From Jehovah's Witnesses to Jesus - Gus Astacio's Story
I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, June 6, 1986; I was 14 years old, on fire with what I felt without a doubt in my mind was the truth. Just a naive young Puerto Rican from New York City. My father was what we would dub a worldly man. My mother, a tireless worker in the family was provider, homemaker, and spiritual leader. My sister when she was young was more into friendships but like a 2nd mom. You could still find them both zealously pioneering and pillars in their congregations. My sister married a great husband and brother-in-law of mine.
When you are occupied with your weekly studies of WT literature, spend many hours of door ministry and have to deal with the problems I faced, it can be consuming. As a result, life’s pertinent questions are forgotten in the distractions of a JW’s busy life. The devil wants the ringing phone of the Lord to go unheard, so he tries to occupy your mind into ignoring it. Fortunately for me I was not one of the many who allow the ringing to go unheard. It was distant at times but eventually I picked up the phone. I felt since we have the truth why should I cower to some ex JW’s. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you."
Another thing that always stood in my mind also was that we had always taught that the generation of 1914 would not pass away before seeing the end of the world. The WT society constantly (at assemblies and in the WT magazines and other literature) made estimates on what age a person during the time of 1914 had to be to be coherent of the events of that year. I remember reading 15 years of age and then later it was changed to being born in 1914. Of course I now realize several ages were used as a barometer. I also now know 1975 was a date predicted to be the year for Armageddon’s coming. Well like those who sold their homes because they implicitly believed Jehovah was speaking through the pages of the WT, I also felt without a doubt that Armageddon would come before the generation of 1914 would pass. It was my hope that I for a surety knew would come. As a young person the one thing I always feared more than anything in this world was death and old age, but with this hope of 1914 I was assured this could not ever happen. The average lifespan for people at their best is maybe 70 to 80 years old. I did the math just like many other JW’s. If you were born in 1914 and lived let’s say to be 90 then you and all those born in 1914 would live to the year 2004. And that is a stretch! I will be 33 years of age and in my mind walking into a paradise Earth. I always figured by 25 or 35 I would fulfill Rutherford’s talk on ‘Millions Now Living Will Never Die!’ The concept of death was a very remote thing in my eyes unless I suffered from some catastrophic ailment or disaster.
My wife lost her mother when she was very young over the blood ban teaching JW’s hold. At times I can feel her pain. Many JW’s have suffered needlessly over keeping hold of doctrines that have been dropped like the latest fads. When I hear, read, and see the testimonies of my brothers and sisters earth-wide whom have lost family, homes, and lives over these off and on teachings it tearfully pains me. It reminds me of what is said at Isaiah 5:13,"Therefore my people will have to go into exile for lack of knowledge; and their glory will be famished men (the governing body) and their crowd (the rank and file JW) will be parched with thirst."
After 5 years of marriage I was disgusted by the fraudulent acts of spirituality by brothers just to get a title of what they felt was a glorified position. When I was young I was taught there is equality in the organization unlike the churches which have titles like Reverend and Bishop. That is clearly an empty statement because in the mind of many brothers they seek the titles in our organization for their own glorification. And responsibility is measured with authority. Many develop fraudulent relationships with Elders and Circuit Overseers to gain a position. Also door ministry hours increase but after they have received their title usually you find those hours leveling off. I always felt if I strive for a position it would be to serve the flock not for self importance.
Another reason for my change in desire was once again my hopes and dreams were stripped from me. In 1995 at the ‘ Divine Teaching’ convention the WT society made a major change in doctrine. They now defined the statement ‘the generation will not pass’ as not meaning those in 1914 would live to see Armageddon. They now said it meant this wicked generation. Well this wicked generation has existed for centuries. I suddenly felt the same sense of betrayal those in 1975 must have felt. I always felt that teaching was like my ROCK of assurance that I would never grow old and die. Apparently thousands of other JW’s felt it was their barometer and countdown for paradise like I did because in the ensuing years the attendance has dropped at the meetings worldwide. I can only pray that this is a wake up call for many JW’s that we cannot trust in the utterances of men for our hopes. Dates, times, and generations have come and gone along with their hopes of a better tomorrow. (1874, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1925, 1975, the generation of 1914 that was to never pass, promises given in the name of God Deut. 18:20 22.)
