[From ws9/16 p. 3 November 14-20]
“Faith is . . . the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen.”—HEB. 11:1.
This is one of the more important Bible texts for a Christian to understand. While the NWT rendering is somewhat stilted, the idea conveyed is that one puts faith in something that is real, something that exists though out of sight.
The Greek word translated in the NWT as “evident demonstration” is hupostasis. The writer of Hebrews uses the term in two other places.
“…who, being the radiance of His glory and the exact expression of His substance (hypostaseōs), and upholding all things by the power of His word, through having made the purification of sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,…” (He 1:3 BLB – parallel renderings)
HELPS Word-studies explains it this way:
“hypóstasis(from 5259 /hypó, “under” and 2476 /hístēmi, “to stand”) – properly, (to possess) standing under a guaranteed agreement (“title-deed”); (figuratively) “title” to a promise or property, i.e. a legitimate claim (because it literally is, “under a legal-standing”) – entitling someone to what is guaranteed under the particular agreement.
For the believer, 5287 /hypóstasis (“title of possession”) is the Lord’s guarantee to fulfill the faith He inbirths (cf. Heb 11:1 with Heb 11:6). Indeed we are only entitled to what God grants faith for (Ro 14:23).”
Let us say that you have just inherited a property in a faraway land you have never seen. What you have is a title-deed to the property; a written assurance granting you the full rights of ownership to the land. In effect, the deed constitutes the substance of the actual property. But if the property doesn’t exist, the deed is no more than a piece of paper, a fake. Therefore, the validity of the title-deed is bound to your trust in the issuer. Is the person or legal entity that issued the deed legitimate and trustworthy?
Another example might be government bonds. U.S. Treasury Bonds are considered the most secure of financial instruments. They guarantee the bearer a financial return when the bond is cashed in. You can have faith that the unseen funds do indeed exist. However, if the bond is issued in the name of the Republic of Neverland, you really can’t trust it. There is no reality at the end of that transaction.
Faith—true faith—requires a reality to believe in. If there is no reality, then your faith is false, though you don’t know it.
Hebrews 11:1 is referring to faith based on promises made by God, not men. God’s promises are reality. They are unalterable. However, future realities promised by mortal men cannot be guaranteed.
Human governments, even the most stable, will eventually fail. On the other hand, the guarantee, assurance, or title-deed that Hebrews 11:1 speaks of can never fail. It is a reality, though unseen, guaranteed by God.
The point of this week’s Watchtower study is to assure the young among us that this reality exists. They can put faith in it. However, who is the issuer of this particular title-deed to realities not yet seen? If God, then Yes, the unseen will one day become visible—the reality will be realized. However, if the issuer is man, then we are putting faith in the words of men. Is the reality that JW youth are being encouraged to see with the eyes of faith real, or the concoction of men?
What is the source of the title-deed the reader of this study article is being asked to accept?
Paragraph 3 reads:
“Genuine faith is based on accurate knowledge about God. (1 Tim. 2:4) So as you study God’s Word and our Christian publications, do not just skim over the material.” – par. 3
The premise is that one gets an accurate knowledge of God upon which to base one’s faith by studying, not only the Bible, but the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So the faith of young Jehovah’s Witnesses is expected to be based on the publications produced by the Governing Body, the “faithful slave” that feeds the flock.
Paragraph 7 opens with the question: “Is it wrong to ask sincere questions about the Bible?” The answer given is, “By no means! Jehovah wants you to use “your power of reason” to prove the truth to yourself.” A better opening question would be, “Is it wrong to ask sincere questions about the publications and the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” If you do, will you be allowed to use your power of reason to evaluate the validity of JW teachings?
For example, in paragraph 8 the young reader is encouraged to engage in Bible Study projects. The prophecy in Genesis 3:15 is given by way of example. The reader is told:
“That verse introduces the Bible’s primary theme, which is the vindication of God’s sovereignty and the sanctification of his name by means of the Kingdom.” – par. 8
So please, use your power of reason and question the teaching of the Governing Body in the light of Scripture to see if the vindication of God’s sovereignty is in fact the Bible’s theme. Use the WT Library to do a word-search on “vindication” and on “sovereignty”. Find the Bible evidence, but it you cannot find it, don’t be afraid to draw a conclusion based on the evidence.[i]
The study concludes with the subtitle, “Make the Truth Your Own”. Since the Organization has become synonymous in the minds of JWs with “the truth”, this really means to take one’s responsibilities and duties in the Organization seriously. However, before you do this, let us reflect back on what we learned at the start of this article concerning the meaning of Hebrews 11:1.
Faith is the “assured expectation” or ‘title-deed’ of “realities not yet seen”. What is the reality that young witnesses are being told to put faith in? From the platform, in videos, by illustration, and in writing, they are told of the “reality” which will be their place in the New World as one of the righteous ones resurrected. They will be the ones instructing the unrighteous who will be resurrected later. Or should they live to Armageddon—something all young Jehovah’s Witnesses expect because the end must come before the overlapping generation of which the Governing Body is the final part ends—they alone will survive to be the first to occupy the New World.
That the New World will come about is a reality not yet seen. We can put faith in that. That there will be a resurrection of unrighteous humanity to earthly life is also a reality not yet seen. Again, we can put faith in that. However, faith is not required to get there. The unrighteous are not required to put faith in Jesus to be resurrected. In fact, millions or billions who died in total ignorance of the Christ, will rise to life.
The question is, what promise is God making to Christians through his son, Jesus? What title-deed is being offered to you?
Did Jesus tell his disciples that if they put faith in him, they could become God’s friends? (John 1:12) Did he tell them that they could expect to live on earth as the first fruits of an earthly resurrection? Did he promise them that if they endured and carried his torture stake, they would be resurrected as sinners to endure another thousand years in that state before being tested yet again prior to getting their chance at eternal life? (Luke 9:23-24)
A title-deed is written on paper. It guarantees a reality not yet beheld. Our title-deed is written in the pages of the Bible. However, the promises listed above are written only in the pages of the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not in the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses have a title-deed issued by men, by their Governing Body.
They have taken the reality not yet beheld of a resurrection of the unrighteous, which will happen to all mankind whether they put faith in Jesus or are totally ignorant that he even existed, and added extra clauses, so to speak, to turn it into a special promise in which to put faith. In effect, they are selling ice to the Eskimos.
Witnesses who put faith in the teachings of the publications and who die prior to Armageddon will be resurrected. Of that we can be sure because Jesus makes this promise. Likewise, non-Witnesses including non-Christians, who die prior to Armageddon will also be resurrected. Again, the same promise found at John 5:28-29 applies. All will come back, but will still be sinners. The only ones promised eternal life free of sin upon their resurrection are those who are the Children of God. (Re 20:4-6) That is the reality not yet seen. That is the title-deed which Jesus handed out, which he grants to his true disciples. That is the reality in which our young ones and indeed all of us should invest our faith.