Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is the Watchtower teaching universalism?

If this isn't universalism, it is certainly on the verge. Consider this quote from the upcoming August 15, 2010 Watchtower Study Edition, p. 30:

12 Under the rule of the Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ, “the righteous one will sprout,” that is, flourish or prosper. (Ps. 72:7) Christ’s love and tender care will then be abundant, just as they were when he was on the earth. In God’s promised new world, even “the unrighteous” who are resurrected will be given a loving opportunity to conform to Jehovah’s standards and live. (Acts 24:15) Of course, those who refuse to act in harmony with divine requirements will not be allowed to continue living and mar the peace and tranquillity of the new world.

Here, the Watchtower does what they do best; offer their view and throw in a verse or two to "support" it. They know that the rank-and-file will not question whether the verses actually support the view. Why? Because they believe that the Watchtower is being directed by Jehovah Himself. And certainly Jehovah wouldn't allow His organization to cite a verse that doesn't fit their doctrine would He?

Here, the Watchtower affirms their long-held view that both the righteous (which would include only Jehovah's Witnesses) and the wicked (everyone else) will be resurrected to paradise, where they will be given a second chance to prove their faithfulness (or lack thereof). And on what basis?

“having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
(Acts 24:15)

Well there you go! Acts 24:15 settles the question. You, me, and everyone else who has rejected "God's organization" will get a second chance. No questions asked.

But its a good thing i'm not a Jehovah's Witness and therefore allowed to question whether or not this verse is being skewed to fit a viewpoint. So, to begin, let me state that from this verse alone, there is no way to determine what both camps get a resurrection to. But fortunately, we have other Scriptures which can offer a bit of clarity:

““Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
(John 5:28–29)

Its too bad the Watchtower either can't or doesn't want to see the clear implications of this text:

*** rs p. 338 Resurrection ***

Will some be raised simply to have judgment pronounced and then be consigned to second death?

What is the meaning of John 5:28, 29? It says: “All those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” What Jesus said here must be understood in the light of the later revelation that he gave to John. (See Revelation 20:12, 13, quoted on page 337.)

Both those who formerly did good things and those who formerly practiced bad things will be “judged individually according to their deeds.” What deeds? If we were to take the view that people were going to be condemned on the basis of deeds in their past life, that would be inconsistent with Romans 6:7: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” It would also be unreasonable to resurrect people simply for them to be destroyed. So, at John 5:28, 29a, Jesus was pointing ahead to the resurrection; then, in the remainder of verse 29, he was expressing the outcome after they had been uplifted to human perfection and been put on judgment.

So there you go. Once you die, your sins are paid for. You get a clean slate. Apparently, it doesn't matter what you did on this earth; whether you served God or hated him. We all go to the same place and get "uplifted to human perfection." Will Jehovah's Witnesses question whether this is a satisfactory explanation of John 5:28-30? Probably not, for as long as there is an "explanation," it is automatically a good one.

The key is to ask questions. Get them to think for themselves. Ask them, "Why does Jesus speak of 'committing evil deeds' in the past tense? Does this suggest that our judgment will be based on what we have done in this life, or the life to come?"


Anonymous said...

In a word, no.

Mike Felker said...

But is the the Watchtower not saying that both the unrighteous and righteous will be resurrected into paradise?

Anonymous said...

Luke 23:43

Mike Felker said...

And this text is supposed to prove...?

Anonymous said...

The unrighteous in paradise.

Mike Felker said...

What makes you think that this man was unrighteous after believing in Christ? Do not those who believe have Christ's righteousness imputed to them (Rom. 4:5)?

Mark Hunter said...

Anonymous obviously believes that certain works on our part are needed to in some way add to Christ's insufficient righteousness. Obviously if Christ had done a good enough job in suffering and dying for the forgiveness of sins then we wouldn't need to be busting our butts making sure we "Keep Ourselves in God's Love".

Either that or Luke 23:43 shows that Christ, as judge, can impute his righteousness to whomever he likes.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the man was not righteous, infact not baptized, therefore he could not enter into the Kingdom. (John 3:5)

Jesus could read hearts and perhaps this man had not yet had the chance to learn of Jesus. Hence, the fair, second chance. (Acts 24:15)

Mike Felker said...

Anonymous, apparently you do not understand anything about imputed righteousness. What does Romans 4:5 say about those who "do not work, but believe?" Do you know what it means to be justified in the biblical sense?

Anonymous said...

According to Jesus at John 3:5, could the theif have entered the Kingdom?

Mike Felker said...

I brought up Romans 4:5 first. Please address that issue first (imputed righteousness, justification, etc.) and i'll gladly respond to John 3:5

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous obviously believes that certain works on our part are needed to in some way add to Christ's insufficient righteousness." -Mark Hunter

Mark Hunter in again with more ignorance (lack of knowledge) with regards Jehovah's Witnesses. Good one.

Jesus sacrifice is in no way insufficient.

Romans 4:5 is to "the holy ones" or "saints". What point would you like me to address? And what does a verse written "the saints" have to do with the thief?

Mike Felker said...

Obviously, no one is a "saint" or "holy one" until they have been declared righteous. Thus, anyone before they are justified, are ungodly and unrighteous. Hence, the reason why Romans 4:5 says that he "justifies the ungodly." The thief on the cross was obviously ungodly, just like anyone else before being born again. And since he believed and did not work, then according to Romans 4:5, he is justified.

Anonymous said...

Abraham was declared righteous before Christ and yet, he had no thought of who Jesus was.

Again, being declared righteous does not mean entrance into Heaven.

Even if Jesus did declare the man righteous, justified, he would still have to go somewhere when he died, since he didn't beat Jesus into Heaven. Three days in the grave, 40 days waiting...

John 3:5 says he cannot go to Heaven, hence, he is not a holy one, or saint. Therefore, anyone who reasons on the subjuct will see that Acts 24:15 is the most suitable explanation. (Rom 6:7)

Mark Hunter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Hunter said...

@ anonymous;

Read 2 Cor 5:21, perhaps the most awesome verse in the Bible.

God does not have to be reconciled to man, because that was accomplished by Christ on the cross. It is sinful man who must be reconciled to God.

“Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to God, efforts that are bound to fail. The Person who reconciles us to God is Jesus Christ, and the place where He reconciles us is His cross.

Another key idea in this verse is imputation. This is a word borrowed from banking; it simply means “to put to one’s account.” When you deposit money in the bank, the computer (or the clerk) puts that amount to your account, or to your credit.

When Jesus died on the cross, all of our sins were imputed to Him—put to His account. He was treated by God as though He had actually committed those sins. That includes the sins of Abraham and the thief on the cross.

The result? All of those sins have been paid for and God no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Christ as our Saviour. But even more: God has put to our account the very righteousness of Christ! “For He hath made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Cross epitomized the love of God (John 3:16) and of Christ (John 15:13; Rom. 5:8). The Savior was sinless: He had no sin. He was “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), and “in Him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). He took on Himself the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2). God made Him . . . to be sin for us (cf. Isa. 53:4-6, 10).

The sins of the world were placed on Him so that, in turn, His righteousness could be given those who trust Him (Rom. 5:17) and are thus in Him. ***That gift of righteousness is obtainable only by faith*** (Rom. 3:22; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 3:9). Hence it was Abraham's faith that declared him righteous.

Can I ask, when was the last time you studied this part of Corinthians at the Kingdom Hall? In all 36 years I was a JW, I don't once remember the Governing Body feeding us on this subject.