Archives for posts with tag: revelation

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BILLIONS of people have read or heard what the Bible says about the beginning of the universe. The 3,500-year-old account starts with the well-known statement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Many people, however, are unaware of the fact that Christendom’s leaders, including so-called creationists and fundamentalists, have spun the Bible account of creation into numerous tales that deviate from what the Bible really says. These interpretations fly in the face of scientific fact. Even though those tales are not found in the Bible, they have caused some people to dismiss the Bible account as mythical allegory.

The real Bible story of creation has gone largely unnoticed. This is a shame, for the Bible actually presents a very logical and credible explanation of the beginning of the universe. What is more, that explanation harmonizes with scientific discovery. Yes, you might be pleasantly surprised by the Bible’s untold story of creation!

THE UNCREATED CREATOR

Infinity

The Bible account of creation hinges on the fact that there is a Supreme Being, Almighty God, who created all things. Who is he, and what is his nature? The Bible reveals that he is quite different from the deities found in popular culture and mainstream religion. He is the Creator of all things, but most people know very little about him.

  • God is a person, an individual. He is not a vague force devoid of personality, floating aimlessly throughout the universe. He has thoughts, feelings, and goals.

  • God has infinite power and wisdom. This explains the complex design found everywhere in creation, especially in living things.

  • God created all physical matter. Hence, he cannot be made of physical elements that he himself has created. Rather, he is of a spiritual, or nonphysical, nature.

  • God’s existence is not limited by time. He has always existed and will always exist. Hence, no one created him.

  • God has a personal name, which is used thousands of times in the Bible. That name is Jehovah.

  • Jehovah God loves and cares for humans.

 HOW LONG DID GOD TAKE TO CREATE THE UNIVERSE?

Face of a clock

The Bible states that God created “the heavens and the earth.” This broad statement, however, makes no reference to the length of time involved in creating the universe or to the methods he used to shape it. What about the widespread creationist belief that God created the universe in six literal 24-hour days? This concept, widely rejected by scientists, is based on a gross misunderstanding of the Bible account. Consider what the Bible really says.

The Bible does not support fundamentalists and creationists who claim that the creative days were literal 24-hour days

  • The Bible does not support fundamentalists and creationists who claim that the creative days were literal 24-hour days.

  • The Bible frequently uses the term “day” to designate various periods of time. In some cases these periods are of an unspecified length. The account of creation found in the Bible book of Genesis is one example of this.

  • In the Bible account, each of the six creative days could have lasted for thousands of years.

  • God had already created the universe, including a lifeless planet Earth, by the time the first creative day began.

  • Evidently the six creative days were long periods during which Jehovah God prepared the earth for human habitation.

  • The Bible account of creation does not conflict with scientific conclusions about the age of the universe.

DID GOD USE EVOLUTION?

Theoretical process of evolution

Many who do not believe in the Bible embrace the theory that living things emerged from lifeless chemicals through unknown and mindless processes. Supposedly, at some point a bacteria-like, self-replicating organism arose, gradually branching out into all the species that exist today. This would imply that ultimately the mind-bogglingly complex human actually evolved from bacteria.

The theory of evolution is also embraced by many who claim to accept the Bible as the word of God. They believe that God produced the first burst of life on earth but then simply monitored, and perhaps steered, the process of evolution. That, however, is not what the Bible says.

The Bible account of creation does not conflict with the scientific observation that variations occur within a kind

  • According to the Bible, Jehovah God created all the basic kinds of plant and animal life, as well as a perfect man and woman who were capable of self-awareness, love, wisdom, and justice.

  • The kinds of animals and plants created by God have obviously undergone changes and have produced variations within the kinds. In many cases, the resulting life-forms are remarkably different from one another.

  • The Bible account of creation does not conflict with the scientific observation that variations occur within a kind.

 A CREATOR PERCEIVED IN CREATION

In the mid-1800’s, British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace agreed with Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution by natural selection. But even this renowned evolutionist is said to have stated: “For those who have eyes to see and minds accustomed to reflect, in the minutest cells, in the blood, in the whole earth, and throughout the stellar universe . . . , there is intelligent and conscious direction; in a word, there is Mind.”

