“you were called to the one hope” - Ephesians 4:4
Unfortunately most of those who express a sincere interest in joining themselves with us as our brothers get caught up in pursuing a religion rather than a relationship. Those of us who have come to know and love our Lord Jesus Christ are “rooted and established on the foundation” of that relationship, not the doctrines or teachings of any religious organization. Instead of needing a set of doctrines to accept and rules to follow we are guided primarily by love, specifically our love for Jesus. (Ephesians 3:17) We learn to love by observing our Lord's example. Jesus was impelled by his love for us and displayed love in an exemplary way.
Throughout Paul's letter to the brothers in Ephesus he emphasized the need to have a thorough comprehension of the sacred secrets and a complete knowledge of Christ's love. Understanding these things is important if we are to be God's children. As an apostle Paul had the authority to teach Christ's disciples about their hope, and by means of a revelation he had these things explained to him so that he would be able to share that knowledge with us. (Ephesians 3:1-4) This is how Paul explains our hope as it was revealed to him by the holy spirit: "In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should, in union with Christ Jesus and through the good news, be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise." (Ephesians 3:5-6)
Members of the CCJW (Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses) will no doubt reply: 'this is the hope for only a select and chosen few while the hope for the vast majority of mankind is to have life here on earth by means of a resurrection in a physical body enjoying life as a subject of Jesus rulership'. To the point that statement is technically correct, but it is misleading. It implies that the individual has no control or say in the matter. The suggestion is that from the time we are born it is only appropriate to entertain a hope for a physical life here on earth unless we one day experience a revelation by the holy spirit allowing us to begin entertaining the hope Paul put forth for Christ's disciples.
As an "anointed" member of the CCJW I say for a certainty: no one professing to be "anointed" has had any revelation by the holy spirit as they imply. In fact the way I clearly explain embracing our hope on this site is the exact way all of us that are "members of the body" have, up until this point, done so. If any "anointed" member of the congregation claims they were told by God that they were specially chosen to embrace this hope I challenge them to relate their experience. How did God's angel appear to them? How did the voice they heard sound? Any person who has received a revelation from God at this time should step up and share it with the congregation. I am quite confident that not even a single member of the "Governing Body" will be able to step up to my challenge.
To the point God doesn't choose us because we're special, rather we're special because God chose us. Why would God choose us? Because we respond favorably to the "good news". What exactly is the "good news"? We can "be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with (the apostles) of the promise." (Ephesians 3:6) As of today only about 20,000 members of the CCJW profess to have understood the good news and are currently pursuing that hope.
Sadly some of those individuals are just silly people that imagine they're special. Others are more than happy to hide the good news from their fellow worshippers. Some say God has chosen to reveal the hope to us by helping us understand the relevance of these Scriptures, implying it's not our place to explain this to others but it is up to God to reveal this hope to them. Some go so far as to reason, if we clearly explain our hope then everyone will embrace it and there can only be a total of 144,000 from Christ till Armageddon that can have this hope. Such reasoning is fleshly and twisted. If there are only going to be 144,000 people who can successfully embrace this hope before Armageddon then wouldn't we urge people to fill up that number as quickly as possible? Would we really want to delay the establishment of God's Kingdom? Is that not Satan’s goal?
It is always important for us to closely examine God's Word to make sure we have an accurate understanding of what exactly is the truth. The fact that you are here shows you have no doubt discerned the Watchtower is in error on certain prophetic interpretations. Many who do so often feel a need to come up with their own private interpretation of the Scriptures and the sacred secrets of the Kingdom. Why? Perhaps it is because they accepted their entire body of comprehension based upon teachings printed in the Watchtower and not what has been written in the Scriptures. However, if our understanding has been built upon the Scriptures, we will be able to identify where they have been twisted or misapplied by false teachers.
Most, if not all of us, have fallen victim to the persuasive explanations of false teachers. To be fair most of those who are teaching these false doctrines and interpretations are in fact victims of false teachers themselves. Rather than discard all the knowledge of the sacred secrets of the Kingdom that we have acquired in our years of being a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should examine the Scriptures carefully to see exactly what is the truth. As the apostle admonished: “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Articles on this site have already covered the topics of: whether or not Christ's presence will be invisible*, was the Kingdom established in the year 1914**, is there a generation associated with the year 1914 alive today that allows us to determine when the great tribulation will begin#, and if the first resurrection has already begun##. Understanding the truth from the Scriptures on these topics means that the Watchtower's teachings related to the years 1914, 1919, and any other year are complete nonsense and have no foundation in the Scriptures. Perhaps the most important date that has a significant impact on our comprehension is the year 1935.
