You might be wondering about the Title of this video: Does it Grieve God’s Spirit When We Reject Our Heavenly Hope for an Earthly Paradise? Maybe that seems a little harsh, or a little judgmental. Bear in mind that it is meant especially for my ex JW friends who, though continuing to believe in our heavenly Father and his son, Christ Jesus, and who have begun partaking of the emblems (as commanded by Jesus to all who put faith in him) still don’t want “to go to heaven.” Many have commented on my YouTube channel and also through private emails about their preference, and I wanted to address this concern. The comments are an actual sampling of what I often see:
“I feel deep down inside that I want to possess the earth…this goes way beyond a childish way of understanding paradise.”
“I love this planet and God’s incredible creations. I look forward to a new earth, one ruled by Christ and his fellow kings/priests and I want to stay here.”
“Although I like to think I am righteous, I have no desire to go to heaven.”
“We could always wait and see. I’m not too worried about what happens really since it has been promised that it will be good.”
These comments are perhaps partly noble sentiments as we want to praise the beauty of God’s creation and trust in God’s goodness; though, of course, they are also the product of JW indoctrination, the relicts of decades of being told that for the vast majority of people, salvation will involve an “earthly hope,” a term that isn’t even found in the Bible. I’m not saying there isn’t an earthly hope. I’m asking, is there anywhere in Scripture where Christians are offered an earthly hope for salvation?
Christians in other religious denominations believe we go to heaven when we die, but do they understand what that means? Do they really hope for that salvation? I have talked to a great many people in my decades of preaching from door to door as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I can say with assurance that the people I talked to who considered themselves to be good Christians, believed that good people go to heaven. But that is about as far as it goes. They really have no idea what that means—maybe sitting on a cloud playing a harp? Their hope was so vague that most really didn’t yearn after it.
I used to wonder why people from other Christian denominations would fight so hard to stay alive when they were sick, even enduring horrible pain while suffering from a terminal illness, rather than just let go and go off to their reward. If they really believed they were going off to a better place, why fight so hard to stay here? That wasn’t the case with my father who died of cancer in 1989. He was convinced of his hope and was looking forward to it. Of course, his hope was that he’d be resurrected to an earthly paradise as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Was he being misled? If he understood the real hope being offered Christians, would he have rejected it, as so many Witnesses do? I don’t know. But knowing the man, I don’t think so.
In any case, before discussing what the Bible says about “heaven” as the destination for true Christians, it is first important to ask those who have misgivings about going to heaven, where those misgivings really come from? Do the misgivings they have about going to heaven relate to fear of the unknown? What if they learned that the heavenly hope does not mean leaving earth and humanity behind forever and going off to some unknown spirit world? Would that change their point of view? Or is the real problem that they don’t want to make the effort. Jesus tells us that “small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14 BSB)
You see, as a Jehovah’s Witness, I didn’t have to be good enough to merit eternal life. I only had to be good enough to survive Armageddon. Then I’d have a thousand years to work on what it takes to merit eternal life. The other sheep hope is kind of an “also ran” prize, a consolation prize for participating in the race. Salvation for Jehovah’s Witnesses is very much based on works: Attend all the meetings, go out in the preaching work, support the Organization, regularly Listen, Obey, and be Blessed. So, if you check all the boxes and stay inside the Organization, you’ll get through Armageddon, and then you can work on perfecting your personality so as to achieve everlasting life.
After such ones achieve actual human perfection at the end of the Millennium and then pass the final test, they will be in position to be declared righteous for everlasting human life.—12/1, pages 10, 11, 17, 18. (w85 12/15 p. 30 Do You Remember?)
Can you imagine they “achieve” it? Having grown accustomed to the cooing voice of The Watchtower that paints a picture of righteous Jehovah’s Witnesses living in peace in an earthly paradise, perhaps many ex JWs still like the idea of being just “Jehovah’s friends”—a concept mentioned often in Watch Tower publications but not once in the Bible (the only “friend of Jehovah” the Bible speaks of was the non-Christian Abraham at James 1:23). Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves to be righteous and believe that they will inherit a paradise earth after Armageddon and there they will work toward perfection and gain everlasting life at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ. That is their “earthly hope”. As we know, Jehovah’s Witnesses also believe that only a small group of Christians, only 144,000 who have lived since the time of Christ, will go off to heaven as immortal spirit beings just prior to Armageddon and that they will rule from heaven. Actually, the Bible doesn’t say that. Revelation 5:10 says these ones will rule “upon or on the earth”, but the New World Translation renders that as “over” the earth, which is a misleading translation. That’s what they understand as a “heavenly hope”. Indeed, any depictions of heaven that you might see in the publications of the Watch Tower Society usually depict white-robed, bearded men (all white for that matter) floating among the clouds. On the other hand, depictions of the earthly hope held out to the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are colorful and appealing, showing happy families living in garden-like landscapes, feasting on the best of foods, building beautiful homes, and enjoying peace with the animal kingdom.
