I e-mailed all my JW friends with a link to the first video, and the response has been an resounding silence. Mind you, it’s been less than 24 hours, but still I expected some response. Of course, some of my deeper thinking friends will need time to view and think about what they’re seeing. I should be patient. I expect most will disagree. I’m basing that on years of experience. However, it is my hope that some will see the light. Unfortunately, most Witnesses when confronted with a contrary argument to what they’ve been taught will dismiss the speaker by calling him an apostate. Is this a valid response? What is an apostate according to Scripture?
That is the question I’m attempting to answer in the second video of this series.
Hello. This is our second video.
In the first, we discussed examining our own teachings as Jehovah’s Witnesses using our own criteria as we got originally from the Truth book back in ’68 and from subsequent books such as the Bible Teach book. However, we also discussed a few problems that stood in our way. We referred to them as the elephant in the room, or since there’s more than one, the elephants in the room; and we needed to dispense with those before we could really move on in our research of the Bible.
Now one of elephants, perhaps the biggest one, is fear. It is interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses go fearlessly from door to door and never know who’s going to answer the door—it could be a Catholic, or Baptist, or a Mormon, or a Moslem, or a Hindu—and they’re prepared for whatever comes their way. Yet, let one of their own question a single doctrine and suddenly they’re afraid.
For example, if you’re watching this video now, I would guess that a few of you are sitting there privately waiting till everybody’s gone away…you’re all by yourself…now you’re watching…or if there’s others in the house, maybe you’re looking over your shoulder, just to make sure nobody’s watching you watch the video as if you are watching pornographic movies! Where does that fear come from? And why is it that rational adult people will react in such a way when discussing Bible truth? It seems to be very, very odd to say the very least.
Now, do you love truth? I would say that you do; that’s why you’re watching this video; and that’s a good thing because love is the key factor in arriving at truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6—when it defines love in the sixth verse—says that love does not rejoice over unrighteousness. And of course falsehood, false doctrine, lies—they’re all part of unrighteousness. Well, love does not rejoice over unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth. So when we learn truth, when we learn new things from the Bible, or when our understanding is refined, we feel joy if we love truth…and that’s a good thing, this love of truth, because we don’t want the opposite…we don’t want the love of the lie.
Revelation 22:15 talks about those who are outside the kingdom of God. There are different qualities such as being a murderer, or a fornicator, or an idolater, but among those is “everyone liking and carrying on a lie”. So if we like a false doctrine, and if we carry it on and perpetuate it, teaching it to others, we’re guaranteeing ourselves a place outside of the kingdom of God.
Who wants that?
So again, why are we afraid? 1 John 4:18 gives us the reason—if you want to turn there—1 John 4:18 says:”There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts fear out, because fear restrains us (and the old version said “fear exercises a restraint”) indeed the one who is fearful has not been made perfect in love.”
So if we’re afraid, and if we’re letting fear restrain us from examining the truth, then we are not perfect in love. Now, what are we afraid of? Well, it may just be we’re afraid of being wrong. If we’ve believed something all our lives, were afraid of being wrong. Imagine when we go to the door and we meet someone of another religion—who has been in that religion all their life and believes it with all their heart—then we come along and we show them in the Bible that some of their beliefs are not Biblical. Well, many resist because they don’t want to give up a lifelong belief, even though it’s wrong. They’re afraid of change.
In our case though there’s something else, something that’s pretty much unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses and a few other religions. It’s that we’re afraid of being punished. If a Catholic, for example, disagrees with the Pope over birth control, so what? But if a Jehovah’s Witness disagrees with the Governing Body over something and voices that disagreement, he’s afraid of being punished. He’ll be taken into the back room and talked to, and if he doesn’t desist, he could be thrown out of the religion which means being cut off from all of his family and all his friends and everything he’s ever known and loved. So that kind of punishment keeps people in line.
Fear is what we want to avoid. We just reviewed that in the Bible, because fear casts love out and love is the way we find truth. Love rejoices in truth. So really if fear is what is motivating us we have to wonder, where does that come from?
Satan’s world rules with fear and greed, the carrot and the stick. You either do what you do because of what you can get, or you do what you do because you’re afraid of being punished. Now I’m not categorizing every human that way, because there are many humans who follow the Christ, and follow the course of love, but that isn’t Satan’s way; that’s the point: Satan’s way is fear and greed.
