A Letter to a Friend
NOTE: This is a real letter, really sent. I don't know what happened. I never heard from her again. I've never had another Jehovah Witness come to my door, either.
There are no coincidences in God's world, because He controls all things. So, I don't look on that day that you approached me in the grocery store parking lot as a coincidence. I know that you talk to others out of love and concern for them, and I deeply respect that.
You and your husband both had similar experiences in your early church days, and while that's sad, it's also very typical. As you know, many churches aren't very good at teaching the truth. Some even deny the truth entirely. The only way to know whether ANY church teaches the truth is to test what they say against the Bible. God tells us to test all things, including what your own church teaches, and see how it stacks up against HIS word. We need to be Bereans, and "Search the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so."
I am less than happy with my own church experiences for two reasons. First, whether they realize it or not, all the churches I've belonged to have encouraged a snippet mentality. They don't do it on purpose, but they use a little bit from here and a little bit from there to prove their points. But, even if their arguments are completely valid, at what point do you actually learn the book? SO many people think they know their Bible because they've read it here and there. Would you treat ANY other book that way?
That's a big problem with Confirmation classes, as I'm sure your husband can attest. (Perhaps Catholic catechism is the same way.) I'm not saying the pastors haven't read the Bible, but the kids who go through class likely don't. They read a bit of this, a bit of that - and Martin Luther's explanation of what it all means. When they get through, they think they know the Bible - when in reality, they've barely scratched the surface. Plus, all they have is one man's view of what it means. They've never had the chance for God to show them Himself what He means by actually reading His Word for themselves.
Perhaps the worst thing is how they think and feel when they're done! They think they're mature Christians and that they know all about Christianity. But, how long does that feeling last? A year or two? But, pretty soon they have doubts and questions and their "faith" feels useless and empty and maybe even fake. What they don't realize is that they've acquired a bunch of disconnected head knowledge - and it never got into their heart at all. How sad!
The second thing that bothers me about many churches is how (at times) they will take the clear words in Scripture and feel the need to explain what it REALLY means. Oh, if you look at a verse here and there, their explanation makes sense, but when you take God's Word as a whole, it starts to fall apart. These people are just men, and their explanation is only as good as their understanding. What if their understanding is imperfect? It only stands to reason. The true author of the Bible is God, and only God has perfect understanding of what He meant.
Does that mean that I think we shouldn't have teachers or pastors? Of course not! I'm always ready to listen and learn from someone who knows his Bible well. BUT - he's going to lose credibility rapidly if what he's saying doesn't match with what the Bible says.
When I started to get frustrated with "church," I prayed fervently for God to help me understand His Word. As the months went by, it became obvious that something was happening within me. Things that had been totally confusing began to become clearer. I had no explanation other than that God was honoring my prayer. What I did was in keeping with His Word - "If any of you lacks wisdom, he has only to ask." I believe that our Father in heaven LOVES it when we ask Him to give us understanding of His Word. Does that mean I have perfect understanding? Of course not! But the work that God has begun in me, He will continue to do.
I've looked over some of what you've given me - and of course, I've met with Jehovah Witnesses before. I also own some Watchtower books that I purchased at a used book store. No one should simply trust their leadership's explanation of things - but test it against God's Word. The Bereans didn't even trust Paul, but searched the Scriptures daily to see if his words matched up. One of the founders of the Jehovah Witnesses said the same thing:
"We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God's Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination."
C.T. Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 2, "The Time Is At Hand," 1913 Edition, p. 242.
So, with that in mind, and speaking the truth in love, I've got to tell you, Janet - what you've given me does not stack up against God's Word - not even in your own version of the Bible.
I'm afraid that if I tried to be exhaustive, I'd be writing a book here, so I'll just hit the high points of what I noticed.
You are taking seriously the command to "preach the good news of the kingdom," and for that, I commend you. You know that those words, "good news" mean the same as "gospel." The Greek is the same. What exactly is the gospel? Paul spells it out exactly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (this is from your NWT):
Now I make known to you, brothers, the good news which I declared to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, through which you are also being saved, with the speech with which I declared the good news to you to you, if you are holding it fast, unless, in fact, you became believers to no purpose. For I handed on to you, among the first things, that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures. That he appeared to Cephas then to the twelve. After that he appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time, the most of whom have fallen asleep. After that, he appeared to James, then to all the apostles; but last of all he appeared also to me as if to one born prematurely.
