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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Apostasy, who let the dogs out?

17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit,"[a]and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." - 2 Peter 2:17-22 (New International Version)

Did 2 John 10, which says not to receive into one’s home or to greet certain ones, refer only to those who had promoted false doctrine?

In context this counsel concerned the “many deceivers” who had gone forth, “persons not confessing Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” (2 John 7) The apostle John offered directions on how Christians back there should treat one who denied that Jesus had existed or that he was the Christ and Ransomer. John directed: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 10, 11) But the Bible elsewhere shows that this had a wider application.

At one time among the Christians in Corinth, a man was practicing immorality, and the apostle Paul wrote them to “quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” (1 Corinthians 5:11) Now, did that apply to former brothers who had been expelled only for the gross wrongs there listed?

No. Revelation 21:8 shows also that such individuals as unrepentant murderers, spiritists, and liars are included among those who merit the second death. Surely the counsel in 1 Corinthians 5:11 would also have been applied with equal force to former Christians guilty of these wrongs. Further, John wrote that some “went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.” (1 John 2:18, 19) John did not say that they had been expelled for gross sin. Perhaps some of them just quit, deciding that they no longer wanted to be in the congregation because they disagreed over a doctrine. Others may have grown tired and given out.—1 Corinthians 15:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; Hebrews 12:3, 5.

Of course, if a brother had begun to stray into sin, mature Christians would have tried to help him. (Galatians 6:1; 1 John 5:16) If he had doubts, they would have attempted to ‘snatch him out of the fire.’ (Jude 23) Even if he had become inactive, not going to meetings or in the public ministry, spiritually strong ones would have striven to restore him. He might have told them that he did not want to be bothered with being in the congregation, reflecting his weakened faith and low spirituality. They would not have badgered him, but they might occasionally have made a friendly visit on him. Such loving, patient, merciful efforts would have reflected God’s interest that none be lost.—Luke 15:4-7.

In contrast, John’s words indicate that some went further than spiritual weakness and inactivity; they actually repudiated God’s congregation. Someone may have come out openly in opposition to God’s people, declaring that he no longer wanted to be in the congregation. He may even have renounced his former faith formally, such as by a letter. Of course, the congregation would have accepted his decision to disassociate himself. But how would they then have treated him?

John says: “Everyone that pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. He that does remain in this teaching is the one that has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him.” (2 John 9, 10) Those words certainly would have applied to a person who became an apostate by joining a false religion or by spreading false doctrine. (2 Timothy 2:17-19) But what about those who John said “went out from us”? While Christians in the first century would know that they should not associate with an expelled wrongdoer or with an active apostate, did they act similarly toward someone who was not expelled but who willfully renounced the Christian way?

Aid to Bible Understanding shows that the word “apostasy” comes from a Greek word that literally means “‘a standing away from’ but has the sense of ‘desertion, abandonment or rebellion.’” The Aid book adds: “Among the varied causes of apostasy set forth in apostolic warnings were: lack of faith (Heb. 3:12), lack of endurance in the face of persecution (Heb. 10:32-39), abandonment of right moral standards (2 Pet. 2:15-22), the heeding of the ‘counterfeit words’ of false teachers and ‘misleading inspired utterances’ ( . . . 1 Tim. 4:1-3) . . . Such ones willfully abandoning the Christian congregation thereby become part of the ‘antichrist.’ (1 John 2:18, 19)”

A person who had willfully and formally disassociated himself from the congregation would have matched that description. By deliberately repudiating God’s congregation and by renouncing the Christian way, he would have made himself an apostate. A loyal Christian would not have wanted to fellowship with an apostate. Even if they had been friends, when someone repudiated the congregation, apostatizing, he rejected the basis for closeness to the brothers. John made it clear that he himself would not have in his home someone who ‘did not have God’ and who was “not of our sort.”

Scripturally, a person who repudiated God’s congregation became more reprehensible than those in the world. Why? Well, Paul showed that Christians in the Roman world daily contacted fornicators, extortioners, and idolaters. Yet he said that Christians must “quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother” who resumed ungodly ways. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11) Similarly, Peter stated that one who had “escaped from the defilements of the world” but then reverted to his former life was like a sow returning to the mire. (2 Peter 2:20-22) Hence, John was providing harmonious counsel in directing that Christians were not to ‘receive into their homes’ one who willfully ‘went out from among them.’—2 John 10.

John added: “For he that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2 John 11) Here John used the Greek word of greeting khai′ro rather than the word a‧spa′zo‧mai, found in verse 13.

Khai′ro meant to rejoice. (Luke 10:20; Philippians 3:1; 4:4) It was also used as a greeting, spoken or written. (Matthew 28:9; Acts 15:23; 23:26) A‧spa′zo‧mai meant “to enfold in the arms, thus to greet, to welcome.” (Luke 11:43; Acts 20:1, 37; 21:7, 19) Either could be a salutation, but a‧spa′zo‧mai may have implied more than a polite “hello” or “good-day.” Jesus told the 70 disciples not to a‧spa′se‧sthe anyone. He thus showed that their urgent work allowed no time for the Eastern way of greeting with kisses, embraces, and long conversation. (Luke 10:4) Peter and Paul urged: ‘Greet [a‧spa′sa‧sthe] one another with a kiss of love, or a holy kiss.’—1 Peter 5:14; 2 Corinthians 13:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 5:26.

