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Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Three Powerful Witnesses

In the last blog I related my experience with some Jehovah's Witnesses I became acquainted with back in the 1970s. Since back then I was very new to the faith, it would not have been too surprising that a level of confusion had arisen after their demonstration of their doctrine and belief came across as very logical and solid, and virtually impossible to challenge and overturn their beliefs and their arguments. So a question arose in my thoughts: Am I following the right religion?
And this following an upbringing as a Roman Catholic, a faith I had abandoned as a teenager due to resulting in learning of a moody, truculent God who just won't let anyone straight into Heaven after death, because of some unconfessed or unforgiven sin, mortal or venial, and of the soul of the deceased having to spend either eternity in Hell, or a temporal time period (up to thousands of years) in Purgatory, depending on the severity of the sin, or how many remaining unconfessed. Therefore hearing about Salvation through faith in the completed atonement made by Jesus Christ when he died on the cross was not only very new to me, but was in conflict with my then current beliefs. Then after believing in Jesus Christ through faith, along came the Witnesses, pedalling their own version of works-based salvation.
And they insist that the vast majority of them will not even enter Heaven, but will remain in their present bodies in Earth which has been restored to Paradise after a dreadful, global Battle of Armageddon. And back then I failed to see the two discrepancies they already have against the Bible, that at first, their version of Armageddon will be global, while the Bible confines the battle to a comparatively small area in the Middle East - the Valley of Megiddo in northern Israel. And secondly, they insist that only 144,000 specially-chosen Witnesses will spend eternity in Heaven, along with Jesus Christ - renamed Michael - the twelve apostles, and every convert recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. Never mind that the Bible makes clear that the 144,000 will all be Jews, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jehovah's Witnesses insist that every church, every religious establishment and denomination, every political, military, trading establishments, and everyone else not affiliated with the Watchtower Society will be wiped out in the most devastating "battle" - if it can be called that - in the whole of human history. They, and they alone, will inhabit the new Earth.

And that's the whole point. Every religion, every faith, every belief, insist that they are following the right path to eternity, whether it would be Heaven, Nirvana or some other form of Paradise. Here in the UK, extreme Muslim terrorists poses a threat to national security, deep in their convictions that theirs is the right faith. Other Muslims will fight their Jihad willingly, even to the cost of their lives. Then every Buddhist will be convinced that their founding monk had laid the right spiritual pathway, and have good arguments to support their case. Likewise the Hindus can give us good reasons why their Vedas Scriptures are holy, as with the Islam Koran. As for Roman Catholicism, for centuries they alone insist that they are the true Church of Christ, labelling Protestants as heretics. But within the last few decades, the Vatican has accepted Allah as "the one true merciful God we both worship together" - despite that the moon god Allah and the Trinitarian God of Catholicism could not be any more different.
So in the face of such an array of different religious creeds, each one claiming to be the right faith, how can I be sure that Paul's statement in  1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is one I can depend on? This blog, I hope, will provide some vital answers.
For what I have received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
These verses can be used as a universal plumbline by which all faiths and creeds can be tested. A plumbline is a tool used by builders to ensure that the wall is fully upright and not prone to slanting. Likewise, with this, all faiths can be assessed. And the plumbline is this, that Christ died to atone for sin, that he was buried, and rose again on the third day. It is the third criteria - that he rose again - that sets Jesus Christ apart from every religious or spiritual founder. In the Bible, there are what I perceive three witnesses or testimonies that points to Jesus as the only way. These are: the Ark of the Covenant, Miracles, and Prophecy.
Testimony #1: Ark of Covenant.
Throughout the Old Testament book of Exodus, there are intricate details on the construction of the Tabernacle, a tent which was to be the meeting place between Almighty God and the nation of Israel, which had so recently been freed from slavery in Egypt by God's outstanding miracles administered by Moses and his older brother Aaron. They camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, and from there they received the Ten Commandments and other laws by which they were to conduct their lives. All at first seems ideal - until a major problem emerged - that no one was able to keep God's laws perfectly due to the inherited sinful nature found in every person alive. God, in his holiness and perfect righteousness, could have wiped out the entire nation from the Earth. But instead, in his love, he instructed Moses to have his men construct a tent, which inside were two compartments, separated by a curtain. The innermost compartment was known as the Holy of Holies, and was the dwelling place of God. Inside was the Ark of the Covenant, a piece of furniture which was the object of Harrison Ford's blockbusting movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was a box of Acacia wood overlaid with pure gold, inside and out. Covering the box was a lid of pure solid gold, known as The Mercy Seat.
Cast with the lid were two cherubs of solid gold, their wings spread over the surface of the lid, and their faces looking down on it. It is likely that these two angels represent Justice and Holiness. Inside the box were placed three sets of items, which represents the triple facet of man's sinful nature. The first two were the stone tablets on which were written the ten Commandments. The fact that they were inside the Ark signified man's rejection of God's holiness. This meant that the average person prefers to do his own thing and set his own moral standard rather than God's. Another item in the box was a pot of manna, with which God miraculously fed the entire nation in the desert. Rather than being thankful for such a nutritious provision for free, instead they grumbled, wanting a far greater variety to eat. God, in his mercy, provided quails, a species of bird, also for free, and the Israelites gorged themselves without giving thanks and worshipping God. As a result, a pot of manna was placed in the Ark to signify man's rejection of God's provision.
Finally, a symbol of man's rejection of God's leadership which took the form of Aaron's rod budding. This took place after Korah led a rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, and their sentence was passed. The almond rods belonging to all of Israel's elders were placed in an array at the Tabernacle. Overnight, Aaron's rod miraculously budded, showing the nation he whom God appointed for leadership. The rod of Aaron was then placed inside the Ark to signify man's rejection of God's leadership.
Thus the triple facet of sin were inside the Ark. The two cherubs were looking down on the lid, or Mercy Seat, and they could see the symbols of human sin which separated all mankind from a Holy God. However, once a year, an innocent lamb, about a year old and absolutely perfect, without any blemish, was slain by the priest, and its blood poured over the Mercy Seat. As each of the two cherubs now saw the blood of an innocent lamb instead of human sin, both Holiness and Justice can declare that they are satisfied with the atonement made, allowing God himself to dwell in the midst of his people.

Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice to make an eternal atonement between God and mankind, reconciling the world to himself for all time, unlike the priest, who because of his own mortality, had to perform the rite once every year. The relationship between God and man changed so dramatically at the Crucifixion that the sun was darkened, there was an earthquake, the rocks split, the curtain dividing the Holy of Holies inside the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the souls of holy men of the Old Testament came out of their graves (Matthew 27:50-53.) The blood of the lamb sacrificed once a year by the priest was the foreshadow of the Crucifixion, the shedding of his own blood, and the death of Jesus Christ. No other spiritual leader or founder had ever laid down his life for the salvation of others. But there was more to come. On the third day Jesus rose physically from the dead, an accomplishment no other human has ever achieved. This was the final proof that Jesus Christ is truly God, the Second Person of the Godhead. No other human can claim that status. And our salvation depends entirely on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Paul the Apostle wrote to the church in Corinth, if Christ was not raised from the dead, then no-one will be raised from the dead either, and our believing will be in vain, a waste of time, (1 Corinthians 15) and all one has to do to be saved is call upon the name of the Lord, believing in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9-10,13.)
This is one area where groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses fail. They deny the physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ and in turn, deny his deity. A created being cannot redeem mankind, it something only God himself can accomplish.
Testimony #2: Miracles.
I have read and heard of various churches, particularly of the Charismatic movement, using the formula of claiming healing and even prosperity for themselves as if these things were theirs by right, with the Atonement made by Jesus Christ on the cross by means of the rights to claim. But over the years of Bible study, a different picture had slowly emerged that there is no such thing as a Heavenly Health Service, neither is God a servant of man waiting to answer his every beck and call. Rather, the Bible seem to be very consistant that miracles were performed for God to prove his own glory, his authority, and his desire to save.
One of the most striking examples of miraculous power are found in the early chapters of the Old Testament book of Exodus. Here we read about the talk God had with Moses at the burning bush, a miracle in itself. The thorn bush burning without being consumed by the flames had two important meanings. The first was to reveal to Moses that he is the God of his father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he was to send Moses off on a mission fully backed by his authority. The second meaning to the fire was a prophecy concerning the future nation of Israel. This Hebrew nation was set to go through the fires of testing and disciplinary tribulation, but would never be consumed. As the bush burned and burned, but was never consumed to ashes, so Israel likewise would burn and burn, but will never ever go out of existence. The proof holds true to this day. At present, Israel is a sovereign nation, born shortly after Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party had made every effort to make the Jews an extinct species during the War. 
The power of miracles held to the same reason when God turned Moses' rod into a snake, and made his hand leprous. These were to convince a doubtful leader that God is God, and he was fully commissioned for the task. Then God performed a string of miracles to a very stubborn Pharoah, to demonstrate his power in public, and at the same time persuade the Hebrews to believe in Moses as their deliverer, and to obey him.
But many of the miracles recorded in the Bible are found during Jesus' ministry, and they are all consistant for one main purpose - to prove to all around him that he is the Christ. And what better way to demonstrate his deity than to show his love towards the poor, the infirm, the sick, the demon-possesed and the less fortunate. One of his greatest miracles was to raise Lazarus from the dead. And he did this not merely to comfort or bring fresh hope to his sisters Martha and Mary. Rather, the miracle was performed to prove to all around him that this Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In John 11:41 it reads:
Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they believe that you sent me."
Thus the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead was the same as turning a wooden stick into a living snake: as proof of God's sovereignty and to create faith. After the resurrection (a miracle in itself) and shortly after Pentecost, Peter and John healed a cripple in the Temple precinct (Acts 3, 4:1-31). The whole of the third chapter, and much of the 4th were devoted to Peter's explanation behind the miracle, that this Jesus who they had crucified was indeed the Christ who was raised from the dead, and salvation is given to all who believe in this revelation. Unfortunately for the Sanhedrin, they remain stubborn in their unbelief, threatening the apostles instead.

