Questions From Readers
● In the twenty-third chapter of Acts, verses one to five, Paul calls the high priest Ananias a “whitewashed wall.” Then he in effect apologizes, saying, “It is written, ‘You must not speak injuriously of a ruler of your people.’” How can we justify the seething denunciations The Watchtower makes concerning the rulers of Christendom, since, although we, as Paul, realize they are false priests, they still are rulers of the people?—F. W., U.S.A.
In the first place, let us note that God’s Word never contradicts itself. While it is true that at Exodus 22:28 the people of Israel were told not to curse a chieftain among their people, it is also true that time and again God’s prophets were commanded to speak very strong denunciations of the rulers of Israel. Besides, the Watch Tower publications are justified in making “seething denunciations” concerning the rulers of Christendom in the light of Jesus’ own references to rulers in Luke 13:31-35, Matthew 23:1-37, John 8:44, and Revelation 1:1 and Re 13:1 to 18:9. To these references are to be added all those made by the ancient Hebrew prophets.
Consequently, when Paul, in his apology, quoted Exodus 22:28 he must have been referring to the faithful rulers of Jehovah’s people. Certainly wicked rulers are not above criticism and denunciation, particularly when the people need to be warned against them. As Jesus once said: “Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14) In Paul’s case he was before the Jewish Supreme Court and he would not want to show any contempt for that court. Hence when he found that he had really called its chief justice, the high priest Ananias, a whitewashed wall, he apologized in order not to prejudice his case before it. Accordingly, he was later able to win part of the court to his side by crying out, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of a Pharisee; over the hope of resurrection of the dead I am being judged.’ Thus Paul acted wisely, with tact and, it might be added, in line also with the principle set down at Ecclesiastes 10:20 about not calling down evil upon the king, lest word thereof reach his ears.
In a similar way, whenever we are before rulers and judges of the land we will conduct ourselves courteously toward the representatives of the land and of the law. We would hardly call those to whom we are addressing ourselves by the denunciatory terms that are used in the various publications that we distribute. Not unless we wanted to bring on immediate martyrdom upon ourselves as Stephen did when, according to Acts 7:51-53, he said to the Supreme Court of the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem: “Obstinate men and uncircumcised in hearts and ears, you are always resisting the holy spirit; as your forefathers did, so you do. Which one of the prophets did your forefathers not persecute? Yes, they killed those who made announcement in advance concerning the coming of the righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become, you who received the Law as transmitted by angels but have not kept it.” Stephen was justified in what he said, as was evidenced by the fact that Jehovah God sent him a heavenly vision just at the time he was being stoned to death.
In summing up it might be said that the command at Exodus 22:28 was directed to individual Israelites and stated a general rule in keeping with Ecclesiastes 10:20, and applied primarily to faithful rulers. This command cannot be used to void the many other commands in obedience to which Jehovah’s witnesses do publish “seething denunciations” against rulers as a class who today are in similar positions of high authority as were the rulers of ancient Israel. Nevertheless, wisdom and tact indicate that we should not be guilty of committing personal discourtesy to such rulers when we are brought into direct address to them. We can always give the particular individual the benefit of the doubt, although at times the course taken by Stephen may be that indicated by God’s spirit.
● In The Watchtower, February 1, 1959, on the subject of “Paradise,” in the last paragraph of the first article appears the statement: “Enoch will be resurrected into Paradise restored here on earth.” How are we to understand this when we have been taught that Enoch, together with other faithful men of old, will have an early resurrection?—G. G., U.S.A.
When the Society’s publications speak of an early resurrection, it does not mean instantly after Armageddon. In fact, a number of years might elapse. We must bear in mind that immediately after the battle of Armageddon accomplishes the binding of Satan and his demons the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ begins. Consequently, a considerable number of years of that millennial reign of Christ might pass and it would still be early in that millennium. Therefore, early could mean after the Armageddon survivors have cleaned up the bones and the debris and have begun to convert the earth into a paradise under Jehovah’s blessing through Christ.
Adam was in a paradise, although it did not extend all around the earth. Doubtless when the faithful pre-Christian witnesses come back in an early resurrection they will be resurrected into the portions of the earth where the Armageddon survivors are and have converted that portion into a paradise locally. Besides this the spiritual paradise condition will also have survived the battle of Armageddon and all those resurrected early will come into that condition also. So the literal paradise does not have to extend all around the earth, that is, cover every part of the globe before those resurrected early can come back into a paradise. Doubtless later, when the resurrection of mankind in general occurs, the paradise will be quite well on its way to coextensiveness with the earth. However, just to what extent those coming forth then will have a part in extending the paradise so that it includes every portion of the earth’s surface we do not know.