Almost two thousand years before Wallace, the Bible had already observed: “For [God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) From time to time, you might want to take a moment to reflect on the marvelous complexities found in nature—from a single blade of grass to the countless heavenly bodies. By examining creation you can perceive the Creator.

‘But if there is a loving God who created all things,’ you may ask, ‘why would he permit suffering? Has he abandoned his earthly creation? What does the future hold?’ The Bible contains many other untold stories—truths that have been buried under human ideas and religious agendas and, therefore, hidden from most people. The publishers of this magazine, Jehovah’s Witnesses, would be happy to help you examine unadulterated Bible truth and learn more about the Creator and the future of his human creation.

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Since Jehovah God * is the Creator of all things and is almighty, many people may be inclined to hold him responsible for everything that takes place in the world, including all that is bad. However, consider what the Bible says about the true God:

  • “Jehovah is righteous in all his ways.”—Psalm 145:17.

  • “All his [God’s] ways are justice. A God of faithfulness who is never unjust; righteous andupright is he.”—Deuteronomy 32:4.

  • “Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”James 5:11.

God does not cause bad things to happen. Does he, though, incite others to commit vile deeds? Not at all. “When under trial,” state the Scriptures, “let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’” Why? Because “with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) God does not try, or test, anyone by inciting him to behave badly. God neither causes bad things to happen nor incites others to do what is bad. Who or what, then, is to blame when bad things happen?

BEING IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME

Identifying one reason why humans suffer, the Bible states: “Time and unexpected events overtake them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) When unanticipated events or accidents happen, whether someone is affected or not depends to a large extent on where he is at the time they occur. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ spoke of a calamity involving 18 people who were killed when a tower fell on them. (Luke 13:1-5) They did not become victims because of the way they had lived their lives; they were simply under the tower when it happened to fall. More recently, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010; the Haitian government says that over 300,000 lives were lost. All those lives were claimed without regard for who the individuals were. Illnesses too can strike anyone at any time.

Why does God not keep good people out of harm’s way?

Some might ask: ‘Could not God prevent such deadly calamities from happening? Could he not shield the good people from the calamity?’ For God to intervene in such ways, it would mean that he knows about bad things before they happen. While God certainly has the ability to foreknow the future, the question we need to consider is this: Does God choose to exercise to a limitless extent his power to foreknow such things?—Isaiah 42:9.

The Scriptures say: “God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) Jehovah  does what he deems necessary to do—not everything he is capable of doing. That applies also to what he decides to foresee. For example, after wickedness became prevalent in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God told the patriarch Abraham: “I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20, 21) For a time, Jehovah chose not to know the extent of the wickedness in those cities. Similarly, then, Jehovah can choose not to foreknow everything. (Genesis 22:12) In no way is this an indication of imperfection or weakness on his part. Since “perfect is his activity,” God balances his ability to foreknow the future with his purpose; he never forces humans to follow a certain course. * (Deuteronomy 32:4) What, then, may we conclude? Simply this: God’s exercise of foreknowledge is selective and discretionary.

A woman in a parking lot about to become a victim of crime

Why does God not protect good people from crime?

 

 

ARE HUMANS RESPONSIBLE?

Part of the blame for wickedness lies with humans. Notice how the Bible describes a process that can lead to harmful acts. “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) When individuals act on improper desires or give in to wrong cravings, they are bound to suffer bad consequences. (Romans 7:21-23) As history shows, humans have committed horrendous acts and caused immense suffering. Moreover, wicked men can influence others to become corrupt, thus perpetuating badness.—Proverbs 1:10-16.