I then got a stable job, having worked the strenuous hours of restaurant management for 4 years. While on the job I would surf the Internet for sports. One day I was surfing the net, and I typed in JW’s. To my amazement there were many XJW websites. This gave me an opportunity to respond against people I was raised to detest. I began a quest for truth to destroy the dark sayings of the devil for good. I labeled myself ‘The Berean’ ready to answer and expose untruth. At home I wrote long articles for each claim. I found on many of the claims against the WT I could easily find a reason but on doctrinal issues it became evident there were serious flaws. This became even more evident on a website of associated JW’s for reform which clearly exposed in great detail, scripturally and medically, the blood ban as an unreasonable stand.
I wanted to feel secure in the religion I’d chosen despite my disappointments. It all boiled down to the purity of what we call truth. Truth exposes darkness not the other way around. As a result, truth was becoming clearer and clearer and this truth was not what was being taught by the WT society. The scriptures were opening themselves to me as never before. Yet my pride was preventing me from accepting some truths. Through all of this my life was being torn apart but I still could not stop. I confided in my wife and mother on all of the changes I was going through. For those that may read the next few sentences I do not want to impress upon any the need to accept the things I have but urge all to investigate and examine all things you may be taught by the WT or any man. 1 John 4:1 says, "Do not believe every inspired expression but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world."
In the last week of June, 1997 right before our District convention something phenomenal occurred. I’d already realized through a thorough study of scripture that many of the doctrines we lived by were flawed, but I was adamant against the teaching of the deity of Christ. So adamant that I publicly exclaimed to my wife, "I could believe anything but I could never believe in the trinity." Yet the weight of mounting flaws in our present teachings led me to an examination of this teaching, too. I read as much as I could on it yet couldn’t understand the concept of God being in heaven and on Earth. No matter how it was explained by others, even with scriptures, I could not understand. I then did something that never occurred to me before. I went in prayer to my heavenly father and asked him to give me understanding of any truths concerning him. I denied all men and their self accredited knowledge and pleaded that he teach me through the holy spirit. I felt deep conviction for my sins against him and begged his forgiveness for my lack of reliance upon him in the past. I openly acknowledged my failure to come to him and asked that I now be like a child in his hands, following him to all doors of truth and not men. While in this prayer I found myself constantly referring to him as my father instead of calling him by name. I felt a closeness to him I never felt before. It was a spirit of closeness as described in Romans 8:15. I confessed Christ as my savior and asked him to come into my heart. I prayed all of these things in his name and recognized that salvation comes by his name.
Afterward I went to sleep and awoke at an unusually early hour of the morning. I was drawn to reading the first 3 chapters of Colossians. I came across Colossians 2:9 and it read, "the Fullness of the deity dwells down in him bodily." I went to work, came home, went to sleep that night and awoke again at an early hour. I was drawn to reading the 1st chapter of Hebrews in my 8 translation Bible and in every instance it stated, "Your throne O God is forever." Well, I went to work still unconvinced but befuddled; came home and went straight to sleep. I was tired mentally, being unable to stop thinking about what I was reading. Well, I awoke this time about 1:00 a.m and I was drawn to reading the Bible. Ironically it was just an old fashioned NWT. I turned to Rev. chapter 1 for some odd reason. Jehovah in the NWT is the Alpha and Omega and speaking, but John says he turned to the voice that was speaking, indicating this voice was behind him. Well, he turns to Jehovah’s voice and sees Jesus! What men in their intellect could not teach me was now being taught by the Spirit of God. John 5:39-40, "You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." That night I wept and denounced all men and their teachings and vowed to follow where the Holy Spirit would lead me. In Jesus I have the Bread of everlasting life and I can call on him for all things! John 14:14 states, "If you ask ME anything in my name, I will do it!"
