“However, think of the spiritual paradise that we now enjoy. Compared with the sick condition that we once were in, we have been healed spiritually.” – October 15, 2004, Watchtower –.
Nowhere is the spiritual blindness foretold in Isaiah more painfully apparent than in the persistent belief that a spiritual paradise presently exists among Jehovah’s Witnesses. While the exact expression “spiritual paradise” is not found in the Bible, the concept of a trouble-free, Edenic, spiritual haven certainly is. However, what exactly is it? This chapter will examine that question along with the Watchtower’s claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are currently living in the spiritual paradise the Bible describes.
The October 15, 2004, Watchtower carried a study article, intriguingly entitled: “Paradise—For You?” The article reinforces the long-held belief that Jehovah’s Witnesses are living in the biblically foretold spiritual paradise of God’s making. The article rightly points out that Paul’s rapturous vision of the “third heaven” was spiritual in nature. The apostle was likely privileged with a visionary foregleam of the spiritual paradise Isaiah prophesied about. Not to be overlooked, though, the obvious reason that God gave Paul an inspired glimpse of paradise in the first place, was because those anointed Christians were not then living in any sort of spiritual paradise. It existed only in a vision—a supernatural revelation of things to come.
The question is: What has changed so that Christians are now living in a spiritual paradise even though the apostles and early Christians did not enjoy such a blessed condition? Is the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses somehow superior to the congregation Christ originally founded? That would certainly be an extraordinary thing if it were true! The Watchtower article implies that spiritual paradise is merely the result of knowing basic Bible truths. For example, the 19th paragraph says:
“However, think of the spiritual paradise that we now enjoy. Compared with the sick condition that we once were in, we have been healed spiritually. And contrast our once-famished state with our present well-fed spiritual state. Rather than struggling as in an arid spiritual land, God’s people have his approval and a downpour of blessings. Rather than being blinded in dungeonlike spiritual darkness, we see the light of freedom and of God’s favor. Many who were as good as deaf to Bible prophecies have come to hear with understanding what the Scriptures say. For example, millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe have studied Daniel’s prophecy verse by verse. Then they considered in depth each chapter of the Bible book of Isaiah. Does not that refreshing spiritual food give evidence of our spiritual paradise?”
According to the Watchtower’s reasoning, merely studying Bible prophecy is one of the evidences that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in spiritual paradise. In keeping with our duty to test the “inspired expressions,” though, we ought to ask a few pertinent questions, such as: If merely studying and even understanding Bible prophecy is evidence of the existence of a spiritual paradise, why did the early Christians not enjoy such a blessed condition?
Paul and Peter, as well as others such as James and Jude, were not merely students of Bible prophecy, they were actually inspired Christian prophets! The record shows that those prophets served the congregations much in the way of thought provoking and “refreshing spiritual food,” as the article words it; and yet, those early congregations were not in paradise. Why is that? Jehovah rained down upon them many spiritual blessings too; why, then, did not the apostles enjoy the blessings of spiritual paradise?
The article asks Jehovah’s Witnesses to contrast their spiritual condition before and after becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses as a proof of their supposed paradisiacal bliss now. However, the apostle Paul told the non-Jewish Christians that they were once alienated from God and blind to the covenants, but that they were granted by God’s undeserved kindness to come into the glorious light of truth—yet, still, they were not blessed to reside in any sort of spiritual paradise. Again, why is that?
Paul himself contrasted his own life before and after his conversion. His spiritual blindness as Saul, the Pharisee, was so extreme it was only remedied by a close encounter with a manifestation of the glorious Lord, so that what was described as scales literally fell off from his blinded eyes a few days after his experience. Surely, no one alive today can recount such a radical life-altering experience as that; and yet, even though Paul experienced such a miraculous transformation he still could only envision the spiritual paradise the Watchtower claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses now enjoy.