The Watchtower teaches that everyone who has expressed faith in Christ from the year 33 C.E. until the year 1935 C.E. has had the heavenly hope, and everyone who became a disciple after 1935 has had an earthly hope except for a rare few exceptional individuals that have been chosen for the heavenly hope. One of the reasons this conclusion is drawn is because there is absolutely no indication throughout all the apostles and disciples writings from the first century that any disciple of our Lord entertained an earthly hope. All were seeking a heavenly reward in the Kingdom. That was their goal, as clearly stated in all the Scriptures, and cannot be disputed. This teaching centered around the year 1935 must be questioned. Are there two classes, or groups, of Christ's disciples? Who are the “other sheep”, and who are the “chosen ones”? (John 10:16; Mark 13:27)
To begin the first group, the “other sheep”, can be easily identified in the Scriptures. The Watchtower begins with the doctrine that there are two groups of disciples, and clings to this expression that Jesus uttered on one, and only one, occasion. In fact Jesus words at John 10:16 are the one and only time the expression “other sheep” is found throughout the entire Bible. Understanding who Jesus was referring to when he mentioned “other sheep” is as simple as taking in an honest examination of the context. Jesus was speaking to a confrontational group of Jews. His simple expression revealed that he would bring non-Jews, or “other sheep”, into his sheepfold as disciples.
Notice just a few of the expressions Paul uses in describing how the “other sheep” are united with the Jewish sheep to form one united congregation of Christ's sheep: “the one who made the two groups one”, “to make the two groups in union with himself into one”, “through him we, both peoples, have free access to the Father”, “you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens”. (Ephesians 2: 14-19) Just as Jesus said: "they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock". Understanding to whom Jesus was referring when he said “other sheep”, namely that Gentiles would be joining the Jews in Jesus sheepfold, has no significance whatsoever on the question of whether or not there are two groups of disciples with two different hopes, but rather we understand clearly that the “other sheep” was simply a reference to an inclusion of the Gentiles among Christ's disciples. Any significant effort put forth to study this point will add weight to the clear explanation put forth in these two paragraphs.
Jesus said: “I was not sent to anyone except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) These were the people given the first opportunity to follow Jesus and accept God's invitation to become his adopted children. This was a new hope put before the nation of Israel that John began to prepare them for. Jesus said: “from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.” (Matthew 11:12) However the hope of being a part of that administration could not be fully embraced until Jesus' life was sacrificed. This can be seen by the fact that even though John was possibly the most righteous man that had ever lived, the unfortunate timing of his death would prevent him from being a member of that administration. Jesus explained, “among those born of women, there has not been raised up anyone greater than John the Baptist, but a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matthew 11:11)
Some will present the argument that Jesus referred to righteous men like Abraham and specifically said they would be “in the Kingdom of the heavens”. (Matthew 8:11) Nevertheless, to accurately understand the Scriptures we must look at them as a whole rather than focus with tunnel vision on particular expressions and try to extract a depth of knowledge. To be fair Jesus did say that, yet it is important to keep in mind that when the Kingdom is established everyone living in heaven and on earth can be accurately described as being “in the Kingdom”. So the important question to ask is who will be a part of the administration “to rule as kings”, and who will inherit the benefits of that rulership as subjects of the Kingdom? (Revelation 5:10)
When Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus, a spiritual leader and teacher of the Jewish people, he emphasized the need to undergo a rebirth from a physical existence to a spiritual life. He said this is a requirement to be a part of the administration: “Most truly I say to you, unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) On a separate occasion Jesus explained how the holy spirit would become operative within us as we embrace this new spiritual hope. He tells us: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever puts faith in me, just as the scripture has said: ‘From deep within him streams of living water will flow.’” John explains what Jesus was saying: "he said this concerning the spirit, which those who put faith in him were about to receive; for as yet there was no spirit, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7:37-39) As John clearly tells us they were “about to receive” the spirit, but had not yet received it. Why not? John answers “because Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
Before his disciples could receive the spirit Jesus first had to ascend to heaven and be given the spirit by his Father so that he could then distribute it to his disciples. Peter explained on the first occasion when the spirit was given: “because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you see and hear.” (Acts 2:33) While faithful men and prophets had God's spirit in the past this gift of the spirit was unique. Even the apostles prior to this occasion had the ability to perform miracles and expel demons by means of the holy spirit. However what they received here was different.