So John may deliberately have used khai′ro in 2 John 10, 11 rather than a‧spa′zo‧mai (verse 13). If so, John was not urging Christians then to avoid merely warmly greeting (with an embrace, kiss, and conversation) a person who taught falsehood or who renounced the congregation (apostatized). Rather, John was saying that they ought not even greet such an individual with khai′ro, a common “good-day.”

The seriousness of this counsel is evident from John’s words: “He that says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” No true Christian would have wanted God to view him as sharing in wicked works by associating with an expelled wrongdoer or with one who rejected His congregation. How much finer to be a sharer in the loving Christian brotherhood, as John wrote: “That which we have seen and heard we are reporting also to you, that you too may be having a sharing with us. Furthermore, this sharing of ours is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”—1 John 1:3.


Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary says “apostasy” is “1: renunciation of a religious faith 2: abandonment of a previous loyalty.”

Regarding the use of khai′ro in 2 John 11, R. C. H. Lenski comments: “[It] was the common greeting on meeting or on parting. . . . Here the sense is: Do not even give the proselyter this greeting! Already this makes you a participant in the wicked works for which he has come. John [refers] . . . to a greeting of any nature.

- July 15, 1985 Watchtower, WTB&TS


Apostasy (IPA: /əˈpɒstəsi/) is the formal religious disaffiliation or abandonment or renunciation of one's religion, especially if the motive is deemed unworthy. In a technical sense, as used sometimes by sociologists without the pejorative connotations of the word, the term refers to renunciation and criticism of, or opposition to, one's former religion. One who commits apostasy is an apostate, or one who apostatizes. The word derives from Greek αποστασία (apostasia), meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "stand", "standing". Bryan R. Wilson, who was a professor of Sociology at Oxford University, writes that apostates of new religious movements are generally in need of self-justification, and seek to reconstruct their past and to excuse their former affiliations, while blaming those who were formerly their closest associates. Wilson utilizes the term atrocity story, [a story] that is in his view rehearsed by the apostate to explain how, by manipulation, coercion or deceit, he was recruited to a group that he now condemns. Wilson also challenges the reliability of the apostate's testimony by saying that "the apostate [is] always seen as one whose personal history predisposes him to bias with respect to his previous religious commitment and affiliations, the suspicion must arise that he acts from a personal motivation, to vindicate himself and to regain his self-esteem, by showing himself to have been first a victim, but subsequently a redeemed crusader."

Lonnie D. Kliever, Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University writes “There is no denying that these dedicated and diehard opponents of the new religions present a distorted view of the new religions to the public, the academy, and the courts by virtue of their ready availability and eagerness to testify against their former religious associations and activities. Such apostates always act out of a scenario that vindicates themselves by shifting responsibility for their actions to the religious group. Indeed, the various brainwashing scenarios so often invoked against the new religious movements have been overwhelmingly repudiated by social scientists and religion scholars as nothing more than calculated efforts to discredit the beliefs and practices of unconventional religions in the eyes of governmental agencies and public opinion. Such apostates can hardly be regarded as reliable informants by responsible journalists, scholars, or jurists. Even the accounts of voluntary defectors with no grudges to bear must be used with caution since they interpret their past religious experience in the light of present efforts to re-establish their own self-identity and self-esteem. In short, on the face of things, apostates from new religions do not meet the standards of personal objectivity, professional competence, and informed understanding required of expert witnesses.”

Religious scholars have routinely found the testimony and public statements of apostates to be unreliable. In his book "The Politics of Religious Apostasy: The Role of Apostates in the Transformation of Religious Movement", Professor David Bromley, Department of Sociology and Anthropology of Virginia Commonwealth University, explained how individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure. This then opens the door to being recruited and used by organizations which seek to use their testimony as a weapon against a minority religion. "Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group."

John Gordon Melton is an American religious scholar who was the founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and is currently a research specialist in religion and New Religious Movements with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While testifying as an expert witness in a lawsuit, said that when investigating groups one should not rely solely upon the unverified testimony of ex-members, and that hostile ex-members would invariably shade the truth and blow out of proportion minor incidents, turning them into major incidents. Melton also follows the argumentation of Lewis Carter and David Bromley and claims that as a result of this study, the [psychological] treatment (coerced or voluntary) of former members largely ceased, and that a (perceived) lack of widespread need for psychological help by former members of new religions would in itself be the strongest evidence refuting early sweeping condemnations of new religions as causes of psychological trauma.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ransom and YOU

A price paid to buy back or to bring about release from some obligation or undesirable circumstance. The most significant ransom price is that of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. By paying over the value of that ransom in heaven, Jesus opened the way for Adam’s offspring to be delivered from the sin and death that we all inherit because of the sin of our forefather Adam.

How was the death of Jesus Christ different from that of others who have become martyrs?

Jesus was a perfect human. He was born without any blemish of sin and he maintained that perfection throughout his life. “He committed no sin.” He was “undefiled, separated from the sinners.”—1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 7:26.

He was the unique Son of God. God himself testified to this audibly from the heavens. (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) This Son had lived previously in heaven; through him God had brought into existence all other created persons and things in the entire universe. To carry out His will, God had miraculously transferred the life of this Son to the womb of a virgin girl so that he might be born as a human. To emphasize that he truly had become a human, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of man.—Col. 1:15-20; John 1:14; Luke 5:24.

