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If the faithful men before Jesus’ time are not resurrected as perfect men, in what way is their resurrection “better”?
The questioner refers to Hebrews 11:35: “Women received their dead by resurrection; but other men were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection.” We let the new book “This Means Everlasting Life” answer by our quoting from it, page 295: “By the faith of God’s prophets of old a number of persons were resurrected from the dead, but because they were inheritors of death from Adam and the Kingdom was not yet established, they returned to death. All those faithful ones of old, down to John the Baptist, died in faithfulness to Jehovah God, and for this they will have a resurrection better than what those had who were resurrected to a life still under the regime of sin and death. It will be a ‘better resurrection’ because it will be performed by Jehovah’s greatest prophet, the King Jesus Christ, and it will be performed under God’s kingdom in his hands. It will be without the unavoidable need to die again, because it will be under the rulership of the Son of God, whose ransom secures their release forever from death. The opportunity to gain life on earth eternally will then be set before them; and with Satan and his demons abyssed and his wicked world gone there will be no forces to hinder their efforts to gain the latest knowledge on God’s kingdom and to walk the paths of enlightened righteousness toward everlasting life in this Paradise. And since they exercised faith as far as they had knowledge and they died in their unbreakable integrity toward God, they have inclined toward righteousness, and this will be to their advantage at the resurrection under His kingdom by Christ.”
Evidently Adam stood in a different position as regards redemption from that occupied by his descendants. He had the right to life, but did not value it or appreciate it enough to hold on to it; whereas his descendants never had the right to life and needed redemption from the beginning. It should be observed that in the statement “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” Adam is excluded from the comparison. (1 Cor. 15:22) We could not say that Adam died in Adam. Adam was personally sentenced to death for his own willful wrongdoing, but not his offspring. Nor does the Bible anywhere say that Adam was the one ransomed to thereby automatically release all his descendants. The ransom is not given for one, but “for many” or “for all”. (Matt. 20:28; 1 Tim. 2:6) However, in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, the apostle is discussing the resurrection of Christ’s body members. The statement that “in Christ shall all be made alive” applies to all those “which are fallen asleep in Christ” (verses 6, 18), and not to mankind in general. Hence those to be thus made alive must come into relationship to Christ as Life-giver and are made members of his body. Not all men receive the benefits of Christ’s ransom, but only “all them that obey him”. The condemnation inherited from Adam is lifted from those who believe and obey Christ Jesus; it remains upon those who do not believe and obey.—John 3:18, 36; Heb. 5:9.
After Armageddon starts, work will continue and further ingathering of ‘other sheep’, especially from heathendom, will take place?
None got into Noah’s ark after the flood started. None escaped from Sodom and Gomorrah who delayed flight till the fire and sulphur began to fall. Jesus showed how impossible successful flight would be for those who delayed till Armageddon’s beginning, by use of the symbolisms of winter and sabbath day. (Gen. 7:1-24; 19:12-29; Matt. 24:20-22) When Jesus warned of the folly of delaying flight, he did mention a shortening of the days of tribulation that some flesh might be saved. We are now in this specially provided period for the salvation of Jehovah’s “sheep”, when the tribulation launched against Satan’s organization in 1914 has let up but will soon resume to its climax and finish in Armageddon. Now is the time to flee, as prefigured by the temporary lifting of the Babylonians’ siege of Jerusalem, and which allowed for escape by those who heeded Jeremiah’s preaching. (Jer. 37:1-12; 39:1-9) Similarly, the Roman siege of Jerusalem began A.D. 66, but was strangely lifted for a time and allowed opportunity of escape before its resumption under Titus and the city’s fall, A.D. 70. Both of these sieges and falls of Jerusalem, with their interims of relieved pressure allowing for escape, pictured the final tribulation upon Satan and his organization beginning A.D. 1914 and ending at Armageddon, but shortened by the present in-between period allowing opportunity for the saving of persons devoted to Jehovah God. Hence the foregoing shows there is no opportunity for last-minute flight or deathbed repentance after Armageddon begins. What, then, did the words of The Watchtower as quoted by this questioner mean? Why, that as long as there are persons attached to this present wicked system of things we will preach about the kingdom of God and declare his vengeance. We will let whatever men and organizations that remain after the fall of Christendom’s religions know that Jehovah’s battle of Armageddon has started and that his vengeance will reach out to consume all of Satan’s world, climaxing in the abyssing of Satan himself. Ezekiel declared God’s vengeance against heathen nations after he had foretold the divine wrath against Jerusalem. (Chapters 25-32) Jeremiah, at Jehovah’s command, extended the wine cup of God’s fury to heathendom after he had made Jerusalem drink of it. (25:15-29) It was not, in, these cases, a message of good news and invitation to eternal life, but one of coming doom at Jehovah’s vengeance time. Hence the article in the April 1 Watchtower, which was discussing Isaiah chapter 6, was telling us that even after Armageddon has started we will preach “until cities be waste without inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste, and Jehovah have removed men far away, and the forsaken places be many in the midst of the land”.—Isa. 6:11, 12.
