It’s Official. I’m an Opposer.

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It’s official. I have been labeled, categorized, and marked as an “opposer.” I might as well have it printed on a t-shirt.

My first clue was when the elders at the local congregation in my town confronted me as I was about to enter the kingdom hall last time I visited. (See my account of that experience here.) But it was all confirmed as I prepared to attend the most recent convention with my friend Mark. I called and asked Mark whether we should go together. He was enthusiastic about the idea, but hesitant to have me join him in the carpool in which he would be riding. When I pressed him about it, he admitted that he was afraid that I would “say things that would weaken the faith of some of the weaker brothers and sisters.” This statement was out of character for Mark, and I could tell he was not comfortable saying those words to me. It was as if he were saying to me words that were not his own. I asked Mark where this was coming from. He admitted that the warning had come from his elders.

Naturally, we talked about how I’m not about weakening anybody’s faith, and quite the contrary, I’m about strengthening their faith in Jehovah, Jesus, and the Bible. He understood and admitted that he knew I wasn’t in the business of weakening others’ faith. Then, as we talked some more, things that he shared with me got really interesting.

Mark said that things that I had discussed with JW’s at their carts got back to the elders in Mark’s congregation.

What? Come again? Conversations I had with JW’s at the carts in the city (San Francisco), got back to the elders of the congregation in a small town in the Napa Valley, about 70 miles away? Can someone please say “Big Brother is watching you”? Oh, and there’s more. Word is, I was attempting to give the cart people my own literature. Oh, horror! Apostate literature! (Their paranoia rears its mole-like head.) The truth is, what I was trying to show them was their own literature, specifically my printout of the article on the subject of “Mediator” in their Insight book, which I downloaded from their own website, jw.org. Apostate literature? Shaking my evangelical head.

Let me just pause and say that I love my JW friend Mark. He knows that their accusations are outrageous, and he wants to continue to meet with me. We talked about how I like talking with atheists and others who challenge my faith, causing me to research and become stronger in what I believe. He likewise appreciates my questions and challenges to him. He’s “old school” JW, from back when they relished discussing, debating, and dialoguing with evangelical Christians. That’s no longer the case for most almost all current JW’s. Recent rhetoric is warning them not to talk at all with apostates and opposers. No dialogue. None. At. All. We have a gag order out on us.

So where does that leave me and Mark? Is my time of opportunity over? Far from it. I drove myself to the convention, intending to find Mark there and sit with him. We did not find each other, but we were able to talk quite a lot on the phone the next day.  And we’re planning on getting together soon. Take that, Pharisees.

I plan on continuing my visits to the local kingdom halls, until they threaten to call the police on me (which is funny, since they’re so anti-military and anti-police). If and when that happens, maybe I’ll stand on the sidewalk holding signs with scripture verses on them. Maybe. I don’t know.

Additionally, I’ll always take advantage of opportunities where JW’s don’t know of my “opposer” status. Jehovah will provide opportunities for ministry, regardless of any human labeling, judgment, and other efforts. The one thing they can’t control is the sovereign work of God!

Your and my identity are wrapped up in our status as children adopted by Jehovah, not by how anyone might attempt to categorize us. Keep doing the ministry God has called you to do!

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “It’s Official. I’m an Opposer.

  1. How as an imposter and a guy not believing in the position of Jesus, him being the way to God and not to himself (like you seem to think) would you think to be able to strengthen people at that conference or anywhere else in the faith for Jehovah, Jesus, and the Bible?

    If you would not adhere the false teaching of the Trinity I could believe in your good intentions, but now I can only think of you as a ‘satan’ or ‘adversary of God’ (like Jesus called Peter a satan).

    What are really your plans and intentions to go undercover by the JW and after so many years even not having come to see the truth of the Bible – there being only One True God, the Elohim Hashem Jehovah.

    If you are spamming or harassing that Christian community I can understand why they would ask you to leave their Kingdom Hall or they prayer and meeting places. In case you keep returning to them when they asked you to leave them alone it should be considered as harassing. such soliciting can be healthy and for sure is not a Christian attitude. It looks more like importune actions our congregations have problems with also from trinitarians.
    You writing “I plan on continuing my visits to the local kingdom halls, until they threaten to call the police on me (which is funny, since they’re so anti-military and anti-police). If and when that happens, maybe I’ll stand on the sidewalk holding signs with scripture verses on them. Maybe. I don’t know.” seem to confirm that. And why would you stand outside with Scripture verses which the JW very well know, but which you perhaps understand wrongly or do not see in its context? Is it then to have them feel sorry for you? Do you so much want to be into the attention of those who are probably very much concerned for your soul salvation?

    I sincerely hope “Your and my identity are wrapped up in our status as children adopted by Jehovah” because when you do not want to believe in the One God of Israel it shall be very difficult to be a true child of Jehovah. You would love not to be categorized, but by presenting such a blog as this and by going against the Will of God you make it very difficult for lovers of God not to place you in a category who works against the Work of God and against those who try to do the Work for God. As you say people should continue to do the ministry God has called them to do! But that is not working against the Only One true God, but to show the Way to God to those who keep to human doctrines and heathen rites and religions or those who are atheists.

    That you may find the True God and come to see how Jesus is the son of God, the sent one of God who is the authorised one from God, who draught salvation for mankind.

    • The scripture verses that I would choose to place on my signs would be ones that Jehovah’s Witnesses typically ignore or have never seriously thought about. For example, First John 5:1, which says “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” Or I might use First John 5:13, which says “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Or Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” My hope would be that they would become curious about the verse, and would go home, look it up, and think about it.
      What verse of scripture would you share with someone like me?

