New Site Launch!!!

It is our goal to launch our new site today!

To that end, we have disabled the commenting feature on this old site so that no comments get missed when the transfer is done.  Barring unforeseen difficulties, the new site should be online by day’s end.

You will not have to do anything to see the new site.  When it is online your existing bookmark, or the URL,, will take you there.

A Word of Caution

We are moving from a WordPress hosted site to a self-hosted one.  This gives us much greater flexibility and enhanced functionality. However, in the transfer, it is possible that those who are subscribed to be automatically notified of new posts may lose that link.  We don’t anticipate this to be an issue, but just in case, if you notice that you do not get notifications within the next 24 hours, then log into the site and reestablish your link by using the “Follow” button.  Again, this will likely not be necessary, but it is something to watch out for.

Your brother in Christ,

Meleti Vivlon


We Are All Brothers – Part 2



In the first part of the series, we saw that to protect ourselves from the folly of organized religion, we must maintain a climate of Christian freedom by guarding ourselves against the leaven of the Pharisees, which is the corrupting influence of human leadership. Our leader is one, the Christ. We, on the other hand, are all brothers and sisters.

He is also our teacher, meaning that while we can teach, we teach his words and his thoughts, never our own.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate and theorize about the meaning of verses which are difficult to understand, but let us always acknowledge it for what it is, human speculation not Biblical fact. We want to beware of teachers who treat their personal interpretations as the word of God. We have all seen the type. They will promote an idea with great vigor, using any and every logical fallacy to defend it against all attack, never willing to consider another point of view, or acknowledge that perhaps they are wrong. Such ones can be very convincing and their zeal and conviction can be persuasive. That is why we must look beyond their words and see their works. Are the qualities they manifest those that the spirit produces? (Gal. 5:22, 23) We are looking for both spirit and truth in those who would teach us.  The two go hand-in-hand.  So when we have difficulty identifying the truth of an argument, it helps greatly to look for the spirit behind it.

Admittedly, it can be difficult to distinguish truthful teachers from the false ones if we look only at their words. Thus we have to look beyond their words to their works.

“They publicly declare they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.” (Tit 1:16)

“Be on the watch for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits you will recognize them…” (Mt 7:15, 16)

Let us never become like the Corinthians to whom Paul wrote:

“In fact, you put up with whoever enslaves you, whoever devours your possessions, whoever grabs what you have, whoever exalts himself over you, and whoever strikes you in the face.” (2Co 11:20)

It is easy to blame the false prophets for all our woes, but we should also look to ourselves. We have been warned by our Lord. If one is warned of the trap and yet ignores the warning and steps right into it, who really is to blame?  False teachers only have the power that we grant them. Indeed, their power comes from our willingness to obey men rather than Christ.

There are early warning signs that we can use to protect ourselves from those who would try to again enslave us to men.

Beware of Those Who Speak of Their Own Originality

I was recently reading a book in which the author made many good Scriptural points. I learned a lot in a short time and was able to verify what he said by using the Scriptures to double-check his reasoning. However, there were things in the book I knew were wrong. He displayed a fondness for numerology and placed great significance in numerical coincidences that were not revealed in God’s word. While admitting that it was speculation in the opening paragraph, the rest of the article left little doubt that he considered his findings to be credible and in all likelihood, factual. The subject was harmless enough, but having been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and having had my life course altered based on the speculative numerology of my religion, I now have an almost instinctive aversion to any attempts at “decoding Bible prophecy” using numbers and other speculative means.

“Why did you put up with it for so long”, you might ask me?

When we find someone we trust whose reasoning seems sound and whose conclusions we are able to confirm using the Scriptures, we naturally feel at ease. We may let down our guard, get lazy, stop checking.  Then reasoning which is not so sound and conclusions which cannot be confirmed in Scripture are introduced, and we swallow them trustingly and willingly.  We have forgotten that what made the Beroeans so noble-minded wasn’t simply that they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if Paul’s teachings were true, but that they did this every day. In other words, they never stopped checking.

“Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Ac 17:11)

I came to trust those teaching me. I did question new teachings, but the basics that I’d been raised on were part of the bedrock of my faith and as such were never questioned. It was only when they radically changed one of those bedrock teachings—the generation of Matthew 24:34—that I began to question them all. Still, it took years, for such is the power of mental inertia.

I am not alone in this experience. I know that many of you are also on the same path—some behind, and some ahead—but all on the same journey. We have learned the full meaning of the words: “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, who cannot bring salvation.” (Ps 146:3) In matters of salvation, we will no longer put our trust in the son of earthling man. That is the commandment of God, and we ignore it at our eternal peril. That may sound overly dramatic to some, but we know from experience and by faith that it is not.

In John 7:17, 18 we have a valuable tool to help us to avoid being misled.

“If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality. 18 He that speaks of his own originality is seeking his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, this one is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Joh 7:17, 18)

Eisegesis is the tool used by those who speak of their own originality. C. T. Russell helped many people free themselves from false teaching. He was praised for turning the hose on Hellfire, and he helped many Christians free themselves from the dread of eternal torment which the churches were using to control and fleece their flocks. He worked hard to spread many Bible truths, but he failed to resist the temptation to speak of his own originality. He succumbed to the desire to figure out what was not his to know—the time of the end. (Acts 1:6,7)

wingbookEventually, this led him into pyramidology and Egyptology, all in support of his 1914 calculation.  The Divine plan of the Ages actually displayed the Egyptian god symbol of Winged Horus.

The fascination with the calculation of the ages and the use of pyramids—particularly the Great Pyramid of Giza—endured into the Rutherford years.  The following graphic was taken from the seven volume set named Studies in the Scriptures, showing how prominently pyramidology figured into the Scriptural interpretation which C. T. Russell espoused.

Pyramid chart

Let us not speak ill of the man, for Jesus knows the heart.  He may have been very sincere in his understanding.  The real danger for any who would obey the command to make disciples for Christ is that they could end up making disciples for themselves.  This is possible because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9 KJV)

In all likelihood, very few start out willfully determined to deceive.  What happens is that their own heart deceives them.  We must first delude ourselves before we can start to delude others. This does not excuse us of sin, but that is something God determines.

There is evidence of a change in the attitude Russell had from the beginning.  He wrote the following just six years prior to his death, four years prior to 1914 when he expected Jesus to manifest himself at the start of the Great Tribulation.

“Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the SCRIPTURE STUDIES aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years—if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the SCRIPTURE STUDIES with their references, and had not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.” (The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, 1910, page 4685 par. 4)

When Russell first published Zion’s Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence in 1879, it started with a run of only 6,000 copies.  His early writings do not indicate that he felt his words should be put on a par with the Holy Bible.  Yet, 31 years later, Russell’s attitude had changed.  Now he taught his readers that it was not possible to understand the Bible unless they relied on his published words.  In fact, by what we see above, he felt it was possible to understand the Bible using only his writings.

The Organization that grew out of his work is led by a Governing Body of men who have apparently followed in the footsteps of their founder.

“All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the ‘greatly diversified wisdom of God’ can become known only through Jehovah’s channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave.” (Watchtower; Oct. 1, 1994; p. 8)

To “think in agreement,” we cannot harbor ideas contrary to…our publications (Circuit Assembly talk outline, CA-tk13-E No. 8  1/12)

In the 31 years counting from the first issue of The Watchtower, its circulation grew from 6,000 to around 30,000 copies.  (See Annual Report, w1910, page 4727)  But technology changes everything.  In four short years, Beroean Pickets readership has grown from a handful (literally) to almost 33,000 last year.  Rather than the 6,000 issues Russell printed, our page views were approaching a quarter of a million in our fourth year.  The figures double when one factors in the readership and view rate of our sister site, Discuss the Truth.[i]

The purpose of this is not to blow our own horn.  Other sites, particularly those openly scornful of the Governing Body and/or Jehovah’s Witnesses garner more visitors and hits.  And then there are the millions of hits that JW.ORG gets every month.  So no, we are not boasting and we do recognize the danger of viewing statistical growth as evidence of God’s blessing.  The reason for mentioning these numbers is that it should give us pause for sober reflection, because we few who started this site and now propose to expand into other languages and a new non-denominational site for the preaching of the good news, do so fully mindful of the potential for it all to go wrong.  We consider that this site belongs to the community which has been built up around it.  We consider that many of you share our desire to both expand our understanding of Scripture and to make the good news known far and wide.  Therefore, we must all guard against the deceitful human heart.

How can we avoid the hubris that leads a mere human to think his words are on par with God’s?

One way is to never stop listening to others.  Years ago, a friend jokingly said that the one thing you’ll never see in a Bethel home is a suggestion box.  Not so here.  Your comments are our suggestion box and we listen.

This doesn’t mean that every idea is acceptable.  We do not want to go from an ultra-controlling environment that disallows any Scriptural understanding that disagrees with that of a Centralized leadership to one of a free-for-all of ideas and opinions. Both extremes are dangerous.  We look for the path of moderation.  The way to worship in both spirit and truth. (John 4:23, 24)

We can keep to that middle ground by applying the principle quoted above from John 7:18.

Disfellowshipping – Not for Us

Looking back over the past four years, I can see in myself a progression and, I hope, some positive growth. This is not self-praise, for this same growth is a natural consequence of the journey we are all on. Pride hinders this growth, while humility accelerates it. I confess that I was held back for a time by the prideful bias of my JW upbringing.

When we started the site, one of our concerns—again under the influence of a JW mindset—was how to protect ourselves from apostate thinking. I do not mean the distorted view that the Organization has of apostasy, but real apostasy as defined by John in 2 John 9-11. Applying the JW disfellowshipping policy to those verses caused me to wonder how I could protect the forum members from those intent on misleading others with personal ideas and agendas. I didn’t want to be arbitrary nor act as some self-appointed censor. On the other hand, a moderator must moderate, meaning his job is to keep the peace and preserve an ambiance that is conducive to mutual respect and individual freedom.

I did not always handle these duties well initially, but two things happened to help me. First was a better understanding of the Scriptural view of how to keep the congregation clean from corruption. I came to see the many unscriptural elements in the Judicial Process as practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I realized that disfellowshipping is a man-made policy controlled by an ecclesiastical leadership.  This is not what the Bible teaches.  It teaches a drawing away or disassociation from the sinner based on personal experience.  In other words, each individual must determine for himself or herself whom he chooses to associate with. It is not something that others enforce or impose.

