Chapter 9: God's Purpose
After their dramatic exit from the hall, Cyn and Ted were whisked away to Brother Olson's. Ted had discovered, to his consternation, that they went ahead with the third meeting without him last week when he was in the hospital. That made this the last of the meetings, and he wasn't about to miss it.
"Well, last week we talked about everything under the sun," Arthur began after they had all finished their small talk, "so this Sunday let's talk about everything above it, namely God's purpose. It must strike one as immediately evident that Christendom's view of God's purpose is very different from our own. In their view, everyone ends up either as angels in heaven or demons in hell forever. This is generally so accepted that they hardly feel the need to defend it.
They seem to think that it's so obvious -- as if something inside of man always knew it was true -- that there's no denying it. We, on the other hand, know how easily their entire notion is toppled to the ground since it rests on such flimsy twisting of Scripture. So perhaps we should look deeply at our own view of God's purpose and see what kind of foundation it rests upon. When we meet up with ministers of Christendom, it is our view, no doubt, that they'll try to cut-down. So we should forearm ourselves by examining the types of objections they are liable to come up with.
"I will take the part of a very liberal minister here. Perhaps a Unitarian, as they seem most opposed to our views in these matters. So don't imagine that I'm acting as the same minister who defended the immortal soul and the Trinity. I'm going to be shiftier this time out.
"Cynthia," Arthur continued, "being new in the Truth, you have a nice fresh idea of God's purpose. So we'll let you start us off with your very own description of it."
Cyn, surprised to be called upon, proved equal to the occasion.
"I've always liked the description of the new world in Isaiah where it says the wolf will lie down with the sheep. And no animals or brute-natured men will do any harm in all the earth because Jehovah will be ruling over the earth from heaven with the 144,000 joint-heirs with Christ. Then there'll be the resurrection of all those in the memorial tombs to life on earth. And --"
"Let's just stop right there at Isaiah for the moment," Arthur interrupted. "Thank you sister for introducing our discussion. Now I'd like one of you would-be elders to answer this objection: This prophecy in Isaiah chapter 11 applied to Israel of old, not to us today or in the future. Verses 11 and 12 show that the symbolic language of all these preceding verses referred to the regathering of Israel and Judah."
Richard took up the challenge; "It applied to them back there as well as us today. We often find double prophecies of this nature with more than one fulfillment."
"You mean all those things in verses 13-16 about Ephriam, the Philistines, Edom, Moab, Ammon, the Egyptian Sea, and Assyria are going to happen to us today?"
"No. But the promises of something better for the Israelites apply to the meek ones today, especially to us as spiritual Israel."
"But all the promises made to the real Israel haven't come true yet," Arthur argued, "Don't they have to come true for Israel before they can come true for us?"
"They have come true," Richard insisted, "Joshua 23:14 reads: 'you well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.'"
"But God made promises to Israel after Joshua's death that haven't come true yet," Arthur stated.
"No," Richard insisted, "they have all come true as far as it depended upon God. God has to keep his promises because he cannot lie, as Titus 1:2 informs us. And Isaiah 55:11 tells us, 'so 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.'"
"It's all very well to say these things," Arthur commented, "but let's look at the track record. Results, not words about results, are what we want to look at. God has yet to keep this promise: 'And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD God.' (Amos 9:15). Or again in Jeremiah 24:6, 'For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and will not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.' We might argue that the Jews have been returned to their land in the past, but we could hardly argue that they have not been plucked up from it afterwards. Therefore, this promise awaits fulfillment."
"God isn't dealing with Israel anymore as a people," Bob offered, "They're just like any other nation now to Jehovah. He refuses to show partiality or recognize any people other than his name people. They broke the covenant he had with them, so he owes them nothing more."
"So, according to you," Arthur reasoned, "God's purpose in respect to Israel failed. They will not live forever on their land as Psalm 37:29 promised, they will not be a kingdom of priests, and the law covenant that God repeatedly stated as 'lasting forever' ceased!"
"It ceased in 36 C.E. to be exact, but God's purpose didn't fail," Richard replied, taking up the defense. "He just substituted spiritual Israel for fleshly Israel, as he long knew he would have to. Jesus himself pronounced the sentence, 'The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits,' in Matthew 21:43. We know these fruits are the fruitages of the spirit and the nation is the spiritual Israel."
"I don't deny that there is a spiritual Israel," Arthur clarified, "but I do deny that God is going to destroy the nation of Israel as undistinguished from the rest in the battle of Armageddon, as you people teach."
"Well, you of course are free to believe what you wish," Richard allowed, "but the Bible tells us that 'there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision or uncircumcision' (Colosions 3:11). So God can hardly have a special purpose for a people who no longer exist as such to him, now can he? Besides, if he were to judge Israel as a nation separate from the rest of mankind, he'd have to take into account their bloodguilt for the death of Jesus. When they demanded his death, they clearly said, 'His blood come upon us and upon our children' in Matthew 27:25. So either way you look at it, they'd have to be destroyed with all the rest of mankind who aren't Jehovah's Witnesses."
"But according to Jesus' own words," Arthur argued, "such a sin is not unforgivable. He said, 'And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.' (Matthew 12:32) Even when Jesus said of the Jews, 'Your house is abandoned to you,' he implied that they would, in the future, accept him and be blessed: 'For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."' (Matthew 23:39) While spiritual Israel, I grant you, has superseded them in gaining the position of a kingdom of priests, they are not thereby automatically made unfit for any sort of life, are they? God did not reject them totally, did he?"
"Yes, I'm afraid he did," Bob responded, "God doesn't recognize any nation now but spiritual Israel."
"Have you never read Romans chapter eleven?" Arthur asked. "Paul poses the same question I just asked you and he comes up with quite a different answer. To quote him: 'I ask then, God did not reject his people did he? Never may that happen! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people whom he first recognized.'"
"While this would seem to say that the nation of Israel was not rejected," Richard surmised, "upon reading further, we find that he is not referring to the nation:
"'Why do you not know what the Scripture says in connection with Elijah as he pleads with God against Israel? "Jehovah, they have killed your prophets, they have dug up your altars, and I alone am left, and they are looking for my soul." Yet what does the divine pronouncement say to him? "I have left seven thousand men over for myself who have not bent the knee to Baal." In this way, therefore, at the present season also a remnant has turned up according to undeserved kindness.'
"So Paul is referring to a remnant of Jews who have accepted Christ, not the nation as a whole. He brings this out clearly in verse seven: 'What then? The very thing Israel is earnestly seeking he did not obtain, but the ones chosen obtained it.' And again in Romans 9:27, 'Although the number of the sons of Israel be as the sands of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved.'"
"I agree," Arthur said, "that the remnant who became Christians usurped the nation as a whole as the kingdom of priests and were alone 'saved' to this special privilege. But does that mean that there was nothing left for Israel from God but destruction? No. You neglected to read verse 11 of Romans 11:
"'Therefore I ask, did they stumble so that they fell completely? Never may that happen! But by their false step there is salvation to people of the nations, to incite them to jealousy.'
"Who is Paul talking about now? Who took a false step and stumbled, the remnant who accepted Jesus, or Israel who rejected him?"
"The latter," Bob replied.
"I agree, yet Paul says they didn't stumble completely. You would explain this away by saying that it means a remnant from out of them didn't stumble, but notice what he goes on to say:
"'Now if their false step means riches to the world, and their decrease means riches to the people of the nations, how much more will the full number of them mean it!'
"What does Paul mean? We agreed that he's speaking about fleshly Israel and how their stumbling meant their position was usurped by the spiritual nation. But why does he say that their 'full number' will mean even greater riches to the gentiles? According to you, the entire nation was already cast off; how then could more be cast off? Paul must be saying that the full number will be accepted, not rejected, and that the reacceptance of all Israel (rather than just the remnant) will be even more rewarding to all nations. He clarifies this in verse 15:
"'For if the casting of them away means reconciliation for the world, what will the receiving of them mean but life from the dead?'
"For some 50 years the Watchtower taught that this verse meant that when the Jews returned to their homeland and accepted Jesus as the Messiah, the resurrection of the dead would shortly follow.
"Well, I guess it's easy enough to see why they made such a mistake," Bob commented, "But the light has gotten brighter since then, and now we know that Paul was speaking about individuals from Israel turning to Christ. This is evident from the preceding verse where Paul says that he hopes to 'save some.'"
"Paul wants to save some to become spiritual Israelites," Arthur replied, "But fleshly Israel will be saved as a whole, not as a kingdom of priests in heaven like spiritual Israel, but they will be saved nevertheless. This is what Paul undeniably says in verses 25 and 26:
"'For I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant of this sacred secret, in order for you not to be discreet in your own eyes: that a dulling of sensibilities has happened in part to Israel until the full number of people of the nations has come in. And in this manner all Israel will be saved. Just as it is written, "The deliverer will come out of Zion and turn away ungodly practices from Jacob."'
"Fleshly Israel is the one that had its sensibilities dulled;" Arthur argued, "therefore, when he says 'all Israel will be saved,' he means fleshly Israel."
"No," Bob insisted, "He means spiritual Israel will be saved by the gentiles coming into it to make it a spiritual nation."
