False Prophets Today
JEREMIAH served as God’s prophet in Jerusalem at a time when the city was rife with idolatry, immorality, corruption, and the shedding of innocent blood. (Jeremiah 7:8-11) He was not the only prophet active at that time, but most of the others were self-serving and corrupt. In what way? Jehovah declares: “From the prophet even to the priest, each one is acting falsely. And they try to heal the breakdown of my people lightly, saying, ‘There is peace! There is peace!’ when there is no peace.”—Jeremiah 6:13, 14.
The false prophets tried to make it appear that despite all the corruption in the land, things were fine, and the populace was at peace with God; but that was not so. God’s judgment awaited them, as Jeremiah fearlessly proclaimed. The true prophet Jeremiah, not the false prophets, was vindicated when Jerusalem was razed by Babylonian soldiers in 607 B.C.E., the temple destroyed, and the populace either killed or dragged away captive to distant Babylon. The pitiful few that were left in the land fled into Egypt.—Jeremiah 39:6-9; 43:4-7.
What had the false prophets done? “‘Here I am against the prophets,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘the ones who are stealing away my words, each one from his companion.’” (Jeremiah 23:30) The false prophets stole the force and effect of God’s words by encouraging the people to listen to lies rather than to the true warning from God. They were telling, not “the magnificent things of God,” but their own ideas, things that the people wanted to hear. Jeremiah’s message was truly from God, and if the Israelites had acted on his words, they would have survived. The false prophets ‘stole God’s words’ and led the people to disaster. It was just as Jesus said about unfaithful religious leaders of his day: “Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”—Acts 2:11; Matthew 15:14.
As in Jeremiah’s day, there exist today false prophets claiming to represent the God of the Bible; but they too steal God’s words by preaching things that distract people from what God, through the Bible, really says. In what way? Let us answer that question by using, as a touchstone, the fundamental Bible teaching of the Kingdom.
The Truth About the Kingdom
God’s Kingdom was the major theme of Christ’s teaching, and it is mentioned more than a hundred times in the Gospels. Early in his ministry, Jesus said: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” He taught his followers to pray: “Let your kingdom come.”—Luke 4:43; 11:2.
What, then, is the Kingdom? According to The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, the Greek word translated “kingdom” in the Bible means first, “royal power, kingship, dominion, rule” and second, “the territory subject to the rule of a king.” From this we would logically conclude that God’s Kingdom is a literal government administered by a King. Is this the case?
Yes, it is, and the King is none other than Jesus Christ. Before Jesus’ birth the angel Gabriel said to Mary: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father.” (Luke 1:32) Jesus’ receiving a throne proves that he is a King, a governmental Ruler. Also proving that the Kingdom is a literal government is the prophecy of Isaiah: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder . . . Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7, King James Version.
Where does Jesus rule? In Jerusalem? No. The prophet Daniel saw a vision of Jesus receiving the Kingdom, and his vision locates Jesus in heaven. (Daniel 7:13, 14) This agrees with the way Jesus spoke of the Kingdom. He often called it “the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 10:7; 11:11, 12) It also agrees with Jesus’ words to Pilate when Jesus was on trial before him: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Has your minister or priest taught you that Jesus’ Kingdom is a real government, ruling from heaven? Or has he taught you that the Kingdom is merely something that exists in the heart? If so, he has been stealing God’s words from you.
What is the relationship between the Kingdom government and all the different forms of human government? According to The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade, the Reformer Martin Luther, when discussing the Kingdom, proposed: “The worldly government . . . also may be called God’s kingdom.” Some teach that humans, by their own efforts, can bring human governments closer to God’s Kingdom. In 1983 the World Council of Churches affirmed: “As we witness to our genuine desire for peace with specific actions, the Spirit of God can use our feeble efforts for bringing the kingdoms of this world closer to the kingdom of God.”
Notice, though, that in the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”), Jesus taught his followers to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and only then told them to pray: “Let your [God’s] will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) In other words, men do not make the Kingdom come by doing God’s will. It is the coming of the Kingdom that causes God’s will to be done on earth. How?
Listen to what the prophecy of Daniel chapter 2, verse 44, says: “In the days of those kings [human rulers in the time of the end] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms.” No wonder Jesus said that his Kingdom was no part of this world! Rather, the Kingdom is going to destroy the kingdoms, the governments, of this earth and take their place in ruling mankind. As the God-given government of mankind, it will then see to it that God’s will is done on earth.
