Tuesday, February 7

I will glorify the place for my feet.Isa. 60:13.

The expression “spiritual paradise” has become a part of our theocratic vocabulary. It describes our unique, spiritually rich environment, or condition, which allows us to enjoy peace with God and with our brothers. Of course, we should not conclude that the terms “spiritual paradise” and “spiritual temple” are the same. The spiritual temple is God’s arrangement for true worship. The spiritual paradise serves to identify clearly those who have God’s approval and who are today serving him at his spiritual temple. How exciting it is to know that since 1919, Jehovah has allowed imperfect humans to work with him in cultivating, strengthening, and expanding the spiritual paradise on earth! Do you see yourself playing a part in this marvelous work? Are you moved to continue working with Jehovah in glorifying ‘the place for his feet’?

COMMENTARY

It is true, the phrase “spiritual paradise” is part of the so-called theocratic language that is peculiar to Jehovah’s Witnesses. But just because the phrase is bandied about and it is periodically asserted that the organization is a spiritual paradise does not make it so.

What exactly is meant by the term, “spiritual paradise”? According to today’s text it is a condition of spiritual health and peace between brothers and with God. And supposedly this blessed condition has come about within the congregations since 1919.

You might have noticed, though, that the Watchtower offers no scriptural support for the notion that God established a spiritual paradise in 1919. Does that mean there is no biblical basis for the idea of a spiritual paradise? No. Not at all. Although the precise term is not used in the Scriptures, the concept is. For example, in the 51st chapter of Isaiah Jehovah speaks to his organization called Zion, saying to it: “For Jehovah will comfort Zion. He will bring comfort to all her ruins, and he will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert plain like the garden of Jehovah. Exultation and rejoicing will be found in her, thanksgiving and melodious song.”

Quite a contrast and a transformation —from wilderness to Eden, from desert plain to like the garden of Jehovah.

As regards the original garden of Jehovah in Eden, what made it such a special place was not the beautiful flowers and trees, or water fountains and crystal rivers, or even the glistening gold that apparently lay about. After all, there are many beautiful places on earth now. The thing that made Eden so special was that God regularly strolled through the garden, as it were. During the breezy part of the day Jehovah would pop around and visit with Adam. True, God is invisible, but in some way he made his presence manifest and spoke with the man he had created from the dust.

There was no evil in the garden. Nothing harmful. No predators. That is, until a certain angel treacherously schemed to deceive Adam’s newly formed wife.

So, the idea of a spiritual paradise —a place like the garden of Jehovah in Eden —is intended to symbolize a condition where no evil persons lurk, no predators. A place where Jehovah can walk among his people, as it were.

This is the spiritual paradise envisioned in prophecy. The 35th chapter of Isaiah similarly depicts the barren wilderness blooming with paradisal beauty and it goes on to describe it this way: “And a highway will be there, yes, a way called the Way of Holiness. The unclean one will not travel on it. It is reserved for the one walking on the way; no one foolish will stray onto it. No lion will be there, and no vicious wild beasts will come on it. They will not be found there; only the repurchased ones will walk there.”

Does this passage fit with the Watchtower’s version of spiritual paradise? Are there really no unclean persons within? Are there no foolish persons? Are there no vicious predators? Obviously, there are thousands of pedophile predators and persons that practice uncleanness of various kinds. Only an uninformed person or a liar would deny it. 

Consider the question: Was first century Christianity a spiritual paradise? The Watchtower says yes. But that is because they do not take into consideration the Bible’s description of spiritual paradise. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the 11th chapter, Paul expressed his concern that the Corinthians might have their minds corrupted away from Christ, just as the serpent had seduced Eve in the garden of Jehovah. Paul went on to reveal that the cause of his concern was the fact that agents of Satan had disguised themselves as ministers of righteousness and had evidently become the most prominent men in the Corinthian congregation, which is why Paul dubbed them “the superfine apostles.”

Of course, the Watchtower claims the superfine apostles find a modern counterpart with the clergy of Christendom. But that is foolish. The phony apostles were undoubtedly elders within the anointed congregation and the congregation was not even aware they had come under the influence of false brothers. That is why Paul exposed the Devil’s scheme.

Interestingly, it was in that context that Paul wrote of a supernatural vision he had concerning the third heaven and his being caught away to paradise and hearing unutterable words which it was not lawful for him to repeat. Apparently, Paul saw a glimpse of spiritual paradise, a paradise that hardly existed in the Corinthian congregation with the presence of the wicked pretenders, whom Satan was using to try to corrupt the called ones.

Just as Eden was created by God himself the spiritual paradise to come is not something that is the product of religious reformers, no matter how theocratic. The predator-free environment portrayed in prophecy can only be created by God —or more correctly, by Christ. And Jesus spoke of this very thing when he explained his harvest illustration, saying that during the harvest he will dispatch his angels and they will remove all persons doing lawlessness and all stumbling blocks out from his Kingdom.

Strangely, the Watchtower claims that the angels have already done their work. For some inexplicable reason the angels have apparently removed lawless persons and stumbling blocks out of Christendom and since 1919 churchgoers have been thrown into the fiery furnace, where they are weeping and gnashing their teeth, somehow, at least that is what is implied by the Watchtower if taken to its conclusion. 

It is perhaps the most bizarre and absurd explanation the Watchtower has ever put to print. Too bad for them, though, when the foolish ones are debarred from traveling the Highway of Holiness no doubt many of the superfine Bethel princes will find themselves abandoned on the side of the road.

Link to chapter on Spiritual Paradise

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