That's a little obtuse in your version, but if you read it carefully, you can understand what he's saying. That's the good news, the gospel - that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures. It is through believing this that we are saved and are "being saved." It is not through preaching that Jesus came in 1914, not through looking for "paradise on earth," not through knowing God's name, not through belonging to any particular organization, not through any works of our own.
Here is the same thing in the King James (The King James was recommended and endorsed by your early leaders):
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel
which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and
wherein ye stand;
1Cr 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1Cr 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Cr 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Cr 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1Cr 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1Cr 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
1Cr 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
And here is the same thing in the NIV. If you read it carefully, you'll see that it agrees with the NWT. The language is just less obscure:
1 Corinthians 15
1Now, brothers, I want
to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and
on which you have taken your stand. 2By
this gospel you are saved, if you
hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise,
you have believed in vain.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
This gospel that Paul preached was so important, that he also said:
Gal 1:6 I marvel
that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace
of Christ unto another gospel:
Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Since it's that important, it pays to look at it closely. That first bit, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; can be broken down a little more. Christ - Jesus - died for our sins. He didn't just die for Adam's sins, but for ours, too - yours and mine. That may seem like kind of a confusing point, but your organization teaches that Jesus only paid for Adam's sin:
Only a perfect human, someone not under the Adamic death sentence, could offer "a corresponding ransom," one corresponding perfectly to Adam. (1 Timothy 2:6) By voluntarily sacrificing his life, this "last Adam" could pay the wage for the sin of the "first man Adam." - The Watchtower, February 15, 1991, p.13
Jesus was a perfect human just like Adam....He could therefore sacrifice his perfect human life to pay for Adam's sin. What Does God Require of Us?, p.7
In the last conversation you and I had, I was trying to see where you were at on this exact point when I asked, "So what atones for MY sins?" Your What does God require of us says "All who put their faith in Jesus can have their sins forgiven and receive everlasting life." What exactly IS that faith? That Jesus paid for Adam's sin and by confessing our own sins and doing what God requires of us, we can receive everlasting life?
Janet, there is a wide gap between what your organization says and what your own Bible says. Yes, we have inherited Adam's sin - we are sinful from birth. But, from that instant on, our own sin condemns us, too, and no amount of "work" is going to save us from that, whether that work is asking for forgiveness, living a sin-free life, doing what God requires or anything else!
How can a holy and just God forgive your sin? If Jesus paid only for Adam's sin, and from that point on, people could simply ask forgiveness for their own sins, then anyone could be saved. You wouldn't have to have anything to do with the Jehovah Witness organization. You wouldn't even have to be a Christian. Yet, if you are adding requirements to being forgiven, then you are depending on your own works. If you've done any reading at all in the New Testament, then you know that works cannot save you:
Ephesians 2:8-9 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.
It's not a matter of being "sinless" from now on, either, for if you've EVER sinned, you're still guilty:
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.
And, as you know, no one is without sin:
1John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
And the penalty for even one sin is death:
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You need to really think about this. A holy and just God demands payment for sins. He simply wouldn't be God otherwise. You know in your heart that this is true. What keeps you going to meetings five times a week? Why are you out there, going door to door? Of course, you have concern for others, but aren't you also trying to fulfill God's requirements, as your organization has spelled them out for you, in order to attain your place in that promised paradise?
Yet, how much is enough? If someone saved your life, what would you owe him? What would you have to do to "pay him back?" What is your life worth? Yet, if every single sin individually condemns you, how many "lives" do you really owe? The only real payment that's good enough is your own life - and you only have one of those. Do you see that it is hopeless?
The only way that ANYONE can live eternally in paradise is for every one of her sins to have already been paid for. That's what Jesus did when he died. He paid for every one of YOUR sins, Janet - and mine, your husband's, and everyone else's. It's a gift. No payment you could offer would be good enough. To offer anything in payment is an affront to the giver.
Here are just of a few of the places where the Bible says that Jesus died for YOUR sins:
Mat 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
2Cr 5:21 For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Gal 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
Eph 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
1Jo 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world.
1Pe 2:24 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.
Our sins are already paid for. The only thing we have to do is believe it. God even promises to give us the belief!
