Anointed Class – 144K

Does Matthew 11:11 teach that John the Baptist won’t be in the Heavenly Kingdom?

Before we delve into Matthew 11:11, let’s briefly go over the Watchtower’s two-class theology.  They teach that all Jehovah’s Witnesses will be eternally separated into two metaphysically distinct locations: heaven or earth.  The anointed 144,000 of Revelation 7 will rule and reign with Christ in heaven while the remaining “great crowd” live on paradise earth.  As it relates to those who lived before Christ, like Abraham or John the Baptist, they will be resurrected to live on paradise earth.

Matthew 11:11 is one of the primary texts by which Jehovah’s Witnesses exclude the Old Covenant Jews from a location in heaven:

Truly I say to you, among those born of a woman there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!  Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

The Watchtower interprets this verse as follows:

***gtchap.38DidJohnLackFaith?***

Jesus is here showing that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom, since a lesser one there is greater than John. John prepared the way for Jesus but dies before Christ seals the covenant, or agreement, with his disciples, for them to be corulers with him in his Kingdom. That is why Jesus says that John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom. John will instead be an earthly subject of God’s Kingdom.

Much can be said about the basis for which the “anointed class” spends eternity in heaven.  I’ve analyzed some of the Watchtower arguments HERE.  But there’s one thing I need to make clear: I do not believe that any Christian will spend eternity in heaven as a metaphysically distinct location from earth.  Space will not allow me to elaborate, but my debate with Fred Torres goes over these issues in a lot of detail in addition to my appearance on Chris Date’s Theopologetics podcast HERE and HERE.

With that said, i’ll provide a counter explanation of Matthew 11:11.  John the Baptist is a transitional figure between two orders, as Matthew 11:13-14 point out, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”  From a human perspective, no one greater than John has ever been born (i.e. born of a woman).  That is, no one in the Old Covenant has surpassed John in order of importance.  However, the intended greatness is the incomparable greatness of the kingdom to this present age rather than one individual verses another.  So the contrast then is not between individuals, but eras or ages.

Keep in mind another point: no one is of yet in the fullness of the kingdom.  Christ has not yet returned (Acts 3:21) and the resurrection has not taken place.  Jesus is saying that even the greatest person in the present age (which includes anyone from John to those alive today) will be lesser than “the least” in the age to come; that is, the age in which the kingdom has come in it’s fullness (Daniel 2:35).

This contrast is clearly expressed in Mark 10:30-31,

“He will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brother and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t exclude anyone from the “age to come.”  But what’s even more noteworthy is that individuals aren’t being contrasted.  Instead, Jesus presents a condition by which someone in this age will be positionally different in this age verses the age to come.  This works quite well as an interpretive means of understanding Matthew 11:11.  That is, the “last” in this present age will be “first” in the age to come.  But in no way does this mean that the “last” won’t be in the age to come, which is seemingly what the Watchtower is arguing.

But is John being excluded from the kingdom in the age to come?  Certainly not.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t make any distinction between a kingdom on earth and a kingdom in heaven.  It is simply the “kingdom of heaven.”  If the Watchtower is prepared to interpret “kingdom of heaven” as “kingdom in heaven”, then there will be some difficulty in explaining the following passage:

“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11)

Notice that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (surely, this would include John the Baptist) will be in the kingdom of heaven.  While I have every reason to believe this will be a location on earth, it doesn’t fit with the Watchtower explanation that, “John will not be in the heavenly Kingdom.”  For a full discussion of the Watchtower explanation on this verse, go HERE.

To summarize, Jesus is talking about this age (i.e. where John the Baptist is the greatest) and the age to come (i.e. where everyone will be greater than those in the previous age).  The Watchtower explanation is wrong because it fails to contrast the ages.

Categories: Anointed Class - 144K, Heaven, New Earth | 8 Comments

Debate with a JW: “Is the Watchtower’s interpretation of the faithful slave found in Matthew 24 and Luke 12, as articulated in the July 15th, 2013 Watchtower, accurate?”