Yes, that is the point being made. When ejecting Adam from Eden God said: “Because you followed your wife’s suggestions, and ate from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat, cursed shall be the ground through you, in suffering shall you gain your living from it as long as you live; thorns and thistles shall it produce for you, so that you will have to eat wild plants. By the sweat of your brow shall you earn your living.” (Gen. 3:17-19) Centuries later the Noachian flood cleansed the earth of wickedness, leaving only persons counted righteous in God’s sight and who were devoted to true worship. Jehovah gave them a good start, reissued the command to multiply and fill the earth, and placed under man’s power the animal and plant realms, with no handicapping curse on the earth: “I will never again curse the soil because of man.” However, be it noted that the mandate to subdue the earth issued to Adam was not included in that given to Noah, indicating it would not be accomplished by the mere lifting of the curse.—Gen. 1:28; 6:17; 8:21; 9:1-17. Just a few centuries later one part of the earth was compared with Eden because of its lush beauty: “Lot looked out, and saw that the whole basin of the Jordan was well watered everywhere (this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the LORD’S own garden.” (Gen. 13:10) Nor does the following report of the spies on the Promised Land sound like a cursed earth that provided only wild plants for food: “Reaching the valley of Eshcol, they cut a branch from there with a single cluster of grapes, and it took two of them to carry it on a stretcher, along with some pomegranates and some figs.” When later presenting this fruit to the Israelite community the spies said concerning the land: “It surely does flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit.” (Num. 13:23-27) Certainly Moses was not describing a cursed earth when using these glowing terms concerning the Promised Land, whose caretaker was the Lord: “The LORD your God is bringing you into a fine land, a land with streams of water, with springs and pools welling up in the valleys and on the hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil-producing olives and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, lacking nothing in it; a land whose stones contain iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” “The land which you are invading for conquest is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it by hand like a vegetable garden. On the contrary, the land into which you are crossing for conquest is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky, a land for which the LORD your God cares, the eyes of the LORD your God being continually on it, from the beginning to the end of the year. If you will but heed the commands that I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God, and serve him with all your mind and heart, he will give you rain for your land in due season, the winter rain and the spring rain, so that you will gather in your grain and wine and oil, and he will produce grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat your fill. Take care lest you be deceived into turning aside to serve alien gods and to pay homage to them, and the anger of the LORD blaze against you, and he shut up the skies so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you quickly perish off the fine land that the LORD is about to give you. See, I am putting before you today a blessing and a curse: a blessing, if you heed the commands of the LORD your God which I am giving you today; and a curse, if you do not heed the commands of the LORD your God.”—Deut. 8:7-9; 11:10-17, 26-28, AT; see also Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 20:6, 15; 36:35; Joel 2:3. Note that by disobedience the Edenic beauty of the land would be lost, and subsequent rebellious unfaithfulness on the part of the Israelites did cause the loss of the paradiselike condition of the Promised Land. The earth today is not ordained to bring forth thorns and thistles as a result of the curse in Eden. That curse vanished with the Flood waters. In many parts of the earth today there are natural spots of breath-taking beauty and grandeur, and other locations men have transformed into glorious parks and gardens. But for the most part men have ruined the earth and ravaged the animal and plant realms because of commercial greed or sheer destructive lust. They have forgotten or ignored God’s purpose for man and the earth, shunned Jehovah’s true worship, and brought upon themselves divine disfavor rather than blessings, just as the Israelites did. The Bible speaks of curses for disobedience, and these curses will be climaxed at Armageddon in a devouring of earth’s wicked dwellers, when Jehovah God through Christ will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth”. (Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 27:15-26; 28:15-68; Isa. 24:5, 6; Rev. 11:18) It is the curse for disobedience and false worship that Revelation 22:3 mentions: “And no more will there be any curse.” The anointed remnant of spiritual Israel have been cleansed of past derelictions in matters of worship, and their field of worship has become pure and blessed like the original Eden. In Jehovah’s due time and under the reign of Christ’s kingdom, Armageddon survivors and resurrected ones will be used to fulfill the mandate to subdue the literal earth and transform it into an earth-wide paradise filled with praise for Jehovah.—Ps. 150:1-6.
