(This originally appeared in the January/February 1997 MCOI Journal)
One of the most talked-about movies of 1995 was “Dead Man Walking.” Sean Penn played the part of a man convicted of a capital crime and under the death sentence. As such, his life was futile and, though he lived for a time after his conviction, he was what you might call a “goner,” someone who is only marking time — already gone, already dead, yet walking around.
We watched with fascination as Penn’s on-screen character struggled to come to grips with the dire situation in which he found himself and to accept not only that he was going to die, but that he deserved to. No hope of parole, no mitigation for “good behavior.” He was helpless to undo any of the things he had done.
All of us are born under the condemnation of death because of our crimes; our rebellion against God. We’re goners Dead men (and women) walking. We have no hope in ourselves. We cannot change our condemned status by dedicating ourselves to doing God’s will, or preaching to others, or by trying our best to be good from now on. We need the King’s pardon, and that is why the gospel is GOOD NEWS. News of a pardon; an offer of a new life!
But, the good news is only good news to those who accept it. Hard as it may seem to believe, some prefer death to the acknowledgment of guilt that must proceed the pardon. Many of the walking dead deny the depths of their depravity and (he utter hopelessness of their situation. They shower daily, keep their cells spotless, and brush their teeth everyday, not realizing the utter futility of these actions to make a difference in the outcome. Personal cleanliness will not commute their sentence, and every day is one day closer to the day when they must take their final steps down that corridor. Mercy, in the form of a pardon, is their only hope.
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) know about the spiritual death sentence that mankind faces, but they do not understand just how hopeless their situation is. They are busy organizing the inmates, and their hair is neatly cut, but all that is futile. They are dead men walking and will remain “dead” unless and until they receive the King’s pardon by faith alone.
Now, people say that dead men tell no tales. But I have to insist not only do dead men tell tales, but sometimes the tales dead men tell are absolute WHOPPERS! Otherwise what would you call these?: false, prophetic Armageddon scares; life patterns recorded in Jehovah’s brain, medical flim flam, pyramidology, Xerox “resurrection”; on-again-off-again sheep and goat judgments: a fictional appointment by a conveniently invisible Jesus, organ transplants as cannibalism; and on and on. Whoppers, without a doubt.
Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses are quite proud of their record of taking these falsehoods faithfully door to door. On the back cover of a very recent Watchtower* magazine (December 1, 1996), Catholics and Protestants are bashed for neglecting evangelism, particularly of the door-knocking variety. The publication proudly boasts,
“Despite Christendom’s failure to evangelize more than five million of Jehovah’s Witnesses are following Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples of people of all the nations ‘ (Matthew 28:19-20; compare Acts 5:42). Their door to door preaching is now carried out in more than 230 lands. The message they bring is a positive one. highlighting the Bibles wonderful promises for the future.”
Dear ones, what is wrong with this picture?? “What do we know about the so-called positive message” they bring? It is positively FALSE, that’s what! And, as far as the “wonderful promises for the future,” the touted “promises” are not the Bible’s promises at all, but are subject to change at a moment’s notice. One day’s so-called “Creator’s promise” becomes another day’s mere human “speculation;” just another log on the fire, so to speak, when the time for its fulfillment runs out. The “Creator’s promises,” it seems, are made to be broken. The latest broken “Creator’s promise” involves the generation that witnessed the events of 1914.1 Yet, the Jehovah’s Witnesses I run into don’t seem to notice the expiration date in the fine print. They act as though they are serving up TRUTH.
Oftentimes when Jehovah’s Witnesses are backed into a corner Biblically or shown embarrassing past teachings of the Society, such as the teaching that aluminum cooking pots are a health hazard,2 they will retreat to this timeworn rationale: “We are the only ones going door to door, therefore, we must be the true Christians.” Really? What about the postal workers, or the Mormons?’ “Well,” the argument becomes, “no one goes door to door like we do, with our dedication, numbers, and the true gospel.” I have to admit it is true that no one goes door to door just like The Jehovah’s Witnesses. Does that prove anything about their Christianity?
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dark of night, shall prevent the JWs from keeping their appointed rounds — and round, and round, and round they go, faith¬fully, fearfully, and futilely. Why do they do this? They work their neighborhoods, they traverse their towns, but, when they are through, they must do it all over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. It is truly a journey without a destination, a hope against hope, a hair shirt worn on the feet.
What is behind their faithful pavement pounding? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus himself instituted “field service.” One of the first things he did, after taking in accurate knowledge of God, answering the eighty questions, and being baptized, was to get those presses rolling, running off Watchtower and Awake!* magazines. Then he sent the disciples out two by two, town by town, door to door, with spiritual food for the masses, meat in due season. Is this true?
In Luke chapter ten, Jesus sent out 72 theocratic “ministers,” two by two to every town. He said to them in verses three and four, “Go! I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Do not lake a purse or sandals, and do not greet anyone on the road ” Verse five assures the faithful “publisher” (the individual JW), if there is no man of peace in the house, the peace will return to the minister. So far, so good. However, no theocratically-minded “publisher” will voluntarily read verse seven (and, if forced to read, will NOT understand; trust me) where Jesus commands his ministers NOT to go from house to house.
