” came with a handy-dandy Self-Rule feature. Of course, the Devil was really selling vaporware, but Eve believed his sales pitch and bought the product. Adam apparently wasn’t deceived but for reasons of his own went along. (1 Ti 2:14) Perhaps he just wanted self-rule and was willing to give up eternal life to have it. This brings to mind the words at James 1:14, 15. The angels that desired the daughters of men knew this would result in their death. Yet, it seems the enticement of that pleasure was enough to cause them to sacrifice eternal life. The currency used to purchase the products Satan is selling is obedience—obedience to him, obedience to other men, obedience to self, whatever! Just not obedience to God. The fact is, as Eve found the fruit desirable, as the angels found the human women desirable, so many find the products sold by various religions to be highly desirable and are willing to pay the price. Through lies—aka, indoctrination; the infrastructure of religious doctrine—the various divisions of Christianity, Inc. sell products they do not own. It is all vaporware for which they exact a high price, but which in the end they cannot deliver. Ultimately, their clientele will be left bereft and bankrupt.
The Products on Offer
Let us review some of the major product brands.
Eternal Life – Brand Name: Catholicism
Product Selling Points
- Be in the only true Christian faith. We had it first!
- Share in a rich spiritual heritage going back centuries.
- Enjoy extensive cultural traditions and festivals that will give meaning to your life.
- Attend the biggest and finest cathedrals.
- Bask in a worldwide brotherhood numbering in the hundreds of millions.
- Sins forgiven on the spot. Confessionals placed at all locations for your convenience.
- Freedom to live any way you want without loss of membership.
- An assured place in heaven.
- Our patented “Last Rites” process will save even the worst sinner.
Product Sales Price
Only lifelong unconditional obedience to the Pope and his local representatives, plus on-going monetary support. (Warning: You may be required to kill your fellow man in times of war.)
Eternal Life – Brand Name: Fundamentalism (Various Models available to suit personal needs)
- Be in the one true Christian faith. (This feature included in all models)
- A friendly, down-to-earth clergy. We dress like you do.
- Speak in tongues and perform faith healings. (This feature not available on all models)
- “Once Saved, Always Saved.” It’s hard to go wrong, unless you were meant to, then it’s hard to go right.
- Bask in a worldwide brotherhood numbering in the tens of millions.
- Help God change the world through lobbying.
- Take comfort that anyone who gets the better of you in this world will rot in hell.
- Despite declarations of political correctness that say otherwise, be assured that only the true believers (aka you) get raptured up before Armageddon hits.
- Enjoy the wealth and prosperity that comes to those who donate richly to the Lord.
- Hang out with people who share your high moral standards. (Actual practice of said standards is largely optional.)
Product Sales Price
Unconditional obedience to church doctrine. Hefty financial support. Some models tithe because they don’t trust your generosity. (Be prepared to give your life for your country, because that is God’s will.)
Eternal Life – Brand Name: Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Be in the one true Christian faith. (No, this time we mean it.)
- Know you are special, one of the elite who will survive Armageddon while all around you die.
- Enjoy splendid isolation from all the world’s problems, knowing it is all going to end within 5 to 7 years, max.
- Look forward to being young again and having a perfect human body.
- Rejoice in a worldwide brotherhood numbering in the millions.
- Know that as long as you go to all meetings and go out in the public ministry for at least 10 hours a month, you’re pretty much guaranteed a place in paradise.
- Look forward to occupying the beautiful homes of those whom God kills at Armageddon.
- Look forward to frolicking with lions and tigers.
- Look forward to being princes in the Earth. (This last feature applies only to elders.)
Product Sales Price
Unconditional obedience to the Governing Body. Regular financial support. (No worries about dying in war, but you may have to die if you need blood.)
Mormons have their own product as do Hindus and Muslims. But two elements are consistent in all product lines. 1) The “Eternal Life” feature, and 2) the payment price. The ubiquity of the first feature should not surprise us. At the beginning, Satan said: “You certainly will not die.” (Ge 3:4) As for the second element, the purchase price, well, that goes back to the beginning as well. There only have been two choices ever: Obey God or Obey Satan.
“So he brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time. 6 Then the Devil said to him: “I will give you all this authority and their glory, because it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 If you, therefore, do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.”” (Lu 4:5-7)
For those who would fool themselves into believing that by obeying men they are obeying God, we have 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. When men make themselves equal to God by requiring we obey them unquestioningly even when their words contradict Scripture, they transform themselves into these selfsame ministers of Satan.