Another line of reasoning presented in the Watchtower as proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses are living in a glorious spiritual paradise is the personality transformation that many Christians have made. The 11th paragraph states:
“Think, too, of the changes in traits as sincere ones of all backgrounds have striven to understand and apply God’s Word. Basically, they have worked to put away animalistic traits that used to characterize them.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are well aware that the Bible’s truth has a transforming effect when its counsel is applied. There is no question that thousands of Christians throughout the world have made astounding personality changes. But does that in itself make for a spiritual paradise? Why should it? Did not the original Christians also make remarkable character changes as well? Paul wrote to the Corinthians reminding them that some of them were once fornicators, revilers, homosexuals, drunkards and greedy persons, but they had been washed clean. But as extraordinary a transformation that many of those early Corinthians made in their personal lives, they still did not enjoy the blessings of a spiritual paradise. Why is that? The Watchtower comments further on in the 11th paragraph:
“Hence, as you associate with a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are with people who have become more peaceable and pleasant. No, they are not yet perfect, but they could hardly be described as ferocious lions or rapacious wild beasts. What does this pacific spiritual fellowship indicate? Clearly, we enjoy a spiritual condition that we rightly call a spiritual paradise.”
According to the Watchtower’s line of reasoning, the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy spiritual paradise because everyone has made a radical personality transformation. But is that really true? Consider for a moment some of the problems in the early Christian congregations. As previously stated, even though many of the Corinthians had made remarkable changes there were still many problems that marred the peace of the congregations. As proof of that, there was the well-known sex scandal involving a brother living with his father’s wife—a deplorably immoral situation, which the Corinthian brothers apparently tolerated.
Then there was the problem of cult-like worship of Apollos, Paul and Cephas, which the apostle Paul also addressed in his letter to the Corinthians. There was also the distressing state of affairs as a result of the influence of “superfine apostles” in the congregation; whom Paul revealed were actually covert agents of the Devil who had made a transformation—not into the image of Christ—but into phony “ministers of righteousness.” For good reason, Paul did not boast of the Corinthians as living in a spiritual paradise. It seems more probable that Paul spoke of his supernatural vision of spiritual paradise to the Corinthians because they were so dysfunctional as a congregation—far removed from the paradise Paul envisioned, and which was “unlawful” for him to even discuss the vision in detail.
Then there were the Galatians. Paul’s counsel to the congregation in Galatia indicates that not everyone there had made a complete spiritual transformation. Even though they had knowledge of Christ, out of sheer despair over their unreasonableness Paul addressed them as “O senseless Galatians”! Because of their fleshly frame of mind the apostle warned the Galatians, saying to them: “If, though, you keep on biting and devouring one another, look out that you do not get annihilated by one another.”
The act of “biting and devouring one another” is hardly something that would occur in spiritual paradise, is it? Obviously, some of the Galatians gave evidence that they still possessed certain unchristian, animalistic characteristics.Clearly, the Galatians could not honestly boast of enjoying “pacific spiritual fellowship”—such as the Watchtower claims Jehovah’s Witnesses presently enjoy. Can Jehovah’s Witnesses truthfully claim that the congregations are not at times similarly afflicted by incidents of “biting and devouring” behavior? Honesty and modesty ought to move Jehovah’s Witnesses to admit that their congregations are afflicted with the very same evils that plagued the early Christians.
PEDOPHILES & CON ARTISTS IN SPIRITUAL PARADISE?
The Watchtower made the statement that no one in our congregations “could hardly be described as ferocious lions or rapacious wild beasts”; but is that really true? What about the thousands of children of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have been sexually abused by others who themselves were, and in some cases still are, Jehovah’s Witnesses? Have they not been set upon and seduced by cunning beastlike men? Have not these poor victims had their innocence and purity devoured, as it were, by sexually greedy, animalistic predators? Will the Watchtower honestly make some sort of an acknowledgment and explain how thousands of child sexual abuse atrocities can take place in spiritual paradise?
As an example, on August 9, 2004, in the town of Rock Hill, South Carolina, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses named Joe Meza, who was facing trial for raping his own daughter, apparently slashed the throats of all three of his children and then evidently killed his wife and himself, after setting their home on fire. Authorities claim that one of the murdered daughters was also sexually abused just a few days before her death. Evidently, though, Brother Meza was in “good standing” in the Rock Hill Congregation in South Carolina. Presumably, he was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the brothers and sisters in the local congregation—enjoying “pacific spiritual fellowship”all during the time he was sexually abusing his daughters, all the way up until the moment he murdered his family and committed suicide!
Another case of child rape and murder occurred in British Columbia in 1985 and made national headlines, when a Jehovah’s Witness by the name of Jeffery Anderson murdered his wife and her two daughters. It was later revealed in a recent parole hearing for the incarcerated killer that he had raped the young girls over the course of several years. In this case the Society and local elders bear some responsibility for the shocking crimes, in that, Mrs. Anderson had left her abusive husband, but the elders counseled her to reconcile. Following their advice, Sister Anderson allowed her estranged husband back into her life, and as a result, the deranged Jehovah’s Witness murdered her and her daughters.