The “good and evil” in the three texts seems to refer to the one thing. Adam and Eve knew something about evil before eating the fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. (Gen. 2:17) They knew it would be wrong for them to eat that fruit, and they knew that death was an evil to be shunned. To “be as gods, knowing good and evil” seems to mean more than just helpful knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. (Gen. 3:5) The word gods could mean just Jehovah God, since the Hebrew word here is Elohim and can mean either God (Jehovah) or gods. If it means gods, then it could refer to Jehovah God and his co-creator and only-begotten Son, the Logos. It was to that one that Jehovah said, at Genesis 3:22: “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” To know “good and evil” as Jehovah and his only-begotten Son know it would seem to mean to know good and evil for yourself, that is, you make the decision of what is good and what is evil, you judge what is right and what is wrong. Adam and Eve were no longer theocratic, no longer looked to God as the Universal Sovereign over all creatures, no longer accepted him as the one to determine right and wrong. They were going to determine for themselves what they were going to do on the earth, and not let God be the Supreme Arbiter. Hence to the more responsible man, the woman’s head, Jehovah said in substance: ‘All right, Adam, if you want to be non-theocratic you go your own way. Decide for yourself what is good and evil from your viewpoint. You have no place in the garden of Eden. This garden is for theocratic people who are subject to me. Now get out.’ This view of the matter harmonizes with the fact that God does not assign the committing of sin as the reason for ousting Adam from Eden, but says it was because “the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” and therefore should have no opportunity to eat of the tree of life.
What is meant by the foot-washing mentioned at John 13:4-16? Does it mean that this should be performed as a ceremony by Christians?
In the time of Christ the people wore sandals and the feet of travelers became soiled, so that upon arriving at their destination it was necessary to wash the feet. The traveler being weary from his journey would often be shown the courtesy of having his feet washed by a servant under the direction of the host. (Luke 7:44) Servants not being usual among Christians, most of them being poor, the service was performed by the host or hostess. (1 Tim. 5:10) It was a service having much practical value in Jesus’ time. When Jesus did it he was not establishing any religious ceremony, but was setting an example. “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14, 15) He was demonstrating humility and love by performing a menial service for the comfort of his brethren; by example he made his disciples see the need of being servants in God’s organization, waiting on one another with the water of truth to aid them to walk in the clean way. (Eph. 5:25, 26) Hence Christians today should copy his example by being humble and ready to serve their brethren in practical ways, just as in Jesus’ day foot-washing was practical. Changed conditions have removed the practical benefits from foot-washing under those same circumstances, and it should not be done merely ceremonially.
When Christendom began to count the years since Jesus’ birth an error was made in the calculation. This is generally recognized, but the degree of error is disputed, some saying the era starts from four to eight years late. However, the Scriptures show Jesus’ birth as 2 B.C. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, John the Baptist began his ministry, at which time John was thirty (about April 1). Six months later Jesus was thirty. (Num. 4:3; Luke 3:1-3, 23; 1:36) That would be about October 1, in the sixteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius’ first year began August 19, A.D. 14; his fifteenth would end August 18, A.D. 29. Hence if Jesus was thirty at about October 1, 29, that means that his birth thirty years earlier must have been about October 1, 2 B.C.
