I love Isaiah 53. This Old Testament chapter gives such insights into the promised Messiah – who he would be, what he would suffer, and how he would heal the broken relationship between God and His creation. Following cross-references to other passages in both the Old and New Testaments, brings to light many hidden details woven into this remarkable prophecy.

Seeing that we are coming up to yet another Passover anniversary (the Christian’s “Easter”) which pointed forward to the sacrificial work of the “Lamb of God” slain to set us free from death, it seems completely fitting to focus this blog on Isaiah 53.

Who Will Believe the Report?

The Messianic chapter begins with a despairing remark, “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” (ESV) It seems incredible that a prophecy given a thousand years before it was fulfilled would not be believed when it finally occurred.

However, outside of  Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, there are not many prophecies which speak so clearly and specifically about the sufferings the Messiah would endure. This may be the reason that few understood that suffering and death was part of God’s plan for his Son’s life. When one understands the role of suffering in the life of the Messiah, it becomes clear that the Law was also full of allusions to his sacrifice. The Messiah is the Passover lamb, the sin offering, the blood that cleanses and atones, and much more. As Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:” (Luke 24:44-46)

Everything about Jesus Christ’s life was prophesied far in advance of his coming. Looking back on the Law of Moses, the Prophets (such as Isaiah) and the Psalms, we can view the details and understand his life in a fuller way. Click here for a cross-reference chart showing many connections between Isaiah 53 and the Old and New Testaments.

In the New Testament, John 12:37-38 quotes the despairing remark from Isaiah 53:1, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:” Even though Jesus did many indisputable miracles, few believed in him – he was not what they were expecting their Messiah to be.

A Root and A Branch

We are told in Isaiah 53:2 that, “he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” This word ‘root’ has the idea of a ‘sucker plant’ – a new growth coming from an old root. So many prophecies of Messiah refer to a ‘root’ or ‘branch’ coming from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2, 9-10, Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 6:12-13). David, the son of Jesse, had been promised that one of his descendants would be ‘God’s Son,’ a king who will sit on David’s throne FOREVER! (2 Samuel 7:11-17, Psalm 89:20-48)

When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, in Luke 1, he said that, “the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Jesus Christ is called the ‘Son of David’ in Matthew 1:1, and the apostles refer to him as being a descendant of David in Acts 2:29-30; 13:22-23. While Jesus was and is the ‘Son of God,’ he is also the son of Abraham, Jesse, David, Nathan… and so on down the line to Mary.  As explained to Mary by the Angel Gabriel, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) God’s Holy Spirit power acted miraculously upon an egg in Mary’s womb (who was herself a descendant of Abraham and David), creating a baby without the involvement of a human father. God, who can form a living man from dust as he did with Adam, heal barren wombs to bear children, and restore a ‘dead’ womb as he did with Sarah at 90 years old, can certainly create a baby from an egg, without a sperm! 

The Messiah’s Appearance

Isaiah 53:2 also tells us that, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.” The words and phrases used here seem to describe the Messiah’s physical presence, speaking of his form (figure) and his beauty (appearance), and telling us that he was not a man to be admired or desired for his outward appearance. Such a revelation may be surprising as we are used to seeing the very attractive, well-formed, blue-eyed paintings of Jesus. Human-beings generally like their heroes to be handsome, good-looking individuals. However, perhaps it was God’s plan to diminish the outward appearance of his Son, in order that we might be attracted to the Messiah’s character and godly attributes.

Despised and Rejected

Sadly, Isaiah 53:3 tells us that the Messiah would be ‘despised and rejected,’ and that we would turn away from him and not hold him in high esteem. This is echoed in Psalm 22:6-8, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Had Jesus been built like King Saul – a head taller than everyone and very handsome, he may have won many hearts for the wrong reasons. Instead, at the end of his life, hardly any stood by his side and most called for his destruction. As it says in John 1:10-11, “... the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

Why Was the Messiah Afflicted?

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, we are told in Isaiah 53:4-5, “yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” This is one of the clearest prophecies in the Old Testament telling us that the Messiah was to suffer for OUR sins. Understanding the sacrifices in the Law of Moses, we see many allusions and types, but here in Isaiah 53, we are told clearly that the Messiah was to be the sacrifice for sin – a sacrifice that brought healing. All the other sacrifices in the Law had been made in anticipation of the real sacrifice that God required, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) God required a willing sacrifice from a man who had never sinned and didn’t deserve to die; a man who chose, everyday of his life, to submit his will to his Father’s. (John 5:30; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:3-10) Unlike the sacrifices under the Law which needed to be offered again and again for sin, ‘Christ was ONCE offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.’ (Hebrews 9:25-28; see also 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:15; Romans 4:25)

Like Sheep That Go Astray

In verse 6 of Isaiah 53, we have the simile, “All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way.” Another passage in the Old Testament gives a reason for this scattering of the sheep. Ezekiel 34 alludes to the leaders of Israel being selfish shepherds, more interested in eating the flock, than in caring for them. In Ezekiel 34, God has compassion on his lost sheep, saying, “Behold, I, even I, will both search for my sheep, and seek them out.” Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd who would ‘give his life’ for the sheep (John 10:11). In speaking of Jesus’ death and resurrection in 1 Peter 2:24-25 it says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

The Passover Lamb

Not only is Jesus the good shepherd, but he is also the lamb! In verse 7 of Isaiah 53, we are told that he was brought ‘as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.’

The feast of Passover pointed forward to the Messiah’s sacrifice as the lamb of God.’ Exodus 12:17-23 records the details of this feast, when the blood from a ‘lamb without blemish’ was painted on the doorposts.  Painting the doorposts with the lamb’s blood saved the firstborns from death when the destroying angel passed through Egypt. The angel ‘passed over’ the homes with blood on the lintels and doorposts.

Jesus Christ was crucified at the time of Passover. (Luke 22:7, 14-19) He is spoken of as, ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,’ (Revelation 13:8) since the promise of his sacrifice was given to Adam and Eve after the very first sin (Genesis 3:15).

When the Ethiopian Eunuch was travelling in his chariot, puzzling over the words in Isaiah 53, ‘like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth,’ Philip explained that the lamb referred to in this passage is the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:32-35) In Hebrews 9:13-14, we are told, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Cut off

How was the Messiah taken from ‘prison’ and ‘judgement,’ as verse 8 of Isaiah 53, indicates? ‘Prison’ has the idea of ‘constraint or closure, or oppression.‘ ‘Judgement’ has the idea of ‘a verdict, or a sentence.’

Jesus was given an unfair trial, greatly oppressed and then led out to be crucified. He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.’

There is another Old Testament reference to the Messiah being ‘cut off.’ Daniel 9:26-27 also records a prophecy of Messiah’s coming, giving a prophetic timeline for when he would appear which begins with the command to return and build Jerusalem. Daniel was told, “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…”

The Messiah would be ‘cut off’ for the sins of others, not his own. With his ultimate, willing sacrifice of himself, he ended the need for sacrifices and oblations to be offered according to the Law. “…with his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption… now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:12, 26)

A Grave With the Wicked and the Rich

We are told in Isaiah 53:9, that ‘he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” Jesus Christ died between two criminals (Luke 23:33). A rich man named Joseph, claimed his body and buried Jesus in his own newly-hewn tomb. The fact that there was never any deceit or guile in Jesus’ mouth, is reiterated in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”

It Pleased the Lord to Bruise Him?

