Monday, July 25

He ordered us to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness.Acts 10:42.

All of us are subject to “the law of the Christ.” That law includes all that Jesus taught. Foremost among Jesus’ teachings is that his followers should display love. And one of the primary ways we show love for God, for Christ, and for our neighbor is by preaching the good news of the Kingdom.  Jesus commanded only a relatively small number of his followers—those to whom he appeared after his resurrection—to preach. But all his faithful first-century disciples recognized that the command applied to them, even if they had not personally heard Jesus speak. Likewise today, Jesus has not personally spoken to any of the eight million active Kingdom preachers. But all recognize their obligation to exercise faith in Christ and to express that faith by means of the witnessing work.

COMMENTARY

Jesus has not spoken to any of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not even to the Governing Body or any anointed person —that much is true.

But what if he does in the future? What if Christ appears to some and speaks to them, and what if their encounter with the Lord is outside the domain of the Watchtower? Would you believe their testimony? Would you be willing to endure ridicule and persecution for doing so?

These are not merely hypothetical questions. A visible presence of Christ to the chosen ones is an absolute certainty. Of course, the Governing Body and the eight million active JW’s who follow them and the millions of others on the periphery know nothing of such things. You will never read about a future parousia of Christ in the Watchtower Magazine, much less a visible presence. Nonetheless, mine is a lone voice in the wilderness, as it were, declaring the imminent coming of Christ and his ultimate manifestation in glory.

What might Jesus say to those to whom his glory is revealed? There is no need to speculate. The 10th chapter of Revelation reveals the purpose of Christ appearing. In the opening verses Jesus is described thusly: “And I saw another strong angel descending from heaven, arrayed with a cloud, and a rainbow was on his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs were like pillars of fire, and he had in his hand a little scroll that had been unrolled. And he set his right foot on the sea, but his left one on the earth, and he cried out with a loud voice just as when a lion roars.”

At that point the “strong angel” declares that the preaching of the good news, the message that Jehovah’s Witnesses are presently preaching, is brought to a finish. Here is the way he worded it: “There will be no delay any longer. But in the days when the seventh angel is about to blow his trumpet, the sacred secret that God declared as good news to his own slaves the prophets is indeed brought to a finish.”

As an indication of the delusion Jehovah’s Witnesses are under, the Watchtower actually teaches that the strong angel descended from heaven in 1914 and that the sacred secret of God, which involves creating a new heavens and new earth, was finished more than a century ago. Jehovah’s Witnesses even suppose that there has been no delay any longer in the carrying out of all of Jehovah’s judgments. Most incredible, the Watchtower teaches that the declaration of the good news was brought to a finish back then too, long before the Bible Students even became known as Jehovah Witnesses and engaged in the greatest evangelical campaign in history!

But just as Jesus commanded his followers to preach the good news, there is to be a post-good news preaching campaign in the future. That is what is portrayed by Jesus handing John the little scroll. And the angel went on to say to him: “‘Take it and eat it up, and it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet like honey.’ I took the little scroll out of the hand of the angel and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet like honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me: ‘You must prophesy again about peoples and nations and tongues and many kings.’”

The command to “prophesy again” comes after the preaching of the good news is brought to a finish. The message contained in the little scroll is not good news. It is a message of doom. That is why it made John’s belly bitter. It is a bitter message that those whom Christ commissions will deliver.

Jesus spoke of this as an aspect of the conclusion, when he said: “As for you, look out for yourselves. People will hand you over to local courts, and you will be beaten in synagogues and be put on the stand before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them. Also, in all the nations, the good news has to be preached first. And when they are taking you to hand you over, do not be anxious beforehand about what to say; but whatever is given you in that hour, say this, for you are not the ones speaking, but the holy spirit is.”

Although I am repeating myself from recent commentaries, it bears repetition. Just as Revelation indicates that the bitter message is delivered after the preaching of the good news comes to a finish, so too, in Mark’s version of Jesus’ discussion of the sequence of events due to unfold during the conclusion “the good news has to be preached  first.” Then the chosen will be beaten in their synagogues and handed over to local courts and made to stand before governors and kings for the sake of Christ.

We might think of the course of Paul, who was made to stand before the Judean governor Festus and King Agrippa and ultimately before the ruler of the entire Roman Empire, Cesar.  One significant difference, though, is that Paul was an ambassador of the Kingdom, whereas those chosen ones in the future will have been sealed and guaranteed entry into the Kingdom, making them kings even while still in the flesh.

What is the significance of Jesus saying they will be beaten in synagogues? The apostles were still very much part of the the Jewish system when Christ spoke of the conclusion and the desolation of Jerusalem, therefore, the synagogues represent Christian congregations in the greater fulfillment.

Because Jesus’ appearance to the holy ones will not take place in connection with the Watchtower, whatever ruling body is functioning then will not receive the testimony of the chosen ones. Instead, Bethel will become an antichrist and the sons of the Kingdom will become objects of hatred and be persecuted by many of their former brothers —just as Jesus was persecuted and handed over by the Jews, led by the treacherous Judas who betrayed his master.

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