“As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:40) This would seem to mean a full 72 hours, but we must not ignore other similar expressions that show the actual intent of the words. In the Bible “three days” does not necessarily mean three full days, but may mean parts of three different days. Hence when Rehoboam told the people to return in “three days” they came back “the third day, as the king had appointed”. (1 Ki. 12:5, 12) Jesus spoke of himself as being resurrected “the third day”. (Luke 24:46) Repeatedly the Scriptures speak of Jesus as being raised the third day; but if he had remained in the grave three full days, or 72 hours, it would have been the fourth day. Jesus was put to death on a Friday afternoon, remained in the grave Saturday, and was raised Sunday morning.
What is meant by the words at 1 John 3:18: “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”?
It means that one cannot be pleasing to the Lord by just being sanctimonious and speaking softly and following forms and ceremonies, but doing no real service to God. In addressing Jewish religionists Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13, saying: “You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep paying respect to me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” Again, “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Master, Master,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father.” (Matt. 15:7-9; 7:21) Jehovah’s will for Christians is that they now preach the Word, preach the gospel of the Kingdom throughout the nations of earth. (Matt. 24:14; 2 Tim. 4:2) Those who love God will prove it by obedience to his will. “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.” “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—John 14:15; 1 John 5:3.
Were not the gifts of tongues, healing, etc., to continue after the time of the apostles, according to Jesus’ words at Mark 16:17, 18?
The authenticity of these verses is questionable, since Mark 16 ends with verse 8 in the old and reliable manuscripts Vatican 1209 and Sinaitic, though verses 9-20 do appear in the Alexandrine and other ancient manuscripts and versions. However, even these questionable verses cited in the above question do not say such things would continue after the apostles, but only after Jesus. These gifts to the early church could not have continued long after the death of the apostles, for it was only through the apostles that such gifts were passed on to others. (Acts 8:7-21; 19:6) Paul specifically said such gifts would not continue on: “Whether there are gifts of prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will be done away with.” (1 Cor. 13:8) The gist of Paul’s reasoning in the remainder of this chapter is that such miraculous gifts of the spirit were given to establish the early church while in its infancy, but that once established and mature it would no longer need such gifts of tongues, healing, etc., to maintain or bolster it up.
What does Revelation 20:5 mean by the words, “The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished”?
This does not mean that “the rest of the dead”, those aside from the body-members of Christ who reign with him in heaven for a thousand years, have no resurrection till the end of the millennium. The word “again” is not in the ancient reliable manuscripts, as shown by the modern translations based upon the latest studies in this field. The New World Translation renders this part of the text, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” In the past centuries mankind generally have been counted “dead in trespasses and sins”, under death sentence inherited from Adam, without right to life, and hence not having fullness of life in God’s sight. It is not until the end of the thousand-year reign, after the test brought about by the return of Satan for a short while, that the benefits of Christ’s ransom to those who will inhabit the earth reach their climax. Then it is that Jehovah God declares them righteous and registers their names permanently in the “book of life”, and they enter fully into everlasting life. Then, with Adamic death abolished, earth’s inhabitants for the first time “come to life” in the fullest meaning of life as Jehovah God views it.—Eph. 2:1; Rev. 20:7-9, 12, 15; 22:19.
How could Jesus justly cause to wither the fig tree that had no fruit on it, in view of the fact that it was not the season for figs?
