[this article was contributed by Alex Rover]

We did not exist for an infinite amount of time. Then for a brief moment, we come into existence. Then we die, and we are reduced to nothing once more.
Each such moment starts with childhood. We learn to walk, we learn to speak and we discover new wonders every day. We enjoy forging our first friendships. We choose a skill and devote ourselves to becoming good at something. We fall in love. We desire a home, perhaps a family of our own. Then there is a point where we achieve those things and the dust settles.
I am in my twenties and I have perhaps fifty years left to live. I am in my fifties and have perhaps twenty or thirty years left to live. I am in my sixties and need to make every day count.
It varies from person to person depending how soon we reach our initial goals in life, but sooner or later it hits us like an ice cold shower. What is the meaning of my life?
Most of us are climbing the mountain hoping that on the top life will be great. But time and again we learn from highly successful people that the mountaintop only reveals the emptiness of life. We see many turn to charity to give their life meaning. Others fall into a destructive cycle that ends in death.
Jehovah taught us this lesson through Solomon. He allowed him to enjoy success by any measure possible, so that he could share with us the conclusion:

“Meaningless! Meaningless! [..] Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” – Ecclesiastes 1:2

This is the human condition. We have eternity planted in our spirit but are rooted in mortality through our flesh. This conflict has given rise to the belief in the immortality of the soul. This is what every religion has in common: hope after death. Whether it is through resurrection on earth, resurrection in heaven, reincarnation or a continuation of our soul in spirit, religion is the way mankind has historically dealt with the emptiness of life. We can simply not accept that this life is all there is.
The age of enlightenment has given rise to Atheists who accept their mortality. Yet through science they are not giving up their quest for continuation of life. Rejuvenating the body through stem cells, organ transplants or genetic modification, transferring their thoughts to a computer or freezing their bodies – truly, science creates another hope for continuation of life and proves to be just another way we cope with the human condition.

The Christian Perspective

What about us Christians? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important historical event to us. It’s not just a matter of faith, it’s a matter of evidence. If it happened, then we have evidence of our hope. If it didn’t happen then we are self-deluding.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is meaningless and your faith is meaningless. – 1 Cor 15:14

Historic evidence is not conclusive about this. Some say that where there is fire, there must be smoke. But by the same reasoning, Joseph Smith and Muhammad also raised a large following, yet as Christians we don’t consider their accounts credible.
But one nagging truth remains:
If God has given us the power to think and reason, then wouldn’t it make sense he wants us to use it? We should thus reject double standards when examining information at our disposal.

The Inspired Scriptures

We can argue that because the Scriptures say Christ is risen, it must be true. After all, doesn’t 2 Timothy 3:16 state that “All Scripture is inspired by God”?
Alfred Barnes accepted that since the New Testament wasn’t canonized at the time the apostle wrote the above words, he could have made no reference to it. He said that his words “properly refer to the Old Testament, and should not be applied to any part of the New Testament, unless it can be shown that that part was then written, and was included under the general name of ‘the Scriptures’” [1]
Imagine I wrote a letter to Meleti and then say all Scripture is inspired. Would you think I was including my letter to Meleti in that statement? Of course not!
That does not mean we need to dismiss the New Testament as uninspired. The early Church Fathers accepted into the canon each writing on its own merit. And we ourselves can attest to the harmony between the Old and New Testament canon through our years of study.
At the time of writing of 2nd Timothy, several versions of the gospel were going around. Some were later classified as forgeries or apocryphal. Even the gospels that were considered canonical were not necessarily written by Christ’s apostles and most scholars agree they were penned down versions of oral accounts.
Internal discrepancies in the New Testament about the details surrounding his resurrection don’t make a good historical argument. Here are just a handful examples:

  • What time did the women visit the tomb? At dawn (Mat 28:1), after sunrise (Mark 16:2) or when it was still dark (John 20:1).
  • What was their purpose? To bring spices because they already had seen the tomb (Mark 15:47, Mark 16:1, Luke 23:55, Luke 24:1) or to go see the tomb (Matthew 28:1) or had the body already been spiced before they arrived (John 19:39-40)?
  • Who was at the tomb when they arrived? One angel sitting on a stone (Matthew 28:1-7) or one young man sitting inside the tomb (Mark 16:4-5) or two men standing inside (Luke 24:2-4) or two angels sitting at each end of the bed (John 20:1-12)?
  • Did the women tell others what happened? Some scriptures say yes, others say no. (Matthew 28:8, Mark 16:8)
  • Who did Jesus first appear to after the woman? Eleven disciples (Mat 28:16), ten disciples (John 20:19-24), two disciples in Emmaus and then to eleven (Luke 24:13;12:36) or first to Peter and then the twelve (1Co 15:5)?

