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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose

CHAPTER 1

A People with the Most Ancient History

LOIS: Who on earth could be ringing our doorbell on such a stormy night as this? Don't tell me that we're having visitors?

TOM: Could be! It might be our neighbor John down the street—you know, one of those Jehovah's witnesses. I spoke out of curiosity to him about that different kind of faith of his, and he said he'd step over here some night with his wife and answer all my questions about it. But there's another ring. So let me go see just who it is at the door.

LOIS: All right!

TOM [opening the door]: Well, I guessed it might be you, John. And there's your good wife Maria, too. Come right in out of the bad weather and make yourself comfortable, both of you. It's certainly nice of you to come over and see Lois and me. When I spoke to you I didn't think you would take the matter as so urgent as to come here through such a wild night as this.

JOHN: But it is urgent, Tom, when the world is in such an unsettled condition as the weather is tonight.

LOIS: Good evening. Here, let me take your things, and then I will join you.

JOHN AND MARIA: Thanks. It's nice of you.

TOM: Ah, it's such a pleasant feeling to be indoors, in a comfortable home on such a rough night as this. Now I'm not going to ask you to look at television with us— I hope this doesn't sound rough—but since you put yourself to such trouble to visit us tonight, I'd like to pump you both with as many questions as I can. And maybe my religious wife Lois would also like to ask some questions. She has a good knowledge of the Bible.

JOHN: Fine! That's just what Maria and I came for. Go ahead! Likely your wife Lois has read in her Bible the proverb of King Solomon: "Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up." That's Proverbs 20:5.

LOIS: That's an encouraging scripture. I must mark that down.

TOM: Thanks for that indirect compliment, John, but let's see how much of a man of discernment I am to draw up the water of facts out of your well of information. Of all the scores of religions here in this country, you and Maria certainly have a peculiar name. Jehovah's witnesses! I don't know of another religious name like it. Why do you and your people call yourselves that? Where do you get that name? Lois tells me that her preacher said that you Jehovah's witnesses are just a lot of

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upstarts, just a new religion started by some religious crank recently and without a good background.

LOIS: That's what he said, and with a lot of scorn, too!

JOHN: Well, that doesn't shock Maria and me. We've heard remarks like that from many religious quarters in Christendom. But quite to the contrary of such charges, do you know that Jehovah's witnesses are the most ancient religious group of worshipers of the true God, the people whose history runs back farther than any religious denomination of Christendom, or even of Jewry?

TOM: Ho, ho! Listen to that, Lois! Your preacher ought to be here and listen to this. And the Jewish rabbi around the corner, too!

LOIS: They first have to do a lot of proving to convince me of that.

JOHN: From that Bible of yours I believe I can establish the factualness of what I said, Lois. Jehovah's witnesses have a history almost 6,000 years long, beginning while the first man, Adam, was still alive. One of his sons is referred to as being a Witness. Read Hebrews 11:4, please, Lois. You have the King James Version, don't you?

LOIS! Yes. [Reading] "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh."

JOHN: Thank you. You remember in Genesis 4:10 God said Abel's "blood crieth unto me from the ground." But Abel was only the first of an unbroken line of Witnesses. a Noah carried this line through the flood after sounding a warning to his generation. Read Hebrews 11:7, please.

LOIS [reading]: "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." Was he a Witness just by building an ark?

JOHN: Not altogether, no. Noah also preached. Please read 2 Peter 2:5.

LOIS [reads]: "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." I never knew that. What did he preach, the coming of the flood?

JOHN: Yes, he warned his generation of God's coming judgment. Throughout the history of the Bible Jehovah has raised up witnesses to give special warning in times of judgment. Moses warned Egypt of God's coming punishment upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. That's Hebrews 11:24-29. Then the natural Jews, the ancient nation of Israel, were prophetically addressed as Jehovah's witnesses at Isaiah 43:10-12.

LOIS: I have that too. [Reading] "Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God."

JOHN: In the American Standard Version "the LORD" is rendered "Jehovah," in keeping with the original Hebrew. So they were Jehovah's witnesses.

LOIS: I see. But these are Jews that he called Jehovah's witnesses; you claim to be Christians, don't you?

JOHN: Yes, but Jesus himself was a mem-

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ber of this ancient Jewish nation and he was one of Jehovah's witnesses.

LOIS: Does the Bible say that?

JOHN: Jesus says it himself. Would you read John 18:37.

LOIS [reading]: "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." Jesus did say he bore witness, didn't he?

JOHN: No greater Witness than Jesus has ever lived on earth, and one of his apostles specifically called Jesus a Witness.

LOIS: Now that I would like to see!

JOHN: very well. Read Revelation 1:5, please.

LOIS [reading]: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, . . ." Well, I never! Do you mean to say, then, that Jesus' disciples were all Jehovah's witnesses too?

JOHN: Certainly. Christians are urged to emulate all those ancient Witnesses that preceded them back to Abel. Paul is writing about the whole line of Witnesses in his letter to the Hebrews that you read from a moment ago. Besides Abel, Noah and Moses, throughout the entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews, Paul mentions many others. Then in Hebrews 12:1-3 he urges Christians to observe their faith and follow their example, particularly that of the greatest Witness of all, the Lord Jesus Christ.

LOIS: I have Hebrews 12:1-3. [Reading] "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."

