How do you choose that life in the new world? By raising your hand, by shouting ‘Aye’, by saying ‘Lord, I would like to live then’? No; you choose that life in the same way that you choose the present one. And how do you choose to live now? By breathing, drinking, eating, sleeping and working, yes; but stated more broadly, it is by the course of action that you take. And it is action, please note, that is not dictated or determined by you, but rather it is action according to the dictates of the body. The body sets its terms, forces you to meet its requirements. So it is in choosing life in the new world. It is not by merely saying you would like to live then, but the choice is made by the course of action you take. And here again the action is not determined by the individual. Jehovah God is the one who establishes that new world and gives persons life in it. He gives it on his own terms, and we must meet his requirements. Refusal to act in accord with his requirements now is choosing death instead of everlasting life, just as surely as refusal to breathe in response to the body’s demands would mean death to our physical organism now.
Some believe that doing what they think is right is sufficient, that if they do good to their fellow man they will gain God’s approval and eternal life. But on this vital matter we must let God speak and not allow final decisions to rest upon fallible human creatures. Jesus’ conversation with a rich young ruler is enlightening on this point: “Now, look! a certain one came up to him and said: ‘Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?’ He said to him: ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is that is good. If, though, you want to enter into life, observe the commandments continually.’ He said to him: ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said: ‘Why, You must not murder, You must not commit adultery, You must not steal, You must not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him: ‘I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?’ Jesus said to him: ‘If you want to be complete, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.’ When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions.”—Matt. 19:16-22, NW.
Certainly this young man was doing much good. He was living a clean life, committing no murders or adulteries or thefts. He was not a liar, honored his father and mother, and in showing the same love for his neighbor as for himself he must have been active in charitable works. His reputation in the community must have been high. Yet after all this Jesus said to him, “If you want to be complete”; obviously meaning that with all the clean personal conduct and charitable works to his credit he was still not complete so far as meeting Jehovah’s requirements for eternal life. He was incomplete. He must unburden himself of his excessive possessions, the looking after of which would consume so much of his time and energy. He must shake himself loose from all these business obligations and cares in order to free himself for the really vital activity required of those who wanted to be complete so far as meeting the requirements for eternal life. He must be a follower of Christ Jesus. That means he would have to study God’s Word, determine God’s will, dedicate himself to the doing of that will, faithfully carry out that dedication, following in the footsteps of Jesus, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom as did his Exemplar and Model for Christians.—1 Pet. 2:21, NW.
Many persons will argue that we have met Jehovah’s requirements if we love our neighbor as ourselves, which means unselfishly doing good to our neighbors; but that this is not true is further shown by these words: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself”. What so many persons fail to note here is that neighbor love comes last in this listing of the requirements. Made foremost is love for Jehovah, which must be shown with the whole heart, whole soul, whole strength and whole mind, with nothing divided or held back. How is this love without reservations to be shown? “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” Doing this first, and loving neighbor secondly, we meet God’s requirements; for Jesus said of such obedient ones: “Keep on doing this and you will get life.”—Luke 10:27, 28; 1 John 5:3, NW.
Actually, a person who claims that God’s requirements are met by one’s doing good according to one’s own conscience is merely applying a salve to his conscience, to soothe it as he goes in his own selfish way. But this is more than a salve to conscience, and to name what it is additionally is far from soothing. Bluntly put, the belief that doing good according to one’s own viewpoint is sufficient is nothing less than rank idolatry! This is forcefully shown by the case where Israel’s King Saul chose to follow his own will in a matter rather than Jehovah’s, and to him Samuel said: “Self-will is [as] iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Sam. 15:23, Da) The same position is taken at Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:5, New World Translation, where it is shown that to greedily satisfy personal desires is idolatry. To stubbornly hold to one’s own will, to exalt one’s own will above the will of God, to make it the guide instead of God’s, is to idolize one’s own will in a most ridiculous and suicidal way. “Guard yourselves from idols,” including this vain and conceited one of personal will. (1 John 5:21, NW) So just to do good to our fellow man in accord with what we think is right is not the way to choose life in Jehovah’s new world, but is a falling into the subtle snare of idolatry in disguise, which snare is set by Satan and triggered by human vanity and conceit.
FOLLOWING JUST ANY RELIGION NOT ENOUGH
But now someone will say: ‘I do not idolize my own will, I do not follow my own will in matters of worship. I belong to one of the recognized church organizations and I follow what that organization teaches and conform my life to its precepts. I think that if a person sincerely follows any one of the many religions he will be approved by Jehovah God.’ Is that position correct? If the religious organization does not teach and act in accord with God’s will recorded in the Bible, but operates on a religious creed of its own, how different is it from someone’s following his own personal will? It is still idolatry, only this time the person is idolizing an organization instead of himself. Again let God speak on this vital issue, as he does through his Son: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Master, Master,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day: ‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you at all. Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Jesus continued his argument, showing that those who heard his teaching and acted accordingly were like a man who builds his house on rock and which weathers the most violent storms, whereas those failing to do so were like the man who built on sand and whose house collapsed in the tempest.—Matt. 7:21-27, NW.
