Questions From Readers
The answer to the second question of this section appearing in the November 15 issue drew many responses and further questionings. Without being dogmatic, it stated that it seemed Scriptural to believe that children executed in Jehovah’s battle of Armageddon would not be resurrected. Here we consider questions raised.
● How does this affect the statement in the Armageddon booklet, on page 55, that not all those executed at Armageddon will remain dead forever?—B. E., Maryland.
What has been published in the November 15 issue of The Watchtower represents our present understanding of the matter, and replaces the thought expressed in the 14-year-old booklet Armageddon. We call notice to the fact that before this answer was published in The Watchtower the same point had been made in “This Means Everlasting Life”, pages 248, 249.
● Adam’s offspring did not come under eternal destruction because of his fall. Why should young children suffer eternal destruction at Armageddon because of having wicked parents?—E. N., Minnesota.
Adam and Eve in Eden were on judgment with respect to the tree of knowledge and the course they took fixed their destiny, it being a time of judgment. Adam and Eve’s children were not born at that time and hence not directly or personally on judgment in Eden. That is why God could arrange for the ransoming of all of their future children who would accept his arrangements, this acceptance being shown by them at whatever time God might be pleased to bring them into a period of judgment. It is likely that for the majority of men who have lived on the earth this time of judgment will be in Christ’s millennial reign, at the time of the general resurrection and thereafter. At that future time of judgment arranged for them by God’s mercy each one will be on his own responsibility, as shown by Ezekiel 18:20-23.—See “This Means Everlasting Life”, pages 94, 95.
However, long before this many persons will have had their time of judgment, as the Scriptures show that God has brought certain judgment periods upon human society at certain times, during which he held them accountable for their course of action. That they might be really accountable for themselves and for their young children dependent upon them, he caused testimony to be given that they might know the issue and make their decision, by which they would determine their destiny, independent of any inherited condemnation from Adam. He warned parents not only of the consequences to themselves but also of those to their unresponsible offspring.
One of such judgment periods was the flood of Noah’s day, prior to which Noah preached righteousness for some forty or fifty years. (Heb. 11:7; 2 Pet. 2:5) Another was the fiery end of Sodom and Gomorrah, which cities saw warning miracles by angels and heard witnessing by Lot before the rain of fire fell. (Gen. 19:11-14, 24) In Jesus’ day it was a time of judgment and he warned certain Jewish cities of a fate like that upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and judged certain scribes and Pharisees fit for the eternal destruction of Gehenna.—Matt. 11:20-24; 23:33, NW.
Our present day is also a time of judgment, and it is this that the objectors to the answer in the November 15 Watchtower apparently fail to fully appreciate. For seventy-one years The Watchtower has been publishing the warning of God’s Word, and since 1919 Jehovah’s witnesses have been active as never before in giving world-wide witness, in this time of judgment when the enthroned King is separating the nations as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. Abuse and persecution come upon them from both adults and children under the influence of their elders. So it is because we now live in a period of judgment that we say all persons are on trial. And because children are present they too come in for judgment, and their case is not parallel to that of Adam and Eve’s offspring, who were not present in Eden at the time of that pair’s judgment trial.
● Can we Scripturally say that those slain by Jehovah at the climax of such judgment periods as at the Flood and at Sodom and Gomorrah and at Armageddon go into eternal destruction?—I. F., Washington.
Please open your Bible and read Luke 17:24-37. It speaks of “that day when the Son of man is to be revealed” (NW), and the surrounding verses show that to be in the time of the end, climaxed by Armageddon. It states that at Armageddon it will be “just as it occurred in the days of Noah” when “the flood arrived and destroyed them all”, and it will be “just as it occurred in the days of Lot” when he fled Sodom and “it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all”. Since these are parallel cases, if it can be shown that the destroyed in any one case will have no “resurrection of judgment” it follows that those in the other two cases are likewise doomed. (John 5:28, 29, NW) The parable of the sheep and goats, now in course of fulfillment, shows that at Armageddon the goats “depart into everlasting cutting-off”, thereby indicating the fate of those destroyed in all three cases.—Matt. 25:31-46, NW.
Those perishing in the Flood and in the fiery rainfall on Sodom and Gomorrah did not die because of inherited sin from Adam, but were condemned because they ignored Jehovah’s warning and were slain by him. They became warning examples of everlasting judicial punishment. (Heb. 11:7; 2 Pet. 2:5-8; Jude 7) Now just a minute, someone protests, are you not forgetting Jesus’ words to the rebellious Jewish cities: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom on Judgment Day than for you”? Does that not mean at least some of those destroyed at Sodom’s fall will be resurrected and able to successfully endure a future judgment day? We reply that these words have not been forgotten.—Matt. 10:15, 11:24, NW.