JOHN: That means that all Christians in the first-century congregation were witnesses of Jehovah, including the natural Jew, the apostle John, at the time of writing the Apocalypse about A.D. 96. He makes that fact clear himself in the opening verses of the book of Revelation, where, you recall, he also identified Jesus as Jehovah's faithful witness. Read Revelation 1:1, 2, please.

LOIS [reading]: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw."

JOHN: So you see the apostle John was merely repeating the testimony of Jesus, which Jesus himself had received from Jehovah God. Both, therefore, were Jehovah's witnesses as colaborers.

THE FALLING AWAY COMES FIRST

LOIS: Even so, there is a long gap between those early Christians and our own day.

JOHN: That's true, and as early as the next or second century the professed Christians fell away from serving as Jehovah's witnesses, till finally the Roman Catholic Church with its hierarchy of religious clergymen came to the fore and kept Jehovah and his written Word away from the blinded people. Why, even when the Protestants broke away they didn't become Jehovah's witnesses and bear witness to the truth of God's Word as Jesus Christ and those before him had done. Consequently

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it became necessary for Jehovah, in fulfillment of his own prophecy, to raise up his witnesses in these modern times, not as a new religion, but as a climax to the long succession of Witnesses that he has had down through the past millenniums all the way back to Abel. The fact is, that is part of the purpose of Jesus Christ when he returns, to lead his fellow witnesses of Jehovah in the final testimony before the end of Christendom and all the rest of this wicked old world.

LOIS: How can that be? Didn't Jesus say when he went away that he would be with his disciples until the end of the world?

JOHN: Yes, he did. That's found at Matthew 28:20.

LOIS [interrupting]: Then why do you say that he is going to come again and raise up modern witnesses?

JOHN: Suppose we read the scripture first. Maria, do you have it?

MARIA: Yes; this is the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. [Reading] "Look! I am with you all the days until the consummation of the system of things."

JOHN: Thank you. Your question, Lois, as to when and why Jesus would return, is one that has troubled some Bible students even from the days of the apostles. Some of the early Christians at Thessalonica were teaching that Christ had already returned in Paul's day, but he wrote them: "Let no one seduce you in any manner, because it will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction."b

TOM: Who is the "man of lawlessness"?

JOHN: Paul was applying the expression to the great apostasy I mentioned that would develop and prosper before Christ would be present again. That's translated "man of sin" in the King James Version that you are using, Lois. I would like to read you something that I have brought along that was published in the earliest days of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society.

This book, published back in 1889, explains that Paul was agreeing that the day of the Lord "could be commenced while many might be in ignorance of it, that it could come without outward demonstration to mark it."c Still, Paul was arguing further that a falling away must come before the day of the Lord; therefore, Christ's kingdom could not have been set up at the time Jesus ascended into heaven.

LOIS: You said that that apostasy began about the second century?

JOHN: Yes, although even while the apostles were alive there was a beginning of it. But the apostles, backed up by the power of the holy spirit, were able to keep it from contaminating the congregation. With the apostles dead and gone, though, many false teachings were introduced that completely changed the meaning of the Scriptures and the purpose of God. This condition of apostasy developed over a period of several centuries and came to full bloom during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. Our book comments on this:


Under Constantine's reign, the opposition of the empire to Christianity gave way to favor, and the Imperial Pontifex Maximus [Constantine's title as emperor of Rome] became the patron of the professed but really apostate Church of Christ; and, taking her by the hand, he assisted her to a place of popularity and splendor from which she was able afterward, as the imperial power grew weak, to put her own representatives upon the religious throne of the world as Chief Religious Ruler—Pontifex Maximus [the title now assumed by the popes].d


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TRUE CHRISTIANS UPHELD DURING COUNTERFEIT RULE

This was really the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church, although many of its present practices were even later additions. It is the falling away that the apostle Paul indicated must develop before the second coming of Christ. And one reason for Christ's return, he pointed out, was to expose and destroy it. Now let's all notice how the book explains what Jesus meant when he said he would be with his true followers all this time:


But let no one suppose that the real Church of Christ, even in those corrupt times, was either extinguished or lost sight of. "The Lord knoweth them that are his" in every age and under every condition. As wheat they were permitted to grow in the midst of a field overrun with tares; as though they were in the furnace, being tried and purified and "made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." True, the course of the multitude, who called themselves Christians, occupies the most prominent place on the pages of history; but undoubtedly a faithful few through all the persecutions, and in the midst of all the deceptive arts of the Mystery of Iniquity, walked worthy of their high calling, were laid to rest and recorded of God as heirs to the crown that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for them.e


So, by his illustration of the "wheat and tares," at Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, Jesus indicated that on his return he would re-gather those faithful ones who are alive at that time and make them fellow witnesses of Jehovah. This he has done by separating them from false or apostate Christians and setting them forward as the climax to the 6,000-year-long succession of Jehovah's witnesses.

Meanwhile, the false Christians have shown themselves to be false witnesses of Jehovah by setting up their own counterfeit of God's kingdom. Note what the book says:


Thus, clearly, on the pages of history, the fact is pointed out that this Man of Sin, Antichrist, was born in Rome; ... a spiritual empire: it must claim to rule the kingdoms of earth by this spiritual authority; it must thus be not only an antagonist but a counterfeit, misrepresenting and pretending to be Christ's kingdom, and exercising what will in God's due time be the authority of the true Christ, the church glorified and complete under the only true Head and Lord. f


This counterfeit kingdom began about A.D. 800 and went into a decline about A.D. 1800.




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