This debate took place on the TRUE THEOLOGY forum, but I will be posting the full debate on a PDF once it is completed.  You can follow the discussion HERE.

The debate is with Rotherham, who is a JW I regularly interact with here.  The format is as follows with hyperlinks for each section:

(1) Openings

  1. Rotherham’s Opening
  2. Mike’s Opening

(2) Rebuttals

  1. Rotherham’s Rebuttal
  2. Mike’s Rebuttal

(3) Submit 5 questions

  1. Rotherham’s First Question to Mike –>Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
  2. Mike’s First Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
  3. Rotherham’s Second Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
  4. Mike’s Second Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
  5. Rotherham’s Third Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
  6. Mike’s Third Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
  7. Rotherham’s Fourth Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
  8. Mike’s Fourth Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal
  9. Rotherham’s Fifth Question to Mike –> Mike’s Answer, Rotherham’s Rebuttal, Mike’s Rebuttal
  10. Mike’s Fifth Question to Rotherham –> Rotherham’s Answer, Mike’s Rebuttal, Rotherham’s Rebuttal

(4) Closing

  1. Rotherham’s Closing Statement
  2. Mike’s Closing Statement

 

Categories: 1914, 1919, Anointed Class - 144K, Debate, Faithful Slave, Governing Body, Watchtower | 49 Comments

New Light on the “Faithful and Discreet Slave”

This is an article that I published on CARM.  The link is below:

NEW LIGHT ON THE “FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE”

Categories: 1919, Anointed Class - 144K, Faithful Slave, Governing Body | 79 Comments

If all Christians rule with Christ, who will they rule over?

A reader contacted me and asked:

On your website you state:

“Instead, the Scriptures are clear in teaching that Christ will physically come to the earth (Acts 1:9-11; 3:21, etc.), separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33), and say to the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34).  Matthew 25 does not speak of two classes of believers; it speaks of two classes of persons.  These two classes consist of sheep and goats.  All of the sheep are believers who will all inherit the kingdom.  Therefore, there is only one class of believers who will rule with Christ on the earth (Revelation 5:10).”

I don’t necessarily disagree with you however I do have one question. If all the sheep are believers who will rule with Christ on earth, who will they rule over? It seems that there will only be Kings and no subjects.

Let me state from the outset that this is a question that even the Watchtower doesn’t know the answer to.  But leaving that aside, I think there are several possible answers to this question.

First, there is no denying that there will be some form of kingship where ruling and reigning will take place (Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6).  What we then have to determine is what the nature of that rulership is.  And without explicit Scriptural support, we cannot assume that the subjects of this rulership includes Christians.

“‘He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;” (Revelation 2:26–27, cf: Ps. 2:6-7)

Regardless of your view on the millennium, it seems undeniable that there is some sort of rulership that takes place over non-Christians.  The Watchtower takes this as referring to the anointed class sharing with Jesus the destruction of rebellious nations at Armageddon.  Even if this were the only basis for rulership mentioned in Scripture, it would provide a sufficient basis to discredit the Watchtower’s insistence that rulership must take place over other Christians.

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

“so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21)

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,” (Romans 6:11–12)

These texts clearly show that reigning doesn’t necessarily indicate that human subjects are involved.  Yet, it shows explicit support of what rulership entails.

“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2–3)

“and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:29–30, cf: Lk. 13:28, Mt. 8:11)

Whether these passages are referring to the judgement of non-Christians and/or Jews, they don’t necessitate a rulership of Christians over other Christians.

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

Interestingly, this word used for “rule” (רָדָה radah) is also used in Psalm 110:2 of Christ: “YHWH will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”  While space will not allow for a full semantic discussion of the various uses of רָדָה and how it might relate to the “ruling” and “reigning” in the Christian Scriptures, we can at least suggest that the rulership mentioned Genesis 1:28 doesn’t necessitate a ruling over other humans.

To summarize, we have listed several possibilities as to the nature of the kingship or rulership in which all Christians will have when Christ returns.  These include:

  • Authority over non-Christians
  • Reigning over sin and death
  • Judgement over non-Christians and/or Jews
  • Ruling over the earth (land, sea, animals, etc.)

