(WDGR Lesson 13: “How Can You Find the True Religion?”)
What does the Bible mean when it calls Satan the “god of this system of things”? Are human governments under Satan’s control? Why did Jesus say that His Kingdom is no part of this world? In what way should Christians be separate from this world?
KAREN: Cindy, I’m confused! Our lesson in the Watchtower brochure What Does God Require of Us? says that Jehovah’s Witnesses “do not get involved in the world’s political affairs and social controversies.”1. But I was reading the “Questions from Readers” section in the November 1, 1999 Watchtower and it stated that “…during an election…some Witnesses of Jehovah go to the polling booth and others do not.”2. I’m confused! Has the Watchtower Society changed its position on voting and is now allowing Jehovah’s Witnesses to vote in political elections?
CINDY: No, Karen. Let’s look at that article and see what it really says. “First” the Watchtower Society notes that “Jesus Christ said of his followers: ‘They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.’…Jehovah’s Witnesses take this principle seriously. Being ‘no part of the world,’ they are neutral in the political affairs of the world.”3.
KAREN: Cindy, where in the Bible does it say that “being no part of the world,” means that Christians should not take part in governmental affairs of the world? The religious group “Assembly of YHWHHoshua” teaches their people that being “no part of the world” not only means that Christians should remain neutral in political affairs, but they should not “participate in the charities of the world.…or contribute to or accept any benefits from the institutions of the United States, such as Social Security, Medicare, [and] Unemployment Compensation.…”4. If “being no part of the world,” means not participating in political aspects of governmental authority, how do you know it does not apply to governmental social institutions as well? Is the Assembly of YHWHHoshua being more consistent in its separation from the world than the Jehovah’s Witness’ religion is being? How do you know where to draw the line?
CINDY: Karen, that’s a good point. I’m not sure, but one thing we know is that Christians should have no part in governmental affairs because Satan is in control of worldly governments. The Watchtower book Reasoning from the Scriptures, notes that “1 John 5:19 says, ‘the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.’ At John 14:30, Jesus referred to Satan as being ‘the ruler of the world.’ So, no matter what worldly fraction a person might support, under whose control would he really come?”5.
KAREN: Cindy, is the Society arguing that if a Christian were to get involved in the political and governmental affairs of the world, he would come under Satan’s control?
CINDY: That’s right, Karen. The Watchtower tract “Who Really Rules the World?” notes that many people often think that God rules the world. “But significantly, nowhere does the Bible say that either Jesus Christ or his Father are the real rulers of this world.”6. At 2 Corinthians 4:4, the Bible calls Satan the “the god of this system of things.” “So, then, Satan the Devil really is the unseen ruler of the world!”7.
KAREN: Did I hear you right, Cindy? The Watchtower tract says that “nowhere does the Bible say that either Jesus Christ or his Father are the real rulers of this world”? Would you read Daniel 4:17 in your Bible—The New World Translation?
CINDY: OK. “…the decree…and…the request is…that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind.…”
KAREN: Since the “Most High” is Jehovah God,8. how can the Watchtower Society argue that “nowhere does the Bible say that either Jesus Christ or his Father are the real rulers of this world,” when the Bible clearly proclaims Jehovah God as “Ruler over the realm of mankind”?9.
CINDY: Karen, I’m not sure why the Society said what they did in their tract, but in the May 1, 1996 Watchtower, the Society noted that “‘…the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.’…This does not mean that Jehovah has relinquished his sovereignty over the earth.…Satan exercises authority over the kingdoms of the world only by God’s permission.”10.
KAREN: So let me get this straight. The Society admits that Satan’s rulership is limited by Jehovah God’s sovereignty, but yet they claim that Satan controls the governments of the world so that anyone who gets involved in governmental affairs comes under the rulership of Satan?
CINDY: That’s right, Karen. At Matthew 4:8-10: “Satan tempted Jesus by offering him ‘all the kingdoms of the world.’ Yet, would Satan’s offer have been a real temptation if Satan was not actually the ruler of these kingdoms?… Could Satan have offered Jesus all these world governments if they were not his?”11.
KAREN: Cindy, is it possible to offer the use of something without actually owning it? For example, suppose a person were to rent a house from a landlord. Even though, for the duration of the lease, that person may call the house his “home,” who really owns the house? Is it the tenant, or the landlord? In the same way, does Satan legitimately own world governments, or does he merely exercise rulership over the governments through his deceptive influence?
CINDY: Well I guess you’re right, Karen. Just as the Society notes “Satan exercises authority over the kingdoms of the world only by God’s permission,”12. so I guess he does not actually own the world governments.
