QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
On September 22, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“Regarding to your great article "Perfect Will of God" - it seems to me, that one can't prove whether the sign of Jonah includes your view or not. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 12:40, the sign of Jonah is him staying three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, not him preventing the great calamity. So I can't see that your interpretation in this case is based on the gospel, since Jesus himself gives another interpretation, doesn't he. What do you think about this aspect?”
To the author, thank you for your email. For the benefit of others, here is the scripture and the explanation we published in the article, Bringing Heaven Down - Perfect Will of God:
On one occasion when Jesus expelled a demon, the Pharisees asked him for a sign as proof that the works he did were from God.
“In reply he said to them: ‘A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached, but, look! something more than Jonah is here.” – Matthew 12:39-41
The only sign Jesus would give is his message of salvation. As with Jonah, the proof of Jesus’ authority comes from the changes that occur in the hearts of men who listen to him. It is the message, not the miracles, that lead to salvation. And like the Ninevites, all who listened to Jesus and turned to the true God were saved from the calamity that befell Jerusalem in 70 C.E.
On the surface, it does seem that Jesus gives the scripture a meaning different from what we assert. However, a closer look reveals that we were more likely on the right track. We will explain that in a moment. First, we want to explain why our viewpoints differ.
The understanding you assert, that the sign of Jonah is Jonah being in the belly of the huge fish for 3 days, is the common understanding by Christianity in general. When one looks at that scripture today, rather than looking intently into what was being communicated, one simply adopts the understanding that has been asserted for hundreds of years. This is where our ministry differs from most.
We do not accept an understanding simply because it has been around for many years. We always go straight to the source, or as close to the source as possible. In this case, we go back to the words of book of Matthew and consider its context. We do not come to the table with any preconceived ideas of what is being conveyed. We come with fresh eyes and open minds, as we explained in the articles, Preparing for Truth and Receiving Truth. We imagine ourselves in the audience of the speaker or the writer, whatever the case may be, and endeavor to understand the matter as an audience member of the day would have understood it. In this way, we strip away all of what we consider to be superfluous baggage and find our way to the plain and open and unadulterated teachings of Jesus.
Because we pursue our studies in this way, our understanding often differs from what is considered mainstream Christian theology. But we believe our understanding is more in line with what was actually being conveyed. So far, the evidence indicates we have been correct. But we remain open to correction and will make such corrections when they are needed. However, in this case, we do not believe a correction is in order. Let us explain.
Again, the scripture states:
“In reply he said to them: ‘A wicked and adulterous generation keeps on seeking for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because they repented at what Jonah preached, but, look! something more than Jonah is here.”
– Matthew 12:39-41
Jesus says the sign of Jonah caused the men of Nineveh to repent. If we assume the sign of Jonah is Jonah being in the belly of the huge fish for 3 days, then we have to ask: how did Jonah being in the belly of the fish cause the Ninevites to repent? A review of the account in the book of Jonah does not indicate that the people of Nineveh had any knowledge of Jonah’s ordeal with the fish. It clearly states that the people repented because of Jonah’s preaching. Thus, we conclude the sign was not his miraculous rescue from the fish, but his preaching.
Reading the context, Matthew 12:22-45, reveals that Jesus had just performed some miracles. The Pharisees, who did not believe in Jesus, could not deny that Jesus had the power to perform miracles. But they wanted him to prove that the power behind his miracles was God and not demons. Jesus had already explained why his power could not have come from the ruler of the demons, but the Pharisees were not satisfied. This prompted Jesus to call them ‘a wicked and adulterous generation’ because they ‘keep on’ seeking for a sign.
That is when Jesus said the only sign he will give to them is the same sign Jonah gave to the Ninevites – his preaching about a coming destruction – which sign Jesus did give just before his death as recorded in the 23rd and 24th chapters of Matthew. Since Jesus said he would not give them a further miraculous sign, he surely would not have been referring them to his miraculous resurrection.
We further know that Jesus was referring to preaching not miracles because of the very next illustration he used:
“The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but, look! something more than Solomon is here.”
– Matthew 12:42
In this illustration, Jesus is praising the one who sought wisdom, not miracles. This is consistent with the commendation of the Ninevites who heeded Jonah’s preaching and acted wisely. Just as Jesus was ‘something more than Jonah’ because of his superior preaching, Jesus was ‘something more than Solomon’ because of his greater wisdom. Both references concern a message, a teaching – not miraculous interventions. Both the queen of the south and the Ninevites will judge that generation because they listened to the ‘greater’ one.