This is a form of speech-construction common in Biblical times. It is used to emphasize the impossibility of a thing. Jesus used a similar construction when he said: “It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25, NW) No sane person would believe a camel could squeeze through a needle’s eye. Yet if this obviously impossible thing were said to be easier than something else, would that not powerfully emphasize the utter impossibility of the other thing? So Jesus forcefully made the point that rich ones who were loath to part with their wealth would not enter the kingdom. So it was with his other use of this speech form. Sodom and Gomorrah could not endure judgment. Not even ten righteous were there. Only four, and one of those failed at a crucial moment. (Gen. 18:32; 19:15, 17, 26) The Jews knew Sodom’s fate was sealed, so when Jesus told them that judgment would be more endurable for such doomed ones than for these Jewish cities they got the powerful point.
But an objector still may protest that Jesus said these cities would be brought down to Haʹdes, not to the everlasting destruction of Gehenna. Jesus said: “Will you perhaps be exalted to heaven? Down to Haʹdes you will come!” (Matt. 11:23, NW) The hope of literally going to heaven had not been held out to these Jews, this hope not being understood until the outpouring of holy spirit at Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Since by heaven no destination after death would be meant, so by the contrasting word Haʹdes a destiny would not be meant.
By these words Jesus was making the strongest possible contrast between exaltation and abasement. Heaven reaches high above, Haʹdes goes underground, lower than Gehenna, which was aboveground just outside Jerusalem. Had Jesus used Gehenna the Jews might have thought he meant literal Jewish cities would be plucked up and set down in that specific valley. So Jesus merely used these extremes of height and depth to show how those exalting themselves would be abased, just as Jehovah used heaven and Sheol, the Hebrew equivalent of Haʹdes, to show these same extremes: “Though they dig into Sheol, thence shall my hand take them; and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.” (Amos 9:2, AS) These Jewish cities had heard the warning and had seen powerful works; they had had fair judgment trial and by their decision showed they were worthy of eternal destruction.—Matt. 10:5-15; Luke 10:8-12, NW.
So today this time of judgment of the nations is not a mere dress rehearsal for a further and decisive second judgment to come, thereby making the destruction of individuals at Armageddon not count for eternity. If it were a matter of these people dying and coming back in a general resurrection for a second opportunity, then their blood on the head of the watchman class would not be so serious, nor would Jehovah view the warning work so vital as to make the stones cry out the alarm if we remained silent.—Ezek. 33:7-9; Luke 19:40.
● Some maintain that at Armageddon there will be three classes: sheep that survive, goats that are eternally destroyed, and uninformed or unresponsible ones who will die but will be resurrected, and that in this latter class will be young children. Is this correct?-L. P., Montana.
We know of no Scriptural backing for such a view. The parable of the sheep and goats shows the nations being separated into two classes, not three. The goats headed for everlasting cutting-off are not just those who persecuted Christ’s brothers. The parable upbraids the goats, not for what they did, but for what they failed to do, for their indifference toward and lack of interest in his brothers.—Matt. 25:45.
Many who never come in touch with the anointed remnant nevertheless subscribe to what others do in persecuting or fail to do in the way of giving help. The Bible shows a communal responsibility, where a community upholds rulers who persecute Jehovah’s people. Did not the Egyptians suffer the plagues because of Pharaoh’s hardheartedness? Did not the Amalekites suffer for generations afterward because of Amalek’s opposition to Israel in the wilderness? Were not the entire households, including little children, of Korah and Dathan and Abiram swallowed up in destruction because of the rebellion of the household heads? Did not Achan by his greed bring death not only to himself but to his sons and daughters as well? Even King David brought death upon his people by his own transgressions. (Ex. 5:1, 2; 9:13-16; 17:8, 14, 16; 20:5, 6; Num. 16:23-33; Josh. 7:24, 25; 2 Sam. 24:10-17) Now, who will be rash and commit the folly of posing as more just than God by saying He was wrong in such procedures?—Deut. 32:4.
In harmony with the parable of the sheep and goats, Ezekiel chapter 9 shows but two classes, those marked for preservation and the unmarked ones appointed to destruction. And in this latter class note that little children were included, to be slain without pity. This is a prophetic picture of the destruction at Armageddon. At a time of judgment Jesus said: “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” That means not only clergy and laity but also parent and child. If a parent chooses to sin against the holy spirit despite the eternal interests of his offspring, that then becomes the responsibility of the parent. In that same time of judgment Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews: “It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken first to you. Since you are thrusting it away from you and do not judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, look! we turn to the nations.” (Acts 13:46, NW) Those Jews became responsible for the fate of their offspring, not Paul and Barnabas.
Parents devoted to their children will in the interests of their offspring shun wrong ways, taking instead right paths so as to put their children in the way of preservation. “Jehovah knows those who belong to him,” and that also means little children at Armageddon whose parents belong to Jehovah and who try to rear them according to God’s Word. (Deut. 6:6, 7; Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:19, NW) To Christian parents of young children the promise is: “Otherwise, your children would really be unclean, but now they are holy.”—1 Cor. 7:14, NW.