Recently the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses published a video featuring Anthony Morris III denouncing apostates. It’s a particularly hateful little piece of propaganda.
I have received a number of requests to do a review of this little piece from both Spanish and English viewers. To be honest, I didn’t want to critique it. I agree with Winston Churchhill who famously said: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
My focus is not to keep slamming the Governing Body but to help the wheat still growing among the weeds within the Organization to get out of enslavement to men.
Nevertheless, I came to see a benefit from reviewing this Morris video when a commentator shared Isaiah 66:5 with me. Now why is that relevant. I’ll show you. Let’s have some fun, shall we?
At around the fifty second mark, Morris says:
“I thought we’d discuss the final end of God’s enemies. So, it can be very encouraging, albeit sobering. And to help us with it, there’s a beautiful expression here in the 37th Psalm. So, find that 37th Psalm, and how encouraging to meditate on this beautiful verse, verse 20:”
“But the wicked will perish; The enemies of Jehovah will vanish like glorious pastures; They will vanish like smoke.” (Psalm 37:20)
That was from Psalm 37:20 and is the reason for the controversial visual memory aid he adds at the end of his video presentation.
However, before going there, he first draws this interesting conclusion:
“So, since they’re Jehovah’s enemies and Jehovah’s our best friend, that means they’re our enemies.”
Everything Morris says from this point forward it based on this premise which, of course, his audience already accepts wholeheartedly.
But is it true? I can call Jehovah my friend, but what matters is what he calls me?
Didn’t Jesus warn us that on that day when he returns, there will be many claiming him as their friend, crying out, “Lord, Lord, did we not do many wonderful things in your name”, but his answer will be: “I never knew you.”
“I never knew you.”
I agree with Morris that the enemies of Jehovah will vanish like smoke, but I think we disagree on who those enemies actually are.
At the 2:37 mark, Morris reads from Isaiah 66:24
“Now it’s interesting…the Isaiah prophecy book had some sobering comments and find if you would, please, the very last chapter of Isaiah and the very last verse in Isaiah. Isaiah 66, and we’re going to read verse 24:”
“And they will go out and look on the carcasses of the men who rebelled against me; For the worms on them will not die, And their fire will not be extinguished, And they will become something repulsive to all people.””
Morris seems to take great delight in this imagery. At the 6:30 mark, he really gets down to business:
“And frankly, for friends of Jehovah God, how reassuring that they’re finally going to be gone, all these despicable enemies that have just reproached Jehovah’s name, destroyed, never, ever to live again. Now it’s not that we rejoice in someone’s death, but when it comes to God’s enemies…finally…they’re out of the way. Especially these despicable apostates who at one point had dedicated their life to God and then they join forces with Satan the Devil, the chief apostate of all time.
Then he concludes with this visual memory aid.
“But the wicked will perish, the enemies of Jehovah will vanish like glorious pastures”, particularly, “they will vanish like smoke”. So, I thought this would be a nice memory aid to help this verse stay in the mind. Here’s what Jehovah is promising. That’s Jehovah’s enemies. They’re going to vanish like smoke.”
The problem with Morris’ reasoning here, is the same one the pervades the entirety of Watchtower publications. Eisegesis. They have an idea, find a verse that if taken a certain way seems to support their idea, and then off they go ignoring the context.
But we won’t ignore the context. Rather than restrict ourselves to Isaiah 66:24, the very last verse of the very last chapter of the book of Isaiah, we’ll read the context and learn who he’s referring to.
I’m going to read from the New Living Translation because it is easier to understand than the more stilted rendering given this passage by the New World Translation, but feel free to follow along in the NWT if you prefer it. (There is just one small change I’ve made. I’ve replaced “LORD” with “Jehovah” not only for accuracy, but for added emphasis since we are addressing ideas put forward by Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
“This is what Jehovah says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?
Could you build me such a resting place?
My hands have made both heaven and earth;
they and everything in them are mine.
I, Jehovah, have spoken!”” (Isaiah 66:1, 2a)
Here Jehovah starts off with a sobering warning. Isaiah was writing to self-satisfied Jews thinking they were at peace with God because they had built him a great temple and made sacrifices and were righteous keepers of the law code.
But it is not temples and sacrifices that please God. What he is pleased with is explained in the rest of verse two:
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts,
who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2b)
“Humble and contrite hearts”, not proud and haughty ones. And trembling at his word indicates a willingness to submit to him and a fear of displeasing him.
Now in contrast, he speaks of others who are not of this sort.
“But those who choose their own ways—
delighting in their detestable sins—
will not have their offerings accepted.
When such people sacrifice a bull,
it is no more acceptable than a human sacrifice.
When they sacrifice a lamb,
it’s as though they had sacrificed a dog!
When they bring an offering of grain,
they might as well offer the blood of a pig.
When they burn frankincense,
it’s as if they had blessed an idol.”
It’s pretty clear how Jehovah feels when the proud and haughty make sacrifices to him. Remember, he’s speaking to the nation of Israel, what Jehovah’s Witnesses like to call, Jehovah’s earthly organization before Christ.
But he doesn’t consider these members of his organization as his friends. No, they are his enemies. He says:
“I will send them great trouble—
all the things they feared.
For when I called, they did not answer.
When I spoke, they did not listen.
They deliberately sinned before my very eyes
and chose to do what they know I despise.”
So, when Anthony Morris quoted the last verse of this chapter that speaks of these ones being killed, their bodies consumed by worms and fire, did he realize it wasn’t talking about outsiders, people who had been expelled from the congregation of Israel. It was talking about the fat cats, sitting pretty, thinking they were at peace with God. To them, Isaiah was the apostate. This is eminently clear by what the very next verse, verse 5, tells us.