Yet, the Watchtower insists that this kingship must by necessity include Christians as subjects.  To my knowledge, there is no Scriptural support for this position.  It appears to be something that is assumed due to what they think it means to be a king.  But it is important that we let Scripture determine the meaning of words rather than our assumptions.

 

Categories: Anointed Class - 144K, Email Bag | 37 Comments

Full debate is up

If anyone is interested, my recent debate with Fred is now on one audio file.  You can download it HERE

Categories: Anointed Class - 144K, Covenant Theology, Debate | 1 Comment

Final portion of the debate is finally up!

Click HERE to listen

 

From the THEOPOLOGETICS website:

Debate topic: “All Christians in the New Covenant will live forever in heaven with Christ.” Fred Torres is a Jehovah’s Witness and affirms. My friend Mike Felker of The Apologetic Front denies. Fred and Mike have been recording a modular debate; they each recorded and sent me their opening statements and rebuttals separately over a span of weeks, with live cross-examination. This episode contains part 3′s second rebuttals and closing statements. Listen to episode 91, “Heaven Lasts Forever,” for part 1′s opening statements and first rebuttals, and to episode 93, “New Earth,” for part 2′s cross-examination.

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Categories: Anointed Class - 144K, Covenant Theology, New Earth | Leave a comment

Who do the “anointed class” rule over? “the Bible does not say,” says the Watchtower

In the January 15, 2012 Watchtower Study Edition, p. 30 par. 18, the following is stated,

18 Thereafter, how will Jehovah use these highly privileged associates of Christ? According to Revelation 22:5, “they will rule as kings forever and ever.” Over whom? The Bible does not say. But the quality of life that they possess and their experience in helping a world of imperfect people will equip them to hold a regal position in Jehovah’s purposes forever.

I found this to be an noteworthy admission for several reasons.  But first, it must be emphasized that the above quote is not necessarily new, for the Watchtower has previously articulated a similar point,

*** re chap. 43 p. 313 par. 30 The Resplendent City ***

30 John closes out this magnificent vision by saying of these slaves of God: “And they will rule as kings forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:5b) True, at the end of the thousand years, the benefits of the ransom will have been applied to completion, and Jesus will present a perfected human race to his Father. (1 Corinthians 15:25-28) What Jehovah has in mind for Jesus and the 144,000 after that, we do not know. But Revelation assures us that their privileged sacred service to Jehovah will continue into all eternity.

The reason I have found this to be noteworthy is because of a commonly used argument by Jehovah’s Witnesses in defending the “two-class theology.”  For example,

*** rs p. 79 Born Again ***

If Someone Says—

‘I’ve been born again’

You might reply: ‘That means that you expect someday to be with Christ in heaven, doesn’t it? . . . Have you ever wondered what those who go to heaven will do there?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘They will be kings and priests, ruling with Christ. (Rev. 20:6; 5:9, 10) Jesus said that these would be just a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32)’ (2) ‘If they are kings, there must also be subjects over whom they will rule. Who will these be? . . . Here are some points that I found to be very interesting when they were drawn to my attention. (Ps. 37:11, 29; Prov. 2:21, 22)’

In other words, if there are rulers then there must be subjects.  Who are the rulers and who are the subjects?

*** w75 1/1 p. 21 par. 7 Appreciating the Things of God ***

The Scriptures show that those who would be joint heirs with Christ in his kingdom and who would rule with him for a thousand years would be 144,000 in number, and that on earth there would be an unnumbered “great crowd” that would prove themselves loyal subjects of that kingdom.—Rev. 7:4-10; 14:3-5; 20:6.

But is this “great crowd” meant to be subject to the 144,000 for all eternity?  The above quote from the January 15, 2012 issue as well as the “Revelation book” (abbreviated “re” above) indicate that the Watchtower is not sure because “the Bible does not say.”

