[From ws17/12 p. 8 – February 5-11]
“The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”—1 Cor. 15:45
What a pity that after last week’s delightful review of the Bible resurrection accounts, this week’s study wastes no time in getting off on the wrong foot:
IF YOU were asked, ‘What are the key teachings of your faith?’ what would you say? Surely you would stress that Jehovah is the Creator and Life-Giver. You would likely mention your belief in Jesus Christ, who died as a ransom. And you would happily add that an earthly paradise is ahead, where God’s people will live forever. But would you mention the resurrection as one of your most cherished beliefs? – par. 1
We might stress that Jehovah is the Creator and Life-Giver, but only mention Jesus as the one who died as a ransom?! “Oh, yes, there was also this nice fellow named Jesus who died for us. Isn’t that just peachy keen? He did some other stuff too. A really fine, all around chap.”
Having critically reviewed every Watchtower study for several years now, I can attest to the fact that Jesus is viewed as our exemplar—i.e. someone to imitate—and as our ransom—i.e. our ticket into paradise. That pretty much says it all. We don’t like to focus on him, as that takes away from our focus on Jehovah. We seem to think we can gain access to God without going through the door that is Jesus.
In the last paragraph of the study, we come back to the idea that Jehovah is doing all the resurrecting with this statement:
“Proving that Jehovah is capable of resurrecting the dead…” – par. 21
Of course, Jehovah is the ultimate source of life, but given that we’re quoting from John 5:28, 29 in the paragraph, maybe we should consider what it actually says.
“Most truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who have paid attention will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to do judging, because he is the Son of man. 28 Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (Joh 5:25-29)
Does this sound like Jehovah is doing the resurrecting? Is it God’s voice they hear and respond to? If so, then why has He granted the Son to have life in himself and why is Jesus called “a life-giving spirit” in 1 Corinthians?
Shouldn’t food at the proper time be accurate and give honor where honor is due?
The other expression in this first paragraph that is off-putting may not be so quickly apparent: “you would happily add that an earthly paradise is ahead, where God’s people will live forever.” Not God’s children, not God’s family, but God’s people. We don’t live forever because we are God’s people. The Israelites were God’s people, for instance, but not his children. The subjects of a ruler may benefit from being governed by a benevolent king, but the children of a father inherit, which is far better. As children, we “inherit everlasting life” and much more. (Mt 19:29; 20:8; 25:34; Mark 10:17; Heb 1:14; Re 21:7) So why does the Watchtower constantly focus on friendship with God, not a family relationship? Why does it always speak of Christians as God’s people, but not his children? That is not the message of the good news. It is a foreign good news. (Gal 1:6-8)
The Organization has a long history of getting the timing of things wrong. They do this by supposing that there are exceptions and loop holes to the prohibitions God imposes. For instance, paragraph 13 states: “Jesus did tell his apostles that there were things they did not and could not know. There are details about “the times or seasons that the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Acts 1:6, 7; John 16:12) However, this does not mean that we have no information about the timing of the resurrection.”
What information are they referring to? What information has God not put within his own jurisdiction? The apostles were asking about the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. This Davidic kingdom is restored when Christ establishes the Messianic Kingdom. The establishment of that kingdom marks the beginning of his presence. According to Acts 1:6, 7, that timing is precisely what we are not allowed to know. Yet according to paragraph 16, it is precisely what we did and do know.
That gives us a general indication of the timing of the heavenly resurrection. It would occur “during his presence.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have long established Scripturally that since 1914 we have been living during Jesus’ promised “presence.” It is still continuing, and the end of this wicked system of things is now very near. – par. 16
“Long established Scripturally”? Really? Well, aren’t we the clever ones? God said we couldn’t know such things, but we managed to steal the knowledge from the Most High. Sure pulled the wool over His eyes, didn’t we?
