[From ws15/05 p. 9 for June 29-July 5]
“Be watchful! Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like
a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” – 1 Peter 5:8
This week’s study is the first of a two-part series. In it, we are taught that the Devil is powerful, vicious and deceitful; someone to be wary, even fearful of. Next week we are being taught to oppose the devil by avoiding pride, sexual immorality and materialism.
Now there is nothing wrong with being watchful, as well as wary of Satan’s devices. Pride, sexual immorality and greed are, of course, things that can destroy our spirituality. However, that wasn’t Peter’s message when he introduced the metaphor of the Devil as a roaring lion seeking to devour someone.
Why did Peter use that metaphor?
The verses preceding it contain admonition to older men to shepherd the flock out of love, “not lording it over those who are God’s inheritance.” Younger men are encouraged to ‘clothe themselves with humility toward one another.’ Then all are told to humble themselves before God for he opposes the haughty ones. It is then that Peter introduces the metaphor of the Devil—the foremost “haughty one”—as a roaring lion. The following verses speak of standing firm in the faith and enduring sufferings with a view to the everlasting glory awaiting Christians in union with Christ.
So one can be “devoured” by the Devil should one—particularly a brother in position of authority—become haughty. Equally, a Christian can be devoured by the evil one if he gives in to fear and loses his faith during times of suffering and tribulation.
An Odd Little Study
There is something odd about this week’s study. It’s not easy to put one’s finger on, but there is a disconnect from reality about it. For instance, under the subtitle “Satan Is Powerful” one gets the impression that we should fear Satan because “what power and influence he has!” (par. 6) We are told that “time and again, the demons have demonstrated their superhuman strength, causing great misery to those who they have tormented”, and to “never underestimate the power of such wicked angels” or that of Satan. (par. 7)
After establishing that he is powerful, we learn that he is vicious. It is worth noting that lions are not vicious creatures. Powerful? Yes. Voracious? At times. But vicious? That is a human trait that animals only display when they have been abused by man. So the article is clearly stretching the metaphor beyond what Peter intended when it states, under the subtitle “Satan Is Vicious”, that “according to one reference work, the Greek word translated ‘roaring’ denotes ‘the howl of a beast in fierce hunger.’ How well that describes Satan’s vicious disposition!”
Under this subtitle, we are told that Satan is uncaring, pitiless, unsympathetic, and genocidal. In short, a nasty little piece of work. The subtitle concludes with the warning: “Never underestimate his vicious disposition!”
So we now have two things we should never underestimate: Satan’s power and his viciousness. One might wonder if perhaps there is an emerging trend among Jehovah’s Witnesses to underestimate Satan, though how such a trend is manifesting itself is not made clear.
Whatever the case, it appears that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not taking Satan seriously enough.
The entire argument seems odd because it apparently ignores the simple Bible truth that Satan has no power if we are with the Christ. Peter knew the extent of Satan’s power and that it was as nothing before the power of the Christ. In fact, he and the other disciples had borne witness that the demons had to obey them when they invoked the name of our Lord in faith.
“Then the seventy returned with joy, saying: “Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.” 18 At that he said to them: “I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven. 19 Look! I have given YOU the authority to trample underfoot serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will by any means do YOU hurt. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice over this, that the spirits are made subject to YOU, but rejoice because YOUR names have been inscribed in the heavens.”” (Lu 10:17-20)
What a powerful passage this is! Rather than attempting to motivate us out of fear for our adversary, should not the Governing Body be reminding us of the power that is ours by the spirit of the Christ?
Peter was a lowly fisherman, a “nothing man” to the powerful of his day, but oh, how he was raised up by the power that became his once he put faith in the Christ. But even that was as nothing by comparison to the reward of having his name inscribed in the heavens.
Yet this power, confidence and reward was not his alone. It was something all his readers shared:
“a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies” of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 For you were once not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not been shown mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Pe 2:9, 10)
Peter is not talking to a group of second class citizens, some subgroup called “other sheep”. The other sheep of John 10:16 were, as Peter knew from personal experience with Cornelius, the gentile Christians. They were all part of the one flock under the one shepherd, Christ. (Acts 10:1-48) The other sheep are therefore part of the “chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, a people for special possession.” Satan has been made subject to them as well, and they too have their names inscribed in the heavens.
