1. How has traditional religion been likened to a pyramid?
AFRICAN traditional religious beliefs have been likened to a pyramid. At the top is God, supreme in spiritual power. At the sides are lesser gods, or spirits, who are God’s servants. Alongside them are the ancestors, who remember their families on earth and take an active interest in their welfare. At the base are the lesser spiritual forces: magic, divination, and witchcraft.
2. How does one African saying show that traditional beliefs influence religion?
2 These traditional beliefs have had a powerful influence on other religions in Africa. One African saying puts it this way: “Adherence to the Faith (Christian or Islamic) does not stop us from worshiping the gods of our home.”
3. Where can we learn the truth about those who dwell in the spirit realm?
3 How true are African traditional beliefs? The Bible tells us the truth about those who dwell in the spirit realm.
Jehovah, the True God
4. On what do major religions in Africa agree?
4 Africa’s three major religious groups agree that God exists and that he is supreme. The Bible describes him as “the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the God great, mighty and fear-inspiring.” (Deuteronomy 10:17) Muslims also believe in one supreme God. Concerning traditional religion in Africa, Professor Geoffrey Parrinder states: “Most Africans have believed in a supreme God, father of gods and men, the creator of the universe.”
5. What are some of the names used to identify God?
5 Yet, despite widespread belief in God, most people do not have a clear idea about who God is. A first step in getting to know someone is to learn his name. Concerning God’s name, there is confusion among the religions. In Christendom, he is most commonly called God, a title meaning “Mighty One.” To the Muslim, he is Allah. Among those who practice traditional religion, the name used to identify the Supreme One varies from one language to another. In his book Concepts of God in Africa, John S. Mbiti lists over 500 different African names and titles for God. For example, in the Yoruba language (Nigeria), God is called Olodumare; to the Kikuyu (Kenya), he is Ngai; and among the Zulu (South Africa), he is Unkulunkulu.
6, 7. What is God’s name, and how do we know?
6 What does God himself say about his name? When God instructed Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses asked: “Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel and I do say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers has sent me to you,’ and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?”—Exodus 3:13.
7 God replied: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘Jehovah the God of your forefathers . . . has sent me to you.’ This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” (Exodus 3:15) This divine name occurs over 7,000 times in the Bible record, though some Bible translators have replaced it with the titles “God” or “Lord.”
8. What is Jehovah like, and what must we do if we want his favor?
8 What is Jehovah really like? He is a spirit, almighty, glorious. He is supreme, beyond compare, having no equal. (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:6) Jehovah said to Moses: “I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” In other words, in order to have Jehovah’s favor, we must worship him alone. He does not want us to worship anything or anyone else.—Exodus 20:3-5.
Jesus Christ, King of God’s Kingdom
9. Why can we say that Jesus is not equal to Jehovah?
9 Today there is much confusion about who Jesus is. Many in Christendom believe that Jesus is part of a “Holy” Trinity. But the Bible does not teach that God is three persons in one. And it does not teach that Jesus is equal to Jehovah. Jesus himself said: “The Father is greater than I am.”—John 14:28.
10. Where was Jesus before he came to earth?
10 The Bible teaches that before Jesus lived as a man on earth, he lived in heaven as a mighty spirit creature. Just as Jehovah created Adam and Eve on earth, so too He created spirit persons in heaven. Jesus was the first spirit person that Jehovah created.—John 17:5; Colossians 1:15.
11. How did Jesus come to be born as a human?
11 About 2,000 years ago, Jehovah transferred the life of this spirit creature to the womb of a virgin named Mary. The angel Gabriel said to her: “You will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. And he will rule as king . . . , and there will be no end of his kingdom.”—Luke 1:31, 33.*
12. What was one reason why Jesus came to the earth?
12 So Jesus was born, grew to manhood, and taught people about Jehovah’s will and purpose. He said to a Roman governor: “For this I have been born, and for this [reason] I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) By considering what Jesus taught, we can learn the truth about God’s will and purpose. We can learn how to gain God’s approval.
13. What was a second reason why Jesus came to the earth?
13 A second reason why Jesus came into the world was to give his human life as a ransom in behalf of humankind. (Matthew 20:28) He did this so that we could be free of the sin that we inherited from our forefather Adam. This, in turn, would make it possible for us to live forever. The apostle John wrote: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
14. (a) What happened to Jesus after his death as a human? (b) What is Jesus’ position in heaven now?
14 After his death as a human, Jesus was resurrected to heaven, where he resumed life as a powerful spirit creature. (Acts 2:32, 33) Later, Jehovah gave him “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Jesus has been made a mighty King; he is King of Jehovah’s heavenly government. Soon he will show his power in all the earth.