Or is it all made up? Which way would you bet? Did we pull one over on God, or did we just fool ourselves? There is abundant evidence that 1914 didn’t mark the beginning of Christ presence or anything else Scriptural for that matter. But we don’t even need to look at that evidence. Acts 1:7 is enough. It states unambiguously that Christians are prevented by God from knowing the times and seasons when Jesus would be appointed king. So we could not know about 1914 because that would make God a liar. Well, “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…” (Ro 3:4)
Therefore, the presence of Christ has not yet begun and all the reasoning in the final paragraphs of this study, being based on that assumption, is a waste of time.
Teaching Another Resurrection
The title for this week’s study comes from Acts 24:15 which is part of the Apostle Paul’s defence before the judgment seat of Roman Governor Felix. Addressing the Governor, but referencing his Jewish accusers, Paul says: “And I have hope toward God, which hope these men also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Ac 24:15)
How many resurrections do you count there? Two or three? According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, there are three. Two of the righteous and one of the unrighteous. Well, it’s clear you can’t get that from this verse, so let’s see if this Watchtower article provides us with the missing links. Let’s keep an eye out for them as we continue, shall we?
First, the Watchtower has to establish a “resurrection to heaven”, because it then wants us to believe in two more to the earth.
The resurrection of Jesus was the first of that sort, and it undoubtedly is first in importance. (Acts 26:23) He is not, though, the only one promised to be resurrected to heaven as a spirit creature. Jesus assured his faithful apostles that they would rule with him in heaven. (Luke 22:28-30) – par. 15
Do you see any proof offered here that the apostles would rule with Jesus in heaven? Luke 22:28-30 doesn’t provide it. True, Jesus went to heaven, but he went there to secure kingly power and wait for God’s time for him to return. (Luke 19:12) To where does he return? The earth! He doesn’t remain in heaven to govern from there. If he could govern from there, then why appoint a faithful and discreet slave in his absence? (Mt 24:45-47)
Paul went on to indicate that there would be others raised to heavenly life, adding: “Each one in his own proper order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence.”—1 Cor. 15:20, 23. – par. 14
Since Christ’s presence has not begun, it follows that the first resurrection has not yet begun. With this in view, we can abandon the silly idea of a century-long ongoing first resurrection.
“For this is what we tell you by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep in death; 16 because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. 17 Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Th 4:15-17)
Notice that they are not resurrected to heaven, but meet Jesus in the clouds, in the air. In other words, in the vicinity of the planet over which they are called to rule. Notice also that there is one commanding call, not a century-long trumpet blast. Finally, the survivors are caught away (transfigured) at the same time, and ascend “together with” the dead who are raised. This occurs at the presence of Christ. Matthew 24:30 also speaks of the Christ coming in the clouds at his presence, and the next verse speaks of the chosen ones being gathered to him. None of this has occurred yet, but to keep their theology alive, the Governing Body must preach that it began shortly after 1914.
Where’s the Proof?
From this point on, many assertions are made in the article, but no proof is provided.
“Today, most faithful Christians are not anointed and called to serve in heaven with Christ.” – par. 19
Where is this taught in Scripture?
“Thereafter, a different type of resurrection will take place, a resurrection to life in an earthly paradise.” – par. 19
They are not speaking of the second resurrection hope Paul spoke of, the resurrection of the unrighteous. No, they are referring to an earthly resurrection of righteous JWs, “other sheep” to life. Yet, they also say that these ones are raised still sinners. That’s a contradiction in terms.
“Those raised will have the prospect of growing to human perfection and never having to die again.” – par. 19
How exactly does a person “grow to human perfection”? Do they sin once a day, then later, once a week, then as they grow, once a month, then once a year, until they’ve finally reach the goal of perfection? As they grow, will they say, “I’m only a little bit imperfect”, sort of like being a little bit pregnant? And where is this process explained in Scripture?