Now, you may notice that the Bible does not say whether these early publishers charged a set fee for their material, or whether they employed the tried-and-true method of “donation manipulation” to fund the work. Did they fill out time cards? What were the required hours for publishers and pioneers?
These inconvenient “gaps” in the Biblical record are the reason why the theocratically minded need the organization to interpret the scriptures for them and spell out the rules. What is a modern-day disciple of Jesus to do’? Whatever the governing body says in the latest instruction, that’s what! As a Jehovah’s Witness, you must learn that “staying in the truth” is like hitting a moving target, since the truth doesn’t just sit there, like a bump on a log!
Do you remember the game of “Simon Savs,” that we used to play as children? “Simon” was the boss, the arbiter of all truth. The Watchtower’s faithful and discreet slave is “Simon.” Whatever Simon says is TRUE, and STAYS TRUE, till Simon says different Present truth is whatever Simon currently proclaims, no matter what old truths it may contradict. There is no arguing with Simon. Even more confusing, to those with independent minds, is that Simon/Slave claims that all of his contradictory instructions come from the Lord! “Simon” is merely the channel by which these often-opposing “truths” are delivered to the faithful followers.
For example, the July 1, 1943 Watchtower, p.205 tells us that
‘The Lord through his ‘faithful and wise servant’ [Simon, which at that time was Rutherford himself, pre¬tending to speak for the entire class of 144,000 “anointed” elite] now states to us. ‘Let us cover our territory four times in six months ‘ This becomes our organization instructions and has the same binding force on us that his statement to the Logos when he said, Let us make man in our image.’ It is our duty to accept this additional instruction and obey it ”
He [Jehovah] says the requirements for special pioneers shall be 175 hours and 50 back calls per month … and for regular pioneers 150 hours and as many back calls and studies as can properly be developed during that time. And for company pub¬lishers he says, ‘Let us make a quota of 60 hours and 12 back calls and at least one study a week for each publisher.’ These directions come to us from the Lord through his established agency directing what is required of us; and for those who realty love the Lord and are guided by his counsel, that is a reasonable service requirement. This expression of the Lord’s will should be the end of the controversy.”
So in 1943, “Simon” said that Jehovah established the quota of!75, 150, and 60 hours respectively, but today “Simon” says Jehovah’s requirements are different! And so, alas, the “controversy” rages on. Wouldn’t truth be easier to keep up with if it would just stand still??? But no, you had better jump aboard that wagon, because it’s pulling out … and you had better stay aboard (Hold on tight!!), no matter how it twists and turns, IF you expect Jehovah to protect you when Armageddon hits!!!
As an aside, one dear older lady who came to my door asked me for a few dollars for a book (chock full of lies!) which, she assured me, “would not even cover the cost of the printing.” Not wishing to disrespect my elders, but respecting .honesty even more, I asked her, “Ma’am, do you have to lie for Jeho¬vah? Would He want you to do that? You and I both know that a ‘few dollars’ well covers the cost of the printing of this book, and contributes its bit toward real estate holdings in Brooklyn, NY to boot. Isn’t that the truth?” The poor woman, whose heart really did know that “theocratic war strategy,” was no different from the garden-variety lies her mama used to soap her mouth for, turned seven shades of red, and attempted to change the subject, but the point was made for time and eternity.
“Well.” she answered lamely, “money is not the reason I go from door to door.” And yes, when all is said and done. I knew that money was not her motivation for faithfulness out “in service.” FEAR was her motivation. The fear of a slave of that modern-day Simon Legree. the Watchtower Society. Bald, terrible, “blowing-up-buildings, everybody’s-dead, huge-earthquake, Armageddon-is-here” FEAR keeps her traveling door to door, but will never take her home. Home is safety, security, surety, and that’s not what the Society is offering their slaves. Jehovah may protect you, IF, IF, IF. IF you go door to door faithfully and endlessly. IF you keep God’s laws, IF you stay clear of those nasty apostates, IF, IF, IF Very, very sad. Even sadder is the truth that no amount of preaching, walking, or doing will commute the sentence of a dead man. A pardon is needed but studiously avoided in favor of dedication and hard work.
Religious organizations and their rules have no power to pardon and save from death. A dedicated dead man is still dead. There is nothing at all about dedication that saves anyone What is needed is life, a new “live” birth into God’s family. Dedication may be nice, and door-to-door preaching may make you feel good about your zeal for God, but until you have life, you’re just a dead man walking … from door to door.
How can the dead live? Life does not come from dedication to Jehovah, but from receiving Christ, and having the Holy Spirit indwell them. Romans 8:1 is very clear in this regard. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. To be “in Christ,” according to the Bible, is to have the spirit of Christ dwelling in you (Romans 8:9-10).
