JW Life and Ministry Workbook Review – July 15-21, 2019

This week’s review comes from the July Life and Ministry Meeting Workbook for July 15-21, 2019.

TREASURES FROM GOD’S WORD – “The Revealing of the Lawless One”

Herein lies another mystery, diametrically opposed to Jehovah’s “sacred secret.” It is “the mystery of this lawlessness.” This was a mystery to true Christians because in the apostle Paul’s day the identity of “the man of lawlessness” had not taken form in a definitely established and clearly identifiable class. Even after that “man” would take form, his identity would continue to be mysterious to most persons because his wickedness would be practiced under the guise and in the name of godly devotion. It would, in fact, be an apostasy from true godly devotion. Paul said that “the mystery of this lawlessness” was already at work in his day, because there was a lawless influence in the Christian congregation that would eventually result in producing this apostate class. Finally, this one would be done away with by Jesus Christ at the manifestation of his presence. This apostate, Satan-operated “man” would lift himself up “over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence” (Gr., seʹba·sma). Thus this great opposer of God as a Satanic instrument would be extremely deceptive and would bring destruction to those following its practices. The effectiveness of “the man of lawlessness” would lie in the fact that his wickedness would be cloaked in a hypocritical godly devotion.​—2Th 2:3-12; compare Mt 7:15, 21-23.

it-1 972-973

An entire book could be written (and many have) in identifying the man of lawlessness. But rather than do that, let’s just see if the Watchtower is consistent with their own theology and point out where they deviate from the passage. While I lean towards the preterist understanding of 2 Thess. 2, I think my futurist friends will largely agree with my criticisms of the Watchtower.

Notice that the man of lawlessness would “continue to be mysterious” because “his wickedness would be practiced under the guise and in the name of godly devotion.” Nowhere in 2 Thess. 2 does it state anything of the sort; namely, that the man of lawlessness even pretends to have godly devotion. Rather, his actions and intentions are clear and explicit: he, “opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god…displaying himself as being God,” (2:4) has “all power and signs and false wonders,” (2:9) and displays “all the deceptions of wickedness for those who perish (2:10).”

If anything, the Apostle Paul is telling is that when this man of lawlessness is revealed, it will be very clear. The only thing that is “mysterious” is the fact that his identity has not yet been revealed by the time Paul was penning his letter. Moreover, Paul explains that the “lawless one will be revealed (2:8).”

What about apostasy? Nothing in the text suggests that the man of lawlessness is an apostate himself. Instead, he draws people away from God with deception and wickedness. But this isn’t a deception based on any sort of “cloaked…godly devotion.”

Next, we have the very interesting mention of Christ’s parousia in connection with the man of lawlessness:

“Then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.” (2 Thess. 2:8)

We must emphasize that the slaying is brought about by “the appearance of His parousia.” The Watchtower is very careful to avoid this implication:

53 The Lord Jesus does not do away with the “man of lawlessness” immediately after its being revealed in full, identifiable form, seated in the “temple of The God” and “publicly showing himself to be a god.” The apostle Paul locates the time for the bringing of the “man of lawlessness” to nothing as being during the “presence” or parousia of the Lord Jesus. That means now, in our generation, for the royal “presence” or parousia of the Lord Jesus began at the end of the Gentile Times in the year 1914 C.E. We behold the “sign” in proof of this, and we know that we are in the “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3 through 25:46) Ours, then, is the time for persons of this generation to witness the doing away with the “man of lawlessness” by means of the “spirit” of the Lord Jesus’ mouth and the bringing of that “lawless one” to nothing by means of the manifestation of the Lord Jesus’ presence, his parousia! This destructive work will be a “manifestation” proving that the Lord Jesus is invisibly present, that his parousia is a reality. The “spirit,” the motivating force, from his mouth will be for the destruction of the entire “man of lawlessness.”

ka chap. 18 pp. 364-397

Notice the careful insertion of “a manifestation” being the “destructive work” rather than the parousia itself. This is not what 2 Thess. 2:8 says. It’s the parousia itself that is the “manifestation,” not the slaying of the man of lawlessness. The problem the Watchtower has is in dealing with the dilemma of Christ’s parousia in 1914 bringing about the slaying of the man of lawlessness. Obviously, the man of lawlessness wasn’t around in 1914 nor killed in 1914. But if 1914 is true and 2 Thess. 2:8 is true, then the Watchtower has a serious discrepancy on their hands.