      • first of all I am not a JW and secondly the verse ““Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” is what I believe too, namely that Jesus,is the sent one from God, hem being declared by the Only One True God that he (Jesus) is the only begotten son of God. furthermore I sincerely do believe Jesus by not doing his will but by doing the Will of God and by giving his body as a ransom price for the sins of all people, Jesus became the saviour of all and because him being anointed by God we can call him the Christ or Messiah.

        You ask me what verses i would share with you? I would say please do read the bible and take the words like they are written there black on white, and when there is written the son of God please do read the son of God and do not think god the son, and as such you may come to see the truth.
        If you want I can give you several verses which declare Jesus as the way to God, him being the mediator between God and man and him being lesser than angels (at first, later made higher) and God, plus Jesus being tempted (whilst God can not be tempted) and really killed (whilst man can not see God nor do Him anything – God not able to die, Him being an eternal Sprit Being).

      • I gave the example of First John 5:1 because being born again is one of those privileges/blessings/benefits that watchtower teaches are reserved for only the 144,000 anointed believers, and are denied to the “great crowd” believers. Others include being adopted as Jehovah’s son (or daughter), having Jesus as mediator, being part of the body of Christ, being a citizen of God’s kingdom, having the heavenly hope, being in the new covenant, being priests, being heirs with Christ, possessing immortality, having the assurance of eternal life, and perhaps others.

  2. TJ

    Hello again,

    It’s been a long time since I visited your blog, and frankly I’m disappointed to see that you’re still continuing on with your deception (although, apparently, not very convincingly). Perhaps it’s more of a self-deception at this point?

    Unfortunately I do not have the time for a long discussion such as the one we had previously, but I found your appeal to 1 John 5:1 in the comments above interesting. You said that this is an example of a verse “that Jehovah’s Witnesses typically ignore or have never seriously thought about”. In reply, I wonder how much serious thought you’ve actually given to that verse within the context and purpose of John’s letter. I say that because you’ve seemed to have put yourself into a rather precarious position in how you’ve made use of his words.

    For example, since you seem to take it as a universal truth that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”, and Mormons believe “that Jesus is the Christ”, do you consider them “born of God” like yourself? 1 John 4:2 says: “Every inspired statement that acknowledges Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh originates with God.” The Book of Mormon acknowledges a fleshly Jesus Christ, do you then accept that book as inspired by God? 1 John 2:29 states: “everyone who practices righteousness has been born from [God].” Does that mean that we are saved by our works? 1 John 4:7 says: “everyone who loves has been born from God.” Surely there has been a Hindu and/or a Buddhist somewhere throughout history that has manifested love, does this mean that they too are of the elect?

    • Hello, TJ! Good to hear from you again!
      You bring up a good and valid point. Shame on me for ignoring the context of the verse, and of the whole letter by John. I think he’s presenting various tests for determining authentic Christianity among the churches he oversees. Some of those tests are doctrinal (“whoever believes x”) and some are practical (whoever loves, obeys, etc.). Of course I wouldn’t say that a Mormon who parrots the phrase that they believe Jesus to be the messiah is automatically an authentic Christian, nor would I say that an atheist who loves others is a believer, nor would I say . . . (more examples could be cited, you get the idea). Obviously we cannot take what John says absolutely literally, but instead must take into account figures of speech used by him. John is saying something like, “This guy says he’s a believer in Christ, but does he pass the doctrinal tests (Jesus has come in the flesh, etc.) and the practical tests (hey, he abuses people, that’s not right)? So I present that question to JW’s to get them to consider whether the organization they’re committed to passes the tests presented in scripture. And I have found a good example in John 5:1. Of course they will acknowledge their doctrinal accuracy, but I challenge whether their church believes the full implications of that doctrine, that it implies that the messiah impacts the believer’s life, giving him regeneration, a new life, aka being born again. I’m implying that their church does not fully believe the doctrine or its practical outworking in their lives, unless of course you’re one of the 144,000, but that’s exactly the point that I’m trying to get them to see. I’m hoping that my unexpected question, for which they have not prepared, can help knock off their spiritual blinders. Does that make sense?

  3. TJ

    I really appreciated that you acknowledged that you had taken 1 John 5:1 out of context…..until you returned right back to using it out of context again in order to make your very same point! Your argument is simply misguided and fails to connect. I’ll explain.

    John’s letter is written primarily with a specific audience in mind, during a specific time, to combat a specific threat. That is why taking his words at 1 John 5:1 (and elsewhere, as in my examples) as some universal test of authentic Christianity is faulty. It’s really no different than if you stood outside a kingdom hall with a sign quoting Jesus’ words found at Matthew 10:5-6 with the intention of getting those Witnesses to stop preaching to gentiles: “Do not go off into the road of the nations, and do not enter any Samaritan city; but instead, go continually to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” You could lament all day long about how we are ignoring the plain words of Jesus there, but it will have very little impact because of how you’ve so completely ignored the context and intent of that statement. Now as I’m sure you already agree, Jesus’ words there were not meant to be a universal commandment that is binding on all of his disciples at all times. But you would have us misinterpret 1 John 5:1 in that very manner by separating that statement from its context and stretching John’s meaning to cover all Christians at all times. John’s multiple statements (or ‘tests’) that I quoted previously are primarily meant to address the situation found within the congregation at close of the first century, intending to distinguish between ‘antichrist’ and those ‘born from God’ during that time (the ‘other sheep’ of Jesus’ parable weren’t around at this point and obviously therefore are not being considered here).