The second, which went hand-in-hand with the first, was the experience of seeing how a real congregation—even a virtual one like ours—deals with these matters under the umbrella of God’s holy spirit. I came to see that by and large a congregation polices itself. The members act as if with one mind when an intruder comes in. (Mt 7:15) Most of us are not little sheep, but war-weary spiritual soldiers with a lot of experience dealing with wolves, thieves and plunderers.  (John 10:1)  I have seen how the spirit guiding us creates an atmosphere which repels those who would teach of their own originality.  Often these depart without any need for draconian measures.  They sense they are no longer welcome.  Therefore, when we encounter the “ministers of righteousness” Paul spoke of at 2 Corinthians 6:4, we have but to follow the advice of James:

“Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from YOU.” (Jas 4:7)

This isn’t to say that in extreme cases the moderator will not act, for there may be times when there is no other method for preserving the peace of our meeting place.  (If a man were to enter a physical meeting place and shout and scream and act abusively, no one would consider it unfair censorship that the individual be escorted out.)  But I have seen that we rarely have to make the determination.  We only have to wait to perceive the will of the congregation; for that is what we are, a congregation. The word in Greek means those who are called out from the world.  (See Strong’s: ekklésia)  Is that not what we are, most literally?  For we comprise a congregation that is truly world spanning and which, with our Father’s blessing, will soon embrace multiple language groups.

So let us, at this early stage, abandon any notion of an official disfellowshipping policy implemented by any form of leadership.  Our leader is one, the Christ, while we are all brothers.  We can act in unison as did the Corinthian congregation to rebuke any wrongdoers to avoid contamination, but we will do so in a way that is loving so that none may be lost to the sadness of the world. (2 Cor. 2:5-8)

What If We Misbehave

The leaven of the Pharisees is the contaminating influence of a corrupted leadership.  Many Christian sects began with the best of intentions, but slowly descended into rigid, rule-oriented orthodoxies. It may interest you to know that Hasidic Jews began as an all-embracing branch of Judaism given to copying the loving-kindness of Christianity.  (Hasidic means “loving-kindness”.)  It is now one of the more rigid forms of Judaism.

This seems to be the way of organized religion.  There is nothing wrong with a little order, but Organization means leadership, and it always seems to end up with human leaders supposedly acting in God’s name.  Men dominate men to their injury.  (Eccl. 8:9)  We don’t want that here.

I can give you all the promises in the world that this will not happen to us, but only God and Christ can make promises that never fail.  Therefore, it will be up to you to keep us in check. This is why the commenting feature will continue.  If the day should ever come when we stop listening and begin to seek our own glory, then you must vote with your feet as many of you have already done with the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Let Paul’s words to the Romans be our motto: “Let God be found true, though every man be a liar.” (Ro 3:4)


[i] (Visitors are counted based on distinct IP addresses, so the actual figure will be lower because people log in anonymously from different IP addresses.  People will also view a page more than once.)

WT Study: Imitate the One Who Promises Everlasting Life



[From ws15/05 p. 24 for July 20-26]

“Become imitators of God, as beloved children.” – Eph. 5:1

A Little Side Trip First

While not strictly on topic, I think it will be beneficial to take a little side trip to continue our topic of last week’s study.

Last week we examined how the eisegetical nature of the Bible study method employed by the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses can lead us to erroneous conclusions regarding the true meaning of faith.

This week’s study opens with one of the most egregious examples of eisegesis one is likely to find in the Bible writings of any major religion—and that’s saying a lot.

“Undoubtedly, we rejoice that God has promised immortality in heaven to faithful anointed ones and everlasting life on earth to Jesus’ loyal ‘other sheep.’” (John 10:16; 17:3; 1 Cor. 15:53) – par. 2

Here are the scriptures cited in the paragraph as proof for that statement:

“And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (Joh 10:16)

“This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (Joh 17:3)

“For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality.” (1Co 15:53)

Using these Scriptures, can you prove that God has promised everlasting life on earth to Jesus’ loyal “other sheep”? Can you even prove who the other sheep are?

We are taught that the other sheep are not adopted children of God, but only friends. Yet the theme text from Ephesians 5:1 says that we are to “imitate God as beloved children.” Where does it say that the other sheep are God’s friends, but not his children?

Here’s how eisegesis works. You start studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. (This really applies to any form of organized religion, but I’ll illustrate it with the one I know best.) They teach you about the resurrection, the condition of the dead, God’s name, and many other fundamental things. You may disagree depending on your background, but slowly their deft use of the Bible convinces you. You come to know and like your teachers. They are so sincere.  At some point, you begin to trust them. At that point, you stop examining skeptically. They no longer have to prove everything. Their conclusions and speculation start sounding like fact.

In my case, the trusted individuals were my parents who in turned learned from good friends who learned from others. Overriding it all was the trusted source of the publications of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.

Then one day the Governing Body told me about a new form of overlapping generation to explain their version of Mt. 24:34 and I began to doubt. Then a friend asked me to prove 1914 and I found I couldn’t. Then I had to prove that the other sheep must not partake and I found I couldn’t. Then I had to prove that our judicial system is Scriptural and I found I couldn’t. We are told to be “ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of [us] a reason for the hope in [us]”, but over and over I was unable to do so. (1 Peter 3:15)

Eisegesis failed me. But when I started looking at the Bible and letting it just say what it means—exegesis—I suddenly understood what Jesus meant when he said the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

Sorry. That has taken us way off topic, but it is such an important subject that I felt it deserved to be dealt with on the spot. Now back to the Watchtower article.

How Jesus Reflected God’s Love

Jesus did not start his ministry to find fault, but to enlighten and build up by sharing the wondrous message of the Good News. However, opposers made it necessary for him to point out wrong thinking and sources of spiritual hypocrisy and corruption. This he did to protect the sheep.

We are all sheep, but we are all shepherds too. Sometimes we are in need of help, and other times we have the opportunity to provide comfort and loving care. We wear many hats as we strive to follow in the footsteps of our Master. This week I would like to try a different tack. This week we will take the publishers of this article at their word.

“When Jesus saw people suffering, he was moved to show them love. Thus, he perfectly reflected the love of his Father. After one extensive preaching tour, Jesus and his apostles were about to go to an isolated place to get some rest. Because he felt pity for the crowd awaiting him, however, Jesus took time “to teach them many things.”– par. 4

So if you’re out in the preaching work and there’s a sister who’s living alone, perhaps feeling depressed, isolated, and ignored, you would not want to give in to the self-serving thought that you have to make your time and can’t afford to lose a half-hour or more by dropping in on the sister to encourage and perhaps see if she needs something.

Jesus was never self-serving. This paragraph quotes from Mark 6 which contains the miracle of the bread and fishes. So Jesus didn’t just see to the spiritual needs of the sheep but also their physical needs. He could have thought, “Well, if they are not wise enough to bring their own provisions, that’s on them.” We would always want to imitate his caring and giving nature. How easy is for us to see people who rarely come to the meetings and dismiss them as weak and even bad association for us. We might reason, if they want our help, then they have to come to the meetings and go out in service regularly. Otherwise, they don’t deserve our time.

This would not be imitating our Lord.

Paragraph 5 and 6 give an excellent example involving a young brother learning to see life through the eyes of an elderly one. It closes with the thought: To imitate God’s love, we must put ourselves in our brother’s shoes, so to speak.” Paragraph 7 acknowledges that it is not always easy “to understand the pain that others are experiencing.”   It closes by citing 1 Peter 3:8:

“Finally, all of you have unity of mind, fellow feeling, brotherly affection, tender compassion, and humility.”

How often have the brothers and sisters in your hall invited you over to their home? How often have you done the same? We talk about fellowshipping at the meetings, but five or ten minutes before and after a meeting is not what Peter had in mind when he spoke of tender compassion and brother affection. The fact that he added “humility” to the equation speaks volumes about the kind of relationship he was encouraging us to have with our brothers. A humble person is not prone to being judgmental. He does not probe into another’s life with intrusive questions. His speech is never intended to measure the value or worthiness of another. If our questions make someone feel like we are checking up on them, then how can we say we are showing true fellow feeling and genuine humility?

Imitate Jehovah’s Kindness

God’s Son said: “The Most High . . . is kind toward the unthankful and wicked….[Jesus] treated people in a kind manner by anticipating how his words and actions might affect another individual’s feelings.” – par. 8

We hear accounts of possibly well-meaning brothers using pat or facile solutions when trying to help someone they see as weak. They might say, “All you have to do is be more regular at meetings, and get out in the field service every week.” They are not entirely to blame for our publications and the travelling overseers promote the idea of spirituality through routine.

They do not realize that often what they see as a source of encouragement is exactly the opposite. How many Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged and depressed because they are failing to meet arbitrary standards?  These are not just any standards either. They are led to believe that their everlasting life depends on compliance with these standards. Jesus said, “My yoke is kindly, and my load is light.” (Mt. 11:30) However, what we lay on the brothers is more akin to the yoke of the Pharisees.

“They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger. 5 All the works they do they do to be viewed by men;. . .” (Mt 23:4, 5)

The emphasis the JW leadership puts on works that are visible before men is a fulfillment of what Jesus says here in verse 5. Can we find one word of our Lord where he speaks of putting in more hours in the preaching work as a means to gain favor with him? We must remember that Hebrews 10:24 does not say, “let us consider one another and incite by guilt to fine works.”

How else can we imitate the kindness of the Lord who, according to this paragraph, is kind even to the wicked?

Let us say that we know of a sister who was disfellowshipped for fornication. Then we learn that she has married the person she was living with and is returning to the meetings. However, the elders feel that she needs more time to show repentance. They feel that by coming to meetings and enduring the ongoing rebuke of the congregation through shunning, they are demonstrating repentance. (This is akin to the Catholic mentality of penance.) Three months go by. Then six. Finally after a year, she is reinstated. What should we do in the meantime? Should we obey men and do nothing to help this sister, ignoring and totally shunning her? Is that the course of love? Is it the course of obedience? Obedience to men, yes. But are we interested in obeying men, or God? In a circumstance like this, Paul counselled the Corinthian congregation on how to deal with one they had rebuked.

“This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary now, YOU should kindly forgive and comfort [him], that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad.” (2Co 2:6, 7)

This counsel likely came only months after the initial direction to shun the sinner. By withholding love when the evidence is clear that a sinner has left off his sin, we can cause him to be overly sad, and even become swallowed up and lost to us. If we did that, what would the Lord Jesus say to us?  “Well done, good and faithful slave, for you obeyed the elders. Too bad for this one that he wasn’t stronger, but that was his problem. You, however, enter into my rest.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think so!

