QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
07/29/12-3 Matthew 7:21-23: Why do some sons of God not come in the kingdom of heaven
07/29/12-2 Comment from a visitor who believes the Christian Greek Scriptures are primarily directed to only 144,000 people.
07/29/12 Is there a scriptural text that says baptism is symbolic?
07/28/12 Is water baptism symbolic or is it the actual joining to Christ?
07/22/12-2 Matthew 24:30-31: What does heaven's extremities mean? Aren't the elect on earth when this happens?
07/22/12 How did people preach before Russell? Does a Christian have to preach?
07/16/12 Do I need to be reinstated into the WTBTS to have God's favor?
07/10/12 If we all have the heavenly hope, to whom does the 144,000 pertain?
07/09/12 Rev 14:4 says the anointed is virgin men. How can women also have the hope?
07/08/12 How can you be confident in the Governing Body when you see a need for change?
07/07/12 Comment from a proponent of the "current understanding" of two hopes.
On July 29, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“You write that all who believe in Jesus are the sons of God. But can you explain Matthew 7:21-23? Why do they not come in the kingdom of heaven.”
To the author, thank you for your inquiry. The answer to your question is found right within the context of the writing. In fact, most times, when we are puzzled by the meaning of a scripture, a review of the context will solve the puzzle. When we take that path, then we will not need anyone to be teaching us. (1 John 2:27) But, since you posed the question, we will take a look at the context with you.
The scripture you refer to states:
“Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
– Matthew 7:21-23
Notice, the answer to your question is contained right within the verse. Those who are calling on Jesus’ name, and prophesying and performing powerful works were not doing the will of the Father. The works they were doing were fine and may have benefitted many. But they did not benefit those who were doing the works because their motives were not correct. Notice the preceding verses:
“Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to you in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. Really, then, by their fruits you will recognize those [men].”
– Matthew 7:15-20
Jesus’ words at verses 21-23 were directed at false prophets who were apparently performing powerful works. But their motives, their inside, the fruits they manifested, were worthless. They were not manifesting the fruits of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We learn that unless our motives are correct, and the works we are doing are done to honor the Father, and not ourselves, we will not find ourselves in the kingdom of the heavens. And, yes, that applies to sons of God.
We need to dispel the misconception that all sons of God will be saved. That simply is not true. We need only look to the disobedient angels who were also sons of God. (Genesis 6:1-2) Yet, their status as sons does not save them from the judgment reserved for them.
“And the angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.”
– Jude 6
Likewise, men who are designated as sons of God must act likes sons of God to the best of their ability. (Matthew 5:48) We cannot take our position as sons for granted and presume on God’s mercy.
“Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.”
– 1 Peter 2:16
While we are indeed free sons of God, we are told to behave in a manner that acknowledges our Father’s superior authority. With sonship comes responsibility. But not all who are sons of God will heed this counsel. Like the disobedient angelic sons of God, many human sons of God will find themselves in judgment.
As we reflect on Jesus’ words, we should take away the lesson which is “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) If the human sons of God heed this counsel, they will have nothing to worry about. They will be serving their brothers and will, indeed, gain entry into the kingdom of the heavens.
We hope this adequately answers your question.
On July 29, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“The Christian Greek Scriptures were written to various churches in the first century, and those who received the letters looked at them as special letters addressed to themself. So we must understand that when we say that the Christian Greek Scriptures are written to the 144,000 anointed Christians, we understand the letters in a different way. They were directed to the anointed Christians.
“Revelation has its fulfillment in the day to the lord Jesus Christ, which began in 1914, where we read of the great multitude who have an earthly hope. They also need the Christian Greek Scriptures.”
To the author, we thank you for posting your comments. It appears that you are new to the site and have not had an opportunity to read many of the articles. We believe if you do so, you will be enlightened and encouraged.
We do agree that the Christian Greek Scriptures are needed by those who have an “earthly hope.” They need to read those scriptures so they will know what their true hope is, namely everlasting life in the heavens, for they, too, are among the anointed – they just don’t know it yet.