But is all this confusion based on a false understanding of what heaven is as it relates to the Christian hope? Is heaven or the heavens referring to a physical location, or a state of being?
When you leave the cloistered environment of JW.org, you have a chore to deal with. You have to clean house, remove from your mind all the false images implanted from years of feeding off Watchtower imagery and thought.
So, what should ex JWs who are searching for Bible truth and finding their freedom in Christ understand about their salvation? Do they still fall for the hidden JW message intended to appeal to those with an earthly hope? You see, if you are still going to be in a sinful state according to JW doctrine, even after your resurrection, or after surviving Armageddon, then the bar for survival into the New World isn’t set too high. Even the unrighteous get into the new world through the resurrection. They teach that you don’t have to be really good to make it through, you only have to be just good enough to pass the bar, because you will still have a thousand years to get it all right, to sort out the flaws of your imperfection. And best of all you won’t have to suffer persecution for the Christ anymore either, as we do in this world. That is far more pleasant to imagine than what we read in Hebrews 10:32-34 about what true Christians have had to endure in showing their love for Jesus.
“Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, [or shunned!] and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.” (Hebrews 10:32, 34 NLT)
Now we might be tempted to say, “Yes, but both JWs and some ex JWs have misunderstood the heavenly hope. If they really understood it, they wouldn’t feel that way.” But you see, that’s not the point. Our gaining salvation isn’t as easy as ordering food off a restaurant menu: “I’ll take the everlasting life with a side order of paradise earth, and for an appetizer, a little bit of frolicking with the animals. But hold the kings and priests. Got it?
By the end of this video, you will see that there is only one hope offered to Christians. Only one! Take it or leave it. Who the heck are we—any one of us—to decline a gift of grace from Almighty God? I mean, think about it, the sheer gall—the effrontery of true-blue Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even some ex JWs who have been deluded by an earthly resurrection hope and who will now actually decline a gift from God. I’ve come to see that while they disdain materialism, in their own way, Jehovah’s Witnesses are very materialistic. It’s just that their materialism is deferred materialism. They’re putting off getting things they want now in the hope of getting much better things after Armageddon. I’ve heard more than one Witness lust after some beautiful home they visited in the preaching work, saying, “That’s where I’m going to live after Armageddon!”
I knew of an “anointed” elder who gave a stern lecture to the congregation in a local needs part that there wouldn’t be a “land grab” after Armageddon, but the “princes” would be assigning houses to everyone – “So just wait your turn!” Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting a beautiful home, but if your salvation hope is focused on material desires, then you are missing the whole point of salvation, aren’t you?
When a Jehovah’s Witness says, like a petulant child, “But I don’t wanna go to heaven. I want to stay on the paradise earth,” isn’t he or she showing a total lack of faith in the goodness of God? Where is the trust that our heavenly Father would never give us something that we wouldn’t be unbelievably happy to receive? Where is the faith that He knows far better than we ever could just what would make us happy beyond our wildest dreams?
What our Heavenly Father has promised us is to be his children, Children of God, and to inherit everlasting life. And more than that, to work alongside his precious Son to rule in the kingdom of the heavens as kings and priests. We will be responsible for restoring sinful humanity back into the family of God — Yes, there will be an earthly resurrection, the resurrection of the unrighteous. And our work will be a job that will last over 1,000 years. Talk about job security. After that, who knows what our Father has in store.
We should be able to stop this discussion right here. What we now know is all we really need to know. With that knowledge, founded on faith, we have what we need to carry on loyalty to the end.
However, our Father has chosen to reveal more than that to us and he has done so through his Son. What is necessary is to put faith in God and believe that whatever he is offering us will be unbelievably good for us to have. We should have no doubt about his goodness. Nevertheless, ideas that have been planted in our brains from our former religion can hinder our understanding and raise concerns that can undercut our joy at the prospect placed before us. Let us examine the various features of the salvation hope offered in the Bible and contrast that with the salvation hope offered by the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We need to start by clearing our plate of certain misconceptions that might hinder us from fully understanding the good news of salvation. Let us start with the phrase “heavenly hope”. This is a term not found in scripture, though it occurs over 300 times in the Watch Tower Society’s publications. Hebrews 3:1 does speak of a “heavenly calling”, but that refers to the invitation from heaven which has been made through Christ. In a similar vein, the phrase “earthly paradise” is also not found in the Bible, though it does appear 5 times in footnotes in the New World Translation and is found almost 2000 times in the Society’s publications.
Should it matter that the phrases do not appear in the Bible? Well, isn’t that one of the objections which the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses raises against the Trinity? That the word itself is never found in Scripture. Well, applying the same logic to the words they use frequently to describe the salvation they promise to their flock, “heavenly hope”, “earthly paradise”, we should be discounting any interpretation based on those terms, shouldn’t we?