"Pardon my slowness, but I don't understand how you come up with that at all," Arthur sighed. "Let's go over it bit by bit and define our terms. Who is the 'you' Paul is writing this to?"
"The Christians in Rome, his spiritual brothers," Bob replied.
"All right. Now who is the 'Israel' he writes about? You just said that the 'you' was the Christians (who constitute the spiritual Israel) so they can't be the Israel mentioned now can they?"
"No," Bob explained, "the first mentioned Israel is indeed all fleshly Israel with the exception of the saved remnant who became Christians. A dulling of sensibilities has happened to them. But the second mentioned Israel," Bob paused for full effect at the announcement's sheer boldness, "is spiritual Israel, and they are the ones who will be saved."
"Would you care to explain how in the world you arrived at that?"
"Certainly, " Bob smiled confidently, "the clue is in the words 'the full number of the people of the gentiles has come in.' Now where do we find a set limit to the number of the gentiles that can come in? In Revelation chapter seven, verse four. There we read that the number will be 144,000, and it likens them to the sons of Israel: spiritual Israel. So, when this full number of 144,000 comes in, Israel (spiritual Israel) will have been saved. The action of the 144,000 coming into the Truth is what constitutes their salvation, and 'in this manner all Israel (all 144,000 of them) will be saved.'"
"Bob," Arthur smiled and nodded his head, "that was really excellent. You handled a very difficult explanation well. But as the minister," Arthur said, changing to a stern expression, "I say, I'll give you an A+ for cleverness, but your argument just won't hold water. In the same sentence you have Paul using two entirely different meanings for the word Israel without anything on his part to indicate this difference. It certainly would've been a poor use of language on his part. But look again at verse 25. Look at the word 'until' there; it's important not to ignore it because it indicates that after a certain time Israel (and you agree that the first mentioned Israel is fleshly) will no longer be blinded. Until when? Until the nations have come in. Then what? Then they'll be unblinded: 'and in this manner all Israel will be saved.' Now look at verse 26 where Paul cites a Scripture in support of what he has just said in verse 25:
"'Just as it is written: "The deliverer will come out of Zion and turn ungodly practices from Jacob."'
"Now, if this is meant to back up the statement 'in this manner all Israel will be saved' (as it undoubtedly is), and that statement refers to spiritual Israel (as you would have it), it follows that your spiritual Israel has ungodly practices that won't be turned away until their full number comes in. But in order to already be a spiritual Israelite one has to have already turned away from ungodly practices, as this is what makes him, in part, a spiritual Israelite. Therefore, the conclusion is inescapable that Paul must mean none other than fleshly Israel will be saved when it has ungodly practices turned away from it. Paul continues:
"'True, with reference to the good news they are enemies for your sakes, but with reference to God's choosing they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are not things he will regret.'
"Spiritual Israelites were not enemies of the good news, but fleshly Israel was. Spiritual Israel was not loved for the sake of their forefathers, but fleshly Israel was. God does not regret the calling of fleshly Israel his chosen people; he won't destroy them, he'll show them mercy: 'For just as you were once disobedient to God but have now been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so also these now have been disobedient with mercy resulting to you, that they themselves may also be shown mercy. For God has shut them all up together in disobedience that he might show all of them mercy.'"
A silence followed in which Richard softly said, "I don't know."
It wasn't broken until Bob concluded, "Well, I don't know how to refute you on those texts but to say that Israel is a government as well as a false religion, and God has vowed elsewhere to destroy all forms of both."
Knowing he'd won his victory on the point, Arthur was content to allow them to move on to another. "How?" he asked.
"Probably through natural means in Armageddon, such as hailstones, floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes --"
"Let me understand you then; God's not just going to destroy the institutions and false beliefs, but the people themselves?"
"Yes," Bob responded, "just as he did in Noah's flood."
"Ha!" Arthur exclaimed. "The Bible says all Israel will be saved, yet you say God is going to kill them all!"
"I already explained," Bob slowly stated, "that that means spiritual Israel is going to be saved, not fleshly Israel."
"And I just showed," Arthur replied, "how it had to be referring to fleshly Israel and couldn't be referring to spiritual Israel by any stretch of the imagination."
Bob responded in a flustered voice, "But in view of what I just said, it must be spiritual Israel. God wouldn't show such partiality to one group of people and treat them better than anyone else. You are saying that God is partial. But he isn't. Israel will be destroyed just like every other government and false religion."
"Who make up spiritual Israel?" Arthur calmly asked, cutting into Bob's pleading voice like a knife.
"Anointed Christian Witnesses of Jehovah."
"And who are in the true religion, Jehovah's organization, so that they won't be destroyed?"
"Jehovah's Witnesses," Bob replied.
"Allow me to use your own words:" Arthur said with a smile, "'God wouldn't show such partiality to one group of people and treat them better than anyone else. You are saying God is partial but he isn't.' Jehovah's Witnesses will be destroyed just like every other organization and false religion. Indeed, God would be partial if he just saved the Jews or the Jehovah's Witnesses and destroyed everyone else. So, they must either all be destroyed or all saved. I am in favor of them all being saved."
"Now you have really gone too far. Only true believers can be saved," Bob protested.
"You and Paul sure can't get along," Arthur said with a chuckle, "listen to what he writes to Timothy:
"'We have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all men ('sorts of' is not in the Greek and appears only in the New World Translation), especially of faithful ones.' (1 Timothy 4:10)
"Paul strongly implies that God is the savior of unfaithful ones (or 'unbelievers', AV). Pastor Russell taught that this meant all men would be brought into the Millennium and there be put on trial for everlasting life. But, however you want to look at the word 'saved' you can't get around the fact that Paul says, in effect, that unbelievers will be saved."
"But there are many Scriptures," Richard reminded him, "that show a great destruction of lives in Armageddon which precedes the Millennium. We read, for example, in one of my favorite Scriptures, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, 'of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength.' We read of the corpses of the slain covering the earth from one end to the other and blood up to the horses' bridles."
"Yes," Arthur agreed, "and at the same time we read of unbelievers being saved and turning to the Lord: 'All the ends of the world shall remember the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship thee.' (Psalm 22:27) 'Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.' (Psalm 46:10) Russell taught that the following Scripture from Isaiah 26:9, 10 referred to the wicked being in the Millennium on earth under God's kingdom, but remaining wicked therein (after a trial period of l00 years) eventually being destroyed:
"'for when thy judgments are in the earth,' (his 'will being done on earth' by his kingdom), 'the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness,' (they had been unrighteous so that it is necessary for them to learn righteousness). 'Let favor be showed to the wicked,' (in the Millennium), 'yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness,' (the earth under God's kingdom), 'will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.'
"Russell would've agreed completely, I believe, with my parenthetical statements. You see, he taught (and you would be saying it was the Truth if this was 1916), that everyone would make it into the Millennium (with the exception of the spirit-begotten who had committed the unforgivable sin) and there be taught the Truth and be put on trial for life then. He taught that only spiritual Israel is on trial for life now because only they are well acquainted with the Truth and anointed with the holy spirit. You said before, when we were discussing the Trinity, that the only way in which one can sin against the holy spirit is by going against its leading. Do you still hold this as true, or has the light gotten brighter since we last discussed this?"
"What you say is correct," Bob replied.
"And can one go against the holy spirit's leading if the holy spirit is not leading one?"
"No, Of course not."
"Are worldly people being led by the holy spirit?"
'No, they're following the spirit of this old world, the spirit of Satan."
"Then, since the holy spirit isn't leading them, can they sin against it?"
Bob was struck dumb, so Richard replied, "No, I guess not."
"And shall we have the too-quiet Ted read Matthew 12:31 and 32 again for us, please?"
Ted cleared his voice and read, "'On this account I say to you, every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in this system of things nor in that to come.'"
"According to that, can the people of the world be forgiven?"
"It would appear so,' Richard acknowledged, "And yet we know there are many Scriptures that show them being destroyed. How do you explain that?"
"Russell taught," Arthur explained, "that the destruction happened in the Millennium in which everyone was being taught and led by the spirit so that it was possible for them to sin against its leading. His interpretation, we must admit, harmonizes the contradictory thought of everyone being saved, and many being destroyed. He taught that Christ's death was for everyone; it was salvation from the death brought on by Adam: 'He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.' 'For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.' (Hebrews 2:9; Corinthians 15:22) We likewise read in 1 Timothy 2:4 of God 'who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto an accurate knowledge of the truth.' You will notice here that being saved precedes the learning of the Truth; they are saved into the Millennium first, where the curse of Adamic death is lifted from them and where they are then taught the Truth."
Ted gasped, 'That's always bothered me how being saved is put before learning the truth in that Scripture. That's a good explanation for it."
'Yes," Richard agreed, "but it's not true. Christ's sacrifice was for everyone who put faith in it. And though God would like to have everyone saved, well --"
"What you mean," Arthur interpreted, "is that God's will is to save everyone, as the Scripture says, but that his purpose in this matter will fail as surely as did his purpose for Israel (according to you). But let's have Ted read 1 John 2:2 and check on your statement that Christ's sacrifice applies only to those who have faith in it."
"It reads, 'And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for our sins only, but also for the whole world's.'"
"You see, Christ's sacrifice wasn't just for the sins of Jehovah's Witnesses, but also 'for the whole world's'. You see how much more loving Russell's view was back then than yours is today?"