But let’s be frank, and very clear. Isn’t it true that, aside from the gospels, the book of Acts and the book of Revelation, the Christians Greek Scriptures were written to the Christians in first century? Romans was written to the congregation in Rome, Galatians was written to the congregation in Galatia, Colossians was written to the congregation in Colossae, and so forth. So really, in the truest sense of the words, the Christian Greek Scriptures were NOT written to modern day Christians. But anyone who reads the writings are benefitted because they contain the most widely available record of Jesus and his teachings, and of how his audience understood him.
These same teachings were handed down from century to century, from generation to generation with the same hope being held out to all – the heavenly hope. As Paul wrote:
“I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above [attitude] to you.”
– Philippians 3:14-15
In fact, Jesus commissioned his first century apostles and disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom as he taught it and exemplified it. And that message was to continue, unchanged, “until the conclusion of the system of things.”
“And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying: ‘All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth. 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, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
– Matthew 28:18-20
No authority has been given to change the message. In fact, the Christian Greek Scriptures contain a specific warning against changing the message of Jesus:
“However, even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed. As we have said above, I also now say again, Whoever it is that is declaring to you as good news something beyond what you accepted, let him be accursed.”
– Galatians 1:8-9
So isn’t it time to drop the self-appointed theories of superiority and favoritism of 144,000 people over the billions of mankind who have sought and served the God over the past millenniums? Isn’t it time to humble ourselves and accept all men as our brothers? Isn’t it time to admit that we have misunderstood the Revelation, rather than arrogantly challenge the clear and plain teachings of Jesus and the apostles that we are all brothers with a heavenly hope in view? (Matthew 23:8-9; Galatians 3:26; Colossians 3:14-15)
Rather than reiterate what we have already published, we direct your attention to the following articles on the Christian hope: “The Cherished Earthly Hope,” “Moving Forward in Faith,” “Who are Led by Spirit?” and “Foreordained from the Founding of the World.” These articles will address your comments far more fully than we can in this section.
If, after reading the articles, you still hold the view only 144,000 are sons of God, that only 144,000 have a special relationship to the Christian Greek Scriptures, and that only 144,000 have the hope of going to heaven, then please write us again letting us know where you believe we err. Thank you again for your posting.
On July 29, 2012, we received a follow-up comment about whether baptism is symbolic:
“You say that baptism is "a rite, a symbol" but you do not present even one text saying so. It is impossible for me to think it is a symbol, since Scripture never says so but puts much greater emphasis on it. Rom. 6:3 does not say it is a rite and symbol, and Gal. 3:26,27 does not say so either. Please present a text saying that earlier consecration is symbolized by later water baptism. During all my life as a Christian I have never seen such a text.
“I disagree about Acts 22:16 and Gal. 3:26,27. Acts 22:16 says "Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name." (ESV) It was not a question of first calling on his name in consecration and then after that symbolizing it in baptism. The whole thing was to take place in baptism, the washing away of sins and calling on his name. Gal. 3:26,27 - one of my favorite texts, too- shows that faith is so closely connected with baptism that it is not counted aside of it. People were "sons of God, through faith." Then an important explanation followed: "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (ESV) “Surely, according to this nobody who was not baptized into Christ had put on Christ. It was because believers were baptized into Christ that they were God́s sons through faith. That is the plain meaning of the text.
“Forgiveness and the Spirit was promised to all who repented and were baptized. (Acts 2:38) That baptism saves. (1 Peter 3:20,21)
“Not only "should" followers of Christ undergo baptism. They simply must be baptized, per the express statements in the NT. And so we find that people were baptized immediately on becoming believers. All were baptized, and it is baptism, not an earlier consecration, that is stressed throughout the NT.”
We provide the content of our response for the benefit of our visitors, as follows:
Brother, not every truth is supported by a scriptural text. Some things are obvious when you take matters in context. Jesus, himself said that many truths were not spoken, but that the spirit of truth would guide us to all truth, including those unspoken truths. (John 16:12-13) That is the meaning of being led by spirit. (Romans 8:14)
Further, since we are told we must worship with spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), surely you must know that performing a physical act cannot in and of itself “save you.” If you believe that baptism does not save by itself, but coupled with some spiritual act, then we are in agreement – though we may disagree as to the sequence.
