“God . . . turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.”—ACTS 15:14.
HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND?
Specifically identify an unscriptural doctrine, and show how we have been protected from believing in it.
How have we been released from sin and death?
What is your attitude toward Jehovah’s sovereignty and the related issue of integrity?
DURING a milestone governing body meeting in Jerusalem in 49 C.E., the disciple James said: “Symeon [Peter] has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I shall return and rebuild the booth of David that is fallen down; and I shall rebuild its ruins and erect it again, in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.’”—Acts 15:13-18.
2 “The booth [or, royal house] of David” fell when King Zedekiah was dethroned. (Amos 9:11) However, that “booth” would be rebuilt with David’s descendant Jesus as the permanent King. (Ezek. 21:27; Acts 2:29-36) As James pointed out at that historic meeting, this prophecy of Amos was being fulfilled in the gathering of Kingdom heirs from both Jews and Gentiles. Today, a remnant of anointed Christians and millions of Jesus’ “other sheep” are united in declaring Bible truth as servants of Jehovah.—John 10:16.
JEHOVAH’S PEOPLE MEET A CHALLENGE
3 When the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon, it was clear that “the booth of David” had fallen. Since false religion ran rampant in Babylonia, how did God’s people survive spiritually during their 70-year exile there from 607 B.C.E. to 537 B.C.E.? The same way we survive as Jehovah’s people in this world under Satan’s control. (1 John 5:19) A rich spiritual heritage has helped to make such survival possible.
4 As part of our spiritual legacy, we have the written Word of God. Jewish exiles in Babylon did not have the Holy Scriptures in complete form, but they did have knowledge of the Mosaic Law, with its Ten Commandments. They knew “the songs of Zion,” could recall many proverbs, and were acquainted with the exploits of earlier servants of Jehovah. Yes, those exiles wept when they remembered Zion, and they did not forget Jehovah. (Read Psalm 137:1-6.) That kept them alive spiritually even in Babylon, with its many false doctrines and practices.
THE TRINITY IS NOT NEW
5 The religious triad, or trinity, was a prominent feature of worship in Babylon. One Babylonian triad was composed of Sin (a moon-god), Shamash (a sun-god), and Ishtar (a goddess of fertility and war). In ancient Egypt, a god was often viewed as being married to a goddess who bore him a son, “forming a divine triad or trinity in which the father, moreover, was not always the chief, contenting himself on occasion with the role of prince consort, while the principal deity of the locality remained the goddess.” (New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology) One Egyptian triad consisted of the god Osiris, the goddess Isis, and their son Horus.
6 Christendom has its triad—the Trinity. Clerics say that the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit are one God. But that is an assault on the sovereignty of Jehovah, making it seem that he is triune—in effect, only one third of a supposed godhead. Jehovah’s people have been protected from believing such error because they agree with these inspired words: “Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deut. 6:4) Jesus quoted that statement, and would any true Christian disagree with him?—Mark 12:29.
7 The Trinity doctrine runs counter to the commission Jesus gave his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) To be baptized as a genuine Christian and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a person must acknowledge the supremacy of the Father, Jehovah, as well as the position and authority of God’s Son, Jesus. The baptism candidate must also believe that the holy spirit is God’s active force, not part of a Trinity. (Gen. 1:2) An individual who continues to believe in the Trinity cannot be baptized in symbol of a valid dedication to Jehovah God. How grateful we are that our spiritual legacy has protected us from believing this God-dishonoring teaching!
SPIRITISM REARS ITS UGLY HEAD!
8 Religious thought in Babylonia provided plenty of room for false doctrines, deities, demons, and spiritism. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states: “Next in importance to the gods in the Bab[ylonian] religion are the demons who had the power to afflict men with manifold diseases of body or mind. A large part of the religion seems to have been given up to an agonized struggle against these demons, and the gods were everywhere approached by prayer to assist men against these demons.”
9 After their Babylonian exile, many Jews fell prey to unscriptural ideas. As Greek concepts made inroads, many Jews became vulnerable to demonic control because they adopted the view that demons could be evil or good. Our spiritual legacy protects us from the dangers of willing involvement with demons, for we know that God condemned Babylon’s spiritistic practices. (Isa. 47:1, 12-15) Moreover, we are guided by God’s view of spiritism.—Read Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Revelation 21:8.
10 Spiritism has been practiced not only by the Babylonians but also by supporters of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. (Rev. 18:21-24) The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible states: “Babylon [the Great] embraces more than one empire or culture. It is defined rather by dominant idolatries than by geographical or temporal boundaries.” (Vol. 1, p. 338) Riddled with spiritism, idolatry, and other sins, Babylon the Great still exists—but not for long.—Read Revelation 18:1-5.
11 Jehovah declared: “I cannot put up with the use of uncanny power.” (Isa. 1:13) Often called spiritualism, the practice of spiritism played a notable role in 19th-century thinking. Zion’s Watch Tower of May 1885 therefore said: “The belief that the dead are alive in another sphere or condition of being is not new. It was part of the religion of the ancients, and was the very root of all mythology.” The article added that the unscriptural idea of the dead communicating with the living “has given cover and force to the deceptions practised by ‘demons’ under the guise of dis-embodied spirits of men. They have eagerly availed themselves of this mode of concealing their identity, and have thus perpetuated their sway over the minds and lives of many.” The early booklet What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism? gave similar warnings, as have our more recent publications.
ARE SOULS SUFFERING IN AN UNDERWORLD?