"Well, it might have been more lenient," Richard clarified, "but was it true? We expect God to destroy all non-Witnesses any day now. We're very sure that he will because he likens our day to the time of Noah where all those outside the ark were destroyed. God's organization is the ark today."
Arthur replied: "In Matthew 24:36-39 where Jesus makes this reference to Noah's time, he points out especially that the parallel consists of ignorance by all but a select few of the coming event. The destruction, Russell held, was not in Jesus' mind, just the attitude of the people. But let me ask you this: Will the people of Noah's day be resurrected?"
"No," Bob blurted out.
"Oh, I think they will, brother," Richard cautiously corrected. "We know that there will be a resurrection of the unjust as well as of the just. And we know, specifically, that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will be resurrected because Jesus tells us so in Matthew 10:15. So there's reason to believe that Noah's contemporaries will be there in the Millennium."
"And if they are resurrected in the Millennium," Arthur continued questioning, "will they have the opportunity to live forever if they remain faithful?"
"And you say that people today are like the people of Noah's time?"
"That's what Jesus says, yes."
"And you say this means that they'll all be destroyed?"
"Just like they were back then."
"And so, too," Arthur concluded, "the people today will be resurrected in the Millennium and given an opportunity to live forever if they remain faithful."
"No," Richard smiled and shook his head, almost taken in, "those who are destroyed in Armageddon go into the second death; they'll never be resurrected."
"But I thought you said they paralleled the people of Noah's day who will be resurrected. If you draw the parallel as far as the destruction part, why not go all the way to like resurrections?"
Bob spoke up, "Why would God destroy them if he's just going to resurrect them again?"
"You could ask the same question of Noah's contemporaries," Arthur reasoned, "yet you have no objection to their being resurrected. Actually, my position is that they won't be destroyed in Armageddon at all. I'm just delving into your position to show how inconsistent it is. You say that people of the world today will go into the second death from which there is no resurrection. Why should they? When have they died the first time? When have they sinned against the holy spirit so as to become unforgivable? Must I again recall to your minds what your own Watchtower Society held for many decades to be absolute truth and the mainstay of their beliefs? They taught that only spirit-begotten Christians who had died once already to their former course of life and were being led by the holy spirit could die a second death by abandoning the spirit's guidance."
"Ha!" Bob exclaimed, "Then it would be better not to be a born-again Christian; you'd have a better chance of losing out on life entirely if you were."
"Yes, " Arthur agreed, "but you'll remember that God 'especially saves' believers. These faithful ones have a higher hope, the heavenly hope of being one of the 144,000 reigning with Christ over the earth in the Millennium. This greater reward carries a greater punishment for unfaithfulness -- dying the second death,"
"What especially bothers me in all this nonsense," Bob said meanly, "is that you imagine all these wicked people today who we are trying to spoon-feed the Truth suddenly being given the same reward as we by making it into the Millennium and there eagerly accepting what they refuse today. This is fallacy. God is not waiting for the Millennium to teach people the Truth; only his worshippers will survive Armageddon and make it into the Millennium, and they won't need to be taught the Truth they already know. 2 Corinthians 6:2 tell us, "Look! Now is the especially acceptable time. Look! Now is the day of salvation." Now is the time to believe, the only chance, not some time in the future. Jehovah is teaching people today all over the world with the greatest preaching organization the world has ever known. His Witnesses are spreading the good news of the kingdom now; all will hear it and choose to be for it or against it, and then the end of this system will occur (Matthew 24:14). Those who don't accept it now before the Millennium will be destroyed at Armageddon."
"You keep repeating the same thing over and over as if that makes it true somehow," Arthur pointed out, "But let's examine it. You just referred to this system coming to an end. Let's dwell on this concept of an old 'system' or 'order' as opposed to the 'new system of things' we are anxiously awaiting. Since we are in this old system now, who is running things?" Arthur asked.
"Satan is the ruler of this old world. 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls him the 'god of this system of things,'" Bob replied.
"Yes," Arthur agreed, "the whole verse reads, 'the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.' So Satan as god of this system, who has the whole world lying in his power as 1 John 5:19 informs us, has the power to blind people to the Truth so as to prevent them from becoming believers?"
"That's what the Scriptures indicate," Bob agreed.
"And could he do this unless Jehovah allowed it?" Arthur asked, "Or is he mightier than Jehovah God?"
"Jehovah is allowing Satan's rulership in order to show all the universe how wickedly such leadership will turn out. Satan couldn't do anything unless Jehovah permitted it, and he's permitting it in order to prove that we are free to choose which is better: God's rulership over us or Satan's," Bob explained.
"Can I say something about all this?" Cyn asked eagerly, about to burst from unexpression at any moment.
"Yes, of course," Arthur invited.
"I've been working on a short story for school patterned after Shakespeare's Measure for Measure in which the Duke of Vienna sets up the wicked Angelo in his place in order to secretly watch over what he and his subjects do in his apparent absence. What you're discussing gives me an idea for my version of this story.
"I'd have a king who was very insecure and easily despairing. All the people would really love him, but he'd blow up all out of proportion any little slight or even innocent jokes at his expense told in good-nature. All this while since the beginning of his reign there has been an evil rival to the throne: an aristocrat whom the people hate for his wicked ways.
"The king, in one of his moods, decides the people do not love him sufficiently and would prefer the rival claimant on his throne. So imagining that a revolution of major proportions must already be breaking out, he decides to peacefully hand the kingdom over to his rival for a trial period. The length of the trial being so secretly agreed that only the king knows the exact date when positions will again be reversed.
"So the real king goes off to view the proceedings from a distant castle as he allows the rival to do his worst. 'My people will really appreciate me after this,' the vain king says to himself as he retires to obscurity with his court in attendance.
"The first thing the rival king does," Cyn went on, fully caught up in her own story, "is to equip his troops with pokers and order them to put out the eyes of all the subjects in the realm so that it will be easier to trick them. When they are all blinded, he freely walks among them and issues his commands through a mediator; they never actually see him or hear his voice and naturally assume it's the same king they've always had. Many of the poor souls, suffering heavily from the unjust taxes, the confiscation of their lands, the raping of their daughters by the king's men, and all the other injustices of a thoroughly corrupt man with power, reason amongst themselves that 'this is our lord the king's will. He is good and just, so all that happens to us must be for some higher purpose.' Others even go so far as to call all their tribulations 'blessings from our king.'
"But there are other, shrewder people in the kingdom who suspect that things are not quite right. They believe that the real king has died or forgotten them. They clamor together and shout for the return of their beloved king, while the others try to hush them for blasphemy and others merely weep continuously.
"'The king must be dead,' some reason, 'How could any human being watch all this suffering without lifting a finger to put a stop to it? Even if it were true, as some said, that the king went away for a specified time, surely he should come back now, even if that time were not yet up, if he loved his people. He would know that everyone wants his rulership, that many beg for it daily.'
"But the king refuses to listen to the people's suffering until the full time has been completed. When at last it has, all the people are gathered before the two rulers who sit there silently as the mediator speaks to the people: 'You have all seen the misery and suffering brought on by this rival king ruling us these past years. Now is the time to choose and make public declaration as to which person you will welcome as king over you forever. Both men sit behind me here. Let every man, woman, and child indicate his choice by aligning himself to the side where his king sits.'
"'But we are blind!' the people cry, 'How can we see whom to choose? You say we have seen the misery brought on by the rival, but we have seen nothing. We have felt the oppression but have known not the cause save by hearsay. And for all we know, you could be one of the rival's men trying to trick us. How do we know where to stand or even which side is the right one if we could suddenly see?'
"The mediator replies, 'I know many of you think I'm lying and will choose the opposite side from the one I might indicate, and anyway I must follow my orders which demand that you each decide for yourselves what side you'll be on. The rival can disguise his voice to sound exactly like the king, so it's no use asking them to speak. So choose, poor, miserable creatures who had the misfortune to be born in this kingdom, choose. Those who align themselves with the king will live and those with the rival will be taken to the city gate and there be slaughtered with him.'
"And all the people cry in anguish, 'If only we could see! If only we could see!' And that's where the story will end."
"What's that got to do with anything?" the dim-witted Bob asked.
"Don't you see, either?" Arthur asked, pointing to his own eyeball, "it's your own version of God's purpose slightly disguised. You admit that God has allowed Satan to blind everyone in the world so as not to become believers, and you say God is going to destroy all unbelievers. You see how well the story fits? The only thing it lacks, if I may suggest it, is that someone should yell out at the end, 'The king will be slaughtering blind men, women, and children for not being able to see! Is that just?' And then the king has him executed on the spot for blasphemy.
"But do you see," Arthur continued, "how unjust it would be to destroy everyone who didn't see something because you allowed them to be blinded? This is why Pastor Russell taught that everyone would make it into the Millennium and there 'the eyes of the blind shall be opened', then 'the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea' (Isaiah 35:5; 11:9). Under these conditions God could judge the world in righteousness since they would no longer be blind and would have full knowledge of God and be enabled to make an educated decision between him and Satan: 'Because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness.' (Acts 17:31)."