But if we are correct that the sign of Jonah was his preaching and not his ordeal with the huge fish, then what did Jesus mean when he referred to Jonah being in the belly of the fish and him being in the heart of the earth? To us, it seems that Jesus was simply establishing a common ground with Jonah. We might illustrate it like this:
Two men were on a golf course. One was a lawyer, one was a doctor. The doctor noticed that the lawyer was a very good golfer, so he said: “You remind me of my brother. He is also a lawyer. The last time I golfed with him, he made a hole in one!” The doctor was commenting on was the skill of the lawyer as a golfer. The reference to him being a lawyer was just to establish a commonality between the lawyer and his brother.
In the same way we believe Jesus’ reference to Jonah being in the belly of the fish and Jesus being in the heart of the earth is a reference that establishes commonality between Jesus and Jonah so that those in the audience, especially the Pharisees, could get the sense of the seriousness of Jesus’ ministry.
As we said above, this is our understanding. This is how we see the matter. You may still disagree, and that is fine. The most important thing we want you to take away from our response is that whatever the sign of Jonah was, the account of the Ninevites continues to serve as a lesson and a possibility for our generation. Paul wrote:
“For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”
– Romans 15:4
We find the account of the Ninevites comforting for it shows that man does have a say in his own destiny. It demonstrates that the Father does listen to His people, so we can rest assured that if our generation does find its way to repentance, our merciful Father will act according to His nature and be merciful. That is the point of the article, Bringing Heaven Down - Perfect Will of God. And we stand by that article.
On September 21, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“Thank you for helping Jehovah's Witnesses see some of the mis-truths expounded by the Watchtower Society. ... From what I've read so far, you draw attention to Jesus, God and the spiritual world quite a lot throughout the site, which is not a bad thing - it is quite obviously the main focus of yourselves, and you encourage that to be the focus of visitors of the site. However, not to take away the importance of this - but focusing so strongly on the spiritual world can be detrimental and dangerous to our current earthly lives in certain circumstances.
For example: The Governing Body - perhaps unaware or maybe with good intentions - have driven many to poverty, ill health, suicide, mental decline, family breakup, distress and early death due to an almost tyrannical message of neglecting the physical and focusing on the spiritual (in their case, the message mostly focused on the new world). ... De-emphasizing the importance of life in 'this system' is what I'm getting at.
People waking up to the mis-truths of the Watchtower Society need, I would suggest, more than just spiritual solutions initially. It is quite a confusing and traumatic experience to discover that what you thought you've been following as 'The Truth' for so many years, may not be all it's cracked up to be. I would even suggest, that getting to the bottom of things, upturning every little lie and every little mis-truth the Society are guilty of is extremely important to one's long term mental health.
Painful as it may be - laying out ALL the evidence on the table is in fact crucial to understanding what's going on. It is 'negative' material absolutely! It is downright depressing to discover some of the horrible aspects of the Watchtower's history. But I feel it is important, though difficult, for everyone to do thorough research on this for their mental well being, and to make wise and rational decisions.”
To the author, thank you for visiting our site and for sending your questions. We certainly understand your point of view, but you make a faulty assumption which we will address in a moment. First, in all fairness, we want to point out that most Jehovah’s Witnesses are fine, healthy and sane people who are sincerely serving God to the best of their ability. Many of their teachings are sound and have produced many upright and honorable men, women and children. The problem is that they are being oppressed by a body of men who seem to have turned their backs on Christ Jesus. In this way, they are not very different from many other religious groups who are being led by dictatorial theocracies. We discussed this in the article Relative Subjection to Religious Authority.
Fortunately, many among Jehovah’s Witnesses are well aware of the problems, and are waiting and hoping for a change. They remain in association with the Watchtower Society in order to be beacons of light to those who are suffering the most, as you mentioned above, while working for change. Our ministry is dedicated to effecting such a change, while keeping their spiritual lives and their faith in God in tact. We have a great deal of compassion for Jehovah’s Witnesses and this is why we proceed the way we do. Now, here is our response to your comments:
As we said in the opening, you make a faulty assumption. Your complaint is that the Governing Body is asserting a message of neglect of the physical life and focusing too much on the spiritual. Before we go any further, we must correct you here. The Governing Body is not at all focusing on the spiritual. That is the problem. When they promote an earthly paradise, and teach that the vast majority of mankind should not seek heavenly life, they are clearly focusing on the physical to the exclusion of the spiritual.
Our brothers are in a state of limbo. They are not allowed to pursue heavenly things; they are not allowed to enjoy natural earthly things; and they cannot make their paradise vision come true. Thus, the cause of the problems that some are suffering – poverty, ill health, suicide, mental decline, etc. – is not a result of over-emphasis on the spiritual. It is due to the absence of it. Our brothers are paralyzed. We consider this a form of spiritual abuse.
The Governing Body is teaching things about our Father and His divine purpose that simply are not true and which actually lead our brothers in the opposite direction from where Jesus was leading them – into the heavens. This alternate ‘good news’ serves to forward the agenda of men, but not the agenda of the Christ. Thus, what is needed in the case of such spiritual abuse is a spiritual healing – a healing of the spirit – replacing spiritual error with spiritual truth.