He was not powerless before his executioners. He said: “I surrender my soul . . . No man has taken it away from me, but I surrender it of my own initiative.” (John 10:17, 18) He declined to appeal for angelic forces to intervene on his behalf. (Matt. 26:53, 54) Though wicked men were permitted to carry out their schemes in having him put to death, his death was truly sacrificial.

His shed blood has value to provide deliverance for others. “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45) So his death was far more than a case of martyrdom because of refusal to compromise his beliefs.

Why was it necessary for the ransom to be provided in the manner that it was in order for us to have eternal life?

Rom. 5:12: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (No matter how uprightly we may live, all of us are sinners from birth. [Ps. 51:5] There is no way that we can earn the right to live forever.)

Rom. 6:23: “The wages sin pays is death.”

Ps. 49:6-9: “Those who are trusting in their means of maintenance, and who keep boasting about the abundance of their riches, not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite) that he should still live forever and not see the pit.” (No imperfect human can provide the means to deliver someone else from sin and death. His money cannot buy eternal life, and his soul laid down in death, being the wages that are to come to him anyway because of sin, has no value toward delivering anyone.)

Why did God not simply decree that, although Adam and Eve must die for their rebellion, all of their offspring who would obey God could live forever?

Because Jehovah is “a lover of righteousness and justice.” (Ps. 33:5; Deut. 32:4; Jer. 9:24) So, the way he dealt with the situation upheld his righteousness, met the demands of absolute justice, and, at the same time, magnified his love and mercy. How is that so?

(1) Adam and Eve had produced no children before they sinned, so none were born perfect. All of Adam’s offspring were brought forth in sin, and sin leads to death. If Jehovah had simply ignored this, that would have been a denial of his own righteous standards. God could not do that and so become a party to unrighteousness. He did not sidestep the requirements of absolute justice; so no intelligent creature could ever legitimately find fault in this respect.—Rom. 3:21-26.

(2) Without ignoring the requirements of justice, how could provision be made to deliver those of Adam’s offspring who would demonstrate loving obedience to Jehovah? If a perfect human was to die sacrificially, justice could allow for that perfect life to provide a covering for the sins of those who would in faith accept the provision. Since one man’s sin (that of Adam) had been responsible for causing the entire human family to be sinners, the shed blood of another perfect human (in effect, a second Adam), being of corresponding value, could balance the scales of justice. Because Adam was a willful sinner, he could not benefit; but because the penalty that all mankind was due to pay for sin would in this way be paid by someone else, Adam’s offspring could be delivered. But there was no such perfect human. Humankind could never meet those demands of absolute justice. So, as an expression of marvelous love and at great personal cost, Jehovah himself made the provision. (1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8) God’s only-begotten Son was willing to do his part. Humbly leaving behind his heavenly glory and becoming a perfect human, Jesus died on behalf of mankind.—Phil. 2:7, 8.

Illustration: A family head may become a criminal and be sentenced to death. His children may be left destitute, hopelessly in debt. Perhaps their kindly grandfather intervenes on their behalf, making provision through a son who is living with him to pay their debts and to open up for them the possibility of a new life. Of course, to benefit, the children must accept the arrangement, and the grandfather may reasonably require certain things as assurance that the children will not imitate the course of their father.

To whom first was the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice applied, and with what objective?

Rom. 1:16: “The good news [regarding Jesus Christ and his role in Jehovah’s purpose] . . . is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (The invitation to benefit from the provision for salvation through Christ was extended first to the Jews, then to non-Jews.)

Eph. 1:11-14: “In union with [Christ] we [Jews, including the apostle Paul] were also assigned as heirs [Heirs of what? Of the heavenly Kingdom] . . . that we should serve for the praise of his glory, we who have been first to hope in the Christ. But you also [Christians taken out of the Gentile nations, as were many in Ephesus] hoped in him after you heard the word of truth, the good news about your salvation. By means of him also, after you believed, you were sealed with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of our inheritance, for the purpose of releasing by a ransom God’s own possession, to his glorious praise.” (That inheritance, as shown at 1 Peter 1:4, is reserved in the heavens. Revelation 14:1-4 indicates that those who share in it number 144,000. Along with Christ, these will serve as kings and priests over mankind for 1,000 years, during which God’s purpose for the earth to be a paradise populated by perfect offspring of the first human pair will be accomplished.)

Who else in our day are experiencing benefits from Jesus’ sacrifice?

1 John 2:2: “He [Jesus Christ] is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins [those of the apostle John and other spirit-anointed Christians], yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s [others of mankind, those for whom the prospect of eternal life on earth is thus made possible].”

John 10:16: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (These “other sheep” come under the loving care of Jesus Christ while the remnant of the “little flock” of Kingdom heirs is still on earth; thus the “other sheep” can be associated with the Kingdom heirs as part of the “one flock.” They all enjoy many of the same benefits from Jesus’ sacrifice, but not identically so, because they have different destinies.)

Rev. 7:9, 14: “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues . . . ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” (So, the members of this great crowd are living when the great tribulation begins, and they have a clean standing before God because they exercise faith in the ransom. The righteousness counted to them as a result of this is sufficient for them to be preserved alive on earth through the great tribulation.)

What future blessings will be enjoyed as a result of the ransom?

Rev. 5:9, 10: “They sing a new song, saying: ‘You [the Lamb, Jesus Christ] are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.’” (The ransom was a vital factor in opening the way to heavenly life for those who are to rule with Christ. Soon all the rulers in earth’s new government will be on their heavenly thrones.)