"But God is opening eyes today through the preaching work of his Witnesses," Richard argued, "If this weren't true, there'd be little purpose to our preaching since the 144,000 have already all been called. So now must be the time when eyes are being opened to the Truth and the sheep are being separated out from the goats who'll be destroyed in Armageddon."
"But these so-called 'goats' of yours, do they also have their eyes opened, or is it just the sheep?" Arthur asked.
"Just the sheep. The goats remain blind to the Truth."
"Then will you please tell me how it is justice to destroy them for their blindness?"
"Because they have every opportunity to become unblinded and they don't take advantage of it."
"If a person knew of an operation," Bob added, "that could regain him his sight but refused to look into it and just ignored it completely, then his blindness would be his own fault. That's just the case here. We're coming to people's homes and offering to open their eyes, yet they refuse the Truth. Therefore, it's just of God to destroy them for their willful rejection of him."
"But it's not exactly like that," Arthur disagreed, "or do you imagine in your wildest fancies that the people at the door believe that you have the Truth that will lead to their everlasting life? You see, the real analogy would be of people knowing of some disreputable doctor, unlicensed by the A.M.A. and publicly denounced as a quack, who claimed to have a cure for blindness. If people didn't flock to his door but just ignored him in general, you wouldn't say it was still their own fault that they were blind even if this man really could cure them, would you? Of course not. Well, that's just the same as when you come to their doors. They don't believe you have the Truth, they are blind to the Truth, so how could they?"
"Yes, that's all true," Richard admitted, "but we open their eyes to the Truth at the doors by quoting and explaining Scriptures to them."
"Showing light to blind men can't open their eyes," Arthur reasoned. "How can you, in a few minutes at the door, cut through a lifetime of prejudice against you, turn them against their own beliefs they've relied on throughout their lives? Their entire minds are preoccupied with how to get rid of you; they won't listen to you long enough or with a mind open enough to receive what you're giving. That doesn't make them evil any more than a blind man is to be blamed for his inability to see.
"The last time I checked this out," Arthur calculated, "there were 1,870 worldly people to every Witness. Assuming that God always acts justly and agreeing that it would be unjust to judge someone on the acceptance or rejection of a certain set of beliefs unless these beliefs were presented to them in such a manner that they were assured of their truthfulness (which in itself seems quite impossible to me in every case) --"
"Blake says that 'the truth can never be presented so as to be understood and not be believed,'" Ted blurted out, showing off his newly acquired knowledge. It was an appropriate comment, but it threw Arthur off for a moment. He took time to examine and assimilate the quote before proceeding and bypassing it.
"And assuming," Arthur continued, "that it takes two witnesses an average of 6 months to complete a study with a person out of the Truth book with hour-long studies once a week; we come to the conclusion that it would take 1,870 years to present the Truth in this way before the end could come. Since you say it has to come long before the year 3850 in order to fit in with your other interpretations of Scripture, it's obvious that your interpretation is wrong and that this opening of eyes can only logically take place in the Millennium under God's Kingdom, not now."
"Not everyone has to have a Bible-study before the end comes," Bob corrected, "they only have to be reached. When you consider the enormous amount of hours that millions of Witnesses put in every month, you'd realize that each Witness could reach his quota of 1,870 people in a year!"
"No," Arthur disagreed, "only about one out of 18 Witnesses is a pioneer, putting in 100 hours of field service a month. The rest average only about 10 hour a month or so. That's hardly enough. At that rate it would take 15.5 years for a single Witness to reach his quota if he could reach through all their prejudices and preconceived notions in one short hour and teach them all they needed to know on a one-to-one basis about the Truth. He'd have to talk to that many different people, too. No 'return visits', no working a territory a second time, and no time wasted on 'not-at-homes'. When a territory had been worked at this break-neck speed, all the Witnesses with the exception of the new converts (if any) would have to be packed up and shipped out to new, untouched areas, leaving jobs, homes, friends, everything, to talk to people of possibly different backgrounds, cultures, or even languages.
"As an example of this need to move them en masse, take a look at Bangladesh. There is one Witness there, according to the 1977 Yearbook, to a population of 79,000,000 people. There are no Bible studies being conducted, and only 42 hours reported for the entire year. At this rate, even granting you 5 minutes to change a Moslem into a Jehovah's Witness, it would take 156,747 years to complete the Witness work in Bangladesh.
"I once heard the late president of the Society, Nathan Homer Knorr, state at a convention that the Chinese people did not seem to be interested in the Kingdom message, so no great effort is made to reach them. In many countries all the preaching work is done among the English-speaking residents rather than the natives. I have heard branch coordinators of these countries plainly state that the Witness work was not done among the Hindu or Moslem populations in countries where they were prominent, but rather amongst the English population. So, all things considered, I must say that your notion of 'eyes being opened' now is clearly a blind man's folly."
"So what would you have us do?" Bob demanded indignantly, "forget the whole thing? We're commanded to preach in order to save these people because God's going to destroy those who don't know him and who knew him but didn't bother to tell others according to 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and Ezekiel 3:18."
"And if the Watchtower suddenly ran out of ink," Arthur replied, "and the Society grew tired of their 'preaching', you'd undoubtedly be quoting Revelation 22:11 instead of those Scriptures."
"What's that say?" Bob demanded, so upset that he didn't bother opening his Bible to check.
"It says, 'He that is doing unrighteousness, let him do unrighteousness still; and let the filthy one be made filthy still,'" Arthur quoted.
"You're forgetting," Richard began, "all the scenes of destruction in the Bible. Armageddon is going to wipe out most of the world's population. This will be justice because the angels, we must remember, are directing the preaching work, guiding us to right-hearted ones and opening up their hearts to the Truth when we present it. We must never fall prey to the illusion that any of this is done on our own power; if it were, you'd be quite correct in saying that we'd never get the job finished."
"Now you're shifting around," Arthur said, "you're saying that for the most part only the right-hearted people will be contacted with your message. Before you said that everyone would hear it and be judged by their acceptance or rejection of it. But if some are judged to be 'right-hearted' so that they get a better chance to hear and accept it, then it's obvious that they've been judged already, and your message has little or no bearing on their judgment. So which is it? It has to be one or the other; it can't be both. Either people are judged on the basis of their reaction to your message (in which case they all must get a full opportunity to understand it in their own minds and hearts as the absolute Truth without a shadow of a doubt): or the angels judge who's right-hearted before you reach them, making your hard work superfluous and redundant. If you agree to the former, you admit that your work will require at the very least several hundred more years before everyone is witnessed to. If you agree to the latter, why should you waste your time preaching? And why hasn't the end come by now if the angels are capable of judging the right-hearted and separating them as sheep from goats?"
"I don't know what to answer exactly," Richard said; "it's some sort of mixture between the two that we can't understand exactly. But we know the angels are helping direct the work and that everything will turn out justly in the end."
"So you're like the Trinitarian you mock so heartily for believing in his 'mysteries' so faithfully. You have your own mysteries everywhere you turn!" Arthur pointed out. "You can't even logically explain your own version of God's purpose without resorting to the ploy of 'beyond our understanding, but true nonetheless, even if it's self-contradictory.'
"But let's return to these scenes of destruction you wanted me to recall before, Richard. I believe what you were referring to mostly were the accounts in Revelation where the symbolic Babylon the Great Harlot and the Wild Beast and its image, among others, are destroyed. Is that right?"
"That's correct," Richard replied.
"And what do these symbolic beings represent?"
"Babylon the Great is the world empire of false religion. The Wild Beast, or at least its image, is the United Nations (as it, in turn, is the image of all the nations of the world). These will be destroyed by God's Kingdom which has promised to put an end to all rival kingdoms, be they religious or governmental."
"Thank you for that information," Arthur smiled. 'Now I'd like to draw Cyn and Ted into the conversation a little with some related non-technical questions, if they'll permit me.
"Let's take a hypothetical situation. Let's say that I'm a member of some financial institution that suddenly goes bankrupt and dissolves. Let's say it's 'destroyed by inflation' just as many banks were broken by the depression. What would this mean to me as a member of this institution?"
"You might not smile for a couple days," Cyn joked.
"It would work some hardship on you," Ted said more seriously, "You'd lose a good deal of money. You might even be 'ruined.'"
"Yes, I would be 'financially embarrassed,' as they say. But wouldn't I be destroyed, becoming as nonexistent as the institution of which I was a member?"
Cyn laughed as Ted replied, also smiling, "Destroyed? Not hardly. What are you getting at now?"
"I mean, if an institution I belong to is destroyed, doesn't it mean that I am destroyed as well? That I, of necessity as part of the institution, disintegrate with it?"
"Of course not."
"What a relief!" Arthur cried at his mock deliverance. "So, then, relying on what you just said, I can be a member of such other institutions as, for example' let's see, let me just pick an odd for-instance out of the air' let's say Babylon the Great Empire of False Religion and the United Nations, or at least a member of one of its member nations. I can be a member of these institutions, I say, and when they are destroyed I will remain in existence. Is that correct?"
"Sure," Cyn assured him.
Unsure of what Ted was about to reply, Richard cut him off, "No, that's not quite right. All you've proven is that your destruction wouldn't necessarily have to occur; it's not some innate law. But the fact is that it will occur just the same because God has decreed it. People will be destroyed because it is the people that make up the religions and governments."