Imitate God’s Wisdom

“Our being able to conceive of events that we have not lived through can also help us to imitate Jehovah’s wisdom and foresee the probable results of our actions.” – par. 10

“Never would we make plans or do anything that could endanger our precious relationship with Jehovah! Instead, let us act in harmony with these inspired words: ‘The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself, but the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.’ – Prov. 22:3” – par. 11

Sound counsel. So, what are the consequences for perpetrating a lie about God or about the teachings of Jesus? Consider these verses:

“But anything defiled and anyone who does what is disgusting and deceitful will in no way enter into it; only those written in the Lamb’s scroll of life will enter.” (Re 21:27)

“Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and those who are sexually immoral and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying.’” (Re 22:15)

If we know a teaching is false, then are we not being deceitful if we teach others that it is true? If we know a doctrine is false, then are we not showing that we love and practice the lie if we take our valuable time every week to go from door to door to continue to spread this falsehood?

So ask yourself, do you believe that the teachings of “the overlapping generation”, or Christ’s invisible presence in 1914, or the 1919 appointment of the Governing Body as the faithful slave, or the other sheep as friends—not sons—of God are true? If not, then how can you best imitate God’s wisdom and avoid the consequences of promoting such teachings?

Admittedly, this can be a delicate line to walk for those who continue to associate so as to have the opportunity to help others awaken to the truth. We should not judge anyone, for Jehovah sees the heart.

Avoid Harmful Contemplation

Speaking of Eve, paragraph 12 says:

“Instead of being told what was good and bad, she would decide this for herself.

Eve did reject God’s rule, wanting to determine for herself what was good or bad. This thinking was independent from God’s and therefore harmful. However, we can go in the opposite direction. We can surrender our free thought to another man or group of men. We can come to depend on men to govern us and determine what is right and wrong for us. This too is thinking which is independent from God. It is just other version of Adam and Eve’s sin. Instead of deciding for ourselves what is good and bad, we leave it to others, thinking that this way we can please God. We begin to trust men and stop examining the Scriptures for ourselves on a daily basis. (Acts 17:11)

The way to please God is to stop thinking independently of him, and start listening and obeying his Son, our Lord, our King, our redeemer. We need to stop trusting in self-proclaimed nobles and the son of earthling man in whom no salvation exists. (Ps 146:3)

WT Study: They “Saw” the Things Promised


[From ws15/05 p. 19 for July 13-19]

“They did not receive the fulfillment of the promises;
but they saw them from a distance.” – Heb. 11:13

There are two words that come up often in Bible study: Eisegesis and Exegesis. While they look very much alike, their meanings are diametrically opposed. Eisegesis is where you try to get the Bible to mean what you say, while exegesis is where you let the Bible mean what it says. To explain it another way, eisegesis is often used when the teacher has a pet idea or agenda and wants to convince you it is Biblical, so he uses selected verses that appear to support his teaching, while ignoring the surrounding context or other related texts that would paint a very different picture.

I think it is safe to say that it is the extensive use of eisegesis as a study method that has caused so many people to dismiss the Bible’s message by echoing the words of Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?”   It is a common, and admittedly convenient, excuse for ignoring the Scriptures to say that they can be twisted to mean anything one wishes. This is the legacy of false religious teachers.

As a case in point, the message in this week’s Watchtower study is: Our faith will be strong if we can envision or “see” everlasting life on earth. To make its point, this article misapplies quotes from one of the most inspiring chapters in all of Scripture: Hebrews 11.

Let us compare what the Watchtower says with what the Bible says as we go through the article.

Abel’s Faith

Paragraph 4 says:

Did Abel, the first faithful human, “see” anything that Jehovah had promised? It cannot be said that Abel had foreknowledge of the eventual outworking of the promise contained in God’s words to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike him in the heel.” (Gen. 3:14, 15) However, Abel likely gave much thought to that promise and realized that someone would be ‘struck in the heel’ so that mankind could be lifted to perfection such as that enjoyed by Adam and Eve before they sinned. Whatever Abel may have visualized regarding the future, he had faith based on God’s promise, and Jehovah therefore accepted his sacrifice.

While the paragraph freely acknowledges the speculative nature of its premises, it nevertheless uses these premises to make a categorical statement about the basis of Abel’s faith, namely, a promise that he may or may not have understood. It then cites Hebrews 11:4 as if in proof:

“By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than that of Cain, and through that faith he received the witness that he was righteous, for God approved his gifts, and although he died, he still speaks through his faith.” (Heb 11:4)

Hebrews makes no mention that Abel’s faith was based on any promises, nor on Abel’s ability to visualize his future and that of mankind. The inspired writer attributes his faith to something else entirely, but the article doesn’t mention that. We will, but for now, let’s continue to examine what the article has to say about other examples of faith that Paul gives.

Enoch’s Faith

Paragraph 5 says that Enoch was inspired to prophecy about the destruction of ungodly men. Then it says, “As a man who exercised faith, Enoch could have formed a mental picture of a world free of ungodliness.” More speculation. Who is to say what mental picture he formed? Is human speculation really something on which we want to base our understanding of this all-important Christian quality?

Here’s what is actually said about Enoch’s faith:

“By faith E′noch was transferred so as not to see death, and he was nowhere to be found because God had transferred him; for before he was transferred he received the witness that he had pleased God well.” (Heb 11:5)

Let’s do a quick review. By faith, Abel received the witness he was righteous. By faith, Enoch received the witness that he had pleased God well—essentially the same thing. No mention about seeing or visualizing the future.

Noah’s Faith

Paragraph 6 says of Noah:

Very likely, he would have been heartened to think about mankind as being set free from oppressive rule, inherited sin, and death. We too can “see” such a wonderful time—and it is near indeed!”

We can speculate about what Noah may or may not have thought would be the solution to mankind’s problems, but all we can say for sure is that he believed the warning that God gave concerning the flood and obeyed God by building the ark.

“By faith Noah, after receiving divine warning of things not yet seen, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; and through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that results from faith.” (Heb 11:7)

His faith resulted in acts of faith that God approved of, as did Enoch’s, as did Abel’s. By faith he was declared righteous. You will notice that all three of these examples were declared righteous because of their faith. This is one of the key points that God’s Word is making to Christians who are likewise declared righteous by means of faith. Let us bear that in mind as we continue our study.

Abraham’s Faith

We should pause here to expose yet another tactic of eisegetical study that the Organization makes extensive use of. The article clearly admits that we cannot know what these men envisioned. It is all speculation. However, by skillful use of the questions, the perception of the audience is being adjusted. Notice that in paragraph 7 we are told that “Abraham…could have visualized a grand future….” Then in 8, we are told that “it is likely that Abraham’s ability to form a mental picture of what God had promised….” So we’re still in the realm of speculation, until the question is asked. “What helped Abraham to demonstrate outstanding faith?” Abruptly, the speculation becomes fact which will be voiced by eager commenters at the meeting.

Eisegesis is very effective in the hands of an accepted authority figure. The listener will disregard the evidence before him and focus only on the elements that support the teaching from one who is trusted and esteemed as a leader.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that men of old cannot take part in the government of the New Jerusalem to rule and serve with Christ as kings and priests, despite the evidence from Scripture to the contrary. (Ga 4:26; He 12:22; Re 3:12; 5:10)

Thus the writer of the article has no compunction about teaching that:

Abraham “saw” himself living in a permanent place governed by Jehovah. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others like them believed in the resurrection of the dead and looked forward to life on earth under God’s Kingdom, “the city having real foundations.” Reflecting on such blessings bolstered their faith in Jehovah.—Read Hebrews 11:15, 16. – par. 9

Notice how we’ve progressed from conditional statements to factual ones? The writer has no problem telling us that Abraham saw himself living on earth under the Messianic Kingdom. He makes no attempt to explain away the inconsistencies of this statement with what it says in Hebrews 11:15, 16.

“And yet, if they had kept remembering the place from which they had departed, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven. Therefore, God is not ashamed of them, to be called on as their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:15, 16)

The city here spoken of is the New Jerusalem belonging to heaven and prepared for anointed Christians, and demonstrably, for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, among others. Nothing about living on earth under the kingdom. Some might suggest that the earth belongs to the heavens, so Hebrews isn’t necessarily referring to a heavenly abode.  However, in what appears to be the result of translator bias, the word rendered here with the phrase “belonging to heaven” is epouranios.  Strong’s gives the following definition for this word as: “heavenly, celestial”.  So Hebrews is saying that these faithful individuals were reaching out for a heavenly or celestial place.

This is consistent with other Bible texts such as Matthew 8:10-12 which speaks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob reclining “in the kingdom of the heavens” with anointed gentile Christians while the Jews who rejected Jesus are cast outside. Hebrews 12:22 shows that the city Abraham had prepared for him was the same city prepared for Christians. There is nothing in all this to indicate that the hope held out to Abraham was secondary to that held out to Christians. Abel, Enoch, Abraham and other faithful ones of old were declared righteous by faith. Christians get their reward by being declared righteous by faith. The Organization would object that the difference is that Christians know the Christ, while men of old did not. Therefore, they would argue, Christians can be called children of God through their faith in Christ, but not so pre-Christian men and women of faith.

“Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. 25 But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 YOU are all, in fact, sons of God through YOUR faith in Christ Jesus.” (Ga 3:24-26)

This understanding would mean that Christians inherit the promise made to Abraham, but Abraham himself is denied that promise.

“Moreover, if YOU belong to Christ, YOU are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” (Ga 3:29)

However, is that logical? More important, is it what the Bible actually teaches? Can the redeeming quality of Jesus as mediator permitting the adoption of humans as God’s children not be applied retroactively? Were these faithful men of old just unlucky for being born too soon?

Moses’ Faith

Part of the answer to these questions can be found in paragraph 12, which quotes from Hebrews 11:24-26.

“By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, 26 because he considered the reproach of the Christ to be riches greater than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” (Heb 11:24-26)

Moses chose the reproach or shame of the Christ. Paul says Christians must imitate Jesus who “endured a torture stake, despising shame….” (He 12:2) Jesus told listeners that if they wanted to be his disciples, they would have to accept his torture stake. At that point in time, no one knew how he was going to die, so why did he use that metaphor? Simply because it was a punishment meted out to the most despised and shameful of criminals. Only someone willing to “despise shame”, i.e., willing to accept the disdain and reproach from family and friends that comes with following the Christ, would be worthy of the Christ. This is precisely what Moses did in a very big way. How could we say that he did not put faith in the Christ—the anointed one—when the Bible specifically says that he did?