And how does this differ from the unrighteous who will be likewise raised in imperfection. Since both righteous Jehovah’s Witnesses and unrighteous “worldly” people are both raised imperfect—still sinners—then what’s the advantage of being counted by God as righteous?
That certainly will be “a better resurrection” than that of those in the past when “women received their dead by resurrection” only for them to die again sometime later.—Heb. 11:35. – par. 19
Since there is no qualitative difference between the JW earthly resurrection of the righteous vs. the unrighteous, is the resurrection of the unrighteous also “a better resurrection”?
What nonsense! It would seem that the writer has not even carefully read Hebrews 11:35. He’s picking the phrase “women received their dead by resurrection” and saying that Paul is contrasting the better resurrection with those. Read the context—something the writer apparently failed to do. Judge for yourself.
“. . .And what more will I say? For time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gidʹe·on, Baʹrak, Samson, Jephʹthah, David, as well as Samuel and the other prophets. 33 Through faith they defeated kingdoms, brought about righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful, became mighty in war, routed invading armies. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection, but other men were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection. 36 Yes, others received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by chains and prisons. 37 They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn in two, they were slaughtered by the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in need, in tribulation, mistreated; 38 and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth. 39 And yet all of these, although they received a favorable witness because of their faith, did not obtain the fulfillment of the promise, 40 because God had foreseen something better for us, so that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Heb 11:32-40)
Even if we restrict ourselves to verse 35, the wording shows that it is the men who did “not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain to a better resurrection.” However, if we consider the entire context of chapter 11, it becomes clear that the better resurrection he speaks of is that of the righteous. (There are only two resurrections. The righteous to perfection and eternal life with Christ, and the unrighteous to judgment. – Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29) For instance, Moses endures for the payment of the reward that involved enduring the reproach of the Christ. (Heb 11:26) The reproach of the Christ is the willingness to carry one’s torture stake and follow the Christ. That reward is to be with the Christ in the kingdom of the heavens. (Mt 10:38) Moses was depicted with Jesus in the Kingdom of the heavens. (Luke 9:30) Additionally, Paul says that these ones who get “the better resurrection” do not get it apart from Christians, but are made perfect together with them. (Heb 11:40)
Will faithful men of old with leadership abilities come back early to help organize God’s people in the new world? – par. 20
I had to laugh at this statement. As we saw in last week’s review, the faithful men of old will join with us in the kingdom of the heavens.
This viewpoint of the Governing Body reveals so much about the mentality of those leading the flock of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They think the anointed will scurry off to heaven to rule from afar, presumably by dictate and decree, but the hands-on work of day-to-day governing will be handled by humans (congregation elders) with leadership abilities. Would you want an imperfect sinful human, like the elders you now have in the congregation, ruling over you with absolute power? Currently their power is limited because there are laws of the land that they must obey, but what if they were the ultimate power and authority? Would Jehovah appoint sinners to rule over us knowing that “man dominates man to his injury”? (Ec 8:9)
God has purposed to set up an administration of individuals tested to the max, and given them both the power and wisdom to serve as kings. (Eph 1:8-10) These will also serve as priests for the ministering of the nations. They will rule in love and work side-by-side with Jesus. The Bible says they will rule “on the earth”.
“You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” – Re 5:10 NET Bible
The tent of God will descend to be among mankind, not far off in heaven. The New Jerusalem will descend out of heaven to be on the earth. (Re 21:3; 3:12)
The oft-quoted prophesy of Isaiah does not refer to the elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses making up some unscriptural earthly ruling class of imperfect resurrected righteous ones. It refers to Christ and his bride of anointed kings and priests.
“Look! A king will reign for righteousness, And princes will rule for justice. 2 And each one will be like a hiding place from the wind, A place of concealment from the rainstorm, Like streams of water in a waterless land, Like the shadow of a massive crag in a parched land.” (Isa 32:1, 2)
If I had to live on earth and be nursed back to perfection, those are the kind of leaders I would want watching over me. How about you?