So, why did it ‘please the LORD to bruise him,’ as we are told in Isaiah 53:10? It ‘pleased’ the LORD only in the sense that it was God’s plan and purpose from the very beginning. After the first sin, God promised to bring a seed of the woman’ to crush the ‘head of the serpent’ (Genesis 3:15). Once sin had entered the beautiful world God created, the only way to overcome the sentence of death, was for sin to be fatally crushed by the perfect obedience of another. (Hebrews 2:14) In the process of crushing the serpent’s head (a fatal blow), the seed of the woman was to be ‘bruised on the heel’ by the seed of the serpent (a temporary wound). We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them…For he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

A Happy Outcome

Finally, in the last couple of verses in Isaiah 53, we reach the happy outcome of the sufferings, when the Messiah will “see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

Now that the sacrifice has been accomplished and Jesus sits at his Father’s right hand, he sees the many sons and daughters he has brought to glory. He is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren,’ and to see us as the children which God hath given me.’ (Hebrews 2:10-13) By his obedience ‘many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:19) Where Adam’s lack of obedience brought death on all God’s creation, “through one man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in the justification of life” (Romans 5:15-19).

Resurrection

However, it wasn’t just the death of Jesus that brought us life. If he was still dead, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, that we would still have ‘no hope,’ and all those “who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” If perfect obedience led to nothing but death – what kind of a hope would that be?

However, this is the good news – “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Through Jesus Christ’s willing sacrifice, our sins can be forgiven and we, like him (the firstfruits), can be raised from the dead and given immortal life. (1 John 3:2-3; Romans 8:29) Where Adam brought the curse of death on the world, Jesus Christ brought the gift of life forever!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving up everything in this life, submitting your will to your Father’s, and enduring great suffering in order to bring salvation to the world!

 

After attending the Kingdom Hall for about two years I was baptized by the Jehovah’s Witnesses on July 9, 1983. I was convinced, as most Witnesses are, that I was part of the only true religion on earth. I was in the antitypical “ark” of Noah, Jehovah’s visible Organization on earth. I believed that my membership in this organization was the only way to be saved.

I was very happy to be of the “great crowd of other sheep” because I had no desire to “go to heaven” – the destiny of the “144,000.” I looked forward to life on Paradise Earth. I was single, 25 years old, wanting to marry and have a family, which led me to seeing the first inconsistency in Watchtower teaching. Being part of the “great crowd” my destiny was to receive “human perfection” on earth. This is the hope of all who are of the “other sheep.” But what if I died or I was killed? Of course, I would be resurrected to human perfection, but I could not marry! This would mean that I and all those who are raised to “earthly life” would have to remain celibate forever while all those who lived through Armageddon and did not die, could marry, and if already married, could remain married and have children. I was perplexed as to why this was the case, since all who received earthly life would be in the exact same physical condition. I remember thinking, “Lazarus was raised from the dead and there was nothing to stop him from carrying on his normal functions. If he wasn’t already married, Jesus certainly never told him he could not marry.” I found this especially puzzling since we were told that all the resurrections in the Bible “pictured the earthly resurrection!”

Looking back, I can now see that the Witness’ teaching had forced them into a corner. Let me explain: the “other sheep” do not receive immortality as do the “144,000.” They will continue as flesh and blood humans who attain human perfection. The Watchtower cannot apply Jesus’ words in Luke 20:34-36 to the 144,000 because they do not believe the angels are immortal. Luke 20:34-36 says, “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.” Applying Luke 20 to the 144,000  would then require the Watchtower to teach that the angels are immortal. This they could not do – so their only choice was to apply it to the “other sheep,” but in doing so, they created this contradiction. I was heartbroken. I did not want to be celibate while many of my family and friends would be enjoying family life in human perfection. Weren’t Adam and Eve told to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth”?  I did not question the Scripture; it was the application that did not make sense. My constant prayer was that I would not be killed or die of some disease before Armageddon.

Despite this, I did not question the validity of the Watchtower. I was confident that it was some mistake and that a correct understanding would come in the future. Where else could I go? All the churches that I knew about, taught the immortality of the soul, and going to heaven at death, or burning in “hellfire” – all teachings that I could never accept.

The next thing that puzzled me was what Jesus states about his apostles in Luke 22:28-30, “However, you are the ones who have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel.” Such a promise to me, clearly contradicted what the Watchtower organization was teaching:

•The nation of Israel no longer plays any role in God’s plan.

•Among Jehovah’s Witnesses only the literal number of 144,000 are designated as spiritual Israel.

•The great crowd of other sheep are not spiritual Jews, they are Gentiles who attach themselves to the 144,000. Zechariah 8:23 is used to support this view.

•In the Kingdom, the 144,000 – “spiritual Israel” – will rule over the “great crowd” – people of the “nations” (Zech. 8:23) as kings and priests.

After reading the Luke 22 passage above, I sought out the Watchtower position on the identity of the “twelve tribes of Israel” in Luke 22:30. To my surprise, they actually were teaching that these 12 tribes of Israel are the “nations” of Zechariah 8:23 – the “great crowd” of “other sheep”! In Watchtower theology, the “other sheep” are not spiritual Jews. Luke 22 forces them to teach two contradictory teachings at the same time because they have to identify the 12 tribes apart from Spiritual Israel, because the Apostles will be judging them! Once natural Israel is eliminated from their understanding as having a part in God’s plan, they have no choice but to state that it is the other sheep who then become the 12 tribes of Israel in Luke 22. They are actually teaching two opposite teachings simultaneously – because they say that the other sheep are not spiritual Israel or Jews of any kind, but in Luke 22 they say these 12 tribes are the other sheep!

Although I was very puzzled, I still did not question or doubt the validity of the organization because in my mind there was nowhere else to go. I was still convinced that I was “in the truth” and the Watchtower Society were devoted servants of God and that in time through their intense study of the word in Brooklyn, they would clear up the inconsistencies that I saw.

I continued actively in the “door to door service.” One day I was asked to explain Matthew 8:11, “But I tell you that many from east and west will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens;” As soon as I read it, I could hardly speak. I had never noticed this passage before. At the time I was convinced that there were “two classes” of believers. The 144,000 would go to heaven and receive the “heavenly kingdom” while all the rest would remain on earth. “All the rest” included Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I could not escape the clear words of Jesus himself that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be in the “kingdom of the heavens.” I told the man that I would come back with an explanation.

When I researched the Watchtower understanding of this passage, it was so unbelievable that I was too embarrassed to give the man the explanation. I felt it couldn’t possibly be true. The explanation given was that Abraham is “symbolic of Jehovah God,” Isaac is “symbolic of Jesus Christ,” and Jacob is “symbolic of the 144,000.” Additionally, what proved to me that this explanation was incorrect is the parallel statement in Luke 13:28 where Jesus adds “all the prophets” to his statement about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Who did all the prophets “symbolize”?

From then on, I started to read other translations of the Bible, as well as reading the Bible without the Watchtower Publications to guide me. My existing belief, at that point, was that all the faithful men and women in the Old Testament had the earthly hope and that they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as the “heavenly hope.” I was stunned when I read Hebrews 11:16 in the King James Version. Since most Witnesses have the KJV, it’s quite normal to see a Witness read this version. In referring to the faithful believers in the Old Testament, including Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham, the passage reads, “But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly…” How is that possible? I wondered. How could all these men and women of faith “desire” a “heavenly” country if this was not yet “revealed to them”? I turned immediately to my New World Translation which reads, “But now they are reaching out for a better [place], that is one belonging to heaven…”

This discovery in Hebrews 11 was very devastating, as every Bible I could find, read “heavenly” or “celestial” in this passage. The most devastating of all was the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear. The word-for-word English beneath the Greek reads, “Now but of better(one) they are reaching out for, this is of heavenly one…” I wondered why they would paraphrase the Greek word to read “one belonging to heaven” in Hebrews 11:16 and translate it as “heavenly” in the very next chapter -12:22?