Paul explains how the spirit received is different: “you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!”, and again “God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, and it cries out: “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, then you are also an heir through God.” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6-7) How do you address God? As your father, or do you call him by his name Jehovah? The holy spirit encourages us to address him as our father and embrace a familial relationship with him and Jesus. Do you embrace that invitation or repudiate it? How many children address their parents by using their name? In how many of all Jesus recorded prayers did he address God using his name Jehovah? Thus the spirit that we receive as Jesus disciples “is a token in advance of our inheritance”, it allows us to embrace God as our father and the Lord Jesus Christ as our brother. (Ephesians 1:14)
Paul explained in his letter to the Hebrews that it was Jesus sacrifice that makes it possible for us to embrace this new hope. He said: “we have boldness for the way of entry into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, which he opened up for us as a new and living way through the curtain, that is, his flesh”. (Hebrews 10:19-20) It was an appropriate symbol that at the moment Christ died “the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom”. (Mark 15:38) It was only after his death that it was now possible for God's servants to embrace the hope of entering into the most holy which is into heaven itself.
When Jesus introduced this new hope for his disciples to be a part of the Kingdom, did he also present a secondary hope for some of his disciples to be subjects of that Kingdom? No he did not. There would be no need for Jesus to introduce a hope for the Jews to become subjects of that Kingdom because that was the hope they currently held. Think about why they were looking for the Messiah. It was because they were desiring to live as subjects under his administration. Even after Jesus had died and been resurrected his disciples were still clinging to their old hope asking: "Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?" (Acts 1:6) This was not a new hope but rather it had been the hope of every servant of God from Able until John the baptist.
Those following Jesus took time to fully comprehend the privilege Jesus was putting before them. On one occasion Peter got the sense of how much Jesus was expecting from his disciples, so he asked Jesus what the reward would be. Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, in the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) This is the “one hope” put before those “who have followed” Jesus. Paul wrote, “One body there is, and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) Peter told the disciples they were “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession”. (1Peter 2:9) In the Revelation given to John he saw that they would become “a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over (properly translated upon, or on) the earth.” (Revelation 5:10) Also they would have the hope of being a part of the “first resurrection” where “they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.” (Revelation 20:4-5)
However such a wonderful hope is not attained without effort. Jesus said “indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him, and the one who was put in charge of much will have more than usual demanded of him.” (Luke 12:48) This is true of all who come to know Jesus and agree to become his disciples. Jesus disciples are often referred to as the “chosen ones” and for a fact we cannot become a disciple of Jesus 'unless our Father draws us' to Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus emphasized that “there are many invited, but few chosen.” (Luke 18:7; Matthew 22:14) Once we come to Jesus we must listen to him and do what he asks of us. He admonishes us “first sit down and calculate the expense”, and stipulates “you may be sure that not one of you who does not say good-bye to all his belongings can be my disciple.” (Luke 14:28, 33) Jesus has extremely high expectations and standards for anyone who would become one of his disciples, and rightly so.
At this point we could come to a reasonable conclusion. Once Jesus offered the invitation to become his disciples, first to the Jews and then to all mankind, there would emerge two groups of people. First, those who accept Jesus invitation and agree to become his disciples, and second those who do not. What hope is there for those who did not agree to become Jesus disciples? Would it not be the exact same hope that the CCJW embraces today, to be resurrected as a subject of God's Kingdom on the earth? Jesus clearly said that everyone that has lived and died will be resurrected, as we have recorded for us at John 5:28, 29.
Although many millions, or perhaps billions, throughout the last two thousand years have professed faith in Christ and embraced the label “Christian” it is doubtful that many of them truly came to know our Lord with accurate knowledge, agreeing to obey and follow him as one of his disciples. Today finding association with fellow members of Christ's body is difficult. Many professed disciples have different beliefs, and they find discerning the truth an allusive concept. How many of God's chosen ones are there on the earth today?
The Revelation given to John describes the chosen ones as 144,000 in chapters 7 and 14. The question arises 'is the number 144,000 literal or symbolic?' Is our Father waiting to seal exactly 144,000 sons to join Christ before his Kingdom comes to power? Revelation is a symbolic book, and the context of chapter seven describes twelve symbolic tribes all containing a symbolic 12,000 members. Is it reasonable that the symbolic 12,000 could be multiplied by the symbolic 12 to come up with a literal 144,000? Maybe and maybe not, it could be and has been a debated question. Why is a negative times a negative a positive? Sometimes things are confusing and we need Jesus to explain them to us. What we do know for a fact is that 144,000 is a small and finite number for all the faithful disciples of Jesus over the past two thousand years and whether literal or symbolic it emphasizes the point that Jesus stated: “there are many invited, but few chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
So who are the members of the “great crowd”? According to the CCJW the "great crowd" mentioned at Revelation 7:9 is synonymous with the "other sheep" at John 10:16. They focus on these references to promote a two teir hope for Jesus disciples. The correct interpretation of the exact identity of the "great crowd" is not completely clear at this time. Some argue, (quite persuasively), that the "great crowd" (or "large crowd") is simply a vision of the the remaining members of the 144,000 on earth at the time when Christ's presence begins. However, we do know that there will be people on earth, who are not a part of the 144,000 , that will survive through Armageddon. There will be a great crowd of survivors. So whether or not the "great crowd" represents Christ's brothers that are still on the earth at the beginning of our Lord's presence, or those among mankind who will survive through the battle of Armageddon on earth remains to be clarified by the holy spirit.