If this is confusing to you, just ask God to give you wisdom. Ask Him to show you the truth. If what I am writing is deception, then ask Him to show you that! But, if what I am writing is the truth, just ask Him to help you believe it.
Go ahead and be a Berean - and search the Scriptures to see if these things are so! Not your leaders' explanation of the Scriptures, but the Scriptures themselves. God promises to help you:
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Notice that this isn't written to the 144,000, but to all.
How is it possible that Jesus completely paid the price for each one of your sins? According to 2 Thessalonians 1:9, the punishment for sin is everlasting destruction and separation from God, and yet Jesus declared the payment to have been made before he actually died:
Jhn 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished (TETELESTAI) and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. :
That word, Tetelestai, means "paid in full." It was marked on tax receipts by tax collectors. Jesus proclaimed it from the cross, before he died. According to the Greek lexicon, Tetelestai means:
1) to bring to a close, to finish, to end
a) passed, finished
2) to perform, execute, complete, fulfill, (so that the thing done corresponds to what has been said, the order, command etc.)
a) with special reference to the subject matter, to carry out the contents of a command
b) with reference also to the form, to do just as commanded, and generally involving the notion of time, to perform the last act which completes a process, to accomplish, fulfill
3) to pay
The way the word is used is in the perfect tense. Here's what it says about that tense:
5778 Tense - Perfect
The perfect tense in Greek corresponds to the perfect tense in
English, and describes an action which is viewed as having been
completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be
In other words, Jesus paid completely for our sins. They can never be punished again since that would violate God's justice. Sins can only be punished once, either by a substitute or by yourself. Even our own justice system is set up that way.
The only way that Jesus could have been eternally separated from God for each sin of each of us, would be if he was God himself. He had to exist outside of time. I know this is very hard to even read, but think about it. Why was he in agony in the garden before his trials even began? Why did he sweat drops of blood? Why did he plead for the cup to be taken from him, if there was ANY OTHER WAY? Was he such a weakling that he dreaded the pain? Dreaded the humiliation? Was he less a man than Peter, who was also crucified, yet went to death boldly?
Perhaps carrying the weight of our sins would cause agony - but what would be the greatest agony of all? To somehow, within six earthly hours, to have been literally separated eternally from his Father! What did he also cry from the cross? "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
What was he really saying? Was he really just crying bitterly that he was on the cross? Or - was he truly forsaken? This is the only time in the whole Bible where Jesus called God anything but "Father."
Somehow, in a way that we can't even begin to comprehend, Jesus suffered eternal separation from his Father, before he even died. There is no way a mere human could do that. No way that a mere human death would be enough. If he was simply a perfect human, he had only his human suffering to offer - because he declared "Tetelestai!" before he even died. It wouldn't have been enough to pay for even one sin of one man. Only someone capable of infinite suffering would have enough suffering to satisfy God's justice. The only one capable of infinite suffering is God himself.
I need to speak the truth in love, Janet. Your leaders, your Watchtower literature and even your New World Bible have tried to hide the truth from you. Yet, they can't hide it completely. It's still there, if you know where to look. Jesus is God, and deserves our worship. Even your own information declares it, for the truth cannot be completely hidden.
In your What does God require of us?, on page 4, it says, "People worship many things. But the Bible tells us that there is only one TRUE God. He created everything in heaven and on earth. Because he gave us life, he is the only One we should worship.
In your own Bible, the NWT, it says:
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
So, your literature and your Bible declare God, Jehovah, to be the creator of the heavens and the earth. I don't disagree! Yet, your own Bible also says, (speaking of Jesus)
John 1:2-3 This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.
Colossians 1:15-16 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; because by means of him all [other] ("Other" does not appear in the Greek - check your own Interlinear) things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] (again, not in the Greek) things have been created through him and for him.
Your own Bible is declaring Jesus to be Jehovah. It says that Jesus created all things. Jesus is our Creator! Take a look at Psalm 139. It begins:
Psalm 139:1 O Jehovah, you have searched through me, and you know me.
Psalm 139:4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But, look! O Jehovah, you already know it all.
Psalm 139:7 Where can I go from your spirit, and where can I run away from your face?
Psalm 139:13 For you yourself produced my kidneys; You kept me screened off in the belly of my mother.
Psalm 139:14 I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, as my soul is very well aware.