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
Of course, according to Watchtower doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the power ascribed to this holy nation, this royal priesthood. Save for an “anointed remnant”—another JW term not found in Scripture—Peter’s words do not directly apply to its rank-and-file membership. So they have reason to be afraid, for they are only safe from Satan by clinging to the coattails of the remnant of chosen ones.[i] They have virtually no chance of ever becoming part of it.
Odd that Peter failed to mention that, isn’t it? Even stranger that he’d be inspired to write a letter intended for only 144,000 individuals while ignoring millions of faithful Christians yet to come.
Of course, the Governing Body gets around this by claiming that the salvation of these millions is tagged to the “anointed remnant”, but only if the other sheep stay inside the protective walls of the Organization. Doubtless, the majority of those studying this article will see it this way. They will see that we cannot underestimate the power and viciousness of Satan. We need to be afraid of being outside. We have to stay safe inside. Outside is darkness, but inside the Organization there is light.
“Indeed, there is a fitting darkness outside the visible part of Jehovah’s organization” (ws chap. 7 p. 60 par. 8)
The other Christian churches exist in this darkness as well, under the power of Satan.
Hence, they were thrown “into the darkness outside,” where the churches of Christendom still are. (w90 3/15 p. 13 par. 17 ‘The Faithful Slave’ and Its Governing Body)
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the churches of Christendom are in darkness? Because Satan is deceptive and he has misled them with false teachings.
Satan Is Deceptive
Under this final subtitle, we learn that “one of Satan’s greatest means of deception is false religion.” It warns us that “even many who think that they are worshipping God properly are shackled to false beliefs and useless rituals.” (par. 15) “Satan can fool even zealous servants of Jehovah.” (par. 16)
The irony of these words does not escape us who have been awakened. We are well aware that millions of “zealous servants of Jehovah” engage in the yearly ‘useless ritual’ of quietly observing the passing of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal while refraining from partaking as commanded by Jesus. (1Co 11:23-26)
We are likewise aware that the false belief that Christ began reigning invisibly in 1914 and its consequent falsehood that he chose the predecessor of the Governing Body as his appointed channel of communication in 1919 has been a deception originating with Satan. Perhaps these teachings started out of a misguided exuberance to “decode” the word of God. Or perhaps they are the result of human pride, that haughty self-assuming attitude which Peter warned the older men to avoid; and which, if unchecked, would allow the “roaring lion” to devour them. Whatever the motivation was behind the promotion of these false teachings, God knows; we do not. However, the result was a seemingly unending parade of typical/antitypical prophetic parallels that have caused millions to stumble.
The foremost and most damaging of these was the one involving Jehu and Jonadab and the Israelite cities of refuge. In the mid-1930s, this resulted in the creation of a clergy/laity division by forming a secondary and subservient class of Jehovah’s Witnesses called the Other Sheep that has existed to this day. At what point do the men who continue to perpetrate this deception become those “liking and carrying on a lie”? (Re 22:15b NWT) God knows; we do not. However, it is a deception that Satan surely likes. And a powerful deception, it is. So much so that recently the Governing Body was able to revoke its whole premise by disavowing the use of fabricated prophetic antitypes without anyone noticing that this undermined the entire belief structure unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. (See “Going Beyond What Is Written“)
The irony continues with these closing words from the study article:
“When we understand Satan’s tactics, we are better able to keep our senses and remain watchful. But just knowing Satan’s designs is not enough. The Bible says; “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (par. 19)
By applying the criteria found repeatedly in the publications of the Watchtower, Bible & Tract Society, we have to acknowledge that if the churches of Christendom are outside in the darkness due to their false religious teachings and practices, then Jehovah’s Witnesses must be there alongside them.
How then are we to oppose the Devil and flee from him as the article admonishes? One way we can do this is by unmasking him and exposing his deceptions. This was Christ’s work, and it is ours now. Carefully, judiciously, (Mt 10:16) we can help family and friends to see that like the churches of Christendom which witnesses look down on, they too are steeped in false religious doctrines which alienate them from God and delight Satan. Let this be our mission.
[i] The Governing Body misapplies Zechariah 8:23 which was intended to prophesy the entry of gentiles into spiritual Israel. They attribute its fulfillment to the revelation by Judge Rutherford of a secondary class of Christian with an earthly hope, a class that attaches itself to the anointed remnant so as to be saved, not as sons of God, but as friends.