One of the more famed of present day miracles was related by Dutch evangelist Corrie Ten Boom. One day she was teaching an open-air class of schoolboys near a brook about the miraculous catch of fish at the Lake of Galilee. When one of the boys sneered at the possibility of the miracle ever had taken place, Ten Boom took a bucket, dunked it into the stream, lifted it out and dumped the entire bucketful of fish right in front of the boy. As the story goes, the boy himself grew up to be an evangelist and Bible scholar himself. Such is the power and the purpose of miracles.

Testimony #3: Prophecy.

Prophecy make the Bible the most unique document in the entire literary world. No other book, religious or secular, contains prophecy which was fulfilled hundreds, even thousands of years later, nor prophecy that was written thousands of years ago yet still awaiting fulfilment. And whenever I felt doubtful about the reliability of Holy Scripture, or the genuineness of my own faith, I remind myself about the wonderful testimony of prophecy.

There is much I can write about prophecy, for it contains a tremendous amount of wealth and information. It has been said that if all Biblical prophecy were combined together, it would take up a section of the Bible as large as the entire New Testament! But in an effort to prevent this blog from being too long and drawn out, I will concentrate on just one, but keep in mind that there are many, many more prophecies fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The example referred to is Psalm 22, penned by King David around a thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ. And it is a psalm foretelling the crucifixion of Jesus when such a form of execution never existed at the time of writing. Here are some selected verses:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.

Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.
I'm poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

The accuracy of this prophecy comes out when one reads the testimony of the Gospels. Nothing could be more clearer than the description of the scene consisting of many standing around the cross and mocking him as he was hung there, nailed by his hands and feet to the wood. And no better description is given than that of Matthew 27:27-50, where the narration not only gives the mocking by his enemies in full detail, but includes the dividing of his garments by the Roman soldiers while all he could do was look on.

With fulfilled prophecy like this one, Jesus Christ and he alone, qualifies as the true Saviour, and as for his resurrection, there are plenty of prophecies foretelling this too. For example, in Isaiah 53, much of that chapter foretells of the cutting off of the servant during the prime of his life. In verse 10, Isaiah writes that it was the will of the Lord to crush him and allowed him to suffer. Then still in the same verse, after he makes his life a guilt offering, he then sees his offspring and prolong his days. How could such a blatant contradiction make any sense unless he was resurrected from the dead? And history informs us that other than Jesus Christ, nobody ever was physically raised from the dead with an immortal body. No, certainly not the Buddhist monk, or Muhammad, and certainly not Charles Taze Russell or Joseph Smith, founders of the Watchtower and the Mormons respectively. And for that matter, neither the Archangel Michael fits the criteria, as he was created by God as with all of the angelic population. Jesus Christ is truly God, truly man, Saviour, Lord and King.

With this I rest my case.



  1. Hi, Frank. An interesting read. I've spent a lot of time talking to JWs. They are like many cults who falter badly when you take control away from them and remove them from the comfort zone of their pre-programmed scriptures. They are frequently shocked when they come upon a Christian who knows the Bible. Chapter One of the Letter to the Hebrews could have been written specifically to address their doctrines. It establishes clearly that Jesus is Higher than any Angel, which shatters their doctrine of Jesus being the archangel Michael, and addresses many other issues relating to real right standing with God. There's actually someone at Ascot who came away from the clutches of the JWs because they could not provide a satisfactory answer when challenged with this scripture.

    These people have a great zeal and a great sense of family, as do many cults, but like most it's based on the wrong king of fear, as you point out so clearly.

  2. What an excellent and thorough post, Frank! I especially like your discussion of the threefold nature of sin as symbolized in the Ark's contents.

    It is truly frustrating and sad to see how false religions deceive people, and how so many who are sincere and even zealous in their misplaced beliefs will end up in hell unless they place their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven.

    Thanks for sharing this truth, and God bless,

  3. Excellent post, Frank.

    You are right that God isn't a slave to do our bidding, performing miracles to please us, He is God, and uses miracles to make people understand who he is.