    One of the fundamental problems in your belief system that causes you to misinterpret verses like 1 John 5:1 in this way (as I mentioned in our previous discussion) is that you apparently continue to confuse ‘election’ (i.e. those ‘born from God’) with salvation. One does not need to be of the elect in order to be saved! John the Baptist, for example, was never ‘born again’, and yet he was certainly a righteous man worthy of salvation. Likewise the criminal put to death by Jesus’ side, who was not a righteous man and was not ‘born again’ or of the elect, was promised salvation by Jesus himself. The very purpose of having an elect people is so that through them (along with Jesus), God will bring blessings (including salvation) to the nations! (cf. Genesis 26:4; Hebrews 11:40) This is why Jesus would promise salvation to specific individuals but would not promise any individual a position by his side in his kingdom. (cf. Matthew 20:23) While Jesus was given authority to judge on the matter of salvation, only God can determine the membership of the heavenly elect (i.e. the 144,000). Again, ‘election’ is not synonymous with ‘salvation’! We are promised a new heavens (the elect) and a new earth (the non-elect). (2 Peter 3:13)

    Now to ask you an “unexpected question” to ‘help knock off the spiritual blinders’. If grace is truly ‘irresistible’, then why are the Hebrew Christians exhorted to “see to it that no one falls short of the grace of God”? (Hebrews 12:15) Perhaps that grace can be resisted?

    • There are two things that you say that I want to address. First, you say “the ‘other sheep’ of Jesus’ parable weren’t around at this point and obviously therefore are not being considered here.” So you’re assuming the two-class system of believers that is taught by the Watchtower. If the other sheep were “not around” by the time that John wrote his letter, then when they begin to be around? Do you know when that teaching began? It was not until 1935, invented by Judge Rutherford of the Watchtower. Up until then nobody believed it. Everyone including the early church fathers taught that the “other sheep” of John 10:16 were the gentiles who were yet to be brought “into the fold” so the two (Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians) could become one (Ephesians 2:14).
      You also say that I “confuse ‘election’ (i.e. those ‘born from God’) with salvation.” While you’re accusing me of conflating election with salvation, I’m accusing you of artificially dividing them. So who is right? I would cite Second Timothy 2:10, where Paul says “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not separate election from salvation. Also in Romans 8:31 through the end of the chapter we see Paul asking “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?” Considering the whole context of Romans 8, whom is Paul talking about in the whole chapter? All believers, or only the 144,000? Again, I believe you (and Watchtower) are artificially ripping the two apart, which is not justified by scripture. Can you tell me which of the beatitudes (“blessed’s”) in Matthew 5 apply to the 144,000, and which apply to the great crowd?
      My problem is with your entire two-class system, which awkwardly and artificially imposes itself on scripture. It also raises the question, would Jesus in John 10 predict a second class of believers that would not show up on the scene until 1935? What would the early believers think about that cryptic statement? “Who are these other sheep Jesus spoke of? I guess we better wait until John writes Revelation to find out. Oh, wait, maybe it was those gentiles that came in, which we resisted for a while. That makes sense.”

      • TJ

        Hello again,

        Since you did not even bother attempting to further defend your (mis-)interpretation of 1 John 5:1, I take this as a tacit admission that you did in fact misuse it. After all, to anyone that has given any ‘serious thought’ to the meaning of that verse within its context, it’s evident that John was speaking to a specific time period, i.e. “the last hour” before the late first-century Christian congregation would be overrun by “antichrist”, false brothers originating from within the congregation. (1 John 2:28) So rather than giving us a list of universal tests of authentic Christianity that you can choose to take literally sometimes (except of course for those times that you choose to relegate them as some type of vague, meaningless “figures of speech”), John’s advice throughout his letter was meant to be practical for those ancient Christians to identify the many “antichrist” appearing at that critical time. Putting 1 John 5:1 on a sign with the intention to browbeat others with it today, while completely ignoring this specific context, is no different than putting Jesus’ statement at Matthew 10:5-6 on a sign and ridiculing Christians that preach to anyone besides Jewish people.

        I notice you also chose to ignore my question regarding the statement found at Hebrews 12:15. In my limited experience discussing these sorts of topics with you, I’ve noticed a distinct trend where you prefer to attack/criticize JW’s beliefs, but seemingly aren’t nearly as interested to defend your own. So why aren’t you willing to defend and exonerate your ‘authentic’ Christianity? In our previous discussion, after I exerted a whole lot of effort to get you to fully explain your Calvinistic view on 2 Peter 3:9, you finally conceded “that there are aspects of that verse that [you] cannot fully explain” with your Calvinism framework. Well here’s another verse (Hebrews 12:15) that greatly hinders me from embracing what you tout as ‘authentic’ Christianity. Above you claimed that JWs ‘ignore’ verses like 1 John 5:1. Are you now ignoring verses like Hebrews 12:15? Why would anyone have to be warned to not fall short of ‘irresistible’ grace? It doesn’t sound perfectly ‘efficacious’ in that instance, does it?

        On to your objections. “So you’re assuming the two-class system of believers that is taught by the Watchtower.” Notice something here. I mentioned Jesus’ own words, i.e. “other sheep”, and your knee-jerk reaction is to claim a “two-class system” made up by ‘the Watchtower’. Is it not Jesus who described two types of sheep that belong to him? You then go on to actually misquote Jesus, saying: “Everyone including the early church fathers taught that the ‘other sheep’ of John 10:16 were the gentiles who were yet to be brought ‘into the fold’.” Look again, because Jesus absolutely did not say that they would be brought “into the fold”! Rather, Jesus says the exact opposite, that these “other sheep” are “not of this fold”! In verses 1-5, Jesus describes sheep staying inside an urban type of sheepfold (a walled structure with an actual door and an attendant keeping watch) as an analogy for God’s chosen people (the sheep) living inside the Law covenant (the sheepfold). Jesus “leads them out” of this arrangement. In verses 7-15, Jesus continues with the same imagery, but this time describes an entirely different sheepfold, the makeshift type that would be set up in the countryside where the shepherd would then lay across the entrance, acting as the literal ‘door’ to the fold. This second sheepfold represents the new covenant and the sheep inside it are, again, God’s chosen people living within this arrangement, this time ‘spiritual Israel’ (which includes both fleshly Jews and gentiles). It is immediately after describing this new-covenant sheepfold that Jesus now says in verse 16: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold [i.e. the new covenant]; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” And so Jesus’ other sheep are not members of the new covenant, but they still benefit from it (more on this below). As to your appeal to popularity, that “Everyone including the early church fathers” taught something closer to your view, I’ll simply appeal to the situation John was describing in his epistle that we were discussing above. Do you believe that the close of the first century was, as John described it, “the last hour” before the rise of corrupting influences from within the church or not? Your specific appeal to the early church fathers as staunch authorities on the matter perhaps indicates that you do not take John’s words seriously?