Humans have committed horrendous acts and caused immense suffering

Should God intervene and prevent people from doing bad things? Consider how man is made. The Scriptures say that God created man in God’s own image, that is, in God’s likeness. Thus, humans have the ability to reflect God’s qualities. (Genesis 1:26) Humans have been given the gift of free will and can choose to love God and stick to him by doing what is right in his eyes. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) If God coerced people into following a certain course, would he not be nullifying the gift of free will? Why, humans would be reduced to nothing more than machines, doing exactly what they were programmed to do! The same would be true if fate, or Kismet, dictated what we do and everything that happens to us. How glad we can be that God dignifies us by allowing us to choose our own course! This does not mean, though, that the harm caused by human error and bad choices will forever plague mankind.

 IS KARMA A CAUSE OF SUFFERING?

If you were to ask someone from a Hindu or Buddhist background the question posed on the cover of this magazine, you would likely hear this answer: “Bad things happen to good people because of the law of Karma. They are reaping the fruitage of what they did in their previous lives.” *

Regarding the teaching of Karma, it is helpful to note what the Bible says about death. In the garden of Eden, where humankind originated, the Creator said to the first man, Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) If Adam had not sinned by disobeying God, he would have lived forever. Death came about as a penalty for disobedience to God’s command. Then, when children were born, “death spread to all men.” (Romans 5:12) Thus, it can be said that “the wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) The Bible also explains: “The one who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” (Romans 6:7) In other words, people do not keep paying for their sins after death.

Millions of people today explain that the problem of human suffering involves Karma. A believer usually accepts his own suffering as well as that of others without getting too disturbed by it. But the fact remains that this concept holds out no hope of stopping bad things from happening. It is believed that the only relief offered to an individual is liberation from the cycles of rebirth through socially acceptable behavior and special knowledge. These ideas, of course, are far different from what the Bible says. *

THE PRIMARY CAUSE!

A hand holding planet Earth

Did you know that the main cause of suffering is “the ruler of the world”—Satan the Devil?—John 14:30

 

 

The primary cause of wickedness, though, is not man. Satan the Devil, originally a faithful angel of God, “did not stand fast in the truth” and brought sin into the world. (John 8:44) He instigated a rebellion in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:1-5) Jesus Christ called him “the wicked one” and “the ruler of the world.” (Matthew 6:13; John 14:30) Mankind in general follow Satan by heeding his urgings to ignore the good ways of Jehovah. (1 John 2:15, 16) “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” says 1 John 5:19. There are other spirit creatures who have turned wicked and have joined Satan. The Bible indicates that Satan and his demons are “misleading the entire inhabited earth,” causing “woe for the earth.” (Revelation 12:9, 12) Thus, the principal blame for wickedness has to be placed onSatan the Devil.

Clearly, God is not responsible for bad things that happen to people; nor does he make them suffer. On the contrary, he has promised to eliminate badness, as the following article will show.


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We all think about the future. We wonder what life will be like for ourselves and our loved ones. We ask such questions as these: ‘Will my children live in a better world? Will the earth be destroyed in a disaster? Is there something I can change now to make my future better?’ This curiosity is part of who we are; we naturally yearn for reassurance, certainty, order, and stability. If you could be more certain about the future, you could prepare for it, both physically and emotionally.

So, what is in your future? Can anyone know? Professionals who try to predict the future have met with some successes but also many failures. Yet, it is said that God can accurately foretell upcoming events. His Word says: “From the beginning I foretell the outcome, and from long ago the things that have not yet been done.” (Isaiah 46:10) How successful has he been?

GOD’S SUCCESS RATE

Why should you be interested in the success rate of God’s ancient prophecies? Well, if you found a weather forecaster to be accurate every day for a long time, you would be impressed. Likely you would pay attention to what he said about the weather tomorrow. In a similar way, if you were to learn that God has foretold events with a perfect rate of success, you would surely be interested in what he foretells about your future.