So, if we are allowing fear to motivate us, to control us, then who are we following? Because Christ…he rules with love. So how does this affect us as Jehovah’s Witnesses? And what is the real danger of our belief in apostasy? Well let me illustrate that with an example. Let’s say I’m an apostate, okay, and I begin to deceive people with artfully contrived stories and personal interpretations. I cherry-pick Bible verses, picking ones that seem to support my belief, but ignoring others that would deny it. I depend on my listeners to be either too lazy, or too busy, or just too trusting to do the research for themselves. Now time goes by, they have children, they educate their children in my teachings, and children being children, completely trust their parents to be the source of truth. So soon I have a large following. Years go by, decades go by, a community develops with shared values and shared traditions, and a strong social element, a sense of belonging, and even a mission: the salvation of mankind. Following my teachings… that salvation is a bit skewed from what the Bible says, but it’s enough in line that it’s convincing.
Fine, okay, everything’s hunky-dory, until someone comes along who knows the Bible, and he challenges me. He says, “You’re wrong and I’ll prove it.” Now what do I do? You see, he’s armed with the sword of the spirit, as Hebrews 4:12 says. I’m not armed with anything, all I have in my arsenal are lies and falsehoods. I have no defense against the truth. My only defense is what is called an ad hominem attack, and that is essentially attacking the person. I can’t attack the argument, so I attack the person. I call him an apostate. I’d say, “He’s mentally diseased; his words are poisonous; don’t listen to him.” Then I’d appeal to authority, that’s another argument that is used, or what they call a logical fallacy. I’d say, “Believe because I’m the authority; I’m God’s channel, and you trust God, and therefore you must trust me. So don’t listen to him. You must be loyal to me, because being loyal to me is being loyal to Jehovah God.” And because you do trust me—or because you’re afraid of what I can do by convincing others to turn against you if you turn against me, whatever the case—you don’t listen to the person I’ve called an apostate. So you never learn the truth.
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t really understand apostasy that’s one thing I’ve learned. They have an idea of what it is, but it’s not the Biblical idea. In the Bible, the word is apostasia, and it is a compound word that literally means ‘to stand away from’. So, of course, you can be an apostate to anything that you formerly joined and now stand away from, but we’re interested in Jehovah’s interpretation. What does Jehovah say is an apostate? In other words whose authority are we standing away, from the authority of men? The authority of an organization? Or the authority of God?
Now you might say, “Well Eric, you’re starting to sound like an apostate!” Maybe you said that a while ago. Okay, let’s look at what the Bible says, and then see if I fit that description. If I do, you should stop listening to me. We’ll go to 2 John, we’ll start in verse 6—it’s important to start in verse 6 because he defines something that is the antithesis of apostasy. He says:
“And this is what love means, that we go on walking according to his commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should go on walking in it.”
Whose commandments? Man’s? No, God’s. And why do we obey the commandments? Because we love God. Love is the key; love is the motivating factor. Then he goes on to show the opposite thing. In verse 7 of 2 John:
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh….”
Acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. What does that mean? Well, if we don’t acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, then there was no ransom. He did not die and he was not resurrected, and everything he did is of no value, so basically we’ve destroyed everything in the Bible by not acknowledging Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. He goes on:
“This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
So an apostate is a deceiver, not a truth sayer; and he is against the Christ; he’s an antichrist. He continues:
“Look out for yourselves, so that you do not lose the things we have worked to produce, but that you may obtain a full reward. Everyone who pushes ahead…” (now there’s a phrase we hear a lot of, isn’t it?) “…Everyone who pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the [organization… sorry!] THE CHRIST, does not have God. The one who does remain in this teaching is the one who has both the Father and the Son.”
Notice, it is the teaching of the Christ that defines whether or not someone is pushing ahead, because that person is leaving the teaching of the Christ and introducing his own teachings. Again, false teachings in any religion would qualify one as an antichrist because they are departing from the teaching of the Christ. Finally, and this is a very interesting point, he says:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For the one who says a greeting to him as a share in his wicked works.”
