TRANSITIONING TO THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS
DEFENDING OUR LIVING HOPE
September 13, 2013
“But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.”
– 1 Peter 3:13-15
The faith sons of God, as ambassadors to the Kingdom of Heaven, joyfully take the first step in reaching out to people of all nations to share our hope. We explain that it is the Father’s purpose to adopt each and every mortal who so desires it into the heavens to be with Him and experience unimagined adventure and untold blessings. (Ephesians 1:3-5; 1 Corinthians 2:9) This is the living hope!
To the faith sons, it seems that every man, woman and child should leap for joy and grab onto the hope for themselves. But on occasion, we are called upon to defend our hope and explain the reason why we choose to follow Christ Jesus wherever he goes, and obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29) And sometimes, we have to make that defense to our own brothers and sisters who worship right alongside us; those who do not accept sonship for themselves and challenge the sonship of others.
These matters should not take us by surprise. Jesus warned that this would occur:
“I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me.”
– John 16:1-3
Here, Jesus is not referring to government officials or unbelievers. He is referring to those who served as overseers right within the synagogues, those with the power to expel others, and who claimed to serve God, but who, in fact, did not really know Him or the Christ at all. In reviewing the Acts of the Apostles, we see striking similarities between what occurred in the 1st century and what is now occurring in the 21st century in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For example, after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the apostles remained in Jerusalem preaching and teaching the Jewish population by house to house visits, and right within the temple! (Acts 5:42) But after a short time, the overseers in the temple had had enough. A great persecution broke out scattering the brothers throughout the land. Yet, the persecution backfired. Instead of silencing the brothers, it served to advance kingdom interests. Those who were scattered went their way spreading the good news of the sacred secret of sonship to all they encountered. These brothers were not cowards; they were fire-tested men and women who ‘obeyed God as ruler rather than men.’
Likewise today, our brothers are sharing the sacred secret of sonship from house to house, informally at work and as they go about their daily activities, as well as right within the congregations. And, like in the 1st century, many are being called in for questioning to make a defense for the hope they hold on threat of disfellowshiping as apostates. These overseers, including the Governing Body, appear to be doing their very best to follow in the footsteps of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin in an effort to flush out the anointed sons of God from their congregations. We cannot imagine how these men expect to escape the judgment that befell Jerusalem for the same conduct.
To those faced with such opposition, we recommend Jesus’ counsel:
“And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”
– Matthew 10:28
With very limited and remote exceptions, religious leaders today cannot even kill the body! So what is there to really fear? Rather, we should take James’ counsel:
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance. But let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”
– James 1:2-4
This is exactly what many of our brothers are doing! The first reports we are receiving reveal that a fine witness is being given and the efforts to silence the sons of the kingdom are not being met with success. Quite the contrary. Here is one experience:
We have mentioned a congregation in Reno, Nevada, in a few of our articles. This congregation was spoken of in the article The Other Side of Faith. At the last Memorial Commemoration, 345 brothers and sisters who met together declared their sonship with God by partaking of the emblems. This included practically the entire body of Elders and Ministerial Servants, their Circuit Overseer, and we believe, their District Overseer. The ages of those anointed sons range from 13 to 90 years, most were first time partakers.
This congregation reports more than three times the national average in hours spent the ministry and Bible studies, and well above the national average in meeting attendance. They enjoy fulfilling relationships in the congregation and with those they meet in the ministry. Of the 8 elders, 5 stepped down from their positions of oversight, but they continue to support and upbuild the congregation. Judicial matters are non-existent as each one conducts him or herself in a manner befitting the good news.
One would think this congregation is a model for all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. But not so. Recently, we received an email from a brother in that congregation who reported that the Governing Body dispatched four brothers to reorganize their congregation. He believes they were dispatched because of the Memorial Report indicating that 345 partook. This congregation already had a handful of long time partakers, but this was certainly something new and different. This brother was given less than two days notice of the visit and the brothers who received the notice did not inform the congregation until the day the dispatched brothers arrived.
This is what we were told is the Governing Body’s plan for this congregation:
(1) The Governing Body appointed four new elders, who do not profess to be sons of God, to take over the congregation.
(2) The congregation will be broken up and spread over not three different congregations, but spread over three different circuits.
(3) The Governing Body representatives will interview some, if not all, of the new anointed sons of God “to examine their loyalty to Jehovah’s organization.”
(4) The representatives will speak with the Circuit Overseer and the District Overseer to see why there is a surge of anointed Christians in the congregation and to find out in detail why they stepped down.
The brother went on to write:
We were waiting for the [Governing Body] to step in and make some changes so here we go. The timing is interesting because many of us are moving to other parts of the country due to illnesses or wanting to get the work started in other cities. But we are so ready friends and we have the backing of the spirit of truth! So I, or any of the other brothers, will keep you posted! Good health to you both and may our Father continue growing the sons the world over!