If a man builds on wrong foundations his work will not endure. If a religious house is erected on the shifting sands of tradition and creed instead of on the solid foundation of God’s Word, its crash will be great and destructive at Armageddon’s storm. It is not enough for a man or organization to take God or Christ’s name on the lips. It is not the performance of charitable works or ceremonial rituals in God’s name that counts. It is not the performance of certain formalisms or practices prescribed by a religious organization that brings divine approval. It is not such outward lip service or ceremonial display, but, as Jesus said, it is the one who does God’s will that gains eternal life. If the religious organization is not teaching God’s will, is not following it accurately, then its adherents are likewise missing the mark, regardless of how sincerely they may conform to the organization’s will. Their protests that they did many works in Christ’s name would only bring his retort: “Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” It is God’s will that is divinely lawful; contrary wills of persons or organizations are lawlessness in Jehovah’s sight.
Take note of what is recorded at Matthew 15:12-14, NW: “The disciples came up and said to him: ‘Do you know that the Pharisees stumbled at hearing what you said?’ In reply he said: ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’” The Pharisees headed a recognized religious organization of that day, and it must be assumed that some of them and their followers were sincere, because a few of such believed in Christ. (Acts 6:7; 15:5) They did not cling to the sect of the Pharisees, thinking that it was only required to be associated with some religious organization. They abandoned the organization when they learned it was wrong, knowing that it was not planted by God and was due to be uprooted and destroyed, and that both the blind leaders and blind followers associated with it accompany it to the ditch of destruction. If these religious plants or organizations do not bring forth fruit to Jehovah’s honor in harmony with his will and requirements, they will be pruned to the ground and left with neither root nor branch.—Matt. 3:10.
Who can start a new religion, contrary to God’s written will and Word? “Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed,” wrote the inspired apostle Paul. (Gal. 1:8, NW) If even a high and mighty angel from heaven cannot start a new gospel without being accursed, then certainly no man on earth can do so with immunity. Any who declare as gospel or good news something that is different from what is recorded in Jehovah’s Word is accursed in God’s sight, whether he is sincere in his declarations or not. Sincerity does not make a wrong thing right.
SINCERITY NOT ENOUGH
Clearly indicating that sincerity or zeal in a religious organization that is not following God’s Word is insufficient, Romans 10:2, 3 (NW) declares: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” These persons had zeal and they must have been sincere, but they did not act in accord with accurate knowledge of God’s Word. They did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own. In their stubbornness and pride in thinking their own religious ideas right and zealously trying to prove them so, they failed to subject themselves to the righteousness of God and his Word.
That is the way it is with so many false religions today. They have their creeds and doctrinal beliefs, pluck texts from their setting to support them, and brush aside any scriptures that contradict them. They zealously press on to establish as righteous their own beliefs, not allowing God’s Word to have final say on the matter and not listening to that Word in its entirety, but selecting what suits their purpose and wresting what does not, rather than conforming their belief to the untwisted, unwrested, pure word of truth in the Bible. Such ones lack meekness and teachableness. They are proud, they are stubborn, they refuse to admit wrong. Clinging tenaciously to their self-will in religious belief, they make themselves idolaters according to the divine rule. They may even go to the extreme of killing one of Jehovah’s true witnesses, sincerely thinking that in so doing they serve God. “The hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me,” said Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, their sincerity does not make murder right.—John 16:2, 3, NW.
If sincerity were the determining factor, why should God bother with providing the Bible? He could look upon the heart and judge on the grounds of sincerity or insincerity, and save or destroy on that basis. (1 Sam. 16:7) Accurate knowledge is necessary, and lack of it has brought to ruin professed servants of Jehovah: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.” (Hos. 4:6) Hence Jehovah God provided the Bible to guide our steps: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105; Jer. 10:23) It is not an unnecessary provision that can be set aside in favor of personal ideas or individual will or sectarian creeds. All the religious organizations of Christendom are not merely different roads leading to the same place of salvation. It is the road to destruction that is broad enough to accommodate itself to the many meandering trails of the hundreds of different sects and cults, whereas the road to life is so narrow and cramped that it allows for no deflection from the Bible’s guiding precepts: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matt. 7:13, 14, NW.