A rebuilt wall in Nineveh, a city formerly desolated
A rebuilt wall in the ruins of ancient Nineveh 

THE DESTRUCTION OF A GREAT CITY:

For example, it would really be a remarkable feat to predict accurately that a great city, powerful for many centuries, would soon collapse. Through one of his spokesmen, God foretold just such a thing—the desolation of Nineveh. (Zephaniah 2:13-15) What have secular historians recorded? In the  seventh century B.C.E., evidently some 15 years after God made his prediction, the Babylonians and the Medes attacked and overthrew Nineveh. Additionally, God specified in advance that Nineveh would be made “desolate, as dry as a desert.” Did this advance notice prove to be accurate? Yes. Although the city and its suburbs may have covered some 200 square miles (518 sq km), the conquerors did not preserve and make use of the city, as might be expected. Instead, they destroyed it. Could any political analyst have predicted those events with such accuracy?

HUMAN BONES WILL BURN:

Who would be so daring as to announce—300 years in advance—the exact name and specific ancestry of a man who would burn human bones on an altar, as well as the name of the town where the altar would be located? If such an unusual prediction came true, it would surely make the forecaster famous. God’s spokesman announced: “A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David . . . , and he will burn human bones” on an altar in the town of Bethel. (1 Kings 13:1, 2) About three centuries later, a king named Josiah—not a common Biblical name—came from the family lineage of David. Exactly as foretold, Josiah had “bones taken from the graves and burned them on the altar” located in Bethel. (2 Kings 23:14-16) How could anyone foretell such specific details unless guided by a superhuman source?

Cyrus’ army entering Babylon through open gates as the prophet Isaiah foretold
Bible prophets foretold the fall of Babylon with amazing accuracy 

THE END OF AN EMPIRE:

It would be amazing if a person could successfully predict the name of a man—long before his birth—who would organize the overthrow of a major world power, even indicating the unusual strategy that he would employ. God announced that a man named Cyrus would launch the conquest of a nation. This Cyrus would also free Jewish captives and support the reconstruction of their holy temple. Additionally, God foretold that Cyrus’ battle strategy would include the drying up of rivers and indicated that gates would be left open, facilitating the  conquest. (Isaiah 44:27–45:2) Were the many details of God’s prophecy fulfilled accurately? Historians agree that this conquest by Cyrus actually occurred. Cyrus’ army employed the tremendous engineering feat of diverting one of Babylon’s waterways—in effect, drying up rivers. What is more, the army entered the city through gates that had been left open. Cyrus thereafter freed the Jewish people and declared that they could rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. That was unusual, for Cyrus did not worship the God of the Jews. (Ezra 1:1-3) Who but God could have predicted the details of those historical events?

We have mentioned three examples showing how God successfully foretold future events. These are not isolated incidents. The Jewish leader Joshua stated a fact that was well-known to his large audience: “You well know with all your heart and with all your soul that not one word out of all the good promises that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:1, 2, 14) Joshua’s people could not deny the success rate of God’s promises and prophecies. But how does God do it? There are major differences between God’s ways and man’s. This is important for you to know, for God has made some epic announcements about the near future that will definitely affect you.

GOD’S PROPHECIES VERSUS HUMAN PREDICTIONS

Human predictions are often based on such factors as scientific research, analysis of available facts and trends, or even bogus spiritual insight. After making their forecasts, humans typically sit back passively and wait to see what will happen.—Proverbs 27:1.

In contrast to humans, God knows all the facts. He thoroughly understands the nature and inclination of humans; therefore, when he chooses to do so, God can foresee exactly how individuals and entire nations will act. But God can do more than that. He can even control and change factors and trends to ensure the outcome. He says: “My word that goes out of my mouth . . . will not return to me without results, . . . and it will have sure success.” (Isaiah 55:11) In a way, then, some of God’s predictions are more like announcements or declarations. He actively guarantees a perfect record of success.

YOUR FUTURE

Is there a reliable forecast involving your future and that of your loved ones? If you have advance knowledge of an approaching hurricane, you can take lifesaving action. You can respond similarly to Bible prophecy. God has announced that huge worldwide changes will come soon. (See the box “ What God Has Revealed About the Future.”) This future is quite different from what many so-called experts forecast.