Rev. 7:9, 10: “Look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [Jesus Christ, who died as if a sacrificial lamb], dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Faith in Christ’s sacrifice is a key factor in the survival of this great crowd through the great tribulation.)

Rev. 22:1, 2: “And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.” (Thus, application of the value of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, is an important part of the provision made by God to cure mankind of all the effects of sin and to enable them to enjoy eternal life.)

Rom. 8:21: “The creation itself [mankind] also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

What is required of us in order to benefit lastingly from Jesus’ perfect sacrifice?

John 3:36: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”

Heb. 5:9: “After he [Jesus Christ] had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.”

What does the provision of the ransom reveal as to how God feels about mankind?

1 John 4:9, 10: “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. The love is in this respect, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”

Rom. 5:7, 8: “Hardly will anyone die for a righteous man; indeed, for the good man, perhaps, someone even dares to die. But God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

What effect should this provision have on how we use our lives?

1 Pet. 2:24: “He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness.” (In view of all that Jehovah and his Son have done to cleanse us from sin, we should strive diligently to overcome sinful tendencies. It should be completely unthinkable for us deliberately to do anything that we know is sinful!)

Titus 2:13, 14: “Christ Jesus . . . gave himself for us that he might deliver us from every sort of lawlessness and cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” (Appreciation for this marvelous provision should move us to have a zealous share in those works that Christ assigned to his true followers.)

2 Cor. 5:14, 15: “The love the Christ has compels us, because this is what we have judged, that one man died for all; so, then, all had died; and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.”

Memorial (Lord’s Evening Meal)

Definition: A meal commemorating the death of Jesus Christ; hence, a memorial of his death, the death that has had effects that are more far reaching than that of any other person. This is the only event that the Lord Jesus Christ commanded his disciples to memorialize. It is also known as the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Evening Meal.—1 Cor. 11:20.

What is the significance of the Memorial?

To his faithful apostles Jesus said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) When writing to members of the spirit-begotten Christian congregation, the apostle Paul added: “As often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Cor. 11:26) So, the Memorial calls special attention to the significance of the death of Jesus Christ in the outworking of Jehovah’s purpose. It highlights the meaning of Jesus’ sacrificial death particularly in relation to the new covenant and to the way that his death affects those who will be heirs with him of the heavenly Kingdom.—John 14:2, 3; Heb. 9:15.

The Memorial is also a reminder that Jesus’ death and the way it was accomplished, in harmony with God’s purpose as expressed at Genesis 3:15 and thereafter, served to vindicate Jehovah’s name. By maintaining integrity to Jehovah down till his death, Jesus proved that Adam’s sin was not due to any flaw in the Creator’s designing of man but that it is possible for a human to maintain perfect godly devotion even under severe pressure, and thus Jesus vindicated Jehovah God as Creator and Universal Sovereign. Besides that, Jehovah had purposed that Jesus’ death would provide the perfect human sacrifice needed to ransom Adam’s offspring, and thus make it possible for billions who would exercise faith to live forever in a paradise earth, in fulfillment of Jehovah’s original purpose and in expression of his great love for mankind.—John 3:16; Gen. 1:28.

What a tremendous burden rested upon Jesus on his last night on earth as a man! He knew what his heavenly Father had purposed for him, but he also knew that he had to prove faithful under test. Had he failed, what a reproach it would have meant for his Father and what a loss to humankind! Because of all that would be accomplished by means of his death, it was most fitting that Jesus instructed that it be memorialized.

What is the meaning of the bread and the wine served at the Memorial?

Regarding the unleavened bread that Jesus gave to his apostles when instituting the Memorial, he said: “This means my body.” (Mark 14:22) That bread symbolized his own sinless body of flesh. This he would give in behalf of the future life prospects of mankind, and on this occasion special attention is drawn to the life prospects that it makes possible for those who would be chosen to share with Jesus in the heavenly Kingdom.

When passing the wine to his faithful apostles, Jesus said: “This means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many.” (Mark 14:24) That wine symbolized his own lifeblood. By means of his shed blood, forgiveness of sins would be possible for those who put faith in it. On this occasion Jesus was highlighting the cleansing from sin that it would make possible for his prospective joint heirs. His words also indicate that by means of that blood the new covenant between Jehovah God and the spirit-anointed Christian congregation would be made operative.

Who is to partake of the bread and the wine?

Who partook when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal shortly before he died? Eleven faithful followers to whom Jesus said: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:29) They were all persons who were being invited to share with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (John 14:2, 3) All who partake of the bread and wine today should also be persons whom Christ brings into that ‘covenant for a kingdom.’

How many are there that partake? Jesus said that only a “little flock” would receive the heavenly Kingdom as their reward. (Luke 12:32) The full number would be 144,000. (Rev. 14:1-3) That group began to be selected in 33 C.E. Reasonably, there would be only a small number partaking now.

Does John 6:53, 54 indicate that only those who do partake will gain everlasting life?

John 6:53, 54: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.’”

This eating and drinking would obviously have to be done figuratively; otherwise the one doing it would be violating God’s law. (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28, 29) However, it should be noted that Jesus’ statement at John 6:53, 54 was not made in connection with the inauguration of the Lord’s Evening Meal. None who heard him had any idea of a celebration with bread and wine used to represent Christ’s flesh and blood. That arrangement was not introduced until about a year later, and the apostle John’s report about the Lord’s Evening Meal does not begin until more than seven chapters later on (in John 14) in the Gospel bearing his name.

