QUESTION: I know Jehovah Witnesses consider themselves to be somewhat of authorities regarding the Bible, and my question is WHY? Who explains the scriptures to you for a better understanding. The scriptures can be difficult to interpret.
ANSWER: Hello Eli, and thank you for this interesting question.
First of all, if you take a cross-section of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a similar cross-section of the general public, you will find our intelligence about the same.
Any understanding of Scriptures we have is not to our own credit, beyond our love for Jehovah and Jesus, and wanting to come to know them and to develop a personal relationship with them. (John 17:3
Jehovah is the one who enlightens his followers and opens up the Scriptures to our understanding, and how this is done we will see below, but to show this statement is true, consider a couple of passages.
“And the ones having insight will shine like the brightness of the expanse; and those who are bringing the many to righteousness, like the stars to time indefinite, even forever. And as for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of the end. Many will rove about, and the true knowledge will become abundant.” … And he went on to say: “Go, Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end. Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” — Daniel 12: 3, 4, 9, 10
So from this we see that in the end times there would arise a group of people seeking to do Jehovah’s will, and these would be willing to change any wrong views they may have developed and allow Jehovah to enlighten them. It goes hand in hand with a parable Jesus spoke as recorded in Matthew 13:24—30
and explained in verses 36—43.
Please especially note verse 43
as compared to what we read in Daniel
But exactly how does he enlighten us? After all, many other religious groups have the Bible and claim they follow it and teach it. Yet many of their beliefs are different from each other’s and from ours. Here is the major difference: Holy spirit! After all, the Bible was written under the inspiration of holy spirit, and thus can only be understood the same way. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:21
) Also, Jesus informed his disciples that the holy spirit will teach us. (John 14:26
The holy spirit can of course cause things to become miraculously known, but is seldom if ever the case sense the writing of the Bible has been completed. Here is how Jehovah’s Witnesses apply the guidance of the holy spirit in our deepening of our Scriptural understanding: We follow the example of the first century Congregation. For example, in the 15th chapter of the Acts of Apostles
we read an account about the concerns the congregations had as to whether or not Christians needed to be circumcised. Note how they resolved it: The congregation sent their concerns to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem, who were in effect acting as a governing body in that day. They met together to discuss the issue, and although it does not mention that they prayed, since the importance of prayer is frequently mentioned in other places, we can take it for granted that they did.
They related the things that had been experience among the Gentile Christians, and more importantly checked out what the inspired Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) had to say on the matter.
Today, we do basically the same thing: We pray for Jehovah’s guidance through his holy spirit, and then we see what every passage that has a bearing on the subject at hand has to say about the matter. Then all the passages are harmonized; that is, even seemingly contradictory passages are compared with one another to see which conclusion fits ALL the Scriptures without creating a conflict.
Of course we may reach an erroneous conclusion, but these are almost invariably related to the way a prophecy may be fulfilled, and Jehovah will correct our understanding in his due time. I cannot recall any major adjustments in our basic Biblical beliefs, such as the fact the soul is mortal; there is no eternal hellfire, God is not a trinity, the earth will remain forever and be transformed into a paradise inhabited by perfect, healthy, happy people who will live forever upon it.
Perhaps an example will help: Most churches believe that the incorrigibly wicked will burn forever in a fiery hell. There are a few verses in the Bible that indicate this may be the case, such as Revelation 20:10 & 15
, for example.
We believe that the wicked will be destroyed. We reach this conclusion by reading not only verses such as the above, but others that help us get the whole picture. We know that “God is love” which tells us he could not do anything as cruel as torturing someone for all eternity for the sins of generally less than 100 years.
But just going back to the above verses about the lake of fire; when we examine that we find thrown into the beast, the false prophet, Satan and the other demons, death, hell, and the wicked.
Of these, only Satan and the demons, and the wicked people are living beings. Death is a condition; hell is the common grave of mankind—these cannot feel anything. The wild beast and the false prophet are both symbolic of political entities, and they too can feel nothing. (Revelation chapter 13, & 17:12
It is also reasonable to conclude all of the things thrown into the lake of fire will come to the same end. If one reads 1 Corinthians 15:26
one sees that death will be destroyed. Likewise, Psalm 37:38 & 2 Thessalonians 1:9
tells us the wicked will be destroyed.
Other points to consider is that the “wages sin pays is death” not eternal life being tortured; life is a gift, not a punishment. (Romans 6:23
Those are some of the reasons we believe that wicked will be destroyed rather than tortured forever, and by comparing the above Scriptures along with many many more, that is how we reached that conclusion.
It is the same way with all of our beliefs – we find all the passages related to any given subject and base our beliefs on the sum total of them all.
So, we are not the ones who are authorities on the Scriptures, but Jehovah who inspired them is, and by looking at what he says throughout the Bible, he helps us to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture than we would otherwise have.
I hope this is helpful, and again thanks for asking …
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: So, are you saying Jehovah helps you to understand the Bible? If so, how? Also, why would Jehovah choose only to guide a select group and not all? Why wouldn't he want ALL of his children on earth to understand the Bible? Thanks again.
Hello again Eli.
I think my previous response answers the “how” part.
Jehovah does want everyone to understand the Bible, and to put into practice what it teaches. That is why his Son commands us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations
, baptizing theme in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you
. And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” — Matthew 28:19, 20
However, according to the inspired Word of God, he wants us to view his Wisdom as a treasure worth digging for. NOTE:
“My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God
. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.” (Proverbs 2:1-6
“The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44
Another thing to keep in mind is that if people are not willing to apply what they learn, Jehovah is not going to bless their efforts. Anyone can have a wrong understanding of Scripture, but that is not what Jehovah looks at; he looks at our willingness to change when we learn we are wrong. If a church teaches wrong doctrine and learns that it is wrong, and will not change, why should God bless their efforts? Please read Matthew 7:13—27.
Here are a couple of more related passages to consider:
“The ridiculer has sought to find wisdom, and there is none; but to the understanding one knowledge is an easy thing.” — Proverbs 14:6
They now arranged for a day with him, and they came in greater numbers to him in his lodging place. And he explained the matter to them by bearing thorough witness concerning the kingdom of God and by using persuasion with them concerning Jesus from both the law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some began to believe the things said; others would not believe. So, because they were at disagreement with one another, they began to depart, while Paul made this one comment:
“The holy spirit aptly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your forefathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say: “By hearing, you will hear but by no means understand; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they should never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn back, and I should heal them.”’ Therefore let it be known to you that this, the means by which God saves, has been sent out to the nations; they will certainly listen to it.”— Acts 28:23—28.
In short, most people do not want to know the truth.