The account reads: “From a distance he caught sight of a fig tree that had leaves, and he went to see whether he would perhaps find something on it. But, on coming to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season of figs. So, in response, he said to it: ‘May no one eat fruit from you any more forever.’” Soon thereafter the tree withered and died. (Mark 11:12-14, 20) Different Bible scholars seek to show that under certain conditions figs were on trees at that time of year, but their arguments do not seem too strong, and fail to offset the Scriptural explanation that “it was not the season of figs”. Why, then, condemn the tree? Because the appearance of the tree led observers to expect fruit on it. In the case of fig trees the fruit appears before the leaves, and when leaves are out one can expect to find fruit. This tree had leaves. Jesus saw this from a distance. He had a right to expect fruit on it, in view of the tree’s leafy appearance, so he went to get some figs to satisfy his hunger. When he found none, he condemned the tree. Granted that it was not the season for figs, but apparently this tree was exceptional, unusually early for some reason, and its leaves promised fruit. It reminds of the Jewish nation, in covenant with God, having his law, going through the forms of worship, giving outward appearances of bearing fruit to God; yet when Christ Jesus came to earth and inspected that nation he found its pretensions to fruit-bearing false, and he condemned that nation, saying, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” It withered and died as God’s holy nation, for he cast it off and thereafter the Romans came and desolated Jerusalem.—Matt. 23:38.
Can it be said that Armageddon started in 1914 with the casting of Satan out of heaven and down to earth?
When the Gentile Times ended and Jesus Christ was enthroned in 1914, Satan did not accept the new King, and war in heaven resulted, which ended with the ousting of Satan therefrom. That war was the beginning of “the time of the end” for Satan’s world, but it was not pushed to Satan’s destruction. The trouble was cut short to allow for the preaching of the Kingdom gospel and the gathering of the Lord’s other sheep on earth. When the witness has been given and sheep and goats separated, then will come the final end upon Satan’s world. That will be Armageddon, the battle of the great day of God Almighty, and it will rid the universe of Satan and his demons and his visible agents on earth.—Matt. 24:14; Rev. 12:7-12; 16:14-16; 19:11-20:3.
Why does Isaiah 45:7 state that Jehovah God creates evil, when we know him to be good and righteous in all his ways?
Isaiah 45:7 states: “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.” Jehovah God sows light for righteously disposed ones, and through his Word the Bible enlightens their minds, but he brings mental darkness upon those who willfully continue in a wrong course. (Ps. 82:5-7; 97:11; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 13) Peace of mind, even now, is the lot of those devoted to God and his service, and in the new world under the reign of his Prince of Peace all then living will rejoice in that blessed state forever. (Ps. 72:1, 4, 7, 8; Isa. 9:6, 7) As for the statement that God creates evil, it does not mean anything or any practice that is morally wrong. “Evil” as here used does not mean moral evil, of which God could never be guilty, but it refers to a calamity or disaster or destruction, such as he brings upon his unrepentant foes, and that particularly at the battle of Armageddon. From rebellious Adam’s time onward punishment has come from God upon the willfully wicked, and this has been wholly just on God’s part, but it has been as an evil to the ones meriting it.
Why did Jehovah select Israel’s first human king from the tribe of Benjamin, when previous prophecy had named Judah as the tribe from which kings would come?
Leah was the first one to marry and bear children for Jacob, but it was so only by a deception worked on Jacob. Rachel was the one he loved and bargained for, and hence it was to Rachel’s offspring that the birthright was to go, though Jacob’s offspring by Leah were older. (Gen. 29:18-28) Sarah was the beloved wife of Abraham, and it was to her offspring Isaac that the birthright went, even though Abraham’s son Ishmael by Hagar was older. So it was with Rachel’s offspring Joseph. However, Joseph became no tribal head in Israel, but his sons Manasseh and Ephraim did. Manasseh was the older, but divine direction caused the better blessing to go to Ephraim. Of him Jehovah said: “Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Gen. 48:8-20; Jer. 31:9) However, the tribe of Ephraim later eliminated itself from this favored position by many derelictions, and the psalmist tells of Jehovah’s action: “He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah.”—Ps. 78:9, 67, 68. With Joseph, by Ephraim’s failure, eliminated, Rachel’s other offspring, Benjamin, had to have its chance. That opportunity came with Saul’s anointing as king, for Saul was a Benjamite. At 1 Samuel 13:13 it speaks of the possibility of Saul’s kingdom being established forever; but we must remember that the Hebrew word here translated “forever” is ohlahm. As shown in previous Watchtowers and in the “Let God Be True” book, this Hebrew word means a period of concealed or indefinite time, not necessarily for everlasting. True, Jehovah God knew before time that the kingdom would not remain in the house of Benjamin; but it was Saul’s own presumptuous and faithless course that caused his loss of the kingship for his household and tribe. The mere exercise of Jehovah’s power of foreknowledge did not actively force Saul to act reprehensibly. On his own Saul acted contrary to the express commands of Jehovah God, fully responsible for these violations in the face of knowledge of his sins. With the favored Rachel’s offspring having had their chance, the older sons of Leah would be in line for the blessing of kingship. Ahead of Judah were Reuben, Simeon and Levi. All three of these were eliminated by the occurrences mentioned by Jacob at the time of his blessing of his sons. (Gen. 49:3-7) Moreover, later the Levites acted in noteworthy faithfulness and were rewarded by being given the blessings of the priesthood. That would prevent any of their number from becoming king. So Judah was now next in line, and the prophecy at Genesis 49:8-12 shows he would succeed in gaining the kingship, and being the human ancestor of the King who will reign forever, Christ Jesus. Of course, in all this Jehovah was under no obligation to conform to the general practice concerning the firstborn and birthright privileges. He could have chosen whomever he wanted, right at the outset, without eliminating those first in line according to human procedures.