The reason the Organization misses this point is that they have evidently missed out on the fullness of the inspired explanation of what faith is.

Visualizing Kingdom Realities

If visualizing Kingdom realities is so important, why hasn’t Jehovah given us more details to go on? Paul speaks about knowing partially and viewing things hazily by means of a metal mirror. (1Co 13:12) It really isn’t clear what the kingdom of the heavens is; what form it will take; where it is; and what it will be like to live there. Furthermore, there is precious little mention in Scripture as to what life will be like on earth under the Messianic kingdom. Again, if visualizing is so crucial to faith, why has God given us so little to work with?

We walk by faith, not by sight. (2Co 5:7) If we can fully visualize the reward, then we are walking by sight. By keeping things vague, God tests our motives by testing our faith. Paul explains this best.

The Definition of Faith

Hebrews chapter 11 opens its dissertation on faith by giving us a definition of the term:

“Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen.” (He 11:1 NWT)

William Barclay’s translation gives this rendering:

“Faith is the confidence that the things which as yet we only hope for really do exist. It is the conviction of the reality of the things which as yet are out of sight.”

The word rendered “assured expectation” (NWT) and “confidence” (Barclay) comes from hupostasis.

HELPS Word-studies gives this meaning:

“(to possess) standing under a guaranteed agreement (“title-deed”); (figuratively) “title” to a promise or property, i.e. a legitimate claim (because it literally is, “under a legal-standing“) – entitling someone to what is guaranteed under the particular agreement.”

The Governing Body has taken this meaning and used it to show how Jehovah’s Witnesses hold a virtual title-deed to the paradise on earth. In the publications, artist renditions depict faithful Witness survivors of Armageddon building homes and farming fields. There is a materialistic side effect of this emphasis on things which causes Witnesses to dream of occupying the homes of those killed at Armageddon. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been out in service[i] and had someone in the car group point out a particularly beautiful home and state, “That’s where I want to live in the New World.”

We can now see why the Governing Body would have us believe that Abel, Enoch and the others all visualized the New World. Their version of faith is based on such a visualization. Is this really the message that the inspired writer was communicating to the Hebrews? Was he equating faith to a sort of tit-for-tat contract with God? A divine quid pro quo? “You devote your life to the preaching work and support the Organization, and in exchange, I’ll give you beautiful homes and youth and health and make you princes in the land over the unrighteous resurrected ones”?

No! Most definitely that is not the message of Hebrews 11. After defining faith in verse 1, the definition is refined in verse 6.

“Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb 11:6)

You will notice he doesn’t say in the latter part of the verse, ‘and that he becomes the fulfiller of promises for those earnestly seeking him.’ There is no evidence he made any promises to Abel and Enoch. The only promise made to Noah entailed how to survive the flood. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not promised a new world, and Moses exercised faith and left his privileged position long before God said a word to him.

What verse 6 is showing is that faith is about belief in the good character of God. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? Nobody is good except one, God.” (Mark 10:18) Faith will move us to seek God and to do what pleases him because we believe that he is so good and knows us so well that he doesn’t have to promise us anything. He doesn’t have to tell us all about the reward, because whatever it might turn out to be, we know that his goodness and his wisdom will make it the perfect reward for us. We could not do better if we picked it out ourselves. In fact, it’s safe to say we’d do an abysmal job if it were left up to us.

The Big Cheat

The Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has done such a fantastic job of convincing us that their vision of life on earth in the New World is what we want that we can’t envision anything else, and when God offers us something else, we reject it.

The hope that Jesus offered his followers was to become adopted children of God and serve with him in the kingdom of the heavens. In my experience, when Jehovah’s Witnesses are shown that their “other sheep” doctrine is unscriptural, a common reaction is not one of joy, but confusion and dismay. They think this means they have to live in heaven and they don’t want that. Even when one explains that the exact nature of the reward regarding the kingdom of the heavens is not clear, they are not mollified. They have their hearts set on the prize they’ve envisioned all their lives and nothing else will do.

Based on Hebrews 11, this would appear to be indicative of a lack of faith.

I am not saying that the kingdom of the heavens requires us to live in heaven. Perhaps “heaven” and “heavenly” have a different connotation in this regard. (1Co 15:48; Eph 1:20; 2:6) However, even if it does, what of it? The point of Hebrews 11:1, 6 is that faith in God means not only believing in his existence but in his character as the one who alone is good and who will never betray our trust in his good nature.

This is not good enough for some. There are those, for instance, who discount the idea expressed in 2 Corinthians chapter 15 that Christians are resurrected with a spiritual body. “What would such spirits do after the 1,000 years have ended,” they ask? “Where would they go? What purpose could they have?”

Not being able to find an adequate answer to such questions, they discount the possibility entirely. This is where humility and absolute trust in the good character of Jehovah God comes into play. This is what faith is.

Do we presume to know better than God what will make us truly happy? The Watchtower Society has for decades sold us a bill of goods that has us surviving Armageddon while everyone else dies, and then living in paradise for a thousand years.  All humanity will live in idyllic peace and harmony for a 1,000 years during which time billions of unrighteous humans will be brought back to life.  Somehow, these ones will not disturb the paradisaic nature of earth.  Then, the cake walk will continue while Satan is released for an unspecified period of time in which he tempts and misleads countless millions or billions who will eventually war against the holy ones only to be consumed by fire. (Acts 24:15; Re 20:7-10)  This is the reward to be preferred over what Jehovah has in store for faithful Christians.

Paul gives us this reassurance into which we can invest our faith:

“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Co 2:9)

We can accept this and trust that whatever Jehovah has in store for those who love him, it will be better than anything we can imagine.  Or we can put faith in the “artistic” renderings in the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses and hope they are not wrong yet again.

Me? I’ve had it with the illusions of men. I’ll go with whatever reward the Lord has in store and say, “Thank you very much. Let your will be done.”


[i] Jehovah’s Witnesses shorthand to described the door-to-door preaching ministry

We Are All Brothers – Part 1



There have been a number of encouraging comments in the wake of our announcement that we’ll soon be moving to a new self-hosted site for Beroean Pickets. Once launched, and with your support, we hope to have a Spanish version as well, followed by a Portuguese one. We also hope, again with community support, to have multilingual “Good News” sites which will focus on the message of the Good News of Salvation, the Kingdom, and the Christ, without any connection to existing religious denominations, JWs or otherwise.

Quite understandably, a change of this nature can create some genuine apprehension. Some have voiced concern that we do not become yet another religion under yet another form of human rule—another ecclesiastical hierarchy. Typical of this thought is a comment made by StoneDragon2K.

Avoiding Historical Repetition

It has been said that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We who back this forum are of a single mind. We find the idea of following in the pattern of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses—or that of any similar ecclesiastical body—thoroughly abhorrent. Having seen where this leads, we want no part of it. Disobedience to Christ results in death. The words which will continue to guide us as we progress in understanding of God’s Word are these:

“But YOU, do not YOU be called Rabbi, for one is YOUR teacher, whereas all YOU are brothers. 9 Moreover, do not call anyone YOUR father on earth, for one is YOUR Father, the heavenly One. 10 Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for YOUR Leader is one, the Christ. 11 But the greatest one among YOU must be YOUR minister. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:8-12)

Yes indeed! We are all brothers! Only one is our leader; only one, our teacher. This does not mean a Christian cannot teach, for how else can he explain the good news of the Christ? But in imitation of Jesus, he will strive to never teach of his own originality. (More on this in Part 2.)

The above reminder was just one of many our Lord imparted to his disciples, though this one in particular required a lot of repetition.  It seemed they were constantly arguing over who would be first, even at the Last Supper. (Luke 22:24)  Their concern was for their own place.

While we may promise to stay free of this attitude, these are just words. Promises can, and often are, broken. Is there any way we can guarantee this won’t happen? Is there any means by which we can all protect ourselves from “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? (Mt 7:15)

Indeed there is!

The Leaven of the Pharisees

Seeing his disciples’ desire for prominence, Jesus gave them this warning:

“Jesus said to them: “Keep your eyes open and watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”” (Mt 16:6)

Whenever the publications I’ve studied all my life touched on this Scripture, it was always to focus on the meaning of leaven. Leaven is a bacteria which is applied to many things, such as bread dough. It only takes a little bit to spread into the entire mass. The bacteria multiply and feed, and as a by-product of their activity, produce gas which causes the mass of dough to rise. Baking kills the bacteria and we’re left with the type of bread we enjoy so much.  (I love a good French Baguette.)

The ability of leaven to permeate a substance in a quiet, unseen manner serves as an apt metaphor for both positive and negative spiritual processes. It was in a negative sense that Jesus used it to refer to the quietly corrupting influence of the Sadducees and Pharisees.  Verse 12 of Matthew 16 shows that the leaven was “the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  However, there were many false teachings in the world at that time.  Teachings from Pagan sources, teachings of educated philosophers, even teachings of libertines.  (1Co 15:32)  What made the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees particularly relevant and dangerous was its source.  It came from the religious leaders of the nation, men considered holy and who were esteemed.

Once those men were removed from the scene, as happened when the Jewish nation was destroyed, do you think their leaven ceased to exist?

Leaven is self-propagating. It can lie dormant until put in contact with a food source and then it begins to grow and spread.  Jesus was about to depart and leave the welfare of the congregation in the hands of his apostles and disciples.  They would do works even greater than Jesus did, which could lead to feelings of pride and self-worth. (John 14:12)  What corrupted the religious leaders of the Jewish nation could also corrupt those taking the lead in the Christian congregation if they failed to obey Jesus and humble themselves.  (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5,6)

How could the sheep protect themselves?

John Gives Us a Way to Protect Ourselves

It is worthy of note that John’s second letter contains some of the last words ever written under divine inspiration. As the last living apostle, he knew he would soon be leaving the congregation in the hands of others. How to protect it once he’d departed?

He wrote the following:

“Everyone who pushes ahead and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God. The one who does remain in this teaching is the one who has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your homes or say a greeting to him. 11 For the one who says a greeting to him is a sharer in his wicked works.” (2Jo 9-11)

We must view this in the context of the times and culture in which it was written. John is not suggesting that a Christian is not allowed to even say a “Hello!” or “Good Morning” to someone who does not bring the teaching of the Christ with him. Jesus dialogued with Satan, certainly the foremost apostate. (Mt 4:1-10) But Jesus did not fellowship with Satan. A greeting in those days was more than a simple “Hello” in passing. By warning Christians not to receive such a man into their homes, he is speaking of befriending and socializing with someone who brings a contrary teaching.