"No it isn't," Arthur refuted confidently, "False religion is not people, and neither is government people. They are abstract institutions which may come and go without harming a soul. Your own experience illustrates this. How many times has a 'truth' you held as a Jehovah's Witness been dropped in favor of a 'new truth'?"
"Many times because the Truth gets clearer as the light gets brighter,' Richard replied.
"So what once constituted your religion is no longer truth; it doesn't exist anymore, it has been destroyed. But have you yourself ever been destroyed even once in all the times that you've destroyed false beliefs from your religion?"
"Well then, there you are! False religion can be destroyed without destroying people; you are a living, surviving example of it! Changes in government have also been made occasionally throughout history without killing any people. So we are in agreement. God will destroy the false beliefs by teaching people the Truth in the Millennium, and man-rule will give way to God-rule."
Bob, no longer able to contain himself, launched forth, "You are still forgetting the scenes of mass destruction we asked you to remember. Revelation 18:4 talks about people being destroyed as Babylon the Great:
"'And I heard another voice out of heaven say: "Get out of her, my people if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues."'"
"Look at that more closely, dear brother," Arthur requested, "it's contrasting Babylon the Great with people, and so clearly shows that Babylon is not people. Take it your way and see what sense it makes to command: 'Get out of her my people!' No one has ever been inside people so that the angel saying 'get out of her' could mean 'get out of people'!
"According to your own book Babylon the Great has Fallen, God's Kingdom Rules!, Babylon fell in the year 1918. Is that correct?"
"It is," Bob acknowledged, "it was then that Jehovah judged Christendom and it fell from any favor it may have had. At the same time Jehovah judged his spirit-anointed Witnesses as the faithful and discreet slave class."
"Well, it's certainly nice that you know the dates as well as the results of God's judgments," Arthur replied dryly, "But tell me, did a lot of people fall down when Babylon the Great fell back then?"
"No," Bob answered disgustedly, "people didn't fall, it was respect for the institution of false religion that fell."
"Yes," Arthur agreed, "I was around myself back then, you know, and I can vouch for the fact that the members of false religions didn't fall down. But if people didn't fall when Babylon the Great fell, then when Babylon the Great is destroyed, people won't be destroyed either. Isn't that consistent? You say that Revelation 18:4 proves your point. But all it says is that people in this institution will share part of its plagues. This is just like my example of the financial institution. I would suffer hardship and be financially embarrassed by its demise, but this means I will share in only part of its plagues: it won't mean my demise. Members of Babylon the Great, then, will suffer reproach and ridicule for having put all their faith in something so patently false. In this way they will share in part of its plagues. Babylon the Great will be totally destroyed, but the Scripture nowhere states that people would share the same fate. No, it says 'part'; therefore, they cannot be destroyed (for that would not be a sharing in part, but a receiving of the full plague)."
"That just means," Bob explained, "that one individual won't receive all the destruction, but being 'part' of Babylon, will receive 'part' of its destruction. In addition to this evidence, we read in Revelation chapter seven that all those being saved out of Armageddon are believers:
"'And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: "Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb."'
"In verse 14 we are informed that 'they are the ones that come out of the great tribulation and they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.'
"Therefore, only believers make it through Armageddon and into the new order of the Millennium."
"Where does it say that these are the only ones that survive Armageddon?" Arthur asked.
"It says that 'they' are the ones who come out of it, implying that no one else does," Bob replied.
"What about the 144,000 mentioned just before in this same chapter; do they all die in Armageddon because they don't 'come out of it'?"
"No, the 144,000 are in heaven; they are immortal."
"Are all the 144,000 in heaven at the time of the great tribulation?"
"No, we believe that some will remain on earth to get things organized after Armageddon," Bob explained.
"Then you admit that there will be some outside of this one group that will survive Armageddon," Arthur pointed out, "if I allow you that, you have no call to deny me another group of unbelievers surviving it as well."
"No," Bob replied, "because the 144,000 are all believers, and they are a special heavenly class. Only they and the great crowd (which is how we refer to the ones who come out of the great tribulation) survive Armageddon."
"Why not look at it this way:" Arthur reasoned, "the great crowd is said to attribute salvation to God and Christ after the great tribulation, as well as to wash in the blood of Christ after coming through the tribulation. This shows, then, that mankind will recognize and turn to God after the time of trouble in which false beliefs and systems of government are destroyed.
"Or look at it this way," Arthur continued, "the great crowd are being contrasted to the 144,000. The latter are a heavenly class that does not go through the great tribulation, and the former are a heavenly class that does go through it. Yet there is still room for an earthly class made up of unbelievers which goes through and survives the tribulation. This last view was that of your founder's, Charles Taze Russell."
"We can't accept that," Bob replied, "because we know the great crowd is an earthly class. In verse 15 of Revelation it says that they are before the throne. What is before God's throne? His foot-stool. And what is his footstool? The earth. 'This is what Jehovah has said: "The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool."' according to Isaiah 66:1."
"In verse eleven," Arthur eagerly countered, "it says that 'the older persons and the four living creatures fell upon their faces before the throne'. Does that mean they are on earth, too?"
"No, they are in heaven," Bob replied.
"Then being 'before the throne' isn't very good proof that one is on earth, now is it? It says that the great crowd are serving God day and night in his temple. Since God resides in heaven, these people must be in heaven also."
"No," Bob replied, "the 144,000 are likened to God's spiritual temple in 1 Corinthians 3:16, 'Do you not know that you people are God's temple?' The great crowd serve God 'in his temple' by working along with and cooperating with the remnant of the 144,000 on earth as they direct the preaching work and organize the Society."
"But," Arthur interjected, "you said that the remnant would only remain on earth a short while into the Millennium and then go to heaven. So how can the great crowd work along side them day and night after the tribulation if they're no longer there?"
"The 144,000 will direct things from heaven. The great crowd are to follow their leadings. That is how they serve in his temple," Bob explained.
"It says 'in', not 'with', not 'under', not 'in cooperation with', but 'in' his temple. God's temple is heaven according to Hebrews 11," Arthur stated.
"You must remember Jehovah's original purpose," Bob reminded him. "It wasn't to bring a great crowd to heaven, but to rescue mankind from death so they could live forever on earth: 'As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.' (Psalm 115:16) The 144,000 are very special, an exception to the rule, you might say. But the vast majority of mankind is to live on earth. That is why a great crowd is seen on earth and only 144,000 in heaven.
"Jesus seems to disagree," Arthur replied, "he said, 'In the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you.' (John 14:2). Many abodes must have many occupants. Therefore, the great crowd must be heavenly!
"This should not strike you so strange; the Watchtower taught this till 1932. In fact, Rutherford, your second president, went so far as to say (in his ever-dogmatic style) that 'They must be spirit creatures' in his book Vindication, Vol. 3, page 204. How is it that three short years later it suddenly turned out that they 'must not be spirit creatures'? What evidence was there for changing this doctrine? The Bible surely contained the same verses in the same wording that it always had. And it meant a very great deal. This was no minor change but affected the world-view-point of every Witness. No longer was anyone outside the fold to make it into the new order; their place had been usurped by the 'great crowd' of Jehovah's Witnesses whose membership had exceeded their magic number of 144,000! Suddenly non-Witnesses were all condemned to die as wicked 'worldly' people since there was no longer any room for them. The great crowd had stepped down out of heaven and taken their place on earth.
"So don't tell me," Arthur continued authoritatively, "that such earth-shaking change occurred because of such flimsy support as Rutherford suddenly finding that the great crowd were 'before the throne' and hence on earth. That doesn't wash; the elders and 'four living creatures' were also 'before the throne, but you claim that means they were in heaven."
"In 1935," Bob slowly told the story, "the Society saw such a great crowd coming in who weren't spirit-begotten that they realized this was the great crowd John saw in Revelation. And since they weren't spirit-begotten, they had to be an earthly class."
"That's really great reasoning," Arthur replied sarcastically, "As if anyone could tell if another person were spirit-begotten or not! Did you ever look at the Scriptural reasons the Society gave for a heavenly great crowd before they turned to Rutherford's reasons for an earthly one?"
"No, there's no reason to go back and look at old light," Bob shrugged.
"Then why look at the Bible? Certainly its light is older than that of the Watchtower less than 50 years ago! You see to what confusion man-made interpretations lead? Why not allow the Bible to interpret itself and tell us if the great crowd is heavenly or earthly? Ted, read for us Revelation 19:1, please."
"'After these things I heard what was a loud voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said, "Praise Jah, you people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our God."'"
"Where is the great crowd that attributes salvation to God?" Arthur asked.
"In heaven," Ted answered.
"Yes, how about that. We needn't waste any time wondering where the great crowd is now; the Bible tells us that they are in heaven as plain as day. But as you are always dredging up Scriptures showing two people or groups of people and forcing them to prefigure the 144,000 and the great crowd (such as saying Jonah represents the former and the sailors who threw him off the boat represent the latter; or that Elijah prefigured the heavenly class since he went up in a fiery chariot, and Elisha types the earthly class since he remained earth-bound): let's take a look at the forty-fifth Psalm and see what we can do to that. Verses six and seven we already had recourse to and agreed it referred to Jesus. But let's have Ted read verses nine through eleven and have Bob identify the class spoken of."