        “Paul does not separate election from salvation.” Of course not! Certainly everyone that is of the elect is saved. You and I both believe this, so you harping on this point actually misses the point. Here’s the difference between us: your conclusion is mistaken because it is actually the inverse of that agreed-upon premise, you evidently take from Paul’s statements that everyone that is saved is of the elect. That’s like saying “All Christians are humans, therefore all humans are Christians.” No. That doesn’t follow. Remember what else Paul said: “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15)
        I gave you an example of each in my last response: John the Baptist and the criminal executed alongside Jesus. They were never born again. Additionally, Hebrews chapter 11 lists many faithful people that were never born-again believers and concludes with this: “And yet all of these, although they received a favorable witness because of their faith, did not obtain the fulfillment of the promise, because God had foreseen something better for us [i.e. the elect, born-again believers], so that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Hebrews 11:39-40) If the elect are all to sit on thrones and rule alongside Jesus, over whom exactly do you think they will be ruling? Or are they all kings ruling over nobody?! What is the point of that?

        Paul explains elsewhere: “For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own proper order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ during his presence [the elect]. Next, the end…the last enemy, death, is to be brought to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 15:22-26) Consider that last part carefully. If Christ and the elect are all already raised up and ruling, and they are the only ones to be saved, then why in the world does death still need to be destroyed? It’s because it’s still a threat to all of the non-elect ones that are to be saved! They are the last to be “made alive” in Christ and will “not be made perfect apart from [the elect].”

      • Okay, I will attempt to respond to each of your topics in order, so I don’t leave any out.

        Regarding First John. You’re saying that the “tests” of First John to determine who is orthodox and who are the antichrists, are relevant for only that time. But that doesn’t make sense, since those tests are just as relevant today as they were then. True believers believe that Jesus is the Messiah (1 John 1:22 and 5:1). They do not continue to live a life of sin (3:4-10). They love others (throughout the letter). They believe in the name of Jesus (3:23). They believe that Jesus came in the flesh (fully human) (4:1). They believe that Jesus is the Son of God (fully divine) (4:15 and 5:10). Are these not usable tests for orthodoxy today? You say that John was speaking to a “specific time period,” but he says that the antichrists had already come (2:18), so the “last hour” he was speaking of is what is elsewhere called “the last days” or “these last days.” Then Jesus also spoke of “the last day,” which is the literal last day of this age, when the resurrection takes place (John 6). The apostasy would not come until the antichrist (singular) comes, not when the antichrists (plural) have come, according to First Thessalonians 2:3.
        It’s interesting that you bring up as an example Jesus’ limiting of his and his disciples’ ministry at that time to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). I would apply the same principle to the “other sheep” that Jesus mentions at John 10:16, where he is talking about the current (at that time) ministry to Jews, which would later be expanded to include outreach to the gentile “other sheep.” The orthodoxy criteria of First John is not related to those two groups, nor to the two groups alleged by the Watchtower and others (144,000 and great crowd). More on that later.

        Regarding Hebrews 12:15. For me to concede that 2 Peter 3:9 is not without its challenges for a Calvinist, is not saying that it’s not also challenging for an Arminian (or non-Calvinist). The verse says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. God’s will is that all would be saved. The question for both parties then is, why aren’t all people saved in the end? For the Calvinist, God’s will is apparently thwarted by God himself. For the Arminian, God’s will is apparently thwarted by human free will. It’s a problem for both sides.
        There are a couple of verses in Hebrews that I find compelling for the Calvinist view. Both Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26 imply that if someone were to “fall away” or lose their salvation, then there’s no going back. So the Calvinist would explain that by saying that the writer is implying that losing one’s salvation is therefore impossible, and that the person in question never had it in the first place. The non-Calvinist would explain it, how? I’m not sure. And that’s my point. The Calvinist has an explanation; the non-Calvinist does not.
        When we get to Hebrews 12:15, then, to “fall short of the grace of God” does not necessarily mean losing one’s salvation. The context goes on to explain that it could happen when someone develops a root of bitterness, or is sexually immoral, or is “godless” like Esau. Once Esau sold his birthright, there was no going back, an expression similar to the one in 6:4-6 and 10:26. Esau, and people today, cannot gain salvation, then lose it, then gain it again, according to the author of Hebrews. If they exhibit the “symptoms” listed by the writer of Hebrews, then likely they didn’t have salvation in the first place.

        Regarding the two-class system. Jesus talks about the “other sheep” in John 10. You choose to focus on his statement “not of this fold” (verse 16) and “I will lead them out” (verse 3). When he says they are “not of this fold,” he’s implying “not yet,” because he then says that he will “bring them in” and the two will become “one flock.” When shepherds would put two flocks together, it wouldn’t have meant that they would keep half of the flock inside the pen, and the other half outside. He said that “they will become one flock, with one shepherd.” They would both listen to his voice, as described in verse 3, where he leads them out, and they follow him. If the “other sheep” are not members of the New Covenant, as you say, then what covenant are they in? Still in the Old Covenant? Or are they in no covenant at all? In Ephesians 2:11-13 Paul describes the gentiles who were formerly “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Then they were “brought near,” that is, into the new covenant. Otherwise they would still be “dead in their transgressions and sins,” (Ephesians 2:1). A covenant is God’s arrangement with his people. All believers are part of God’s people, and are in the New Covenant, God’s current arrangement with all of his people.