When I try to reason with people about the Trinity, I ask them to abandon any preconception. If they believe Jesus is God going in, it will color any understanding they have of any verse. The same can be said to Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding their salvation hope. So, and this is not going to be easy, whatever you thought before, whatever you envisioned before when you heard the phrase “heavenly hope” or “earthly paradise”, put it out of your mind. Can you try that please? Hit the delete key on that image. Let’s start with a blank slate so that our preconceptions don’t get in the way of acquiring Bible knowledge.
Christians are admonished to set their “sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Col 3:1). Paul told Gentile Christians to “think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2,3 NLT) Is Paul talking about the physical location of heaven? Does heaven even have a physical location or are we imposing material concepts on immaterial things? Notice, Paul doesn’t tell us to think about the things IN heaven, but OF heaven. I can’t envision things in a place I’ve never seen nor can see. But I can think of things that originate from a place if those things are present with me. What are the things OF heaven that Christians know about? Think on that.
Let’s consider what Paul is talking about when he says in the verses we just read from Colossians 3:2,3 that we have died to “this life,” and that our real life is hidden in Christ. What does he mean that we died to this life by setting our sights on the realities of heaven? He is talking about dying to our unrighteous lives characterized by carrying out our fleshly and selfish inclinations. We can get more insight about “this life” versus our “our real life” from another scripture, this time in Ephesians.
“…Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6 BSB)
So setting “our sights on the realities of heaven” has to do with the change of our unrighteous nature to a righteous one or from a fleshly outlook to a spiritual one.
The fact that verse 6 of Ephesians 2 (that we just read) is written in the past tense is very telling. It means that those who are righteous are already metaphorically sitting in the heavenly realms though still living on earth in their fleshly bodies. How is that possible? It happens when you belong to Christ. In other words, we understand that when we were baptized, our old lives were, in essence, buried with Christ so that we could also be raised to a new life with him (Col 2:12) because we trusted in the power of God. Paul puts it another way in Galatians:
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24, 25 BSB)
”So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 BSB)
“You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:9,10 BSB)
So here we can see the means, and make the connection, to why it is possible to become righteous. It is the action of the holy spirit upon us because we have faith in Christ. All Christians are offered the right to receive the holy spirit because they have been offered the right to be children of God by Christ’s own authority. That’s what John 1:12,13 teaches us.
Anyone who puts true faith in Jesus Christ (and not in men) will receive the holy spirit, and is guided by it as a guarantee, an installment, pledge, or token (as the New World Translation puts it) that they will receive the inheritance of everlasting life that God has promised them because of their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior, as their redeemer from sin and death. There are many Scriptures that make this clear.
“Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21,22 BSB)
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26 BSB)
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14 BSB)
Now, going back to JW theology and the promise that the men of the Watch Tower Organization hold out to the “friends of God”” (the other sheep), we see an insurmountable problem arises. Just how it is that these “friends of God” can be called righteous since they openly admit that they don’t receive, and don’t want to receive, the anointing of the holy spirit? They can’t ever be righteous without God’s Spirit, can they?
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63, NLT)
“However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this person does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9)
How can any of us expect to be saved as a righteous Christian if we don’t belong to Christ? A Christian who does not belong to Christ is a contradiction in terms. The book of Romans clearly shows that if God’s spirit doesn’t dwell in us, if we have not been anointed by holy spirit, then we don’t have Christ’s spirit and we don’t belong to him. In other words, we’re not a Christian. Come on, the word itself means anointed one, christos in Greek. Look it up!
The Governing Body tells Jehovah’s Witnesses to watch out for apostates who will seduce them with false teachings. This is called projection. It means you’re projecting your problem or your action or your sin, onto others—accusing others of doing the very thing you practice. Brothers and sisters, don’t allow yourselves to be seduced by the false hope of an earthly resurrection of the righteous as God’s friends, but not his children, as doled out in the publications of the Watch Tower corporation. Those men want you to obey them and claim that your salvation rests on your support of them. But stop for a moment and remember God’s warning:
“Don’t put your trust in human leaders; no human being can save you.” (Psalm 146:3)
Humans can never make you righteous.
Our only hope for salvation is explained in the book of Acts of the Apostles:
“Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven [besides Christ Jesus] given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:14
At this point, you might be asking: “Well, what exactly is the hope being held out to Christians?”
Are we going to be whisked off to heaven to some location far away from earth, never to return? What will we be like? What kind of body will we have?
Those are questions that will require another video to properly answer, so we’ll hold off answering them until our next presentation. For now, the main point we should be left with is this: Even if all we knew about the hope that Jehovah promises us is that we’d inherit eternal life, that should be enough. Our faith in God, faith that he is loving and will grant us all that we could desire and more, is all that we need right now. It is not for us to doubt the quality and desirability of God’s gifts. The only words out of our mouth should be words of enormous gratitude.
Thank you all again for listening and for continuing to support this channel. Your donations keep us going.