The Installment Plan
All the products marketed by Christianity, Inc. are sold on the installment plan. That is because it is God who is supposedly going to make the final delivery. They sure can’t. In a riveting account of the Bernie Madoff scandal, we learn how people ignored the math, turned a blind eye to what the numbers were telling them, and continued to invest in the Madoff pyramid scheme. Throwing good money after bad, some investors who could have gotten out in time, became the architects of their own downfall. This underscores the very human tendency to not want to admit a mistake even to oneself. In a state of denial, clinging to the dream of vast riches, people failed to make the hard choice and save what they could of their reputation. In the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, many love the elitism our religion fosters. The belief that we alone are saved. We also relish the brotherhood, the association with long-time friends. The thought of having to give that up terrifies many. Then there are the years of self-sacrifice to look back upon. How many have given up on their own potential, postponing dreams with a view to fulfilling them in the New World: Artistic pursuits that never were; children that were never born. All for a dream that is now a fantasy?! It is simply too much to countenance. So most continue to make payments on the installment plan, throwing good spiritual currency after bad, hoping vainly like the Madoff investors that it will all somehow work out for them.
If you look at the particular bill of goods on offer by the JW.ORG division of Christianity, Inc., you can easily see why it is especially enticing to Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the convention platform, the web site, and countless publication articles with beautiful artist renditions, Jehovah’s Witnesses are being sold on an ideal world in which they alone will live at the start, and over which they will essentially rule, and from which they will take the pick of the war booty. It is actually quite a materialistic view of paradise. Imagine how enticing this is if all your life you’ve felt left out while others enjoyed the fruits of this world. You’ve watched yourself age and you’ve experienced the loss of youth, vitality, and good health. You’ve envied the beautiful people with their perfect bodies and their beautiful homes and lavish lifestyles. So why wouldn’t the idea of youth, beauty, vitality, and unlimited wealth appeal? Maybe you’ve been a window washer or cleaner all your life. Why wouldn’t you desire a position as a prince in the land? There is nothing wrong with that, is there? No, there isn’t. If…IF…this is what God is actually offering you. When James says that everyone is drawn out and enticed by one’s own desire leading to sin, we think of obvious sins like fornication or avarice. (James 1:14, 15) Since the desire to live in a paradise earth is hardly wrong, one would never think that James’ words could apply. But what if we are putting our faith in vaporware; a slick pitch by a crafty salesman? What if a false hope is keeping us from seeing the real one? If our desire for something not being offered is keeping us from accepting God’s real offer, if it is causing us to reject God’s gift, then would that not be wrong? It is hard to see how rejecting God’s free gift could be anything but a sin. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sold a picture of life in the post-Armageddon world based entirely on the interpretation of restoration prophecies given to the Jews. Look through the Christian Scriptures. Did Jesus go about preaching survival of Armageddon and life on a paradise earth? Did he speak of building homes and cavorting with wild cats? Did the Christian writers convey word pictures like anything the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses portray in countless artist renditions?
At Acts 24:1-9, we find Paul was on trial before the governor because of accusations against him by the Jewish leaders, including the high priest. As part of his defense he states:
“And I have hope toward God, which hope these men also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Ac 24:15)
This was a hope that Paul had. There is nothing in the book of Acts, or elsewhere, to indicate Paul preached two hopes. He did not go to people preaching to them the hope of remaining unrighteous and being resurrected as such. Paul was among the righteous referred to here. He will be resurrected to spiritual life. (1Ti 4:8) As for the unrighteous he refers to, those then seeking to kill him would certainly qualify. Such ones will come back to earth under Christ’s millennial reign as part of the resurrection of the unrighteous. Yes, billions will again live on earth and have the opportunity to become reconciled with God through the mediation of Christ’s sacrifice and under the loving care of his brothers who will serve as both kings and priests for the healing of the nations. (Re 5:10; 22:2) However, that is not the hope extended to Christians. The reward that is on offer is to become one of Christ’s brothers, an adopted child of God. (John 1:12; Mk 3:35) This is not a product feature offered by the JW.ORG division of Christianity, Inc. As the devil wraps his lies in a shroud of truth, so what Jehovah’s witnesses preach is based on some truth. There will be eternal life on earth and the vast majority, if not all, of those who reject the reward now being offered will not entirely lose out on the chance of life. They may well be among billions of unrighteous ones who are resurrected. But will that be the paradise JW.ORG would have us envision? Can you really envision a world full of sinful, immoral people to be a cakewalk? Even with Satan’s temporary absence, it is going to be a challenging time; a time of great transition. And after Satan is released, there will be war! (Re 20:7-9) Additionally, does it make sense that God would go to all the trouble of selecting tested, faithful ones, give them incorruptibility, and then snatch them away to heaven to govern the earth remotely, all the while leaving the hands-on work in the lap of imperfect, sinful men – the local elders, now exalted to the status of princes? Would you want them as rulers? Would that be a paradise to yearn for? Do we seriously believe that the resurrection of billions of unrighteous people will result in a thousand years of harmonious living? Let us to the math. What are the numbers telling us?