12 “All those . . . who have come to know the truth” can answer that question. (2 John 1) We surely agree with Solomon’s words: “A live dog is better off than a dead lion. For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [mankind’s common grave], the place to which you are going.”—Eccl. 9:4, 5, 10.
13 The Jews were in a position to know the truth about the dead. When Greece was divided among the generals of Alexander the Great, however, efforts were made to unite Judah with Syria by such means as Greek religion and Hellenic culture. As a result, the Jews accepted the false teachings that the human soul is immortal and that there is an underworld place of torment. The Greeks did not originate the idea of an underworld full of suffering souls, for the Babylonians thought of “the nether world . . . as a place full of horrors, . . . presided over by gods and demons of great strength and fierceness.” (The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria) Yes, the Babylonians believed in the immortality of the soul.
14 Although the righteous man Job did not have the Scriptures, he knew the truth about death. He also realized that Jehovah is a loving God who would have a yearning to resurrect him. (Job 14:13-15) Abraham too believed in the resurrection. (Read Hebrews 11:17-19.) Since it is impossible to resurrect someone who cannot die, those God-fearing men did not believe in the immortality of the human soul. God’s spirit undoubtedly helped Job and Abraham to understand the state of the dead and to exercise faith in the resurrection. These truths are also part of our heritage.
“RELEASE BY THE RANSOM”—VITAL
15 We are grateful that God has also revealed the truth about his means to deliver us from the legacy of sin and death inherited from Adam. (Rom. 5:12) We realize that Jesus “came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45) How good it is to know about “the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus”!—Rom. 3:22-24.
16 First-century Jews and Gentiles needed to repent of their sins and to exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. Otherwise, they could have no forgiveness. The situation is the same today. (John 3:16, 36) If a person clings to false doctrines, such as the Trinity and the immortality of the soul, he cannot benefit from the ransom. But we can. We know the truth about “the Son of [God’s] love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins.”—Col. 1:13, 14.
PRESS ON AS THE PEOPLE FOR JEHOVAH’S NAME!
17 Much more could be said about the true teachings we embrace, our experiences as God’s servants, and the spiritual and material blessings we enjoy. For decades, our Yearbooks have contained thrilling accounts of our activities in lands around the globe. Our history is recounted in the videos Faith in Action, Parts 1 and 2, and in such publications as Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. And our magazines often contain heartwarming first-person accounts about beloved fellow believers.
18 We benefit from balanced consideration of the history of Jehovah’s organization, even as the people of Israel benefited from reflecting on how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage. (Ex. 12:26, 27) As an old man who could testify to God’s wonderful acts, Moses urged the Israelites: “Remember the days of old, consider the years back from generation to generation; ask your father, and he can tell you; your old men, and they can say it to you.” (Deut. 32:7) As ‘Jehovah’s people and the flock of his pasturage,’ all of us joyously declare his praise and tell others of his mighty acts. (Ps. 79:13) Moreover, we do well to examine our history, learn from it, and plan for the future.
19 We are grateful that we do not wander in darkness but enjoy spiritual light from God. (Prov. 4:18, 19) So let us diligently study God’s Word and zealously share the truth with others in the prayerful spirit of the psalmist who praised the Sovereign Lord Jehovah with the words: “I shall mention your righteousness, yours alone. O God, you have taught me from my youth on, and until now I keep telling about your wonderful works. And even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me, until I may tell about your arm to the generation, to all those who are to come, about your mightiness.”—Ps. 71:16-18.
20 As Jehovah’s dedicated people, we recognize the related issues of divine sovereignty and human integrity. Indeed, we proclaim the undeniable truth that Jehovah is the Universal Sovereign, worthy of our wholehearted devotion. (Rev. 4:11) With his spirit upon us, we also declare good news to the meek, bind up the brokenhearted, and comfort those who mourn. (Isa. 61:1, 2) Despite Satan’s futile attempts to dominate God’s people and all mankind, we deeply appreciate our spiritual heritage and are determined to maintain our integrity to God and laud the Sovereign Lord Jehovah now and forever.—Read Psalm 26:11; 86:12.
1, 2. (a) What was “the booth of David,” and how was it to be rebuilt? (b) Who serve together as Jehovah’s servants today?
3, 4. How did Jehovah’s people survive spiritually in Babylon?
5. What evidence of religious triads, or trinities, do we have from ancient Babylon and Egypt?
6. How would you define the Trinity, and how have we been protected from believing such error?
7. Why is it impossible for a person who believes in the Trinity to be baptized in symbol of a valid dedication to God?
8. What was the Babylonian view of gods and demons?
9. (a) After their Babylonian exile, how did many Jews fall prey to false religious ideas? (b) How are we protected from the dangers of willing involvement with the demons?
10. What can be said about the practices and beliefs of Babylon the Great?
11. What warnings have we published regarding spiritism?
12. Under inspiration, Solomon said what about the condition of the dead?
13. How were the Jews affected by Hellenic culture and religion?
14. What did Job and Abraham know about death and resurrection?
15, 16. How have we been released from sin and death?
17, 18. Where can we find helpful information about our history, and how can we benefit from learning about it?
19. Since we enjoy spiritual light, what should we do?
20. What related issues exist, and how do you feel about them?
[Picture on page 8]
[Box on page 11]
How Have We Been Protected From False Beliefs?
“Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”—Deut. 6:4
“I cannot put up with the use of uncanny power.”—Isa. 1:13