Why should young children suffer eternal destruction at Armageddon because of having wicked parents?
Adam and Eve in Eden were on judgment with respect to the tree of knowledge and the course they took fixed their destiny, it being a time of judgment. Adam and Eve’s children were not born at that time and hence not directly or personally on judgment in Eden. That is why God could arrange for the ransoming of all of their future children who would accept his arrangements, this acceptance being shown by them at whatever time God might be pleased to bring them into a period of judgment. It is likely that for the majority of men who have lived on the earth this time of judgment will be in Christ’s millennial reign, at the time of the general resurrection and thereafter. At that future time of judgment arranged for them by God’s mercy each one will be on his own responsibility, as shown by Ezekiel 18:20-23. However, long before this many persons will have had their time of judgment, as the Scriptures show that God has brought certain judgment periods upon human society at certain times, during which he held them accountable for their course of action. That they might be really accountable for themselves and for their young children dependent upon them, he caused testimony to be given that they might know the issue and make their decision, by which they would determine their destiny, independent of any inherited condemnation from Adam. He warned parents not only of the consequences to themselves but also of those to their unresponsible offspring. One of such judgment periods was the flood of Noah’s day, prior to which Noah preached righteousness for some forty or fifty years. (Heb. 11:7; 2 Pet. 2:5) Another was the fiery end of Sodom and Gomorrah, which cities saw warning miracles by angels and heard witnessing by Lot before the rain of fire fell. (Gen. 19:11-14, 24) In Jesus’ day it was a time of judgment and he warned certain Jewish cities of a fate like that upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and judged certain scribes and Pharisees fit for the eternal destruction of Gehenna.—Matt. 11:20-24; 23:33. Our present day is also a time of judgment. Jehovah’s witnesses have been active as never before in giving world-wide witness, in this time of judgment when the enthroned King is separating the nations as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. Abuse and persecution come upon them from both adults and children under the influence of their elders. So it is because we now live in a period of judgment that we say all persons are on trial. And because children are present they too come in for judgment, and their case is not parallel to that of Adam and Eve’s offspring, who were not present in Eden at the time of that pair’s judgment trial.
Can we Scripturally say that those slain by Jehovah at the climax of such judgment periods as at the Flood and at Sodom and Gomorrah and at Armageddon go into eternal destruction?
