Growing Old and Dying on the Paradise Earth

by Leolaia 32 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Leolaia

    The standard Watchtower teaching about the coming "Paradise Earth" has, as its most prominent feature, the promise of everlasting life and eternal youth. This expectation is especially based on such texts as Revelation 21:1-4 which declares: "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.... Here God lives among men. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no mourning or sadness. The former things have passed away".

    This passage is based on a pastiche of OT texts describing the future glory of restored Israel, including Ezekiel 37:27 and Isaiah 8:8, 25:8, 35:10, 62:5, 65:17. The Society also interprets many of these original OT texts as also referring to the promised "Paradise Earth". The passage about there being "no more death" is based on Isaiah 25:7, which describes the eschatological banquet on the mountain of God during which "Death will be destroyed forever and the Lord Yahweh will wipe away the tears from every cheek". However one of the other Isaiah passages utilized by Revelation 21:1-4, namely Isaiah 65:17-25, claims the opposite -- that indeed there will be death, but death that comes after living a full and fulfilled life. The different perspective is understandable because the passage in Isaiah 40-66 was written by a different author than the passage in ch. 25 coming from an older portion of the book. Isaiah 65:17-25 reads according to the New World Translation:

    " 'For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation. And I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people; and no more will there be heard in her the sound of weeping or the sound of a plaintive cry. No more will there come to be a suckling a few days old from that place, neither an old man that does not fulfill his days; for one will die as a mere boy, although a hundred years of age; and as for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him. And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the blessed ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them. And it will actually occur that before they call out I myself shall answer; while they are yet speaking, I myself shall hear. The wolf and the lamb themselves will feed as one, and the lion will eat straw just like the bull; and as for the serpent, his food will be dust. They will do no harm nor cause any ruin in all my holy mountain,' Jehovah has said."

    The Society interprets this prophecy has having a future fulfillment in the Paradise Earth. But the passage plainly states that "one WILL DIE as a mere boy although a hundred years of age". Similarly, the passage prophesies that no more will "an old man not fulfill his days" and "fulfilling one's days" is an OT idiom that refers to dying peacefully after living a full, complete life. See, for instance: "If they obey and serve him, they fulfill their days in prosperity and their years in pleasantness. And if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge" (Job 38:11-12; cf. Deuteronomy 4:40).

    It should be stressed that in the OT death was viewed as a natural part of life, even welcomed at times as earned rest (cf. Job 3:13-22, Psalm 13:3), and occurs at its proper time (Job 5:26, Ecclesiastes 3:2, 7:17; cf. also Job 14:5, Psalm 139:16 in which the length of one's life is already predetermined) as the peaceful conclusion to a long life (cf. Genesis 15:15, 25:8; Judges 8:32; 1 Chronicles 29:28). What was feared and despised was dying prematurely, as an unfortunate misfortune, as divine punishment or as capital punishment (cf. Genesis 6:6-7, 9:6; 19; Exodus 32:28, 35; Leviticus 10:2, 14:23; Deuteronomy 28:21-26; Psalm 90:7-9). So it is not unusual at all for the idyllic eschatological conception in Isaiah 65 to assume the continued existence of death. Rather than fearing death as prematurely ending one's life, death will instead be welcomed as earned rest once one has completed all one's days. The end of premature death is the point of the passage: "No more will be found the infant living a few days only, or the old man not living to the end of his days. To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young" (Isaiah 65:20; Jerusalem Bible). Compare also Zechariah 8:3-5 which describes "old men and old women" in eschatological Jerusalem, "every one of them staff in hand because of their great age".

    Since Isaiah 65:20 so obviously contradicts the Society's doctrine about everlasting life on the Paradise Earth, it is interesting to discover how the Society tries to explain away this difficulty. The key is the following phrase, as rendered in the New World Translation: "And as for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him". The Society uses this phrase to limit those who die on the Paradise Earth to a select few:

    ***w89 2/15 pp. 14-15 Justice for All by God?s Appointed Judge ***

    After being given ample time, maybe even "a hundred years," to seek God, some will show that they refuse to practice righteousness. Justly they will lose life in that new world, as we can see from Isaiah 65:20: "As for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him." Such ones judged unworthy of life will be in the minority. We have every reason to expect that we?and most others?will be delighted to learn and to practice righteousness.?Isaiah 26:9.