Rejecting the Pearl
Jesus told us that the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) He also told us of a man who found a particular pearl a very great value. (Mt 13:35, 36) So valuable was this pearl that he sold everything he had to process it. Who would do that? Who would sell all his possessions just to own one single pearl? A true follower of Christ would. He would be willing to give up everything for the truth, the real truth, and nothing but the truth. (Mt 10:37-39) It saddens us that so many of our brothers and close friends in the Organization seem unwilling to do this. We hold on to the hope that circumstances will soon change, making it even more obvious how empty the hope they’ve invested in truly is. This goes for all Christians in all divisions of Christianity, Inc., not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. This situation and the time that has gone by and that which remains give true meaning of Peter’s words:
“Jehovah is not slow concerning his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2Pe 3:9)
Wheat and Weeds
I am not one to look for something significant in every little element in one of Jesus’ parables. Nevertheless, when some elements seem to fit so well with observable facts, it is hard not to draw conclusions. In the parable of the Wheat and Weeds, the master says:
“Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.” (Mt 13:30)
The weeds get gathered first. They are bound and burned as bundles. Then the Wheat gets taken into the storehouse. The Wheat isn’t bundled. It is not separated out into groups. Only the Weeds are bundled. The field is the world and the harvest is of the Sons of the Kingdom, i.e., Christians. However, false Christians are also planted by the Devil. So the crop—Weeds and Wheat alike—is Christendom. Jesus’ account of the signs of his presence shows that the last thing to occur is the gathering of his chosen ones, aka, the Wheat. (Mt 24:31) If our understanding of the meaning of Babylon the Great is close to accurate, then before the chosen ones are taken up to meet Jesus in the air, false religion—aka, Organized Religion—will be burned up. (1Th 4:17; Re 18:8) Anyone remaining with it, any of God’s people who do not abandon it, will be burned up with it. The Bible says that judgment starts with the house of God. It seems that the Son of man isn’t targeting individuals so much as religious groupings. Anyone siding with, supporting and affiliating himself or herself with a bundle of weeds will get wrapped up with them and burned. We may feel that we have to disassociate ourselves and break all contact with false religion immediately to be saved. That is certainly an option, just as it was an option for Christians in Jerusalem to abandon the city at any time before the invasion, even decades before. However, it wasn’t a requirement for salvation. The requirement was to get out of her when they saw the disgusting thing causing desolation. (Mt 24:15-21)
Let Us Be Wheat
The fact that the Wheat is intermingled in among the Weeds right up to the time of judgment indicates that it has not been separated out into its own distinct grouping. It is not in a bundle, nor does the Lord put it into a bundle. There is no religious denomination that the Wheat belongs to. It resides alongside the Weeds right up till the end. When we launched this new site, we expressed plans to expand our work in spreading the good news. Some were short term and others longer term. Since then, there have been some on other sites who have expressed concern that we are just starting our own religion. Even when talking with my unbelieving JW friends who know nothing of this site, I hear the same refrain. Learning of my belief that our doctrines are false, they conclude I’m going to start up my own religion. Why is that such a common reaction? I believe it is because they cannot conceive of worshiping God without being part of some group. They want to and need to be bundled. Worship is a group activity these days. You have to belong to something and have someone tell you how to worship God and what to do to please him. You have to surrender your conscience to a man, or group of men. It is understandable that they would jump to this conclusion because we are accustomed to having corporations make stuff for us. There was a time when people built their own homes, made their own furniture, sewed their own clothing. Not anymore. Everything we want or need we buy ready-made from a store. So when it comes to religion, the same mindset comes into play. We look for a corporation to sell us our belief system. One of the corporate divisions of Christianity, Inc. is bound to have a product we find enticing; something to invest our time and money in. I won’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I’ve had it with corporate Christianity. I don’t need a packaged product, ready to go, batteries included. The price is just too high. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t associate with like-minded individuals in keeping with the exhortation at Hebrews 10:23-25:
“Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. 24 And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, 25 not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as YOU behold the day drawing near.”
In fact, Weeds and Wheat do gather together. Who’s to know the difference? Even the angels are cautioned to wait till the harvest for fear they misidentify a strand of wheat as a weed and destroy it. (Mt 13:28, 29) So if you want to window shop, and browse the goods on offer, go right ahead. Just do not purchase the product; do not submit to men. I have no wish to start my own religion. I have enough sins to answer for, without adding that doozy to the list. There is only one man we should follow and only one man we should obey, the Son of man, Jesus Christ. One day he will wipe out corporate Christianity. When that day arrives, if we haven’t done so already, we will have to act decisively and get out of any bundle of weeds we might be affiliated with. It may be soon. It may be a long way off. All we can do is echo John’s wish: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.” (Re. 22:20)