Teach What the Bible Really Teaches
“Make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them.”—MATTHEW 28:19, 20.
1. What can be said about the availability of the Bible?
JEHOVAH’S WORD, the Holy Bible, is one of the oldest and most widely distributed books in the world. At least part of it has been translated into more than 2,300 languages. Over 90 percent of earth’s inhabitants have it available in their native tongue.
2, 3. (a) Why is there confusion about Bible teachings? (b) What questions will we consider?
2 Millions of people read a portion of the Bible every day. Some have read it from cover to cover many times. Thousands of religious groups claim to base their teachings on the Bible, but they do not agree on what it teaches. Adding to the confusion are the strong disagreements between members of the same religion. Some have doubts about the Bible, its origin, and its value. Many view it as a sacred book merely for ceremonial use in making vows or in swearing to tell the truth in court.
3 Actually, the Bible contains God’s powerful word, or message, for mankind. (Hebrews 4:12) As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we therefore want people to learn what the Bible teaches. We are delighted to carry out the commission that Jesus Christ gave his followers when he said: “Go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) In our public ministry, we find honesthearted people who are distressed over the religious confusion rampant in the world. They want to know the truth about our Creator and desire to learn what the Bible says about the meaning of life. Let us consider three questions that concern many people. In each case, we will take note of what religious leaders mistakenly say, and then we will review what the Bible really teaches. The questions are: (1) Does God care about us? (2) Why are we here? (3) What happens to us when we die?
Does God Care?
4, 5. Why do people think that God does not care about us?
4 Let us begin with the question, Does God care about us? Sadly, many people think that the answer is no. Why do they feel that way? One reason is that they live in a world full of hatred, war, and suffering. ‘If God really cared,’ they reason, ‘surely he would prevent such tragic things from happening.’
5 Another reason why people think that God does not care about us is that religious leaders have made them feel that way. What do clergymen often say when tragedy strikes? When one woman lost her two small children in an automobile accident, her minister said: “It was God’s will. God needed two more angels.” When clergymen make such comments, they are actually blaming God for the bad things that happen. Yet, the disciple James wrote: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) Jehovah God never causes what is bad. Indeed, “far be it from the true God to act wickedly.”—Job 34:10.
6. Who is behind the wickedness and suffering in this world?
6 Why, then, is there so much wickedness and suffering? One reason is that mankind in general has rejected God as Ruler, not wanting to submit to his righteous laws and principles. Humans have unwittingly submitted to God’s Adversary, Satan, for “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Knowledge of this fact makes it easier to understand why bad situations exist. Satan is evil, hateful, deceptive, and cruel. So we should expect the world to reflect the personality of its ruler. No wonder there is so much wickedness!
7. What are some reasons for the suffering we experience?
7 Human imperfection is another reason for the suffering we experience. Sinful humans tend to struggle for dominance, and that often results in wars, oppression, and suffering. Ecclesiastes 8:9 aptly says: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” A further reason for suffering is “time and unforeseen occurrence.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) People often experience calamity because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
8, 9. How do we know that Jehovah really cares about us?
8 It is comforting to learn that Jehovah does not cause suffering. But does God truly care about what is going on in our lives? The heartwarming answer is yes! We know that Jehovah cares because his inspired Word tells us why he has allowed humans to pursue a bad course. God’s reasons involve two issues: his sovereignty and the integrity of humans. Because he is the almighty Creator, Jehovah is not obligated to tell us why he permits suffering. Yet, he tells us because he cares about us.
9 Consider further evidence that God cares about us. He “felt hurt at his heart” when badness filled the earth in the days of Noah. (Genesis 6:5, 6) Does God feel differently today? No, for he does not change. (Malachi 3:6) He detests injustice and hates to see people suffer. The Bible teaches that God will soon undo all the harm that has resulted from human rule and from the influence of the Devil. Is that not convincing proof that God cares about us?
10. How does Jehovah feel about human suffering?
10 Religious leaders misrepresent God when they say that the tragedies we experience are his will. On the contrary, Jehovah longs to end human suffering. “He cares for you,” says 1 Peter 5:7. That is what the Bible really teaches!
Why Are We Here?
11. What do the world’s religions often say about human life on the earth?
11 Let us now consider a second question that many wonder about, Why are we here? The world’s religions often answer that man is on the earth only temporarily. They see our globe as little more than a stopover, or stepping-stone, on the way to life somewhere else. Some clergymen falsely teach that God will someday destroy this planet. As a result of such teachings, many people have concluded that they are better off living life to the full while they can because only death awaits them. What does the Bible really teach about why we are here?
12-14. What does the Bible teach regarding God’s purpose for the earth and for mankind?
12 God has a wonderful purpose for the earth and for mankind. He “did not create [the earth] simply for nothing” but “formed it even to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) Moreover, Jehovah “has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” (Psalm 104:5) Learning these things about God’s purpose for the earth and for mankind can help us to understand why we are here.
13 Genesis chapters 1 and 2 show that Jehovah took great care to prepare the earth for human habitation. At the end of the creative period involving our globe, everything was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) God placed the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in the lovely garden of Eden and supplied them with an abundance of good food. The first human pair were told: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.” They were to have perfect children, to extend the boundaries of their garden home earth wide, and to exercise loving dominion over the animals.—Genesis 1:26-28.