Then there is the serial pedophile, Ricky McLean. “Brother McLean” was a congregation ministerial servant and was known by many of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Southern California area. But as recently as January 2009, McLean has been in the local San Diego news as the focus of a nationwide manhunt as one of America’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives. His crimes? Allegedly Ricky McLean has sexually abused hundreds of children, many of them being the children of Jehovah’s Witness parents who trusted Brother McLean.
Admittedly, the tragedy in British Columbia, Rock Hill and the notorious Ricky Mclean are extreme examples, but is it really honest for the Watchtower to brush these horrible acts of wickedness off as mere human imperfections, as the article here under consideration does?
And while McLean and many other pedophiles may have been disfellowshipped after their evil acts came to light, is the removal of an animalistic person after they have raped and devoured the innocence of their victims how spiritual paradise is maintained? The Watchtower actually claims that to be the case. But how is it even possible for such wickedness to have been perpetrated upon innocent children in the first place if Jehovah’s Witnesses are truly living in a predator-free spiritual paradise? Were Adam and Eve set upon by ferocious beasts in the paradise of Eden? If not, then why are Jehovah’s Witnesses menaced by beastlike men in the Watchtower’s spiritual paradise?
There have also been several cases where appointed elders betrayed their sacred trust in highly publicized scandals. In Montana an elderly sister, 100-years old, was defrauded out of millions of dollars by two scheming, con artist elders, who were subsequently sentenced to prison by the authorities. The Helena Independent Record published the story with the bold sub-caption: “Two Jehovah’s Witness church elders who fleeced a 100-year-old Deer Lodge woman out of her life savings and family ranch were sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison with 10 suspended.”
“A church elder was ordered by a federal judge on Tuesday to pay more than $4.7 million in restitution to almost 50 victims of a Ponzi-like con game – many of them elderly members of his own congregation. Financial consultant and ex-missionary Raymond L. Knowles, a former resident of Pembroke Pines and Opa-locka and more recently San Antonio, Texas, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison in January by U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham for defrauding elderly and financially unsophisticated investors during a multimillion-dollar securities fraud scheme. He was convicted last October of 16 counts of mail fraud, four of wire fraud and four of securities fraud. Many victims were fellow members of the same Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation where he was an elder.”
Again, these two incidents may be extreme cases, but it demonstrates that great evils may often exist within the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses—evils that the Watchtower either denies by their silence or prefers to gloss over in order to preserve their paradisiacal illusions. It is natural to wonder, though, if the victims who were preyed upon by those treacherous overseers share the Watchtower’s view that no rapacious individuals can be found among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Of course, there are many, many other instances where Jehovah’s Witnesses have committed various crimes, but these few examples should suffice to make the point. As the apostle Paul might say, your reasons for boasting are not fine.
WHAT IS SPIRITUAL PARADISE?
At this point the question must be raised: Just what is spiritual paradise anyway? Since the early Christians did not enjoy such a blessed condition and contrary to the Watchtower’s baseless assertions, Jehovah’s Witnesses obviously are not in any sort of spiritual paradise either—what does it mean to be in spiritual paradise? Will there ever be such a wonderful thing as a spiritual paradise—or is it a mere fantasy?
It is best to let the Bible speak on the matter. The 35th chapter of Isaiah reveals that spiritual paradise is a condition that comes about as the result of the revelation of Jehovah’s glory. For example, when the spiritually parched land blooms into paradisiacal beauty, we read in the second verse: “There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.” The fourth verse indicates that the revelation of God’s glory is directly related to the expression of God’s vengeance and the salvation of his people. It reads: “Say to those who are anxious at heart: ‘Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! Your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people.’”
The Watchtower claims Jehovah’s people were released from Babylon the Great in 1919. If that were true, then where is the evidence that Jehovah God executed his vengeance or made repayment to his enemies?
It is obvious that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been blinded by the Watchtower’s own teachings in this regard. No doubt that is why after receiving God’s discipline those who are blessed by Jehovah will have their spiritual eyes and ears opened in a truly marvelous way. That is why the next verse in context reads: “At that time the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness.”