You might think of it this way: The story of this world has an overall plot. It has already been written, and you can preview the finale. God declares: “From the beginning I foretell the outcome, . . . I say, ‘My decision will stand, and I will do whatever I please.’” (Isaiah 46:10) You and your family can have a wonderful future. Ask Jehovah’s Witnesses about what the Bible says regarding upcoming events. The Witnesses are not psychics; nor do they claim to hear spirit voices or to have any special powers of prediction. They are students of the Bible who can show you the good things that God is actively arranging for your future.


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THE BIBLE’S VIEWPOINT

What is meditation?

“I will meditate on all your activity and ponder over your dealings.”—Psalm 77:12.

WHAT PEOPLE SAY

Meditation takes many forms, a number of which have roots in ancient Eastern religions. “The mind has to be empty to see clearly,” said one writer on the subject. His words reflect the view that emptying the mind while focusing on certain words or images promotes inner peace, mental clarity, and spiritual enlightenment.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

The Bible puts a high value on meditation. (1 Timothy 4:15, footnote) The kind of meditation that it encourages, however, does not entail emptying the mind or repeating a certain word or phrase, sometimes called a mantra. Rather, Biblical meditation involves purposeful thinking on wholesome topics, such as God’s qualities, standards, and creations. “I meditate on all your activity; I eagerly ponder over the work of your hands,” prayed a faithful man of God. (Psalm 143:5) He also said: “I remember you while upon my bed; I meditate on you during the watches of the night.”—Psalm 63:6.

 How can meditation benefit you?

“The heart of the righteous one meditates before answering.”—Proverbs 15:28.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

Wholesome meditation gives us inner depth, quiet reserve, and moral strength—all of which add insight and understanding to our speech and behavior. (Proverbs 16:23) Such meditation, therefore, also contributes to a happy and rewarding life. Concerning the person who regularly meditates on God, Psalm 1:3 states: “He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, a tree that produces fruit in its season, the foliage of which does not wither. And everything he does will succeed.”

Meditation also helps us to improve our comprehension and memory. To illustrate, when we study an aspect of creation or a certain Bible topic, we learn many interesting facts. But when we meditate on those facts, we see how they relate to one another and to what we have learned in the past. Thus, just as a carpenter turns raw materials into an attractive building, meditation enables us to “assemble” facts into a coherent pattern or structure.

Should meditation be properly directed?

“The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?”—Jeremiah 17:9.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS

“From inside, out of the heart of men, come injurious reasonings, sexual immorality, thefts, murders, acts of adultery, greed, acts of wickedness, deceit, brazen conduct, an envious eye, . . . and unreasonableness.” (Mark 7:21, 22) Yes, like a fire, meditation must be controlled! Otherwise, improper thoughts could nurture hurtful desires that might race out of control and lead to evil deeds.—James 1:14, 15.

Accordingly, the Bible encourages us to meditate on ‘things that are true, righteous, pure, lovable, well-spoken-of, virtuous, and praiseworthy.’ (Philippians 4:8, 9; footnote) When we take in such fine thoughts and “sow” them in our mind, we will reap in the form of beautiful qualities, gracious speech, and warm relationships with others.—Colossians 4:6.

 


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“Does religion unite or divide us?” That question was posed to the readers ofThe Sydney Morning Herald. Of those who responded, the vast majority—some 89 percent—felt that religion divides us.

SUPPORTERS of interfaith, however, view the matter quite differently. “Show me a religion that doesn’t care about compassion . . . , that doesn’t care about stewardship of the environment . . . , that doesn’t care about hospitality,” asked Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Indeed, Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, and many others have on occasion joined forces to fight poverty, campaign for human rights, work to ban land mines, or draw attention to environmental issues. Multi-faith dialogue circles have participated in efforts to seek mutual understanding and inspiration. They celebrate their diversity with candle-lighting ceremonies, festivals, music, prayers, and so on.

Is the mingling of religions the way to heal the conflict among faiths? Is interfaith God’s way of bringing about a better world?

UNITY—AT WHAT PRICE?

