Set Free by the Truth
IN THE United States, more than a million people are confined in prisons. Of these, almost three thousand have been sentenced to die. Picture yourself in that situation. How would you feel? The thought of such a prospect is grim indeed. Yet, in a sense, all humans are in a similar circumstance. The Bible says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Yes, as descendants of Adam, we are “imprisoned” by a sinful condition. (Romans 5:12) We feel the effects of our confinement every day, as did the Christian apostle Paul, who wrote: “I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.”—Romans 7:23.
As a result of our sinful nature, each of us is under a death sentence, so to speak, for the Bible states: “The wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) The psalmist Moses described our situation well: “Seventy years is all we have—eighty years, if we are strong; yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow; life is soon over, and we are gone.”—Psalm 90:10, Today’s English Version; compare James 4:14.
It was with mankind’s enslavement to sin and death in mind that Jesus said to his followers: “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) With those words, Jesus was extending to his followers the hope of something far greater than freedom from Roman rule—he was offering them a pardon from sin and a release from death! How would this be granted to them? “If the Son sets you free,” Jesus told them, “you will be actually free.” (John 8:36) Yes, by laying down his life, “the Son,” Jesus, served as a propitiatory sacrifice to buy back what Adam lost. (1 John 4:10) This opened the way for all obedient mankind to be released from bondage to sin and death. God’s only-begotten Son died “in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
So the truth that can set us free revolves around Jesus Christ. Those who become his footstep followers have the hope of being liberated from sin and death when God’s Kingdom takes full control of earth’s affairs. Even now, those who accept the truth of God’s Word experience genuine freedom. In what ways?
Freedom From Fear of the Dead
Millions today live in fear of the dead. Why? Because their religions have taught them that a soul leaves the body at death and passes on to a spirit realm. That is why it is customary in some lands for the relatives of the deceased to hold a wake lasting several days and nights. This often includes loud singing and the beating of drums. The mourners believe that this will please the dead person and prevent his spirit from coming back to haunt the living. Christendom’s false teachings about the dead have only served to perpetuate this tradition.
The Bible, however, reveals the truth about the condition of the dead. It clearly states that your soul is you, not some mysterious part of you that lives on after death. (Genesis 2:7; Ezekiel 18:4) Furthermore, the dead are not being tormented in a fiery hell, nor are they part of a spirit realm that can affect the living. “As for the dead,” says the Bible, “they are conscious of nothing at all . . . There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol [the grave], the place to which you are going.”—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.
These Bible truths have set many people free from fear of the dead. No longer do they offer costly sacrifices to appease their ancestors, nor do they worry that their loved ones are being mercilessly tormented for their errors. They have learned that the Bible holds out a wonderful hope for those who have died, for it tells us that at God’s appointed time, there will be “a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29) Thus, the dead are now simply resting, as if in a sound sleep.—Compare John 11:11-14.
The truth about the condition of the dead and the hope of a resurrection can free us from the despair that death may bring with it. Such hope sustained a married couple in the United States when their four-year-old son was killed in an accident. “There is a void in our lives that cannot be filled until we see our son again by means of the resurrection,” admits his mother. “But we know our pain is only temporary, since Jehovah promises to wipe away our tears of sorrow.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
Freedom From Fear of the Future
What does the future hold? Will our earth be burned up in a nuclear holocaust? Will the ruination of earth’s environment render our planet unlivable? Will moral breakdown lead to anarchy and chaos? These are real fears for many today.
The Bible, however, offers freedom from such morbid fears. It assures us that “the earth is standing even to time indefinite.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4) Jehovah did not create our planet simply to see it destroyed by irresponsible humans. (Isaiah 45:18) Rather, Jehovah created the earth to serve as a paradise home for a united human family. (Genesis 1:27, 28) His purpose has not changed. The Bible tells us that God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) After that, “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth,” says the Bible, “and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
This promise is trustworthy, for God does not lie. Jehovah stated through his prophet Isaiah: “My word that goes forth from my mouth will . . . not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11; Titus 1:2) Therefore, we can look forward with confidence to the fulfillment of God’s promise recorded in the Bible at 2 Peter 3:13: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”
Freedom From Fear of Man
The Bible provides us with sterling examples of men and women who displayed fearlessness in their devotion to God. Among these were Gideon, Barak, Deborah, Daniel, Esther, Jeremiah, Abigail, and Jael—to name just a few. These faithful men and women manifested the attitude of the psalmist who wrote: “In God I have put my trust. I shall not be afraid. What can earthling man do to me?”—Psalm 56:11.
In the first century, the apostles Peter and John manifested similar boldness when religious authorities commanded them to stop preaching. “As for us,” they replied, “we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” As a result of their firm stand, Peter and John were later imprisoned. After their miraculous release, they went right back and continued “speaking the word of God with boldness.” Soon Peter and the other apostles were brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin. “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name,” the high priest said to them, “and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” Peter and the other apostles answered: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 4:16, 17, 19, 20, 31; 5:18-20, 27-29.
In their work of preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses today strive to imitate the zeal of the first-century Christians. Even the youths among them often prove themselves fearless by speaking up to others about their faith. Consider some examples.
Stacie, a teenager, is shy by nature. As a result, talking to others about her faith was at first a challenge. What did she do to overcome her shyness? “I studied the Bible and made sure I understood what I was talking about,” she says. “It made it easier, and I had more confidence in myself.” Stacie’s fine reputation was reported on in the local newspaper. The article, written by a teacher in her school, commented: “[Stacie’s] faith seems to have given her the strength to fight many of the pressures that most teenagers feel. . . . She feels that service to God should be foremost in her mind.”
Tommy began learning about the Bible from his parents when he was just five years old. Even at an early age, he took a bold stand for true worship. While his young classmates were drawing holiday pictures, Tommy drew scenes of God’s promised Paradise. As a teenager, Tommy noticed that many of the pupils were puzzled about the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather than shrink back with fear, he asked one of his teachers if he could conduct a question-and-answer discussion with his class so that he could answer all their questions at one time. This was granted, and a fine witness was given.
When she was 17 years old, Markietta found an excellent opportunity to talk to others in her class about her faith. “We were given an assignment to make a speech,” she says. “I chose my topic to be on the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work.a I picked five chapters from the book and wrote the titles on the blackboard. I asked the class to rank these in the order they felt was most important.” A discussion with class participation followed. “I showed the class the book,” Markietta concludes, “and a number of students asked for a copy. Even my teacher said she wanted one.”
You Can Be Set Free by the Truth
As we have seen, the truth contained in the Bible has a liberating effect on those of all ages who study it and take its message to heart. It liberates them from fear of the dead, fear of the future, and fear of man. Ultimately, Jesus’ ransom will set obedient mankind free from sin and death. What a joy it will be to live forever on a paradise earth, no longer imprisoned by our inherited sinful condition!—Psalm 37:29.
Would you like to learn more about the blessings that God has promised? If so, what should you do? Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) So if you want to experience the freedom that Jesus promised to his disciples, you must learn about Jehovah God and his Son. You need to know what God’s will is and then do it, for the Bible says: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
a Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Under God’s Kingdom, mankind will finally be set free from sin and death