I questioned the inconsistency. Was it possible that the Watchtower could not have their members read a verse that so thoroughly contradicted their fundamental beliefs?

For the very first time, I was deeply troubled. In fact, I was shattered, for my mental safety-net was gone. The man I had been talking to in my door-to-door service did not believe in the immortality of the soul, going to heaven when you die, hellfire or the trinity. He believed that the Kingdom of God would be on earth, all of which I believed and still believe to be Bible truths.

The living nightmare began. I was now married to a Witness, I had a stepson, and I had persuaded my mother to become a Witness. My brother in-law was a Witness and my two nephews were Witnesses. I knew what leaving meant – total shunning from family and friends.

As each year passed, the nightmare deepened as I continued to see more and more from reading the Bible on my own and realizing that my belief-structure was probably wrong. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I confided in my doctor who put me on antidepressants. I could not confide in any Witnesses because they would have immediately gone to the Elders and told them I was doubting. I wanted the freedom to sort this out myself.

I eventually sent a lengthy letter to the Brooklyn headquarters. In the letter I pleaded for help. I told them that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and had been put on medications by my doctor. I did not mention the letter to anyone in my family or to anyone at my Kingdom Hall. About two months later a Witness Elder from my congregation phoned and told me that he had been asked to deal with my issues. Brooklyn had contacted the Elders as opposed to addressing my letter personally.

The Elder came to my house and pointed out all the “good works” the “organization was doing that no other organization was doing. To him this was “proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses had the Truth.” To put things in perspective I asked him to read Matthew 6:1-4, “Take care not to practice your righteousness in front of men to be noticed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. So when you make gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” I also asked him to read Matthew 23:15, “…you travel over sea and dry land to make one proselyte…” After he read these two passages he was very upset with me. I pointed out to him that I was not trying to be disrespectful but the fact of the matter is that no one should boast. Secondly, all the preaching in the world does not make us right, as the inspired Word clearly says. Traveling over sea and dry land to make one proselyte is not proof that we have the Truth! I also pointed out to him that the contents of my letter was what I hoped to be discussing. He refused.

Over 30 years later I still remember word-for-word what he told me. “If you cannot see that the Watchtower Organization has the truth,” he said, “there is nothing more I can do for you and if you even attempt to approach the other Elders over this matter there will be trouble.” He then picked up his briefcase, stood up and walked out the door. My wife looked at me and said, “Your attitude stinks.”

I was broken. Only those who have experienced a similar situation regardless of the particular religion they belong to, can understand. I asked for a fish and was handed a serpent. I asked for a loaf and was handed a stone. (Matthew 7:9-10)

I suppressed my doubts for a few more years and said nothing to anyone. Eventually, we moved to another province “where the need was great” hoping that the Watchtower would receive “new light” and that everything would be ok. One evening speaking from the platform I happened to quote Romans 2:21, “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?…” How could I possibly go “door to door” and tell others to question the teachings of their church and act upon that questioning, when I was unwilling to do the same?

This time there was no turning back. I still had the hope that the Watchtower was right but I was not going to allow men to be masters of my faith. How ironic it was that I concluded that this was the reality – God was not the master of my faith but men. I was not the only Witness in this position.

This new harsh reality was brought home in an agonizing way when a young Witness friend of mine committed suicide by jumping into the Atlantic Ocean. I had played table tennis together with this young man in my basement. He was a very handsome, God-fearing, clean-cut fellow. He was just 23 years old. All the times we had played together neither of us could trust the other enough to confide our doubts. I had no excuse. I had become a Witness as an adult. No one had forced me to join. Rodney, on the other hand, was raised a Witness. His whole family were Witnesses; his entire circle of friends were Witnesses. For Witness youth there is no way out. Even if you do not get baptized and leave, you are still shunned as a “disapproved associate.” Rodney was not a rebellious young man; he was a “regular pioneer” putting in 90 hours per month. He had nowhere to turn but the Atlantic Ocean. When he killed himself the thoughts expressed among the congregation were that he was “selfish” and “couldn’t face the difficulties of being a true Christian.” I found out later from neighbours that Rodney had actually confided in some of his school friends about his religious doubts. I found it ironic that he could not go to his own Brothers and Sisters when he was experiencing such traumatic difficulties in his life.

I began to wonder what place do Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 have for “Jehovah’s visible Organization”? The “faithful and discreet slave class?” The “anointed remnant?” “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you…”

For Witnesses “there is no way to leave” without experiencing the harsh consequences of doing so. The “reason” is irrelevant. If you leave to become a criminal or leave to pursue a path that you feel is a path of true righteousness, the treatment you experience is the same.

Rodney’s suicide will haunt me all the days of my life. What if we both had had the freedom to confide in one another? He might still be alive today.

In April 1991,  I left the Watchtower religion. On April 28th I was baptized into Christ. My wife divorced me and my stepson hasn’t spoken to me in 27 years. My mother read the Bible from cover to cover without the Watchtower publications and three years later she left the Organization and was baptized into Christ. The ordeal almost killed her. She was 83 years old. On June 18, 2017, she fell asleep at 100 years of age awaiting the resurrection.

I know that there are thousands of Witnesses, young and old, that are living the nightmare that I lived. I also know that there is tremendous guilt for those who do not have the courage to do a thorough research out of fear that their suspicions will be confirmed. For those who do realize that the Watchtower Society is not “Jehovah’s visible Organization” there is a lot of guilt for not leaving. For many, they think that suicide is the only way out. Who knows how many are so confused that they do not know what to believe? Too many so-called “counter-cult-ministries” run by Ex-Witnesses are more concerned with propounding their own doctrines as opposed to helping Witnesses and Ex-Witnesses to think for themselves. For them, if you do not believe in the “trinity” you are still shackled by “cult-mentality.”

For the first time in my life I had actual faith. I had a firm belief that God and Christ would actually guide me. Is it frightening at first? Yes! Most importantly, it is a true promise from God and Christ that they will help you to find your way. “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you; for everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7)  The very passages that I assured others with, now assures me, “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36) “… Do not forsake me and or leave me, my God of Salvation. Even if my own father and mother abandon me, Jehovah himself will take me in.” Psalm 27:9,10.

It’s one thing to be able to quote a Scripture, it’s another to be able to live it.

In the 27 years since I’ve left the Watchtower Organization I have found freedom like never before. I can actually have discussions with those of my own congregation and disagree without fear that I’ll be cast out for doubting or questioning. It gives me so much joy to take out my Bible and read it for myself – whole chapters – all the way through. I feel so much relief that I no longer need to tally up my ‘good deeds’ in a monthly time card. My nagging questions are finally answered. I believe that I have found the Truth and the freedom to keep researching whenever necessary. In the end I am only concerned with whether or not I believe and teach the Truth according to God. It’s God’s Truth that I want to believe and teach to others – not the teachings of men.

If anyone wishes to speak with me I would be delighted to do so.

Norman Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com

Was Jesus born with the same nature that Adam enjoyed before the fall?

First and foremost, our only motivation for investigating Watchtower teachings is due to the deep measure of love and respect we have towards Jehovah’s Witnesses. We admire their zeal and dedication to our Heavenly Father. However,  we are compelled to encourage them to personally examine their unique beliefs carefully with the Bible. We will use the New World Translation in our investigations, as it is generally an accurate translation and familiar to those to whom we make this appeal.