The question then becomes, What teaching? This is critical, because John isn’t telling us to break off friendship with everyone who simply doesn’t agree with us. The teaching he refers to is “the teaching of the Christ.”

Again, the context will help us understand his meaning.  He wrote:

“The older man to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I truly love, and not only I but also all those who have come to know the truth, 2 because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. 3 There will be with us undeserved kindness, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, with truth and love.”

4 I rejoice very much because I have found some of your children walking in the truth, just as we received commandment from the Father. 5 So now I request you, lady, that we love one another. (I am writing you, not a new commandment, but one that we had from the beginning.) 6 And this is what love means, that we go on walking according to his commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should go on walking in it.” (2 John 1-6)

John speaks of love and truth. These are intertwined. He also refers to these as the things “heard from the beginning”. There is nothing new here.

Now Jesus didn’t load us down with a lot of new commandments to replace the old ones of the Mosaic Law. He taught that the law could be summed up by two pre-existing commandments: Love your neighbor as yourself, and love Jehovah with your whole being. (Mt 22:37-40) To these he added a new commandment.

“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also love one another.” (Joh 13:34)

Therefore, we can safely conclude that when John speaks in verse 9 of those who do not remain in the teaching of Christ, he speaks of the teaching of love with truth that was imparted from God through Jesus to his disciples.

It follows as night does day that the corrupting leaven of human leaders would cause a Christian to depart from the divine teaching of love and truth. Since man always dominates man to his injury, a religion in which men rule others cannot be loving. If we are not filled with God’s love, then the truth also cannot be in us, for God is love and only through love can we come to know God, the source of all truth. (1 John 4:8; Ro 3:4)

How can we love God if we misrepresent him with false teachings? Will God love us in that case? Will he give us his spirit if we teach lies? The spirit of God produces truth in us. (John 4:24) Without that spirit, a different spirit from a wicked source enters in and produces fruits of falsehood. (Mt 12:43-45)

When Christians are corrupted by the leaven of the Pharisees—the leaven of human leadership—they do not remain in the teaching of the Christ which is love and truth. Unimaginable horror can result. If you think I speak in hyperbole, just remember that the 30-years war, the 100-years war, the World Wars, the Holocaust, the near-elimination of the South, Central, and North American indigenous populations – were all horrors perpetrated by God-fearing Christians dutifully obeying their leaders.

Now a Jehovah’s Witness will surely object to being lumped in with blood-stained Christendom. It is both true and laudable that Witnesses have a solid record of remaining neutral as respects the wars and conflicts of the nations. And if that were all that was required to be free of the leaven of the Pharisees, there would be cause for boasting. However, the effects of this contamination can manifest in ways far worse than that of wholesale slaughter. As surprising as that may seem, consider that those who are cast into the deep, wide sea with a millstone around their neck are not those who kill by the sword, but those who stumble the little ones. (Mt 18:6) If we take a man’s life, Jehovah can resurrect him, but if we steal his soul, what hope is left? (Mt 23:15)

They Did Not Remain in the Teaching of the Christ

In speaking of “the teaching of the Christ”, John spoke about the commandments they had received from the beginning. He added nothing new. In fact, the new revelations from Christ transmitted through John were by then already part of the inspired record. (Scholars believe the book of Revelation preceded the writing of John’s letter by two years.)

Centuries later, men pushed ahead and did not remain in the original teaching by promoting ideas that sprang from the leaven of the Pharisees—that is, the false teachings of a religious hierarchy.  Ideas like the Trinity, Hellfire, the immortality of the human soul, predestination, Christ’s invisible presence in 1874, then 1914, and the denial of spirit adoption as sons of God are all new ideas originating from men acting as leaders in place of Christ.  None of these teachings can be found in “the teaching of the Christ” which John referred to.  They all sprang up afterwards from men speaking of their own originality for their own glory.

“If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality. 18 He that speaks of his own originality is seeking his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, this one is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” (Joh 7:17, 18)

Those who gave birth to and nurtured these false doctrines through time have a verifiable historical record of unrighteous acts. Therefore, their teachings are revealed as glory-seeking falsehoods.  (Mt 7:16) They have not remained in the teaching of the Christ, but have pushed ahead.

Protecting Ourselves from the Leaven of Human Leadership

If I may borrow from a famous recurring line in a well-known Spaghetti Western, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those that obey God and those that obey men.” From the days of Adam, human history is defined by these two choices.

As we are on the cusp of expanding our ministry with new multilingual sites, the question arises: “How do we keep from becoming just another Christian denomination run by men?” Whatever his virtues and his flaws, C.T. Russell had no intention of allowing one man to take over the Watchtower Society. He made provision in his will for an executive committee of 7 to run things, and J. F. Rutherford was not named to that committee. Yet only months after his death and despite the legal provisions of his will, Rutherford took the helm and eventually dissolved the 7-man executive committee and after that, the 5-man editorial committee, appointing himself as “generalissimo”.

So the question should not be what guarantees that we won’t, like so many others, follow the same downward spiral to human rulership.  The question should be: What are you prepared to do should we, or others that follow, take that course? Jesus’ warning of the leaven and John’s direction on how to deal with those corrupted by it were both given to individual Christians, not some church leadership committee or governing body.  The individual Christian must act for him or herself.

Maintaining a Spirit of Christian Freedom

Many of us on these sites come from a stringent background of religious dogma which did not allow us to openly question instructions and teachings from our leaders.  For us, these sites are an oasis of Christian freedom; places to come and associate with others of like mind; to learn about our Father and our Lord; to deepen our love for both God and men. We don’t want to lose what we have. The question is, how to keep that from happening? The answer is not simple. There are many facets to it. Freedom is a beautiful, yet fragile, thing.  It needs to be handled delicately and handled with wisdom. A heavy handed approach, even one intended to protect the freedom we cherish, could end up destroying it.

We will discuss ways in which we can guard and grow what we have planted here in our next post. I look forward, as always, to your comments and reflections.

A Brief Word on the Progress of the New Site

I had hoped to have the site ready by now, but as the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men…” (Or just mice, if you’re a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) The learning curve for the WordPress theme I’ve chosen to enhance the site’s capabilities is a little bigger than I thought.  But the key problem is simply a lack of time. Nevertheless, it is still my top priority, so I’ll continue to keep you informed.

Again, thanks for your support and encouragement.

WT Study: You Can Fight Satan and Win!



[From ws15/05 p. 14 for July 6-12]

“Take your stand against [Satan], firm in the faith.”— 1 Peter 5:9

In this continuation of last week’s theme, we learn how to fight Satan and win.

We start off in paragraph 1 by emphasizing the unique JW doctrine that there are two groups of Christians that Satan fights against, anointed Christians and Other Sheep Christians. We quote John 10:16 which doesn’t prove the doctrine. If anything, it can be used to illustrate that there were two types of anointed Christians in the first century: Jewish and Gentile Christians. (See Other Sheep)

Paragraph 3 states: And after the birth of God’s Kingdom in 1914, it was Satan who began “to wage war” with the remnant of anointed ones.”

One can’t help but wonder what Satan was doing prior to 1914. Sitting on his hands, perhaps. Giving the anointed Christians a free pass for 1,881 years seems uncharacteristically sporting of him.  Apparently he was in a pretty good mood until October of 1914 when the 2,520 years ended and he was cast out of heaven.   Then he got really angry.  In fact, that was why he started World War One.   At least, that’s how we understand the fulfillment of Revelation 12:12.

But Christians do know why. Through their Bible-based insight, they know that World War I was timed with the birth of God’s kingdom in the heavens, which was to result in “woe for the earth.” Why? “Because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Rev. 12:9-12; compare Matthew 24:3, 7, 8.” (w79 2/15 p. 13 Insight on the News)

They understood this period to be 2,520 years—starting with the overthrow of the ancient Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem and ending in October 1914. (w92 5/1 p. 6 The 1914 Generation—Why Significant?)

So there you have it. The evidence is as plain as the nose on your face. The kingdom was established in October of 1914, and shortly thereafter, Satan was cast down and in great anger caused WWI as part of his war on the anointed. Brother Lett of the Governing Body even said that the evidence for the establishment of the kingdom in 1914 is greater than that for gravity, electricity, or wind.

One point though—very minor, hardly worth mentioning—but you see, the war didn’t start in October when the Devil was supposedly cast down. It started in August. Now it could be that the Devil, in a fit of defeatism because he knew he was going to lose, decided to get the whole war thing out of the way.  (Never one to procrastinate is the Devil.)  So he came down and got things going early…a sort of “running start” to his rage, as it were.

Now some dissenters would suggest that we’re all wrong with this 1914 thing. They would suggest that the Devil was actually cast down in the first century; that when Jesus was granted the kingship to sit at God’s right hand waiting for him to make his enemies a stool for his feet, there was no longer any reason to let Satan wander about in the heavens, foot loose and fancy free, what with Jesus having given the final answer to Satan’s challenge and all. These ones would actually have us believe that Satan’s war on the anointed began back then in fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “Satan has demanded to have you men to sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31) They would reason that Satan didn’t have to wait 1900 years before he was allowed to wage his war on “you men”. They would even go so far as to suggest that the centuries-long period known as the Dark Ages is evidence of Satan’s anger at being cast down. Of course, they’re wrong.  We know that.  We have the math on our side.

Shun Pride

Paragaph 4 states: “Satan is anything but humble. In fact, for a spirit creature to have the audacity to challenge Jehovah’s sovereignty and set himself up as a rival god is the epitome of pride and presumptuousness.”

So true. So very true. Now, what about the audacity of setting oneself up as God’s exclusive channel of communication?  Of course, that would be fine if one had the credentials to back up such a statement; something like, oh, I don’t know, turning the East river to blood, or maybe splitting the Hudson and walking across. At the very least, it would be nice to be able to point to 100 years of unfailingly true and accurate prophetic predictions.

The irony in this next statement from paragraph 6 needs no further commentary: This type of pride is defined as “inordinate self-esteem” or “a haughty attitude shown by people who believe, often unjustifiably, that they are better than others.” Jehovah hates arrogant pride.

Avoid Materialism and Love for the World

Paragraph 12 states that Jehovah wants us to live comfortably”. However, it warns that “Satan can exploit our desires with ‘the deceptive power of riches.’”

Which of us would not want to live comfortably in luxurious accommodations built in resortlike surroundings?  It wouldn’t hurt either if we could do so on someone else’s dime.  But alas, we cannot slave for God and for Riches, as the paragraph points out by quoting Matthew 6:24.  So we do well to avoid the accumulation of riches and putting our trust in them.