So what effect does the rulers/subject argument really have if the Bible doesn’t tell us who these kings rule over?  Does this mean that non-JW apologists are no longer obliged to answer this argument?

Some might be interested to read how some JW’s have responded to this HERE.

Categories: Anointed Class - 144K | 15 Comments

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Kingdom of Heaven

The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a “two class” theology whereby only 144,000 will reign in heaven for eternity.  The rest of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the “great crowd,” will reside on a paradise earth. The focus of this article will deal with the Watchtower’s belief that none of the saints mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures have gone or will ever go to heaven.

“I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)

“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:28-29)

What does Jesus mean when He expresses that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets will be in the kingdom of heaven?  While the eternal hope for all true Christians and Old Covenant believers will include a restored earth (Matthew 5:5, Romans 4:13, Revelation 21:1-3), “the kingdom of God” is in reference to all God has rule over. However, the Watchtower is very strict in locating “the kingdom of God/Heaven” to heaven itself,

 “God’s Kingdom is a government established by Jehovah God with a King chosen by God…Hence, that is where God’s Kingdom is—in heaven. That is why the Bible calls it a ‘heavenly kingdom.’ (2 Timothy 4:18) Although God’s Kingdom is in heaven, it will rule over the earth. –Revelation 11:15 (What Does the Bible Really Teach, p. 77)

If “the kingdom of God/Heaven” is strictly located in heaven, then what is the most natural and reasonable interpretation of Matthew 8:11/Luke 13:28?  The conclusion would have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob located in God’s government in heaven.  This conclusion presents a problem for the Watchtower’s “two class” theology since they do not believe any of the saints mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures will be in heaven.

The March 15, 1962 Watchtower (p. 191-192, “Questions from Readers) provides their explanation as to how Matthew 8:11/Luke 13:28-29 can be reconciled with their “two class theology.”

 Questions From Readers

 ● How can Matthew 8:11, which speaks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, be harmonized with Matthew 11:11, which indicates that not even John the Baptist will be in it? (3/15/62 WT p. 191-192)

Matthew 11:11 reads:

 “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Remember, it is the Watchtower who insists that “kingdom of heaven” is a locality that is limited to the heavenly realm. This will be important to keep in mind as the article continues.

 In Hebrews 11:8-19 we read: “By faith Abraham . . . dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God. . . . But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them. By faith Abraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac . . . But he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way.”

How did Abraham expect to receive Isaac back from the dead? In heaven as a spirit? No, but here on earth as a human creature. In an illustrative way he got Isaac back from the dead here on earth. So Abraham was not looking for any spiritual, heavenly resurrection to put him among the celestial angels any more than he was expecting Isaac to have such a resurrection and rejoin him in heaven. (Ibid. 191-192)

The Watchtower is correct in denying that Abraham and Isaac will be resurrected as spirit creatures (1 Corinthians 15:35-54).  The problem isn’t with Abraham’s expectation to receive Isaac back from the dead; instead, problem is the Watchtower’s view of the Kingdom of God being limited to a location in heaven. If God’s kingdom encompasses all that He has rule over (both heaven and earth), then Abraham’s reunion with Isaac on earth (e.g. the kingdom of God on earth) isn’t an issue.

 Abraham had come out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and he did not want that city any more. He and his son Isaac and grandson Jacob wanted a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven, a city government, namely, the government or city that God has prepared and in which the promised Seed or Offspring of Abraham will be God’s King. This is the “kingdom of God,” or “the kingdom of the heavens,” as these two expressions are interchangeable, the expression “the heavens” having reference to God. Under that kingdom of the heavens or kingdom of God Abraham, Isaac and Jacob expected to live on earth. (Ibid. 191-192)

Hebrews 11:16 explicitly refers to a “heavenly city” that is being prepared for Abraham to enter.  The Watchtower provides an unscriptural interpretation by asserting that a “city government” is what God is preparing for Abraham.  They argue this to avoid the conclusion that Abraham will be in the same location as Christ and the 144,000.  Yet, there is no Scriptural basis for the Watchtower’s view in separating the Old Covenant saints from Christ and the 144,000.