The “Ransom Sacrifice”

The Watchtower teaching about the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ states that Jesus had to be like Adam in the following way: “He had a perfect mind and a perfect body. He would never get sick, would never grow old, and would never die.” The Watchtower goes on to say, “The ransom that had to be paid was another perfect life. This is why it is called a ‘corresponding ransom.’ (1 Timothy 2:6) The ransom had to have the same value as the life that Adam lost.” What Can the Bible Teach Us? Pages 53 & 54.

The Watchtower claims that Jesus’ ‘perfect mind’ and his ‘perfect body’ was “maintained pure through tests of integrity, with which to repurchase mankind, emancipate them. Hebrews 2:14,15.” Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, page 736. According to their teaching, Jesus’ perfect life was thus ‘maintained’ and upon his death, he sacrificed this ‘perfect human life,’ returning to heaven as the invisible spirit creature – Michael the Archangel. On page 142, of You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, we read, “Christ gave up his body as a sacrifice. He could never take it back and become a man again.”

In the Watchtower’s view, Jesus could not be raised bodily from the grave because that would make void his sacrifice. He would be taking back the ‘price paid.’ They say that what Jesus ‘sacrificed’ is gone forever – his perfect human life.’ This is the single biggest argument presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses in arguing against a bodily resurrection. In their view, Jesus couldn’t take his body back because he ‘sacrificed it.’

Was Jesus Mortal?

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was sinless, in that he “…had done no wrong and there was no deception in his mouth,” Isaiah 53:9. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth,” 1 Peter 2 :22.  It is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus never sinned.

However, the Watchtower goes beyond the simple teaching that Jesus never sinned, to state that Jesus had a “perfect body and would never have died.” To say that Jesus would never have died, overlooks Biblical passages that state otherwise. Paul, the apostle, says emphatically; “For we know that Christ, now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is no longer MASTER over him.” (Romans 6:9)

In what way was DEATH, Christ’s Master?

Jesus himself made a clear statement about his ‘life,’ saying, “No man takes it away from me, but I surrender it on my own initiative.” John 10:18.

How then was death, Christ’s Master? The answer to this is seen in the statement of Peter in Acts 13:34, “And the fact He resurrected him from the dead never to RETURN to corruption…” Can anyone ‘return’ to a place or state they have never been? Once Jesus was raised from the dead and given immortality, death was no longer his Master. Jesus then, will never ‘return to corruption.’ Peter’s words in Acts 13, indicate that Jesus will never again be subject to the mortal, dying nature that all humans possess.

‘Likeness of Sinful Flesh’

That Jesus was born with our nature is seen in Romans 8:3, “…God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…” If God sent His Son in the ‘likeness of sinful flesh,’ how can this possibly correspond to Adam’s ‘perfect flesh?’ If indeed the Watchtower’s teachings are correct on this matter, the Bible should say that Jesus was sent in the likeness of ‘perfect flesh’ due to the ‘corresponding’ nature of the ‘ransom.’

Instead, Galatians 4:4 tells us that Jesus was ‘born of a woman,’ which would imply that Jesus was born with a ‘mortal body.’ Job 14:1-2 says, “Man born of woman, is short lived and filled with trouble… who can produce someone clean from someone unclean? No one can!”

That Jesus shared our mortal nature is further demonstrated by Paul as he continues in Romans 8:11, “If now, the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised up Christ from the dead will ALSO make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.”

The NWT correctly keeps the word ‘ALSO’ in their translation of Romans 8:11, even though this passage makes the connection between Jesus’ ‘body’ and the ‘mortal bodies’ of the believers in Rome.  Paul is referring back to what he said in verse 3 of the same chapter. God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.’ Jesus did not just look like sinful flesh – physically he was identical to us. To maintain that Jesus had a ‘perfect body’ is without Scriptural proof, and proven untrue by clear Bible statements.

For example, “Consequently, he had to become like his brothers in all respects, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest…” (Hebrews 2:17). Do Christ’s brothers have a ‘perfect mind and perfect body’? We have already seen from Romans 8:3 that Christ was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Further confirmation of this is seen in Hebrews 2:14, “Therefore, since the young children are sharers of blood and flesh, he also similarly shared in the same things...”

‘Made Perfect’

As stated earlier, Watchtower belief is that Christ’s ‘perfect life’ was “maintained pure through tests of integrity…” Insight of the Scriptures, pg. 736.  Is this what the Bible teaches?

Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we have a high priest not one who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested [tempted] in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” The same Greek word used here for ‘tested’ is rendered by the NWT as ‘tempted’ in Matthew 4:1. How was a man who had a ‘perfect mind, perfect body, and someone who would ‘never get sick or die’, tempted ‘like we are in all respects’?

A ‘corresponding’ ransom, as defined by the Watchtower, would demand that Jesus be ‘tempted in all points’ like ‘PERFECT ADAM’, not imperfect us.  We are not able to find any Bible passages that even hint at the idea that Jesus’ ‘perfect human body’ was ‘maintained’ by his faithfulness.

The Watchtower points out that the terms ‘immortal soul’ and ‘trinity’ are not Scriptural language, indicating that these teachings are un-biblical. The terms ‘perfect human body’ and perfect human life’ are also never used in Scripture to describe Jesus.

We do read though, of how Jesus was made perfect in Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for the one for whose sake all things are, and through whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

The Hebrews 2:10 passage is clear. Jesus’ ‘perfection’ was through a process, demonstrating that there was a time when he was not ‘perfect’. His perfection was a moral perfection obtained through trial, not a perfection ‘maintained’ from birth.

Once this perfection was ‘obtained’ through suffering, Jesus was then able to offer a ‘perfect sacrifice.’ Jesus ‘overcame’ the very nature we all bear (John 16:33). Dying sinless, God raised him from the dead “no more to return to corruption” (Acts 13:34), and now death is no longer his ‘Master.’ (Romans 6:9)

Jesus Sacrificed his ‘Life’

If, as the the Watchtower claims, Jesus sacrificed his ‘perfect human life’ and could never take his body back, due to it being ‘sacrificed,’ then surely Jesus would have given such an explanation. However, consider the way in which Jesus described his sacrifice:

Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:15)

“This is why the Father loves me, because I surrender my life so that I may receive it again.” (John 10:17)

To surrender one’s life is surely the same as to sacrifice one’s life.

Hebrews 9:26 clearly states that Jesus came “to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself.”

If we use the Watchtower’s reasoning, that a sacrifice can never be regained, then this would require that Jesus remain dead because he sacrificed himself. Yet, we all are in agreement that Jesus was resurrected and lives at God’s right hand in heaven. Therefore, if the sacrifice of himself, and his life, could be regained through resurrection, so could his body.

In a future article, we will investigate whether Jesus was raised an invisible spirit creature or whether he was raised bodily and given immortality.

If anyone wishes to speak with me I would be delighted to do so.

Norman Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com

We only have one objective for investigating this very important Watchtower teaching – and that is to reach out in a caring way to many sincere, devoted believers, who love the Truth and deserve every opportunity to find it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that a literal 144,000 believers will go to heaven and become immortal to rule over the other unnumbered class who are considered the ‘subjects’ of the Kingdom Age. These subjects, according to the Watchtower, live on earth and do not receive immortality but eventually over time, attain to ‘human perfection.’ This belief is based on a handful of passages that we will consider in this investigation, such as  John 10:16; Luke 12:32; Matthew 11:11; Revelation 7:1-10.

