Note: Taken from a letter to a Jehovah's Witness...
I got this book a while back about the Jehovah's Witnesses and their beliefs. It's called "Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses". An as introduction it points out among other things, that
1) Witnesses are warned that friends and relatives will try to persuade them to leave the organization and suggests that they're just supposed to ignore them.
2) Witnesses are not supposed to read or listen to former-Jehovah's Witnesses.
3) Unquestioned obedience to Watchtower doctrines is expected of them. (including unquestioned acceptance of the Watchtower Bible)
If it's true that you'll systematically reject anything that contradicts the Watchtower's teaching, then this may be a waste of time to read. If, on the other hand, you really want to know (or prove) the truth, keep reading and thinking.
It's a mystery to me why you should automatically classify a former-Jehovah's Witness as an apostate and totally reject them. After all, if they've been in your position, they would at least know where you are coming from.
Both your Bible and mine instructs, "Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are." II Corinthians 13:5. And I Thessalonians tells us to "Test everything". So, that's what I want to do here, Test Jehovah Witness theology. I want you to understand that and not take it as a personal attack.
If you never TEST it, you'll never know if it's true or not. If you TEST it, and it passes the test, then you'll have more confidence and be better able to defend what you believe. If you TEST it and it fails, then you know you need to keep searching for the truth.
Think about that before you read on.
You quoted a lot of scripture and that's great. It's primarily through God's written word that we can know and preach His message. Unfortunately, I've found that the Jehovah's Witnesses purpose, as most organized religions is to use scripture to point to itself, or defend its own teachings. That's what you seem to do in the letter in focusing on the "kingdom". The purpose of scripture, however, is rather like Paul said, "For teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
And Paul told Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."
Anyway, in debate style, let's look at what you write.
You asked, "What is God's kingdom?" And then you quote from Daniel 2:44. In your comments, you use the term kingdom and government interchangeably. That might work. But, it might not. A kingdom is an area or a group of people, ruled by a king. The word government, though, has a meaning that suggests an organization. In other words, that God will "establish a kingdom", may not mean that he would set up a government in the sense we think of governments.
When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, it wasn't what He had in mind. At one time He talked about the kingdom of God being evidenced by the fact that he was healing people, God was ruling, but without a government. In Luke, He tells us that the kingdom of God is within and warns us not to follow others, that He would return and his day would come.
"The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is within (or among, in the midst of) you. And he said to the disciples, 'The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, 'Lo, there!' or 'Lo, here!' Do not go, do not follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day." Luke 17:20-24
You then quote more of Daniel, about rulership of the kingdom and Jesus Christ as the king. And then you quote some of Jesus' Matthew 24 prophesy with the conclusion that these things would be happening when God's government takes over. The problem is that Jesus is not describing the coming of the kingdom Daniel was talking about. The conversation started with Jesus' comment that the temple would be destroyed, "there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down." That's when the disciples asked about
a) when this (temple destruction) will be, and
b) what will be the sign of His coming, and of the end of the age.
The establishment of God's kingdom here is obviously as a consequence of the happenings that follow, but it's not specifically described. In particular, Jesus was describing His coming and the end of the age.
Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come." Then He describes,
a) when the temple destruction will be, "When you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel...."
b) the sign of His coming, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the starts will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and THEY WILL SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Jesus also tells us that "HEAVEN AND EARTH WILL PASS AWAY, but my words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."
The problems with this and Jehovah's Witness theology are
1) Jesus isn't setting up a government at all. His first event is to return and gather his elect.
2) Everyone will see it.
3) The earth isn't lasting forever. It will pass away. Jesus said so.
4) The "gospel of the kingdom" is the gospel message that Jesus preached and instructed his disciples to preach (Matthew 28:18-20), to make disciples of Christ. The Jehovah's Witness gospel is 'Lo, here is the kingdom'. (Remember Jesus' warning)
This is where we need to "Test". If Jesus says one thing and the teaching of the WatchTower Society teaches something just the opposite, we need to figure it out. That works in well with your next point.
You quote Psalms 37, "The meek ones themselves will possess the earth. The righteous themselves will possess the earth and they will reside forever (or indefinitely) upon it."
You then conclude that these scriptures show that God made the earth for mankind to possess forever, and that original purpose has never changed. You've just read that Jesus said earth would pass away and Peter says, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a load noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the EARTH and the works that are upon it WILL BE BURNED UP." If that's so, how can the earth be possessed forever? Does God contradict himself?
No, the Psalm doesn't teach that the earth would last forever. Instead, it teaches that the meek will possess the earth, the righteous will possess the earth. It's teaching is about the meek and the righteous, not the earth. And they did NOT live forever. Of course, the principle was and is that the righteous would possess the land as long as they lived, indefinitely. The Proverbs teach many similar principles. When the Bible talks specifically about the earth, it unquestionably tells us that it will pass away. Jesus said it, Peter said it, and John also gives us this warning about the world, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. In any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the WORLD PASSES AWAY..."
WHERE is God's kingdom. It's not on a physical earth. Jesus tells us that the kingdom is within. (Luke 17:21) The kingdom is where God rules (in our heart), and consists of things like righteousness, peace and joy. (Romans 14:17) Being a part of the kingdom of God was directly linked to our character. That's what Jesus taught in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
As you know, above all else, Jehovah's Witnesses and the WatchTower Society teaches that the kingdom is directly linked to their organization or government, but the Bible doesn't teach that kind of kingdom at all.
You say that "there are grand blessings near for us if we only endure and obey. ... The point is that we just try. God knows our hearts. That is what he judges us by."
That sounds good, but just trying is not good enough. The Bible never says that. And Jesus didn't think so. He required faith, rebirth and stuff like that. Our future existance isn't dependent upon our works or protected by our sincerity. There are sincere humanitarian atheists, buddhists and humanists. We must put our faith in Jesus. Trying and trusting aren't the same thing, and faith is the mark of the righteous. Yes, God knows our hearts, but He also requires that we seek Him with all our heart. If, instead, we put our trust in concepts that make us feel comfortable, well... God knows our hearts.
What he does require is for us to SEEK him. Our hope doesn't need to be in an organization. And our hope should not be focused on some physical existance. Instead, our hope and focus should be on God himself. It is His working in our lives and the teaching of the Holy Spirit that will make our earthly existance one of peace and joy. And if we die before Jesus returns, we can have the assurance that, as Paul said, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."
MANY, MANY religions base their beliefs on a mixture of scripture verses taken out of context. Journalists do that with politicians speeches and news reports all the time. When that's done, you can't be sure what was really said. You have to look at the evidence. When it comes to the Bible, we have it, we can study it for ourselves. Because of the context, even the Watchtower's CUSTOM bible cannot hide all the truths with it's editing. And finally, we have the Greek text and suitable reference material available for our own study of it. In other words, you can look at all the evidence.
One of the best ways to really study the Bible to know what it says, is to study each book in its context. In many cases, it's self-clarifying. Romans, for example, clearly debates the gospel and the necessity of why it is the way it is. Similarly, prophetic books like Daniel need to be studied in the historical context in which it was written if you really want to know what he's talking about.
As God's Spirit leads, we can know the truth and not have to depend on someone else.
So, there, a nice long letter. I like letters because they give you plenty of time to think it through.
P.S. What about persecution? Many people feel that persecution validates ones beliefs. Not so. Persecution is one of those universal things. Christians are often persecuted. Being a member of a different church or cult may result in persecution. Being excommunicated from a Catholic church might be persecution. And, I understand, even Kingdom Hall will disfellowship you for leaving, and that could be called persecution, too. The important thing is, only the truth is worth it.