    *** ip-2 chap. 26 p. 385 "Be Joyful Forever in What I Am Creating" ***

    What do Jehovah?s words tell us about life in the coming new world? Under God?s Kingdom, every child will have the prospect of a secure future. Never will death claim a God-fearing man in his prime. On the contrary, obedient mankind will be safe, secure, able to enjoy life. What of any who choose to rebel against God? Such ones will lose the privilege of life. Even if the rebellious sinner is "a hundred years of age," he will die. In such a case, he will be "a mere boy" compared to what he could have become?a man with endless life.

    *** w00 4/15 p. 16 The New World?Will You Be There? ***

    Those blessed with a lasting place in the new earth will not grow old and inevitably die. Isaiah 65:20 assures us: "No more will there come to be a suckling a few days old from that place, neither an old man that does not fulfill his days; for one will die as a mere boy, although a hundred years of age; and as for the sinner, although a hundred years of age he will have evil called down upon him."

    When this was first fulfilled on Isaiah?s people, it meant that the babes in the land were safe. No enemies were coming in, as the Babylonians once did, to carry off sucklings or to cut down men who were in the prime of their life. (2 Chronicles 36:17, 20) In the coming new world, people will be safe, secure, able to enjoy life. If a person chooses to rebel against God, he will not be allowed to continue living. God will remove him. What if the rebellious sinner is a hundred years old? He will die "as a mere boy" compared to having endless life.?1 Timothy 1:19, 20; 2 Timothy 2:16-19.

    This explanation however is unsatisfactory on many counts. First of all, there is nothing in the original passage that that characterizes the "sinner" as a "rebel against God". This is an interpretive addition on the part of the Watchtower writers. The Hebrew word translated "sinner" here is more literally, "one who misses the mark, one who fails," which if referring to sin does not necessarily refer to the worst sin of all -- rebelling against God. Second, the text does not say that such sinners die. Instead it only says that "he will have evil called down upon him" or "will be accursed". But most importantly, the two overt references to death prior to this sentence (i.e. "one will die as a mere boy although a hundred years", "no more will a man not fulfill his days") do not refer to "sinners", or a premature death caused by sinning against God. Indeed, how could this be since the prior sentence specifically referred to "fulfulling one's days"? Having one's life prematurely taken away on account of sin is definitely not "fulfilling one's days".

    Many translations do not even include a reference to "sinners" in this verse. This is because the Hebrew word chwt' basically means "miss the mark, fall short" and the wording can also be understood as "[one who misses the mark] of reaching a hundred years" instead of "[one who misses the mark] reaches a hundred years". Thus Isaiah 65:20c is rendered the following way in many translations:

    Jerusalem Bible (JB): "To die at the age of a hundred will be dying young; not to live to a hundred will be the sign of a curse".
    New International Version (NIV): "He who dies at a hundred will be thought of as a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered cursed".
    New American Standard Version (NASB): "For a youth will die at the age of a hundred, and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed".
    Contemporary English Version (CEV): "Anyone a hundred years old will be considered young, and to die younger than that will be considered a curse".
    Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB): "The youth will die at a hundred years and the one who misses a hundred years will be cursed".
    Bible in Basic English (BBE): "The young man at his death will be a hundred years old, and he whose life is shorter than a hundred years will seem as one cursed".
    Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (DSSB): "One who dies at a hundred years will be considered a mere youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed".

    This reading appears to make better sense of the passage; those who die at the age of 100 would be considered a mere child while those who fail to reach even the age of 100 would be those under a curse. Of course, such a reading would remove any basis for the Society to interpret the allusion to "death" as applying only to "sinners" (the NWT rendering agrees with the KJV, RSV, YLT, and Darby). Yet, as stated earlier, even this rendering is no valid basis for restricting the prospect of death to only a few. Even those who "fulfill their days" still ... fulfill their days.

    In his recent book Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament, Philip S. Johnstone comments on this passage: "The 'new heavens and new earth' vision which concludes Isaiah envisages everyone living a long and full life, but still assumes their eventual death" (p. 45). Such an eventuality contrasts quite strikingly with the canonical Watchtower doctrine about the Paradise Earth.