Instead, the Scriptures are clear in teaching that Christ will physically come to the earth (Acts 1:9-11; 3:21, etc.), separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-33), and say to the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34).  Matthew 25 does not speak of two classes of believers; it speaks of two classes of persons.  These two classes consist of sheep and goats.  All of the sheep are believers who will all inherit the kingdom.  Therefore, there is only one class of believers who will rule with Christ on the earth (Revelation 5:10).

 In the year 30 (A.D.) Jesus told Nicodemus that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not in heaven. (John 3:13) Three years later, on the day of Pentecost of the year 33, the apostle Peter said that the descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, namely, King David, had not ascended to heaven and so was not in any kingdom of the heavens or kingdom of God. (Acts 2:34) Peter said that after Jesus made the statement about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Matthew 8:11 at the time of healing the servant of a Roman centurion. (Ibid. 191-192)

Even if these arguments are granted, how does this change the fact that Matthew 8:11 explicitly affirms that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be “in” the Kingdom of Heaven?  The Watchtower avoids this question by focusing on the intermediate state, which is the idea that the Christian’s soul will be with the Lord following death (Philippians 1:21-24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8).  However, the Watchtower’s arguments are irrelevant to Matthew 8:11 because it refers, using future tense verbs (e.g. “will come”), to the establishment of the Kingdom of God after the physical resurrection of Christians (see also Matthew 26:29 and Luke 22:16-18).

Hence those three patriarchs could not be in the Kingdom class as joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. They were his ancestors, who preceded him by more than seventeen hundred years. It is therefore evident that in Matthew 8:11 Jesus referred to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob figuratively.

On the occasion when Abraham offered up his son Isaac, Abraham represented Jehovah God and Isaac represented God’s only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, who was offered up in sacrifice. Accordingly Jacob represented the spiritual Christian congregation, the “kingdom of the heavens” class; for, just as the congregation gets life through Jesus Christ, so Jacob got life from Abraham through Isaac. From this standpoint Abraham, Isaac and Jacob mentioned together in Jesus’ illustration would picture the great theocratic government, in which Jehovah is the Great Theocrat, Jesus Christ is his anointed representative King, and the faithful, victorious Christian congregation of 144,000 members is the body of Christ’s joint heirs in the Kingdom. (Ibid. 191-192)

The Watchtower apparently believes that if the Scriptures contradict their doctrine, then they should be interpreted figuratively.  There are several problems with this approach.  First, there is no contextual basis for holding to a figurative view of Matthew 8:11.  Recognizing types and shadows in the Hebrew Scriptures has nothing to do with interpreting Matthew 8:11 figuratively.  After all, if the Watchtower didn’t hold to their “two class” doctrine, they would not have come to this conclusion on Matthew 8:11.  But even so, the figurative view falls short in explaining the parallels.  The Watchtower interprets the persons mentioned in the following manner:

  1. Abraham = Jehovah
  2. Isaac = Jesus Christ
  3. Jacob = the 144,000

Unfortunately for the Watchtower, Luke 13:28 mentions another group as being “in the kingdom.” This group includes “all the prophets.”  The Watchtower does not provide a figurative explanation of “all the prophets.”  Therefore, their interpretation of Matthew 8:11 and Luke 13:28 falls short.

 When the Christian congregation was founded on the day of Pentecost, its spirit-anointed members were made Christ’s joint heirs and were put in line for a place in the heavenly kingdom, to recline there at the spiritual table with the Greater Abraham and the Greater Isaac. The natural or fleshly Jews of the nation of Israel claimed to be the “sons of the kingdom” or the prospective members of God’s kingdom. From the day of Pentecost forward they saw the beginning and the gradual development of this theocratic arrangement, but because of their lack of faith in Christ they were not in it. Hence, as Jesus said (Matt. 8:12): “The sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.” (Ibid. 191-192)

The Watchtower insists that these “joint heirs with Christ” will have a separate eternal dwelling place than the rest of Christianity. This is a perspective that is nowhere articulated in the Scriptures.  Instead, the Scriptures teach that all Christians will inherit the heavenly kingdom (Matthew 25:34).

