Response to the Preface of the Bible Teach book

 

The preface presents the Witnesses’ usual first pitch: What is the hope for the future? There’s nothing wrong with wondering about the future. The Witnesses, however, usually speak in very concrete terms about a new earth that will be a paradise. Traditional Christianity does believe there will be a new earth. For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church  (sections 1042-1044) speaks of the hope of a “new heavens and a new earth:”

 

At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:

 

Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, "new heavens and a new earth." [2 Peter 3:13; compare Revelation 21:1] It will be the definitive realization of God's plan to bring under a single head "all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth." [Ephesians 1:10]

                            

In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. [Compare Revelation 21:5] "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." [Revelation 21:4]

 

Traditional Christianity affirms both a new heaven and a new earth as a uniting of both heaven and earth at the end of time. The Witnesses emphasize mainly the new earth as they talk to their prospective converts because they believe the general call to go to heaven is over. Later on in the book (page 74) they will explain that they believe only 144,000 people will ever go to heaven and those places have almost all been taken. (See our response to that in chapter 8.) We mention this now so that you fully understand their emphasis.

 

Christians, for centuries, have treasured Jesus’ words in John 17:20-24. He prayed that those Christians who would believe in Him through the preaching of the Apostles would also be with Jesus.

 

"I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world.”

 

Some questions to ask the Witnesses who are studying with you:

 

1)      Can I hope to be with Jesus?

2)      Doesn’t Ephesians 4:4 speak of only “one hope” for Christians?

3)      Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there is “one hope” or two hopes for Christians?

4)      Can the Witnesses prove that the early Christian Church in the decades and centuries after the death of the Apostles believed only 144,000 would go to heaven?

5)      Is not that idea a new teaching that has no historical basis in Christianity?

 

 

Jesus told the Apostles:

 

And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you…But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”( John 14:16-18, 26)

 

Jesus’ promise to St Peter implied the Church would not be lost or overpowered:

 

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” ( Matthew 16:18)

 

Where can you find this faith of the Apostles? Yes, it is in the Bible. But, did not Jesus say that the Father would send the Spirit to teach the truth? Did Jesus not also say the Church he would build would not be overcome? For these reasons it is important to compare what the faith of that Church has been in every generation from the days of the Apostles.  We should not be looking for a “new and improved” form of Christianity. We should want the Apostolic faith “which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) Jesus’ Church may have started out like a little mustard seed but it has persevered throughout the centuries and today it is world-wide. (Compare Matthew 13:31, 32.) Recognizable over the years despite changes of growth it’s deepening faith has ever remained the same.

 

Lastly, the Bible Teach book presents the view that there are only 66 books to the Bible. This is a view that actually only dates from the 1500’s onwards. The historic Church has had a larger canon of books of the Bible. For example, here are a collection of quotes from the earliest Christians showing they accepted the larger canon. This article and this other article answers some of the common objections people have to the books not included in some Bibles.

 

Reading the Bible daily is important. The historic Christian Church prescribes daily readings from Scripture to be used in her services. These readings vary among the Apostolic Churches. In the Western Church, the daily readings can be read online here.  You may want to bookmark the daily readings. Many find it beneficial to begin each day reading and meditating on them.

 

Starting a daily schedule of reading the Bible may seem to be a daunting task. You don’t have to start at the beginning and read to the end. A suggestion: start with one of the Gospels. For example, the Gospel of Luke. Try reading a couple of chapters each day. Luke’s sequel Acts of the Apostles continues the story.  Then, you can read letters written by the Apostles to the first Christians, such as Ephesians, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Romans. From there read the rest of the New Testament and then work back to the Old Testament. Some find it helpful to listen to the Scriptures read. For example, here you can listen and read the Gospel of John from the New Living Translation. John’s Gospel is one that should be read and re-read for its sublime presentation of Christ, the Word of God. There are other audio Bibles online, such as the English Standard Version or the New International Version. Allow time for the words of the Scriptures to soak in and meditate on what the verses are saying. What does it tell you about God’s love for us? How can you apply these words in your life?

 

 

Read the Bible online at:

 

The New American Bible       The Revised Standard Version Bible

 

Go to the Response for Chapter One

 

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