Another Blog from UK Partnerships for Christ (www.upfc.org.uk)

Watchtower Magazine – March 2013 Review

As Easter approaches and Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to their annual ‘Memorial Supper’, the March edition of The Watchtower magazine asks the question:
Did Jesus Promise the Evildoer Life in Heaven?

The ‘Evildoer’ in question, is the one of the two criminals crucified either side of Jesus. The question asked is of much importance as The Watchtower teaches its adherents, that heaven is only for a select group of 144,000. This means that the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses you or I encounter will only have a hope of living on Earth.
In attempting to answer the question: Did Jesus Promise the Evildoer Life in Heaven?
The article begins:
The question arises because Jesus promised the criminal who was being executed alongside him a future life in Paradise. Jesus said: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Note that Jesus did not say where that Paradise would be. Did Jesus mean, then, that the evildoer would join him in heaven? (Italics mine)

The first thing to notice is where the WT places the comma in the Scripture quote from Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”

There is no justification for placing the comma after the word ‘today’, but the WT does so to support its own theology. The Watchtower cannot have Jesus saying to an ‘Evildoer’, ‘today you will be with me in Paradise’. The WT belief is that when people die they are ‘conscious of nothing at all’ (Ecclesiastes 9:5); they are non-existent, awaiting a future resurrection from the dead. Hence, the ‘Evildoer’ was not going anywhere when he died on the cross next to Jesus.

Strong’s Concordance says this about the word ‘today’ in Luke 23:43:
“today’- Strong’s Concordance 4594 semeron neuter (as adverb) of a presumed compound of the art. 3588 and 2250; on the (i.e. this) day (or night current or just passed); generally, now (i.e. at present, hitherto): KJV– this (to-) day.

This shows that the word ‘today’ is in the present tense and Jesus was promising the so called ‘Evildoer’ that he would be in Paradise with him that very day.

Fearful that Jesus could have actually meant that this ‘Evildoer’ was forgiven upon his confession, and he may be admitted into heaven, The Watchtower reinforces their belief that salvation by faith alone is not enough.

The article continues…
First, let us consider whether that evildoer met the qualifications for heavenly life. Humans with heavenly prospects have been baptized in water and with holy spirit and are thus spirit-begotten disciples of Jesus. (John 3:3, 5) Another requirement is that they conform to God’s moral standards and manifest such qualities as honesty, integrity, and compassion. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) They must also remain loyal to God and Christ till the end of their earthly course. (Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12) Only by meeting those requirements can they show themselves worthy of being resurrected and qualified for the weighty responsibility awaiting them in heaven, namely, serving as priests and kings with Christ over mankind for a thousand years.—Revelation 20:6. (Italics mine)

Jehovah’s Witnesses say that they believe that Salvation is by faith, but they deny it in practice. They are taught, as the quote above shows, that there are qualifications that need to be met to enter heaven.

The Watchtower claims that there are 3 requirements:
a) A person needs to be baptised in water and with the Holy Spirit.
b) A person needs to conform to God’s moral standards.
c)A person must remain loyal to God and Christ till death.

Let us consider these.
a) A person needs to be baptised in water and with the Holy Spirit.
The Bible clearly teaches that salvation is by faith alone.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ Romans 5:1
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast Ephesians 2:8,9Salvation is NOT by faith and works or faith and ceremony (see Romans 4:1-11)
We are saved by faith when we believe, not when we are baptised. If baptism is necessary for salvation then what hope is there for those who repent on their deathbed (or for a person who is nailed to a cross next to Jesus?).

b) A person needs to conform to God’s moral standards.
Though it is right to say that those who would claim to be a disciple of Jesus should seek to live a holy life, the implication from The Watchtower is that heaven is only attainable for those who work at being ‘good’. No surprise that this contradicts the Bible.

As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

As the Apostle Paul clearly demonstrates we are made righteous by faith in Jesus. A person can never be justified before God by striving to keep moral standards.

The Watchtower has little concept of Grace and so the ‘evildoer’ alongside Jesus, having been crucified as a criminal, could not possibly reach heaven. Here is the issue for Jehovah’s Witnesses, they need to strive to please Jehovah, they have to work for their salvation, they have to remain loyal to ‘God’s Organisation’ – they cannot accept that through Jesus, salvation is freely available to all who put the faith in Him. Hence, Jesus can say to the ‘evildoer’ ‘today you will be with me in paradise’

c) A person must remain loyal to God and Christ till death.
Notice the separation of God and Christ. Yes, we are called to remain faithful to Jesus, but what the Jehovah’s Witness understands by this is that remaining loyal to God and Christ means remaining loyal to His ‘spirit-directed organization’:

Jehovah is guiding us today by means of his visible organization under Christ. Our attitude toward this arrangement demonstrates how we feel about the issue of sovereignty. (Hebrews 13:17) Satan contends that our chief concern is self. But if we serve in any way needed and avoid things that draw undue attention to self, we prove the Devil a liar. If we love and respect those who take the lead among us but refuse to ‘admire personalities for our own benefit,’ we bring joy to Jehovah. (Jude 16; Hebrews 13:7) By being loyal to Jehovah’s organization, we show that Jehovah is our God and that we are united in worship of him.—1 Corinthians 15:58. (Italics mine) (Worship the Only True God p.135)

The article continues:
In contrast, the evildoer alongside Jesus lived as a criminal and died as a criminal. (Luke 23:32, 39-41) True, he showed a respectful attitude when he said to Jesus: “Remember me when you get into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Nonetheless, he had not become a baptized, spirit-begotten disciple of Jesus, nor had he built a record of upright conduct and faithful endurance. Does it seem reasonable that Jesus would promise him heavenly kingship alongside his faithful followers who had proved their integrity?—Romans 2:6, 7.

To illustrate: If a man asked your forgiveness for stealing your money, you might decide not to press charges. But would you trust him to run your business or to take care of your family? You would reserve such responsibilities only for those in whom you had the utmost confidence. Likewise, those who are given the hope of life in heaven must provide a solid basis for confidence that they will uphold God’s righteous standards when they rule over mankind. (Revelation 2:10) The evildoer, though apparently sincere in his last-minute plea, provided no such basis. (Italics mine)

‘Does it seem reasonable…?’ No it doesn’t to human minds, but God’s ways are not our ways. That is what is so amazing about GRACE! God forgives and makes righteous ‘evildoers’ who put their faith in Jesus. Salvation is by faith not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The Watchtower article concludes by arguing that the ‘paradise’ Jesus spoke about was a future ‘paradise earth’ where the evildoer will be resurrected and given the opportunity to prove himself faithful to Jehovah. This is the hope of every door-knocking Jehovah’s Witness you will meet, and it is ‘another gospel’ (Galatians 1:8). How they need to hear and accept the Gospel of Grace.

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Categorised in: UK Partnerships for Christ, Watchtower Magazine

2 Responses »

  1. It is very interesting to compare where they put the comma in a similar (verily, verily) verse John 5:24. Your articles are always so helpful to me. Thank you!

  2. See when I read stuff like this it does make me think….how did I miss this? DId I never read Romans….Did I never read Galations?….If all us imperfect sinners are saved based how good we have been….we are all doomed!!!!

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