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WHAT can a man believe? A historian observed concerning the days of the French Revolution that it was “the best of times and the worst of times.” This expression quite aptly describes the religious situation In the world today. There has never been more religious freedom than there Is currently In the non- totalitarian world. Devotees of all faiths are allowed to proclaim their understanding of the Bible far and wide—over television, over the radio, by means of the printed page, and through personal witness work among their friends and neighbors.

On the other hand, there has never been So much confusion pertaining to the Christian faith as at the present time. From this standpoint It is undoubtedly “the worst of times” the world has ever experienced.

Certainly we have not yet reached that era when the “path of righteousness” is made So plain that “wayfaring men, though fools,” need not err therein. (Isaiah 35:8) Is there any certain way that a sincere, humble Christian might know with reasonable certainty that what he believes and serves is the truth?

The Apostle Paul gave good advice to the brethren at Thessalonica when he wrote, “Prove all things, hold fast that which Is good,” or as the New World Translation states, “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what Is right.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) This was wise counsel in Paul’s day, and it is equally appropriate and Important In these “last days,” when our  “adversary the Devil” Is still going about as a “roaring lion” seeking whom he may devour by false doctrines and otherwise.

There is only one way to “make sure of all things,” we believe, and that is to prove, or test, them by the Infallible Word of God, the Holy Bible.

Sincere Christians have been saying this for centuries. Teachers of the Bible in all denominations insist that this should be done, but It Is seldom hilly practiced. Each group has its textbooks, Its “quarterlies,” and in these, only those portions of the Holy Bible are cited which it is thought are In agreement with the views of the group In question. Quite generally, however, the students using these helps conclude that they are becoming acquainted with the entire testimony of the Holy Bible with respect to the topics studied.

So If we are to “make sure of all things” a most Important consideration is to “make sure” that we are using the entire Bible, not just those portions which have been Interpreted for us. Recently we came across an example of what we mean In this respect. In a publication designed to be a help to Bible study we noticed that a number of texts from the Holy Bible were quoted in an effort to disprove the restoration of natural Israel to the Promised Land and to favor with God. One of the texts quoted was Romans 11:7,8, which reads, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained It, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.”

From reading this passage the student was expected to get the impression that the unbelieving Israelites of Jesus’ day were Irrevocably and forever cast off from divine favor. But what a different impression is left in the mind when Paul’s full lesson on the topic is considered! Beginning with verse 25 of the same chapter, we read: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise In your own conceits; that blindness In part Is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come In. And So all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is my covenant with them when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even So have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief that he might have mercy upon all.”—Ro 11:25- 32

It is equally important to make sure that the translation of the Scriptures we are asked to use Is true to the Hebrew or Greek text. We know how many have been held In fear of eternal torment through mistranslations of the Hebrew word Sheol, and the Greek words hades and Gehenna. The King James translation of the Holy Bible is not the only faulty one.

We recently saw a translation of Romans 5:18 and of 1 Timothy 2:4 which uses the expression “all kinds of men” In these texts, which, as written by the Apostle Paul, So unequivocally state that Jesus died to ransom all mankind from death. There are no words at all in these Greek texts to warrant the use of the expression “all kinds of men.” A glance at the word- for- word translation In the Emphatic Diaglott will prove this to every earnest seeker after truth.

Yes, it Is important that we prove all things by the pure Word of God, regardless of the source of our information.  Almost without exception the contradictory beliefs now being proclaimed to a confused world have one thing in common, which is the use of fear as a method of making converts. It may be fear of eternal torture, fear of death in Armageddon, or fear of something else. The Grace of Jehovah endeavors to exalt the love of God.

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What Are Bible Students?

Bible Students are Christians interested in the study of God’s Word for the promotion of true knowledge.

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Where are the Bible Students Located?

Bible Students can be found in all walks of life and in every land and country.

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What is the origin of the Bible Students?

The Bible Students Association was formed in the 1860s, in Alleghney, Pa. A group of Christians under the eldership of Pastor Charles Taze Russell, who helped form a Bible study group to unearth the hidden mysteries of the Word of God.