Now we love to use the latter part of this to say, ‘So you shouldn’t even talk to an apostate’, but that’s not what he says. He says, ‘if someone does not bring to you…’, he comes and does not bring this teaching, so, how do you know he doesn’t bring that teaching? Because someone told you? No! That means you’re allowing someone else’s judgment to determine your judgment. No, we must determine for ourselves. And how do we do that? Because the person comes, and he brings a teaching, and we listen to that teaching, and then we determine whether the teaching is in the Christ. In other words, he has remained in the teaching of the Christ; or whether that teaching is departing from the teaching of the Christ and that person is pushing ahead. If he’s doing that, then we personally determine for ourselves not to say a greeting to the person or have them in our homes.
That makes sense, and see how that protects you? Because that illustration I gave, where I had my own followers, they weren’t protected because they listened to me and didn’t even let the person say a word. They never heard the truth, they never got a chance to hear it, because they trusted in me and were loyal to me. So loyalty is important but only if it’s loyalty to the Christ. We cannot be loyal to two people unless they are exactly and completely in harmony, but when they deviate, we have to choose. It’s interesting that the word ‘apostate’ doesn’t occur in the Christian Greek Scriptures at all, but the word ‘apostasy’ does, on two occasions. I’d like to show you those two occasions because there’s a much to be learned from them.
We’re going to examine the use of the word apostasy in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It only occurs twice. One time, in not a valid sense, and the other and in very valid sense. We’ll look at both, because there’s something to be learned from each; but before we do, I’d like to set the groundwork, by looking at Matthew 5:33 and 37. Now, this is Jesus talking. This is the Sermon on the Mount, and he says in Matthew 5:33, “Again, you heard that it was said to those of ancient times: ‘You must not swear without performing, but you must pay your vows to Jehovah'”. Then he goes on explaining why that should no longer be the case, and he concludes in verse 37 by saying, “Just let your yes mean yes and your no, no, for what goes beyond these is from the wicked one.” So he’s saying, “Don’t vow any more”, and there’s logic to that, because if you vow and you fail to keep it, you have actually sinned against God, because you made a promise to God. Whereas if you simply say your Yes is Yes, and your No, No… you’ve broken a promise, that’s bad enough, but that involves humans. But adding the vow involves God, and so he’s saying “Don’t do that”, because that’s from the Devil , that’s going to lead to bad things.
So this is a new law; this is a change, okay?…introduced by Jesus Christ. So with that in mind, let’s now look at the word “apostasy”, and just to make sure we cover all the bases, I’m going to use a wild-card character (*) to make sure that if there are other words like “apostate” or “apostatizing”, or any variations of the verb, we’ll find those as well. So here in the New World Translation, the latest version, we find forty occurrences—a lot of them are in the outlines—but there’s only two appearances in the Christian Greek Scriptures: one in Acts, and one in Thessalonians. So we’ll go to Acts 21.
Here we find Paul in Jerusalem. He’s arrived, he has given a report of his work to the nations, and then James and the older men are there, and James speaks up in verse 20, and he says:
“You see brother how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews and they are all zealous for the law.”
Zealous for the law? The law of Moses is no longer in effect. Now, one can understand them obeying the law, because they were living in Jerusalem, and under that environment, but it’s one thing to comply with the law, it’s quite another thing to be zealous for it. It’s like they were trying to be more Jews than the Jews themselves! Why? They had the law of the Christ’.
This induced them, then, to engage in rumors and gossip and slander, because the next verse says:
“But they have heard it rumoured about you that you have been teaching all the Jews among the nations and apostasy from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children, or to follow the customary practices.”
“The customary practices!?” They’re into the traditions of Judaism, and still using these in the Christian congregation! So what’s the solution? Do the older man and James in Jerusalem say: ‘We need to set them right, brother. We need to tell them this is not the way it is supposed to be among us.’ No, their decision is to appease, so they carry on:
“What then is to be done about it? They are certainly going to hear that you have arrived. So, do what we tell you. We have four men who have put themselves under a vow…”
Four men who have put themselves under a vow?! We just read that Jesus said: ‘Do not do that anymore, if you do it, it’s from the wicked one.’ And yet here are four men who have done it, and with the endorsement, obviously, of the older men in Jerusalem, because they are using these men as part of this appeasement process they have in mind. So what they tell Paul is:
“Take these men with you and cleanse yourself ceremonially together with them, and take care of their expenses so that they may have their head shaved, then everyone will know that there’s nothing to the rumors that were told about you, but that you are walking orderly and are also keeping the Law.”