“Hear this message from Jehovah,
all you who tremble at his words:
“Your own people hate you
and throw you out for being loyal to my name.
‘Let Jehovah be honored!’ they scoff.
‘Be joyful in him!’
But they will be put to shame.
What is all the commotion in the city?
What is that terrible noise from the Temple?
It is the voice of Jehovah
taking vengeance against his enemies.”
(Isaiah 66:5, 6)
Because of this work I do, I am in personal contact with hundreds of men and women who have remained loyal to Jehovah and Jesus, loyal to the name of God, which means upholding the honor of the God of truth. These are the ones Morris would gleefully see go up in smoke because in his view they are “despicable apostates”. These ones have become hated by their own people. They were Jehovah’s Witnesses, but now Jehovah’s Witnesses hate them. They have been thrown out of the Organization, disfellowshipped because they remained loyal to God rather than being loyal to the men of the Governing Body. These tremble at God’s words, fearing far more to displease him than to displease mere men, like Anthony Morris III.
Men like Anthony Morris love to play the projection game. They project their own attitude onto others. They claim that the apostates have abandoned their family and friends. I have yet to meet one of these so-called apostates who refuses to talk with or associate with his family or his former friends. It is Jehovah’s Witnesses who have hated them and excluded them, just as Isaiah foretold.
“And frankly, for friends of Jehovah God, how reassuring that they’re finally going to be gone, all these despicable enemies…especially these despicable apostates who at one point had dedicated their life to God and then they joined forces with Satan the Devil the Chief apostate of all time.”
What is to become of these despicable apostates according to Anthony Morris? After reading Isaiah 66:24 he turns to Mark 9:47, 48. Let’s listen to what he has to say:
“What makes this even more of an impact is the fact that Christ Jesus likely had this verse in mind when he said these well known words—well known to Jehovah’s Witnesses, anyway—in Mark chapter 9…find Mark chapter 9…and this is a very clear warning for all who want to stay friends of Jehovah God. Notice verse 47 and 48. “And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away. It is better for you to enter one-eyed into the Kingdom of God than to be thrown with two eyes into Gehenna, where the maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.””
“Of course, Christendom will twist these inspired thoughts of our Master, Christ Jesus, but it’s very clear, and you notice the cross reference scripture at the end of verse 48 is Isaiah 66:24. Now this point, “what the fire did not consume, the maggots would.”
“I don’t know if you know much about maggots, but…you see a whole bunch of them…it’s just not a pleasant sight.”
“But what a fitting picture, the final end of all of God’s enemies. Sobering, yet something we look forward to. However, the apostates and the enemies of Jehovah would say, well that’s gruesome; that’s despicable. You teach your people these things? No, God teaches his people these things. This is what He’s foretelling, and frankly, for friends of Jehovah’s God, how reassuring that they’re finally all going to be gone, all these despicable enemies.”
Why does he link Isaiah 66:24 with Mark 9:47, 48? He wants to show that these despicable apostates that he hates so much will die eternally in Gehenna, a place from which there is no resurrection. However, Anthony Morris III has overlooked another link, one that hits dangerously close to home.
Let’s read Matthew 5:22:
“. . .However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; and whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna.” (Matthew 5:22)
Now just to explain what Jesus means, he is not saying that the mere expression in Greek translated here as “despicable fool!” is all that needs to be uttered for one to be condemned to eternal death. Jesus himself uses the Greek expression on one or two occasions when speaking to the Pharisees. Rather, what he means here is that this expression stems from a heart filled with hatred, willing to judge and condemn one’s brother. Jesus has the right to judge; indeed, God appoints him to judge the world. But you and I and Anthony Morris…not so much.
Of course, Anthony Morris doesn’t say “despicable fools” but “despicable apostates”. Does that get him off the hook?
I’d like to look at another verse now in Psalm 35:16 which reads “Among the apostate mockers for a cake”. I know that sounds like gibberish, but remember that Fred Franz was no Hebrew scholar when he did the translation. However, the footnote clarifies the meaning. It reads: “ungodly buffoons”.
So, a “apostate mocker for a cake” is a “godless buffoon” or a “godless fool”; one who goes apostate from God is indeed a fool. “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
“Despicable fool” or “despicable apostate”—scripturally, it is all the same thing. Anthony Morris III should take a long, hard look in the mirror before calling anyone a despicable anything.
What do we learn from all this? Two things as I see it:
First, we need not fear the words of men who have declared themselves to be friends of God but haven’t checked with Jehovah to see if he feels the same about them. We need not be concerned when they call us names like “despicable fool” or “despicable apostate” and shun us as Isaiah 66:5 says they would all the while proclaiming they are honoring Jehovah.
Jehovah favours those who are humble and contrite in heart, and who tremble at his word.
The second thing we learn is that we must not follow the example set by Anthony Morris and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses who endorse this video. We are not to hate our enemies. In fact, Matthew 5:43-48 starts off by telling us that we must “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” and ends off by saying that only in this way can we perfect our love.
Therefore, we must not judge our brothers as apostates, since judging is left up to Jesus Christ. Judging a doctrine or an organization as false is okay, because neither has a soul; but let’s leave the judging of our fellow man to Jesus, alright? We would never want to have an attitude so brazen that it would allow us to do this:
“So I thought this would be a nice memory aid so this verse stays in the mind. Here’s what Jehovah’s promising. That’s Jehovah’s enemies. They’re going to vanish like smoke.”
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