On a completely unrelated subject, click here to see pictures of the Rivercrest housing complex at Fishkill which the Organization recently purchased for a reported $57 million, so as to house volunteer workers for Warwick. And below are some architectural concepts of what the World Headquarters at Warwick will look like when completed.

Warwick Front LobbyWarwick Concept

It’s a lovely area, very resortlike.

Warwick LakeWarwick Aerial

Reminds one of the facility at Patterson. Idyllic, really.

Patterson Aerial View

Anyway, back on topic.  There is one thing that one can’t help question. After 140 years of eschewing the acquisition of material things like extensive real estate holdings, why has the Governing Body suddenly seized ownership of all Kingdom Hall properties worldwide?  Why not leave these properties under the ownership of the individual congregations that built them with their own labor and financial resources?  There is no evidence of the first century Christians pursuing the acquisition of material possessions such as buildings and real estate.  That is something the Catholic Church and virtually every other church organization in Christendom is known for.  And now Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to have joined that club.  To what end?  The Governing Body would have us conclude that this is what Jehovah God wants us to do.

The article then goes on to warn against the danger of sexual immorality, which is a valid concern in this world.  They refer to sexting in paragraph 14 calling it “a practice that in some places is viewed as being tantamount to distributing child pornography.” 

Yet again, they make a statement attributed to outside sources, while failing to provide the corroborative reference to validate it.  While we in no way condone the practice, calling it child pornography seems to be going over the top and is likely to harm their argument more than help it by making them seem out of touch with reality.

In Summary

Overall, what can be said about this study?  Jesus put it best.

“Therefore all the things they tell YOU, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform.” (Mt 23:3)

A Free Association

[Author: Alex Rover, Editor: Andere Stimme]

On February 9, 2014, just over a year ago, I wrote to Meleti:

I’d enjoy a forum like the well moderated but with the liberty to put scripture before organization as the main difference. But it’s a lot of work to maintain, and you will need a group of people that are lovers of truth and hate true apostasy (falling away from Christ) to keep a forum within its purposed boundaries.

Just days earlier, I had discovered this blog. Perhaps like you, I immediately recognized it as something different and I wanted to help. Amazing what a difference just a year can make!

We belong to Christ. In this world, and even among our JW brothers and sisters, admitting this fact requires courage. It takes courage to say we belong to Christ in school, at work, and in the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Jehovah’s Organization

Consider the definition of organization:

an organization is an organized body of people with a particular purpose, such as an association. 

So, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses prove that God uses an organization? In the publication Reasoning from the Scriptures, under the topic “Organization” and the subheading “Does the Bible show that true Christians would be an organized people?”, you may notice the final Scripture quoted is 1 Peter 2:9, 17. As quoted in the last paragraph, it says:

“But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. . . . Have love for the whole association of brothers.”

The scripture quote is followed by a parenthetical statement:

An association of people whose efforts are directed to accomplish a particular work is an organization.

Is that true?  A quick trip to the Merriam-Webster dictionary confirms that an association is:

an organized group of people who have the same interest, job, etc.

However, the New World Translation is the only widely distributed translation using the expression “association of brothers” here.  A more common translation is “brotherhood” (ESV) or “family of believers” (NIV). Whether by design or by an inadvertent quirk of translation, the insertion of a synonym for organization into the NWT distorts the biblical description of the early Christian congregation in a way that serves the interests of the JW leadership.

Granted, the footnote in the New World Translation states: “Lit., ‘brotherhood.’ Gr., a·del·phoʹte·ti“.  But in choosing to translate and apply this passage as they do, Jehovah’s Witnesses use sacred scripture to promote a highly misleading idea of what Christian fellowship entails.

A Family of Believers

When a Jehovah’s Witness thinks of the expression “the Organization”, it is synonymous with “Jehovah’s Organization”, which should mean “Jehovah’s Family of Believers”. In a family, there is the Father, who carries all authority as head. So we are a family of brothers and sisters with our Heavenly Father in common. Christ is part of that family, since he is a son of God; he is our brother, obedient to the Father. Christ said: “not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). These were the words of a true son of God.

The Father said in Exodus 4:22: “Israel is my firstborn son”. Jesus Christ is the root of Israel:

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star!” (Revelation 22:16)

We become part of the family of believers through our union with Christ,

“and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree” (Romans 11:17 NASB)

It is a worldwide brotherhood, not because we are part of “God’s organization”, but because we are adopted as children of the one Father, becoming the Israel of God.

What God has Joined Together

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31)

We are not just children of the Father. We are the body of Christ, joined to him and placed under his headship.

“This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things. Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20-23)

Upon Christ’s glorification in 33 AD, the Father gave Christ to the family of believers, with a headship as a husbandly owner. Now that Christ is given to us by the Father as our head, we are joined together by the Father himself. Let no man tear this union apart. It is the will of the Father that we have no other head but Christ, and we are to place no other headship over us than that of him.

“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37)

Submitting to the authority of a stranger is akin to idolatry and prostitution. The whore of Babylon the Great is a prominent example. Many religions and false Christs are actively seeking to replace Jesus Christ as our head. Submitting ourselves to such men’s rule is a perversion.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” (1 Corinthians 6: 15-16)

Being organized is not bad. Associating is not bad. But if an association ever starts luring people after themselves and away from Christ, then they have become part of the great prostitute that is Babylon the Great. What our Father joined together—ourselves and Christ—let NO man tear apart!

Association, a Human Need

Jehovah has a group of people—a family, and he is the head. Jesus has a group of people—his body, and he is the head.

These groups of people are the same; the Father gave this group to the Son as his bride class. We wish to associate with each other. How else can we show love for each other and encourage one other? (Compare Proverbs 18:1) We have a human need to spend time with fellow believers. Take Paul for example:

“For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:8)

Before Rutherford, congregations were made up of local members of the family of believers who voluntarily associated together in Christian freedom. Until recently, the buildings they gathered in were owned by the local brothers and sisters. Today however, there is no difference between the Catholic Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses in that regard. The buildings are owned by a central human leadership claiming to represent Christ, and association depends on obedience to the ordinances of this channel.

We need good association. But perhaps we feel, like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:3, 4, all alone. Since discovering Beroean Pickets, I no longer feel alone. There is a healthy variety of views, as demonstrated on the forum. Yes, we do not always agree about particular teachings. But we are united in Christ and in love. In many ways has proven that it is possible to show love to one another despite our differences. We have proven that it is possible to be organized without impeding freedom of conscience and expression.

When new visitors come to our forums, they often express happiness and surprise that such a tone of respect and love is possible despite the differences. It is easy to love those who agree with you on everything, but the best friendships are between people who respect each other’s sincerely held differences.

Association, a Growing Need

Just like you, I searched the web for some years before discovering this loving association. There are now atheist ex-JW’s attacking the Governing Body at every move, without offering anything upbuilding in return. There are self-proclaimed prophets, watchmen, two-witnesses, prophets and prophetesses who offer a “better interpretation”, and usually they will view others who accept their views as saved. There are even some JW scholars who might keep the structure of the organization so long as some of the teachings are tweaked.

In 2013, Beroean Pickets had 12,000 unique visitors with 85,000 views. By 2014, that number had climbed to nearly 33,000 with 225,000 views.  Despite publishing 136 articles in 2014 (about one article every 3 days), I don’t think the articles are the main reason why so many of our visitors keep returning. I believe you are the reason.

These numbers reveal a growing need of many who believe in Jehovah to associate in Christian love and freedom with others who value truth. We have no interest in forming a new religion, yet we firmly believe in the human need for good association.

Since we now regularly exceed 1,000 views on a single day, we start showing an impact in the search engines. As more and more new visitors find our uplifting association of free brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a shared responsibility toward these, to share the Good News with them in the freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)

With warm love and respect,
Alex Rover

Pending Launch of Our New Site


A Look Back Before We Look Forward

When I first started Beroean Pickets, it was intended as a means to contact other Jehovah’s Witnesses who wanted to engage in deeper Bible research. I had no other goal than that.

The congregation meetings do no provide a forum for real Bible discussion. The now-defunct Book Study arrangement came close on rare occasions when a group consisted of a number of intelligent, open-minded brothers and sisters with a true thirst for knowledge. I had the joy of conducting such a group for one blessed span of time. I always look back on it with great fondness.

However, in the current climate, frank and open Bible discussions even among long-time friends has become a dangerous proposition. Generally speaking, brothers and sisters are strongly disinclined to discuss the Bible outside of the strict confines of JW doctrine. Even within those confines, discussion is usually of a superficial nature. Therefore, I realized that if I wanted to find genuine spiritual nourishment with other Jehovah’s Witnesses, I had to go underground.

Beroean Pickets was intended to solve that problem for me and any others who chose to join in. It was intended to provide a place in cyberspace where brothers and sisters from around the world could safely gather to deepen our appreciation for God’s word by a mutual interchange of knowledge, insights and research. It has become that, but somewhere along the way it became so much more.

Initially, I had no intention of abandoning my faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. I started the site still believing that as a people, we were the one true faith on earth. I felt that we just had a few things wrong, mainly things relating to the interpretation of prophecy. However, our core doctrines—the make-it-or-break-it doctrines—were rock solid; or so I believed at the time.

My first post was in April of 2011. Two people commented. At that time I still believed 1914 was the start of Christ’s invisible presence. Following one-on-one discussions with Apollos, I came to see that the doctrine was unscriptural. So, nine months after my initial post, I posted again, this time on the topic of 1914. That was three and a half years ago.

It would be about a year and a half later that I had my own little epiphany which allowed me to resolve a growing cognitive dissonance that was becoming increasingly intolerable. Up to that point, I’d been fighting with two mutually exclusive ideas: On the one hand, I believed Jehovah’s Witnesses were the one true religion, while on the other hand, I came to see that our core doctrines were false. (I know many of you have experienced this revelation for yourselves, many long before I did.) For me, it was no longer a matter of good men with good intentions just making interpretive mistakes due to human imperfection. The deal breaker was the core JW doctrine that relegates the other sheep of John 10:16 to a secondary class of Christian who are denied adoption by God as his sons. (True, no one can deny God anything, but we sure are trying to.) To me this still is the most reprehensible of our false teachings, surpassing in its scope the false doctrine of Hellfire. (For a full discussion see “Orphans” as well as the Category Topic “Other Sheep”.)

Why So Easily Deceived?

