When Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden to keep them away from the Tree of Life (Ge 3:22), the first humans were cast out of God’s universal family. They were now alienated from their Father—disinherited.
We all descend from Adam and Adam was created by God. This means that we can all call ourselves God’s children. But that is just a technicality. Legally, we are fatherless; we are orphans.
Noah was a special man, chosen to survive the destruction of the ancient world. Yet Jehovah never called him son. Abraham was chosen to found God’s nation of Israel because he put faith in the Almighty, and such faith was counted to him as righteousness. As a consequence, Jehovah called him friend, but not son. (James 2:23) The list goes on: Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah—all outstanding men of faith, yet none are called God’s sons in the Bible. [A]
Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in the heavens….” We now take this for granted, often failing to recognize the earth-shaking change this simple phrase represented when first uttered. Consider such prayers as Solomon’s at the inauguration of the Temple (1 Kings 8:22-53) or Jehoshaphat’s appeal for God’s deliverance from a massive invading force (2Ch 20:5-12). Neither refers to the Almighty as Father, only as God. Before Jesus, Jehovah’s servants called him God, not Father. All of that changed with Jesus. He opened the door to reconciliation, to adoption, to a familial relationship with the Divine one, to calling God, “Abba Father”. (Ro 5:11; John 1:12; Ro 8:14-16)
In the well-known song, Amazing Grace, there is a poignant stanza that goes: “I once was lost but now am found”. How well this captures the emotion so many Christians have felt down through the centuries when first coming to experience God’s love, first calling him Father and meaning it. Such a hope sustained them through untold sufferings and the miseries of life. The wasting flesh was no longer a prison, but a vessel that, once abandoned, gave way to the true and real life of a child of God. Though very few grasped it, this was the hope that Jesus brought to the world. (1Co 15:55-57; 2Co 4:16-18; John 1:12; 1Ti 6:19)
A New Hope?
For 20 centuries this has been the hope that has sustained faithful Christians even through unimaginable persecution. However, in the 20th century one individual decided to put a stop to it. He preached another hope, a new one. For the past 80 years, millions have been led to believe they cannot call God Father—at least not in the only sense that matters, the legal sense. While still promised eternal life—eventually, after a thousand additional years—these millions have been denied the hope of legal adoption. They remain orphans.
In a landmark two-article series entitled “His Kindness” in the 1934 Watchtower, then president of the Watchtower, Bible & Tract Society, Judge Rutherford, convinced Jehovah’s Witnesses that God had revealed through him the existence of a secondary class of Christian. The members of this newly revealed class were not to be called children of God, nor could they consider Jesus as their mediator. They were not in the new covenant and would not inherit eternal life upon their resurrection even if they had died faithfully. They were not anointed with God’s spirit and must therefore reject Jesus’ command to partake of the memorial emblems. When Armageddon came, these ones would survive it, but would then have to work toward perfection over the course of a thousand years. Those who died prior to Armageddon were to be resurrected as part of the resurrection of the righteous, but would continue in their sinful state, having to work together with the Armageddon survivors to gain perfection only at the end of the thousand years. (w34 8/1 and 8/15)
Jehovah’s Witnesses accept this understanding because they consider that Rutherford was part of the 20th century “faithful and discreet slave”. As such he was Jehovah’s appointed channel of communication for his people. Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is considered to be that slave. (Mt 24:45-47)
A Doctrine Unwittingly Disavowed
From what does this belief stem, and why have all the other churches of Christendom missed it? The doctrine is based on two premises:
- There is a prophetic antitypical correspondence to Jehu’s invitation to Jonadab to get into his chariot.
- The six Israelite cities of refuge typified a secondary form of salvation for the vast majority of Christians today.
The application of these typical/antitypical prophetic parallels is not to be found anywhere in Scripture. To put that another way for clarity’s sake: nowhere in the Bible is application made to link Jehu’s invitation to Jonadab nor the cities of refuge with anything in our day. (For an in-depth analysis of these two articles see “Going Beyond What Is Written“)
This is the sole basis upon which our doctrine denying millions the hope of adoption as God’s sons is founded. Let us be clear! No other Scriptural basis has ever been provided in our publications to replace Rutherford’s revelation, and to this day we continue to refer to his teaching in the mid-1930s as the moment when Jehovah revealed to us the existence of this earthly “other sheep” class.