"It reads, 'The daughters of kings are among your precious women. The queenly consort has taken her stand at your right hand in gold of Ophir. Listen, O daughter, and see, and incline your ear; And forget your people and your father's house. And the king will long for your prettiness. For he is your Lord, so bow down to him.'"
"That's talking about the bride of Christ, naturally," Bob interpreted, "the 144,000."
"Now that we've established that, we'll have Ted read verses 13 through 15."
"The king's daughter is all glorious within the house; Her clothing is with settings of gold. In woven apparel she will be brought to the king. The virgins in her train as her companions are being brought into you. They will be brought with rejoicing and joyfulness; They will enter into the palace of the king."
"Now, if the daughter of the king is Christ's bride of 144,000 spirit-begotten individuals (as you have said), then who are the 'virgins in her train' who enter into the king's palace? This palace of the king can be nothing else than heaven. So who is this group that enters heaven in conjunction with the 144,000? You have no answer, I realize, since you say no one but the 144,000 enter heaven. But you're evidently in error there in view of this Scripture. And since Revelation has already shown us a great crowd in heaven, we must be justified in assuming 'the virgins in her train' are these same people who make up the great crowd. They follow the anointed to heaven and take a lesser place there."
Arthur continued to explain: "Russell actually taught that the great crowd was made up of spirit-begotten ones who didn't quite live up to the high requirements of the 144,000 class. But this didn't make them unworthy of any salvation whatsoever; they merely were granted a lesser station in heaven. 2 Timothy 2:20 was one Scripture that suggested this to his mind: 'Now in a large house' (heaven) 'there are vessels not only of gold and silver' (the 144,000) 'but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable purpose but others for a purpose lacking honor.' The wood and earthenware vessels represent the great crowd who had less honor than the other group."
Arthur paused for a moment and went on, "But perhaps the best argument for the great crowd being a heavenly class is the fact that they are said to serve God day and night in his temple. Who was it that served in this manner in typical Israel? It was the high priests and the Levites. We are in agreement that the high priests represented the 144,000, but who do the Levites represent? Certainly it must be this other group who are said to serve day and night in the temple: the great crowd. The temple, of course, represents heaven, but when we recall also that the Levites had no inheritance in the land according to Joshua 14:4 and 18:7, it becomes fairly conclusive that the great crowd, as prefigured by them, must not be a land-based group either, but must be heavenly. Do you see how much more Scriptural support the Watchtower's former view on this matter had?"
"I can, yes," Richard agreed.
"Then will you go on believing their current position?"
"Yes, because I know that if there is something wrong, the Society will eventually straighten it out."
"But in this instance you're saying they were right before; they were straight in their understanding and then they changed and made it crooked."
"Now wait a minute! I didn't say I disagreed with our present understanding," Richard spoke nervously, "I just said that, as a matter of fact, the old view appears to have had more Scriptural support. But our current view has basis in revealed fact. The great crowd is an earthly class. I know because I'm a member of the great crowd and I entertain no hope of going to heaven. My hope is earthly; I've never been born of the spirit so as to be capable of being a spirit in heaven."
"But I thought you people went by the Bible," Arthur said in feigned surprise, "now you tell me that you go by what has happened in your own experience and then make it fit into the Bible even though it lacks Scriptural support. But be honest with me now and answer me this: if this was 1932, before the great crowd was for some reason demoted from heavenly to earthly life, would you think yourself as having been born again to be of the heavenly great crowd?"
"Quite probably," Richard admitted. "Many of the brothers did think that back then, and after 1935 changed their minds and realized they weren't."
"Then," Arthur concluded, "the non-Scriptural decree of the Watchtower in 1938 (and more particularly we could say 'of Rutherford') is what makes all the difference. Not even your own personal experience is as important to you since you admit that you would probably be claiming spirit-begettal if the Watchtower hadn't decided that the great crowd wasn't spiritual. What it comes down to then is this: you are putting the Watchtower ahead of the Bible as well as ahead of personal experience."
"No we're not," Bob virtually shouted, "all through the Bible there's this indication of two separate classes, such as Jehu and Jehonadab in 2 Kings 10:15, and Jesus' referring to his 'little flock' and his 'other sheep' in John 10."
"Even so", Arthur said, "(and please try to remember I already admit to two 'classes': there is no dispute here), what is there to indicate that one class is earthly rather than just having a slightly less honorable heavenly position? Jesus says, 'and I have other sheep. These also I must bring, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.' What can this mean but that he brings them to heaven with the 'little flock'? How else could he bring them together unless he brought them together where they are in heaven?"
"He brings them into the congregation with the 144,000, not in heaven," Bob retorted.
"And this is your great evidence that the great crowd is earthly and that, therefore, all unbelievers will be destroyed before the Millennium?" Arthur asked in mock astonishment. "Do you honestly expect people to believe this?"
"Well, if I proved to you that the 144,000 were the only ones in heaven, then would you believe me?' Bob asked.
"I'd have no choice. But I don't think even you could kick God out of heaven," Arthur chuckled.
"All right, let's not get sarcastic. You know what I mean. The other mention of the 144,000 is at Revelation 14:1:
"'And I saw, and look! The Lamb standing upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads' And they are singing as if a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the older persons; and no one was able to master the song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been brought from the earth.'
"These are the ones who've been brought from among mankind," Bob concluded, "the strong implication being that no one else was brought from among mankind since no one but they could master the song."
"There's nothing there that rules out the possibility of others being brought from the earth," Arthur replied. "The only implication is that these are the only ones brought from the earth who could master the song.
"But let's consider the 144,000 themselves for a moment," Arthur continued, "How do we know, Revelation being a book of symbols, that this is a literal number? If the torment of the Devil in the book of Revelation is symbolic and not literal, how do we know this number is literal? It seems more logical and consistent to think of it as symbolic of perfect organization, since this is what your own Aid book ascribes to the number twelve. This number is based on twelve, being twelve squared times a thousand. And if we look at chapter 21 and verses 15-17 of this same book we see the number once again, only this time it is used in the measurements of 'the holy city, New Jerusalem' which is said to be '144 cubits' across one of its walls, and 12,000 furlongs in height, breadth, and length. Since this city is merely symbolic of heaven and has no real existence, what must we conclude about the same numbering system used in connection with the 12,000 individuals from each of the 12 tribes of Israel that make up our infamous 144,000? And why should the Bible go to such great pains to delineate each and every tribe of Israel and mention that there are exactly 12,000 from each named? Isn't this symbolic? Or are your anointed Christians really divided into twelve tribes?"
"I don't know the answer to that, I'm afraid," Richard admitted, "I once heard a brother say that since the number is 'sealed' it must be a literal number, but I confess that I don't see the logic behind that statement."
"Well then, I'm afraid you've both failed to prove that unbelievers will be destroyed in Armageddon."
"How's that?" Bob asked in disbelief.
"Your 'proof' that only believers would make it was based on the idea that only the 144,000 and the great crowd (who were all believers) would survive Armageddon in heaven and on earth, respectively. That, of course, would mean that everyone else was a goner. But you failed miserably in trying to prove your hypothesis. You admit that the great crowd has more Scriptural support as a heavenly class, and if this is true, it leaves the earth wide open for all unbelievers to inherit! You said only the 144,000 were in heaven, yet upon examination it seems that it's a number symbolic of organization, and not necessarily literal. But if it were literal, than it should be literal all the way and be fleshly Israel since only they are divided into 12 tribes and are 'standing on Mount Zion'. So your 'proof' isn't provable. And I still stand behind 1 Timothy 4:l0:
"'God is a Savior of all men, especially of believers.'
"But before we leave this subject," Arthur said slyly, "let me say one more thing. The number of the wild beast has always been a fascinating subject for interpretation. The Society used to teach that this number, 666 (Revelation 13:18) symbolized the Pope, since his title, Vicar of Christ, when written in Latin as VICARIVUS FILII DEI, and given numerical values as in Roman numerals (V = 5, I = 1, etc.) adds up to 666. (This interpretation was given in The Finished Mystery, page 215.) Now you teach that the number is just symbolic of man's imperfection (since seven is the perfect number, writing 6 three times emphasizes its falling short). This is a comparatively weak interpretation.
"Wouldn't we be surprised, instead, since the wild beast is so often conjoined with the 'false prophet' in Revelation, to find some relation between the number 666 and a great false prophet of our time? It is difficult to do so, just as John warns when he gives the number, so we won't be surprised if it takes some doing. Let us first locate the major false prophet of our time and try to convert it somehow into a number so we can see if it bears any resemblance to 666. Let's see' a false prophet would say things that were distortions of the Bible, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, I'd go along with that," Richard said.
"For instance," Arthur continued, "take this business with the 144,000 and the great crowd. The Society says things about them that are the opposite of what the Scriptures indicate. They are the ones that tout this number more than any other religion. They claim all the number within their own ranks, and many of their prophetic statements hinge on their interpretation of the 144,000. So we'll assign them this number or, for the sake of easier calculations, we'll strike off the last three zeros and give them the number 144 (12 x 12 to symbolize their organization). We'll assign them another number as well to check our findings. The other number that identifies them in most people's minds would be 1975, for that was the year many Witnesses, in accord with what the Society said about it, felt the great tribulation would occur. This has stuck in many people's minds so that one can't begin to talk to them about the Truth without them cutting us off with, 'Yeah? What happened to 1975? That's when the end was supposed to come, wasn't it?' So in their minds, 1975 would indite us as false prophets.