No one likes to be played for a fool. We all hate it when we’ve fallen for a con, or learned that someone we trusted completely has been deceiving us. We may feel foolish and stupid. We may even begin to doubt ourselves. The fact is that things were different then.   For instance, I was taught that 1914 was the start of Christ’s presence by people I trusted above all others, my parents. To learn more about it, I consulted the publications which gave a plausible line of reasoning. I had no reason to doubt that 607 B.C.E. was the start date for the calculation that led to 1914, and the fact that the World War I began in that year seemed to be the cherry on the sundae. There seemed no need to go further, especially when doing the needed research would involve days of effort in a well-stocked public library. I wouldn’t have even known where to begin. It’s not like public libraries have a section labelled, “All you ever wanted to know about 1914 but were afraid to ask.”

With the advent of the internet, all that changed. Now I can sit down in the privacy of my own home and type in a question like “Is 1914 the start of Christ’s presence?” and in 0.37 seconds get 470,000 results. I don’t have to go much beyond the first page of links to get the facts I need. While there is a good deal of dross and drivel out there, there is also sound reasoning from the Bible that anyone can use to examine God’s own word and arrive at an independent understanding.

Controlling the Medium, then the Message

Jesus came to set us free by revealing the truth and then granting us the gift of the holy spirit. (John 8:31, 32; 14:15-21; 4:23, 24) Jesus’ teachings are not human-government friendly. In fact, the Bible is the single biggest threat there is to the rule of man over man. That may seem odd to say since the Bible instructs us to obey the governments of man, but that obedience is relative not absolute. Human rulers, whether of the political or ecclesiastical variety, don’t want to hear about relative obedience. (Romans 13:1-4; Acts 5:29) The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses now requires exclusive devotion and unquestioning obedience. For years now it has condemned independent thinking.

In the beginning, when humans began to seize authority in the Christian congregation, they had to deal with the written word which challenged their actions. As their power grew, they controlled access to that Medium until eventually the common man had little to no access at all to God’s word. Thus began the centuries-long period known as the Dark Ages. Bibles were hard to get and even if they were attainable, they were in languages known only to Church authorities and the intelligentsia. However, technology changed all that. The printing press gave the Bible to the common man. The church lost control over the Medium. Courageous men of faith like Wycliffe and Tyndale saw this opportunity and risked their lives to provide Bibles in the language of the common man. Bible knowledge exploded and the power of the church was slowly undermined. Soon there were many different Christian sects, all with ready access to the Bible.

However, the drive for men to dominate others and the willingness of the many to submit to human rule soon created hundreds of new ecclesiastical authority structures—more men dominating men in the name of God. These could no longer control the Medium, so they sought to control the Message. To again steal away Christian freedom, unscrupulous individuals used artfully contrived false stories, false prophetic interpretations, and counterfeit words, and found many ready followers. (1 Peter 1:16; 2:1-3)

However, technology has again changed the playing field. Now it is incredibly easy for every Tom, Dick, Harry, or Jane, to check out and verify any statement made by men who claim to represent God. In short, Church authorities have lost control of the Message. Additionally, their misdeeds can no longer be kept hidden with ease. Church scandals are decimating organized religions. Millions have lost faith. In Europe, they consider they live in a post-Christian era.

In the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body is responding to this new assault on its power and control in the worst possible way: By doubling down on its authority. The men of the Governing Body now lay claim to the Biblical role of Christ’s appointed Faithful and Discreet Slave. The appointment of this tiny group of men took place, according to their most recent interpretation, sometime during 1919. Without any real Bible proof, they have presumptuously proclaimed themselves to be God’s appointed channel of communication for humankind. Their authority over Jehovah’s Witnesses is now, in their mind, unassailable. They teach that rejecting their authority is tantamount to rejecting Jehovah God himself.

A man can hold sand in his hand by cupping his palm, or by closing and tightly squeezing his fist. Any child who has played on a beach knows that the latter doesn’t work. Yet the Governing Body has clenched its fist in the hope of consolidating its rule. Even now the sand is slipping through its fingers as more and more are waking up to the reality of the Governing Body’s teachings and conduct.

Our humble site is one means for providing help and understanding to such ones. However, it does not fully fulfill the commission our Lord gave us.

Obeying Our Lord

Last winter the six brothers who are now involved in the Beroean Pickets and Discuss the Truth forums came to the realization that we need to do more if we are to obey Jesus in publicizing the Good News of the kingdom, of salvation, and of the Christ. However, realizing that the holy spirit does not flow through us to you, but rather is distributed directly to all Christians who put faith in Jesus and who love truth, we asked for your input and support. The January 30, 2015 post, “Help Us Spread the Good News”, explained our plan and asked for your feedback on a variety of related subjects. There was a survey at the end which a number of you completed. From that we saw that there was indeed support for the continuation of Beroean Pickets, even into other languages; but more than that, there was support for a new site dedicated to spreading the message of the Good News free of any connection to any religious denomination.

Laying the Groundwork

At present, just maintaining Beroean Pickets and Discuss the Truth takes all our free time and cuts into the time we need to earn a living. My first personal goal is to launch a parallel BP site in Spanish (and possibly Portuguese), but I lack the time and resources. Collectively, our group want to launch the Good News site in English, and then in other languages, but again, time and resources are currently limited. If this is to grow and truly become a means of publishing the Good News unadulterated by the ideas and rule of men, it will need the support of the whole community. Many have expressed a desire to help out, both with their skills as well as their financial resources. However, before that could happen, we had to set up the right infrastructure, which is what we’ve been doing the past five months as time and finances have allowed.

We have set up a non-profit corporation called “Good News Association”. Its purpose is to give us legal status and protection under the law as well as a means for funding the preaching effort envisioned. With that finally in place, we have secured a reliable dedicated server for all our self-hosted WordPress blog sites. Currently, Beroean Pickets is hosted by WordPress, but there are many limitations as to what we can do under that arrangement. A self-hosted site gives us the freedom we need.

Of course, all of this time and investment may be for naught. If this is not the will of the Lord, then it will come to nothing and we are okay with that. Whatever he wills. However, the only way to know which way to go is to follow the principle found at Malachi.

“Bring all the tenth parts into the storehouse, that there may come to be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this respect,” Jehovah of armies has said, “whether I shall not open to YOU people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon YOU a blessing until there is no more want.”” (Mal 3:10)

Where Do We Go From Here?

Where indeed? This is a question often asked of us. To this point, we have given no firm answer because frankly we didn’t have one. However, I think we are ready to address that issue. There is much to speak of, but I will hold off until our new Beroean Pickets site is launched. I am working on that over the next few days. I do not know how long it will take to transfer the domain name over, and accomplish the data transfer, but at some point soon—not yet—I will be closing down the commenting feature of the site so as not to lose any data during the actual transfer. Once the new site is up, you can reach it using the same URL you currently use:

I would like to thank everyone for their patience during this transition, which I’m sure will be beneficial to all.

TV.JW.ORG, A Missed Opportunity


“Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded YOU.. . .” (Mt 28:19, 20)

Short of the command to love one another as he loved us, is there a more important commandment from Jesus for Christians today than that found at Matthew 28:19, 20? Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer baptize their disciples in the name of the Father, Son and holy spirit, if the two baptismal questions asked of all candidates are anything to go by.  But what about the commission to make disciples?  They would answer that more than any other religion, they are doing this work in what they claim—without evincing even a shred of irony—is the greatest preaching campaign in history.  (w15/03 p.26 par. 16)

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses making disciples of Jesus or proselytes of JW.ORG?  Are they like the scribes and Pharisees?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you travel over sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him a subject for Ge·henʹna twice as much so as yourselves.” (Mt 23:15 NWT)

Or are they truly making disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ?  If JW.ORG is anything to go by, it would seem the former is the case.

After decades of resisting the use of modern technology, the Governing Body did an about face recently and embraced the internet as a tool for proselytizing. To what use have they put it?  Are they imitating the first century Christians and making the declaration of the Good News about Jesus their foremost mission?  What is the core message of JW.ORG?

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt 12:34)  JW.ORG speaks with a very loud and far-reaching voice.  But it is the abundance of the heart of its producers that it speaks.  What is its message?

A quick scan of the video portion of the site would indicate that the Governing Body have seriously dropped the ball when it comes to proclaiming the Good News. If you go to the Video on Demand section, you’ll see 12 categories. As you drill down into each, you will find that even those which promise to teach you Bible truths turn out to be more about Organizational activities or counsel on how to behave. Children, teenagers, and family members are taught what to do and what not to do. Now there is nothing wrong with helping people to learn good manners, respect for others and good, neighborly conduct.  Learning what God wants of us from a moral perspective is also beneficial. But all that is a by-product of the good news of the Christ. It shouldn’t be the main subject of our teachings. What is increasingly evident is that the target audience for the video portion of JW.ORG are the rank-and-file members. The Governing Body is preaching to the converted.  Its main message is one of obedience, but not obedience to Jesus Christ who is rarely mentioned except as an exemplar; someone to imitate.  No, it is obedience to the Governing Body which is core to the message.

So meagre is the offering relating to actual Bible instruction that it is reduced down to two videos. Click on The Bible under the Videos on Demand Section to see for yourself. The first section is “Apply Bible Principles”—more self-help and “dos and don’ts” videos. The section labelled “Bible Teachings”, which one would expect from an evangelical organization to be the largest of all, consists of only four—that’s right, 4!—videos. Even then, two of them relate to why we should study the Bible, not actual Bible teachings. In fact the only valid teaching in the entire section is the video, “Does God Have a Name?” The other offering is not really a Bible teaching at all: “A Tool to Help Us Explain Our Beliefs About 1914”.

What about the quality of the Bible instruction?  The aforementioned video is an excellent case in point.

A Tellingly Weak Effort

An interesting choice of title, don’t you think? Not, “A Tool to Help Us Explain the Bible Teaching About 1914”. The producers give tacit acknowledgement that these are only “our beliefs” about 1914.

It is a short video; only 7:01 minutes. Not enough to adequately explain the 1914 teaching you might say, and you’d be right. The first half gives an abbreviated rundown of the application of the dream as it played out in Daniel’s day. The brother teaches that the seven times were seven years. This may be true, although there’s an argument that the seven times refer to seasons rather than years. What a “time” meant to a Babylonian or Jew in those days is not entirely clear. However, that is a small point.

It is at the 3:45 minute mark that the brother, in an attempt to prove that the prophecy has a secondary fulfillment, states something that is so totally untrue that it is hard not to come out and call it a blatant lie. I’m not imputing a bad motive to the actor, but that doesn’t mean what he says isn’t any less damaging to his credibility and that of the Organization producing the video.