        Regarding Election and Salvation. Yes, I believe that everyone who is saved is also elect. I also believe that they are anointed, and born again, and in the New Covenant, adopted as God’s sons, Abraham’s seed, kings and priests, heirs with Christ, citizens of God’s kingdom, and having Jesus as their mediator. I believe that all those verses that you limit to only the 144,000 apply to all believers. That is why Ephesians 1:13 says “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” and in 4:30 Paul says “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” When we get to First John 5, John affirms that everyone who believes that Jesus is the messiah is born of God, or born again (the New World Translation cross-references this verse with John 3:3). Concerning your examples, the Hebrews passage says that the believers that are listed longed for a better country, a heavenly one (verse 16). And the criminal crucified next to Jesus was given the promise by Jesus that he would be “with me,” that is, with Jesus in paradise. If he woke up on earth with no chance of being with Jesus in heaven, then Jesus either did not communicate very clearly to him or was deceptive. I cannot abide either of those. Concerning whom we could rule over, Paul says that we will judge angels (First Corinthians 6:3), which I take to mean fallen angels or demons. We would be ruling over them. And, Watchtower also teaches that millions of the righteous and unrighteous will be raised again to live in the earthly kingdom. We could also rule over them.

        Regarding the Resurrection. In your last paragraph you mention the resurrection of the elect, quoting First Corinthians 15:22-26. You say that “Christ and the elect are all already raised up and ruling.” That’s an assumption on your part, based on your already accepted view. You’re reading these verses through your two-class lenses. The vast majority of biblical scholars interpret the “presence” or coming of Christ here to be yet future. In fact, the New World Translation cross-references “presence” in verse 23 with First Thessalonians 4:16, which says that “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first.” Furthermore, the Watchtower changed their view in 2012 about when the “presence” of Matthew 25 would be. In the 1984 version the word is translated “arriving,” with a footnote saying “having come.” In the 2013 and more recent version the word is translated “coming,” with a cross-reference to Revelation 16:15, a future event. The watchtower article of 2012 explains that the sealing (or anointing) of the 144,000 is now seen as a future event rather than having begun in 1914 and up to the present time.

        I do enjoy our interaction, and look forward to your comments. Thank you!

  4. TJ

    Hello,

    “You’re saying that the “tests” of First John to determine who is orthodox and who are the antichrists, are relevant for only that time. But that doesn’t make sense, since those tests are just as relevant today as they were then.”

    Interesting. So your argument here for why 1 John 5:1 is still relevant today is…..because it’s still relevant today? You are merely begging the question, arguing in circles. This is no different than if you had stated (also without evidence) that Jesus’ direction at Matthew 10:5-6 is ‘just as relevant today as it was then.’ Ok, that’s what you say. So what? And in order to believe that the tests in John’s letter are still just as relevant to the situation in which Christians find themselves today, we have to assume John’s statement that “it is the last hour” will last some 2000 years! That’s quite a stretch, IMO.

    “Are these not usable tests for orthodoxy today?”

    No. Otherwise, you have to accept that Mormons are just as much Christian as you, given that they would affirm each of those tests. But you’re not prepared to do that, are you? John was giving direction for his “young children” living in the “last hour” of apostolic leadership at the close of the first century before the foretold apostasy–which was “already at work” yet was still being restrained by the last living apostle–finally took over with full force. (cf 2 Thessalonians 2:7)

    “It’s interesting that you bring up as an example Jesus’ limiting of his and his disciples’ ministry at that time to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6)”

    ‘It’s interesting that you bring up as an example John’s limiting of Christians at that time to the elect (1 John 5:1).’ See what I did there?

    “For me to concede that 2 Peter 3:9 is not without its challenges for a Calvinist, is not saying that it’s not also challenging for an Arminian (or non-Calvinist).”

    Yes, that was your argument. Even if it was true, it merely sidesteps your troubles by attempting to distract attention elsewhere. IOW, it’s a red herring. Unfortunately, you can’t give a coherent explanation for how a ‘God of love’, of whom it is said “desires for everyone to be saved”, at the same time actually (according to you) actively forces many (most?) people (who cannot resist this fate in any manner) to sin and then be handed over to eternal damnation. I really can’t think of a more dishonoring teaching about God than that one right there. But like last time, I really don’t think you’ll stop to see the forest from the trees, to really contemplate just how awful your portrayal of God really is.

    After all, if neither of us have any real choice like you say, then this discussion is quite literally meaningless. God has already decided whom he does not love and desires to condemn to hell. You and I can do nothing about this decision. That is your concept of a ‘loving’ God in very real terms and even if you are one of the fortunate ‘elect’, it’s still horrible. What if God chose not to elect someone you love? Too bad for them, I guess. But like all those that seek to make God the Supreme Micro-Manager of the Universe (supposedly to ‘honor’ him), you’ll naturally try to sidestep this rather ugly consequence of your belief. It’s the dark secret that Calvinists don’t like talking about.

    “The question for both parties then is, why aren’t all people saved in the end? For the Calvinist, God’s will is apparently thwarted by God himself. For the Arminian, God’s will is apparently thwarted by human free will. It’s a problem for both sides.”

    Calvinism says God is the real villain because he actually destines people, irresistibly, to sin and death. Sure, you’ve made him out to be a total moral monster, but at least you upheld his ‘sovereignty’ over literally every atom in the universe! Better he be the ultimate controlling busybody than actually loving, I suppose?