So, your own Bible says of Jesus, apart from him not even one thing came into existence. And, it says of Jehovah, For you yourself produced my kidneys.
Isaiah 44:24 This is what Jehovah has said, your Repurchaser (redeemer, savior) and the Former of you from the belly: "I, Jehovah, am doing everything, stretching out the heavens by myself, laying out the earth. Who was with me?
Ephesians 3: And should make men see how the sacred secret is administrated which has from the indefinite past been hidden in God, who created all things.
So, Jehovah is lying. Or the Bible is contradicting itself. Or Jesus is God. This is from your own Bible! That's not the only place you'll find it, either. Compare these:
Isaiah 43:11 I - I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior.
Luke 2:10-11 But the angel said to them: "Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to you good news of a great joy that all the people will have, because there was born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David's City.
Titus 1:3 Whereas in his own due times he made his word manifest in the preaching with which I was entrusted, under command of our Savior, God;
Titus 1:4 to Titus, a genuine child according to a faith shared in common: May there be undeserved kindness and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
So, Jehovah says there is no Savior but him, yet Scripture calls Jesus Savior. Is the Bible contradicting itself? Or is Jesus Jehovah?
Or, what about these? Again, these are from the NWT:
Isaiah 44:6 This is what Jehovah has said, the King of Israel and the Repurchaser of him, Jehovah of armies, "I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is no God."
Isaiah 48:12-13 "Listen to me, O Jacob, and you Israel, my called one. I am the same One. I am the first. Moreover, I am the last. Moreover, my own hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my own right hand extended out the heavens. (Who laid the foundation of the earth? Jesus!)
Rev 1:7-8 Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, and those who pierced him; (Who is coming? The one who was pierced. Who is that? Jesus!) and all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in grief because of him. Yes, Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says Jehovah God, "the One who is and who was and who is coming, (Who is coming? Just the previous verse specified that it was Jesus) the Almighty."
Rev 1:17-18 ..."Do not be fearful. I am the First and the Last, and the living one; and I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever. (Who died but yet is living?)
Rev 2:8 "These are the things that he says, 'The First and the Last,' who became dead and came to life."
Rev 21:5-7 And the one seated on the throne said: "Look! I am making all things new." Also, he says: "Write, because these words are faithful and true. And he said to me: "They have come to pass! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To anyone thirsting, I will give from the fountain of the water of life free. Anyone conquering will inherit these things, and I shall be his God and he will be my son."
Rev 22:12-17 Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to render to each one as his work is. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Happy are those who wash their robes, that the authority to go to the trees of life may be theirs and that they may gain entrance into the city by its gates. Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone liking and carrying on a lie. I, Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you people of these things for the congregations. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star. And the spirit and the bride keep on saying: "Come!" and let anyone hearing say, "Come!" And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life's water free.
Rev 22:20 He that bears witness of these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly.'"
"Amen! Come, Lord Jesus."
There can only be one "Alpha and Omega." And this still just scratches the surface of places in your own Bible where Jesus is God. And, your own Bible tells you to worship Jesus, if you will look at your Kingdom Interlinear Bible. For example, it says:
Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him: "Go away, Satan! For it is written, "It is Jehovah your God you must worship (proskuneo), and it is to him alone you must render sacred service."
The word translated "worship" is proskuneo in Greek. It means to hold in reverence, to make obeisance, to do homage. Jesus says it is what we are to do for Jehovah alone.
Matthew 14:33 Then those in the boat did obeisance (proskuneo) to him (Jesus), saying: "You are really God's Son."
Matthew 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him(Jesus) with her sons, doing obeisance (proskuneo) and asking for something from him.
John 9:36 The man answered: "And who is he, sir, that I may put my faith in him?" Jesus said to him: "You have seen him and, besides, he that is speaking with you is that one." Then he said: "I do put faith in him, Lord." And he did obeisance (proskuneo) to him.
Hebrews 1:6 But when he again brings his First-born into the inhabited earth, he says: "And let all God's angels worship (proskuneo) him." This is from my 1961 NWT Bible, and subsequent editions have "obeisance." However, you can see from the Greek that the word is the same, regardless.
Rev 14:7 Saying in a loud voice: "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship (proskuneo) the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters." Who made the heavens and the earth?