Today I am swimming in the peace of having a loving relationship with my heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I love my family so much and only want the best for all of them. They all fully know the reason for my stand. I can only hope and pray that one day they answer that distant ringing phone and hear the beautiful voice of Jesus. While organizations, societies, and men come and go Jesus is always there unchanging and faithful. I have formally disassociated myself but am thankful for the time spent as a JW. It has made me appreciate the liberty of being a Christian that much more. Math. 7:8, "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened." Romans 10:11, "For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.’
Following is Gus's letter to
To the Elders of the Suitland congregation and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
In recent months I have found some disheartening facts that have deemed my actions forthwith today. It is based upon the statement made by Joseph Rutherford that has substantiated the necessity of my investigative powers. And I quote, "Error always seeks the dark, while truth is enhanced by the light. Error never desires to be investigated. Light always courts a thorough and complete investigation." (Millions Now Living Will Never Die, p.13) What I found in my investigation was tragic at best!
All letters have a beginning, and thus I shall start with a doctrine that has cost many ones their eternal salvation. This is also a pattern of already fallen doctrine, what you would call old light. But I am more prone to believe it for the darkness it really is in agreement with The Commentary on the Letter of James. And I quote: "For God is he who said: ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ In its rising and setting, the sun casts shadows of changing length and intensity. Depending on the position of the Earth in its rotation and its orbit, considerable variation occurs in the way that the sun’s radiant heat and light are distributed. Unlike the sun, the Creator of the heavenly bodies is not subject to changes. There is no variation with him." Also 1 John 1:5 and Isaiah 5:20 harmonizes with the above quote showing that God does not change his ways like the WTS has changed it’s doctrines.
The doctrine costing people’s loss of salvation is the Great Crowd will exist on Earth as opposed to heaven. While many persons would choose to speak of numerous other errors which have caused loss or life in this world, I chose this one as the worst discrepancy due to its eternal rape of everlasting life! People in many cases have chosen the WT society’s way of worship due to its fantastic dreamlike hope of a Paradise Earth. Does this have scriptural basis? While the Bible does speak of a transformed earth, it is very clear that the Great Crowd are not the inheritors of this reality, but rather the repentant survivors of a wicked world are. (Zech. 14:16) The concept of an earthly hope was never incepted by the 1st century Christians all of which enjoyed a heavenly hope. It is rather a complete fabrication taken out of context by the WT society in 1935. C.T. Russell, the founder, would be rolling in his grave at the very concept of such a doctrine! It is very clear that there are only two instances a Great Crowd is mentioned in Revelation, and both times they are placed in heaven. Rev. 19:1 bluntly has them there, crying salvation in heaven to God. The same cry of salvation is in Rev. 7:10 by the Great Crowd! Rev. 19:1 cannot possibly be regarded as angels, because they do not receive salvation. To discard that scripture as a different Crowd is very inconsistent with the context of Revelation! I truly find it hard to believe that Revelation would speak of two different Great Crowds, narrowing the Biblical reference of a Great Crowd to one time in the Bible! Regardless, there is enough evidence even in the 7th chapter to validate that this is clearly a heavenly Crowd! In verse 15 of the 7th chapter, they are before (enopion--literally ‘in the sight of’) the throne in the Temple (naos--divine sanctuary, Most Holy, divine habitation) of God! Your own Kingdom Interlinear approves of such a definition.
