I once more had a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness (and a new partner) focused largely (but not completely) on the kingdom of God. After numerous conversations on the kingdom of God, it is clear that we just don’t agree.
I believe the kingdom has always been in heaven, began to appear on earth during the ministry of Jesus and will come in fullness when Jesus returns. They believe that the kingdom didn’t begin in heaven until 1914 and won’t appear on earth at all until Jesus returns. My Jehovah’s Witness friend wisely said that it is not our opinions that matter, only what the Bible says. I agree but I think my interpretation reflects what the Bible says.
We spent some time looking at Revelation 12.
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1-6)
We had significant disagreement on the interpretation of this process. They saw the woman as the angelic hosts in heaven and the child as the kingdom of God. I don’t see that as all. I believe a plainer reading is that the woman is Israel and the child is Jesus. See my post Who is the Woman in Revelation 12?
We then began to talk about the date of 1914. I reminded them that Russell could have been wrong with his date of the kingdom being established in heaven and they would never know. They said that everyone agrees that 1914 was the turning point of history. As a student of history, I know that’s not true. I would say that the events of the Second World War were even more significant.
I then pointed them to 1844, often called the Great Disappointment. William Miller attempted to calculate the time of the end, similar to how Charles Taze Russell did. Like Russell’s (many) predictions, nothing happened. But groups, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, reinterpreted is an event taking place in heaven rather than earth.
I had hoped to eventually move toward talking about Jesus. They gave me my chance when they called Jesus an angel. I jumped on that one pretty quick. I could have argued for the Trinity and how Jesus was not a created being but I went for something simpler.
I pointed them toward Hebrews 1.
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. (Hebrews 1:3-4)
The author of Hebrews continues to argue that Jesus is far superior to the angels. I showed that the author doesn’t say that Jesus is the best of the angels, but that he is far superior to all angels. I thought their responses to that was pretty weak. That Hebrews demonstrates that Jesus is not an angel is pretty weak.
Somehow we got to the resurrection of Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. They believe his physical body disintegrated in the tomb, leaving him as a spirit being. I quickly went to Luke 24.
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:36-39)
Again, I think this is clear that Jesus is not just a spirit but has flesh and bones. I don’t know how Jesus could be any plainer. But they responded that Jesus really was just spirit and that he took on flesh and bones to be visible to the disciples, as angels sometimes do.
I have never come across a passage that describes angels as having flesh and bones. Also, Jesus could have revealed himself without becoming physical. Plus, later in the passage, Jesus actually eats food to prove he is not just a spirit being.
Truth be told, as they left my house, I could only shake my head. There is some pretty bad interpretations by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.