14 It is Jehovah’s purpose to have a perfect human family dwell on earth eternally. God’s Word says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29) Yes, humankind was meant to enjoy everlasting life in Paradise on earth. That is God’s purpose, and it is what the Bible really teaches!
What Happens to Us at Death?
15. What do most of the world’s religions teach about what happens to us when we die?
15 Now let us discuss a third question that concerns many: What happens to us when we die? Most of the world’s religions teach that something inside a person continues living after the body dies. Some religious groups still cling to the idea that God punishes the wicked by subjecting them to eternal suffering in a fiery hell. But is that the truth? What does the Bible really teach about death?
16, 17. According to the Bible, what is the condition of the dead?
16 God’s Word states: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages.” Since the dead “are conscious of nothing at all,” they cannot hear, see, speak, feel, or think. They no longer earn any wages. How could they? They are incapable of any work! Moreover, “their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished,” for they cannot express any emotion.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10.
17 What the Bible says on this subject is simple and clear—the dead do not continue to live somewhere. There is nothing that leaves our body at death and lives on so as to be reborn in another body, as stated by those who believe in reincarnation. We might illustrate matters this way: The life that we enjoy is like the flame of a candle. When the flame is extinguished, it does not go anywhere. It is simply gone.
18. When a Bible student learns that the dead are not conscious, what conclusions can he draw?
18 Think of the implications of that one simple but powerful truth. When a Bible student learns that the dead are not conscious, he should easily be able to conclude that no matter how resentful his dead ancestors may have been during their lifetime, they cannot trouble him. He should also quickly grasp the point that his dead loved ones can no longer hear, see, speak, feel, or think. Therefore, they cannot be experiencing unbearable loneliness in purgatory or suffering in a place of fiery torment. However, the Bible teaches that the dead who are in God’s memory will be resurrected. What a wonderful hope!—John 5:28, 29.
A New Book for Our Use
19, 20. As Christians, what responsibility do we have, and what Bible study aid is especially designed for our use in our ministry?
19 We have considered only three questions that many people wonder about. In each case, what the Bible teaches is clear and straightforward. What a joy it is to share such truths with those who want to know what the Bible teaches! But there are many other important questions to which honesthearted ones need satisfying answers. As Christians, we have a responsibility to help them find the answers to such questions.
20 It is challenging to teach Scriptural truth in a way that is clear and that appeals to the heart. To help us meet that challenge, “the faithful and discreet slave” prepared a book that is especially designed for our use in our Christian ministry. (Matthew 24:45-47) This 224-page book is entitled What Does the Bible Really Teach?
21, 22. What are some noteworthy features of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?
21 Released at the 2005/06 “Godly Obedience” District Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses, this book has various noteworthy features. For instance, there is a five-page preface that is proving to be very helpful in starting home Bible studies. You will likely find it easy to discuss the pictures and the scriptures found in the preface. You may also use material in this section to show students how to locate Bible chapters and verses.
22 The writing style of this book is simple and clear. An effort has been made to reach the student’s heart by involving him whenever possible. Each chapter has several introductory questions and a box at the end entitled “What the Bible Teaches.” The box contains the Scriptural answers to the introductory questions. Fine pictures and captions as well as written illustrations in this publication will help the student to grasp new ideas. Although the book’s main text has been kept quite simple, there is an appendix that will allow you to consider 14 important subjects in greater depth if the student requires additional information.
23. What suggestions are offered regarding the use of the Bible Teach book on Bible studies?
23 The Bible Teach book is designed to help us teach people of different educational levels and from various religious backgrounds. If a student does not have any knowledge of the Bible, it may take more than one study session to cover a chapter. Do not rush through the material, but endeavor to reach the student’s heart. If he does not understand a certain illustration used in the book, explain it or use an alternative. Prepare well, do your best to use the book effectively, and pray for God’s help so that you can ‘handle the word of the truth aright.’—2 Timothy 2:15.
Be Grateful for Your Priceless Privileges
24, 25. Jehovah has granted his people what priceless privileges?
24 Jehovah has given his people priceless privileges. He has enabled us to learn the truth about him. We must never take that privilege for granted! After all, God has hidden his purposes from the haughty and has revealed them to humble ones. In this regard, Jesus said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25) It is a rare honor to be counted among the humble ones who serve the Universal Sovereign, Jehovah.
25 God has also given us the privilege of teaching others about him. Remember that he has been misrepresented by those who have taught lies about him. Many people thus have an entirely wrong impression of Jehovah, thinking that he is uncaring and hard-hearted. Are you willing, yes, even eager, to help set the record straight? Do you want honesthearted people everywhere to know the truth about God? Then by all means, demonstrate your godly obedience by zealously preaching and by teaching others what the Scriptures say on vital subjects. Truth-seekers need to learn what the Bible really teaches.
What Are Your Answers?
• How do we know that God cares about us?
• Why are we here on earth?
• What happens to us when we die?
• What features of the Bible Teach book do you especially appreciate?
[Pictures on page 22]
The Bible teaches that suffering will end
Top right, girl: © Bruno Morandi/age fotostock; left, woman: AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe; bottom right, refugees: © Sven Torfinn/Panos Pictures
[Picture on page 23]
The righteous will live forever in Paradise