How, then, can a person “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood” in a figurative way if not by partaking of the bread and the wine at the Memorial? Notice that Jesus said that those thus eating and drinking would have “everlasting life.” Earlier, in verse 40, when explaining what people must do to have everlasting life, what did he say was the will of his Father? That “everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life.” Reasonably, then, ‘eating his flesh and drinking his blood’ in a figurative sense is done by exercising faith in the redeeming power of Jesus’ flesh and blood laid down in sacrifice. This exercising of faith is required of all who will gain the fullness of life, whether in the heavens with Christ or in the earthly Paradise.

How often is the Memorial to be commemorated, and when?

Jesus did not specifically state how often it was to be done. He simply said: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Paul said: “For as often as you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he arrives.” (1 Cor. 11:26) “As often” need not mean many times a year; it can mean annually over a period of many years. If you commemorate an important event, such as a wedding anniversary, or if a nation commemorates an important event in its history, how often is it done? Once a year on the anniversary date. This would also be consistent with the fact that the Lord’s Evening Meal was instituted on the date of the Jewish Passover, a yearly celebration that no longer had to be kept by Jews who had become Christians.

Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Memorial after sundown on Nisan 14, according to the reckoning of the Jewish calendar that was common in the first century. The Jewish day begins at sundown and extends until the following sundown. So Jesus died on the same Jewish calendar day that he instituted the Memorial. The beginning of the month of Nisan was the sunset after the new moon nearest the spring equinox became visible in Jerusalem. The Memorial date is 14 days thereafter. (Thus the date for the Memorial may not coincide with that of the Passover kept by modern-day Jews. Why not? The start of their calendar months is set to coincide with the astronomical new moon, not the visible new moon over Jerusalem, which may come 18 to 30 hours later. Also, most Jews today keep the Passover on Nisan 15, not on the 14th as did Jesus in harmony with what was stated in the Mosaic Law.)

- Reasoning from the Scriptures, published by the WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

The Bible Students teach the false view that Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Ransom. In reality Jehovah's Witnesses do not deny the Ransom, we just reject the Bible Students understanding of it. The Bible Students teach that Jesus died "For" Adam, this would then cause a chain reaction that would free "All" of mankind. However the Bible states that Jesus died for us as individuals. The Jehovah's Witnesses love Jesus, and yet many Bible Students hate us. The Jews reject Jesus and these same Bible Students love them. Funny how that works.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested in Russia

More than 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested in Russia for taking part in a public protest’s-Witnesses-arrested-in-Russia-for-taking-part-in-a-public-protest-17853.html

Some 150,000 volunteers hand out about 12 million leaflets slamming the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses, guilty of rejecting to military service and unfriendliness towards other religious groups. For their part, the Witnesses say that history is repeating itself with a return to Soviet-style persecution.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Between late February and early March, Russian police arrested at least 50 Jehovah’s Witnesses for handing out leaflets that describe how their religious freedom is curtailed. They are especially critical of the way their communities are being persecuted, labelled extremist and criminal for refusing the military draft.

On 26 February, the group’s national body launched a campaign to raise awareness about the violence Jehovah's Witnesses encounter in many republics of the Russian Federation. It brought together almost 150,000 volunteers in the streets of Moscow, Rostov, Sverdlovsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Krasnodar, and Volgograd. Protesters handed out leaflets in railway as well as subway stations and at bus stops. Titled ‘Is history repeating itself? A question for Russians’, the four-page flyer quoted extensively from President Dmitry Medvedev’s speeches in which the Russian leader condemns political repression based on religion. Distributed to the tune of 12 million copies, the leaflet noted that the post-Soviet rehabilitation of Jehovah’s Witnesses had “turned to dust.”

Fifteen years ago, many veteran Jehovah's Witnesses received a special "certificate of rehabilitation." Now the same people, certificates in their pocket, are being charged as "extremists," forced to go underground.

According to Lev Levinson, director of the Institute for Human Rights, the current persecution is the by-product of a perverse interpretation of anti-extremism laws.

As a religious group, Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused of being a “sect”, of being unfriendly towards other Churches, of rejecting military service, this despite the fact that Russia’s constitution allows for an alternative civilian service.

In their defence, Jehovah’s Witnesses say that they are being forced to organise their campaign because various courts in Russia have banned their publications and outlawed their activities (see “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists,” in AsiaNews, 17 September 2009, and “Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism,” in AsiaNews, 5 October 2009)

Before that, they had turned to President Medvedev asking for justice (see “Jehovah’s Witnesses write to Medvedev, tell him they are persecuted like in Soviet times,” in AsiaNews, 13 November 2009), but now must try to move public opinion.

Following the latest incident, Jehovah’s Witnesses were interrogated after their arrest, their leaflets seized. Most of them were eventually released after a few hours.

Jehovah’s Witnesses write to Medvedev, tell him they are persecuted like in Soviet times

The religious community complains about “arbitrary” trials, persecution and a campaign of “demonisation’ by the courts and the press. They ask Russian president to “guarantee their constitutional rights” and protect them “from bureaucratic arbitrariness.”