The Watchtower freely admits that this teaching of the 144,000 is not taught anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jehovah’s Witnesses say this teaching was first realised by Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The disciples were still expecting Jesus to reign on earth in Acts chapter 1:6. Therefore anyone who died prior to Pentecost would have no idea of what is termed the ‘Heavenly Hope.’ Up until the Pentecost of Acts 2, the hope of every believer was to live on earth forever.

The official position many years ago was that the calling of this ‘little flock of 144,000’ began at Pentecost and ended in 1935 – which is when the full number had been chosen. The only way for someone else to be part of the 144,000 would be if one of the chosen became unfaithful and then someone else would have to take their place.

In the 1950’s the Watchtower taught that there was about 12,000 of the 144,000 left. We are now in the year 2019. No doubt changes to this number have been made to accommodate this unexpected passage of time.

Special Terms Applying Only to the 144,000

In Watchtower theology only the 144,000 have these scriptural terms applied to them:

  • born again, 
  • born of God, 
  • born from above, 
  • spiritual Israel, 
  • anointed, 
  • born of the spirit,
  • and Christ is only a mediator for the 144,000. 

The Watchtower teaches that only the 144,000 are ‘Abraham’s seed’ (Galatians 3:29 – ‘heirs with reference to a promise’). Only the 144,000 have this ‘heavenly hope’ and prior to Pentecost in Acts 2, it was an unknown belief for anyone except for Christ. Therefore, the ‘new covenant’ is only for the 144,000, which is why they are the only Witnesses who can partake of the bread and wine. 

Can this complex teaching withstand a series of Biblical passages that would indicate otherwise? Additionally, are the passages used to support this teaching clear enough to teach it in the first place?

We will consider the actual number 144,000 last, because it stands as a literal number on the basis of two things:

  • Is 144,000 supported as a literal number by the rest of Scripture?
  • Is a literal 144,000 supported by the description recorded in the book of Revelation itself?

Hebrews 11:6 – the ‘Heavenly’ Homeland

There are several Scriptures which demonstrate there are not two separate classes of believers. Hebrews 11:16, describes the hope of many faithful men and women who died prior to Pentecost in Acts 2. According to Watchtower teaching, the O.T. faithful had no idea that there would be a ‘Heavenly Kingdom’ as they lived before the revelation of the ‘Heavenly Hope’ at Pentecost.

Here are the various ways Hebrews 11:16 is translated:

“…but in fact they were longing for a better homeland, their heavenly homeland…” Jerusalem Bible

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one…” NRSV

“But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland…” NLT

“But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly…” KJV

“Instead they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one…” NIV

These versions make it very clear that all the faithful prior to Pentecost were hoping for a ‘heavenly’ country or homeland. 

This same passage in the Watchtower’s NWT reads, 

“But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven.”

The NWT is the only Bible translation that chooses to paraphrase the Greek word ‘epouranious’ as ‘one belonging to heaven’ – as opposed to simply translating it as ‘heavenly.’ Why would they do so, especially in light of the introduction to the 1984 Large Print Edition of the NWT? This introduction says, 

Paraphrases of the Scriptures are not offered. Rather, an effort has been made to give as literal a translation as possible where the modern-English idiom allows and where a literal rendition does not, by any awkwardness, hide the thought… Uniformity of rendering has been maintained by assigning one meaning to each major word and by holding to that meaning as far as the context permits.”(Page 7, paragraph 3 and 4)

Is there a reason to ‘hide the thought’ in Hebrews 11:16?

The thought is certainly not hidden in the Watchtower’s Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. The word-for-word English found under the Greek text for Hebrews 11:16 reads, “now but of better (one) they are reaching out for, this is of heavenly (one)…” 

In the very next chapter – Hebrews 12:22 – the NWT translates the same word ‘epouranious’ as ‘heavenly.’ “But you have approached Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.

The author of “Truth in Translation,” Jason David BeDuhn, speaks very highly of the NWT saying it is the most reliable of the nine Bible translations he compared. BeDuhn is a competent Scholar and his conclusions are generally accepted. However, BeDuhn also concluded that all the translations he examined were bias toward their theological views, with the NWT being less inconsistent than the other eight. For BeDuhn, “inconsistency in translation is often an indicator of bias,” (Pg 108).

As seen in Hebrews 11:16, the NWT has been inconsistent in translating this verse. Due to their unique ‘Two Class’ belief, a literal translation would be very confusing to their members.

MATTHEW 8:11 – the O.T. Faithful in the ‘Kingdom of the Heavens’

The next passage, is Matthew 8:11, which reads, “But I tell you that many from east and west will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of the heavens.

For the Watchtower it is not possible that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will be in the ‘Kingdom of the heavens’ as they believe the patriarchs have an ‘Earthly Hope.’ Thus Jesus’ statement here, presents for them a major problem. The Watchtower explanation of Matthew 8:11 is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are ‘symbolic’ of ‘Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and the 144,000.’ Yet the parallel statement in Luke 13:28, 29, referenced in the NWT margin, adds ‘all the prophets’.  “There is where your weeping and the gnashing of your teeth will be, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown outside. Furthermore, people will come from east and west…”

The Watchtower’s own cross-reference to Luke 13:28, 29 shows that they accept it as a parallel statement. If Matthew 8:11 is symbolic – then Luke 13:28 must be as well. So then, ‘all the prophets’ must be symbolic. Who does the prophet Jeremiah symbolise? Or Ezekiel? Or Elisha? This becomes quite complicated and is not explained in Watchtower writings. However, if Luke 13:28 is literal, then it proves Matthew’s account to be literal as well.

Reading Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28 literally, we have the simple, clear teaching that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets will be together in the heavenly Kingdom, with all other believers – one hope – one class.

One class of believers is very clearly endorsed in the book of Galatians. Paul makes this statement in Galatians 3:29, “Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring, heirs with reference to a promise.” Yet, according to Watchtower teaching, the Christians in Galatia are going to heaven to be part of the ‘Heavenly Kingdom’, of which only the literal number of 144,000 will partake. These 144,000 have been chosen ‘from Pentecost and onward.’ They believe that NO ONE prior to Pentecost in Acts 2 has the ‘hope’ of ‘going to heaven.’ All the faithful who died prior to this event, receive what they term ‘the Earthly Hope’, thus separating believers into two ‘classes’ with two separate ‘hopes’ – the Heavenly Hope and the Earthly Hope.

GALATIANS 4:28 – Children of the Promise

Notice Paul’s words to the Galatian believers in Galatians 4:28. “Now you, brothers, are children of the promise the same as Isaac was.” 

According to Paul, Isaac receives the same promise as the believers in Galatia. Isaac is not separated into another class who receives a hope different from the Galatian believers.

Consider also Paul’s words in Galatians 3:9, “So those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with Abraham, who had faith.” The Gentile Galatians are viewed as Abraham’s seed due to their faith. They are blessed WITH Abraham, not as a separate class with a different destiny. It doesn’t make sense that Abraham’s descendants will receive a greater promise than their father.

Notice the consistency of the three passages we have considered in Galatians 4 and Hebrews 11, with Jesus’ words in Matthew 8:11. These passages are very clear; there are not two classes of believers and there is only one hope. However, in all fairness, let’s take a look at the most oft-quoted passages the Watchtower uses in support of their teaching. We’ll begin with John 10:16. 

JOHN 10:16 – The Other Sheep

“And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” 

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that since Jesus references ‘other sheep’ there must be two classes of believers, with two separate hopes. 