As for baptism being a rite and a symbol, one need only look to the history of baptism. It has a long history; John the Baptist did not invent it. And as for John’s baptism, do you believe it had special powers of forgiving sin? If not, then you must agree that it was symbolic. If you believe it did have power to forgive sin, then you are undermining an important work of the Christ.
And what about pre-Christian baptisms? Did they contain special powers? For example, baptism was the way a Gentile proselyte was accepted to worship in the temple. Did their baptism magically transform the Gentile into a Jew? No, they were still Gentiles, and they still had religious restrictions and were forced to worship in a separate courtyard.
When you examine its history, surely you can see that baptism is a symbol and a rite. Paul even describes it as such in Romans 6:3-4. You are correct that the scripture does not “say” it is a rite or a symbol, but one need only read the words to see that it is.
You cite 1 Peter 3:20-21 in the ESV which states:
“. . . because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”
- 1 Peter 3:20-21
Even here, Peter says that baptism is an “appeal to God for a good conscience.” Does not that sound like a spiritual consecration to God? If you interpret it to mean that the act itself constitutes a receipt of a good conscience, then we think you are reading into that scripture what it does not say and you’re contradicting the apostle Paul’s words.
But, brother, these are trifles over words, especially your distinction between “should” be baptized and “must” be baptized, which serve no beneficial purpose other than to puff one up. The apostle makes a distinction between knowledge “about” something and actually knowing something.
“Now concerning foods offered to idols: we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he has acquired knowledge of something, he does not yet know [it] just as he ought to know [it]. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by him.”
– 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
“Knowing” comes from the experience of that knowledge in your life. It is the difference between a spirit experience and a mind experience. A mental exercise about baptism as fine; but the actual experience of baptism tells the tale. The individual who elects to undergo baptism “knows” that he has made a previous consecration to the Father and now wants to make it public. Such an individual “knows” that it is his dedication to the Father that saves him. If you take a moment to think about it, brother, we are sure you “know” that as well.
We would also like to add that there is a difference between undergoing water baptism and undergoing the baptism into Christ’s death. Perhaps that is were we are differing. Water baptism is symbolic, whereas the continuing baptism of Christ’s death is a living experience.
“Indeed, I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and how I am being distressed until it is finished.”
– Luke 12:50
“The cup I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am being baptized you will be baptized.”
– Mark 10:39
“Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life.”
– Romans 6:3-4
Overall, even if you disagree with our assessment, we believe we can agree that baptism is an important part of the Christian faith and that doing so identifies one as belonging to Christ. In the big picture, isn’t that what counts?
On July 28, 2012, we received the following comment regarding baptism:
“As I understand the New Testament, it is by baptism one is joined to Christ and the brotherhood, provided faith is present. The New Testament never says that baptism is a public demonstration of what has already happened. I can do no better than to refer to Acts 22:16 and Gal. 3:26,27. “As I understand matters, the JWs and the Bible Students have never had a proper understanding of water baptism. Even Russell belittled baptism, and that is why Elder White took him to task in the Russell-White debate in 1908. I have a copy of the entire debate as published.”
To the author, we responded:
Baptism is a rite, a symbol. We immerse ourselves in water to symbolize our dying as to sin, and the coming up out of the water as symbolic of our being raised as new creatures. (Romans 6:4) But both underlying acts are spiritual consecrations that can exist and be valid even if we live in a barren dessert or are phobic of water. Surely you must know that such an act is not the same as or equal to a spiritual consecration to the Father.
The scriptures you site are as follows:
“And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.”
– Acts 22:16
“You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
– Galatians 3:26, 27
These verse in Acts indicates that sins are washed away not by baptism, but by calling on Jesus’ name. And the verses in Galatians says that we are sons by faith, not by baptism, and that our baptism is indicative of the fact that “we have put on Christ.”