Those “in Christ,” with Christ in them, are the only live men and women walking around this planet! Their life is not futile, and they are not dominated by FEAR either.
Well, if we are alive, then why aren’t we going door to door? Even if we grant that Jesus was send¬ing his disciples town to town rather than door to door, and told them to stay in one house and not to go from house to house: didn’t Peter and the other apostles go door to door” Is there a record of door-to-door “field service” in the book of Acts, or has the scripture been bent and twisted just a little bit by a 20th century publishing concern seeking door-lo-door salesmen on the cheap?
Let’s do a little investigation. Since not many of us are Greek scholars, a Greek Inter¬linear version of the Bible will come in handy for this. An Interlinear, for those who may not know, is a Bible which shows the Greek text with the actual English translation directly underneath each word or phrase. Conveniently, the Watchtower Society itself publishes one that will work just fine for our purposes: the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, 1969 (purple) or 1985 (dark blue) edition.
Let’s first look at one of the Society’s favorite texts to goad the poor “publishers” into faithfully peddling their wares:
If you look under the Greek text at the left, you will see that the English under the Greek that the WTBTS** has translated “from house to house” is “according to house.” In order to check their consistency, we’ll have to find another place where this exact Greek phrase is translated and, indeed, we find that in Acts chapter two.
Acts 2:46 (KIT) “And day after day they were in constant attendance at the temple with one accord, and they took their meals in private homes ,..”.
The same expression in the Greek “kai oikov” (“according to house” in the English underneath) that in Acts 5:42 is rendered “from house to house” is here rendered “in pri-vate homes” (as well as in numerous other places). 3 Now, I am not saying Acts 5:42 cannot be rendered “from house to house.” What I am saying is it could as easily and correctly be rendered “in private homes,” a fact that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is well aware of, yet, they allow for no other translation, for to do so would allow their slaves the freedom to go door to door or not go door to door, as they individually see fit. This Christian freedom of choice, in which Paul urges Christians to stand fast at Galatians chapter five, explains why you will indeed see some “live” Christians going from door to door, while others choose alternative and, perhaps, more effective methods of “preaching the good news” to a needy world.
But wait a minute here! Didn’t the apostle Paul, the one who claimed authority as the apostle to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8), say in Acts 20:20 he had taught the Ephesians both publicly and from house to house? Let’s check the Interlinear again … hmmmmmm … same phrase “according to house” under the Greek. So, again, it could just as easily be rendered the way they translated Acts 2:46, couldn’t it? Paul taught in public places, and in private homes.
In fact, though the Watchtower Society often uses this text to pummel its people about going out in service, they truly do know what Paul really meant here. In the 1972 Watchtower So¬ciety book Organization For Kingdom – Preaching and Disciple-Making, p.56, they say about this passage, “Paul reminded the elders of Ephesus that he had taught them, not only publicly, but also from house to house . . A congregation was established in Ephesus and other cities. For lack of public meeting places that could be rented or hired, the local congregation would meet in the private home of a dedicated, baptized, believer, and to con¬gregational meetings in the homes interested persons could be invited “
So according to “Simon” (at least when this book was written), what did the phrase “from house to house” mean here in this passage? It meant that they met in private homes for con¬gregational meetings. This was not about going door to door seeking interested persons, or separating the sheep and the goats. or whatever other imaginary events occur in door-to-door en¬counters! This is about inviting interested persons to come to them in the private home of a Christian.
I am not attempting to justify laziness in witnessing about the Gospel. If we have love in our hearts for people, we will urge people to be reconciled to God by accepting the pardon he offers, as if God through us was pleading with them. We are to be ambassadors for Christ and to give an answer for all who ask (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; 1 Peter 3:15). But, the very first qualification for a good ambassador is LIFE! Dead men have nothing to offer.
Love to all,
Ephesians 2:4-9 “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions … it is by grace (unmerited kindness!] you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might .show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kind¬ness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no man can boast.”
*Watchlower and Awake! magazines are bi-monthly publications of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a.k.a, Jehovah’s Witnesses **Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
- In the Watchtower Society’s continuing effort to cover up, redefine,and, very likely, eventually eliminate the year 1914 (which was an embarrassing, blatant, false prophecy), the (October 22. 1995 issue of Awake! magazine on p 4 in the box “Why Awake! is Published,” the last sentence reads:
“Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world be¬fore the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.”
In the very next issue (November 8, 1995) that same “Creator’s promise” changed to:
“Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world that Is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things.” (Our hold type) ↩
- Golden Age, August 8, 1928, p.710-713. Golden Age, November 14, 1928. p 115; Golden Age, August 21, 1929, This is one of the Society’s numerous, embar¬rassing, absurd, and obviously false teachings. ↩
- The exact same Greek phrase “kai oikov” (“according to house” in the English underneath) also appears again in Romans 16:5; I Corinthians 16.19; Colossians 4:15 and Philemon 1:2. In EVERY instance, the WTBTS translates these to mean a person’s private home (i e.: “in their house,” “at her house”)! ↩