However, when Jesus spoke about these ‘other sheep’, the Gentiles had not yet been included into the Jewish fold. In Ephesians 2:15-16, Paul talks about the inclusion of the Gentiles and the union of the two groups INTO ONE. “By means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments consisting in decrees, in order to make the two groups in union with himself into one new man and to make peace, and to reconcile fully both peoples in one body to God through the torture stake, because he had killed off the enmity by means of himself.” This is a perfect explanation for John 10:16 because it accurately describes what Jesus said – they will become ‘one flock.’

The Watchtower teaching is contradictory within itself. Within the organisation there are still TWO CLASSES – they have not been made into one. That is why only the 144,000 partake of bread and wine. Yet, Jesus said they would all become ‘ONE FLOCK,” one shepherd.’ If Jesus’ words are taken verbatim as he said, all Jehovah’s Witnesses would partake of the bread and wine. Instead we see that the ‘other sheep’ which Jesus referenced, are simply the Gentiles, who are now included in the one flock.

LUKE 12:32 – The ‘Little Flock’

In Luke 12:32, Jesus assured his disciples, “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.”

The emphasis that the Watchtower places here is on the term, ‘little flock,’ in contrast to the “great crowd’ in Revelation 7:9. The inference is that the ‘little flock’ is fewer in number than the ‘great crowd.’ It would appear from these terms that the Watchtower has a relatively sound argument. But context and an overall knowledge of Scripture has to be the final arbitrator in understanding each statement.

The overall teaching of Scripture is that very few will be saved, in contrast to the many who are not. For example, in Israel as a nation, very few were faithful in comparison to the unfaithful. Jesus himself, talked about two roads – one leading to life and one to destruction. The one leading to life had very few that found it, the one leading to destruction had many. (Matthew 7:13-14). When taken in context, the ‘little flock’ of Luke 12 is consistent with the overall teaching of Scripture, that very few find the road to eternal life. 

However, depending on the context, a different emphasis may be used. Context is vital. We can see this from Acts 6:7 where we read, “and a GREAT CROWD of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” (NWT 1984 Large-Print Edition) How many priests were converted? Was a ‘great crowd’ considered hundreds of priests, or hundreds of thousands? 

It is very interesting that the 2013 Revised Edition of the NWT translates this verse as ‘large crowd’ as opposed to ‘great crowd.’ This is done despite the fact that the Greek word in Acts 6:7 and Revelation 7:9 is the same (‘polus’). It is doubtful that the Watchtower would have changed this word, creating inconsistency, had they not been sufficiently challenged on this very point. The term ‘great crowd’ is one of the most common terms in Witness vocabulary.

Once again the Watchtower has gone against their own policy – “an effort has been made to give as literal a translation as possible where the modern-English idiom allows and where a literal rendition does not, by any awkwardness, hide the thought… Uniformity of rendering has been maintained by assigning one meaning to each major word and by holding to that meaning as far as the context permits.” (NWT 1984 Large-Print Edition, page 7, paragraph 3 and 4) The change to ‘large crowd’ from ‘great crowd’ only confirms that this is one of the most challenged doctrines within the organisation, enough so as to warrant a resort to inconsistency.

Luke 12:32 then provides no proof that there are two classes, based upon the terms ‘little flock’ and ‘great crowd.’ If it did, were there more than 144,000 priests who converted in Acts 6:7? 

MATTHEW 11:11 – A Lesser Person

Matthew 11:11 reads, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women, there has not been raised up anyone greater than John the Baptist, but a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.”

Watchtower teaching is that only those with the ‘Heavenly Hope’ receive immortality in the ‘Kingdom of the heavens’, while those with the ‘Earthly Hope’ remain on earth and receive ‘human perfection’- a state which they liken to Adam and Eve before the fall – very good – but not immortal. Therefore, they say, those who receive immortality are ‘greater’ than those who remain on earth. Matthew 11:11 then, for Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a contrast between the two ‘hopes.’ Matthew 11:11 certainly does teach a contrast, but what is the contrast between? Is it between two different ‘hopes’ of believers, or between our mortal life now compared to immortal life in the world to come? 

Luke 20:34-36 describes the superior state of immortality, saying, “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.

Jesus himself was “made a little lower than angels…” Hebrews 2:7. This all changed of course when he was raised from the dead and given immortality.

The question then, is what is the contrast, described in Matthew 11:11, in regards to John the Baptist? Is it a contrast between an alleged ‘earthly hope’ and a ‘heavenly hope’, or is it a contrast between life in our present age and life in the future when the ‘Kingdom of the heavens’ is established as described by Christ in Luke 20:34-36?

Jesus states that “among those born of women,” there are none that are “greater than John.” Was it necessary for Jesus to state that John was born of a woman? We know from Job, the outcome of everyone that is born from woman: 

“Man, born of a woman, is short-lived and filled with trouble. He comes up like a blossom and then withers away;Job 14:1-2

Regardless of who we are, we are all in need of redemption – just as John the Baptist was. Jesus’ statement about John was referring to his present state. “But a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” This statement is in the PRESENT TENSE. The ‘Kingdom of the heavens’ was still future at this time – even the Watchtower wouldn’t claim it was established until 1914. If the Watchtower’s understanding of this verse is correct, then that would be indicated by the tenses in the Scripture. Jesus would have referred to John in the future tense, saying, “But a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than HE WILL BE.”

Matthew 11:11, then, is a contrast Jesus is making between the superior state of those enjoying the future hope of immortality, as opposed to the mortal state that we all share in this life – however great we may be.

ROMANS 8:16 – to be ‘Born Again’

So what is the Biblical criteria to be one of the 144,000? Within Watchtower theology only the 144,000 know that they are of the Heavenly class. It is often stated that if you have to question if you are one of the Heavenly Class, then you are not one of them. For the Watchtower, the criteria is a personal ‘experience’. The standard passage quoted to support this view, is Romans 8:16, “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” This statement is taken to show that there is a direct communication from God to the individual.

Has the Watchtower accurately presented the Biblical criteria for someone to be part of this Heavenly class? The criteria that God has revealed is seen in 1 John 5:1:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God, and everyone who loves the one who caused to be born loves him who has been born from that one.”

The criteria according to John is ‘belief’ and not an experience. It’s available for ‘everyone.’ To demonstrate that it is truly for ‘everyone’ consider Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.

The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus is in John 3:1-10. In verse 3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nicodemus had no idea of what Jesus is speaking about – but how could he, if the ‘heavenly hope’ had not yet been revealed? Despite this, Jesus goes on to rebuke Nicodemus, saying, “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things?”

Why would Jesus rebuke anyone for something that is impossible for them to know? This exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus contradicts any idea that there was a future revelation with regard to those who are born again, because this exchange took place about 3 years before the Pentecost of Acts 2. If it wasn’t until Pentecost that the new ‘revelation’ was given to them, then why would Jesus have rebuked Nicodemus 3 years earlier, for not understanding what it meant to be ‘born again’?

What is the ‘born again’ experience that is spoken of in the Scriptures? It is the experience that we read about in 1 John 5:1, Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God.That Nicodemus could be rightfully rebuked by Jesus is seen in Acts 2:29-31, “Men, brothers, it is permissible to speak with freeness of speech to you about the family head David, that he died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath that he would seat one of his offspring on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he forsaken in the Grave nor did his flesh see corruption.”