What he states is “We know there was a larger fulfillment because Jesus himself spoke about it.” He then goes on to point to Luke 21:24 as proof.  It reads:

“And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Lu 21:24)

Do you see anything in those words to indicate Jesus is referring to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar some six centuries earlier?  Read the context of Luke 21. What destruction is he referring to?  One far in his past, or one yet to come?  Even his choice of verb tense is future.  He does not say that Jerusalem will “continue to be trampled”, only that it “will be”.  Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say Jerusalem was trampled on before his arrival, nor does he ever again speak of the “appointed times of the nations”.  So there is no indication as to when these appointed times began nor when they will end.  There is no link whatsoever in Jesus’ words to the Jerusalem that Nebuchadnezzar conquered.

Using Luke 21:24 to support the gross falsehood that Jesus spoke of a secondary fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is pure fabrication. Additionally, this is the only scripture used in an attempt to support “our beliefs about 1914”. The video ends there with a promise by the brother to return. So like the household in the video, we are all left holding our breath and waiting for a real explanation of this strange doctrine.

There is still one more very odd thing about this video.  Its title contains the promise that we are going to learn of ‘a tool to help us to explain 1914’.  Viewing the video, it is obvious that the brother is using a publication, but he never shows the cover nor reveals the title of the publication. I did a search on JW.ORG using 1914 as the search parameter but couldn’t find the publication he was using. So we have an instructional video to teach Jehovah’s witnesses how to use “a tool” to help them explain 1914, but we never reveal the name of the tool, nor where to find it.

This video is such a weak attempt to prove the JW belief surrounding 1914 that one can’t help but wonder if the publishers even believe it anymore.  It would appear that they want to stay in the game, but don’t want to show their hand so that they don’t reveal they’ve been bluffing all this time.

For an in depth review of the doctrine, check out 1914—A Litany of Assumptions and Are You Able to Separate Scripture from Doctrine?

WT Study: Be Watchful – Satan Wants to Devour You



 [From ws15/05 p. 9 for June 29-July 5]

“Be watchful! Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like
a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” – 1 Peter 5:8

This week’s study is the first of a two-part series. In it, we are taught that the Devil is powerful, vicious and deceitful; someone to be wary, even fearful of. Next week we are being taught to oppose the devil by avoiding pride, sexual immorality and materialism.

Now there is nothing wrong with being watchful, as well as wary of Satan’s devices. Pride, sexual immorality and greed are, of course, things that can destroy our spirituality. However, that wasn’t Peter’s message when he introduced the metaphor of the Devil as a roaring lion seeking to devour someone.

Why did Peter use that metaphor?

The verses preceding it contain admonition to older men to shepherd the flock out of love, “not lording it over those who are God’s inheritance.” Younger men are encouraged to ‘clothe themselves with humility toward one another.’ Then all are told to humble themselves before God for he opposes the haughty ones. It is then that Peter introduces the metaphor of the Devil—the foremost “haughty one”—as a roaring lion. The following verses speak of standing firm in the faith and enduring sufferings with a view to the everlasting glory awaiting Christians in union with Christ.

So one can be “devoured” by the Devil should one—particularly a brother in position of authority—become haughty. Equally, a Christian can be devoured by the evil one if he gives in to fear and loses his faith during times of suffering and tribulation.

An Odd Little Study

There is something odd about this week’s study. It’s not easy to put one’s finger on, but there is a disconnect from reality about it. For instance, under the subtitle “Satan Is Powerful” one gets the impression that we should fear Satan because “what power and influence he has!” (par. 6) We are told that “time and again, the demons have demonstrated their superhuman strength, causing great misery to those who they have tormented”, and to “never underestimate the power of such wicked angels” or that of Satan. (par. 7)

After establishing that he is powerful, we learn that he is vicious. It is worth noting that lions are not vicious creatures. Powerful? Yes. Voracious? At times. But vicious? That is a human trait that animals only display when they have been abused by man. So the article is clearly stretching the metaphor beyond what Peter intended when it states, under the subtitle “Satan Is Vicious”, that “according to one reference work, the Greek word translated ‘roaring’ denotes ‘the howl of a beast in fierce hunger.’ How well that describes Satan’s vicious disposition!”

Under this subtitle, we are told that Satan is uncaring, pitiless, unsympathetic, and genocidal. In short, a nasty little piece of work. The subtitle concludes with the warning: “Never underestimate his vicious disposition!”

So we now have two things we should never underestimate: Satan’s power and his viciousness. One might wonder if perhaps there is an emerging trend among Jehovah’s Witnesses to underestimate Satan, though how such a trend is manifesting itself is not made clear.

Whatever the case, it appears that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not taking Satan seriously enough.

The entire argument seems odd because it apparently ignores the simple Bible truth that Satan has no power if we are with the Christ. Peter knew the extent of Satan’s power and that it was as nothing before the power of the Christ. In fact, he and the other disciples had borne witness that the demons had to obey them when they invoked the name of our Lord in faith.

“Then the seventy returned with joy, saying: “Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.18 At that he said to them: “I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven. 19 Look! I have given YOU the authority to trample underfoot serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will by any means do YOU hurt. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice over this, that the spirits are made subject to YOU, but rejoice because YOUR names have been inscribed in the heavens.”” (Lu 10:17-20)

What a powerful passage this is! Rather than attempting to motivate us out of fear for our adversary, should not the Governing Body be reminding us of the power that is ours by the spirit of the Christ?

Peter was a lowly fisherman, a “nothing man” to the powerful of his day, but oh, how he was raised up by the power that became his once he put faith in the Christ.  But even that was as nothing by comparison to the reward of having his name inscribed in the heavens.

Yet this power, confidence and reward was not his alone.  It was something all his readers shared:

“a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies” of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 For you were once not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not been shown mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Pe 2:9, 10)

Peter is not talking to a group of second class citizens, some subgroup called “other sheep”. The other sheep of John 10:16 were, as Peter knew from personal experience with Cornelius, the gentile Christians. They were all part of the one flock under the one shepherd, Christ. (Acts 10:1-48) The other sheep are therefore part of the “chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, a people for special possession.”  Satan has been made subject to them as well, and they too have their names inscribed in the heavens.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Of course, according to Watchtower doctrine, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have the power ascribed to this holy nation, this royal priesthood. Save for an “anointed remnant”—another JW term not found in Scripture—Peter’s words do not directly apply to its rank-and-file membership. So they have reason to be afraid, for they are only safe from Satan by clinging to the coattails of the remnant of chosen ones.[i] They have virtually no chance of ever becoming part of it.

Odd that Peter failed to mention that, isn’t it? Even stranger that he’d be inspired to write a letter intended for only 144,000 individuals while ignoring millions of faithful Christians yet to come.

Of course, the Governing Body gets around this by claiming that the salvation of these millions is tagged to the “anointed remnant”, but only if the other sheep stay inside the protective walls of the Organization. Doubtless, the majority of those studying this article will see it this way. They will see that we cannot underestimate the power and viciousness of Satan. We need to be afraid of being outside. We have to stay safe inside. Outside is darkness, but inside the Organization there is light.

“Indeed, there is a fitting darkness outside the visible part of Jehovah’s organization” (ws chap. 7 p. 60 par. 8)

The other Christian churches exist in this darkness as well, under the power of Satan.

Hence, they were thrown “into the darkness outside,” where the churches of Christendom still are. (w90 3/15 p. 13 par. 17 ‘The Faithful Slave’ and Its Governing Body)

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the churches of Christendom are in darkness? Because Satan is deceptive and he has misled them with false teachings.

Satan Is Deceptive

Under this final subtitle, we learn that “one of Satan’s greatest means of deception is false religion.” It warns us that “even many who think that they are worshipping God properly are shackled to false beliefs and useless rituals.” (par. 15) “Satan can fool even zealous servants of Jehovah.” (par. 16)

The irony of these words does not escape us who have been awakened. We are well aware that millions of “zealous servants of Jehovah” engage in the yearly ‘useless ritual’ of quietly observing the passing of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal while refraining from partaking as commanded by Jesus. (1Co 11:23-26)

We are likewise aware that the false belief that Christ began reigning invisibly in 1914 and its consequent falsehood that he chose the predecessor of the Governing Body as his appointed channel of communication in 1919 has been a deception originating with Satan. Perhaps these teachings started out of a misguided exuberance to “decode” the word of God.  Or perhaps they are the result of human pride, that haughty self-assuming attitude which Peter warned the older men to avoid; and which, if unchecked, would allow the “roaring lion” to devour them.  Whatever the motivation was behind the promotion of these false teachings, God knows; we do not. However, the result was a seemingly unending parade of typical/antitypical prophetic parallels that have caused millions to stumble.

The foremost and most damaging of these was the one involving Jehu and Jonadab and the Israelite cities of refuge. In the mid-1930s, this resulted in the creation of a clergy/laity division by forming a secondary and subservient class of Jehovah’s Witnesses called the Other Sheep that has existed to this day.  At what point do the men who continue to perpetrate this deception become those “liking and carrying on a lie”?  (Re 22:15b NWT)  God knows; we do not.  However, it is a deception that Satan surely likes.  And a powerful deception, it is.  So much so that recently the Governing Body was able to revoke its whole premise by disavowing the use of fabricated prophetic antitypes without anyone noticing that this undermined the entire belief structure unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses.  (See “Going Beyond What Is Written“)

The irony continues with these closing words from the study article:

“When we understand Satan’s tactics, we are better able to keep our senses and remain watchful. But just knowing Satan’s designs is not enough. The Bible says; “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (par. 19)

By applying the criteria found repeatedly in the publications of the Watchtower, Bible & Tract Society, we have to acknowledge that if the churches of Christendom are outside in the darkness due to their false religious teachings and practices, then Jehovah’s Witnesses must be there alongside them.

How then are we to oppose the Devil and flee from him as the article admonishes? One way we can do this is by unmasking him and exposing his deceptions. This was Christ’s work, and it is ours now. Carefully, judiciously, (Mt 10:16) we can help family and friends to see that like the churches of Christendom which witnesses look down on, they too are steeped in false religious doctrines which alienate them from God and delight Satan. Let this be our mission.


[i] The Governing Body misapplies Zechariah 8:23 which was intended to prophesy the entry of gentiles into spiritual Israel. They attribute its fulfillment to the revelation by Judge Rutherford of a secondary class of Christian with an earthly hope, a class that attaches itself to the anointed remnant so as to be saved, not as sons of God, but as friends.