If indeed there is a two-tier system in the Christian congregation by which some are rewarded with heavenly life and others with eternal life in the flesh, how can we determine which group we are in? It would be one thing if we all serve and upon our resurrection or the revealing of Jesus at Armageddon, we then learn of our reward. Certainly that is in keeping with all the parables of Jesus involving slaves who are assigned to watch over the Master’s belongings while he is away. Each gets his reward upon the master’s return. Additionally, these parables often speak of the rewards varying according to the work of each one.
However, that is not what we teach. We teach that the reward each gets is foreknown and the only variable is whether or not one will get it. The anointed know they go to heaven because it is revealed to them miraculously by the spirit causing them to instinctively have that hope. The other sheep know they stay on earth, not because it is likewise revealed to them, but more by default; by virtue of not being told anything about their reward.
Here are two representative samplings of our teaching on this subject:
Under the holy spirit’s influence, the spirit, or dominant attitude, of anointed ones impels them to apply to themselves what the Scriptures say about Jehovah’s spiritual children. (w03 2/15 p. 21 par. 18 What Does the Lord’s Evening Meal Mean to You?)
This testimony, or realization, reorients their thinking and hope. They are still humans, enjoying the good things of Jehovah’s earthly creation, yet the major direction of their life and concerns is on being joint heirs with Christ. They have not come to this outlook through emotionalism. They are normal individuals, balanced in their views and conduct. Being sanctified by God’s spirit, though, they are convinced of their calling, not having persisting doubts over it. They realize that their salvation will be to heaven if they prove faithful. (w90 2/15 p. 20 par. 21 ‘Discerning What We Are’—At Memorial Time)
All of this is based on the understanding we have of one Bible text, Romans 8:16, which reads: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
That is the sum total of our “proof”. To accept this, we must first accept that the only Christians who are God’s children are the anointed. We must therefore believe that the greater part of the Christian congregation is made up of God’s friends, not his sons. (w12 7/15 p. 28, par. 7) Now, there is no mention of this in the Christian Scriptures. Consider the importance of that statement. The sacred secret of the sons of God is revealed in the Christian Scriptures, but no mention is made of a secondary class of Friends of God. Yet, this is what we teach. We must, in honesty, view this as human interpretation, or to use a more accurate term, speculation.
Now based on this speculative premise—that only some Christians are God’s sons—we then use Romans 8:16 to show us how they know. And how do they know? Because God’s spirit tells them. How? This is not explained in Scripture other than to say that the holy spirit reveals it. Here’s the problem. We all get his holy spirit, do we not? Do not the publications exhort us to pray for God’s spirit? And does not the Bible say that “YOU are all, in fact, sons of God through YOUR faith in Christ Jesus”? (Gal. 3:26) Doesn’t this contradict our speculative interpretation of Romans 8:16? We are imposing something on the text that is not there. We are saying that while all Christians get the holy spirit, the spirit given to the anointed is special in some way and it reveals, again in some unexplained miraculous way, that they are special and set apart from their brothers. We are saying that their faith alone makes them sons of God, while the faith of the rest is merely cause for God to call them friends. And the only scripture we have to support this fanciful interpretation is a text that can easily be applied—without speculation—to show that all Christians who put faith in Jesus and receive the spirit he sends forth are God’s sons, not merely his friends.
Truly, read it for what it says not what we would like to infer so as to support a theology that originated with Judge Rutherford.
“But I don’t feel like I’m being called to heaven”, you may say. I completely understand. Our current teaching made sense to me all my life. Since I was a little boy, I had been taught that my hope was earthly. My mind had therefore been trained to think of the things of the earth and discount the possibility of life in heaven. Heaven was the hope for a select few, but never something I gave a moment’s thought to. But is this the result of the leading of the spirit or the indoctrination of men?
Let’s have another look at Romans, but the whole chapter and not just a cherry-picked verse.
(Romans 8:5) . . .For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit.
Is this speaking of the two hopes? Apparently not.
(Romans 8:6-8) For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; 7 because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be. 8 So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God.
So if a Christian has the spirit, he has life. If he minds the flesh, he has death in view. There is no two-tier reward being spoken of here.
