“God . . . turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.”—ACTS 15:14.
1, 2. (a) What was “the booth of David”? How was it rebuilt? (b) Who are Jehovah’s servants today?
AT A meeting of the governing body in Jerusalem in the year 49 of our Common Era, James said: “Symeon [Peter] has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name. And with this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After these things I shall return and rebuild the booth of David that is fallen down; and I shall rebuild its ruins and erect it again, in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah, who is doing these things, known from of old.’”—Acts 15:13-18.
2 “The booth of David” means the kings that came from David’s family. It had “fallen” when the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was removed. (Amos 9:11) But that prophecy explained that God would “build it up” again. This meant that there would be another king, David’s descendant Jesus. (Ezekiel 21:27; Acts 2:29-36) James showed that this prophecy also foretold that Jews and Gentiles would be anointed to be kings with Jesus in heaven. These anointed ones and millions of Jesus’ “other sheep” preach about the truth.—John 10:16.
THE JEWS WERE TAKEN CAPTIVE
3, 4. What helped Jews in Babylon to draw close to Jehovah?
3 When the Jews were taken as captives to Babylon, it was clear that “the booth of David” had fallen. The Babylonians practiced false religion. So how would God’s people be able to stay faithful during their 70 years in Babylon? In the same way that Jehovah’s people today remain faithful in Satan’s world. (1 John 5:19) Jehovah’s servants have a special heritage that helps them to remain faithful.
Jehovah’s servants have a special heritage that helps them to remain faithful
4 Today, we have the complete Bible as part of our heritage. The Jews in Babylon did not have the whole Bible. But they knew the Mosaic Law and its Ten Commandments. They knew “the songs of Zion” and many proverbs. They also knew about others in the past who had been faithful to Jehovah. The Jews cried because they wanted to return to their homeland, and they did not forget Jehovah. (Read Psalm 137:1-6.) All of this helped them to draw close to Jehovah, even though they were surrounded by Babylon’s many false teachings and practices.
THE TRINITY IS NOT A NEW TEACHING
5. What trinities did the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians believe in?
5 In ancient times, gods were worshipped in trinities, that is, in groups of three gods. For example, one of the trinities that the Babylonians worshipped was a moon-god, a sun-god, and a goddess of fertility and war. The Egyptians worshipped families of three gods, with a father, a mother, and a son. Although these gods were a trinity, they were not always viewed as equals. One Egyptian trinity was the god Osiris, the goddess Isis, and their son Horus.
6. What is the Trinity? Why do Jehovah’s people not believe in it?
6 Today, Christendom also teaches that there is a Trinity, or one God made up of the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit. But this belief makes it seem that Jehovah is not almighty. It would mean that he is only part of God. Jehovah’s people have been protected from this false teaching. We have learned that “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) Jesus repeated these words, and true Christians believe what Jesus said.—Mark 12:29.
“Jehovah our God is one Jehovah”
7. What must a person believe about God before he can be baptized as a true Christian?
7 Jesus told his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) This means that a person who wants to be baptized as a true Christian and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses must believe that the Father, Jehovah, has authority over Jesus and that Jesus is God’s Son, who came to earth as a ransom. The person must not believe that the holy spirit is part of a Trinity. Instead, it is God’s active force. (Genesis 1:2) It is part of our special heritage to know that the Trinity teaching dishonors God and is not true.
8. What did the Babylonians believe about gods and demons?
8 People in Babylon believed not only in their gods but also in demons and spiritism. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia says that the Babylonians believed that demons could make people sick. The people would pray to their gods and ask for protection from the demons.
9. (a) How did many Jews learn false ideas about demons? (b) How are we protected from the dangers of spiritism?
9 When they were in Babylon, many Jews learned false ideas. Later, many Jews started to believe the Greek idea that the demons could be good. But God tells us that spiritism, or trying to contact the demons, is dangerous and wrong. This truth is part of our special heritage. (Isaiah 47:1, 12-15) We are protected because we reject spiritism, as Jehovah tells us to do.—Read Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Revelation 21:8.
We are protected because we reject spiritism, as Jehovah tells us to do
10. Where did the bad practices and wrong ideas of Babylon the Great come from?
10 Similarly, many today who belong to false religions practice spiritism, as people did in ancient Babylon. That is why the Bible refers to all false religion on earth as Babylon the Great. (Revelation 18:21-24) These false religions are truly like the religion of ancient Babylon because that is where the wrong ideas and bad practices came from. Because of spiritism, idolatry, and other sins, Babylon the Great will soon be destroyed.—Read Revelation 18:1-5.