The next observation is an important one. Muslims and Mormons believe their holy writings were received without error directly from heaven. If in the Quran or writings of Joseph Smith there existed a contradiction, the entire work would be disqualified.
Not so with the Bible. Inspired doesn’t have to mean flawless. Literally, it means God-Breathed. An excellent Scripture that illustrates what this means can be found in Isaiah:

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. – Isaiah 55:11

To illustrate: God had a purpose for Adam, a God-breathed creature. Adam was not perfect, but did God accomplish filling the earth?  Were the animals named? And what of his purpose for a paradise earth? Did the imperfection of this God-breathed person stand in the way of God accomplishing his purpose?
Christians don’t need the Bible to be a flawless record straight from angels in heaven for it to be inspired. We need Scripture to be in harmony; to prosper in the purpose for which God has given it to us. And what is that purpose according to 2 Timothy 3:16? Teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. The Law and Old Testament succeeded in all these aspects.
What is the purpose of the New Testament? For us to come to believe that Jesus is the promised Christ, the Son of God. And then, by believing, we may have life through his name. (John 20:30)
I personally believe that the New Testament is inspired, but not because of 2 Timothy 3:16. I believe it is inspired because it has accomplished in my life what God had intended for it: for me to come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, my mediator and Savior.
I continue to be astounded on a daily basis at the beauty and harmony of the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek Scriptures. The aforementioned discrepancies to me are like the wrinkles in the face of my beloved grandmother. Where Atheists and Muslims see flaws and would expect a pristine youthful skin as evidence of her beauty, I instead see beauty in her symptoms of age. It teaches me humility and to avoid dogmatism and empty arguments over words. I am grateful that God’s word was written by imperfect people.
We should not be blind to discrepancies in the resurrection account, but embrace them as part of God’s Inspired Word and be ready to make a defense for what we believe.

Two suicides in one congregation

I wrote his article because a close friend told me that his congregation suffered two suicides in the span of less than two months. One of our brothers hung himself in a garden house. I do not know the details of the other suicide.
Mental disease and depression are ruthless and can affect all people, but I can’t help but imagine that things may relate to their perspective on life and their hope.
Truly, I speak from my own experience growing up. I accepted the words of my parents and trusted elders who told me I would have eternal life on earth, but I personally never thought I was worthy and found peace with the thought that death was just fine in case I would not qualify. I remember telling brothers that I did not serve Jehovah because I hoped to receive a reward, but because I knew that it was the right thing to do.
It would take self-delusion to think we are worthy by our own power to receive everlasting life on earth despite our sinful actions! Even Scripture reasons that none can be saved through the Law since we are all sinners. So I must assume that these poor witnesses simply concluded that their lives were “Meaningless! Utterly Meaningless!”
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Christ is not the mediator for all Christians, but only for a literal number of 144,000. [2] Those two witnesses who hung themselves never were taught that Christ died for them personally; that his blood personally wiped their sins away; that he personally would mediate with the Father on their behalf. They were told that they were unworthy of partaking of his blood and body.  They were led to believe that they had no life within themselves and that any hope they had was only by extension. They had to forsake all things for the Kingdom without ever having the hope of meeting the King.  They had to work harder in every aspect of life without a personal guarantee through the Spirit that they were adopted as God’s Sons.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” – John 6:53

At the U.S. Branch Visit meeting in November 2014, brother Anthony Morris of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses reasoned from Ezekiel that those who are inactive in preaching the Good News have blood on their hands. But this same Governing Body denies the Good News that Christ’s ransom is for all (limiting it to only 144000 Christians throughout all ages) in blatant contradiction of Scripture:

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” – 1 Tim 2:5-6

In light of the two suicides, I must think that perhaps Anthony Morris was right about having blood on our hands if we fail to speak truth. And I say this not in a spirit of sarcasm, but looking inwardly, so as to recognize our own responsibility. It is true that to an extent that I am and have been fearful of being judged by my fellow witnesses when it comes to declaring the true Good News.
Yet at the memorial, when I publicly declare that there is no other mediator between me and Jehovah God but Christ, I am giving a testimony of my faith, declaring that his death is our life (1 Co 11:27). For some time prior to my first partaking I was very fearful, but I meditated about Christ’s words:

Therefore everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. Whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father in heaven. – Matthew 10:32-33

Should we choose to attend such a memorial with Jehovah’s Witnesses, I pray we all have the courage to stand up for Christ and confess him. I also pray that I may do this every day of my life for the rest of my life.
The other day I was thinking about my own life. I very much feel like Solomon. The opening to this article did not come out of thin air, it comes from my own experience. If I did not have Christ, life would be hard to bear.
I was also thinking about friends, and came to the conclusion that true friends should be able to share their deepest emotions and feelings and hopes without fear of being judged.
Truly, without the assurance we have in Christ, our life would be empty and meaningless!

[1] Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes
[2] Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace” (1986) pp.10-11; The Watchtower, April 1, 1979, p.31; God’s Word For Us Through Jeremiah p.173.

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