 For this reason it became necessary that many Gentiles (non-Jews), like the Roman centurion whose faith brought a miraculous cure by Jesus, should come “from eastern parts and western parts,” from all around the earth, to become dedicated, baptized Christians. Thus they could help make up the full number of the Kingdom class. For faithfulness to the death these converted Gentiles are resurrected to heavenly life to recline at the heavenly table, as it were, with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ “in the kingdom of the heavens.”

When understood this way, Matthew 8:11 agrees with Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:11: “Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” Since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not greater than John, they will not be literally in the kingdom of the heavens. Jesus used them only as an illustration of those who will actually be in it. (Ibid. 191-192)

The Watchtower completely misses the point of Matthew 11:11.  Jesus is teaching a contrast between this age and the ago to come.  This is similar to what is found in Mark 10:29-31,

 “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” (Mark 10:29–31)

Those who received little in the present age will receive much in the age to come.  In addition, those who are last in the present age will be first in the age to come.  Jesus speaks of this age in Matthew 11:11 when he mentions that no one has arisen who was greater than John the Baptist.  The age to come will not only include those before John the Baptist, but those after him.  Jesus’ point is that anyone living in the Kingdom of God in the age to come is greater than John the Baptist was in the present age.

In conclusion, it has been demonstrated that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all believers will be in the Kingdom of God ruling with Christ.  The Watchtower has failed to prove that Matthew 8:11 can be reconciled with their two class theology.

Categories: Anointed Class - 144K, Heaven, New Earth | 14 Comments

Not measurable and numbered, yet measurable and numbered

(Revelation 7:4) 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

According to the Watchtower, the 144,000 are a literal group of “anointed” Christians who will go to heaven to rule and reign with Christ.  They believe that the rest of the true Christians are described as follows:

(Revelation 7:9) 9 After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.

In addition, the Watchtower believes this “great crowd” is so large that its not able to be numbered.  And they do so on the basis of what the text actually says: “which no man was able to number.”

Since the Watchtower holds to the innumerable nature of the great crowd on the basis of such descriptive terms, it is interesting how another text uses similar language:

(Hosea 1:10) 10 “And the number of the sons of Israel must become like the grains of the sand of the sea that cannot be measured or numbered. And it must occur that in the place in which it used to be said to them, ‘YOU men are not my people,’ it will be said to them, ‘The sons of the living God.’

It is beyond dispute that though the Watchtower views an historical fulfillment of this text in 537 B.C.E. in the exile from Babylon, they also view an additional fulfillment in the establishment of the “anointed class” of 144,000.  The reason we know this is because this text is quoted and applied in 1 Peter 2:10 and Romans 9:26; two texts interpreted by the Watchtower in reference to the “anointed class.”

*** w10 3/15 p. 24 pars. 3-4 One Flock, One Shepherd ***

3 The apostle Peter clearly identified this new nation. He wrote the following to his fellow Christians: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) As foretold, natural Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah were the first members of that new nation. (Dan. 9:27a; Matt. 10:6) Later, many non-Israelites were also included in this nation, for Peter went on to say: “You were once not a people, but are now God’s people.”—1 Pet. 2:10.

4 To whom was Peter here speaking? In the beginning of his letter, he says: “[God] gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) So this new nation is made up of anointed Christians, who have the heavenly hope. They are “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:16) In a vision, the apostle John saw that these spiritual Israelites number 144,000

Consider the dilemma for the Watchtower.  Revelation 7:9 is interpreted as an innumerable group on the basis of the words, “which no man was able to number.”  Yet, Hosea 1:10 is also in reference to a group “that cannot be measured or numbered.”  Yet, the Watchtower believes that this group is numbered and quite small compared to the “great crowd.”