TREASURES FROM GOD’S WORD – Digging for Spiritual Gems

Peter wrote that “the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire.” From the context and in the light of other scriptures, it is evident that this is not a literal fire but signifies everlasting destruction. As the Flood of Noah’s day did not destroy the literal heavens and earth, but only the ungodly persons, so also the revelation of Jesus Christ with his powerful angels in a flaming fire will result in permanent destruction only for the ungodly and the wicked system of things of which they are a part.​—2Pe 3:5-7, 10-13; 2Th 1:6-10; compare Isa 66:15, 16, 22, 24.

it-1 834 ¶5

These texts do not state that only the ungodly persons will be destroyed. In addition to ungodly persons:

“the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up…the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” (2 Peter 3:10, 12)

Even though the Bible is clear that there will be a “New Earth” in which all Christians will dwell for eternity, there is nothing in Scripture which prohibits God from destroying the current earth and making it new again.

But what about the “ungodly persons” who are subject to “everlasting destruction?” Apparently, the Apostle Paul and Peter didn’t distinguish in their letters the unrighteous who will be resurrected to new life on the earth during the millennium and the unrighteous who will be destroyed for eternity. Yet, the Watchtower has stated that there will be unrighteous ones resurrected alongside faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses to new life on the earth. There, everyone will have the opportunity (just in case you missed your opportunity in this life and lived an unrighteous life) to prove themselves faithful to Jehovah. It would be helpful if the Watchtower mentioned these things when describing the judgment of the ungodly.

“Inspired Expressions”​—True and False. The Greek word pneuʹma (spirit) is used in a special manner in some apostolic writings. At 2 Thessalonians 2:2, for example, the apostle Paul urges his Thessalonian brothers not to get excited or shaken from their reason “either through an inspired expression [literally, “spirit”] or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here.” It is clear that Paul uses the word pneuʹma (spirit) in connection with means of communication, such as the “verbal message” or “letter.” For this reason Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (p. 126) says on this text: “By this the Apostle intends a spiritual suggestion, pretended prediction, utterance of a prophet.” (Translated and edited by P. Schaff, 1976) Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament states: “By spirit. By prophetic utterances of individuals in Christian assemblies, claiming the authority of divine revelations.” (1957, Vol. IV, p. 63) Thus, while some translations simply render pneuʹma in this and similar cases as “spirit,” other translations read “message of the Spirit” (AT), “prediction” (JB), “inspiration” (D’Ostervald; Segond [French]), “inspired expression” (NW).

it-1 1206 ¶4

I’ve strived to be very cautious in apply the “false prophet” label to the Watchtower. If you’re interested in seeing how I have approached it, you can find a few articles dealing with it HERE. The reason i’ve been so careful in my approach (rather than diving head-first into the “The Watchtower are a bunch of false prophets!” bandwagon) is due to the effectiveness of the approach. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t find it to be overly effective to say something along the lines of: “Look at what they said about 1914, 1925, and 1975. This means they’re false prophets.” What you’ll get in response is a number of carefully parsed explanations as to how the Watchtower never claimed to be inspired. Rather, they were simply wrong in their interpretations of Scripture, which led them to claim that Scripture claimed the end would come in 1914. So, they were just wrong in their interpretation of Scripture, not that they were claiming to be inspired prophets.

Rather than getting into whether these were false prophecies or not, I think we can all agree they were false predictions. And reliable Bible teachers do not make false predictions about the future. In other words, I think it goes a longer way to show that the Watchtower has displayed time and time again that they do not have a history of being reliable Bible teachers.

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