The WT of 8/15/80 and 2/1/98 do not clarify this dilemma. The 2/1/98 WT, in particular, plays rigmarole with the 144,000 stating they are in the Temple with the Great Crowd, but negates to mention the significance of both classes existing in that Temple! Namely that the Temple represents heaven itself. Selective amnesia? This in all essence means that the millions that have passed the cup and plate without partaking have had eternity symbolically flaunted by their prospective noses within inches. It seems that Matthew 23:13, and Isaiah 5:13,14 come to life in view of the millions that have died believing in this doctrine. This pains me more than all the bad dates the society has predicted combined! Jesus clearly stated at John 6:53, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood you have no life in yourselves!" At Philippians 3:17-21, Paul clarifies the difference between persons whom seem to be Christians and true Christians, climaxing with the statement, "As for us our citizenship is in the heavens..." Here is true loss of life that can never be restored, taking away persons salvation. (2 Peter 2:19).
I will touch on the physical losses of this world. It is very clear when looking at the WT history of medical science that our leadership has been ignorant as to its application in scripture. I present the following as evidence of the WT society’s capabilities in judging for others as absolutely fallible and destructive! Rabies is nonexistent--GA 1/1/23 p.214; germs don’t cause disease--GA 1/16/24 p.250; vaccinations are useless--GA 2/4/31 p.294; vaccines cause demonism--GA 2/4/31 p.293; blood is nutrition--WT 7/1/51 p.415; organ donation a conscience matter--WT 8/1/61 p.480; organ transplants cannibalism--WT 11/15/67 p.702; organ transplants no longer cannibalism--WT 3/15/80 p.31.
Time and again WT policies have been detrimental to its own followers, and with no basis but pure speculation for its grounds for these death dealing policies. Have JW’s had free choice in such matters of life and death? No, many died for the vaccination ban as well as the organ transplant ban. Others went blind for lack of cornea transplants adhering to current WT policy. All of these policies have changed years later! When the choices are loss of communication with your entire social community for violation of policy or death by adhering to it, which one is worse? These were the choices made by dedicated JW’s for past policies, and are continuing today with the enduring blood ban policy. If the WT society was wrong on previous views of medical care and scriptural application, couldn’t the leadership be wrong on this policy as well?!?
The WT society has purposely taken a medical term out of context. The WT society uses the term ‘intravenous feeding’, but it is metaphoric in the absolute, no less than saying it’s raining cats and dogs! Blood that is eaten is digested through the stomach and than proceeds through the intestines, but this does not occur with transfusions. While blood is just as much an organ as kidneys, heart, liver, etc., it acts as a vehicle in intravenously, providing nutrients, vitamins and minerals throughout the body. It is not a digestible product. While the WT society does allow certain blood components such as albumin, immoglobulin, and RH factors 4-7, the reasoning is that these certain components pass through the placenta from a mother to her unborn child. Well if that is the reasoning, than the 11/17/93 Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) has purported for years that whole blood passes through the placenta, meaning Jehovah allows blood transfused naturally! I do recognize that most of the medical advice in error of the past was the ideologies of C.J. Woodworth, your former editor, but why continue his legacy of medical quackery with the blood ban?
If strict adherence to the ban is necessary to appease Jehovah’s wrath, why is it you allow blood fractions or organ donations which contain whole blood? Kidneys, liver, and heart consist of nearly 30% blood unto itself, according to JAMA. Why play with disaster and even allow fractions? Another example of medical metaphoric terminology is the phrase ‘blood fractions’. It does not mean a small amount of blood, but rather mass quantities of fractioned blood is necessary for transfusions which is pooled by many persons for supposed fractions. There are so many other validations for disposal of this unsound life- costing doctrine, but I’d rather allow a quote from the Consolation to sum it up: "Consolation Sept. 1945 p.29 (Dutch ed.) "God has never published a decree which forbids employing medicine, injections, and blood transfusions. It is a human invention like the Pharisees disregard for mercy and Grace. To serve Jehovah with all the mind does not mean to put our intelligence in a box. Principally because there is a human life at stake. The life being of great value is holy to Jehovah." And I ask, whatever happened to this very sane type of logic I see reflected in the Consolation above quoted!?!
