WHO'S AWAKE AT THE WATCHTOWER?
"THE SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS WITH
OUR SPIRIT" - PART I
A Watchtower Commentary
Watchtower: January 2016
Study Article: “The Spirit Bears Witness With Our Spirit”
Study Date: March 14-20, 2016
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
– Romans 8:16
The first study article in the January 2016 Watchtower magazine (“WT”) attempts to explain “how someone becomes anointed.” It is scheduled to be studied during March 14-20, 2016, around the 2016 Memorial Supper. We surmise, by the timing, that the purpose is to discourage Jehovah’s Witnesses from partaking of the Memorial emblems. However, what is written in this and the following study article can be used quite effectively in showing Jehovah’s Witnesses that they are all invited to have a share with the Christ as children of God and heirs to the kingdom of the heavens. (Romans 8:17)
Since sonship and explaining the ‘anointing’ is fundamental to this website, we feel a special obligation to comment on this particular study article. Due to the extent of our comments, we will provide our commentary in parts. Part I addresses paragraph 1 through 4 of this study article. Successive parts will be posted within the next few days.
When studying the Watchtower, or any writing or publication that purports to use the Bible as its authority, it is imperative that the relevant Biblical texts be examined and that the reader use discernment and thinking ability. That is how one can determine whether the writing and/or the writers are in harmony with the Bible and ‘originate with God’ as John wrote:
“Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired statement, but test the inspired statements to see whether they originate with God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
– 1 John 4:1
Also, remember that the writing should be founded on the Bible, not the other way around. A Bible-based writing should support the scripture, not usurp or change its meaning. With that counsel in mind, we review the subject study article.
WT Paragraphs 1-3:
“IT WAS early Sunday morning, about nine o’clock. This particular Sunday was special for those in Jerusalem. It was a festival day; it was also a sabbath. The regular morning sacrifices had no doubt already been offered at the temple. Now excitement filled the air as the high priest prepared to present the wave offering of two leavened loaves of new grain. (Lev. 23:15-20) This offering marked the start of the wheat harvest. The year was 33 C.E., and it was the day of Pentecost.
“2. While all these things were taking place in the temple area, something of far greater importance was about to occur, not at the temple, but in an upper room in the city. A group of about 120 Christians were gathered together, “persisting in prayer.” (Acts 1:13-15) What was about to happen to them was closely related to the actions of the high priest every Pentecost, and it also fulfilled a prophecy uttered by the prophet Joel about 800 years prior to that day. (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2: 16-21) What could possibly happen that would be of such great importance?
3. Read Acts 2:2-4. God’s holy spirit was poured out on that group of Christians who were gathered in the upper room. (Acts 1:8) They started to prophesy, or bear witness, concerning the wonderful things they had seen and heard. To a multitude that soon gathered, the apostle Peter explained the significance of what had happened. Then he told his audience: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the free gift of the holy spirit.” Altogether about 3,000 accepted the invitation that day, were baptized, and received the promised holy spirit.—Acts 2:37, 38, 41.”
We have no objection to paragraph 1. However, as respects paragraph 2, like the paragraph mentioned, what was about to happen did not happen in the temple. But neither were the events ‘closely related’ to the actions of the high priests. That is a misstatement.
While the high priests were reenacting the festival of loaves in the temple, the 120 disciples of Jesus had gathered together in an upper room discussing, not offerings or sacrifices, but praying together, recounting their experiences with Jesus and appointing a new apostle in place of Judas who would be ‘a witness with them of the resurrection of Jesus.’ (Acts 1:22) There was no mention of loaves, wheat, burnt offerings or animal sacrifices.
The article is correct that the events that were about to occur related to Joel’s prophesy as Peter explained:
“On the contrary, this is what was said through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out some of my spirit on every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams, and even on my male slaves and on my female slaves I will pour out some of my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’”
– Acts 2:16-18
As such, these events were something new and different that had never occurred before. Unlike the festival of Pentecost, the spirit was to be poured on “every sort of flesh” – men, women, slaves and freemen – not just the high priests. And the prophetic words spoken on that occasion were not about loaves and sacrifices. The disciples did not give any indication, in all they ‘prophesied’ on that day, that what was occurring had anything to do with the festival of Pentecost – typical or antitypical.
As to paragraph 3, we want to emphasize that when the spirit was poured out upon the 120 disciples, they were speaking about the things they had seen and heard in connection with Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. They were not recounting the features of Pentecost or correlating them with what was then occurring. As others heard of this occurrence, they left the temple and gathered around the disciples outside of the upper room. Thus, attention was taken away from the festival and given to the outpouring of spirit upon the disciples of Christ.
Also, we want to emphasize that Peter gave instructions on what needed to be done in order for those who heard his words to also receive ‘the free gift of the holy spirit.’ He said they needed to repent and get baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins. There were no other hoops to jump through, no other rituals to perform, no other standards to meet. And it happened as Peter stated – about 3,000 people who responded received holy spirit on that day. (Acts 2:41) Wow, 3,000 in one day! The plain and simple message of Jesus has that kind of effect on people who actually hear it!
The question for paragraphs 1-3 asks:
“What events made Pentecost a special day, and how did those events fulfill what the Scriptures had foretold? (See opening picture.)”
We have no comment about the picture. But as to the questions, the events that occurred made that particular Pentecost a special day only because the spirit was poured out upon all flesh on that Pentecost day. The miraculous events of the spirit did not enhance or validate the Pentecost for Christians. The events fulfilled the prophecy of Joel that the spirit would be poured out upon “every sort of flesh” – not just the 120 disciples of Jesus, but upon all who would repent and be baptized in Jesus name.