We are walking by spirit, brother. “It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all.” (John 6:63) When we are considering the reality and effect of spiritual things, we must examine them spiritually. (2 Corinthians 2:14) When we fail to discern the spirit in and of Jesus’ teachings, we tend to miss the point and find ourselves “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) We are aware of the subject debate, but the answer to the question you raise is found in the spirit of Jesus’ teachings themselves.
In the final analysis, we can agree that baptism is important and that all followers of Christ should undergo it. Isn’t that really the point?
On July 22, 2012, we received the following inquiry: “
I have a question. in Matthew 24, 30-31 it is written the angels will gather the elect from the ends of heaven. what does heaven outer end mean? is not the elect on earth when this happens.”
Thank you for you inquiry. The scripture you refer to states:
“And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.”
– Matthew 24:30-31
We previously posted a response to a question similar to your second one: “Is not the elect on earth when this happens?” Please see response of February 29, 2012. We believe the scripture means that Christ will gather his “chosen ones” to himself from wherever they are located – whether that be in heaven or earth. We base that belief on Paul’s words to the Ephesians:
“This he caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and good sense, in that he made known to us the sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”
– Ephesians 1:8-10
Nevertheless, if we take a literal interpretation of the scripture, it appears the “chosen ones” will be located in heaven. If you are asking whether heaven has an outer end, we would need to consider what has been discovered by scientists who study the cosmos. They tell us that the universe is ever-expanding. That means to us that there is an outer end, but it is always changing and extending further out.
We hope that answers your questions.
On July 22, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“Before Russell began to preach, how preaching anointed Christians in the time before Russell? (sic) I do not know how they preached to the people, maybe you know? Or perhaps there was no preaching, they were anointed and lived a Christian life without preaching.”
To the author, thank you for your inquiry. The answer to your question is pretty straight forward. If you read the book of Acts, and in fact the entire Christian writings, you will see how the Christians in the first century preached to people. It included in the synagogues, in the marketplaces, on the roads, in homes, in prisons, in public arenas, before civil officials, etc. And when you consider the small number of Christians that began the preaching work and compare that to the very large number of Christians today, it is evident that the preaching work continued throughout the centuries. And since preaching, teaching and making disciples is the one commission Christ gave (Matthew 28:19, 20; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20), we suspect that all Christians who truly had faith in Christ would have preached in some fashion.
We will say, however, that over time, the commission to preach and teach was usurped by a self-appointed clergy class and the individual Christian was relegated to the status of an audience member at church rather than an active kingdom preacher. Still, it appears the Christian message continued to spread. We are preparing an article on this change from a religion of the spirit to a religion of the mind that we hope to publish within the next 30 days. Please stay tuned.
This is one of many areas where we believe that Russell and Jehovah’s Witnesses got it right. Though their message is a bit off point, they did re-establish the importance of the Christian ministry. Given all the opportunities that 21st century Christians are privileged to have – among friends and family, work associates, while shopping, while vacationing, while commuting, by letter, by email – it is unlikely that an anointed Christian today can make a case for just living a Christian life without preaching about the Christ in some fashion. Of course, our preaching does not need to be “organized” and formal. It can, and should occur, as a part of our daily life.
If we are truly Christ-like and God-oriented, we should have a desire to shine a light on the Father and his eternal purpose to the extent we are able.
“You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”
– Matthew 5:14-16
If we fail to speak about the Father, the Christ, the Kingdom, the brotherhood, etc., we are placing our light under a basket which will be of no benefit to anyone, not even ourselves.
On July 16, 2012, we received the following comment and inquiry:
“My question to you is being that I am DF'd and you are in support of the WTBTS (albeit with the hope of them readjusting their doctrines) is it your encouragement and understanding that I would need to seek reinstatement into the WTBTS to truly have God's favor? If you have an opinion or can shed light on this for me I would deeply appreciate it. I long to be pleasing to God and to express my love for Him and my neighbor, but do not have a platform to express such love. Therefore I find myself drawn back to the organization if for no other reason than to have a platform to express my faith and love.