There are many sincere Bible students among my JW brethren—men and women who love truth. It is fitting to draw the attention of such ones to a recent and important development. In the 2014 Annual Meeting as well as a recent “Question from Readers”, the “faithful and discreet slave” have rejected the use of types and antitypes when such have not been applied in the Scriptures themselves. The application of non-Scriptural prophetic types is now considered to be ‘going beyond what is written’. (See footnote B)
Since we still accept Rutherford’s teaching, it appears that the Governing Body is unaware that this new teaching invalidates his entire premise. It appears that they have unwittingly cut the pins out from under our “other sheep” doctrine.
Sincere Bible students are left to ponder the following dichotomy of facts based on accepted JW theology.
- The faithful and discreet slave is God’s appointed channel of communication.
- Judge Rutherford was the faithful and discreet slave.
- Judge Rutherford introduced the current “other sheep” doctrine.
- Rutherford based this doctrinal finding solely on prophetic types not found in Scripture.
Conclusion: The “other sheep” doctrine originates from Jehovah.
- The current Governing Body is the faithful and discreet slave.
- The Governing Body is God’s appointed channel of communication.
- The Governing Body has disavowed the use of prophetic types which are not found in scripture.
Conclusion: Jehovah is telling us that it is wrong to accept doctrine based on prophetic types not found in Scripture.
We must add to the above statements one unassailable truth: “It is impossible for God to lie.” (He 6:18)
Therefore, the only way that we can resolve these contradictions is to admit that either the current “faithful slave” is wrong, or that the 1934 “faithful slave” was wrong. They simply cannot both be right. However, that forces us to acknowledge that on at least one of those two occasions, the “faithful slave” was not acting as God’s channel, for God cannot lie.
They’re Just Imperfect Men
The standard response I’ve gotten when confronting one of my brothers with an obvious error made by the “faithful slave” is that ‘they are just imperfect men and make mistakes’. I’m an imperfect man, and I make mistakes, and I have the honor to be able to share my beliefs with a wider audience through this web site, but I have never suggested that God speaks through me. It would be incredibly and dangerously presumptuous for me to suggest such a thing.
Consider this: Would you take your life savings to a broker who said that he was God’s appointed channel of communication, but also admitted that sometimes his stock tips were wrong because, well, after all, he’s just an imperfect human and humans make mistakes? We are dealing with something far more valuable here than our life savings. We’re talking about saving our life.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are now being asked to put implicit and unconditional trust in a body of men claiming to speak for God. What then are we to do when that self-appointed “faithful slave” gives us conflicting instructions? They tell us that it’s okay to disobey Jesus’ command to partake of the emblems because we are not spirit anointed. However, they also tell us—albeit unwittingly—that the basis for that belief “goes beyond the things written”. Which edict are we to obey?
Jehovah would never do this to us. He would never confuse us. He only confuses his enemies.
Facing the Facts
Everything presented thus far is fact. It can be verified easily using on-line resources available to everyone. However, most Jehovah’s Witnesses will be troubled by these facts. Some may adopt the attitude of the proverbial ostrich and bury their head in the sand hoping it will all go away. Others will raise objections based on the interpretation of Romans 8:16 or simply hunker down, putting blind trust in men with the disclaimer that they need do nothing but wait on Jehovah.
We will attempt to address these issues and objections in the next part of this series.
[A] 1 Chronicles 17:13 speaks of God being a father to Solomon, but in that context we can see this is not a legal arrangement, an adoption. Rather, Jehovah is speaking to David about the way he will treat Solomon, such as when a man reassures a dying friend that he will care for his surviving sons as if they were his own. Solomon was not given the inheritance of God’s sons, which is eternal life.
[B] “Who is to decide if a person or an event is a type if the word of God doesn’t say anything about it? Who is qualified to do that? Our answer? We can do no better than to quote our beloved brother Albert Schroeder who said, “We need to exercise great care when applying accounts in the Hebrew Scriptures as prophetic patterns or types if these accounts are not applied in the Scriptures themselves.” Wasn’t that a beautiful statement? We agree with it. Subsequently he stated that we should not use them “where the scriptures themselves do not clearly identify them as such. We simply cannot go beyond what is written.” – From discourse given by Governing Body Member David Splane at the 2014 Annual Meeting (Time marker: 2:12). See also the “Questions from Readers” in the March 15, 2015 The Watchtower.