Very simply, David believed in the coming Messiah and even predicted his death and resurrection. David predicted this through the Holy Spirit. He was a man after God’s own heart, born of the spirit. The criteria of ‘belief’ is clearly provided in the Hebrew Scriptures itself. 

Consider another example, Moses, who chose “to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, because he considered the reproach of THE CHRIST to be riches greater than the treasures of Egypt…” (Hebrews 11:24-26)

In John 8:56, Jesus states, “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” With the eye of faith, Abraham looked forward to the coming of Messiah because the ‘good news’ was preached to him (Galatians 3:8-9). His faith or belief was such, that he could be termed “the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16)

Jeremiah, the prophet, speaking to wayward Israel, in Jeremiah 4:4, “Circumcise yourselves to Jehovah, and remove the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that my wrath may not blaze up like a fire and burn with no one to extinguish it, because of your evil deeds.” Jeremiah is telling them that they have to be spiritually-minded, instead of minding the flesh… the same concept as in Romans chapter 8, where the Watchtower has plucked verse 16 out of context. Paul’s whole argument in Romans 8 is about our conduct: 

Verse 5-7, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, on the things of the spirit. For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace; because setting the mind on the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not in subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be.” 

“For if you LIVE according to the flesh you are sure to die; but if you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

Romans 8:16, then, is not about an ‘experience.’ It has everything to do with an individual putting aside his fleshly desires in order for his thinking to correspond with the thinking of God. “Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love, just as the Christ also loved us and gave himself for us… ” (Ephesians 5:1) The subject matter in Ephesians 5:1-6 is very similar to Romans 8.

Therefore, to be ‘born from above’ or ‘born of the spirit’ is nothing more than to allow God’s Word to transform us to be spiritually-minded, as opposed to ‘fleshly-minded.’ Every true believer is required to become spiritually-minded. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, in John 3:6, “What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit.” We are all born from flesh naturally. To have any hope of changing from the natural way of thinking, we must be born of the spirit. Jesus also tells Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only–begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Salvation for anyone, regardless of the time-period in which they lived is based upon their exercising faith in the Messiah, whether they looked forward in faith as Abraham, David, Moses, etc, or whether they lived in Jesus’ own day, or whether like today, we look back in belief through the Biblical record.

REVELATION 7:1-9 – The 144,000

Is 144,000 a literal number? Thus far, Scripture has provided no evidence that there are two classes of believers, one ruling over the other. Can it be demonstrated from Revelation itself, that the number 144,000 is not a literal number, but symbolic?

The whole nature of Revelation is one of symbolism. If the 144,000 was a literal number, then the 12 tribes of Israel referred to in chapter 7 would have to be literal as well. How can we take the number 144,000 as literal when every other aspect of this description from verse one to verse eight, is symbolic?

The fact that Revelation 7:1-8 describes John hearing the number 144,000 and then after that, John sees a ‘great crowd,’ does not necessarily mean that they are two separate groups of people, but viewed from a different perspective. The symbolic 144,000 are more likely the ‘great crowd’ – which no man can literally number.

For example, the Watchtower themselves teach that the 24 elders in Revelation 4:4, are representative of the 144,000. The 24 elders they do not take as a literal number at all. So, in like manner, the 144,000 could very well represent the ‘great crowd’ out of all tribes, peoples and nations. (Revelation 5:9-10)

This very point can be seen in the description of the ‘great crowd’ of verse 9, who come from ‘all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.’ This exact description is given of the 144,000 in Revelation 5:9-10. “And they sing a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought people for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” 

The Watchtower teaches that this group in Revelation 5, is the 144,000 because they are made ‘to be a kingdom.’ According to the Watchtower’s beliefs, the 144,000 in Revelation 5, comes from ‘every tribe and tongue and people and nation’, which is exactly where the ‘great crowd’ of Revelation 7:9 is drawn from. 

In Galatians 6:15-16, the Gentiles are referred to as the “Israel of God”:

“For neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is. As for all those who walk orderly by this rule of conduct, peace and mercy be upon them, yes, upon the Israel of God.”

There is far more evidence to suggest that the 144,000 is a symbolic number to represent the vast number of all believers from every ‘tribe and tongue and people and nation’ and all those from ‘east and west’ who ‘will come and recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens.’ (Matthew 8:11)

Abraham’s Offspring

It can be demonstrated from the Bible and by using the Watchtower’s own beliefs, that it is impossible for the 144,000 to be a literal number.

According to Watchtower teaching, ‘Abraham’s offspring’ in Galatians 3:29 is the 144,000. They become Abraham’s ‘offspring’ by virtue of their ‘belonging to Christ’ (vs. 29). In Galatians 3:16 we read that the primary seed or offspring of Abraham is Christ – “‘and to your offspring,’ in the sense of one, who is Christ.”

Gentile believers become Abraham’s seed by being ‘baptised into Christ’ (vs. 27). The key point here is that Paul is not providing some new revelation but quoting from Genesis. Galatians 3:16 is a quote from Genesis 13:15 which is actually cross-referenced in the NWT Bible. Notice a detail provided in Genesis 13:16, about Abraham’s seed – a detail which cannot be explained by the Watchtower. “And I will make your offspring like the dust particles of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust particles of the earth, then your offspring could be counted.”

Anyone can count to 144,000. The seed of Genesis 13:16 cannot be counted, thus corresponding to the ‘great crowd’ ‘which no man can number’ of Revelation 7:9, and demonstrating that 144,000 is a symbolic number.

If anyone wishes to speak with me I would be delighted to do so.

Norman Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com

 

Many articles have been written concerning the prophecies of Messiah. However, there are some hidden gems which are often overlooked or misinterpreted. It is these gems that we wish to consider.

First Promise After the First Sin

In the very first book which Moses penned under God’s inspiration – Genesis, we find the first promise of a saviour. The promise was given right after the very first sin, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, disobeying the only command God had given them. God had clearly told them, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) Adam and Eve ate of the tree and became sinners deserving death in the brand new world. However, once our Heavenly Father had received their confession of sin, he gave the promise of a saviour to come, even before telling them the consequences of their sin! God’s mercy comes before His judgement! 

Ironically, God’s first promise of a Messiah was directed towards the lying serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring [serpent’s seed] and her offspring [woman’s seed]; he shall bruise your head [the serpent], and you [the serpent] shall bruise his [the offspring] heel.”

Why would the first promise be directed to the serpent?

Enmity = Hatred

Enmity means “hostility, by implication a reason for opposition: – enmity, hatred.” At first read this sounds like God is saying that women and snakes would hate one another. While this may generally be true, is it only true for women and snakes? And why would God put hatred between baby snakes and the children of women… not men? Surely, this has much deeper implications… hidden gems! Let’s begin our investigation by determining what the serpent symbolizes in Scripture.

The Serpent Twisted God’s Word

To understand what the snake symbolizes, it is helpful to consider the serpent’s role in the first sin. The serpent began his appeal to Eve, putting forth the idea that God had said none of the trees of the garden were to be eaten. This was not true. God had provided all the trees for food, except one. The serpent wanted to make God seem unfair. 

Then the serpent told a lie, “You will not surely die,” to insinuate that God was a liar. 

He added ‘top-secret’ information saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Having painted God as an unfair, lying tyrant, now the serpent caused Eve to believe that God was hiding wonderful opportunities from her, and question whether God truly wanted what was best for His creation?

Through his cunning words, the serpent deceived the first woman to doubt God’s love, sincerity and wisdom, and make a wrong choice. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” she chose to disobey God and ate the fruit.

