[From ws12/16 p. 24 February 20-26]
“Whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”— He 11:6
This is one of those “feel good” studies that come along once in a while, and there is nothing wrong with that. We all need a little encouragement from time to time.
Nevertheless, there are a few points that are off the mark and need to be addressed in the interests of truth.
The study opens up with its first subtitle being “Jehovah Promises to Bless His Servants”.
In a sense we are all servants of God, yet there is a greater truth here which is likely to be missed due to the focus of this article. In pre-Christian times, all faithful men were considered God’s servants. However, with the arrival of Jesus and the revealing of the sons of God that all changed. (Ro 8:19) In Hebrews chapter 11, the writer focuses on many of those pre-Christian servants of God, using them as examples and representing them as a “great cloud of witnesses” to inspire Christians to similar acts of faith. Then in Hebrews 12:4 he says:
“. . .In your struggle against that sin, you have never yet resisted to the point of having your blood shed. 5 And you have entirely forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, nor give up when you are corrected by him; 6 for those whom Jehovah loves he disciplines, in fact, he scourges everyone whom he receives as a son.”” (Heb 12:4-6)
It is clear from this that the Watchtower is missing the mark. Since Christians are being addressed, it would be better to focus on their hope and subtitle this portion thusly: “Jehovah Promises to Bless His Children”. However, the writer is required to support JW theology over what the Bible actually teaches, so focusing on the inheritance of children might cause those who are told they can only aspire to friendship to question things. However, this position leads to difficulties further along. For instance, in paragraph 5 the writer quotes from Matthew 19:29. At the end of that verse, it shows that the blessing of Jehovah includes ‘inheriting everlasting life”. It is the sons who inherit, not servants. – Ro 8:17.
Likewise, in paragraph 7 the writer must misapply some scriptures. For example:
Aside from those who will receive a reward in heaven, the prospect of everlasting life on a paradise earth is indeed reason to “rejoice and be overjoyed.” (Ps. 37:11; Luke 18:30) Whether heavenly or earthly, our hope can serve as “an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm.” (Heb. 6:17-20) – par. 7
Psalm 37:11 speaks of those who will possess the earth. Matthew 5:5—a verse which even JW.org admits applies to the anointed—contains a parallel thought when Jesus says: “Happy are the mild-tempered, since they will inherit the earth.” Again, children inherit, so these verses apply to the children of God, who as kings with Christ will inherit the earth. You will notice that the writer takes the liberty of using a phrase out of context from Matthew 5:12, which is clearly intended for the children of God and applies it to an earthly hope. Things get confusing when we speak of heavenly hope and earthly hope under JW theology because it becomes all about location. This is like the Catholic church which teaches that everyone has an immortal soul—so everyone already has everlasting life—and when each one dies, he or she either goes to heaven or hell. So it is all about location. Witness theology is also all about location, with the difference that everlasting life is not a given.
Actually, the Bible isn’t quite so clear. There is reason to believe that “heavens” in reference to the “kingdom of the heavens” refers, not to a place but to a role, specifically the role of heavenly government. There is reason to believe that the children of God as kings and priests will rule and minister on earth. That is a subject for another time, but be that as it may, when Witnesses speak of an earthly hope, they have a very specific hope in mind with many aspects attached to the belief. We can safely say there is no such hope, which is why we never find support scriptures provided in the publications to back it up. Instead, the reader is expected to simply believe it exists, thus allowing the writer to do things like misapplying Matthew 5:12 and say “the prospect of everlasting life on a paradise earth is indeed reason to ‘rejoice and be overjoyed’”.
Paragraph 15 continues with the unsubstantiated assertions.
You will, however, not be shortchanged if God has given you a different prospect. Millions of Jesus’ “other sheep” eagerly anticipate the future reward of everlasting life on a paradise earth. There “they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—John 10:16; Ps. 37:11. – par. 15
The context of John 10:16 supports the view that Jesus is referring to Gentiles who had yet to join his flock. There is nothing to support the idea he was identifying a group whose appearance on the world stage would be delayed some 19 centuries. Instead of viewing ourselves as God’s children, the Governing Body would have us consider ourselves merely God’s servants, or at best, His friends.
Next we read:
Even in these dark last days of Satan’s wicked system of things, Jehovah is blessing his people. He makes sure that true worshippers flourish in their spiritual estate, which is unprecedented in its spiritual abundance. – par 17
This is one of those feel-good phrases that are tossed out every once in a while to make Witnesses feel they are extra-special. This is what Paul warned Timothy about when he said:
“For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with the wholesome teaching, but according to their own desires, they will surround themselves with teachers to have their ears tickled.” (2Ti 4:3)
I have had occasion to ask my JW friends to prove the 1914 doctrine, the alleged 1919 appointment of the Governing Body as the faithful slave, the overlapping-generations doctrine, and most of all, the doctrine of the other sheep. Virtually all have failed even to make the attempt, using excuses or name calling to avoid defending their faith. This inability to support even these basic doctrines from Scripture does not speak of “unprecedented spiritual abundance”.
The article closes with a misquote which, as is increasingly the case, turns the focus away from Jehovah’s anointed one.
“So let us now continue to strengthen our faith and to work whole-souled as to Jehovah. We can do this, knowing that it is from Jehovah that we will receive the due reward.—Read Colossians 3:23, 24.” – par. 20
The audience will then read Colossians 3:23, 24. Here is the rendering with the original language word inserted in square brackets for clarity:
“Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as for Jehovah [ho kurios – the Lord], and not for men, for you know that it is from Jehovah [ho kurios – the Lord] you will receive the inheritance as a reward. Slave for the Master [ho kurios – the Lord], Christ.”
What an odd little rendering this is. If Paul had been more accommodating and left out the explicit reference to Christ, the NWT translators could have rendered kurios consistently as Jehovah throughout instead of “Jehovah” twice, and “master” in this last instance. That would have eliminated the contextual dissonance in their rendering. On the other hand, if we eliminate the biased conjectural insertion of “Jehovah” altogether—since it is not found in any NT manuscript—we get the picture Paul had intended to communicate:
However, this rendering will just not do. Jehovah’s Witnesses have their branding to worry about. They have to maintain their separateness from all other organized Christian religions, so they hammer away at the name “Jehovah” and minimize Jesus’ role. Unfortunately, the more they try to be different, the more they become the same.