"So, armed with a possible false prophet, the number of his associate wild beast, 666, and the assigned numbers of our candidate: 144 and 1975, let's see if there's any connection. Richard, I know you always carry a calculator with you. Would you get it out, please, and enter the number 144?"
Richard dug into his briefcase and pulled out his long calculator he often used at work. He pushed a few buttons and indicated his compliance.
"Fine, now you must remember that for everything to work out perfectly, the connection between 144 and 666 should not be direct, because the false prophet is only the associate of the wild beast. They are closely related, however, so if the Revelation contains truth as precise as mathematics, and our candidate for false prophecy is the correct one, there should be a clear, once-removed connection in these numbers. I believe this is the case. Richard, will you please push the sine key and read the answer?"
Richard complied and read the tiny red digits, "point 58778525."
"Fine. Now will you please press in the number 666 and then find its cosine?"
"Okay, it's point 58778525."
"So the sine of 144 is the exact same eight-digit number as the cosine of 666." Arthur stated. "To me this is quite startling, and can hardly be a coincidence. It fits the facts too well.
"Now let's try our other number and see if we get similar results: enter 1975 and find its square-root."
Richard nodded when he completed the operation, and Arthur continued, "If the square-root of 1975 were 666, it would be too direct; we'd have found the wild beast rather than his associate, the false prophet. So press your square-root key one more time and read out the first three numbers."
Richard gulped and hesitated, "666," he said.
"So what does that prove?" Bob balked, "You can find a connection between any two numbers."
"To anyone unfamiliar with mathematics I admit the evidence won't appear all that conclusive. I only brought it up because I find it interesting," Arthur smiled.
"Let me say this," Bob spoke sternly, anxious to get the ordeal over and get home, "if I may be allowed to return us to our subject. It's easy to get sloppily sentimental and conclude that God's going to save everyone and give them another chance, and all that. But do you really think the Millennium would be such a peaceful paradise with tame animals and men if murderers and thieves and drunkards and idolaters and all the rest were allowed in? I'm glad Paul had better sense than you when he said:
"'What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit the kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God's kingdom.' (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10)."
"Now you're trying to persuade me of something you don't even believe yourself! Wasn't David an adulterer?" Arthur asked.
"Yes, but God forgave him," Bob replied.
"And David will be resurrected in the Millennium and have an opportunity to live forever?"
"Yes, that's right."
"And the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were fornicators and their men laid with men?"
"And the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will be resurrected and given an equal opportunity to live forever?"
"Yes. In Matthew 10:15 Jesus said they would be alive at the judgment day."
"And the people of Noah's time were drunkards and thieves and revilers and extortioners and murderers?"
"Yes, they were so wicked that God had to wipe them off the face of the earth."
"And yet they too will be resurrected and live forever if they reform?"
"We believe so."
"And all the thieves and drunkards and murderers and idolaters, and all the rest, who have lived between the time Paul spoke these words and today, will be resurrected and have the same chance at everlasting life?"
"Yes," answered Bob, "there will be very few throughout the ages of the world who won't be resurrected due to their sinning against the holy spirit. As for the others we read, 'there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.' (Acts 24:15)."
"And so," Arthur concluded, "all these types of 'wicked people' mentioned by Paul will, in fact, be in the Millennium according to you. So why do you argue with me when I say the same thing? We both believe that these people will not remain wicked but will gradually change under the better conditions of God's kingdom, or be destroyed. The only point in dispute is whether people living today will make it into the millennium if they are unbelievers or 'wicked.'"
"They won't be," Richard answered, "because these are the last days. Peter tells us that baptism today as one of Jehovah's people is the same sort of saving device as was the ark for Noah. Everyone outside of the ark was killed, and everyone outside the organization at the time of Armageddon will be killed as well. In all past warnings God delivered to people they had to repent then before he visited the destruction upon them. It was too late afterwards; so that rules out all who are killed in Armageddon getting a second chance. Peter goes on to say:
"'For it is the appointed time for the judgment to begin with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God? "And if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?"' (1 Peter 4:17, 18)."
"How would you answer Peter's question, Bob?" Arthur asked.
"It's obvious that the answer must be 'nowhere'. The sinner shall not be saved at all since the righteous are barely saved."
"Please think again. You just said that all the sinners of times past will make a showing in the Millennium and may live forever," Arthur corrected.
"Yes, but now we're talking about people living in the time of the end. All the sinners that die at Armageddon won't make a showing in the Millennium."
"But did Peter mention anything about the time of the end when he said this?" Arthur asked, and then proceeded to answer his own question: "No, he doesn't say anything about the time of the end. He says 'it is the appointed time for the judgment to start.' So his words should've applied as much to his own time as to ours."
"Then, according to you, none of the unrighteous from Peter's time on will be resurrected?" Bob asked surprised.
"Quite the contrary," Arthur replied. "We have to reevaluate that part of your interpretation as well. But first I might ask: if I allow you such liberties as to stretch Peter's words about his own time so that they don't apply till our own time, what prevents me from likewise stretching them just a bit further to the Millennium? For only in the Millennium will it be possible to be righteous, and only then can anyone be judged on the basis of their righteousness. The Bible says that 'there is not a righteous man, not even one,' in Romans 3:10. If that is true, then no one will be saved at all if we accept your interpretation of Peter's words. But let's try to discover the Truth here, instead of what you or the Watchtower says, shall we?
"Let's assume for a moment that no provision had been made for man's salvation and he had to rely on his own righteousness as under the Mosaic Law. Peter says that under such circumstances a righteous man would scarcely be saved. That is, a righteous man would live by means of fulfilling the Law completely, and then would just scarcely be saved with no extra merit. Further, if God had arranged for salvation only for the righteous, there'd be none for any sinner. But since the Bible tells us that everyone is a sinner and at the same time tells us that many will be saved and sinners will be resurrected, we can safely assume that Peter's words do not contradict this thought -- they merely point out that without the merciful provision of God's forgiveness through Jesus' sacrifice, none of us would live.
"Now, as for your 'ark of salvation'," Arthur continued, "I'll again remind you that if you insist on likening Armageddon to past destructions, where all those who perished will be resurrected in the Millennium, then everyone who dies at Armageddon should likewise be resurrected in the Millennium."
"No they won't," Bob retorted in exasperation, "The Bible says that they all go off into the second death:
"'But as for those cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This means the second death.' Revelation 21:8."
"When it says 'all the liars', does it include Jacob?" Arthur asked.
"Of course not. Jacob will be one of the princes in the new order according to Psalm 45:16."
"Then it doesn't mean 'all liars'. Does it just means liars within a certain time period, namely the time of the end?" Arthur asked.
"What about liars who died before Armageddon but who still died during the time of the end?"
"They'll be resurrected."
"So the words at Revelation you quoted apply only to liars who die at Armageddon."
"Now you've got it."
"So if I were a liar, which of course I'm not," Arthur slyly smiled and winked at Cyn, "and I died today (which is always a distinct possibility at my age) and Armageddon came tomorrow, I'd be resurrected. But if I died tomorrow during Armageddon I'd be dead forever?"
"In view of all that (which in itself sounds quite ridiculous since you're forcing people to be judged not on the basis of what they did with their lives but merely on when they died), it's quite amazing that the verse in Revelation doesn't say a word about the time of the end. It's even more astounding in view of this theory that this 'second death' for the wicked comes 'after the thousand years have ended' according to the previous chapter, and after a new heaven and earth have come into existence according to the beginning of the same chapter. It would almost seem to be saying that those who had persisted in being liars, murderers, etc., after the thousand years of judgment would be judged unworthy of life and go into the second death. Amazing, isn't it, how this comports with Russell's discarded interpretation of God's purpose and contradicts your own?
"But let me ask you one more thing on this subject, and then I want to move on to an examination of your 1914 date and such, since I know it's getting late and these two young people are longing to be alone somewhere together in their chaste love." He smiled at them for a moment and continued, "From about 1954 to 1965 the Society taught that Adam, Eve, Cain, the inhabitants of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the antediluvian world would not be resurrected. But now the Society says (I always think I sound like 'Simon Says' whenever I say that) -- the Society says merely that Adam and Eve won't be resurrected. What was the reason for this change?"
"We recognized from Scripture," Richard responded, "that those of Sodom and Gomorrah would be there on judgment day. We know the unrighteous will be brought back to life, and so we can't say who will or won't be there. But we know Adam and Eve won't be because they were perfect beings. It's a much more serious matter for a perfect being to sin. We have the excuse of our inherited imperfection. But their sin came from their own initiative since they were perfect."
"So," Arthur clarified, "the change came from an understanding that a perfect person is responsible for his sin to the point of meriting the 'second death', whereas an imperfect person isn't responsible to that point because they have inherited sinful tendencies?"
"Yes, that's right," Richard responded.
"And is anyone perfect today?"
"Not hardly. Mankind is growing less and less perfect."
"And will anyone be made perfect before Armageddon?"