Rev 22:8-9 Well, I John was the one hearing and seeing these things. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship (proskuneo) before the feet of the angel that had been showing me these things. But he tells me: "Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who are prophets and of those who are observing the words of this scroll. Worship (proskuneo) God."
There are many, many more places in your own Bible that declare Jesus to be God. I can show you, if you are interested. You can see, in the translations above, the deliberate attempt to obscure worshipping (proskuneo) Jesus. The word is exactly the same. Yet, Jesus' true nature cannot be fully hidden, though the Watchtower leadership keeps trying.
If you recall how I got on this track, it was because I was taking a close look at what "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" means. I still haven't gone through what the "according to the Scriptures" part completely means. You know that Jesus' death was prophesied in advance, and that it would be for our sins.
Isa 53:3 He is
despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with
grief: and we hid as it were [our] faces from him; he was despised,
and we esteemed him not.
Isa 53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5 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.
Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Psa 22:14 I am
poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is
like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.
Psa 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
Psa 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
Psa 22:17 I may tell all my bones: they look [and] stare upon me.
Psa 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
Please don't get hung up on what Jesus died on. It honestly doesn't matter to your faith whether Jesus was crucified on a cross or a stake. There is no reason to make it an issue, one way or the other. Besides, there is ample evidence from secular history, archaeological finds, from medical information AND FROM THE BIBLE, that it was a cross. Yes, the Greek word used can be translated "stake." However, it was traditional for the upright piece to remain fixed permanently in the ground. (wood was scarce in that country) The piece that Jesus carried was the crossbar, what the Greek calls the "stake." Your own literature shows how tall the "stake" would have to be if that was all it was - especially considering that they had to use a hyssop branch to offer him wine vinegar on a sponge. It also shows it to be at least 8" square. Do you realize how heavy that would be? It would not be possible for the condemned men to have carried their "stakes."
There is evidence from archaeology:
1999 cover article in U.S. News & World Report
Compared with the earlier eras of Old Testament history, the days of Jesus are a fleeting moment. A life span of just three decades and a public career of only a few years leave a dauntingly narrow target for archaeological exploration. Yet during the past four decades, spectacular discoveries have produced a wealth of data illuminating the story of Jesus and the birth of Christianity. The picture that has emerged overall closely matches the historical backdrop of the Gospels.
In 1968, for example, explorers found the skeletal remains of a crucified man in a burial cave outside of Jerusalem. It was a momentous discovery: While the Romans were known to have crucified thousands of alleged traitors, rebels, robbers, and deserters, never before had the remains of a crucifixion victim been recovered. An initial analysis of the remains found that their condition dramatically corroborated the Bible's description of the Roman method of execution.
The bones were preserved in a stone burial box and appeared to be those of a man about 5 feet, 5 inches tall. His open arms had been nailed to the crossbar, in the manner similar to that shown in crucifixion paintings. The knees had been doubled up and turned sideways, and a single large iron nail had been driven through both heels. The shin bones seem to have been broken, corroborating what the Gospel of John suggests was normal practice in Roman crucifixions: "Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs" (John 19:32-33).
The National Geographic Magazine (a magazine that certainly has no Christian bias!) reported that archaeologists have excavated portions of the first-century remains of Herculaneam, a Roman city destroyed by a volcano in 79 A.D. Part of what they found was the outline of a cross on the wall of a home. The article says:
"An imprint in the wall...inspires the belief that Christians lived in the house; if true it is one of the oldest evidences of the cross as a symbol of Christianity" (National Geographic. May, 1984, p. 593).
Your literature is also not reporting things in an unbiased way. In your "Reasoning from the Scriptures" book, there is a quote from The Imperial Bible Dictionary. However, if you check the Imperial Bible Dictionary, you'll discover that the Watchtower publication leaves out part of the quotation. The words left out are in red below:
"The Imperial Bible Dictionary acknowledges this, saying: "The Greek word for cross, (stauros), properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling (fencing in) a piece of ground. But a modification was introduced as the dominion and usages of Rome extended themselves through Greek-speaking countries. Even amongst the Romans, the crux (from which the word cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time that it began to be used as an instrument of punishment, a traverse piece of wood was commonly added...about the period of the Gospel Age, crucifixion was usually accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood."
