Chapter 1: Salvation
After the resurrection, today's Jehovah's Witnesses expect to live in a new paradise on earth under God's reign, because they feel that only 144,000 of the saved will go to heaven.
The Bible teaches that some will be saved and others not. When you talk to people about spiritual things, if someone were to ask you how he could be one of those who will be saved, could you answer him from the Bible?
God's Word says that the Scripture alone has all that it takes to bring us to perfection:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
It follows, therefore, that we should be able to answer the question of how one can be saved from the Bible alone without resorting to men's teachings. If we can't, how do we know that we ourselves will even be counted among God's people?
While Jehovah's Witnesses do not expect to enter God's heavenly reign after death, they want very much to be where He rules on earth. God explains that there is something that must happen before a person can even see a place where He rules: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
The Jehovah's Witnesses have complicated the issue by teaching that the Bible says that only 144,000 people will be born again and go to heaven. This is Jehovah's Witness doctrine, but no passage in the Bible presents or infers this teaching (See chapter 3). Following the teachings of their leaders, however, many Witnesses believe that after the resurrection they will be God's subjects in a new paradise on earth, and that they can enter without being born again. God says the opposite, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).
Two verses ahead, John 3:5 repeats the thought in another way, "... he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." God's word allows no other means of entrance into any place where He reigns. The next verse explains that the rebirth is spiritual, rather than physical. "What has been born from the flesh is flesh and what has been born from the spirit is spirit" (John 3:6).
Follow God's Word Because Men Make Mistakes
Pastor Russell, the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, when he revised his book, The Time is at Hand, said that he had included a mistaken interpretation in the first edition. He wrote in the author's forward when the book was reprinted:
"The author acknowledges that in this book he presents the thought that the Lord's saints might expect to be with him in glory at the end of the Gentile Times. This was a natural mistake to fall into… we drew a false conclusion, however, not authorized by the Word of the Lord."1
Can we trust Russell's statement that he fell into "a natural mistake?" He and the leaders who followed him did not claim to be infallible. When they realized they had taught doctrinal errors, at times they said so. If we can trust anything they said, we should be able to trust these statements. Therefore, in questions such as how to enter into the paradise where God reigns, when God's Word differs from the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, remember that it is God who will judge. When Christ said, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3), He said it in a way which leaves no room for exceptions, even though He knew that later some people would claim to be of a lesser class with no need to be born again.
If you asked directions and someone pointed and said, "Go north!" when the right direction was south, no matter how sincere the person was, or how often in the past he had been right, this time he was wrong. Following wrong directions would never get you to your destination. When it comes to our salvation, rejecting the teaching of God to follow the mistakes of men keeps people out of God's kingdom. To get there God says for the third time in five verses, "…Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). This third time, the New World Translation, written for Jehovah's Witnesses, makes it even more clear that they are not excluded: "Do not marvel because I told you, You people must be born again" (John 3:7). There is no other way for a Jehovah's Witness or any one else to enter, or even see, any place where God reigns, so why not be born again?
How to Be Born Again
Nicodemus wants to understand how to be born again, and asks, "How can these things be?" Jesus explains that our rebirth is accomplished by trusting Him, Jesus Christ, to save us:
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14-15).
Not just the 144,000, but everyone who believes in Christ to save him will be born again and will receive everlasting life.
In fact, as we have seen in verses three and seven, and will see again in verses 16 to 18, trusting Christ is the only way to be saved. The message of John 3:7, "Ye must be born again," cries out to your heart throughout the passage. It is not just for people of that day. It makes no distinction between an earthly kingdom and a heavenly kingdom and no exception for people who lived after 1914. It says, "whosoever." This is not a matter of trying to win an argument. Your own entrance into paradise or anywhere else where God reigns is at stake as well as the entrance of all those you are trying to help. I urge you to take God's word so seriously that you do not give the benefit of the doubt to people who "draw false conclusions" and make "natural mistakes" but to the word of Jehovah Himself.
Because of its importance in bringing people to salvation, the next verse, John 3:16 has probably been committed to memory by more people than any other Bible passage.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
God does not condition our salvation on how many visits we have made, how many books we have distributed, or on our ability to be worthy, but on the Savior's ability to save. Those of us who have trusted in Christ have received everlasting life. We testify to you that we have been born again and our spiritual lives have started. God's solution works! Why not shift your faith from whatever else you have believed, and put it in Jesus Christ. Trust Him to save you. If you do, you too will receive everlasting life. You will be born again and have a place in God's kingdom.
The very next verse explains why Christ came into the world. Understand it, and many of the Bible's teachings will fall into place and make sense.
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved"(John 3:17).
John 3:18 explains what will happen, not only to those who trust Christ, but also to those who insist on following another way:
"He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Let God's word convince you to quit trusting in what you have done or hope to do, and trust in Christ. The Bible does not admit a second chance after the resurrection. "…he that believeth not is condemned already." (See also Luke 20:35-36.)
Those who have been born again, the ones who trust Christ to save them, usually do more good works than other people. Observing this, many have fallen into a natural mistake and jumped to the wrong conclusion. They believed that these people's works must have saved them. This leads them to teach that people can be saved by doing the right works, or that at least the works will contribute something toward their salvation.
This is contrary to the scriptures, and while we will go into it more fully in the last chapter, let's glance at two of the passages that explain the relationship between faith and works:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
I am so convinced of the need to distribute Biblical literature that I directed a Biblical publishing ministry for many years, but neither distributing literature nor other fine works add anything to our salvation, because salvation is a gift that God gives us. We receive this gift through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior. There is no other way we can get it! Jesus said:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
Only by trusting Christ to save us can we receive God's gift of salvation and be born again.