One of the largest of the interfaith organizations boasts that it has members representing over 200 different faiths and that it is active in 76 countries. Its declared objective is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation.” That, however, has proved to be easier said than done. For example, according to the organizers, their charter had to be carefully worded so as not to offend the many faiths and indigenous groups that signed the document. Why? One factor was that there was disagreement on whether God should be included in the charter. Subsequently, any reference to or mention of God was avoided.

If God is left out of the picture, what role does faith play? Furthermore, how does such an interfaith movement differ from any secular charitable or philanthropic organization? For good reason, the aforementioned interfaith body describes itself, not as a religious entity, but as “a bridge-building organization.”

IS PROMOTING GOOD—GOOD ENOUGH?

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness,” says the Dalai Lama, a prominent interfaith proponent. He adds: “The important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives.”

Granted, the value of such virtues as love, compassion, and forgiveness cannot be overemphasized.  In what has been called the Golden Rule, Jesus said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) But is true faith just a matter of promoting what is good?

About many who claimed to serve God in his day, the apostle Paul said: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge.” What was the problem? “Because of not knowing the righteousness of God,” Paul said, they were “seeking to establish their own.” (Romans 10:2, 3) Lacking accurate knowledge of what God wanted them to do, their zeal—and faith—were really in vain.—Matthew 7:21-23.

THE BIBLE’S VIEW OF INTERFAITH

“Happy are the peacemakers,” Jesus said. (Matthew 5:9) Jesus practiced what he preached by promoting nonviolence and taking a message of peace to people of diverse religious backgrounds. (Matthew 26:52) Those who responded were drawn into an unbreakable bond of love. (Colossians 3:14) But was Jesus’ objective merely to build bridges among people of various backgrounds so that they could get along in peace? Did he join with others in their religious practices?

The religious leaders of the sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees viciously opposed Jesus—even sought to kill him. How did he react? Jesus instructed his disciples: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” (Matthew 15:14) Jesus refused to acknowledge spiritual brotherhood with such individuals.

Some time later, a Christian congregation was formed in Corinth, Greece—a city renowned for its pluralistic, multireligious culture. How were the Christians there to act in that environment? The apostle Paul wrote them: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Why not? Paul reasoned: “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” Then he gave this counsel: “Therefore, get out from among them, and separate yourselves.”—2 Corinthians 6:14, 15, 17.

Clearly, the Bible speaks against the practice of interfaith. But you might wonder, ‘How, then, can true unity be achieved?’

BUILDING TRUE UNITY

The International Space Station—a technological wonder orbiting the earth—is the result of the united efforts of some 15 nations. Could you imagine this project being accomplished if the participating nations did not agree on what blueprint to use?

That, essentially, is the situation with the modern-day interfaith movement. Although cooperation and respect are touted, there is no agreed-upon blueprint for building faith. As a result, moral and doctrinal issues remain as divisive as ever.

The Bible contains God’s standards, which are like a blueprint. We can build our lives on what the Bible says. Those who have embraced it have overcome racial and religious prejudices and have learned to work together in peace and unity. Foretelling this, God said: “I will change the language of the peoples to a pure language, so that all of them may call on the name of Jehovah, to serve him shoulder to shoulder.” Unity results from the “pure language,” God’s standard of worship.—Zephaniah 3:9; Isaiah 2:2-4.

Jehovah’s Witnesses cordially invite you to visit a Kingdom Hall near you to see for yourself the remarkable peace and unity that exist among them.—Psalm 133:1.


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The Bible’s answer

The celebration of Easter is not based on the Bible. If you look into its history, though, you will see the true meaning of Easter—it is a tradition based on ancient fertility rites. Consider the following.

  1. Name: The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “The English name Easter is of uncertain origin; the Anglo-Saxon priest Venerable Bede in the 8th century derived it from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess Eostre.” Others link it to Astarte, the Phoenician fertility goddess who had the Babylonian counterpart Ishtar.

  2. Hares, rabbits: These are symbols of fertility “handed down from the ancient ceremonial and symbolism of European and Middle Eastern pagan spring festivals.—Encyclopædia Britannica.