The reason for such drastic action on the part of the Kingdom becomes clearer when we consider who is in control of this world. The apostle John wrote: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) “The wicked one” is Satan the Devil, whom Paul called “the god of this system of things.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) There is no way that institutions in a world whose god is Satan the Devil can be identified with the Kingdom of God.
This is one reason why Jesus did not get involved in politics. When Jewish nationalists tried to make him a king, he avoided them. (John 6:15) As we have seen, he told Pilate frankly: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” And in harmony with this, he said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Therefore, religious leaders who teach that the coming of God’s Kingdom is hastened by reformation within this system of things and who encourage their flocks to work to that end are false prophets. They steal the force and effect of what the Bible really says.
Why Is It Important?
Is all of this just an intellectual argument? By no means. Wrong teachings about God’s Kingdom have misled many and have even affected the course of history. For example, the publication Théo, a Roman Catholic encyclopedia, says: “God’s people are on the move toward a Kingdom of God initiated on earth by the Christ . . . The church is the seed of this Kingdom.” The identification of the Catholic Church with God’s Kingdom gave the church enormous secular power during the superstitious Middle Ages. Even today, church authorities try to influence the course of world affairs, working in favor of some political systems and against others.
One commentator presented another view that is widespread today when he said: “The way of revolution is the kingdom because the revolution is the people coming together in a new humanity, ignited by a divine symbol given through the man of truth—Jesus . . . Gandhi . . . the Berrigans.” Teaching that God’s Kingdom can be furthered by political activism and ignoring the real facts about the Kingdom have led religious leaders to run for political office. It has led others to get involved in civil unrest and even take part in guerrilla warfare. None of this is in harmony with the truth that the Kingdom is no part of this world. And religious leaders who get so deeply involved in politics are far from being no part of the world, as Jesus said his true disciples would be. Those who teach that God’s Kingdom is achieved through political action are false prophets. They are stealing God’s words from the people.
If religious leaders in Christendom really taught what the Bible says, their flocks would know that God’s Kingdom will indeed solve problems such as poverty, disease, racial inequity, and oppression. But it will be in God’s due time and in God’s way. It will not be through the reform of political systems, which will pass away when the Kingdom comes. If these clergymen were true prophets, they would have taught their flocks that while waiting for God’s Kingdom to act, they can find real, God-given, practical help to handle the problems that the inequities of this world cause.
Finally, they would have taught their flocks that the worsening conditions on earth that cause so much distress were prophesied in the Bible and are a sign that the coming of the Kingdom is close. Yes, the Kingdom of God will soon intervene and replace the present political structures. What a blessing that will be!—Matthew 24:21, 22, 36-39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 19:11-21.
Mankind Under God’s Kingdom
What will the coming of God’s Kingdom mean for mankind? Well, can you imagine yourself getting up every morning full of vitality? No one you know is sick or dying. Even your dead loved ones have been returned to you through a resurrection. (Isaiah 35:5, 6; John 5:28, 29) There are no more economic worries caused by selfish commercialism or unequal economic systems. You have your own comfortable home and plenty of land to raise all you need to feed the family. (Isaiah 65:21-23) You can walk about anywhere at any time of day or night with no fear of assault. There are no wars anymore—nothing to threaten your security. Everybody has your best interests at heart. The wicked are gone. Love and righteousness reign. Can you imagine such a time? This is the kind of world the Kingdom will bring.—Psalm 37:10, 11; 85:10-13; Micah 4:3, 4.
Is this just a pipe dream? No. Read the scriptures cited in the preceding paragraph, and you will find that everything said there reflects definite promises of God. If you have not until now been given this true picture of what God’s Kingdom can and will do for mankind, then someone has stolen God’s words from you.
Happily, things need not remain that way. Jesus said that in our day “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) The magazine you are reading is part of that preaching work. We encourage you to avoid being deceived by false prophets. Look deeper into God’s Word to find the truth about God’s Kingdom. Then, subject yourself to that Kingdom, which is a provision of the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God. In truth, it is man’s only hope, and it will not fail.
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Luther taught that human government could be viewed as God’s Kingdom
Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum
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Like a loving Shepherd, Jehovah through his Kingdom will bring conditions that no human could