This problem can be summarized as follows:

  • The “anointed” class in literal and numbered (Rev. 7:4), yet they are so large that they cannot be numbered (Hos. 1:10).
  • The “great crowd” is not numbered since they are “not able to be numbered.” (Rev. 7:9)
Categories: Anointed Class - 144K | 2 Comments

Do all faithful Christians go to heaven?

This post will be reviewing an article written by the Watchtower titled, “Do all faithful Christians go to heaven?”  While it is common for the Watchtower to mention their so-called “two-class system,” it is not all that common for a full article to be written on the subject.

While there is nothing new here, it is important that these issues be addressed as there are some profound implications in holding to this doctrine that goes far beyond one’s eternal location.  Another reason for addressing this is to equip those interested in reaching JW’s on an issue that is often overlooked in so-called “counter-cult apologetics.”  Lord willing, this review will provide something insightful for both JW’s and non-JW’s.

 Many have read Jesus’ comforting words: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Did Jesus mean that all faithful worshippers of his Father, Jehovah God, would go to heaven to enjoy everlasting life in true happiness? 

Note Jesus’ thought- provoking statement: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” (John 3: 13) This implies that faithful worshippers in the past, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, had not gone to heaven. (Acts 2:34) Where, then, did they all go? In brief: The faithful of old are in the grave, sleeping in death, un- conscious, awaiting resurrection.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6; Acts 24:15.

For the sake of avoiding an issue that could potentially cloud the discussion, I would like to assume the Watchtower is correct on these points.  However, one thing they say is correct; Jesus’ statement does not say or imply that Christians will go to heaven for eternity.

The Bible’s first reference to heavenly life after death was also by Jesus. He told his apostles that he would prepare a place for them in heaven. (John 14:2, 3) This was something new for God’s people.

While it is true that life in heaven would be a new concept to any Jew, it is not true that John 14:2-3 has something to do with this.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

(John 14:2–3)

A quick glance at this verse may reveal that what the Watchtower says is true.  But a closer look may reveal otherwise.  Notice what Jesus will do after the “preparation”; he will “come again.”  Where will he come to?  Could it be that Christ comes to earth, since “heaven must receive [him] until the period of restoration (Acts 3:21)?”  If Christ comes to earth, where will the “receiving” take place?  It seems that this will take place on earth since Christ is said to, “descend from heaven…then we…will…meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

But what are the “dwelling places…prepared for you?”  Whatever it is, could it be the same city that is being prepared for Abraham and others for whom the Watchtower claims an “earthly hope?”

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

(Hebrews 11:16)

There are also several texts which speak of a “place prepared” that is specifically referring to the preparation of believers.

“For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as thebuilder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house — whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.”

(Hebrews 3:3–6)

“you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

(1 Peter 2:5)

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

(Ephesians 2:19–22)

If one is to insist that Jesus is preparing and building a literal place, then cross references should be provided as have been done above.  However, there is nothing inconsistent in the view that the preparing is actually the body of believers and the kingdom itself.

The apostle Paul later explained that after Jesus’ death and resurrection to heaven, Jesus ‘inaugurated for his disciples a new and living way’—a way no other human had traveled before.—Hebrews 10:19, 20.

While it is true that these verses are speaking of a “new way,” it is not the case that it is referring to “going to heaven.”  In fact, the very next 2 verses explicitly assert what v. 19-20 are speaking of.

“and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

(Hebrews 10:21–22)

The “new way” is the privilege of believers to now “draw near” to God through Christ as their high priest.  If one has this privilege in this life, why would one think that they must go to heaven to do so?  Also consider Revelation 21:3, where God draws near to us by “dwelling among” us.  This happens after the “holy city” (Hebrews 11:16, 12:22) comes “down out of heaven from God” onto the new earth.

Does this mean that from then on all faithful ones would go to heaven? No, for resurrection to heaven is closely related to an assignment given only to some humans. On their last evening together, Jesus told his apostles that they would “sit on thrones to judge” in his heavenly Kingdom. Thus, ruling with Jesus in heaven was to be their assignment.—Luke 22:28-30.

