Thanks for the account. I had often been curious how either side of the debate should address the issue of living on paradise earth forever in light of the fact that most conditions in God's creation are not perpetual (save perhaps half lives for particles such as protons). And as you point out in particular - the sun.
To many who are close to me, I get the impression that they are looking forward to enjoying here on earth a perpetual corporate picnic with some of their relatives. While some might be "sisters" and "brothers" ( and others not JWs are consigned to other fates), it is obvious that they would not want to be stuck in an elevator with them for several minutes, much less a billion years. And I have never known of anyone's holiday with family that didn't need an eventual break.
But whether one believes in another plane of existence after life in this plane or not, there seem to be a lot of negating evidence to weigh against the inferences from a garden incident in chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis, Isaiah's verses about lions and lambs, and the notion that dead who are asleep will "awake" and walk about as before only with a greater degree of perfection. The geological record tosses in our faces records of carnivores on earth for ages past. The account of creation in chapter one is in discord with chapter 2. Our knowledge of stars is that they are born and die - and we can watch the process in the sky even now. The Hertzsprung Russell color and brightness diagram of star clusters is simply a snapshot of which ones are still alive and which ones have passed on in regions of the sky where they came to be at closely the same time. The Watchtower handouts neither account for food chains in the environment or the sources of solar energy. Are we to believe that the whole cosmos was transformed and handed over to Satan because of an account about a serpent and a tree?
While the sun might continue to produce helium from hydrogen for another several billion years, as the process is understood, even as it has done so it is getting hotter. When it started its main sequence combustion over four billion years ago, it was perhaps 20 or 30% less luminous. A billion years from now the Earth would certainly be much hotter - unless other provisions are made such as it becoming further removed. And what of the moon which is slowly drifting away? Will once it escapes come back and collide or will providence watch over that too? Will the seas and water cycle continue to function without fauna devouring fauna? In eternity will all these things be attended to by God, by 144,000 elect in heaven or by those to remain on Earth forever?
In the last week I had a similar encounter to the one you describe, but I confess it was of my own making. I was aware that groups of senior JWs from local KHs stop off at the same coffee house where I am now typing out this post on wi-fi. Since I had continued to be concerned about verses that had placed a divide in my house and family I went over and asked these individuals engaged in field service about several lines in Jeremiah - 25:8-11 to get us on track, and then 25:12 that follows. The first was cited as evidence that a 70-year desolation on Jerusalem had been invoked by God, and the next verse stated that an immediate permanent desolation would be put into effect on Babylon. I cited historical evidence that the second statement was untrue: that Babylon remained an important center for the Persians repeatedly cited in history and it was Alexander's intended capital, the place he eventually died in the 320s BC.
The most senior of the elders acted as spokesman. He said he was not familiar with the passages, but said that "we" take the Bible as our source for truth over all secular sources of information. And, of course, it was understood by all, that since I questioned the authority of a given verse, that I was questioning belief in God or his word.
My immediate reaction to this was, if statements from the Bible were offered as proofs, then why are they not allowed any test?
Before we resolved any of this, we went on to other issues. I asked that if there had been an early general apostacy in Christianity ( and they said that it occurred right after all the original apostles had died), then how could it be that the Bible would be compiled by deliberations among apostates several centuries later? They assumed that the books had always been obvious; and that it had never been a matter of choosing among books or scrolls claiming "Yes, I knew Jesus Christ..."
I asked, what about a books like the Maccabees vs. Daniel or Isaiah? The elder simply declared: I know nothing of the Maccabees and it is not part of the Bible. " If you no nothing of it, then how do you know it has no bearing? Are you not simply using a traditional Protestant canon. How is it that you can cite Daniel who provides dreamy 2nd century BC prophecies and errors in other matters, but straight accounts of the 2nd century events must be disregarded?
Shortly it was apparent that everyone on that side of the table had had enough. But it was only later that I realized that their belief in the literal inerrancy of the Bible, as is often the case, had placed them in a difficult corner from which to extract themselves. Verses from Ezra (e.g., 8:1) and Nehemiah strongly support Babylon's continued existence.
Ezr 8:1 These [are] now the chief 7218 of their fathers 1 , and [this is] the genealogy 3187 of them that went up 5927 with me from Babylon 894 , in the reign 4438 of Artaxerxes 783 the king 4428.
Neh 13:6 But in all this [time] was not I at Jerusalem 3389 : for in the two 8147 and thirtieth 7970 year 8141 of Artaxerxes 783 king 4428 of Babylon 894 came 935 I unto the king 4428 , and after 7093 certain days 3117 obtained I leave 7592 of the king 4428 :
Ezr 6:1 Then 116 Darius 1868 the king 4430 made 7761 a decree 2942 , and search 1240 was made in the house 1005 of the rolls 5609 , where 8536 the treasures 1 596 were laid up 5182 in Babylon 895 .