Well, Paul said in his own writings that he was a Greek to the Greek and a Jew to the Jews. He became whatever he needed to be so that he might gain some for the Christ. So if he was with a Jew he kept the Law, but if he was with a Greek he didn’t, because his goal was to gain more for the Christ. Now why Paul didn’t insist at this point, ‘No brothers this is the wrong way to go’, we don’t know. He was in Jerusalem, there was the authority of all the older men there. He decided to go along, and what happened? Well the appeasement didn’t work. He ended up being imprisoned and spent the next two years going through many hardships. In the end, it resulted in a greater preaching, but we can be sure that this wasn’t Jehovah’s way of doing it, because he does not test us with evil or bad things, so this was Jehovah allowing the errors of men to result, in the end, for something profitable or good for the good news, but that doesn’t mean that what these men were doing was approved by God. Certainly calling Paul an apostate, and spreading rumors about him, that was not approved by Jehovah for sure. So there we have one use of apostasy, and why was it being used? Basically out of fear. The Jews lived in an environment where if they stepped out of line they could be punished, so they wanted to appease the people in their area to make sure that they didn’t have too many problems.
We remember initially a great persecution broke out and many fled and the good news got spread wide and far because of that… fine… fair enough, but those who remained and continued to grow found a way of getting along.
We should never allow fear to influence us. Yes, we should be cautious. The Bible says “cautious as serpents and innocent as doves”, but it doesn’t mean we compromise. We must be willing to carry our torture stake.
Now, the second occurrence of apostasy is found in 2 Thessalonians, and this occurrence is a valid one. This is an occurrence that affects us today, and one we should heed. In verse 3 of chapter 2, Paul says: “Let no one lead you astray in any way, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. He stands in opposition and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits down in the temple of God publicly showing himself to be a god.” Now, the temple of God we know is the congregation of anointed Christians, so this one sits down in God’s temple publicly shows himself to be a god. In other words, as a god commands and we must obey unconditionally, so this man acting like a god, commands and expects unconditional and unquestioning obedience to his direction, commands, or words. That’s the kind of apostasy we should be wary of. It’s top-down apostasy, not bottom-up. It’s not the odd person nipping at the heels of the leaders, but actually it starts with the leadership itself.
How do we identify it? Well, we’ve already analyzed that, let’s carry on. Jesus knew that fear would be one of the greatest enemies we have to face in a search for truth, and that’s why he told us at Matthew 10:38, “Whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.” What did he mean by that? At that point in time no one knew, except him, that he was going to die that way, so why use the analogy of a torture stake? Are we supposed to die painful, ignominious deaths? No, that’s not his point. His point is that, in Jewish culture, that was the worst way to die. A person who was condemned to die that way first was stripped of everything he had. He lost his wealth, his possessions, his good name. His family and his friends turned their back on him. He was shunned completely. Then finally, he was nailed to this torture stake, stripped of his clothing even, and when he died, instead of going to a decent burial, his body was thrown into the Valley of Hinnom, to be burned.
In other words, he’s saying, ‘If you want to be worthy of me, you have to be prepared to give up everything of value.’ That’s not easy, is it? Everything of value? We have to be prepared for that. And knowing that we would have to be prepared for that, he talked about the things we value the most in that same passage. We’ll just go back a few verses to verse 32. So in verse 32 we read:
“Every one then who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father who was in heavens. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father who is in the heavens.”
So we don’t want that do we? We don’t want to be disowned by Jesus Christ when he stands before God. But, what’s he talking about? What men is he talking about? Verse 34 continues:
“Do not think I came to bring peace to the earth; I came to bring, not peace, but a sword. For I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.”
