Remember the gentleman that said “there’s no way that Jesus can be God and got upset about it?” Well, to my surprise, he was back as the local elder wasn’t here. He had a wedding last week so for whatever reason, this week he was unable to attend this week.
As a side note prior to a recap of this week, I’ve notice that the custodian’s husband, whenever he is there with someone different, he is basically “forced” to be the one to take the lead. Why? I don’t know. So there wasn’t much in terms of chit chat but we will jump in. Prior to doing so, here is a common point about not just Jehovah’s Witnesses but those who have some doctrinal overlap like the Seventh Day Adventists. The notion of soul sleep. Here’s the official Seventh Day Adventist page that contains the following quote, “The Bible tells us that "the dead know nothing" (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and that the very day that they die, their "thoughts perish" (Psalm 146:4, KJV).”
This is based upon their belief that the body is made up solely of what is contained within the body. I was able to get a solid confirmation from them about this as well. Without delving too much into this, here’s a verse that shows the body is three parts: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may the spirit and soul and body of you brothers, sound in every respect, be preserved blameless at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ,” I Thessalonians 5:23 (New World Translation). Here’s where there is a difference between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and mainstream Christianity. With that in mind, let’s get started.
The opening paragraphs of this chapter of “What Does The Bible Really Teach” as always try to lay the foundation for what will happen throughout the chapter. Paragraph three is where the organization tries to reinforce the “us verses them” mentality. It sums up everything by “world’s religions” on pages 57 and 58.
The first major heading “What Really Happens At Death” is summed up (according to what the organization believes) in Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10. However, what these folks are not encouraged to do is look at this verse (or many others) in the context that was originally intended. They don’t seem to realize that Ecclesiastes is a book that deals with contrast. Things got interesting starting on page 59, “What Jesus Said About Death.”
The subject addressed is Lazarus and the cited scripture is John 11:11-14. Lazarus is seen as sleeping. This long paragraph has a number of contradictions to the New World Translation. So I couldn’t really wait any longer and said (innocently enough) “I believe there’s another set of verses that deal with him.” We turned to Luke 16:19-31. I’d encourage you to read through this passage since Jesus spoke both times and He obviously wouldn’t contradict himself. Here’s some of the key verses (all verses are from the New World Translation).
16:22-Now in the course of time, the beggar died and was carried off by the angels to Abraham’s side. “Also, the rich man died and was buried.
16:23-And in the Grave he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham from afar and Lazʹa·rus by his side.
16:25-But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you had your fill of good things in your lifetime, but Lazʹa·rus for his part received bad things. Now, however, he is being comforted here, but you are in anguish.
So the first response I got from the custodian’s husband was, “A guy I work with bought this up just this week.” (Interesting how the Holy Spirit works, one passage, twice in one week). He continued by saying, “I talked to a sister in the hall and she pointed me to this scripture-Matthew 13:34. We turned there and it says, “All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds by illustrations. Indeed, without an illustration he would not speak to them,” and that’s how he said the story of Lazarus and the rich man is to be understood, as a parable. When people die, he said they don’t all get to go to heaven either.
I pushed back some at this point by starting at verse 33 which says it’s about the “kingdom of heaven.” I continued further by asking them to imagine themselves present with Jesus. Lazarus was a real person and for whatever reason, the rich man who remained nameless existed as well. Given that in that day, people who are rich wouldn’t be hard to figure out, they would have certainly known who he actually was. I further carried this by asking them to make the puzzle pieces fit. The paragraph says, “notice that Jesus compared death to sleep. Lazarus was neither in heaven nor in a burning hell. He was not meeting angels or ancestors, What Does the Bible Really Teach? p. 59. Here’s the points I was able to bring up based upon the key verses I listed earlier:
- Lazarus and the Rich man were wide awake.
- One was being tormented, the other being comforted.
- They were talking which shows that they weren’t sleeping.
- Lazarus is with Abraham. Abraham was an ancestor.
To answer directly regarding the “all people go to heaven” I have a publisher’s note at the bottom of the page that summarized says, “Hades was the place for disembodied spirits at death prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
I was able to go on and say, “not to be speaking for your coworker but I believe he has the following verses in mind”:
II Corinthians 5:8-But we are of good courage and would prefer to be absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord.
Philippians 1:21-24-For in my case, to live is Christ+ and to die is gain. Now if I am to live on in the flesh, this is a fruitage of my work; yet what I would choose, I do not make known. I am torn between these two things, for I do desire the releasing and the being with Christ, which is, to be sure, far better. However, it is more necessary for me to remain in the flesh for your sakes.
I was able to link everything due to the Holy Spirit working. The response that I got, “we have to do more research on this one.” Another thing said was, “to be honest, I don’t know how to answer this one.” He said this in part as he admitted he doesn’t know everything. I chimed in, if any of us did, we’d be God. To this we all started chuckling some. However, I let this go as when something like that is said, it means one thing, they cannot rectify the Watchtower and the Bible. This is fine as a seed has now been planted for them.
At this point though, they talked kind of to themselves saying there’s a Watchtower article that tells them more about Lazarus and the Rich Man. We hopped onto the organizations official website. We navigated to this passage in Luke 16.
The “plus signs” are for references. The “asterisks” are for the literal rendering. Verses 22 and 23 both have this contained within the asterisks, “Lit., ‘to the bosom of Abraham.’” You can view this in the JW Library app or the online New World Translation. The other guy said at this point, there are Watchtower resources that should be available to read that give further insight. This bought up yet another sidebar regarding that. One thing was the change in smoking. It was permissible until 1973. Also in the 1970s, they went from having one elder per congregation to multiple ones. The rationale, “the organization wanted to do things in line with the bible.” I didn’t respond openly but why would it take nearly 100 years (first Watchtower was printed in 1879) for the organization to reach this conclusion?
I asked why is selected material available only from 2000 to present day. I was told that in short, “the light gets brighter. As we learn new truth, we have to adjust.” They had said that the WT Library CD-ROM goes back much further.
What came to mind is an article that talks about how the organization is cutting back EVERYWHERE. Here’s the article for your reading leisure that lists all of the newly discontinued reading publications. I asked why is that available to just you and not everyone. Response, “we don’t want people to get confused.” It’s primarily a tool for us to use in research. I didn’t give much by way of response but what they don’t realize is that a simple Google search will bring it up. He also said there’s material available from the 1930s on it. This is a falsehood as I’ve seen the contents of this CD and it doesn’t completely goes back to the 1950s. There are publications such as Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, released in 1966 that started the fervor for what was supposed to happen in 1975 that are not included.
So as we progressed through the chapter, they talked about the resurrection based on page 63 paragraph 13. They said that there will be a resurrection of the “righteous and “unrighteous.” This will allow those who are unrighteous to have another chance. They will have a chance due to not being told about Jehovah or if they were influenced into a bad life from the time of their youth. I let them run with this a bit but I was reminded of Romans 1:20 when he said this. It says (New World Translation), “For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”
That verse says an awful lot. Every sunrise, sunset, animal, waterfall, picture of space speaks to what has been created. Again I let it go as the other guy was on good terms and I wanted to keep it that way.
With that, we worked at finishing up the rest of the chapter. Again, full of errors and contradictory statements but I didn’t feel compelled to press them. Please pray as I said I’d text the custodian’s husband the verses that deal with life after death and that he would take it to heart. Also, if you’d pray that the passage dealing with Lazarus would be studied upon in contrast with what the organization has said.