You can view the meeting workbook here: https://www.jw.org/en/library/jw-meeting-workbook/october-2019-mwb/meeting-schedule-october21-27/
This week’s meeting workbook didn’t have a whole lot to sink my teeth into, but I do have a few thoughts.
TREASURES FROM GOD’S WORD
“THE most difficult time of the night to stay awake is just before the dawn of a new day,” says a former night worker. Very likely, others who have to remain awake all night would agree. Present-day Christians face a similar challenge because the long night of Satan’s wicked system of things is now at the darkest point in its history. (Rom. 13:12) How dangerous it would be for us to fall asleep at this late hour! It is imperative that we “be sound in mind” and heed the Scriptural exhortation to “be vigilant with a view to prayers.”—1 Pet. 4:7.w13 11/15 3 ¶1
If the Watchtower is intending to prove from Scripture that we are in the darkest point in history, then we would expect the cited verses to say something of the kind:
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Rom. 13:12)
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” (1 Pet. 4:7)
Neither text states that the darkest point in history would happen right before “the day” or “the end” occurs. This also raises the question: Paul thought “the day” was near and Peter thought “the end of all things is near.” So what would “near” have meant to these first century Apostles? I’m surprised they didn’t use verses in Matthew 24 to substantiate their view, though i’m sure I would have still disagreed with their interpretation.
Digging for Spiritual Gems
When and how did Jesus preach to these “spirits in prison”? Peter writes that this occurred after Jesus was “made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18, 19) Note, too, that Peter says that Jesus “preached.” Peter’s use of the past tense suggests that the preaching occurred before Peter wrote his first letter. It seems, then, that sometime after his resurrection, Jesus made a proclamation to the wicked spirits regarding the fully justified punishment they are due to receive. It was not a preaching that held out any hope for them. It was a preaching of judgment. (Jonah 1:1, 2) Once Jesus had demonstrated his faith and loyalty to death and then was resurrected—proving that the Devil indeed had no hold on him—Jesus had the basis for making such a condemnatory proclamation.—John 14:30; 16:8-11.w13 6/15 23
I don’t necessarily have a problem with the Watchtower’s interpretation here, which is basically in line with what many protestants would likewise suggest. Just keep in mind that the Watchtower thinks Jesus did this as an invisible spirit according to their interpretation of 1 Peter 3:18-19. That is how Jesus did this. But being “in the spirit” does not assume or even imply invisibility. In fact, the apostle John could state while still in a physical body that he was “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10). In addition, Paul could pray “in the Spirit,” (Eph. 6:18) while still inhabiting a physical body.
APPLY YOURSELF TO THE FIELD MINISTRY
“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in [the power of] the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
Why do we suffer? Apparently, the Watchtower’s ideal answer is to explain that it’s because Satan is in control of it all. But notice: according to 1 John 5:19 you have “the whole world” and those who are “of God.” Therefore, not literally everyone is under the power of Satan. Actually, the greek doesn’t even have “power.” Look at how the Kingdom Interlinear reads:
“and the world whole in the wicked (one).”
Therefore, it’s the translator who inserts “power” or “control” into the text, not the Apostle John. So really, the whole world is only “in” the evil one. To suggest that the world is controlled by Satan is not necessarily true according to the Greek. Or, at best, they may be controlled by Satan in some way, but the extent is not defined. This is to say, 1 John 5:19 isn’t a helpful text to bring up to answer the problem of suffering. Think about it. If the JW explanation is true, then people suffer because they are under Satan’s control? If someone in my family dies because of cancer, is that because Satan did it? According to 1 John 5:19, these questions are not addressed.
To be fair, the JW’s emphasized that Satan’s rule in this world is the reason why there is so much crime, violence, and immorality in the world. But this isn’t what the non-JW asked about in the first place. Remember, it was about his family; particularly, his mother dying through illness and his father leaving him (see HERE). From what was explained, the suffering had nothing to do with violence or criminal activity. Yet, we are supposed to believe that 1 John 5:19 has the answer. But what does Satan’s influence on the world have to do with people getting sick and dying? Plus, those who are “of God” in 1 John 5:19 aren’t said to be “in” the evil one. But yet followers of Jesus still suffer and die.
Lastly, the JW’s explain that God doesn’t cause our suffering, but he does care about us. Again, the cited text does not directly address this. Yet, the Scriptures are clear that God is sovereign over our suffering.
“Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, Jehovah?” (Exodus 4:11)
And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parent, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)
Notice too that in Job’s account, God was in full control of the situation and allowed Satan to do as he wished in bringing Job and his family physical harm. Rather than bringing all blame on Satan, Job responded, “Jehovah gave and Jehovah has taken away. Blessed be the name of Jehovah…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 1:21; 2:10)
It’s a shame that the Watchtower misses opportunities like this to share the truth with those who ask such questions about death and suffering.