So he’s talking about division in the closest family unit. He’s basically telling us we have to be willing to give up our children, or our parents. Now, he doesn’t mean that the Christian shuns his parents or shuns his children. That would be a misapplication of this. He’s talking about being shunned. Because of our faith in Jesus Christ, it often happens that our parents or our children or our friends or our closest relatives will turn their backs on us, will shun us; and there’ll be division caused because we will not compromise our faith in Jesus Christ nor Jehovah God. Okay, so let’s look at it this way: the nation of Israel we’ve always said was part of Jehovah’s earthly organization. Okay, so just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, Jehovah always sent various prophets to warn them. One of them was Jeremiah. Who did Jeremiah go to? Well, in Jeremiah 17:19, it says:
“This is what Jehovah told me, ‘Go and stand in the gate of the sons of the people by which the kings of Judah go in and out and in all the gates of Jerusalem you must say to them, “Hear the word of Jehovah you kings of Judah all people of Judah and all inhabitants of Jerusalem who enter by these gates.”‘”
So he told everybody, all the way up to the kings. Now there was really only one king, so what it means there is the rulers. The king ruled, the priests ruled, the older men ruled, all different levels of authority. He talked to them all. He was talking to the governors or governing body of the nation at that time. Now what happened? According to Jeremiah 17:18 he prayed to Jehovah, “Let my persecutors be put to shame.” He was persecuted. He describes plots to have him killed. You see, what we might think is an apostate might very well be a Jeremiah—someone who is preaching truth to power.
So, if you see someone being persecuted, being shunned, there’s a good chance he’s not an apostate—he’s a speaker of truth.
(So yesterday I finished the video. I’d spent the day editing it, sent it to a friend or two, and one of the conclusions was that the conclusion itself of the video needed a little work. So here it is.)
What’s it all about? Well, obviously fear. Fear is what keeps us from studying the Bible, together, and that’s what I want to do. That’s all I want to do…study the Bible together; let you draw your own conclusions from what we study, and as you’ve seen from this video and the previous one, I use the Bible a lot, and you’re able to look up the scriptures with me, hear my reasoning and determine for yourself, whether what I’m saying is true or false.
The other point of this video is to not fear apostasy, or rather charges of apostasy, because apostasy, the misuse of that, has been used to keep us in line. To keep us from knowing all the truth, and there is truth to be known that is not available to us in the publications, and we will get to that, but we can’t be afraid, we can’t be afraid of examining it.
We are like a person who is driving a car guided by a GPS unit which has always proven reliable, and we’re well on our way, well that down a long path or long route to our destination, when we realize that the landmarks don’t match what the GPS is saying. We realize at that point that the GPS is wrong, for the first time. What do we do? Do we keep following it, hoping it’ll get right again? Or do we pull over and go and buy an old-fashioned paper map, and ask somebody where we are, and then figure it out for ourselves?
This is our map [holding up the Bible]. It’s the only map we have; it’s the only writing or publication that we have that is inspired of God. Everything else is by men. This is not. If we stick with this, we’ll learn. Now some might say, ‘Yes but don’t we need someone to tell us how to do it? Someone to interpret it for us?’ Well, put it this way: It was written by God. Do you think he’s incapable of writing a book that you and I, ordinary people, can understand? Do we need someone more intelligent, a wise and intellectual one? Did not Jesus say that these things are revealed to babes? We can figure it out for ourselves. It’s all there. I’ve proven that myself, and many others apart from me have found the same truth. All I’m saying is, “don’t be afraid anymore.” Yes, we must act cautiously. Jesus said, “cautious as serpents, innocent as doves”, but we have to act. We can’t sit on our hands. We have to continue to strive to get a better closer personal relationship with our God Jehovah and we cannot get that except through Christ. His teachings are what will guide us.
Now I know there are many things that will come up; many questions that will kind of get in the way, so I’m going to address a few more of those before we actually get into studying the Bible, because I don’t want them to hamper us. As we said, they’re like an elephant in the room. They’re blocking our view. Okay, so the next one that we’ll consider is the oft-repeated refrain, “Well, Jehovah has always had one organization. There is no other organization that’s teaching the truth, that’s preaching worldwide, only us, so this must be the right organization. How could it be wrong? And if it is wrong where will I go?”
These are valid questions and there are valid and actually very comforting answers to them, if you’ll just take the time to consider them with me. So we’re going to leave that for the next video, and we’ll talk about the organization; what it really means; and where do we go if we have to go anywhere. You’d be surprised at the answer. Until then, thank you very much for listening. I’m Eric Wilson.