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Isn’t Charles Taze Russell the Founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

That is a misconception. Pastor Russell was the organizer of the International Bible Students Association. It was this loosely formed association that helped published the [Zion’s] Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence journal, and the [Zion’s] Watch Tower Society.

This Society was an organizer of Bible Student conventions and other activities, but it did not dictate any creeds or rules to the independent congregations.

After Pastor Russell’s death, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society began to rise as a hierarchy over the once independent congregations. Many refused to surrender their Christian liberty and here started the work of separation. As early as 1917 this exodus from the Society began, and those who appreciated the wonderful harmony of the Bible as taught by Pastor Russell are today known as Associated Bible Students.

By 1930, the Society no longer resembled that of its former self. Many Bible Students abandoned the Society, and by 1931, the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was adopted by the new leadership to differentiate between the Society’s Bible Students and those independent of the Society.

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What are the doctrinal differences between the two groups, if any?

There are some similarities between the two groups. Both believe in two salvations, an earthly and a heavenly. Both believe in the Kingdom of God as the means of bringing about true peace on earth. Both deny the existence of a place of fiery torment and deny the Trinity doctrine. Apart from these similarties, the two groups are world’s apart.

The following doctrines are an example as to how Bible Students still retain the basic teachings of Pastor Russell in contrast with “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” who do not.

BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell was led to believe in a future probation because millions have died and continue to die without hearing the Gospel. Of those that do hear, uncertainty and confusion exists in their minds because Christianity of today is burdened with contradictory beliefs and teachings.

JW’S: “Jehovah’s Witnesses” see no further probation for any of the present generation who do not subscribe to their teachings – which means that a large percentage of the world’s population is to perish eternally in Armageddon. In this respect their views are less generous than most established Churches. They not only see no hope for those who live today, who do not subscribe to their teachings, but they entertain no hope for a large percentage of the millions who have gone into the grave since the creation of man. For example, JW’S believe that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. have perished eternally, with no hope for a resurrection.

BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to the Scriptures, such as Ezek.16:55, where it declares that these are all going to return to their “former estate.” And our Lord, in Matt. 10:15, confirms this thought when he said, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city”- (speaking of the Jews). Thus our Lord pointed forward to a day of judgment for those people who died centuries ago. And again it says, in Acts 17:31 that, “He hath appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.”

JW’S: “Jehovah’s Witnesses” deny that Adam will ever have a resurrection, while the Scriptures plainly state that Jesus Christ tasted death “for every man.” Heb. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5,6.

BIBLE STUDENTS: Pastor Russell pointed to these scriptures and many others such as 1 Cor. 15:22 – “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Also Hosea 13:14 – “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be they plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”

Pastor Russell taught, according to the Scriptures, that now is “the day of salvation” for those who are to be the Bride of Christ, the Little Flock; and that another day – a day of salvation is awaiting mankind in general, in the Millennial Age – “the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

One of the main teachings of Pastor Russell was that all would be enlightened with a knowledge of God’s Truth before they are placed on trial and judged for their final destiny. For the majority of mankind this would be when they are raised from the dead at the time of the general resurrection. Their final judgment would be based on their conduct while enlightened, not while in ignorance. This teaching separated Bible Students from all other religious groups. Now it separates them from “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as well. This view broke with the concept of salvation current in his day. At that time nearly all evangelists taught a literal hell of torment for those who did not accept Christ in this life. They felt hell-fire threats were necessary to restrain evil and, if need be, to bring salvation by fear. Many theologians have since broadened their concept of salvation beyond this life, but “Jehovah’s Witnesses” hold strongly to the position that those who reject their message are rejecting salvation.

Contrary to our Lord’s Word, every “Jehovah’s Witness” becomes a missionary of life or death, using the fear of eternal destruction or second death as their final appeal.

The Jewish People: Israel, and the Jewish people, present another major difference between Pastor Russell and the JW’s. After applying the Scripture, “Ye are my witnesses saith Jehovah” (Isa. 43:12) to themselves, “Jehovah’s Witnesses” declare that the Jewish people have no special role in the Divine Plan since the death of Jesus. On the contrary, Pastor Russell taught that the Jewish people and nation have a leading role in the Divine Plan for man, and accordingly during the year 1910 he spoke to vast Jewish audiences, comforting them according to the Scripture, Isa. 40:2 – “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” He encouraged them not to join the various churches of today but to wait for the fulfillment of the many Old Testament promises that they would be blessed as a nation.