11. What warnings about spiritism have been in our publications?
11 Jehovah said that he “cannot put up with” spiritism. (Isaiah 1:13) In the 1800’s, many people practiced spiritism. So Zion’s Watch Tower of May 1885 discussed this matter. It said that ancient religions taught that the dead were alive and that the mythology of all cultures was based on the idea that the dead were in another world. It also said that the demons have pretended to be dead people who are trying to communicate with the living, and as a result, the demons have been able to influence the thinking and actions of many. The early booklet What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism? gave similar warnings, and so have our more recent publications.
ARE THE DEAD SUFFERING IN ANOTHER WORLD?
12. What did God inspire Solomon to write about those who have died?
12 All those “who have come to know the truth” know that the dead are not suffering. (2 John 1) Solomon explained about those who are “in Sheol,” the grave: “A live dog is better off than a dead lion. For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.”—Ecclesiastes 9:4, 5, 10.
13. What belief did the Jews accept from Greek religion and culture?
13 Jehovah had told the Jews the truth about the dead. But when Greek rulers took control of Judah and Syria, they tried to make people accept Greek religion and culture. As a result, the Jews started to believe that an invisible part of the human survives the death of the body. They believed that this invisible part goes to another world and is tortured. The Greeks were not the first to believe in an invisible place of suffering. The book The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria says that the Babylonians believed that there was another world where strong gods and demons tortured people. It is clear that the Babylonians believed that part of the human survives the death of the body.
Job and Abraham did not believe that the dead are alive somewhere else
14. What did Job and Abraham know about death and resurrection?
14 Although Job did not have the Bible, he knew the truth about what happens to people when they die. He also knew that if he died, his loving God, Jehovah, would be eager to resurrect him. (Job 14:13-15) Abraham too believed in the resurrection. (Read Hebrews 11:17-19.) These men clearly did not believe that the dead are alive somewhere else. It is not possible to resurrect someone who cannot die. God’s spirit helped Job and Abraham to have faith in the resurrection. These truths are also part of our heritage.
WE NEED “THE RELEASE BY THE RANSOM”
15, 16. How have we been saved from sin and death?
15 We should be grateful that God has also told us how he has saved us from sin and death. (Romans 5:12) We know that Jesus “came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Mark 10:45) How good it is to know about “the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus”!—Romans 3:22-24.
16 In the first century, people needed to repent of their sins and have faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice if they wanted to be forgiven. It is the same with us today. (John 3:16, 36) If a person wants to believe false teachings, such as the Trinity and the immortality of the soul, he cannot benefit from the ransom. But we can. We know the truth about God’s Son, “by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins.”—Colossians 1:13, 14.
KEEP SERVING JEHOVAH!
17, 18. Where can we learn about the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why is it good for us to learn about it?
17 Our special heritage includes other things that God has taught us and other ways he has helped and blessed us. Our Yearbooks tell us about how Jehovah’s people around the world keep serving him. We can learn about the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the videos Faith in Action, Parts 1 and 2, and in such publications as Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. And our magazines often tell us about the experiences of our brothers and sisters.
It is good for us to learn about the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses
18 It is good for us to learn about the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses, just as it was good for the people of Israel to learn about how God had helped them. (Exodus 12:26, 27) When Moses had grown old, he told the Israelites: “Remember the days of old, consider the years back from generation to generation; ask your father, and he can tell you; your old men, and they can say it to you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7) All of us joyously praise God and tell others about what he has done. (Psalm 79:13) The lessons we learn from our history as Jehovah’s people will help us to keep serving him.
19. Since we know the truth, what should we do?
19 In this wicked world, we are grateful that we have the truth from God. (Proverbs 4:18, 19) So let us keep studying God’s Word and preaching to others. We feel like the psalmist who said: “I shall mention your righteousness, yours alone. O God, you have taught me from my youth on, and until now I keep telling about your wonderful works. And even until old age and gray-headedness, O God, do not leave me, until I may tell about your arm to the generation, to all those who are to come, about your mightiness.”—Psalm 71:16-18.
Our spiritual heritage will keep us strong and close to Jehovah
20. When we are faithful to Jehovah, what do we prove? How do you feel about Jehovah’s right to rule and our worship of him?
20 When we are faithful to Jehovah, we prove that we believe he has the right to rule over us and that he deserves our worship. (Revelation 4:11) Jehovah gives us his spirit to help us tell the good news to others and to give them comfort and hope. (Isaiah 61:1, 2) Satan will never be allowed to rule God’s people and all mankind. Our spiritual heritage will keep us strong and close to Jehovah so that we can serve him now and forever.—Read Psalm 26:11; 86:12.