We are told in 1 John 2, that these same promptings that led to the first sin, are also promptings we receive from ‘the world’, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” Any one who has ever faced temptation, (all of us!) knows that these are the very promptings which lead us to sin. And generally, when we sin, the same doubts lead us to dismiss God’s commands.

Who or What Was the Serpent?

Genesis refers to the serpent as ‘a beast of the field’ (Genesis 3:1). Therefore the serpent was part of God’s creation. Yet, he was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” ‘Subtil’ means shrewd, crafty, sly, sensible, prudent’. It is translated in the Old Testament as ‘prudent’ – a good quality – more often than anything else (ie. Proverbs 13:16;14:8). ‘Subtil’ doesn’t necessarily imply the serpent was evil, just an animal with higher than average intelligence, and the ability to speak… but still an animal. It is possible that the serpent may have seen the angels eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and based his faulty assumptions upon what he saw.

It is indeed strange that the serpent could speak, just as Balaam should have thought it was strange when his donkey questioned why he was being flogged. However, we are told that God opened the donkey’s mouth (Numbers 22:23-30). It is possible that God opened the serpent’s mouth and allowed the serpent’s cunning but faulty reasoning, to put his new creation to the test. God has often put people to the test to see if they will obey His commands or not. (Genesis 22:1-2,12; Deuteronomy 8:1-5; Judges 3:1-7; Luke 4:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

 Paul refers to the temptation of Genesis 3, in making reference to believers who are led astray by wrong teaching, saying in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

What Does the Serpent Represent in Scripture?

Since the first sin, mankind has been cursed with a mind that naturally ‘opposes’ God; it is referred to as ‘human nature’, ‘the flesh’, ‘the carnal mind’, ‘the world’, ‘the devil’. Notice in the following verses, what else is at ‘enmity’ with God:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8 

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.James 4:4-5 (see also 1 John 2:15-17)

The World and the Carnal Mind are at Enmity with God!

If we were to look up the word ‘carnal’, we would get this definition from the Greek word ‘sarx’: “fleshly, the animal nature with cravings which incite to sin, the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.

Since the fall of our first parents, we don’t require a serpent to create doubt in our minds towards God and His commands. Our human nature (carnal mind, flesh) is constantly prompting us with plenty of questions and doubts.  Is then the serpent representative of the deceitful opposition of our natural minds, and those who choose not to be restrained by Divine influence?

Who or What is the Serpent’s Offspring Today?

Four times in the New Testament, the religious leaders were specifically referred to as a generation of vipers’ – in other words, the serpent’s offspring! (Matt. 3:7, 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7) Their teachings were dangerous, especially since they were esteemed by the people to be trustworthy religious teachers. However, at this time, these religious leaders were teaching as ‘doctrine’ the “commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9) – not the commandments of God. Just like the serpent, their ‘half-truths’ were more deceitful than an outright lie. They put on a ‘righteous’ show, but inside they were giving full reign to the animal nature. (Matthew 23:27)

To these same rulers, Jesus said:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 see also Rev. 12:9)

These religious leaders were singled out as being ‘the serpent’s offspring’, and children of the devil – based on lies that lead to death.  Throughout mankind’s history, many have followed the same course… and not always with a religious veneer.

Who is the Woman’s Seed?

The Old Testament tells us that Immanuel, or Messiah would be born of a virgin. 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14. There is no reference here to a human father…only a mother… a virgin mother. The Messiah would be the woman’s seed in a special way that is true for no other human being.

Was Jesus Christ the Woman’s Seed?

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,”  Galatians 4:4.

Jesus Christ was conceived when God’s Holy Spirit power miraculously caused an egg in Mary’s womb to become a child without the involvement of a human father. (Luke 1:30-38) Many times in the Old Testament, barren women had miraculously given birth to ‘promised’ children, but this was the first time that God used only a woman to conceive a promised child. Jesus Christ literally fulfils this unusual detail of the prophecy.

There is however, a spiritual application, in which all those who try to follow God’s commands are ‘in Christ’ and therefore part of the ‘woman’s seed’ (Revelation 12:17).

Who was the Woman?

If Jesus is the literal woman’s seed, then the woman is literally Mary.

However, spiritually ‘a woman’ in Scripture often symbolizes the ‘bride of Christ’, or God’s betrothed, the body of believers, or when true followers go astray – an unfaithful harlot (Revelation 19:7-8; Hosea 2:16-20; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3; Revelation 17).

There will always be opposition/hatred between those who want to follow God’s commands, and those who choose to be governed only by the carnal mind (John 15:18-29; 17:14-16; Romans 8:5-8).

There will always be opposition within our own minds between the ‘mind of the spirit’ and the ‘mind of the flesh’ (Romans 7:15-25).

Bruised on the Head and Bruised on the Heel

In the Genesis 3:15 prophecy, the serpent was to bruise the woman’s seed on the heel, but the woman’s seed would bruise the serpent on the head. One is a fatal blow, the other a wound. Much has been made of the blow to the heel. Many Christians would see this promise being fulfilled when Jesus was crucified by sinners (the seed of the serpent), because it was only a temporary wound, since he was raised to eternal life three days later. But, how did Jesus deliver a fatal blow to the serpent? This is not so clearly expounded.

The Serpent in the Wilderness?

There is a seemingly strange remark made by Jesus in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 

When did Moses Lift up a Serpent in the Wilderness?

If you look up Numbers 21, you will read of the incident in the wilderness when the people of Israel were complaining against God and Moses and despising the daily, miraculous provision of manna. God sent poisonous snakes which bit the people and many died. Then, when the people begged for mercy and salvation, God directed Moses to build a bronze statue of a snake and put it on a pole. Those who looked at it were saved from death. Why did God direct Moses to a make an image – something against his commands in Deuteronomy 5:8? Did He want people to ponder this incident very carefully?

Why does Jesus compare his crucifixion to a bronze statue of a serpent on a pole? In what way does this incident in Number 21, symbolize the sufferings of Jesus?

Serpent on the Pole = Jesus on the Cross? 

Hebrews chapter 2, sheds some light on this dilemma:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.(Hebrews 2:14-18)

If the serpent represents human nature, then this Hebrews passage fits perfectly with Genesis 3:15. Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus partook of ‘flesh’- which is the same word ‘sarx’ referring to the carnal mind, and human nature (Romans 7:18; 8:3,6-7). Jesus crucified this human nature on the cross… he put it to death literally! Throughout his life, Jesus refused to give in to the thinking of the flesh (the voice of the serpent), and the inclination to doubt God, and to serve himself rather than his Father in heaven. On the cross he refused the strongest human inclination of all – the desire to preserve life and escape brutality. Jesus submitted to God’s law – and His will for his Son’s life, even though in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus struggled in prayer to resign himself to the torture that lay ahead (Luke 22:39-46). So in his life, Jesus was continuously victorious over the voice of the serpent. In his death, Jesus completely destroyed the devil within (the carnal mind, the serpent). The voice of temptation would never speak to his mind again. Even though Jesus died on the cross, it was only a temporary blow to the heel, as he was raised to eternal life three days later. 

Not only did Jesus completely defeat the serpent within, but as it says in the Hebrews 2 passage above, Jesus also provided the way of escape for all of mankind, from the ‘lifelong slavery’ to our sinful nature, and the ‘fear of death’. And we are so thankful!

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:20-23 (the whole chapter relates to this topic!)

We have put together a pictorial overview of this subject. Click here to see or download: genesis 3 vs 15 pic

In our next blog, we will consider the second promise of a saviour, made to Abraham in Genesis 12.