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The leader of Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses has appealed to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to protect his community from a campaign of persecution. V.M. Kalin, chairman of the steering committee of the ‘Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia’ (ACJWR), wrote to the Kremlin leader, complaining about “arbitrary” trials against members of his community (see AsiaNews, 17/09/2009, “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists,” in AsiaNews, 17 September 2009, and “Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism,” in AsiaNews, 5 October 2009).

In his letter, the ACJWR chairman noted that his community has been in Russia for more than a century, and that only under Soviet rule did it suffer discrimination and persecution. Now, it is subjected to a process of “demonisation" by some courts with the support of the press.

For Kalin, Medvedev’s article “Russia, Forward”, which appeared in, on 10 September of this year, is a source of hope because it refers to the ideals of the separation of state and religion and peaceful coexistence.

Russia’s president, the letter explains, should realise that Jehovah’s Witnesses are present in 236 countries around the world, but that only in 25 is “their freedom of conscience” restricted, nations “famous for the crudest violations of human rights.”

All the community wants is for Medvedev to “guarantee their constitutional rights” and protect them from “bureaucratic arbitrariness”.

Ultimately, “basic rights, for which Jehovah's Witnesses are fighting today, are vitally necessary for the maintenance in Russia of democratic liberties and the construction of civil society”.

Altai court condemns Jehovah’s Witnesses for “extremism”

Some of the group’s publications are blamed for inciting religious confrontation. Jehovah’s Witnesses respond saying the texts in question are distributed in 200 countries around the world. The Altai court ruling is like one handed down in Rostov in mid-September. Similar trials are underway before other Russian courts.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A city court in the city of Gorno-Altaisk, Altai Republic, found the Jehovah’s Witnesses guilty of religious extremism. The sentence follows a similar decision handed down against the religious group in mid-September by a court in Rostov, which ruled that the group’s publications contain “extremist material” (see “Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists,” AsiaNews, 17 September 2009). Altogether the court in the Siberian Republic banned 18 publications by the Jehovah’s Witnesses after they were submitted to expert analysis, which concluded they included incitement to religious confrontation.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Centre in Moscow, which is recognised by Russian authorities, has already appealed the decision by the court in Gorno-Altaisk. However, the situation for the religious group is very delicate. The latest ruling comes in the wake of that in Rostov and before others expected in other regions of the Russian Federation, where legal proceedings are currently underway. The charge is the same: incitement of religious extremism.

The material in question is the same as those the group publishes and distributes across Europe and in about 200 countries around the world, in 176 different languages.

For the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the latest case represents another attack by the legal system of Russia’s republics. “Such a decision may lead to the legalisation of illegal actions against peaceful citizens who wish to worship God in accordance with their own conscience and the principles of the sacred scriptures, the Bible," the Jehovah’s Witnesses centre said.

The Christian group is among the most harassed religious minorities in the territories of the former Soviet Union.

Numbered at around 200,000, Jehovah’s Witnesses are accused across the Russian Federation of sectarianism, “religious extremism,” “incitement to social isolation,” and behaviours that undermine the civil life of the country.

Court in Rostov bans Jehovah’s Witnesses for being religious extremists

The court disbands the organisation, seizes its assets and bands all of its activities in the cities of Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveevo-Kurgan. The religious movement accuses the judges of violating religious freedom, and is set to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A provincial court in Rostov ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Taganrog are religious extremists and that they must be banned from the province (oblast). The court disbanded the organisation, seized its assets and banned it from carrying out any activities in Taganrog, Neklinov and Matveevo-Kurgan. The court’s decision, which was made public last Friday, found that 34 different publications taken together constituted “extremist material”.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim a membership of about 200,000 people in Russia. Over the decades, they have been accused of being sectarian and hostile to the Russian Federation.

Certain motives have been used in order to criticise or take legal action against the religious group. In Russia since the start the 20th century, Jehovah’s Witnesses are in favour of conscientious objection against the military, reject the use of weapons, are opposed to blood transfusions and demand their members to be totally devoted to the community.

According to the court in Rostov, the publications entered as evidence urge members to live according to “religious extremist” principles. The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation described these principles earlier this year as an incitement to social isolation and behaviours that raise negative attitudes in the population and against Russia’s traditional religions.

The court ruling will come into effect on 21 September, ending a case that began on 11 July of last year. It is not however the only one in which Jehovah’s Witnesses have to defend themselves against charges of handing out extremist literature.

In fact, cases have been filed against the religious group in other parts of the Russian Federation. Trials that could lead to a ban are currently under way in Salsk (Rostov Oblast), Gorno-Altaisk (Altai Republic), Krasnodar (Krasnodar Oblast), Samara (Samara Oblast), Vladikavkaz (Republic of North Ossetia-Alania) and Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk Oblast).

Jehovah’s Witnesses have responded to the accusations and legal proceedings brought against them by saying that local and federal authorities are pursuing a policy of discrimination that violates the basic principles of religious freedom.

In order to defend themselves and avoid dissolution in various provinces, they plan to appeal to the European Court of Human rights, as they have done in the past.

They argue that such charges have no legal basis under EU law and that they contradict the principles on which Russian cooperation with countries like the United States and Germany against religious extremism is based.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"The Divine Plan of the Ages"


THE AUTHOR and the publishers desire to publicly acknowledge the favor of God which has permitted them to be identified with the circulation of this Volume, and with the results--light, joy, peace, fellowship with God, to many hungry, thirsty, bewildered souls. The first edition in its present form was issued in 1886. Since then, one edition has followed another in rapid succession and in twenty different languages, until now there are nearly five million copies of it in the hands of the people all the world over.