(Romans 8:9-11) . . .However, YOU are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in YOU. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in union with YOU, the body indeed is dead on account of sin, but the spirit is life on account of righteousness. 11 If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in YOU, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make YOUR mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in YOU.
Those on the outside, those without the spirit, do not belong to Christ. Are the other sheep without God’s spirit, or do they too belong to Christ? If they don’t belong to Christ, they have no hope. Only two states of being are referenced here, not three. Either you have the spirit for life, or you don’t and you die.
(Romans 8:12-16) . . .So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh; 13 for if YOU live in accord with the flesh YOU are sure to die; but if YOU put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, YOU will live. 14 For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. 15 For YOU did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but YOU received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” 16 The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Are not the other sheep “under obligation…to put the practices of the body to death by the spirit”? Are the other sheep not “led by God’s spirit”? If so, are they not therefore “God’s sons”? Have the other sheep received a “spirit of slavery causing fear again” or a “spirit of adoptions as sons”? Do we not pray to the Father? Do we not say, “Our Father in the heavens”? Or do we just pray to a good friend?
“Ah”, you say, “but what about the next verse?”
(Romans 8:17) If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.
After reading this, do you find yourself thinking, If we are glorified together with Jesus, then we all go to heaven and that can’t be? Is it that you have been so conditioned to believe that you are not worthy of the heavenly reward that you can conceive of no possibility that this is being held out to you?
Do all Christians go to heaven? I don’t know. The parable of the faithful and discreet steward in Luke 12:41-48 speaks of an evil slave that is cast out, a faithful one that is appointed over all the master’s belongings and two others that apparently survive, but are punished. The parable of the minas, the talents, and others indicate more than one reward. So to be honest, I don’t think we can state categorically that all Christians go to heaven. However, it does appear that the opportunity is being held out to all Christians. Even in pre-Christian times the idea of being able to reach out for a “better resurrection” was there. (Heb. 11:35)
This hope, this wonderful opportunity, has been taken from millions by virtue of this misinterpretation of a single text. The idea that Jehovah pre-selects those who go to heaven before they have proven themselves is completely unscriptural. Romans 8:16 is not speaking about some miraculous revealing in the hearts of a select few that they are the chosen of God. Rather it speaks of the fact that as we receive God’s spirit, as we walk by spirit not by sight, as we mind the spirit which means life and peace, our mental disposition brings us to the realization that we are now God’s children.
At least it does, if we have not been pre-conditioned by the teachings of men to reject that wonderful reward held out to the faithful.
[…] See Are You in the New Covenant; The Spirit Bears Witness; Who Should Partake; and Kiss the […]
[…] Romans 8 proves we are all God’s sons and that we all have the spirit. Verse 16 does not prove that this revelation is anything other than a clear understanding of our position based on what the spirit reveals to all Christians as it opens up the Scriptures to us. (See post: The Spirit Bears Witness) […]
I will admit if no one else will, sometimes when I read things that I have thought that are then brought up here I wish Jehovah would make known his 100% correct ways to worship and understand him so I don’t have that not as confident feeling in the message I preach. Many times, as was mentioned here, I’ve been PASSIONATE about teaching something only to have to recant to the same position the person at the door or associate held before I did which makes me seem more like a trumpet rather than a teacher. Then it’s tossed in… Read more »
NOT “where else would you go”…
“To WHOM shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
I wasn’t quoting the scripture I was quoting Peter’s post in correlation to that scripture. Seems my point for you was lost in translation.
Oh – yes
Please excuse me
No biggie. Didn’t want you think i was adding new translations. LOL
Anonymous- you are saying that you are an elder, correct? I was too until just over 2 years ago. I’m not sure how you and Meleti can continue to serve, in view of what would be considered your ‘apostate’ views, if they were to become known. After all, among other things, you have to teach publicly in the congregation and I assume that you do so in accord with the GB’s teachings. How would you feel about conducting the Watchtower study on any or all of the July 15 articles, for instance?