    God’s Word, however, demonstrates throughout it that God invites us to choose to put away sin and to embrace life by faithful obedience. Just one example that destroys your concept of fatalism: “I [Jehovah God] take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you [Israel] today that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the curse; and you must choose life so that you may live.” (Deut. 30:19) If Israel was already fated by God to one or the other option, then that choice is nothing but an empty deception. Plain and simple.

    “When we get to Hebrews 12:15, then, to “fall short of the grace of God” does not necessarily mean losing one’s salvation….If they exhibit the “symptoms” listed by the writer of Hebrews, then likely they didn’t have salvation in the first place.”

    Ah yes, so the Hebrew Christians were being directed to “[c]arefully watch that no one fails to obtain the [grace] of God”…..except of course those that don’t already have it because they can’t obtain it anyways…..and also except of course those that already do have it because they can’t lose it anyways. You make these inspired exhortations meaningless! No one could ever “fail” because the outcome has already been determined by God. We’re just acting out the script that he wrote long ago….for some vague reason.

    “Yes, I believe that everyone who is saved is also elect.”

    Thank you for stating clearly what you mean. Though you seem to contradict this below…

    “When we get to First John 5, John affirms that everyone who believes that Jesus is the messiah is born of God”

    So, given that you believe that that statement has equal relevancy for us today, you must believe that Mormons are born of God, correct? Or do you need to further qualify what John ‘meant’ to say here in order to exclude those pesky Mormons?

    “And the criminal crucified next to Jesus was given the promise by Jesus that he would be “with me,” that is, with Jesus in paradise. If he woke up on earth with no chance of being with Jesus in heaven, then Jesus either did not communicate very clearly to him or was deceptive. I cannot abide either of those.”

    And yet you seem to have absolutely no qualms abiding by what are to you ‘unclear’ or apparently ‘deceptive’ statements found at Hebrews 12:15, 2 Peter 3:9 and (likely) Deuteronomy 30:19. Regardless, can you not walk “with” God now, even though he is in heaven and you are on earth? Isn’t Jesus ‘among’ us when two or three are gathered in his name? You arbitrarily pick and choose when to be stubbornly hyper-literal with the language, as in Jesus’ promise to the criminal (who was not ‘born again’), and when to be extremely flexible with the language, as in your initial response where you called some of John’s plain statements that I had cited mere ‘figures of speech’. There’s seemingly no grounding here for your inconsistent interpretation other than making the Bible conform to what you already believe.

    For instance, how do you incorporate into your beliefs the same early Christian hope that “there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell”? (2 Peter 3:13) If the elect are the only ones that will be saved and all of the elect are going to literally be with Jesus in heaven, as you say here, then why in the world were the first-century Christians “awaiting” a new earth that will be full of righteousness?

    “And, Watchtower also teaches that millions of the righteous and unrighteous will be raised again to live in the earthly kingdom. We could also rule over them.”

    The Bible certainly teaches that, but now that seems to completely contradict your earlier statement: “I believe that everyone who is saved is also elect.” Which is it? Are there people who are not of the elect that will be saved and live on earth, or not?!

    “Regarding the Resurrection. In your last paragraph you mention the resurrection of the elect, quoting First Corinthians 15:22-26. You say that “Christ and the elect are all already raised up and ruling.” That’s an assumption on your part, based on your already accepted view.”

    You misunderstood me and evidently missed my point. I am not arguing whether or not the anointed/elect have already been raised or not. I’m simply going through Paul’s progression of the order of the resurrection and stopping to consider his argument once that event has taken place. Jesus is raised first, “afterward” the elect are raised, then it says “next” is the end of the order, when death will be done away with completely. So what I am saying is that Paul lays out 3 ‘stages’ of the resurrection; after the first 2 stages in Paul’s order have taken place, at that point both Jesus and his elect will all be raised and alive in heaven, correct? So if we put our focus at that point in time (regardless if we’re actually there now), why is it that there would be a need for a “next” stage in the resurrection ordering? The only reason I can see is that there’s still the general resurrection of mankind yet to take place, i.e. those that are not of the elect.

    • TJ

      It seems I missed responding to your paragraph regarding John 10.

      “You choose to focus on his statement “not of this fold” (verse 16)”

      Yes, particularly since you had actually misquoted Jesus with regard to the “other sheep” in your last response. You put the words into Jesus’ mouth that the other sheep would be brought “into the fold” when actually he said the very opposite! The other sheep are explicitly described as “not of this fold”.

      Tell me this: how is it that in verses 1-3 Jesus is describing himself as entering through the door (after the doorkeeper opens to him), but in verses 7 and 9 he now emphasizes that he is the door?

      “If the “other sheep” are not members of the New Covenant, as you say, then what covenant are they in? Still in the Old Covenant? Or are they in no covenant at all?”

      God’s covenant with Israel through Moses was very limited in scope; he selected just one nation out of the earth to have as his distinct people. That covenant foreshadowed–and was eventually replaced by–a new covenant through Jesus Christ which again is limited to a select group of people; it is a special arrangement between God and those whom he chooses, i.e. the elect, the anointed, “the Israel of God”. So the covenant in which God makes a promise to everyone from all nations is the covenant God made with Abraham, that “by means of your offspring, all nations of the earth will obtain a blessing for themselves.” (Genesis 26:4) Who are Abraham’s offspring? Paul answers: “if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring.” (Galatians 3:8) The “other sheep” then make up the “new earth” part of the Christian hope: “there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise.” Jesus and the elect (“Abraham’s offspring”) make up the “new heavens” that rules over the “new earth” as kings and priests, giving them a blessing of everlasting life. Both groups form the ‘one flock’ under Jesus’ leadership.

