Wednesday, April 7

All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted. —2 Tim. 3:12.

In 2018, more than 223,000 publishers of the good news lived in lands where our spiritual activities were banned or severely restricted. This is not surprising. True Christians expect to be persecuted. No matter where we live, secular authorities may suddenly and unexpectedly ban us from worshipping our loving God, Jehovah. If a government bans our worship, we might wrongly conclude that we do not have God’s blessing. But remember, persecution does not mean that Jehovah is unhappy with us. Take, for example, the apostle Paul. He certainly had God’s approval. He had the privilege of writing 14 letters of the Christian Greek Scriptures, and he was an apostle to the nations. Yet, he faced intense persecution. (2 Cor. 11:23-27) We learn from the apostle Paul’s experience that Jehovah allows his faithful servants to be persecuted. w19.07 8 ¶1, 3

The Watchtower should make a slight correction in the statement above. If Bethel’s writers were more modest and truthful they would have said something like: “But remember, persecution does not necessarily mean that Jehovah is unhappy with us.” Instead, the implication of the Watchtower’s statement is that Jehovah could not possibly be unhappy or displeased with them. How very presumptuous.  

Take the situation in Russia. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union Jehovah’s Witnesses emerged from the underground and rapidly gained public visibility and new converts. The Watchtower even constructed a branch office facility in St Petersburg. But freedom of worship was short-lived. Under the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, the government began to impose restrictions. First, the authorities blocked access to the Russian Internet network. Then, JW’s were banned from preaching in Moscow. Finally, a total ban was imposed and witnesses began fleeing the country and some imprisoned. 

From the standpoint of human rights, the ban and arrests of peaceful Christians certainly is persecution. There is no other way to see it—at least from a human perspective. Many unbiased observers have condemned Russia for it. However, can we positively say that the situation that has developed in Russia is not a form of punishment from God? That is not to imply that individual JW’s who happen to live in Russia are more guilty before God than others. Not at all. But to put things in proper perspective, when the communist regime collapsed some 30 years ago Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world rejoiced and rightly viewed the unexpected change of circumstance as a blessing from God. Christians had suffered greatly in lands behind the so-called Iron Curtain. Gaining freedom from oppression and persecution was a wonderful blessing. 

Since Jesus Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings he is the ultimate ruler—even prior to his coming to power in the Kingdom of God. That being true, the liquidation of the Watchtower in the Russian Federation could not have happened if Christ had not allowed it. So, the question is, why would Heaven allow such a stunning setback such as Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered in Russia?

If we claim to know the judgments of Jehovah it is most unseemly to boast that God would never punish Christians as a collective. The Jews were once God’s people. He blessed and protected them. He also punished them in various ways when they were unfaithful. And always, always, always, the leaders are the most responsible before God. Now, consider God’s words in Jeremiah. “Is Israel a servant or a slave born in the household? Then why has he been given over to plunder? Against him young lions roar; they have raised their voice. They made his land an object of horror. His cities have been set on fire, so that there is no inhabitant. The people of Noph and Tahpanes feed on the crown of your head. Have you not brought this on yourself by abandoning Jehovah your God while he was leading you in the way?” — Jeremiah 2:14-17

Israel was surrounded by nations hostile to it, like roaring lions. Noph and Tahpanes were Egyptian cities that were likened to beasts gnawing on Isreal’s head while other hungry beasts were approaching from the opposite direction, as if from the feet. Jehovah could have easily defeated those enemy nations, as he once did when Assyria invaded Judah. 

However, this time was different. Jeremiah made clear to the people that God’s patience had run out. Egypt’s inroads from the south were just the beginning. God had commissioned Babylon to come from the north. There would be no divine intervention. No angel was going to slay Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Jerusalem, the city where Jehovah placed His name along with the grand temple Solomon had built, was going to be totally obliterated and the inhabitants of the doomed city were going to fall by the sword, famine, and pestilence. 

When the Governing Body boasts in the name of Jehovah that Babylon the Great—the iniquitous empire of false religion—no longer has any power to suppress true Christians, surely God is offended. Even after the Russian Orthodox Church succeeded in having the Watchtower completely shut down the boasters feel no shame. They go right on as if nothing happened to call into question their interpretation of prophecy and their righteousness before God. They imagine Jehovah does not see or hear.  Obviously, they have not gotten the message. Evidently, they do not fear Jehovah. In that regard they are very much like the Jews, to whom God spoke the following: “But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone their own way. And they do not say in their heart: “Let us now fear Jehovah our God, the One who gives the rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, the One who guards for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.’” —Jeremiah 5:23-24

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses being persecuted in Russia, or has Jehovah allowed the harvest to be lost there? Could it be that the reversal of God’s blessing has anything to do with the Watchtower’s shady backroom dealings, their hedge funds, kingdom hall flipping, and persecution of child abuse victims? 

The stubborn Jews assumed because Jehovah had blessed and protected them in the past that he always would. The Jews assumed because Jehovah’s temple was located in the heart of Jerusalem that God was obligated to protect the city. That is why God commanded Jeremiah to stand in the very gate of the temple and specifically warn the Jews entering into the house of worship not to trust in the temple as if it were a lucky charm: “Reform your ways and your actions, and I will allow you to keep residing in this place. Do not put your trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah!”‘ — Jeremiah 7:3-4

This vital lesson is lost upon Jehovah’s Witnesses. Does not the leadership constantly remind the flock that the Watchtower is Jehovah’s earthly, visible organization—implying its permanence? Instead of taking to heart the situation in Russia, the Governing Body is now boasting that it has even gone beyond what states have mandated in regards to the pandemic. They are taking great pride in the fact that every kingdom hall is shuttered and not a single solitary witness is allowed on the street. The worldwide work has been effectively rendered into a virtual ministry. The Governing Body has even prevented Jehovah’s Christian witnesses from calling at the homes of persons with whom they previously contacted and taught the Bible. 

Recently one of Jehovah’s Witnesses emailed me pointing out that in the Watchtower’s Reasoning from the Scriptures publication under the topic of Apostasy it states that apostates arise from within God’s people. That is surely true. And according to one of the highlighted subheadings, an identifying characteristic of apostates is that “They may profess to believe in Christ but treat lightly the preaching and teaching work he assigned to his followers.

Surely, by their own definition, the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses has become apostate.

And what is there left for Jehovah to do? 

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