Why make such an issue out of it? Sure, there are people who have a superstitious view of the cross, and make it into an idol - but people like that can make ANYTHING into an idol. I wear a wedding ring on my finger. Do I worship it? Of course not - but it is a reminder to me that I am married, and that there is one that I love. It is a indication to others that I am taken. I wear a cross on my neck - not because of any superstitious view that it is going to protect me or other such nonsense - but because it is a symbol of my relationship with my Lord. I am "taken" and have no business getting caught up in the sins of the world.
Again, I don't think we should get hung up on this one way or the other, but there is also some indication that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, actually includes prophecies of the cross itself. Do a search on the words (this works best with Bible software that allows you to search for a phrase) "stretched out arm," and you'll be surprised at what you come up with. You'll find things like:
Exodus 6:6 I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
This has to do with Israel's coming out of Egypt, but it may very well have a double fulfillment in Jesus, just as "out of Egypt I called my son" did.
There is another, very interesting place that you can look. In the book of Numbers, God tells the Israelites how to camp and the numbers of each. Why? Why were they supposed to camp THAT exact way? I go on the belief that God never says anything without a reason, and that everything points to Jesus in some way. Remember what he said?
Jhn 5:39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Num 1:53 But the Levites shall pitch round about the tabernacle of testimony, that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel: and the Levites shall keep the charge of the tabernacle of testimony.
Num 2:3 And on the east side toward the rising of the sun shall they of the standard of the camp of Judah pitch throughout their armies:
Num 2:5 And those that do pitch next unto him [shall be] the tribe of Issachar:
Num 2:7 [Then] the tribe of Zebulun:
Num 2:9 All that were numbered in the camp of Judah [were] an hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred,
Num 2:10 On the south side [shall be] the standard of the camp of Reuben according to their armies
Num 2:12 And those which pitch by him [shall be] the tribe of Simeon:
Num 2:14 Then the tribe of Gad:
Num 2:16 All that were numbered in the camp of Reuben [were] an hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred and fifty,
Num 2:18 On the west side [shall be] the standard of the camp of Ephraim according to their armies
Num 2:20 And by him [shall be] the tribe of Manasseh:
Num 2:22 Then the tribe of Benjamin:
Num 2:24 All that were numbered of the camp of Ephraim [were] an hundred thousand and eight thousand and an hundred,
Num 2:25 The standard of the camp of Dan [shall be] on the north side by their armies
Num 2:27 And those that encamp by him [shall be] the tribe of Asher:
Num 2:29 Then the tribe of Naphtali:
Num 2:31 All they that were numbered in the camp of Dan [were] an hundred thousand and fifty and seven thousand and six hundred.
Judah - East - 166,100 Reuben - South - 151,450
Ephraim - West - 108,100 Dan - North - 157,600
Plot it out. What shape does it make? That's not the only spot in the Bible that the cross is tucked away, where no amount of revisions will remove it.
If you remember the gospel as outlined by Paul: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures, we've covered that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
The next part of the gospel is that he was buried. Why does Paul make a point of saying this? It doesn't say his body was dissolved.
"was disposed of by Jehovah God, dissolved into its constituent elements or atoms." (The Watchtower, 1st October 1955, p. 518. ).
It doesn't say Jesus' body was disposed of.
"The human body of flesh, which Jesus Christ laid down forever as a ransom sacrifice, was disposed of by God's power..." (Things in Which it is Impossible for God to Lie, 1965, p. 354).
It says he was buried, just as Scripture prophesied:
Isa 53:9 And 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.
And, then, it says that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures. It is actually part of the gospel that Jesus was resurrected. In fact, Romans says the same thing:
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Why is that important? What does it mean that he was raised from the dead? It means that he was bodily resurrected. He was NOT raised as a spirit creature.
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in
the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. This
means the SAME Jesus that died on the cross.
Luk 24:37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
Luk 24:38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Luk 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. This is very clear that Jesus cannot have been a spirit. If he was simply manifesting a body, then he was outright deceiving them. That would not only be a sin, but a contradiction of Scripture: neither [was any] deceit in his mouth. He also says, "it is I myself" which again means it is the same Jesus. Why did he show them his hands and feet? Because they still bore the marks of crucifixion. If he was a spirit, simply manifesting "fake" marks, this would again be a lie, and a completely pointless exercise.