Angels, God’s Ministers
15. When and where were the angels created?
15 Jehovah and Jesus are not the only ones who reside in the spirit realm. Jehovah created other spirit creatures, the angels. Gabriel, who spoke to Mary, is one of them. The angels did not begin their lives as humans on earth. They were created in heaven long before humans were created on earth. (Job 38:4-7) There are millions of angels.—Daniel 7:10.
16. Why should humans not worship angels?
16 Faithful angels do not want us to worship them. Twice, when the apostle John tried to worship angels, they rebuked him, saying: “Be careful! Do not do that! . . . Worship God.”—Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9.
17. What shows that angels are able to protect God’s servants, and why is this comforting?
17 Angels no longer appear to God’s people on earth, as they did when they delivered the apostles of Jesus from prison. (Acts 5:18, 19) Nevertheless, if we worship Jehovah according to his Word, the Bible, we can rest assured that God’s invisible, powerful angelic forces will protect us. The Bible says: “The angel of Jehovah is camping all around those fearing him, and he rescues them.” (Psalm 34:7; 91:11) Why should this comfort us? Because there are dangerous enemies in the spirit realm who want to destroy us!
Satan, an Enemy of God
18. (a) Why did one angel rebel against God? (b) What names were given to this rebel angel?
18 Not all of God’s angels stayed faithful to God. Some rebelled against him. They made themselves enemies of God and enemies of people on earth. How did this come about? All the angelic creatures that Jehovah created were righteous and good. However, one of these perfect spirit sons wanted people to worship him and acted on this wicked desire. That spirit creature was given the name Satan, which means “Resister [of God].” He is also called Devil, which means “Slanderer,” since he speaks wicked lies about Jehovah.
19. Why and how did Satan torment Job?
19 Satan pressures humans to join him in rebellion against God. Consider what he did to God’s faithful servant Job. Job was a very rich man. He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 1,000 cows and bulls, plus 500 she-asses. He also had ten children and many servants. First, Satan killed Job’s animals and servants. Next, he caused “a great wind” to wreck a house, killing all of Job’s children. After that, Satan tormented Job with “a malignant boil from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”—Job 1:3-19; 2:7.
20. (a) How was Job rewarded for his faithfulness? (b) Although Job was faithful to God, what has Satan done to many other people?
20 Despite this bitter trial, Job remained faithful to God. So Jehovah healed him and “began to give in addition all that had been Job’s, in double amount.” (Job 42:10) Satan failed to break Job’s integrity, but he has succeeded in turning many other people from God. The Bible says: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—1 John 5:19.
21. (a) How did Satan show his desire to be worshiped? (b) Why did Jesus refuse to worship Satan?
21 Satan wants us to worship him. This was made clear in his temptation of Jesus almost 2,000 years ago. The Bible relates: “The Devil took [Jesus] along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: ‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.’” Jesus refused, saying: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matthew 4:8-10) Jesus clearly knew Jehovah’s law, and he did not do what Satan wanted.
Demons, Wicked Spirits
22. What have the demons done to humans?
22 Other angels joined Satan in rebellion against God. These demon angels are enemies of people on earth. They are cruel and vicious. In the past, they made some people speechless and blind. (Matthew 9:32, 33; 12:22) Others they made sick or caused to act insane. (Matthew 17:15, 18; Mark 5:2-5) They even tormented children.—Luke 9:42.
23. (a) What do the wicked spirits want from humans? (b) What have Satan and the demons tricked people into doing?
23 Like Satan, these wicked spirits want to be worshiped. Instead of rejecting worship from humans—recognizing that worship belongs only to Jehovah—they crave it, they seek it, and they promote it. Through trickery, lies, and fear, Satan and the demons have made people worship them. Of course, not many people know that they worship Satan and his demons. Most people would be shocked to learn that their religion honors Satan. Yet, the Bible warns: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God.”—1 Corinthians 10:20.
24. What is one scheme Satan uses to mislead people?
24 One way Satan and his demons mislead people into worshiping them is by spreading wrong ideas about those who have died. Let us see what the Bible teaches about this.
The Koran refers to the miraculous birth of Jesus at Surah 19 (Mary). It says: “We sent to [Mary] Our spirit in the semblance of a full-grown man. And when she saw him she said: ‘May the Merciful defend me from you! If you fear the Lord, leave me and go your way.’ ‘I am the messenger of your Lord,’ he replied, ‘and have come to give you a holy son.’ ‘How shall I bear a child,’ she answered, ‘when I am a virgin, untouched by man?’ ‘Such is the will of your Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him. “He shall be a sign to mankind,” says the Lord, “and a blessing from Ourself. This is Our decree.”’”