KAREN: Can you see why the Bible says at Romans 13:1 that the governing authorities “…which exist are established by God?”13. Since God is the one who “established” human governments, how can it be wrong for Christians to take part in God’s arrangement for maintaining law and order?
CINDY: Wait a minute, Karen! My Bible doesn’t say that God “established” the world governments. It says that “the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.”14. Just as the Watchtower Society noted in the book Knowledge that Leads to Everlasting Life, “Jehovah did not originate man’s governmental authorities, but they exist by his permission.”15.
KAREN: Cindy would you read Romans 13 verses 2 and 4 in your Bible — The New World Translation?
CINDY: Alright. “Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God.…for it is God’s minister to you for good.”
KAREN: So the Watchtower would have you believe that the governmental authorities “stand placed in their…positions by God,” but God did not establish them? They would have you believe that governments are Jehovah God’s “arrangement,” but He did not originate them? And the governments are “God’s minister,” but they are ruled and controlled by Satan? Does this make any sense to you, Cindy? How can something be Jehovah God’s “arrangement” and not truly be established and controlled by Jehovah God? Isn’t that about as ridiculous as saying that the Christian congregation is God’s arrangement, but is controlled by Satan?
CINDY: That’s a good point, Karen, but if Jehovah God is truly in control of human governments, why does the Bible say that Satan rules the world and why did Jesus say that His followers should take no part in the world because His Kingdom is not of this world?
KAREN: Cindy, in what way does Satan rule the world? At 1 John 2:15-16, the Bible says “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world.…For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”16. Since Satan rules the world through these three lusts—the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life—can you see why Christians are to be Kingdom focused and be separate from the world—not by isolating themselves from the world—but by taking no part in worldly lusts? Wouldn’t you agree there is a big difference between the isolation of oneself from the world and the separation of one’s heart from worldly influences? Which attitude do you think Jesus meant for Christians to model? Would you read Daniel 2:20-21 in your Bible?
CINDY: OK “Daniel was answering and saying: ‘Let the name of God become blessed.…he is…removing kings and setting up kings, giving wisdom to the wise ones and knowledge to those knowing discernment.’ ”17.
KAREN: Cindy, if the governments of the world are owned and controlled by Satan, why is Jehovah God “removing kings and setting up kings” in Satan’s governmental system? Doesn’t this indicate that Satan does not own or control the governments of the world, but only rules the world through his deceitful influence in the hearts of mankind? At Proverbs 21:1, the Bible says that “the king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD [Jehovah]; He turns it wherever He wishes.”18. Since Jehovah God is intimately involved in the governmental affairs of the world—even to the point of changing kings’ hearts—how can it be wrong for Christians to take part in God’s “arrangement” for the present rulership of mankind?
Friends, throughout history, in order to fulfill God’s purposes, faithful servants of Jehovah have held prominent positions of authority in human government. At Genesis 41, Jehovah God raised Joseph up to the position of prime minister of Egypt (second only to Pharaoh), in order to preserve God’s chosen people through an impending seven year famine. Likewise, during the Babylonian exile, Daniel and his fellow Jewish brothers submitted to State training and became high-ranking governmental officials in the pagan system of Babylon. Even after the fall of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty to the Medo-Persian empire, Daniel maintained his high position of authority19. as he uncompromisingly held Jehovah’s standards in all of his duties. Just as God’s faithful servants of old advanced His purposes on the earth by upholding integrity through their governmental duties, so true Christians today endeavor to preserve righteousness in human society by their involvement in the political and social concerns of the culture.
1. What Does God Require of Us?, 1996, p. 27:7
2. The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 29
3. The Watchtower, November 1, 1999, p. 28
4. Encyclopedia of American Religions: Religious Creeds, vol. II, J. Gordon Melton, Editor (Gale Research Company, 1988), p. 399
5. Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, 1989ed, p. 273
6. Who Really Rules The World?, 1992, p. 2
7. Who Really Rules The World?, pp. 2-3
8. See Daniel’s Prophecy, 1999, pp. 92-93
9. New American Standard Bible
10. The Watchtower, May 1, 1996, p. 10
11. Who Really Rules the World?, p. 3-4
12. The Watchtower, May 1, 1996, p. 10
13. New American Standard Bible
14. New World Translation
15. Knowledge That Leads To Everlasting Life, 1995, p. 132
16. New American Standard Bible
17. New World Translation
18. New American Standard Bible
19. See Daniel 5:30-31