We cannot hope that these books have all been read; but letters continually coming to hand assure us that they are working powerfully in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Thousands write us that they have been influenced --some who totally disbelieved in the Bible as a Divine Revelation to mankind. Others write that they have been atheists or approximately so, because they had not previously known the true God and His true Plan of the Ages, and were unable to accept, appreciate or worship the characters usually held before them in the creeds.

For above five years preceding the first publication of this Volume, we had substantially the same matter in print under another name and differently presented. That book was entitled "Food for Thinking Christians." Its style was different in that it first of all attacked the error--demolished it; and then, in its place, erected the fabric of Truth. We finally learned that this was not the best way--that some became alarmed as they saw their errors falling, and failed to read far enough to get a glimpse of the beautiful structure of Truth in place of the demolished errors.

The present Volume was written from the reverse standpoint. It presents the Truth, shows its strength and beauty, and then suggests the removal of the error, as not only unnecessary, but absolutely useless and very injurious. Thus the reader of the DIVINE PLAN OF THE AGES at each step finds a strengthening of faith and a greater nearness to the Lord, and therefore a confidence that he is in the right way. After seeing the Truth, the errors are more and more seen to be absurd, worthless, injurious, and are gladly abandoned.

The great Adversary, of course, has no love for anything which opens the eyes of God's people, increases their reverence for God's Book, and breaks their reliance upon human creeds. The great Adversary, therefore, as we might have expected, is very much opposed to this book. Few realize Satan's power and cunning; few realize the meaning of the Apostle's words in respect to this Prince of Darkness who transforms himself into a minister of light, in order to fight the Truth and destroy its influence. Few realize that our wily Adversary seeks to use the best, the most energetic, the most influential of God's people to hinder the shining of the light and to keep the Divine Plan of the Ages away from the people.

Few realize that from the time creed-making began, A.D. 325, there was practically no Bible study for 1260 years. Few realize that during that time the creeds were riveted upon the minds of millions, shackling them to horrible errors, and blinding them to the Divine character of Wisdom, Justice, Love, Power. Few realize that since the Reformation --since the Bible began to come back into the hands of the people--well-meaning but deluded reformers have been blinded and handicapped by the errors of the past, and, in turn, have served to keep the people in darkness. Few realize [Aiii] that real Bible study, such as was practised in the early Church in the days of the Apostles, has only now come back to Bible students.

In the earliest editions of this Volume, the title, "Millennial Dawn," was used; but we found that some were deceived thereby into thinking it a novel. In order that none might be deceived, and that none might purchase under such deception, we later adopted the present serial title, "Studies in the Scriptures," which nobody can misunderstand.

Many queries have come to us as to why these books cannot be found in the bookstores. Our answer is that while the book publishers would be glad to have these books, there are certain religious zealots who will not permit their sale--threatening boycott. At first this seemed like a great disaster--as though the power of the Adversary would be permitted to hinder the dissemination of the Truth. But God graciously overruled the matter, so that today probably no other book has so large a circulation and so steady a circulation as this Volume. Those who, through prejudice, refused to read the book and fought against it, did so because they believed falsehoods, misrepresentations.

Many of these books have been burned by people who never read them, but who were influenced by misrepresentations. Just so it was during the Dark Ages in respect to the followers of Jesus, who suffered martyrdom. Yes, Jesus Himself suffered at the hands of those who did not understand Him or His teachings, as St. Peter pointedly declares: "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers" (Acts 3:17); "for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory." 1 Cor. 2:8

But if the enemies of this book have been bitter, unjust, [Aiv] untruthful, its friends are proportionately warm and zealous. The millions of copies in the hands of the people have nearly all passed out through the friends of the book, who, from the love of the Truth, have given time and energy for its wide circulation. While we write these lines, we have knowledge of the fact that approximately six hundred Christian people from various walks of life have "left all" earthly business and calling and ambitions that they may glorify the Lord and bless His hungry saints by putting this little Volume into their hands. These include doctors, schoolteachers, nurses, ministers, barbers, mechanics-- people from every walk of life who, touched to the heart themselves with the love of God, are anxious to pass the blessing on to other hearts and heads.

The books are sold at a small price, and these colporteurs who take them around to the public are barely able to make their expenses. They rejoice, however, all the more if sometimes they have privations and are counted worthy to suffer some inconveniences and deprivations for the sake of the Lord, the Truth and the Brethren. The good work goes on, the Message of Life in Christ passes from hand to hand. The present output of this Volume is enormous. May its blessing in future days be proportionately as great as in the past. The author and publishers cannot ask for more.

With very best wishes to all readers,

Your servant in the Lord,
Charles T. Russell.

Brooklyn, N.Y.,
October 1, 1916

Additional Reading:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pastor Russell at Carnegie Hall

In what later appeared to be an attempt by the Pittsburgh ministerial alliance to discredit C. T. Russell’s scholarship and Biblical views, on March 10, 1903, Dr. E. L. Eaton, minister of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, challenged Russell to a six-day debate. During each session of this debate, held that autumn in Allegheny’s Carnegie Hall, on the whole Russell came off victorious. Among other things, he Scripturally maintained that the souls of the dead are unconscious while their bodies are in the grave and that the object of both Christ’s second coming and the millennium is the blessing of all the families of the earth. Russell also made a very strong Biblical denial of the hellfire doctrine. Reportedly, one clergyman approached him after the last session of the debate and said: “I am glad to see you turn the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Interestingly, after this debate many members of Eaton’s congregation became Bible Students.