The expression “at that time,” used twice in the verse above, indicates that God opens the eyes and ears of his people suddenly, en masse, at a specific time—not gradually over decades or individually, as when persons come into the truth. When does Jehovah perform this eye-opening, ear-unstopping miracle?
It takes place when Jehovah executes his judgment against the tyrants and braggarts who dominate and rule over his people.
Hence, returning to chapter 29 of Isaiah, we read Jehovah’s judicial decree at Isaiah 29:17-20: “Is it not yet but a very little time and Lebanon must be turned into an orchard and the orchard itself will be accounted just as a forest? And in that day the deaf ones will certainly hear the words of the book, and out of the gloom and out of the darkness even the eyes of the blind ones will see. And the meek ones will certainly increase their rejoicing in Jehovah himself, and even the poor ones of mankind will be joyful in the Holy One of Israel himself, because the tyrant must reach his end, and the bragger must come to his finish, and all those keeping alert to do harm must be cut off, those bringing a man into sin by his word, and those who lay bait even for the one reproving in the gate, and those who push aside the righteous one with empty arguments.”
Please notice that the prophecy describes paradise conditions—the orchard becomes a veritable forest—coming about at the same time that the meek suddenly have their eyes opened and their ears unstopped. Concurrent with that, the tyrant and the braggart come to their inglorious end.
Now, consider this question: The Watchtower claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in spiritual paradise since being set free from clergy domination in 1919; yet why is it that no one can point to any evidence that the tyrants and braggarts of this world have already come to their end?
The tyrants and braggarts of Isaiah’s prophecy are those who are described in the context as being spiritually intoxicated, and so they are unable to coherently read from the scroll of the prophecy, as discussed in the previous chapter. This perfectly describes the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. Incredibly, in the very same October 15th Watchtower article the Governing Body even boasts of their presumed understanding of Isaiah as one of the proofs that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in spiritual paradise. Clearly, though, Bethel does not understand Jehovah’s judgments in Isaiah at all. If they did, they would not immodestly brag about their presiding over a spiritual paradise that does not even exist!
So, what is spiritual paradise then?
Spiritual paradise is the blessed condition that Jehovah will bring about after he repurchases his people from the captive condition they will find themselves in during the tribulation. The 51st chapter of Isaiah depicts the restoration of spiritual Zion this way: “For Jehovah will certainly comfort Zion. He will for certain comfort all her devastated places, and he will make her wilderness like Eden and her desert plain like the garden of Jehovah. Exultation and rejoicing themselves will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.”
That spiritual “garden of Jehovah” will be characterized by the complete absence of any sort of wickedness. Jesus said that such a condition will come about during the conclusion of the system of things, when God’s mighty angels will remove from Christ’s kingdom “all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace.”
The result will be that not even one wicked person will be found among God’s people. Isaiah 35:8-10 describes it this way: “And there will certainly come to be a highway there, even a way; and the Way of Holiness it will be called. The unclean one will not pass over it. And it will be for the one walking on the way, and no foolish ones will wander about on it. No lion will prove to be there, and the rapacious sort of wild beasts will not come up on it. None will be found there; and the repurchased ones must walk there. And the very ones redeemed by Jehovah will return and certainly come to Zion with a joyful cry; and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head.”
The prophet Ezekiel similarly foretold that no rapacious beastlike persons of any sort would menace the repurchased people of God. Ezekiel 34:25 foretells: “And I will conclude with them a covenant of peace, and I shall certainly cause the injurious wild beast to cease out of the land, and they will actually dwell in the wilderness in security and sleep in the forests.”
As the term suggests, spiritual paradise is a secure and peaceful haven. It will be characterized by the complete absence of evil people—just as the literal paradise will be. In the real spiritual paradise that Jehovah will provide for the meek ones, there will be no unclean slithering pedophiles—not even one! There will be no faithless apostates or practicing fornicators in paradise—none! There will be no braggarts, boasters or foolish persons of any kind. Most assuredly, there will be no treacherous overseers plundering vulnerable widows.
Just as surely as the cherubs stationed at the threshold of the gates of Eden prevented Adam and Eve and their offspring from stealing back into paradise, in the future Jehovah’s powerful angels will debar animalistic people from entering the Highway of Holiness that Jehovah’s redeemed ones will traverse into the New World. The real spiritual paradise will be composed entirely of those who love and obey Jehovah and Jesus Christ and they will experience God’s spiritual blessing in such measure as no humans ever have before.