Please open your Bible and read Luke 17:24-37. It speaks of “that day when the Son of man is to be revealed”, and the surrounding verses show that to be in the time of the end, climaxed by Armageddon. It states that at Armageddon it will be “just as it occurred in the days of Noah” when “the flood arrived and destroyed them all”, and it will be “just as it occurred in the days of Lot” when he fled Sodom and “it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all”. Since these are parallel cases, if it can be shown that the destroyed in any one case will have no “resurrection of judgment” it follows that those in the other two cases are likewise doomed. (John 5:28, 29) The parable of the sheep and goats, now in course of fulfillment, shows that at Armageddon the goats “depart into everlasting cutting-off”, thereby indicating the fate of those destroyed in all three cases.—Matt. 25:31-46. Those perishing in the Flood and in the fiery rainfall on Sodom and Gomorrah did not die because of inherited sin from Adam, but were condemned because they ignored Jehovah’s warning and were slain by him. They became warning examples of everlasting judicial punishment. (Heb. 11:7; 2 Pet. 2:5-8; Jude 7) Now just a minute, someone protests, are you not forgetting Jesus’ words to the rebellious Jewish cities: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom on Judgment Day than for you”? Does that not mean at least some of those destroyed at Sodom’s fall will be resurrected and able to successfully endure a future judgment day? We reply that these words have not been forgotten.—Matt. 10:15, 11:24. This is a form of speech-construction common in Biblical times. It is used to emphasize the impossibility of a thing. Jesus used a similar construction when he said: “It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25) No sane person would believe a camel could squeeze through a needle’s eye. Yet if this obviously impossible thing were said to be easier than something else, would that not powerfully emphasize the utter impossibility of the other thing? So Jesus forcefully made the point that rich ones who were loath to part with their wealth would not enter the kingdom. So it was with his other use of this speech form. Sodom and Gomorrah could not endure judgment. Not even ten righteous were there. Only four, and one of those failed at a crucial moment. (Gen. 18:32; 19:15, 17, 26) The Jews knew Sodom’s fate was sealed, so when Jesus told them that judgment would be more endurable for such doomed ones than for these Jewish cities they got the powerful point. But an objector still may protest that Jesus said these cities would be brought down to Ha?des, not to the everlasting destruction of Gehenna. Jesus said: “Will you perhaps be exalted to heaven? Down to Ha?des you will come!” (Matt. 11:23) The hope of literally going to heaven had not been held out to these Jews, this hope not being understood until the outpouring of holy spirit at Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Since by heaven no destination after death would be meant, so by the contrasting word Ha?des a destiny would not be meant. By these words Jesus was making the strongest possible contrast between exaltation and abasement. Heaven reaches high above, Ha?des goes underground, lower than Gehenna, which was aboveground just outside Jerusalem. Had Jesus used Gehenna the Jews might have thought he meant literal Jewish cities would be plucked up and set down in that specific valley. So Jesus merely used these extremes of height and depth to show how those exalting themselves would be abased, just as Jehovah used heaven and Sheol, the Hebrew equivalent of Ha?des, to show these same extremes: “Though they dig into Sheol, thence shall my hand take them; and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.” (Amos 9:2, AS) These Jewish cities had heard the warning and had seen powerful works; they had had fair judgment trial and by their decision showed they were worthy of eternal destruction.—Matt. 10:5-15; Luke 10:8-12. So today this time of judgment of the nations is not a mere dress rehearsal for a further and decisive second judgment to come, thereby making the destruction of individuals at Armageddon not count for eternity. If it were a matter of these people dying and coming back in a general resurrection for a second opportunity, then their blood on the head of the watchman class would not be so serious, nor would Jehovah view the warning work so vital as to make the stones cry out the alarm if we remained silent.—Ezek. 33:7-9; Luke 19:40.
“It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” We believe that Jesus meant a literal sewing needle and a literal camel, to illustrate the impossibility of the thing without God’s extreme help.