Luk 24:40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them [his] hands and [his] feet.
Luk 24:41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
Luk 24:42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
Luk 24:43 And he took [it], and did eat before them. What was the point of this? Yes, angels can eat if they need to, but what was the point? Jesus was showing them that HE WAS NOT A SPIRIT.
Luk 24:44 And he said unto them, 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.
Luk 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
Luk 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
Note that it doesn't say "recreated" or "raised a spirit" or any of those things. Remember, too, what he said with his final breath on the cross: "Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit." His spirit was never destroyed, but went immediately to his Father - NOT on the third day, but right then. It says:
Luk 23:46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (pneuma): and having said thus, he gave up the ghost (ekpneo)
That word, ekpneo, comes from two root words - ek and pneo. Ek means out of, from, by, away from, an exit or emission out of, separation from, ending of something that had close connection.
Jhn 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost (pneuma).
Your Bible says "he delivered up his breath." The Greek word is pneuma, and it means "spirit." Sometimes it refers to God's holy spirit, and sometimes it refers to spirits as in angels, but most times, it is translated "spirit." You can see that Jesus' spirit came out of him and went to his Father. This happened immediately - not after three days. Again, your own Bible, in Acts, says:
Acts 7:59 And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit . (pneuma)"
So, what happened after three days? Just as it says, he was raised from the dead! His physical body was brought back to life and reunited with his spirit. That body probably existed in more than 3-D, but it was still his body.
Jhn 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. If this was simply a spirit creature, he could have manifested ANY body of ANY one. How do you even know it was Jesus? If this spirit creature was willing to manifest fake marks, how do you know he didn't just manifest a fake Jesus? If this wasn't truly Jesus, with his real body, then your faith is pointless.
Jhn 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
Jhn 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up.
Note what this says - his body itself would be raised.
Jhn 2:20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? Jhn 2:21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
Act 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by [that] man whom he hath ordained; [whereof] he hath given assurance unto all [men], in that he hath raised him from the dead. When will God judge the world? Still to come, right? Yet, this says it will be judged by "that man" that "he hath raised from the dead." So, Jesus is still a man, not a spirit creature.
1Ti 2:5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; This was written AFTER Jesus returned to heaven, yet it says, in the present tense, that the MAN, Christ Jesus, is still being our mediator.
In direct contradiction to these Scriptures, Charles Russel said:
"...the man Jesus is dead, forever dead..." (Charles Taze Russell, founder of your organization, The Atonement Between God and Man, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 5, 1899, p. 454).
Why? Why would he make such a point? Is he intentionally saying something that actually PREVENTS your salvation? Read this again:
Rom 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
This is the barest beginning of all that I could say, Janet. For example, we could talk about these verses, and all the many, many that say the same thing:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted
out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the
Act 3:20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
Act 3:21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
Or, we could talk about how the Bible VERY CLEARLY denies that there is any separate program for the "other sheep," but that all are one in Christ Jesus. We could talk about all that the tearing of the temple curtain really means. We could discuss Romans 8, and how it says that the holy spirit is for ALL who believe, and that without the holy spirit, you cannot please God. But, I think I've probably said enough to upset you already. My point in writing this, is that the Watchtower organization is not preaching the true gospel: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, yes, that he has been raised up the third day according to the Scriptures. And, that if you don't believe these things, as God means them to be understood, you are not really saved.
I want to be your friend, but I understand if you never want to speak to me again. Please know that I will pray for you and your husband. You don't have to believe anything that I've said. God wants you to understand His word. Just ask Him to teach you the truth - whatever it is - and He will! And, if it turns out that you have been on the wrong path, He will forgive you. I would be happy to talk to you again, but know that my intent would be to help you learn what God really says - not what your leadership says He means.
Wishing you God's love and forgiveness,
P.S. Here are just a couple other things to consider.
Psa 138:2 For You have magnified Your word above Your name
Jhn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Jhn 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
1. We are separated from the true and living
God by our sins.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23
2. We cannot save ourselves.
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Romans 3:20
"He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." Titus 3:5
3. Jesus Christ is God's remedy for our sin
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." 1 Peter 3:18a
4. If Jesus is truly your savior, you have the
forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12
"... if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9
Consider what this actually means:
They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such 'Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago,... (Watchtower; Aug. 15, 1981; p. 29)