While they were yet a scattered and dispersed people, he said, upon the basis of these promises, that they would be regathered to Palestine and established as an independent nation. Time has proven this to be so. Although denied by “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Bible Students today teach that the new state of Israel emerged in Divine Providence and is a precursor to the fulfillment of God’s promise to that nation that, – “Lo the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” (Jer. 30:3)

And again, Jer.24:6, 7, says, – “I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them and not pull them down; and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.”

And a further promise in Jer. 31:27-34 was that, – “Like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to destroy and to afflict; so will I watch over them to build and to plant, saith the Lord… and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in that day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they break… but this shall be the covenant that I will make… I will put my Law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts… and they shall be my people… I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”

From these facts it can be seen that Pastor Charles Taze Russell was neither in principle nor in spirit, the founder of “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

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How are Bible Students governed?

The Bible Students are autonomous. Meaning they are self-governing. The ecclesia [congregation] itself elects it’s own officers [i.e. elders, deacons, etc.] and committees [i.e. witness, comfort, convention] to help the class run as smoothly as possible. There are no paid clergy and no collections are taken during the meetings.

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How are the services organized?

The congregation itself determines what is to be studied, the elected elders [those spiritually mature-minded] conduct the meetings in an orderly fashion.

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How is the work financed?

The work is financed by voluntary contributions of it’s members. Bible Students for over one hundred years have prided themselves on the motto: SEATS FREE – NO COLLECTIONS.

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Where do Bible Students meet and have their services?

Unlike the more established churches, the Bible Students meet in individual homes and rented halls, depending on the size of the congregation. We do not own our own church buildings, as this affords us the opportunity to direct our monetary resources in spreading God’s Word.

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Do Bible Students preach/witness? And if so, how?

BIble Students, individually and congregationally, have the liberty to witness in whatever fashion is suitable to them. We realise that their are many different avenue to witness, thus what may suit one class or individual, may not suit another. Thus we leave it to each consecrated member and class to determine what best suits their environment. That said, let it be known that we take advantage of every avenue open to us, this would include going door to door, tracting in the neighborhood, public showings, advertisments in newspaper, magazines and billboards, county fairbooths, etc.

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What are public showings?

Publics showings are shown in rented halls. They can be in the form of a public discourse on a timely Bible topic, or they can be in the form of a movie or slide presentation.

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Do Bible Students publish any literature?

Yes. The Association as a whole and as individual congregations have published throughout the years volumeously. The six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures by the late Pastor Charles Taze Russell are still republished today. Along with many other older and current writings, reflecting over 100 years of service.

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Are there any Bible Student publishing houses?

Yes. There are quite a few throughout the United States and Europe. Some have come and gone in recent years. There are also individual congregations and Bible Students who published independent of each other. These publication however are used and distributed by the association worldwide, regardless of who publishes them.

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Are there any Bible Student Journals and Magazine in print?

Most congregations publish a monthly newsletter, distributed to those they come in contact with through their independent witness work. However there are several journals and newsletters published for the general public and the association.

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How many Bible Students are there?

Since Bible Students do not take roll-call, that is a difficult question to answer. Bible Students can be seen in all four corners of the earth, some are isolated, and others have abundant association.

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Since the congregations are autonomous, are all Bible Students in agreement, doctrinally? Just how closely are the Bible Students in harmony? Do you still hold to the doctrinal teachings as espoused by Charles Taze Russell?

To say that all Bible Students think alike would be to undermine the freedom in Christ we share. Most Bible Students accept the teachings of Scriptures as set forth in the Studies in the Scriptures as being doctrinally sound and supported by God’s Word. However since Pastor Russell never claimed infallibility, it is safe to say that some of his thoughts are opened to interpretation. However, these interpretations, do not take away from The Divine Plan of the Ages, as espoused by Pastor Russell.

It is safe to say there are those, individually and as publishing houses who have taken liberty with the Plan of Salvation as espoused by Pastor Russell.