      Why do you think Peter describes the Christian hope as a “two-class system” at 2 Peter 3:13? If this is “according to his promise”, where do you think that was promise was made exactly?

      • Because you touch on several subjects, bouncing between them, I have decided to deal with each topically, rather than going through your comments in order. The subjects I have identified are eschatology, sovereignty vs. free will, the two-class system, and biblical interpretation.

        Eschatology:
        The First John passage comes into play within the subject of eschatology. You and I disagree as to when the “last hour” of First John 2:18 takes place. To summarize your view, if I understand correctly: The “last days” began at Jesus’ resurrection; then the “last hour” took place in John’s time, culminating with the death of the last apostle; then the “day of the Lord” is yet to take place, when death is done away with. My view is that the “last days” and the “last hour” are two expressions of the same thing. The apostasy (aka “the rebellion”) is yet to come (2 Thessalonians 2:3), even though “the mystery of lawlessness” (not the apostasy) “is already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and “the one holding him back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.” And who is the “he” being held back? It’s the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8), not the apostasy. Do you have biblical support for the theory that the apostasy took place at the death of the last apostle? Do you realize that there were more apostles appointed besides the original twelve? Perhaps some of them lived on after the death of the originals. Do we know who was the last apostle to die? Possibilities include Barnabas, Paul, Apollos, Timothy, Silvanus, Epaphroditus, two unnamed apostles at Second Corinthians 8:23, Andronicus, and Junia. Of course the question back to me is, if the “one holding him back” is not the last apostle, then who is he? My view is that “he” is the Holy Spirit, but I’m not dogmatic on that; I don’t think scripture is entirely clear about it. My question to you is, who would you say is the “man of lawlessness”? I would say that he’s the coming Antichrist.

        Sovereignty Versus Free Will:
        You say that I cannot affirm a God of love without having to also affirm that the same God would “actively force” many or most people to sin. What you should actually be accusing me of is affirming that God forces ALL people to sin, not just some. All have sinned, and are condemned, according to Romans 2:12, 3:9, and 5:18. Indeed, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The good news is that “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists affirm that everyone sins intentionally, that is, by using their free will. From Adam all the way down to us, we “all have sinned.” Calvinists then affirm that human free will operates within God’s sovereignty. So does evil itself, whether it’s personified (Satan) or generalized. When you say that I must affirm that people “cannot resist this fate” you’re setting up a straw man. I never said that. The same argument is addressed by Paul in Romans 9:19 and the verses following. And Paul addresses the argument right after arguing that God chooses the elect, even saying that God “hardens whom He wants to harden,” which is pretty strong language, language that I think you would say sounds very Calvinistic. We have talked about this before, and I asked you then to comment on Paul’s argument in Romans 9, but I don’t think you addressed, but dismissed it.
        Regarding your accusation that I want to make God the supreme micromanager of the universe, I must admit that I stand guilty as charged. Yes, I uphold “his sovereignty over literally every atom in the universe.” He is God! He created it all and runs it all. He holds it all together. Jesus said “not a sparrow falls to the ground” without him knowing, and all your hairs are numbered. Your alternate to this, I’m assuming, would be a god that lacks either omniscience or omnipotence, or both. Such a view is exactly what is held by the Watchtower, where they affirm “selective foreknowledge,” trying to avoid God knowing about or being responsible for the fall and current natural disasters. Such a concept is a logical absurdity, though, because for God to selectively choose what to foreknow, he would first have to know what to select, or what to avoid. Concerning God’s omnipotence, if God does not have sovereignty over every atom, then what kind of God do we have? One that created all things, and lets it run on its own? Did God build and wind up a clock, and is now letting it run on its own? That’s the deist view, not a biblical view of God. Do you share the Watchtower view that God was surprised by the fall, and had to scramble to come up with a solution, deciding to send his son to undo the effects of sin and evil? In contrast, First Peter 1:20 says that Jesus was “chosen from before the creation of the world.” God always had a plan, because he always knew what would happen.
        Concerning all the passages that you quote that affirm human free will and choice (Hebrews 12:15, 2 Peter 3:9 and Deuteronomy 30:19), I would affirm those as being real expressions of actual choices encountered by real people, both in biblical history and now, including us. I would add verses like all the ones calling us to repentance and trust in Jesus (Acts 2:38, 3:19, 17:30, etc.). Jesus said “come to me,” (Matthew 11:28), and Paul affirms that when we do that, we show that we were “chosen from before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). It’s both! The sovereign God calls upon us to choose Him. He gives us the dignity of causality. We make real choices, and they have real consequences, with sometimes good results, and sometimes bad results. But none of it surprises God, or disrupts His plans, or frustrates him, or shocks him, or makes him change his strategy, as though he were, to use your language, “fated”. Because if God is not omniscient, omnipotent, and sovereign, then he is subject to forces greater than he. What would that force or forces be? My question to you is, how do you respond to the verses that I have mentioned that affirm God’s sovereignty, namely Romans 9:17-23, 1 Peter 1:20, and Ephesians 1:4? In all our interactions, this seems to be an issue you have consistently avoided.