  • MerryMagdalene

    Fascinating... thanks for that, Leolaia. They (WTB&TS) sure do have to twist and turn and juggle their words and ideas to make everything fit the way it was "meant" to----"you see, what God was really trying to say here was..., what he meant was..." A clear-cut case of Cinderella's slipper and the stepsisters who tried desperately to make it fit.


  • outoftheorg

    There will be no more sea??

    Wouldn't that play hell with our weather and rain/snow patterns??

    No sea= no rain= no rivers.


  • MerryMagdalene

    I was having a problem with that, too, outoftheorg, only from a purely personal standpoint. I love the sea!

    Maybe God is gonna restore the water canopy around the earth just like afore the flood...


  • the_classicist

    One of the main problems that JWs have is that they believe that the OT and the NT have to be insync with each other. Hence, the belief, among others, that there is no non-corporeal soul. Catholic and Protestant theologians point out that the OT does not have the fullness of divine revelation, which was fullfilled in Jesus Christ.

    The second problem is that they view every prophecy as being applicable to armageddon and the "New System."

  • Leolaia

    outoftheorg, MerryMagdalene....The allusion is possibly to the Sea (Yamm) as the mythological adversary of Yahweh who symbolizes evil (cf. Job 7:12; Psalm 74:13-14; Isaiah 27:1). The conflict myth appears in Revelation 12, concerning the seven-headed dragon that vomits water and creates rivers and the sea. In Canaanite mythology, Lotan/Leviathan was a seven-headed dragon.

    the_classicist....I agree, tho the same situation applies to the NT itself (or any other part of the Bible) which is thought by the Society and many other contemporary Christian groups to represent only one theological and eschatological point of view, when in reality the Bible embraces a multiplicity of different ideas, perspectives, and interpretations. Your example of the "soul" is a good one, as I have been thinking recently of writing a thread on this....

  • MerryMagdalene

    "I Yamm what I Yamm!" vs "I Am Who I Am"???

    I'm envisioning a confrontation between a goddess who is part Popeye, part Sea Hag and a god who is zipping about in his many-wheeled chariot, throwing stones. But I am tired and silly.


  • GetBusyLiving

    Thanks for the awesome research! Facinating.

  • peacefulpete

    If i'm not mistaken they also once used the opening words of 20 to suggest that there would be no more babies born in the New Sys. They have always shied from saying that but I recall once they suggested it and it was contovertial. However the text as translated by the NIV makes much sense in saying that their children would not die as infants. this agrees with vs.23, thanks Leolaia.:

    20 "Never again will there be in it

    an infant who lives but a few days,

    or an old man who does not live out his years;

    he who dies at a hundred

    will be thought a mere youth;

    he who fails to reach [a] a hundred

    will be considered accursed.

    23 They will not toil in vain

    or bear children doomed to misfortune;

    for they will be a people blessed by the LORD ,

    they and their descendants with them.

  • Midget-Sasquatch

    I've got to stop reading these threads. I'm opening up the bible, looking up WT publications...My JW family would think I'm dying of something.

    Here's some goodies from Brooklyn on "family planning" in Paradise:


    g88 4/8 p. 27 Abortion?The Answer to Overpopulation? ***

    Some 6,000 years ago, Jehovah God articulated his purpose concerning the population of the planet Earth. Jehovah declared to the first human couple: "Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28) Note that God?s stated purpose is to fill, not overpopulate, the earth. The Creator will achieve world population equilibrium?maintain reasonable population density, ecological balance, and adequate food production.?Isaiah 65:17-25.

    It is reasonable to conclude that the Creator of human reproductive power will himself justly regulate its use to attain this perfect balance. There will be no need for abortions to limit population growth. Jehovah through the Kingdom of his Son, Christ Jesus, will ensure that the earth is comfortably filled with obedient mankind living in a global paradise.?Isaiah 55:8-11;

    *** g83 8/8 pg.10 ***

    It is reasonable to conclude that when that point is reached the Creator of the human procreative power will regulate its use as far as the earth is concerned.

    Then obedient and grateful mankind will be willing to cooperate with whatever new requirements may be expressed. (Compare Revelation 20:12.) There will be no population explosion to threaten mankind?s future existence.

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