The brother told us that the reason they did not inform the congregation is because they did not want there to be an allegations of staging or ‘putting on’ for the Bethel representatives. They wanted them to see the brothers interacting as they do on a regular basis. All had long since determined to manifest the fruits of the spirit in all of their conduct and conversations and let the spirit of truth speak on their behalf in the event their hope was ever challenged. So there was no need for special preparation.
Additionally, there was no animosity against these representatives because all knew that these men are only acting at the direction of others who do not understand the power of the spirit. But what a poor use of funds by the Governing Body! Funds that were donated for the worldwide work! It would have been wiser, and far more discreet,to dispatch such men to build up the many, many congregations that are weak, rather than tearing apart a congregation that is strong.
The next day, a brother from a congregation not too far away who heard about this intervention wrote us to encourage others who might be facing a similar situation:
Dear friends, if you live long enough, I guess anything is possible. Our dear brothers our under attack for, now get this, for growing sons of the kingdom of the heavens. So myself and 2 others are going to go and give support, not that these beautiful friends need it but we want to do this out of the immense love we have for the spirit they show for the message and hope given us by the Christ. All of you friends who are now partakers of the heavenly hope, the living hope, don’t let any brothers or sisters discourage you from the spiritual brotherhood. As a matter of fact, cherish it. It is disturbing more so because of who is questioning the growth, the [GOVERNING BODY]! ARE YOU KIDDING ME! But it happened in the 1st century so I guess we should expect it, but it’s shameful.
That evening, the four Bethel representative met with members of the congregation and began their interviews. We received this email from one of the brothers the following morning:
Hello and Good Morning, [Here is what transpired in the initial meeting.] “With a united voice we have made the truth our own. We are reading, meditating and studying the Bible daily. We are conducting ourselves in a manner to be found spotless before our heavenly Father. And we are obeying God as ruler rather than men. Having now said that to you brothers, what would you like to know?” In typical [Jehovah’s Witness] style, they didn’t hear a word I said to them. So they said: “We’re amazed at the growth of partakers in this area.” I said: “Amazed brothers? I think not, dismayed sounds more like it or these sweeping changes would not be in the making.” Then the representatives asked if we feel this is still Jehovah's Organization? I replied “It will be His today, and forever to direct, change, punish and/or bless. But if you’re asking will we follow any direction and teaching produced by imperfect men, the answer is no. Would you men?” And remember the operative word is ‘any.’ They said “Of course not!!” I said "That's shocking." I was, of course, kidding, but they got the point. After that we took a break for the evening.
This encounter encouraged the brothers rather than discouraged them. They were clearly taking control of the situation, but with mildness and respect. The next morning, we received this email from a sister who had been interviewed about her hope:
If there was any son of the kingdom who doubted the strength of the spirit, you can put such thinking to rest. Because such questions regarding a publisher’s hope is a joke. I’ve been in the ministry for 49 years and I along with many others are truly ashamed to be asked about our hope. It makes me sick to my stomach. The fury of the Lord is what they are causing. The brothers from Bethel are not touching God's eyeball, they’re poking his eye. I want to thank you friends with all my heart for boldly shedding light on the Kingdom of Heaven and like your latest article says, we need to keep "Bringing Heaven Down." I’m 71 years young and I’m just getting started. I will fight this fight to the death to keep the doors of the kingdom wide open and believe me I’m not alone in this stance. Keep encouraging both the young and the slightly older friends. We love you and pray always for you. God bless you and the spirit of truth!
This was very encouraging to us. We hoped the brothers and sisters there would live up to their hope so that others could see their faith and gain strength. We were not disappointed!
The next day passed with no word from the congregation. The following day, we received a call from a brother who told us the Bethel representatives interviewed several of the brothers and sisters, including a few who were between the ages of 13 and 18. Each of these young anointed ones spoke calmly and eloquently and answered all of the questions with spirit and truth. The older friends were also well spoken, joyful and energetic. The Bethel brothers listened to the comments at the meeting, the conversations after the meeting, the conversations between students and study conductors and were so impressed that they asked if they could take notes. One or two of these representatives were moved to tears.
Shortly after speaking with this brother, this email came in:
Hello dear brother and sister, No weapon formed against us will prevail! The Bethel brothers spoke their peace and questioned many of the new partakers. And because of AnointedJW, they were all so prepared that one of the brothers from Bethel said “The [Governing Body] should see this for themselves, the fine conduct and how well spoken the youth are.” And get this, this has not been their only area of ‘trouble.’ In a few other cities, a group or two all have this recent surge in the heavenly hope. So they will implement the ‘Slave’s’ plan concerning the [non-anointed] elders and spreading the ones who remain to the circuits. But they said, to a man that “This is beautiful and these friends are sharp as knives when it come to the word of God.” So we will be meeting again in the morning before they go back, so I will talk to you soon. Unity not Uniformity!!