Additional Reading:

Some of the clergy felt the need to destroy Russell’s influence by exposing him in public debate. Near the headquarters of his activity, a group of clergymen endorsed as their spokesman Dr. E. L. Eaton, pastor of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. In 1903 he proposed a public debate, and Brother Russell accepted the invitation.

Six propositions were set forth, as follows: Brother Russell affirmed, but Dr. Eaton denied, that the souls of the dead are unconscious; that the “second coming” of Christ precedes the Millennium and that the purpose of both his “second coming” and the Millennium is the blessing of all the families of the earth; also that only the saints of the “Gospel age” share in the first resurrection but that vast multitudes will have opportunity for salvation by the subsequent resurrection. Dr. Eaton affirmed, but Brother Russell denied, that there would be no probation after death for anyone; that all who are saved will enter heaven; and that the incorrigibly wicked will be subjected to eternal suffering. A series of six debates on these propositions were held, each debate before a packed house at Carnegie Hall in Allegheny in 1903.

What was behind that challenge to debate? Viewing the matter from a historical perspective, Albert Vandenberg later wrote: “The debates were conducted with a minister from a different Protestant denomination acting as the moderator during each discussion. In addition, ministers from various area churches sat on the speaker’s platform with the Reverend Eaton, allegedly to provide him with textual and moral support. . . . That even an unofficial alliance of Protestant clergymen could be formed signified that they feared Russell’s potential to convert members of their denominations.” —“Charles Taze Russell: Pittsburgh Prophet, 1879-1909,” published in The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, January 1986, p. 14.

Such debates were relatively few. They did not yield the results that the alliance of clergymen desired. Some of Dr. Eaton’s own congregation, impressed by what they heard during the series of debates in 1903, left his church and chose to associate with the Bible Students. Even a clergyman who was present acknowledged that Russell had ‘turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.’ Nevertheless, Brother Russell himself felt that the cause of truth could be better served by use of time and effort for activities other than debates.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS

On March 10, 1903, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh ministerial alliance, Dr. E. L. Eaton, minister of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, formally offered to C. T. Russell a six-day debate on agreed Biblical subjects. (Later it appeared that this was a subtle attempt on the part of the associated clergy publicly to discredit Russell’s scholarship and teaching.) Within two days Russell in good faith accepted the offer, and the debates were finally held in the fall at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall before packed-out audiences.

(1) Sunday afternoon, October 18, Eaton debated affirmatively, that the Bible teaches that divine grace for salvation has been exercised since man’s fall and that there will be no probation after death. Russell Scripturally denied. (2) Tuesday evening, October 20, Russell affirmed that the Bible clearly teaches that the souls of the dead are unconscious while their bodies are in the grave. Eaton denied. (3) Thursday evening, October 22, Eaton affirmed that the Bible teaches that all of the saved will become spirit creatures, and after the General Judgment will enter heaven. Russell denied. (4) Tuesday evening, October 27, Russell, affirming that the Bible teaches that only the “saints” of this Gospel age will share in the “First Resurrection,” also held that vast multitudes will be saved in and by the subsequent resurrection. Eaton denied. (5) Thursday, October 29, Russell affirmed that the Bible teaches that the object of both the second coming of Christ and the Millennium is the blessing of all the families of earth. Eaton denied. (6) Lastly, on Sunday, November 1, with Eaton affirming that the Bible teaches that the divine penalty for sin eventually to be inflicted upon the incorrigible, will consist of inconceivably great sufferings, eternal in duration, Russell vigorously denied this hell-fire doctrine.


Carnegie Music Hall in Allegheny Crowded, and Speakers Listened to Attentively as they Discussed Probation


Remarkable in the demonstration of religious interest, the series of discussions between the Rev. E. L. Eaton, D. D. pastor of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, and C. T. Russell, pastor of the Allegheny Bible House congregation, was inaugurated yesterday afternoon with a debate on the general topic of probation. The meeting was held in the Allegheny Carnegie music hall, and a larger assemblage had never been seen in the building. The remarks of both speakers were interrupted at frequent intervals with fervid responses and enthusiastic applause.

The Rev. Dr. W. H. McMillan, pastor of the Second United Presbyterian church, Allegheny, presided. Half an hour before the meeting was opened the hall was packed with people. The aisles of the main auditorium, the balcony, the stage and the vestibules were given over for standing room to the eager crowd. Preceding the debate a short devotional exercise was held and the singing of the hymns, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah," and "Tell Me the Old, Old Story" was entered into with the zest of worshipers at a revival. No collection basket was passed, and the following proposition was announced for discussion:

After funeral services at The Temple in New York and at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh, Brother Russell was buried at Allegheny, in the Bethel family plot, according to his request. A brief biography of Russell along with his will and testament was published in The Watch Tower of December 1, 1916, as well as in subsequent editions of the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures. . . . . . . . .Maria Russell’s own belated acknowledgment came at the time of Brother Russell’s funeral at Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh in 1916. Wearing a veil, she walked down the aisle to the casket and laid there a bunch of lilies of the valley. Attached to them was a ribbon bearing the words, “To My Beloved Husband.”