Some might approach this subject much like a JW science teacher might approach the subject of evolution. He could present the information subtly explaining that this is the official view of the organization. On the other hand, he may simply decide to decline the part or assignment. He is not required to give reasons. This is a personal issue which each must answer in his own way. It becomes a more challenging issue when one has small children. Jesus held back teaching some truths because his disciples were not able to bear them. Perhaps a similar technique applies to children.… Read more »
If we look objectively at the matter of teaching small children, how could someone conscientiously indoctrinate a child in the full framework of our teachings, even if they have a long term view to allow for alternative thought later on? This would be far worse than pretending there is a Santa Claus, which later in life the child would understand was an untruth, but that it was perpetuated with the simple parental objective of providing a bit of fun. Now I’m not trying to defend Santa, but simply thinking about how a child will perceive being taught something that the… Read more »
To be clear, I wasn’t suggesting that parents teach their children a falsehood, but rather that they withhold some instruction as did Jesus. (John 16:12) It is unlikely that little children are going to care or be able to understand the intricacies of the 1914 doctrine for instance. Some have written in expressing concern because the dilemma is that very young children are likely to blurt out things which could create severe difficulties for the family. You are right. In a sense, there is a distinct Orwellian aspect to our organization in this regard. In our bible reading for this… Read more »
JImmyG: No, I’m no longer an elder. I stepped down about 3 yrs. ago.
Hi Erick. Thanks for the clarification
Thanks for the well thought out article. Reading Rom. 8 in context makes it quite clear that Paul was saying there are only 2 groups: those in accord with the flesh and those in accord with the spirit. Those who walk according to the flesh can’t please God. Those who walk in the spirit are God’s anointed sons. There isn’t any 3rd group. As one begins to examine the doctrines that are unique to the Society it becomes clearer and clearer that there is very little evidence for these viewpoints. Yet when I brought up with the C.O. and my… Read more »
Thanks Meleti. This and your previous post were thought provoking. It was well laid out and developed on a step by step basis. This was really powerful since this belief of a two tiered system is one of the core beliefs of JWs. Like many who have commented here, i have long believed that we had absolute truth. And like you i also had a turning point with our current understanding of “this generation”, however as i have re examined our beliefs i can’t recall a post that has made me think as deeply as this one. I have been… Read more »
I too have the same dilemma, we are told to incite to fine works, yet we can not in this organization talk about anything contrary to the status quot of the teaching of the governing body. When we do or even mention a thing or two loved ones panic and run off to the elders to tell them you must be sick or doing something wrong etc. I have also seen and experienced a love that is conditional were if and when I’m towing the line my brothers and sisters so love me, but when i do not they quickly… Read more »
You are absolutely right. With the exception of a few , as a whole their love is conditional . I have found recently after many years of thinking that I am alone another sister who has expressed many of the same thoughts they have been expressed on this site….. So they are out there. It is my prayer to Jehovah that we all find peace.
The 2010 reinterpretation of Mt. 24:34 was a turning point for me as well. I think there is a silent but significant minority who feel the same. I think many would like the GB to just “leave it alone”. The previous interpretations at least made some sense and even appeared to have scriptural support. In fact, I think the previous understanding was correct. We just got the starting point wrong. 1914 strikes again! But this one has no scriptural support and just appears to be made up to shore up a failing doctrine. That seems transparently obvious now. However, voicing… Read more »
Thanks Meleti … Very good reasoning points. We do need to look at the whole context of a scripture rather than cherry pick it. It was the 2010 explanation of Matthew 24:34 (that it means the anointed of overlapping generations) that caused me to seriously think about the following two scriptures and how I needed to do what they are admonishing: “Now the [Beroeans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” – Acts 17:11 “Beloved ones, do… Read more »
I do not love the organization. I love my brothers. I love the brotherhood. I love being one of a group of people whose love for one another and their fellowman will cause then to surrender their lives rather than take up arms and kill another. I love being with people who sacrifice their time and resources and even their short term dreams so that they can help others to have hope for life everlasting. I love the fact that I can go anywhere in the world, walk into a kingdom hall and find the love that I have in… Read more »
No kidding crazyguy, it took me over 35 years to do an unbiased research on the watchtower history. Shocking! It is a false prophet we will not fear Deut. 18:20-22. Meleti V. I know you love the organization but for your own sake, examine your religion
Its amazing how many religious ideals are based on just one man’s ideas or interpretations of the bible. Its no wonder Jesus, Paul, Peter and John all told us to check and check and recheck what we are told with whats written in the bible. Its unfortunate for me that it took me 40 years before i started to test the inspired expression.