The many different religious roads lead to the same place no more so than do the many different automobile roads. The above words of Jesus show that the vast majority of religious roads are dead-end streets. The Bible is the Christian’s road map and it points to both the narrow way to life and the broad way to destruction. Many different religious organizations have tried to superimpose on the Bible their own religious roads built out of ceremony and creed. The broad way to destruction is spacious enough to embrace all these false religious roads, but none of them really matches the narrow and cramped road to life. The addition of traditional and creedal trails may make the supposed way to salvation seem broad and easy and inviting. But it ends in death.
Consider this illustration. You may be traveling in your car, with a certain destination in mind. You have a road map, but you have not bothered to look at it. Someone has told you the road to take. You trust him implicitly, sincerely believing the way he has directed you is correct. But suppose it is not. If you follow this wrong road, sincerely believing it will take you to the place you wish to go, will your mere sincerity cause the road to end up at your desired destination? If you are on the wrong road and do not know it, would you appreciate having another person set you right? Or would you be angry? Would you think this person intolerant? Would you think he was showing hatred against the one who directed you wrong in the first place? Would you believe him if he could show you where you were wrong by referring you to your own road map? Or would pride or stubbornness prevent you from acknowledging your mistake, and push you doggedly on down the wrong road? You would hardly be so ridiculous.
Yet many persons traveling the wrong religious roads are just that ridiculous. They are not guided by the divine road map, the Bible. They follow their own ideas or the directions of some clergyman or religious organization, sincerely believing they will arrive in heaven by so doing. Tell them they are on the wrong road, and you are a bigot, a know-it-all, a sower of intolerance. Take their own Bible. Read to them, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Yet they cling to the sectarian path that the soul is immortal. Read to them, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. . . . The dead know not any thing.” Yet they clutch even tighter their cult’s direction that the dead are conscious. Read to them, “The wages sin pays is death.” Yet they march unwaveringly along the creedal trail that the wages of sin is eternal torment. Read to them, “The earth abideth for ever.” They still hold fast to their clergyman’s teaching that the earth is to be burned up. Patiently point out the trail of true worship from the Bible road map, show the inspired warning that this way would be obscured and voided by the traditions and doctrines of false religious leaders, yet they refuse to budge from the wrong road and their mounting anger and stubbornness and pride slam shut the door of their mind. Sincere? Perhaps; but their blind following of their blind guides will land them in the ditch of destruction instead of at their desired destination.—Ps. 146:4; Eccl. 1:4; 9:5; Ezek. 18:4; Matt. 15:1-9; Rom. 6:23, NW.
There are numerous scriptures that establish the truth that sincerity alone is insufficient. “What man thinks a right course, may end upon the road to death. He who goes wrong must take the consequences.” (Prov. 14:12, 14, Mo) The road thought right might nonetheless lead to death, and the mere thinking that it is right does not allow one to escape the consequences of a wrong course. “A fool is sure that his own way is right: sensible men will listen to advice.” (Prov. 12:15, Mo) The inexhaustible source of sound advice is God’s Word, and Jehovah’s true servants on earth heed it and declare it, and sensible ones hear it and conform to it, but fools conceitedly press on in their own stubborn way. “He who grows wise is a friend to himself; . . . Man thinks out many a plan, but ’tis the Eternal’s purpose that prevails.” (Prov. 19:8, 21, Mo) So we must get wise to ourselves if we are going to be friends to ourselves, not allowing our own ideas and plans to conflict with God. We may plan things one way, but Jehovah is not bound by our plans. His purpose is to give life to those who obey him, not to those who obey themselves; and it is his purpose in this matter of salvation that will prevail. “Man’s ways are always right in his own eyes, but the Eternal has the verdict on his life.” (Prov. 21:2, Mo) So it is not man’s sincerity in his own ways that counts for life or death, but it is Jehovah’s will in the matter that settles the verdict. All the sincerity in the world will not transform the dead-end streets of men and false religions into through streets to eternal life in Jehovah’s new world!
THE COURSE FOR CHOOSING LIFE
How are we to determine the course of action that will lead us in the right way, that will show we choose to live in the new world? It is not what a Catholic priest says, or what a Protestant preacher says, or what a Jewish rabbi says, or even what one of Jehovah’s witnesses says. It is not what some world ruler says, or what you read in the newspaper, or hear over the radio, or see through television—not what any of these propaganda channels barrage our minds with. It is not what men say; it is what Jehovah God says in his Word. Let God get a word in edgewise! Let him speak for himself! Let him be heard through his Word! Study the Bible! Some will lamely excuse themselves with, “I’m too busy.” But how much time do those persons spend reading newspapers? listening to the radio? looking at television? reading novels? seeing movies? or pursuing pleasures in other ways? They have a poor sense of values. A man will study seven or eight years to learn how to become a surgeon, but balks at spending seven or eight minutes studying to be Jehovah’s servant. He is all eyes for the dollar signs of a high-salaried profession, but blind to the Bible road signs that point to eternal life. He is all ears when money talks, but deaf when God’s Word speaks. Nevertheless, there are many hundreds of thousands out of earth’s many millions that will take time to listen and learn and gain the right to live.
