Monday, August 24, 2009

The Significance of the PAROUSIA

The New Testament speaks several times of the PAROUSIA of Jesus of Nazareth, that is, of his “return,” second “presence,” or “coming,” depending on which translation you use or how you understand this Greek word in each context in which it is used (see, for examples, Matthew 24:3; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1). However, too often religious groups have and continue to misuse the significance of Jesus’ PAROUSIA to wrongly or to falsely motivate others to action, which action almost always involves following the particular group’s or organization’s unique methods or teaching.

Such groups are often built around the use of fear over Jesus' return rather than on love for what is good or what can be shown to be true for good reasons. Consider this example from one such organization:

Jesus promised that in the last days of this system of things, he would gather his faithful disciples into a clearly identifiable Christian congregation that he would use to accomplish his will. (Matthew 24:14, 45-47) He is right now using that congregation to gather together “a great crowd” of men, women, and children “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” and he is uniting them under his headship into “one flock” under “one shepherd.”—Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 10:16; Ephesians 4:11-16.

Turn away, then, from any institutions or organizations that have besmirched the name of Christ and defamed Christianity over the past two thousand years. Otherwise, as Jesus Christ told the apostle John, you could “receive part of [their] plagues” when God executes his judgment on them in the near future. (Revelation 1:1; 18:4, 5) Make it your resolve to be among those spoken about by the prophet Micah when he said that “in the final part of the days,” true worshippers—adherents of true Christianity—would listen to God’s instructions and “walk in his paths” of restored pure worship. (Micah 4:1-4) The publishers of this magazine will be happy to help you identify those true worshippers. [from “Who Are Genuine Christians?” The Watchtower, March 1, 2006, page 7.]

Yes, I am sure “the publishers of [The Watchtower] will be happy” to tell you they are the ones you must join in order to avoid being among those whom “God executes ... in the near future” (emphasis added). But the Watchtower Society has “besmirched the name of Christ and defamed Christianity over the past” hundred or more years, time and time and time again. How? By continuously putting forth false interpretation after false interpretation about the return of the Christ, and then failing to humble itself and accept that, as a result of its repeated failures, the Watchtower Society is not who they have claimed to be, namely:

Consider another means by which Christ leads the congregation today. Commenting on his presence and the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus said: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics, to give them their food at the proper time? Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”—Matthew 24:3, 45-47.

The “master” is Jesus Christ. The “slave” is the group of anointed Christians on earth. This slave class is entrusted with caring for Jesus’ earthly interests and with providing timely spiritual food. A small group of qualified overseers from among the composite “faithful and discreet slave” form the Governing Body, serving as the representative of the slave class. They direct the worldwide Kingdom-preaching work and the supplying of spiritual nourishment at the right time. Christ thus leads the congregation by means of the spirit-anointed “faithful and discreet slave” and its Governing Body. [“Go On Walking as Jesus Christ Walked,” The Watchtower, September 15, 2005, page 22.]

Here the publishers of The Watchtower attach its teachings directly to the ‘leadings’ of “Christ.” Yet, in spite of some of the good things it has done, the Society’s history is ‘plagued’ with failures over the significance of dates such as 1914, 1925, 1975, the meaning of “this generation” (Matthew 24:34) and as it relates to many of its other teachings, such as uses of blood and uses of blood's components and fractions. To such ones, Jah God himself spoke long ago, in this way according to Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (NWT):

“[T]he prophet who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded him to speak or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. And in case you should say in your heart: ‘How shall we know the word that Jehovah has not spoken?’ when the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word does not occur or come true, that is the word that Jehovah did not speak. With presumptuousness the prophet spoke it. You must not get frightened at him.”

Indeed, though the Bible does contain prophecies which can be evaluated through time, these are not to be the focus of genuine Christian efforts to help others, as I try to explain in this brief response to a question about the meaning of the Greek word PAROUSIA.

No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, even serious ones (Romans 3:23). But for those who make special claims which lead others to depend on them for a relationship with God and with Jesus, when serious mistakes are made in connection with their special claims then they must humble themselves or be held accountable for abusing their place and their authority.—Compare Galatians 2:11-14.

Thus, the time has come, for me at least, to praise Jah and to defend the goodness of biblical Christianity apart from false traditions and failed interpretations of prophecy and chronology, and to expose those who falsely motivate others to serve Jah God and Jesus of Nazareth out of fear, rather than out of love for what can be shown to be true based on the best available reasons.