"Not on this earth."
"So the unbelievers and wicked people at Armageddon will be imperfect just as they are today?"
"Then will they be responsible for their sin to the point of meriting the second death?"
Richard was stunned at the apparent contradiction. His silence was filled in by a gasp of appreciation on the part of Cyn. It accompanied a thrill in Ted's own heart which suddenly responded to what seemed irrefutable proof that his mother and father and all his family, and all the human family as well, was equally loved by God and forgiven and would find a happy home under his kingdom in the new world.
Bob struggled for something to say but couldn't locate a theme to demolish the old man's logic. In a last-ditch attempt to crumble that victorious smile, he changed the subject. "Well, if you want to talk about 1914 we'd better get going on it. We haven't got all day."
But Arthur just lay there smiling his knowing smile at Ted and Cyn. So, in desperation Bob summed up the evidence for 1914 in monologue.
"We know God's kingdom was set up in heaven in 1914 because we know when his typical kingdom of Israel ceased: 607 BCE when the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered it. That's when Jehovah allowed the gentile nations to rule the world for a specified amount of time till he would again set up his kingdom over the world (only this time with Spiritual Israel taking the lead). It is in Daniel chapter four where we find the amount of time between the two events.
"There, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a huge tree that was chopped down by angels and banned so as not to grow for a period of 'seven times'. We know that trees often represent kingdoms in the Bible (Matthew 13:31, 32), and in this case the tree represented that kingdom which had just been cut down: Israel. It was to be bound for 'seven times' in which the gentiles would dominate the earth. But after that it would be loosed and would grow up to the very heavens, representing God's kingdom ruling from heaven over earth.
"So we ask, how long is 'seven times'? By looking at Revelation 12:6,14 we learn that 3 1/2 times amount to 1,260 days. Therefore, 7 times must amount to 2,520 days. We also know that God had punished Israel before as a day for a year (Numbers 14:34). Accordingly, the 7 times must last 2,520 years, or from 607 BCE to 1914 CE
"We have backup proof that 1914 was the end of the gentile times in the signs Jesus gave us in Matthew 24. He said that in the time of the end 'nation would rise against nation, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes' persecution of his followers, false prophets, increasing lawlessness, and the good news of the kingdom being preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness.' We have seen all these things since 1914. Those who witnessed the events of 1914 won't have all passed away before the end of this system comes about, Jesus tells us. So it has to be soon now, as they're all getting up there in age."
"But let's take this 'proof' step by step and see how well it holds up," Arthur began, unimpressed by Bob's monologue. "As to Daniel chapter four, does it say anything about 'the times of the gentiles' in it?"
"No," Bob admitted, "but it was written that way to hide the truth till the right time. Daniel admitted that even he didn't understand what he wrote; 'Now as for me, I heard, but I could not understand; so that I said, "O my lord, what will the final part of these thing be?" And he went on to say: "Go Daniel, because the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end."' (Daniel 12:8, 9)."
"When did the 'time of the end' begin?" Arthur asked.
"And when did Russell first understand the word of secrecy in Daniel?"
"In the very first issue of the Watchtower," Richard replied, "in July 1879 Russell pointed out that the end of the times of the gentiles would occur in 1914."
"But how could he know the secret if it was sealed up till the time of the end?" Arthur wondered. "You just said that the time of the end didn't occur till 1914. Writing before 1914, Russell couldn't possibly know the secret which was 'sealed up until the time of the end'. Therefore, he could not know in 1879 that the time of the end would begin in 1914. The only way Russell could know the secret that was sealed up until the time of the end, was if the time of the end had already begun when he wrote about it in 1879, in which case his dating it at 1914 would be erroneous."
"That's rather confusing,' Richard admitted.
"Let me help you out of the difficulty," Arthur offered. "The words in Daniel chapter 12 have nothing to do with the dream recorded back in chapter 4. They only applied to the last series of visions he had from chapter ten on. That Daniel obviously understood the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is seen from the fact that he interpreted it for him: 'This is the interpretation, O king,' he says in verse 24. And what is the interpretation he gives? Is it about the times of the gentiles? Does he say the tree represents God's kingdom? No, he says, 'The tree that you beheld--it is you, O king,' (verses 20-22). Daniel's own inspired interpretation seems to get in the way of your own. It's rather a nuisance to you, I think. For in the 'antitype', what do you say Nebuchadnezzar represents?"
"The gentile powers, and their beastly rule (corresponding to his period of madness for seven times)."
"All right, do you admit that your whole interpretation rests on the supposition that this is a typical representation which has a double fulfillment, and that it has no other support?"
"Yes," Bob replied, "I admit that there's noting in the chapter that says it applies to the gentile times."
"In any case," Arthur went on, "since in the first fulfillment Daniel plainly states that the tree represents Nebuchadnezzar, in order to be at least consistent, your second fulfillment requires that the tree and Nebuchadnezzar represent the same thing."
"While that sounds right," Bob replied, "it isn't. In the major fulfillment we find that the tree represents God's kingdom and Nebuchadnezzar represents worldly government."
"Then Daniel's interpretation was wrong according to you!" Arthur exclaimed. "He clearly stated that the tree represented Nebuchadnezzar. So in the final fulfillment both of them must represent the same thing. And if you say this king represented worldy government ruling from 607 to 1914, how is it that during the seven times of the fulfillment of this prophecy as recorded in the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar was not ruling? How could he represent the ruling world powers when he was taken off his throne all during the seven times?
"Furthermore, everyone knows that Israel wasn't overthrown by Babylon in the year 607 BCE Nebuchadnezzar didn't even become king 'till 605 BCE, so how could he conquer Israel two years before he became king? These are absolute dates you can find in any and every reference work on the subject: Babylon conquered Israel in 587-6 BCE. So, if we were to accept everything else about your interpretation of Daniel (though there is absolutely no reason for doing so), we would end up with the date 1934 instead of 1914. But either date is ridiculous since we can all plainly see that the gentile powers are still ruling!
"All of the 'signs' you use to prove that the time of the end began in 1914 are the same ones Russell used to prove that the time of the end started in 1799, and that Christ's presence began in 1874. He used incidents in the papers of the time and gave just as convincing an argument for his dates as you do today for yours. This proves that, with your methods, you can persuade a person in any time period that he is living in the 'last days'. You can even twist the facts to make them fit your time period. For instance, the Watchtower of May 1, page 9, reported:
"'The severity and deadliness of earthquakes have increased markedly since "the time of the end" commenced for this old system in 1914. In fact, over 900,000 persons have died from earthquakes in this century, including close to 1,250 in the United States.'"
But you will notice this figure dates from the beginning of this century rather than from 1914. The fact is that more than half the number died prior to 1914! To be precise, if you were to look the matter up in my Collier's Encyclopedia on the shelf there, Volume 8, page 254, you'd find that between the years 1905 and 1908, 520,000 people lost their lives in earthquakes; that's well over half the number the Watchtower gives to prove that the number has gone up since 1914! So, if the straight facts were given, it would point to the 'time of the end' having an earlier start than 1914. But the straight facts aren't given; they're half-truths that are twisted to fit your interpretation of God's purpose -- an evil, wicked purpose to destroy all of mankind whom he loves for the sake of giving you Witnesses the revenge for having doors slammed in your faces.
"How can you call this 'good news'? The wholesale slaughter of innocent children as well as adults? The virtuous with the wicked and the knowledgeable with the totally ignorant? Those who've heard your message twice a week with those who've never heard of you or even of Christianity? Where is justice in this? Where is common sense? Where is compassion or love? The wolf may indeed lie down with the lamb in your 'new world', but they will be laying atop the blood-soaked shreds of flesh and shattered bones of worthy men."
Everyone was taken by surprise at Arthur's emotional conclusion. Bob felt defeated, Richard felt stupid, Ted felt good though confused, and Cyn was afire, anxious to convert the experience into a poem.
"Well," Arthur said at last, seeing that no one else dared to speak, "that ends our meetings together. I hope I've helped you brothers to think in new ways and have prepared you for possible objections you'll encounter from ministers while in the field ministry.
"I don't think it will make any difference, but I've decided not to add my recommendation for your eldership, Richard. This is nothing personal, nor does it reflect on your excellent conduct and brilliant answers in our meetings together here. I base my decision solely on the Scriptural injunction that requires all servants in the congregation to have their children in subjection without unduly irritating them.
"But for you, dear brother Bob, I am taking more positive action than merely declining to voice an opinion to the committee. I'm recommending that you not be considered for eldership. No matter how much you know about the Bible and the publications, you are not in the Truth.
"Finally, my dear friends, Ted and Cynthia, I hope this won't be the last I'll see of you. Please stop by and visit me when you can. And whenever you have a problem or question you think I can help you with, just let me know.
"Thank you," Ted answered, "we will."
As they all silently filed out of the room, Ted reasoned to himself that now that these meetings were at last over, he could freely talk to Arthur about his being born-again at baptism. He eagerly looked forward to it.
As Richard drove them all home, no one dared speak. Finally, Richard said to no one in particular, "He's quite a brother, isn't he?"
"We didn't learn any Truth from him," Bob sneered, "it was all just tearing down the Society by a Russellite. It was a waste of time all right, but he won't stop me from becoming an elder."