As stated, since Jesus extended the invitation to become his disciples, all mankind could be divided into two groups: those who embrace the good news becoming his disciples and those who do not. Revelation is a prophecy about a future time, specifically 'the second time that Jesus appears.' At that time all who have accepted Jesus invitation will be sealed. Once that is accomplished no one else will be taken “from among mankind as firstfruits to God”. (Revelation 14:4) Apparently at that time all those on the earth will be given a choice: to live righteously repent of their sins and subject themselves to Jesus, or refuse. It would appear that there will be many who accept Christ's authority so that they may be recipients of his loving protection and deliverance through the end of this system, and are privileged to survive Armageddon becoming the subjects of God's Kingdom under Christ's rulership.
How can we know if the “great crowd” is forming today? The Bible clearly says about the “great crowd”: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation”. So we can say with certainty that no one from the year 1935 was a part of the “great crowd”, because no one who was baptized in 1935 will still be alive at the end of the future tribulation. As for individuals today; they could only be members of the “great crowd” if the “great tribulation” comes in their lifetime, and they “come out of” it. Certainly none of us waiting for our Lord can boldly proclaim that anyone at this time is a member of the “great crowd”, for the simple reason that none of us can say when the “great tribulation” will begin. (Revelation 7:9-14)
So what hope should God's servants entertain, a spiritual life as one of Christ's brothers, or life on earth as a subject of his Kingdom? Every time Jesus invited someone to become one of his disciples it was always presented to them as a choice. In fact Jesus implored us to 'count the cost' and make a decision. (Luke 14:28) Nevertheless, while Jesus presented embracing this life as a goal, Satan through his representatives constantly attempts to remove our hope from those who would hear it. Jesus strongly condemned them saying: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the Kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in." (Matthew 23:13) Jesus admonished us: "Keep your eyes open and watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees." (Matthew 16:6) Anyone today who professes to be a leader or teacher of Christ's brothers yet they themselves have not agreed to pursue this goal, or anyone who obstructs an individual or group from embracing this hope, would by a parallel comparison be exactly like those Pharisees our Lord specifically warned us about.
Considering the high standards Jesus set for those that would become his disciples, obviously not everyone would have what it takes to pursue the Kingdom as their goal. Pursuing the Kingdom is likened in the Scriptures to participating in a long and difficult race like a marathon. (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27) Just as many people have various limitations that would prevent them from completing a marathon likewise not everyone is able to become one of Jesus disciples.
Perhaps the best comment on this subject within the pages of the Watchtower was written by Fred Franz in 1952. While in recent years the brothers have shrouded our hope with some sort of mystical calling that no one can understand or question, back then our brothers were much more reasonable and up front with how they embraced their hope. Answering the question “How can one determine whether he is of the anointed class, and hence should partake of the Memorial emblems?” Brother Franz wrote in his conclusion:
“So, it seems that after you have inspected the matter of time, the possession of God’s spirit, his dealings with you, then you have to take into consideration, “What are my real, sincere, heartfelt hopes in this matter?” Then you decide your position; no one else can decide for you. Decide whether you have the consuming spiritual aspirations. If so, then follow through with those. That is in your system and you cannot get it out, so act accordingly. Participate in the Memorial emblems. Whereas, if you do not have that hope, if you are divided and uncertain, then it appears that you are of the earthly class, and hence should not partake of the emblems at Memorial time.” (w52 1/15 p.64) [underline mine]
What hope is there for those who cannot, as Paul put it, “run the race”? The Scriptures clearly state: “Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you will be concealed on the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zephania 2:3) This Scripture would certainly seem to apply to all those living on the earth at the conclusion of this system of things. What about those that die without receiving the “spirit of adoption as sons”? (Romans 8: 15) Jesus said: “the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29) So according to Jesus words both those “who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things” would be resurrected by him when he is ruling as king.