I again am very grateful for your work. May Jehovah bless your continued efforts to shed light on the real good news and may He bless your efforts to reach the GB and effect a return to the original and only message of Jesus."
To the author, we thank you for your kind words. We are pleased to respond to your question.
The first thing we want to tell you (which we are sure you know) is that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is not equivalent to Jehovah. They are separate and distinct. Truly, what group of men can accurately represent God? Jesus is the only authorized representative of the Father.
“No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him.”
– John 1:18
“Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6
“Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”
– Acts 4:12
“In answer Peter and the [other] apostles said: ‘We must obey God as ruler rather than men.’”
– Acts 5:29
“What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making [it] grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes [it] grow. Now he that plants and he that waters are one, but each [person] will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.”
– 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
As such, you can very easily return to the Father – there are no procedural requirements and no hoops to jump through. You simply approach the Father in prayer, share you heartfelt concerns, and accept His love and forgiveness.
When we sin, we are the ones who separate from the Father. The Father does not leave us. When the scripture says: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), it is unconditional. It is we who have closed to door. The Father stands ever ready to forgive “in a large way.” (Isaiah 55:7) We commented on the Father’s love and forgiveness in response to a question on April 7, 2012, “I’ve sinned so much. Could I really be a son?” You might find it helpful. So you see, you do not need acceptance by any man or organization to have the Father’s favor.
At the same time, the Father allows a religious association to set their own rules for governance and conduct. But there is a difference between our spiritual relationship with the Father and our social relationship with our brothers. We read:
“Truly I say to you men, Whatever things you may bind on earth will be things bound in heaven, and whatever things you may loose on earth will be things loosed in heaven.”
– Matthew 18:18
Obviously, this only pertains to procedural matters and not matters of worship since only the Father and the Christ establish those requirements. So if you wish reinstatement in the WTBTS, you will have to follow their procedures. And given what you now know to be true, by conducting yourself wisely, you can have a positive effect on the congregation. Many who are waking up to their true hope are doing so.
We certainly understand your need for a platform to express yourself, and “field service” is an excellent platform. Keep in mind, too, that nothing prevents you from approaching people informally and sharing your hope. No one can stop you from making ‘public declaration of your faith.’ (Hebrews 10:23) You will note that several religious groups engage in the door-to-door ministry as well. So, you see, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a patent on preaching and teaching.
The challenge is making sure you have the right message. We are doing what we can to provide subject matters for discussion among the brotherhood as well as in the ministry. We have been told that many of our brothers and sisters use only the Bible in their ministry because they cannot in good faith promote the content of many of the Watchtower magazines and publications. Whatever you decide, nothing prevents you from speaking about your faith. Remember the words of the apostles:
“But in reply Peter and John said to them: ‘Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.”
– Acts 4:19-20
Finally, please know that our work is causing a stir within the organization – in a good way. So please stay tuned and feel free to write us again.
On July 10, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“What I don't yet understand is, if we all have the heavenly hope, to whom does the mentioning of 144,000 pertain?”
Thank you for your inquiry. As a general matter, we avoid answering questions having to do with prophecy. However, this question has been raised before and we can provide an answer without delving into prophetic speculation.
Our answer to your questions is that, frankly, we do not know for sure. Remember, that number is part of the revelation that was ‘presented in signs.’ (Revelation 1:1) So, it may be a literal number; and it may not be. For now, the Society teaches that it is a literal number. Since we do not know for sure, we leave that interpretation alone. We are careful not to teach as doctrine the things we are not sure about.
What we are certain of are the things that Jesus taught us plainly and openly, supported by the Christian Bible writers. Rather than placing our hopes on a symbolic idea, we plant our feet firmly in the actual teachings of the Christ. He taught that we are all brothers, that God is the Father of all of us, and that all who are faithful will inherit to the heavenly kingdom:
“But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.”
– Matthew 23:8-9
“For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”
– Romans 8:14-17
“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.’”
– Matthew 25:34
Know, too, that not understanding a prophesy does not affect our status as sons of God who are faithfully imitating Christ. We are confident that whatever happens, we will always be on the favorable side of events.
We hope this answer is satisfactory.