The path you are suggesting removes and destroys the error, but the person is left empty. As a result, we see so many ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses becoming atheists or agnostics. They had given their lives to the Watchtower organization, so by ‘upturning every little lie’ and ‘laying out ALL the evidence,’ they are left with nothing. Most cannot find another fellowship because they were so poisoned against all other forms of religion. This is what Jesus was alluding to when he said to the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you traverse sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one you make him a subject for Gehenna twice as much so as yourselves.”
– Matthew 23:15
Their disciples would go from being unbelievers, to believers in the lies of men, to outright atheists! We discuss this in the article Converting Pauls into Sauls. So how do we avoid this calamity and help Jehovah's Witnesses?
Take a lesson from Jesus’ example in the first century. The Jews at that time were likewise experiencing spiritual abuse by their scribes. But Jesus did not attempt to destroy all of their error at once. He simply implanted the seed of truth in their hearts and as it began to sprout, the individuals were strengthened and thereby enabled to correct themselves in a way that was manageable for them. This is the method we choose. Rather than forcing upon our brothers an overwhelming challenge, we simply lead them to the truth – to Jesus – and allow the spirit of truth do its work. (John 16:13)
Your points, however, are well taken. The Governing Body’s message that we should avoid living our lives as productive citizens of our planet is poor advice. That message does not allow the individuals in the organization to develop proper life skills. Rather than teaching them to encounter life’s challenges successfully, they teach avoidance of life’s challenges. That was not Jesus’ intention. We remember his prayer:
“I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.”
– John 17:15
Clearly, we are not to be excused from having to find solutions to the challenges of life in the world. This thinking is why many of our children do not know how to successfully deal with peer pressure or how to properly manage their own sexuality. And when they leave home, unless they continue under the strict guidance of parents or elders, their natural curiosity leads them into all sorts of vices. But it is not the Father’s intent that man continues indefinitely under the tutelage of other men. A time should come when a person grows to sufficient maturity to be able to be guided by spirit, rather than by men. That is the meaning of these scriptures:
“Now I say that as long as the heir is a babe he does not differ at all from a slave, lord of all things though he is, but he is under men in charge and under stewards until the day his father appointed beforehand. Likewise we also, when we were babes, continued enslaved by the elementary things belonging to the world. But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law, that he might release by purchase those under law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons.”
– Galatians 4:1-5
“And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but, as the anointing from him is teaching you about all things, and is true and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.”
– 1 John 2:27
“Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding.”
– 1 Corinthians 14:20
This type of growth cannot come from simply avoiding everything that might cause harm. It must come from ‘using our perceptive powers.’ (Hebrews 5:14) That involves trial and error. We must be faced with error in order to learn how to choose truth. Yes, we must go through tribulation, not around it.
Additionally, the counsel of the Governing Body, or any dictatorial religious authority, that glorifies poverty and academic ignorance, and encroaches upon personal liberties and secular responsibilities, is the reason for the negative opinion people have of religion. Rather than inserting ourselves into such matters, we simply promote the high ideals of the plain and open teachings of Jesus. We believe that people who are determined to do God’s will – the best and right thing under their circumstances – will make wise choices and prosper in their secular endeavors. (See Bringing Heaven Down – The Perfect Will of God.)
When Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10), he was clearly expressing the divine intent that our earthly lives be guided by spirit rather than the other way around. He was establishing a spiritual brotherhood that would give them the courage to face their temporal problems, so that even if their earthly hopes and dreams fail, they are assured of eternity and continued existence in an incorruptible body with their Father in heaven. No other endeavor – whether it be social, political, philosophical, industrial or scientific – can offer that. Until that time, their physical lives are enhanced by their spiritual focus.
Really, it is a lack of faith in the unseen realities that is the reason why people can be, and are being, misled by men. A strong personal relationship with God as our Father is the best insurance against anyone falling victim again to the sophistry of men. That is why we will not put spiritual matters to the side. For our part, we will continue to turn man’s attention to the living and lasting hope of life in heaven.
We are quite aware that many other sites who focus on Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to believe that they must destroy the organization by revealing every faulty teaching and every faulty action from the times of Russell forward. Their entire ministry is dedicated to tearing down and hoping for the organization’s destruction. But if they had their way, nearly 8 million souls would be devastated, if not destroyed. We believe there is a better way.
We do not believe in the self-appointed authority of the Governing Body. To us, they are just men, brothers who are heading down a dangerous path. Their power over the 8 million is illusory and only exists as long as the 8 million allow it. When enough of the 8 million regain their spiritual strength and take back their spiritual lives, the 8-member Governing Body will disappear as insignificant and impotent. And then those faithful millions can self-govern as mature spiritual men and women who love the Father above all, and love each others as they love themselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) If they choose to continue as a international organization, they should at least have men at the helm who respect Christ Jesus.