        Biblical Interpretation
        The question before us is when to interpret something literally, and when to interpret it figuratively. When I mentioned John’s “figures of speech” in his letter, I used the wrong terminology. I should have said his “manner of speaking.” I didn’t mean that we should interpret what he said figuratively, as though it carried something other than the plain meaning. My view is that he meant exactly what he said, that his original readers could tell who was orthodox by using his tests, whether they believed that Jesus was the messiah, that he had come on the flesh, etc. If I were advocating for a figurative interpretation, I would have said that John meant just a great teacher when he said “messiah,” or that he meant that Jesus looked like a human but was actually a spirit-being when he said “in the flesh,” or other things that I might believe John was figuratively signifying. So I do take what John wrote literally. My point was that we still believe that Jesus is the Messiah, literally. And that’s still a test for orthodoxy. And I take John’s statement that “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” When you say that I then have to include the Mormons in that statement, I have to then ask, what did John mean by “Christ” or “Messiah,” and what do the Mormons believe when they use that term? Mormons are infamous for using Christian terminology, but meaning something completely different from what the Bible teaches about the term. So no, I do not lump Mormons in with what I claimed, because they mean something completely different from what John and the rest of scripture teach about what and who the messiah is.
        I think a good example of literal versus figurative interpretation can be seen when we interpret Revelation chapter seven. I and many (but not all) evangelicals interpret the number 144,000 and the groups of 12,000 that follow literally. (12,000 virgin male members from each of the Jewish tribes that are listed, as described at Revelation 14:1-5.) Watchtower and (I assume) you interpret the number 144,000 literally, but the subsequent groups of 12,000 figuratively. The challenge, whenever you or I say that something is figurative, is to then explain what it is figurative of, or symbolic of. So I ask you, what are the 12 groups of 12,000 figurative of? What do they symbolize?
        Regarding the location of the “great crowd,” I interpret the language there to be literal. They’re standing “before the throne and before the lamb.” Elsewhere in Revelation that language refers to a heavenly location, not an earthly one. (Revelation 1:4, 4:5-10, 8:3, 14:3-5, and 20:12.) Watchtower interprets the phrase figuratively, that the great crowd is somehow figuratively before the throne and the lamb, but on the earth.
        When Jesus then tells the criminal executed next to him, that he would be “with Jesus,” I take his words literally, just as the criminal would, unless there’s reason in the text to think otherwise. There’s nothing to indicate that Jesus or someone else explained to the thief, “He really means that he will be on heaven ruling, and you will be on earth serving him.” Jesus did not tell him, “You will be in paradise, and my presence will be with you,” or something similar. When Jesus promised that when two or more are in agreement, His presence would be “with them”, not that they would be “with him.” There’s a difference between “you will be with me,” that is, where I am, and “I will be with you,” that is, where you are. Jesus would have used different language to communicate what you proposed.

        The Two-Class System
        You have accused me more than once of “making the Bible conform to what you already believe.” The same accusation could be hurled in your direction. The two-class system was invented in 1935 (or just before, being announced at the Washington DC convention of 1935), by then Watchtower president Rutherford. Before then, for 1900 years plus, no one believed it or taught it. Biblical scholars took Jesus’ mention of “other sheep” at John 10:16 to refer to the gentiles who would be added into the body of Christ to join the Jewish believers. While there have been differences about when believers would experience the resurrection (whether immediate or after an intermediate period of “soul sleep”), it was taught that all believers would experience together the same destination, which would ultimately be enjoyment of the new heaven and new earth. It was taught that just as Jesus, in his glorified body, was able to travel between and visit both heaven and earth, believers would likewise be able to enjoy both, especially once the events of Revelation 21 took place, that is, the descent of the New Jerusalem from heaven to the new earth. You ask “Why in the world were the first-century Christians awaiting a new earth?” My answer: For the same reason they were looking forward to a new heaven; both are stated in 2 Peter 3:13! “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth.” They were looking forward to both. Even if they were first-century believers, and part of the 144,000 as Watchtower teaches, why then would they be looking forward to a new earth? Their destination would be heaven, never to set foot on the new earth.
        If one starts with the meta-view being taught by evangelicals, scripture makes more cohesive sense. If one starts with Rutherford’s view, whole passages of scripture become fragmented. The beatitudes become a mixture of promises, some to a heavenly class, some to an earthly class, and some unclear. Romans 8 becomes a patchwork, where some verses, even phrases within one sentence, are applied to one class, and some to another. Talk about making the Bible conform to one’s belief system; the Watchtower system has to contort the Bible like the proverbial square peg in a round hole.
        And what I find most concerning is that the 144,000 get ALL the benefits that come with putting one’s faith in Jesus, while the second class citizens get (as far as I can tell) only one benefit, having Jesus as their ransom sacrifice. (And that benefit is even contingent on their performance now, and their endurance until the final test.) The rest of the kingdom privileges are for the anointed class only, including being born again (aka new life, aka regeneration, aka new creation), being given and sealed with the Holy Spirit, adoption as Jehovah’s sons, being Abraham’s seed, being kings and priests, being in the New Covenant, being citizens of the kingdom, possessing immortality, and having Jesus as mediator. (Possibly more that I have missed.) Whenever I bring this up with my JW friends, they always respond with “but the great crowd benefits indirectly.” That’s a vague answer. Describe to me what that looks like, please. How have you personally experienced these nebulous indirect benefits? For example, how does one benefit from someone else being adopted as a son? What are you then, a step-child? Or worse yet, if a sibling of yours were adopted into a family, but you had to remain in the orphanage, how are you benefitting? Can you cite scripture that talks about believers indirectly benefitting from others? Watchtower has come up with the “foreign residents” of the Old Covenant as a parallel, but they don’t realize that that breaks down when you consider that the foreigners, once they became naturalized citizens of Israel, experienced the full benefits of citizens, including entrance into the temple, access to being able to present sacrifices, and full participation in all the festivals and feasts including the Passover, which is fulfilled in Jesus’ memorial meal. If the naturalized foreign residents could eat and drink at the Passover, why are the “great crowd” believers not allowed to eat and drink at the Lord’s memorial?
        I think you can see that I’m trying to get us to back up and consider the “big picture” issues, rather than continuing on with our discussions of the details. But I’m not saying that the details are off limits; they’re important too. I welcome your comments on any of these matters, large or small. Thank you, Sir!

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