  3. Eggs: According to Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, the hunt for Easter eggs, supposedly brought by the Easter rabbit, “is not mere child’s play, but the vestige of a fertility rite.” Some cultures believed that the decorated Easter egg “could magically bring happiness, prosperity, health, and protection.”—Traditional Festivals.

  4. New Easter outfit: It was considered discourteous and therefore bad luck to greet the Scandinavian goddess of Spring, or Eastre, in anything but fresh garb.”—The Giant Book of Superstitions.

  5. Sunrise services: These have been linked to rites of ancient sun worshippers “performed at the vernal equinox welcoming the sun and its great power to bring new life to all growing things.”—Celebrations—The Complete Book of American Holidays.

The American Book of Days well describes the origin of Easter: “There is no doubt that the Church in its early days adopted the old pagan customs and gave a Christian meaning to them.

The Bible warns against worshipping God by following traditions or customs that displease him. (Mark 7:6-8Second Corinthians 6:17 states: “‘Separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’” Easter is a pagan holiday that those who want to please God will avoid.

 


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“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16King James Version.

That is one of the best-known and most widely quoted texts in the entire Bible. It has been said that no other verse “so succinctly summarizes God’s relationship with humanity and the way of salvation.” For that reason, in some countries this scripture or simply the reference “John 3:16” is often displayed at public events, on car stickers, in graffiti, and elsewhere.

In all likelihood, those who display the text feel convinced that God’s love guarantees their everlasting salvation. What about you? What does God’s love mean to you? And what do you think God has done that demonstrates his love for you?

“GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD”

Many people are willing to credit God with the creation of the physical universe, nature, and humans themselves. Living organisms are so intricate and well made that there must surely be some great intelligence behind their existence. A good number of people thank God daily for the gift of life. They also recognize that they are completely dependent on God for all of life’s necessities—such as air, water, food, and the earth’s natural cycles—so that they can continue to live and enjoy what they do.

We do well to thank God for all these things, for he truly is our Maker and Sustainer. (Psalm 104:10-28; 145:15, 16; Acts 4:24) We can appreciate God’s love for us when we think about all that he is doing just to make life possible. The apostle Paul put it this way: “[God] gives to  all people life and breath and all things. For by him we have life and move and exist.”—Acts 17:25, 28.

God’s love, however, is expressed in more ways than just caring for us physically. He has also elevated and dignified us by giving us spiritual capacity and helping us to satisfy it. (Matthew 5:3) In this way, obedient mankind has the prospect of becoming part of God’s family, his “children.”—Romans 8:19-21.

As John 3:16 goes on to say, God showed his love for us by sending his Son, Jesus, to the earth to teach us about his God and Father and to die for us. Many, though, will admit that they do not truly understand why it was necessary for Jesus to die for mankind and how Jesus’ death is an expression of God’s love for us. Let us see how the Bible explains the reason for Jesus’ death and its value.

“HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON”

All mankind is mortal, subject to the scourge of sickness, old age, and death. Yet that is not what Jehovah God originally purposed. He gave the first humans the prospect of living forever in a paradise on earth. But there was one condition: They had to obey him. God said that if they chose not to, they would die. (Genesis 2:17) The first man did indeed rebel against God’s authority, and he brought death upon himself and his offspring. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned,” explains the apostle Paul.—Romans 5:12.

God, however, “loves justice.” (Psalm 37:28) Even though he could not ignore the deliberate act of transgression on the part of the first man, God has not condemned all humanity to suffering and death forever on account of one man’s disobedience. On the contrary, by applying the legal principle of “life for life,” he has balanced the scales of justice and made everlasting life possible once again for obedient humans. (Exodus 21:23) The question is, How could Adam’s loss of perfect human life be recovered? The answer: Someone had to offer up, or sacrifice, a life of equal value to Adam’s—a perfect human life.