I thought that reform was possible, but in light of this historical consistency of abuse, it seems very clear that this would destroy the institution. Matthew 9:16,17 also shows that this is like putting new wine into old wineskins, the wineskins would burst! The leadership has tried so hard to preserve its legacy despite whoever it might destroy in its quest for preservation. And I quote from scholar Daniel Taylor's book, The Myth of Certainty:
"The primary goal of all institutions and subcultures is self-preservation. Preserving the faith is central to God's plan for human history; preserving particular religious institutions is not. Do not expect those who run the institutions to be sensitive to the difference. God needs no particular person, church, denomination, creed or organization to accomplish his purpose. He will make use of those, in all their diversity, who are ready to be used, but will leave to themselves those who labor for their own ends. Nonetheless, questioning the institutions is synonymous, for many, with attacking God--something not long to be tolerated. . . . Actually, they are protecting themselves, their view of the world, and their sense of security. The religious institution has given them meaning, a sense of purpose, and, in some cases, careers. Anyone perceived as a threat to these things is a threat indeed. This threat is often met, or suppressed even before it arises, with power. . . . Institutions express their power most clearly by enunciating, interpreting and enforcing the rules of the subculture. Every institution has its rules and ways of enforcing them, some clearly stated, others unstated but no less real."
When faced with the many false prophetic dates of an ending civilization, has there ever been any true repentance? I took special note of the following quotes: WT 6/15/74 p.381-"Similarly the false prophet is not a person but is a system or an organization." (self condemnatory isn’t it?) Also Isaiah 5:21 comes to life in light of the following quote... WT 6/1/97 p.14--"Modesty on the part of the faithful and discreet slave class prevents it from presumptuously running ahead and wildly speculating about things that are unclear. The slave class strives to avoid being dogmatic. How reassuring it is to know that the channel Jehovah is using today does not do so! It is both faithful and discreet." That is just about the most dishonest statement ever recorded by the WT society in light of 1874, 1881, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1925,1975 and the generation of 1914 that was supposedly to never pass, all dates given for the end! I feel the WT society has fallen into the pits of its very own statements of the WT Mar 1893, p. 1504, "...we have pointed out continually the tendency of Christian people toward union, showing, too, that such a union is predicted in scripture; but that its results, while designed to be good, will really be bad; and this because it will be a mechanical union instead of a heart unity." And last but certainly not least I wholeheartedly agree with the following quote from the WT 1895 p.216, "Beware of ‘organization’, it is wholly unnecessary. The Bible rules will be the only rules you will need. Do not seek to bind others’ consciences, and do not permit others to bind yours. Believe and obey as far as you can understand God’s word to-day."
It is clear Russell was a contemporary reformer of his time, as well as John Smith, Ellen G. White, William Miller and others. And reform can easily be distinguished as opposition or apostasy to be so blunt. It is my discernment that the 1800's sprung forth Russell and others already aforementioned in fulfillment of 2 Tim. 4:3, which states, "For there will be a period of time when they will not put up with healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled." At what started with no intentions of harm has become a magnum of destructive power laid in religious rules and policies! You have, as Matthew 23:5 states, ‘broadened the scripture containing cases’ to the detriment and harm and salvation cost of others! How it pains me to do so, but I do disassociate myself from the Watchtower society, in an effort to be separated from the great sins my former religion is responsible for against God and others, thus keeping myself free from blood guilt! I do not regard any of Jehovah’s Witnesses as my enemies, but pray and love them hoping that they will see through the deceptions flayed before them.
Let it be known that I am disassociating myself, and that if any defamation of my name or character is made, then I will be forced to take legal action. Defamation would include disfellowshipping me as opposed to acknowledging my request for disassociation! I only hope and pray that those few men will come to Christ in true repentance over the great wrongs they have committed to those whom have been so loyal to their direction, and redirect such ones to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! John 8:24-I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for except ye believe that I am, ye shall die in your sins.
With fervent Prayers,
AGUSTIN J. ASTACIO
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