This interpretation assumes two things:

  1. Jesus’ eschatological kingdom will be in heaven.
  2. The judgment thrones will be in heaven.

Contrary to what the Watchtower says, Luke 22:28-30 specifies neither of these.  However, it is interesting that Jesus mentions “eating and drinking” in the kingdom (also mentioned in Luke 14:15; Matthew 26:29).  Will there really be eating and drinking in heaven?  Furthermore, it is interesting that Luke 13:28-29 mentions, “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God…reclining at the table”; a group of people the Watchtower claims will not be in heaven.

Besides the apostles, other humans would also be given this marvelous commission. In a vision, the apostle John saw Jesus with a group of resurrected ones in heaven described as ‘a kingdom and priests to rule over the earth.’ (Revelation 3:21; 5:10) 

Again, neither of these texts mention heaven.  Furthermore, the Watchtower takes it for granted that “over” can just as easily be translated as “upon,” which is how many translations render it. In fact, the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, published by the Watchtower, renders it as such (see the left column):

But regardless of what epi can be translated as; what is important is what it means in the context.  One lexicon defines epi in the context of Revelation 5:10 as,

⑨ marker of power, authority, control of or over someone or someth., over

ⓐ w. gen. (Hdt. 5, 109 al.; Mitt-Wilck. I/1, 124, 1=BGU 1120, 1 [5 b.c.] πρωτάρχῳ ἐ. τοῦ κριτηρίου; 287, 1; LXX; AscIs 2:5 τοῦ ἐ. τῶν πραγματε[ι] ῶν=Denis p. 109) βασιλεύειν ἐ. τινος (Judg 9:8, 10; 1 Km 8:7) Rv 5:10

-William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 365.

In the context of Revelation 5:10, it is not location that is in view, but authority.

How many of them were there? As in every government, only a limited number govern. So, too, with this heavenly Kingdom. Jesus, the Lamb of God, rules with 144,000 corulers “bought from among mankind.”—Revelation 14:1, 4, 5.

There is an interesting contrast between what John “saw” and what he “heard.”

  • John saw, “the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand…”
  • John heard, “a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters…”

What John saw must have been relative to his location, which would have been earth since this is contrasted to what he heard from heaven.  Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that v. 1 depicts an earthly scene rather than one in heaven.

True, 144,000 is a small number compared with the number of all faithful ones, past and present.

What the Watchtower fails to mention is that the “anointed” class must be a group larger than a literal 144,000 in light of the following,

“But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.””

(Galatians 4:26–27)

According to the Watchtower, the “children of the desolate” are the anointed class of 144,000 whereas the “one who has a husband” is in reference to natural Israel.  However, it is doubtful that the Watchtower is prepared to argue that natural Israel was smaller in number than 144,000.

But this is understandable because the 144,000 are resurrected to heaven for a specific sacred assignment of work. If you were to build a house, would you contract all the skilled builders in your area? No. You would need only as many as were required for the job. Similarly, not all faithful ones are chosen by God for the unique privilege of ruling with Christ in heaven.

This heavenly government will accomplish God’s original purpose for mankind. Jesus and his 144,000 corulers will oversee the transformation of the earth into a global paradise, where an untold number of faithful ones will live forever in happiness. (Isaiah 45:18; Revelation 21: 3, 4) This will include those in God’s memory, who will be resurrected.—John 5:28, 29.

Every faithful worshipper of Jehovah—past or present—can receive the marvelous gift of everlasting life. (Romans 6:23) A few will receive life in heaven for a special assignment, and the great majority will receive life on earth in a global paradise.

While is true that the earth will one day be restored to a paradise (Revelation 21:1), it is not the case that there will be a “heavenly government” whereby a literal 144,000 will rule in heaven with Christ over the rest of faithful Christians living on the earth.  Instead, the eternal dwelling for all Christians on the new earth is far more consistent with the Scriptures.

If you would like to read this issue of the Watchtower in its entirety, you can download the PDF HERE

Categories: Anointed Class - 144K, Heaven, New Earth | 5 Comments

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