“When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through parched places in search of refreshment, and finds none. Then it says: ‘I will go back to my house out of which I moved’; and on arriving it finds it unoccupied but swept clean and adorned. Then it goes its way and takes along with it seven different spirits more wicked than itself, and, after getting inside, they dwell there; and the final circumstances of that man become worse than the first. That is how it will be also with this wicked generation.”—Matt. 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26. A man who has been possessed with a demon and gets rid of it has a vacuum left. This vacuum or emptiness left by the evacuation of the demon is to be filled with the Lord’s spirit, with a faith backed up by works in harmony with God’s Word. Then when the demon returns he would not find the person, likened unto the demon’s house, “unoccupied but swept clean and adorned.” Instead, he would find the place he had vacated filled with a stronger spirit, Jehovah’s active force, and the demon spirit would not be able to reoccupy this person. Apparently in the case Jesus was discussing the person freed of a demon left the vacuum unfilled, not taking up Jehovah’s service and making room for Jehovah’s spirit in his life, but merely cleaning himself up and adorning himself in a visible show of piety. Such a person will not be able to prevent the return of the demon spirit, and in his relapse his plight worsens, more demon spirits than before occupying him. Applying the principle in a general way, a person may be a part of the world under condemnation, alienated from God. Then he gets a knowledge of the truth, ousts from his life the evil spirit of this world and of Satan, but then he fails to continue in God’s way. He does not receive God’s spirit and make room for it in his life, allowing it to direct him in good works and fill his life. He quenches the spirit of God in his life, leaving his existence empty, nothing but a shell of outward piety cleansed of some of his former worldly filth. His lack of appreciation and service and good works inspired by God’s spirit leaves him open for reoccupation by Satan’s defiling influences, and demon spirits control his life more completely, if more subtly, than ever before.—Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26, 27; 2 Pet. 2:20-22. So it was also with the Israelite nation. It had been cleansed and set apart from heathendom and Satan’s rulership, but it soon left undone the weighty matters of Jehovah’s law and covenant, and rather than occupying and filling its national history with service directed by Jehovah’s spirit it fussed with minor matters and human traditions and an outward show of piety and ceremonial purity. By the time Jesus came the wicked generation of religious Jews were under Satan’s control to such a complete degree that they rejected the Messiah. The end of this nation made responsible with divine knowledge was worse than its beginning. Incidentally, King Saul’s case shows that if one’s life is not filled with Jehovah’s spirit it is likely to be taken over by a demon spirit. David had been anointed king in wicked King Saul’s stead, and the spirit of Jehovah came upon David; but note what occurred in Saul’s case: “Now the spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him.” (1 Sam. 16:13, 14) Not that Jehovah actually sent an evil spirit to trouble Saul, but by Jehovah’s removing his spirit it left a vacancy, and that vacancy was now filled by a demon spirit. Since Jehovah made this demon possession possible by removing his spirit, Jehovah is referred to as the source of the evil spirit. It is comparable to the statement that Jehovah hardened Pharaoh’s heart; Jehovah did not do so, but the message from Jehovah caused Pharaoh to harden his own heart. Jehovah’s message and Jehovah’s dealings with the Egyptians caused Pharaoh to react in hard stubbornness and anger; and since the message and dealings were from Jehovah he may be said to have indirectly hardened Pharaoh’s heart. (Ex. 7:3; 8:15, 32) Another illustration of this principle is where Jehovah told Isaiah to “make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes”; he, Isaiah, was not to do this literally, but the message he declared made these rebellious ones unreceptive because it did not please them. (Isa. 6:10) So when Jehovah’s spirit was removed from Saul, a demon spirit entered Saul, for Saul was like an unoccupied house.
Exodus 32:1-6 shows that Aaron did this at the request of the people, and participation in the wrong seemed to be rather general, since it caused Jehovah to say to Moses: “Let me alone, that my anger may blaze against them, and that I may consume them.” Vs. 10) While it is true that Aaron co-operated with the rebellious ones in this idolatry, verse 25 suggests the possibility that the deflection might have been allowed for a purpose: “When Moses saw that the people had become unruly (for Aaron had let them get unruly, to be a derision among their assailants), Moses stood at the gate of the camp, and said, ‘To me, whoever is for the LORD!’ Whereupon all the Levites gathered to him.” (Vss. 25-27) Aaron was a Levite, and we may assume that on this occasion he took his stand with them for Jehovah and against those who withstood Moses on this occasion. About three thousand persons were slain for this idolatry. More were guilty in the matter, since after the three thousand were gone Moses reminded the people that they had sinned greatly. So more persons than just Aaron received of Jehovah’s mercy in this matter. Apparently the nearly three thousand that perished were ringleaders in launching the idolatrous venture and resistant to correction, not humbly repentant or acknowledging wrong and switching their position to Jehovah’s side. They merited no mercy. But Aaron behaved differently, showed he was not in heart sympathy with the idolatry and acted only at the mob’s behest, and stood for Jehovah when Moses brought matters to a showdown.—Vss. 28-35.