“Whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord. […] But if we would discern what we ourselves are, we would not be judged.”
~1 Corinthians 11:27,31
The night of Friday, April 19, 2019 corresponds to the start of Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and friends will be gathering at meeting places around the world to commemorate what Jehovah and Jesus did for us on that day.
The night before his death, Jesus took unleavened bread and a cup of wine to establish a covenant between himself and those he was buying from the earth to become co-rulers with him in Heaven. (Matt. 26:26-29; Rev. 14:3-5)
God’s purpose for humankind has always been that we live forever in a paradise earth. (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 37:29)
But he has lovingly provided an arrangement wherein humans will be judged by peers who have proven faithful to righteous standards. (Rev. 20:6)
Jesus officially founded that arrangement when he shared his last evening meal with his faithful apostles.
How does a Christian know if they are entitled to share in the bread and wine emblems?
God’s spirit manifests itself to loyal individuals who know they are called to rule with Christ in heaven. (Rom. 8:15,16; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:3,4)
An anointed Christian experiences great inner change which leads him or her to be certain of his or her own future rather than to wonder about it. (John 3:5-8)
Because most of us are unfamiliar with how it feels to be born in the spirit, we do not judge our brothers who partake in the bread and wine.
“Jehovah’s spirit quickly led Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him anymore, but he went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, found himself in Ashdod, and he went through the territory and kept on declaring the good news to all the cities until he got to Caesarea.”
After Philip taught and baptized the Ethiopian traveler, he appears to have been suddenly swept away to the town of Ashdod.
He then proceeded to travel north 80 km (50 mi), presumably by foot, to Caesarea.
He “kept on declaring the good news” zealously, despite having had no say in his choice of territory.
Perhaps he had left unfinished business or personal belongings in Samaria, but he listened to the Holy Spirit’s direction and preached along the Mediterranean coastline.
Sometimes we have the privilege of studying the Bible with someone who values what they learn to the point of becoming a baptized Jehovah’s Witness.
While they rejoice with their new hope, we have to keep moving forward, bringing the kingdom message to as many people as possible.
I vividly recall meeting a student under similar circumstances as Philip and the eunuch’s, in the sense that she was reading a Watchtower magazine when we arrived at her business.
I asked her if she understood what she was reading.
She said, in sign language, “How? If no one explains it to me?”
She took the steps to get baptized six months later, despite having two serious disabilities.
We seldom meet people so eager to learn in our ministry, but when we do, their memory continues to motivate us for the rest of our lives, regardless of which territory we end up in.
“My Kingdom is no part of this world. If my Kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be handed over […].”
Throughout history and throughout the world, true Christians have followed Christ’s courageous example of maintaining political neutrality at the cost of their freedom or even their lives.
Like Jesus, we trust that God’s solution to mankind’s problems will be brought about through his own means. (Dan. 2:44)
Prior to the messiah’s coming, servants of Jehovah sometimes held high government rankings, such as King David or the governor Zerubbabel.
But the priests who killed Jesus were hungry for more political power. (John 11:48)
Jesus made it clear that his followers were not to get involved in the political controversies of his time, and the same applies to us. (Mark 8:15; John 17:16)
We can instead participate in the sharing of the kingdom good news- the same “truth” Jesus said he came to bear witness to. (Matt. 6:33; John 18:37)
“[…] The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”
Was Jesus referring to a future judgment in heaven or on earth?
The Hebrew Scriptures describe the resurrection hope as taking place on earth:
“He will swallow up death forever, And the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces. The reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth […].” (Is. 25:8)
Who are those “in the memorial tombs?”
The term used here is derived from the Greek verb meaning to remember (mimneskomai), implying that the person who has died is remembered by God, regardless of where their body winds up physically.
Jesus used the verb when he offered hope of living in paradise to the felon being executed alongside him on a stake. (Luke 23:40-43)
Jesus made a covenant for a heavenly resurrection with those who stuck out his trials with him. (Luke 22:28-30)
But for most of us, faith in being in Jehovah’s memory and the promise of an earthly resurrection is our most viable longterm hope.
In the restored paradise, we will have a clean slate to chose eternal life or destruction by the choices we make then. (Ro. 6:7; Rev. 20:12,15)
“God did not send his Son into the world for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him. Whoever exercises faith in him is not to be judged. Whoever does not exercise faith has been judged already […].”
Does the Bible teach faith-based salvation?
While faith is a key component of our salvation, it is not the sole requirement.
God’s Word later explains that faith without works is useless. (Jas. 2:24,26)
What kind of works satisfy God’s standards?
To exercise true faith, we must follow in Jesus’ footsteps, sharing the message of God’s kingdom motivated by love. (Matt. 10:7,8; Jas. 2:8)
Still, we need to understand that faith and salvation are gifts from Jehovah God that are only possible through his own arrangement. (Eph. 2:8)
One Watchtower likens it to how we pray for our daily bread, and yet we understand we still have to go out and work for it.
Likewise, we have faith and work towards salvation, but left entirely on our own we could never attain it.
“[…] I have seen it, and I have given witness that this one is the Son of God.”
Before Jesus converted water to wine, healed the sick, tamed storms or resurrected the dead, John the Baptist already had faith that he was the Son of God.
John literally “cried out” about Jesus’ pre-human existence. (John 1:15)
He prophesied about Jesus’ sacrificial death. (John 1:29)
He even encouraged his own disciples to leave him for Jesus. (John 1:35-37)
This makes me wonder about my own zeal in the witnessing work.
Do I show the same enthusiasm and conviction John showed when it comes to announcing the good news of God’s kingdom?
After all, Jesus already fulfilled all the prophecies which proved he was God’s son.
Now it is our turn to imitate John and help others realize what God’s kingdom will bring. (Ps. 72:16; Is. 33:24; John 5:28,29; Rev. 21:4)
“[…] There was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, who was a good and righteous man. (This man had not voted in support of their scheme and action.) He was from Arimathea, […] and was waiting for the Kingdom of God.”
Joseph had previously put faith in Jesus but had kept it private because he was a member of the Jewish high court. (John 9:22; 12:42)
He did not vote in favor of Jesus’ execution.
Upon witnessing it, he was moved to openly promote his faith by facing the Roman governor and requesting responsibility for Jesus’ body. (Mark 15:43,44)
Many of Jesus’ disciples had expected Jesus to own his kingship and overthrow Roman imperialism. (John 12:13)
This false hope became a stumbling block to some of those who did not understand why he had to die.
But in the above passage, even after Jesus’ death, Joseph “was waiting for the kingdom of God.”
Opposite of stumbling, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice served to solidify Joseph’s faith in God’s son.
Furthermore, by preparing Jesus’ body for burial, he risked becoming ceremonially unclean during the Passover celebrations. (Num. 19:11; John 19:38-40)
By ‘taking courage’ and overcoming his fear of man, Joseph not only provided a burial place for the Christ, but the site of the greatest miracle recorded in the Bible. (Luke 24:1-7)