The following afternoon, we received this email:
Hello and Good Morning beloved ones in Christ. We said our farewells [to the Bethel representatives] and we all prayed together before they left. After the prayer they commented to us they will talk to the [Governing Body] and persuade them “to leave you friends alone. If anything, more Bethel brothers should come and get a dose of the spirit you brothers have.” I said “Now remember brother many of us plan on moving on shortly to other cities to help family and friends to have the freedom of the sons of God as well. All of us in Reno will pray for you brothers to be given wisdom and discernment in what is truly God's will and what is man's will.”
Before the representatives left, it was clear their countenance had softened greatly. One of the anointed sons who drove the representatives to the airport gave one last prayer that the spirit bear witness with their spirit for the Kingdom of Heaven and its open invitation. He prayed that while they were in the air, in the heavens, that they look out the window and contemplate that all that could be theirs if their faith is right. And with that, they were on their way. We will have to wait and see what type of report those representative take to the Governing Body.
This reminds us of an account recorded by the Apostle John. After Jesus had performed some miracles, the crowds began to wonder if he was the promised one and many began putting faith in Jesus. But this did not sit well with the Pharisees:
“The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things about him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees dispatched officers to get hold of him.”
– John 7:32
The officers went out and joined themselves to a crowd that had been following Jesus. But after listening for a day or two as Jesus spoke, they were changed:
“Therefore the officers went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, and the latter said to them: ‘Why is it you did not bring him in?’ The officers replied: ‘Never has [another] man spoken like this.’”
– John 7:45-46
This was the reaction of the Bethel representatives to the Reno congregation. They were moved by the comments and actions of the sons of God! John’s account goes on to recount the reaction of the Pharisees to the report from the officers:
“In turn the Pharisees answered: ‘You have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he? But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.’"
– John 7:47-49
Put in modern phraseology, the Pharisees challenged the report claiming that the people were accursed - in essence, ‘mentally diseased.’ But one Pharisee had a different view:
“Nicodemus, who had come to him previously, and who was one of them, said to them: ‘Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?’ In answer they said to him: ‘You are not also out of Galilee, are you? Search and see that no prophet is to be raised up out of Galilee.’”
– John 7:50-52
This one Pharisee, Nicodemus, was a secret follower of Jesus. He had come to Jesus previously under cover of darkness to ask questions and was quite moved. (John 3:1-15) He tried to calm the situation suggesting that perhaps they should give Jesus a fair hearing. But the other Pharisees rebuked him, suggesting that Nicodemus was also mentally diseased and ignorant of scripture! Nicodemus did not speak further, but we know that he continued to have faith in Jesus. John later reports that Nicodemus provided 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes for Jesus’ burial. (John 19:39)
We do not know what reaction the Governing Body will have to the reports from the Bethel representatives. We certainly hope they do not respond as did these Pharisees. But if they do, we hope there is a Nicodemus among them who will appeal to their sense of fairness. Perhaps this time, rather than repeating history, the Governing Body will learn from this account and give the brothers in the Reno congregation, and in congregations around the world, an opportunity for a fair scriptural hearing before any actions are taken to silence or expel them. We should always bear in mind that God is not one to be mocked. Some take advantage of His patience in a foolhardy way. But there are days coming when such men will know who rules in the Kingdom of Men.
Whatever the outcome, the brothers in Reno tell us they are rejoicing that the whole experience was victorious for the Kingdom! When we asked if it was okay to use their emails as part of an article to encourage the entire brotherhood, the brother said yes, and wrote:
We feel as follows: Our days are numbered based on health or by being expelled because of our obeying God as ruler rather than men, and we have discussed this topic often among ourselves, the young and the old, so that when that day comes, no one is stumbled. Besides we were never given the spirit of fear.
Of the 345, nearly 200 had already planned to move to other states to spread the true good news of sonship with God in the Kingdom of Heaven in states such as Louisiana, Florida, Texas, North and South Dakota and Oklahoma, to name a few.
While we wait for further reports from these brothers, we are encouraged by the spirit manifested by these faith sons of truth. It is both commendable and exhilarating. The eternal seed of truth as held within the plain and open teachings of Jesus has been planted in their hearts and watered by their faith, and by their calm under fire, they are growing spiritually. We are especially moved by the faith and courage of the young ones and those who partook for the first time! These sons bring dignity to their worship and glorify the Father’s perfect will.
This stalwart group of all ages will now scatter and take the eternal seeds of truth with them to other parts of the large field under cultivation. They will each be able to tell their own heroic tale of remaining faithful to the First Father and His King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the one with whom everyone in heaven and on earth must take their unconditional stand – Christ Jesus.
The faith of these sons, and many others the world over, have started a fire that cannot be extinguished. Yes, the agitation of the plain and open teachings favors the holy ones who will fill the earth as promised, while they await their glorious adoption as sons of the Kingdom of Heaven.
We welcome your comments.
Related Questions and Responses
09/20/13 What is the address of the Reno Congregation mentioned in your article?