WT Paragraph 4:
“4. Why is Pentecost 33 C.E. so important to us? Certainly not because of what happened at the temple in Jerusalem. Rather, because Jesus Christ, as the great High Priest, fulfilled that prophetic pattern.  The high priest offered two symbolic loaves to Jehovah on that day. The leavened loaves offered at the temple represented the anointed disciples who were taken from sinful mankind to become God’s adopted sons. Thus the way was opened up for some “firstfruits” from mankind eventually to go to heaven and be included in the Kingdom that will bring countless blessings to the rest of obedient mankind. (Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 2:9) So whether it is our hope to make our home in heaven with Jesus or to live forever on a paradise earth, our lives are deeply affected by the events of that day!”
Those who actually read the account at Acts 2:1-47 will see that nothing that occurred on that day fulfilled a prophetic pattern related to “leavened loaves offered at the temple.” The writer of the Watchtower article is creating a relationship that the Bible does not.
In the March 2015 Study Edition of the Watchtower, a “Question from Readers” asked:
“In the past, our publications often mentioned types and antitypes, but in recent years they have seldom done so. Why is that?”
The answer provided by the writer who responded to the “Question from Readers” was:
“Humans cannot know which Bible accounts are shadows of things to come and which are not. The clearest course is this: Where the Scriptures teach that an individual, an event, or an object is typical of something else, we accept it as such. Otherwise, we ought to be reluctant to assign an antitypical application to a certain person or account if there is no specific Scriptural basis for doing so.”
Concerning the occurrences at Pentecost of 33 C.E., we believe the writer of the Watchtower article should have taken the advice of the writer of the “Question From Readers. He should have been “reluctant to assign an antitypical application” or prophetic pattern to those events. Those who comment on this paragraph at the Watchtower Study in March 2016 should likewise be reluctant to relate the outpouring of spirit upon all flesh to the “leavened loaves offered at the temple.” To repeat what is stated in the above answer: “There is no Scriptural basis for finding a hidden meaning in that incident.” The full answer to the “Question From Readers” can be found here.
Following the direction in the “Question From Readers,” we can soundly reject the erroneous assertion that the leavened loaves of the Pentecost represent anointed disciples of Jesus who are somehow separate and distinct from other disciples. And we can soundly reject the assertion that the events on that Pentecost give any indicate that disciples of Jesus would live forever on a paradise earth. Even those who believe in an ‘earthly hope’ have to admit that the events of Pentecost do not provide a foundation for believing in such a hope.
The two scriptures cited in support of these erroneous assertions are:
“It was his will to bring us forth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
– James 1:18
“But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies” of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
– 1 Peter 2:9
Neither of these scriptures gives any indication that the disciples of Jesus would be separated into two groups. Instead, they create a distinction between those who are disciples of Jesus and those who are not. With that understanding, perhaps one can conclude that those who are not disciples of Jesus will remain forever on earth, but not as conscious beings. They will remain on earth as elements of the ground, having returned to the dust. (Ecclesiastes 3:18-20)
The question for paragraph 4 asks:
“4. (a) Why should we be interested in what happened at Pentecost? (b) What other important event may have happened on the same day many years earlier? (See endnote.)
The endnote says:
“Pentecost possibly corresponded to the time when the Law was given at Sinai. (Ex. 19:1) If that is the case, then just as Moses was used to bring Israel into the Law covenant on that day, so Jesus Christ now brought a new nation, spiritual Israel, into the new covenant on the same day.”
‘Possibly corresponding’ is nothing more than improper types and antitypes. Thus, the end note can be ignored. The (b) question can also be ignored as it would only serve to confuse and confound the true meaning of the events that happened on that Pentecost day. Remember that with the death of Jesus, all sacrificial offering ceased and the entire Law covenant came to an abrupt end. (Hebrews 10:1-18) It served as a tutor leading to the Christ (Galatians 3:24-25), but once the Christ is found, the old tutor can be dismissed.
Unfortunately, all who continue to view Jesus’ teachings and actions through the old covenant will never see truth because the old law veils the mind and the heart:
“But their minds were dulled. For to this present day, the same veil remains unlifted when the old covenant is read, because it is taken away only by means of Christ. In fact, to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts.”
– 2 Corinthians 3:14-15
The reason Watchtower writers have such difficulty in making a coherent argument for the ‘earthly hope’ is because they are determined to filter the new wine through old wineskins. Only confusion and ruin can come from that! (Matthew 9:17)
In answer to the (a) question, we should be interested in what happened at Pentecost because it was the day Jesus did what Joel prophesied – he poured out holy spirit as he promised:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now. However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you.”
– John 16:12-14
From that time on, all who repent and get baptized in Jesus name can receive that spirit and be guided into all truth. And all such spirit anointed children will glorify Jesus. The outpouring of spirit marked a new era which eliminated ecclesiastical distinctions and heralded that men and women stand on equal ground before God.
“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. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring, heirs with reference to a promise.”
– Galatians 3:26-29
That is the relevant information that can be gleaned from the introductory paragraphs in the first study article. We allow the scriptures to carry the greater weight over and above the Watchtower writers.
We will address the remaining paragraphs in our next commentaries. In the meantime, you might enjoy an article we wrote on the significance of what happened at Pentecost, The Reality of the Spirit of Truth. And, as always, we welcome your comments. [Go to Part 2]