From heaven, Jesus considers the earth and all mankind in need of God’s love
Jesus willingly came to earth and gave his life to save mankind from sin and death

Clearly, no imperfect descendant of Adam was capable of offering such a price, but Jesus was. (Psalm 49:6-9) Born without the stain of inherited sin, Jesus was perfect, just as Adam had been. Thus, by surrendering his life, Jesus ransomed mankind from slavery to sin. By so doing, he offered descendants of the first human couple the opportunity to enjoy the same perfect life that Adam and Eve once did. (Romans 3:23, 24; 6:23) Is there anything that we need to do to benefit from such a magnanimous act of love?

 “WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM”

Going back to John 3:16, we note the words “whosoever believeth in [Jesus] should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This means that gaining the gift of everlasting life is conditional. If we are to “have everlasting life,” we need to believe in Jesus and obey him.

You might wonder: ‘How is obeying involved? Did Jesus not say that “whosoever believeth in him” will have everlasting life?’ Yes, belief, or faith, is essential. However, it is important to remember that in the Bible, faith is much more than simply believing. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the word used by John in the original language signifies “reliance upon, not mere credence.” In order to have God’s favor, one needs more than a mental recognition that Jesus is the Savior. The believer must also sincerely endeavor to apply what Jesus taught. If there is no action, any profession of faith is hollow. “Faith without works is dead,” says the Bible. (James 2:26) Put another way, what is required of the believer is that he exercise faith in Jesus—that is, he must live in accord with his belief and faith.

Paul explains the point this way: “The love the Christ has compels us, because this is what we have concluded, that one man [Jesus] died for all . . . And he died for all so that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) Sincere gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice should move us to make changes in our life—from selfishly living for ourselves to living for Jesus, who died for us. That is to say, we need to give priority in our lives to practicing what Jesus taught. Such a change will necessarily affect our values, our choices, and everything we do. What will be the reward for those who do believe and exercise faith in Jesus?

“SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE”

The last part of John 3:16 expresses God’s promise to those who exercise faith in the ransom provision and live according to divine standards. God intends that such faithful ones “should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Different destinies, however, await individuals who benefit from God’s love.

To one group, Jesus promised everlasting life in heaven. He clearly told his faithful disciples that he was about to prepare a place for them so that they might rule with him in glory. (John 14:2, 3;Philippians 3:20, 21) Those resurrected to life in heaven “will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.”—Revelation 20:6.

Only a limited number of Christ’s followers would receive such a privilege. In fact, Jesus said: “Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has approved of giving you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) How numerous would that “little flock” be? Revelation 14:1, 4 says: “I saw, and look! the Lamb [the resurrected Jesus Christ] standing on [the heavenly] Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” In comparison with the countless billions who have ever lived, 144,000 individuals constitute just a “little flock.” These are described as kings, so over whom will they rule?

Jesus spoke of a second group of faithful ones who will receive benefits from the heavenly Kingdom. As seen at John 10:16, Jesus noted: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” Those “sheep” look forward to everlasting life on earth—the same prospect that Adam and Eve originally entertained. How do we know that their future is earthly?

 On numerous occasions, the Bible speaks of Paradise conditions to come on earth. To see this for yourself, you might wish to open your Bible and read the following passages: Psalm 37:9-11;46:8, 9; 72:7, 8, 16; Isaiah 35:5, 6; 65:21-23; Matthew 5:5; John 5:28, 29; Revelation 21:4. Those verses foretell an end to war, famine, sickness, and death. They speak of a time when good people will have the joy of being able to build their own houses, cultivate their own land, and raise their children in peaceful surroundings. * Does such a prospect not appeal to you? We have good reason to believe that those promises will soon be realized.

GOD HAS DONE MUCH

If you pause to consider all that God has done for you and for mankind as a whole, it is clear that he has already done a great deal. We have life, intelligence, a measure of health, and the means necessary to support life. More than that, God’s gift of the ransom through Jesus, who died for us, can mean even greater blessings, as we learn from John 3:16.

Everlasting life in peaceful, pleasant conditions, without the threat of illness, war, famine, or death, would surely open the door to endless happiness and blessings. Whether you will receive those blessings depends entirely on you. The question that remains really is, What are you doing for God?