That is our hope. We believe more souls can be saved if we turn the ship rather than if we lead it into the iceberg. (See Turning the Titanic.) This can happen if we plant the tiny mustard seed of sonship with God and allow it to grow into a mighty tree. (See The Mustard Seed.) This is what is meant when Zechariah wrote:
“‘Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”
– Zechariah 4:6
Instead of fighting fire with fire, we fight fire with the free waters of life. (Revelation 22:17) That is the Christian ministry! So this, brother, is our view and the reason we choose to conduct our ministry in a spiritually forward manner. We hope that after some consideration, you can agree with us and work to help the Witnesses you know, and any other suffering souls, to achieve a spiritual healing and real hope by means of the plain and open teachings of Jesus. If so, we look forward to hearing from you again.
On September 20, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“Hello, I am may be visiting Reno, Nevada soon and I would like to know exactly which congregation was visited by the four brothers from Bethel. [As mentioned in our article Defending Our Living Hope.] There are 3 addresses of congregations listed for Reno, which of these was it?”
To the author, thank you for your email. We are answering it privately and publicly because it appears that many others have your same idea.
Please know that the emails we receive from that congregation do not specify an address, nor do we ask for one. But we suspect that any one of the congregations in that city would be able to provide you with more information. We do, however, hope that your interest in the congregation is for the purpose of upbuilding and supporting them, rather than participating in a spectacle as a looky-loo as some are doing. We raise this issue because your email expressed an interest in the congregation that was visited by the Bethel representatives, rather than the congregation with a concentration of the anointed sons of the kingdom.
We also want you to know that these brothers are serious about their sonship and in being about the Father’s business. They have very little interest in satisfying the curiosity of onlookers. They allowed their story to be told for the purpose of strengthening their brothers in other congregations who may be facing the same type of trials. We hope you understand that.
If it is your purpose to support these brothers and sisters, then we suggest the best way to do so is to work with them in spreading the true good news of the sacred secret of sonship throughout the congregation you are associated with and those round about. Have a share with them in the real ministry of reconciliation to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) as our universal heavenly Father. And if you are offended at the actions of the Governing Body, write to them and let them know. Their address is contained on the letters we write to them and also on their website. These two ways are the most effective ways to support these brothers and sisters.
Please know also that the scattering of these brothers has already begun. Many have already begun moving away to other states to continue planting and watering the kingdom seed. And it is our understanding that one or more have decided to move to your state. Additionally, we understand that the elders whom you will encounter if you visit that congregation now will most likely be the newly appointed ones who have not yet accepted their sonship. Thus, your personal visit might not be as advantageous as you might expect.
But if your interest in the congregation is for a good spiritual purpose, and you choose to visit those that remain, then we wish peace to you and safe travels. And if you are so inclined, feel free to write us with your impressions.
On September 17, 2013, we received the following inquiry:
“I have a question to you, regarding this encouraging sentence: "We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to start conversations about sonship with even strangers." [Question and Response, September 13, 2013.] Do you have a tip how to do this in practice? "Do you believe in Jesus" doesn't seem as a good strategy. As [Jehovah’s Witnesses], we have these "newspaper strategies" that go like "Hey, have your heard about..., too? ... Fortunately soon will come paradise and ends everything." But this seems to be no good approach to give witness about Jesus' teachings. About his spirit and about our love he planted in our hearts. Looking forward to your response.”
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. We respond here in a summary fashion, but we are hoping to write an article that provides a more comprehensive response. Please bear with us a few days as we first complete the next article in the Bringing Heaven Down series.
In the meantime, we want you to keep in mind that as a son of God, you are led by spirit so you need not approach your ministry with a prepared script. If you do, you will be inhibiting the flow of spirit. You should allow the conversation to develop naturally and engage other people as equals. Realize that you are not converting, you are conversing, and that whomever you are speaking with is your brother ALREADY. He or she perhaps just does not know it yet.
As for how to begin, you can begin a conversation with any topic. Sometimes it is a sunset or a child playing outside, something that is happening in front of you, or something in the news, etc., or it might just be a kind word such as a cheerful hello. Allow your attitude to draw others toward you maybe because of your smile. As you find common ground, the subject of sonship with God may naturally present itself. But if it does not, consider yourself as having planted the seed of ‘the spirit of sonship’ for someone else to water.
The most important thing to remember is to be genuine and natural. As long as your approach is genuine, it will bear good fruit.
We hope these ideas serve as a seed for you to develop your own ideas. As you have success, please share your experiences with us so others can be built up and encouraged. And please keep an eye out for our more comprehensive article.