By Clarence W. Fell
How many times has this happened to you? You are settling down for a quiet evening after a hard day’s work. You pour a glass of ice tea, kick your shoes off and grab the TV remote control or your favorite book. Everything is going great until you hear a knock at the door. “Maybe it’s a friend,” you say to yourself. “I’d enjoy some casual conversation.” You open the door. To your disappointment it’s a stranger. Probably a salesman. You start thinking of how to cut his sales pitch short while he introduces himself. In the midst of your thoughts you catch the name Jehovah’s Witness and before you know it this guy is quoting Psalms 37:29, “The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell in it forever,” and explaining how the righteous will live forever in paradise on earth.
You counter with 2 Peter 3:10. He counters with Matthew 5:5 and on and on the battle rages throwing verses after verse back and forth at one another making very little, if any, progress.
I would like to suggest a different approach.
When told the world will stand “forever” ask the Jehovah’s Witness what “forever” means. Refer him to some examples where “forever” does not mean time without end. Some examples, from their Bible are:
Amos 1:11 (NWT): “. . . he ruined his own merciful qualities, and his anger keeps tearing away forever; and his fury he has kept it perpetually.”
Hab. 6:6 (NWT): And the eternal mountains got to be smashed.”
Exod. 31:17 (NWT): . . . The sabbath, “. . . is a sign to time indefinite. . . ” (see also Exod. 28:43; 29:28).
These passages use the same Hebrew word as found in Psalms 37:29 though the NWT does not always use “forever” to translate it.
Having pointed out to the Jehovah’s Witness that the word “forever” does not always mean absolute time without end, ask him, “How are we to decide which applies to the earth?” Offer to answer the question by letting the Bible show how to apply the word “forever” to the earth. You can even use their Bible, the New World Translation, if you want.
Read Psalms 102:25-26 (NWT): “Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They themselves will perish, but you yourself will keep standing, and just like a garment they will all of them wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will finish their turn.” Now ask the Jehovah’s Witness, “Does it appear that God intended ‘forever’ to be understood in the absolute sense as it applies to the earth?”
Read Matthew 24:35 (NWT): “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (also Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33). Again ask, “Does it appear that God intended ‘forever’ to be understood in the absolute sense as it applies to the earth?”
Read Isaiah 51:6 (NWT): “For the very heavens must be dispersed in fragments just like smoke, and like a garment itself will wear out. . . ” Again ask, “Does it appear that God intended ‘forever’ to be understood in the absolute sense as it applies to the earth?” Keep emphasizing that “forever” doesn’t always mean “time without end” and focus on letting the Bible define the term in reference to earth.
Obviously, it does not take a college degree to see how God uses “forever” when referring to the earth. However, it is doubtful that the Jehovah’s Witness will immediately convert at this point. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have many complex tricks in their little bags of doctrinal error. Be careful. Do not underestimate them.
The above approach is not a magic silver bullet. However, it will give you another tool to use when confronted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and maybe, just maybe, you will plant a seed that will begin to grow.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 17, p. 517
September 6, 1990