As these meek ones study they learn that Christ’s kingdom is the only hope for mankind. They read of the conditions that would be in the earth when this invisible kingdom would be established in the heavens, and look about them and see that this is that time, the last days of Satan’s world and the incoming days of Jehovah’s new world. They further learn that they should preach this good news to others, on the streets, from door to door, in the homes, at public assemblies, thus proving their love for God by obeying his commands. Jesus did it; his followers must. (Matt. 24:14; Luke 8:1; 13:26; Acts 5:42; 17:17; 20:20) This faithful course will bring persecution, but endurance to the end will bring life in the new world.—Matt. 5:10-12; 24:9-13; 2 Tim. 3:12; 4:2, NW.
Not all persons will endure the persecution that precedes the new world living. In fact, it must be acknowledged that not all persons would even like life in that new world. If their idea of pleasure is sucking smoke into their lungs, or sniffing dope up their nostrils, or pouring alcohol down their throats as if it were water, or glutting their stomach on rich foods until they cannot swallow another bite, then they would not like that new world. If they are always wanting their neighbor’s wife, or seeking a divorce from their own, or wanting to steal something from their fellow man, or desiring to shoot someone with a cannon, or sizzle men with flame throwers, or blow women and children to bits with bombs, then they would not like that new world. If they yearn to see how much material wealth they can pile up at the expense of others, or how much adulation of creatures they can capture by being pompous clergymen, or how many men they can command or kill as a swaggering military figure, then they would not relish the new world at all. None of those activities will exist therein.
But, on the other hand, if you would like to subdue the earth, transform it into fields yielding food or into parks yielding beauty, make the deserts blossom, see thorns and thistles give way to fir and myrtle trees, to properly safeguard some areas of profuse jungle or majestic mountains as habitats for many animals and as silent praisers of the Creator, then you would like the new world. If you would be pleased to exercise dominion over animals, not with guns or whips or bars, but through love and mutual trust; if you long for the time when the bear and the calf will lie together, the leopard and the kid will feed together, when the lion will eat straw like the ox, and if you would like to see the day when all these animals will docilely follow the leading of a little child, then you would like the new world. If your heart aches for the time when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, when there will be no military schools, no learning of war, no making of bombs, no fomenters of war, then you will thank God for his new world wherein this change will occur. If you wish for the time when oppressive political rule will vanish and commercial greed will be missing, when men will build their own houses and inhabit them and dwell in peace under their own vine and fig tree, when the earth will ring with the happy cries of children and vibrate to the stirring songs of birds, and the air will be exhilarating with the fragrance of flowers, then you will thrill to the new world. If it is your heartfelt hope to see the day when the lame will leap like a hart, to hear the tongue of the dumb sing, to watch the eyes of the blind open, to observe the ears of the deaf unstopped, to witness sighing and crying give way to smiles, and tears and mourning give way to laughter, and pain and death give way to health and eternal life, then there is nothing that you will let block your way of attaining the blessed new world wherein such conditions will exist forever.—Isa. 2:4; 11:6-9; 35:1-10; 55:13; 65:17-25; Rev. 21:1, 4.
Most of the twenty-four hours in a day we now spend keeping ourselves alive. Eight of those hours we pass in sleep. Eight more we spend working, in order to gain material sustenance and substance to cling to this life filled with pain and disappointment. How long will we work to gain new world living? Eight hours a day? Is the new life worth three times as much as the old, meriting twenty-four hours of labor for it? Not three times better, or a hundred times better, or a thousand times better. It is so much better that it defies comparison with this present life. We should dedicate all, hold back nothing, in pursuit of the course that will gain it for us. We should appreciate that it is not the sincere doing of good as we see it, or the sincere following of a form of worship as some orthodox religious organization sees it, but we must discern that it is the sincere doing of God’s will set forth in his Word the Bible that will set us in the course to new world living. In this day of judgment, when Christ the King divides the people of all nations as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, we should appreciate that all persons are fixing their eternal destiny. Whether on the basis of what they are doing or on the basis of what they are not doing, they are choosing either life or death. (Matt. 25:31-46) Now is the time for choosing. Is your choice for life or death? What answer does your course of action give?