[From ws1/16 p. 17 for March 14-21]
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”—Rom. 8:16
With this article and the next, the Governing Body is attempting to reaffirm the interpretation that Judge Rutherford made in the August 1 and 15 Watchtower to the effect that only 144,000 Christians are spirit anointed.[i] As a consequence of this interpretation, on March 23rd of this year, millions of faithful Christians will sit quietly by while the emblems that represent Christ’s life-saving sacrifice are passed in front of them. They will not partake. They will only observe. They will do this out of obedience.
The question is: Obedience to whom? To Jesus? Or to men?
When our Lord instituted what has come to be called “The Last Supper”, or as Witnesses prefer, “The Lord’s Evening Meal”, he passed the bread and the wine, giving his disciples the command to “keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Lu 22:19) Paul imparted additional information about this occasion when writing to the Corinthians:
“. . .and after giving thanks, he broke it and said: “This means my body, which is in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” 25 He did the same with the cup also, after they had the evening meal, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood. Keep doing this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this loaf and drink this cup, you keep proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes.” (1Co 11:24-26)
Keep doing what? Observing? Respectfully declining to participate? Paul clarifies when he says:
“For whenever you eat this loaf and drink this cup.…”
Clearly, it is the act of participating, of eating this loaf and drinking this cup which results in a proclaiming of the Lord’s death until he comes. Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any other Christian writer makes a provision for the vast majority of Christians to abstain.
The King of Kings has given us a command to partake of the emblems. Do we have to understand the why and wherefore before agreeing to obey? No chance! The King commands and we jump. Nevertheless our loving King has given us the reason for obedience and it is of surpassing goodness.
“So Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I will resurrect him on the last day;” (John 6:53, 54)
So given the above, why would anyone decline to partake of the emblems which symbolize eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood for everlasting life?
Yet millions do.
The reason is that they’ve been convinced that partaking would amount to disobedience; that this command is only for a select few, and to partake would be to sin against God.
The first time that someone suggested to a human that it was okay to disobey God, that there were exceptions to the rule, was in Eden. If you have a clearly expressed command from God and someone tells you it doesn’t apply to you, he had better have overwhelming proof; otherwise, you could be following in the footsteps of Eve.
Eve tried to blame the serpent but that didn’t do her much good. We should never disobey a command of our Lord. Doing so under the excuse that men in authority told us it was okay, or because we are afraid of men and the reproach that might ensue for a faithful stand will just not cut it. When Jesus gave the illustration of the four slaves, one was faithful and discreet, and one was evil, but there were two more.
“Then that slave who understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he asked will be beaten with many strokes. 48 But the one who did not understand and yet did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few.” (Lu 12:47, 48)
Evidently, even if we disobey out of ignorance, we still get punished. Therefore, it is in our best interest to let the Governing Body make its point. If those men can prove their interpretation, then we can obey. On the other hand, if they do not provide any proof, then we have a decision to make. If we continue to refuse to partake, we must understand that we are no longer doing so in ignorance. Now we are like the slave who “understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he was asked.” His punishment is more severe.
Of course, we will not accept any argument based solely on the authority of men. We believe only what the Scriptures teach us, so the argument of the Governing Body must be Scriptural. Let us see.
The Governing Body’s Premise
The whole of the Governing Body’s support for Rutherford’s interpretation stems from the belief that there are only 144,000 slots to be filled and that Romans 8:16 is depicting some sort of “personal calling” that only a select group of people within the Christian congregation receive. These get a “special invitation” which is denied the rest. Only these are to be called the adopted children of God.
Based on the four review texts which will be used to summarize the article’s main points, we can see their position is:
- 2Co 1:21, 22 – God seals this elite class of anointed with a token, his spirit.
- 1:10, 11 – These are chosen and called to gain entrance to the kingdom.
- Ro 8:15, 16 – The spirit bears witness that these ones are God’s children.
- 1Jo 2:20, 27 – These have innate knowledge that they alone are called.
Let’s not stop at the verses quoted. Let’s review the context of these four “proof” texts.
Read the context of 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and ask yourself if Paul is saying that only some of the Corinthians—or by extension, only some Christians throughout time—are being sealed with a spirit token.
Read the context of 2 Peter 1:10-11 and ask yourself if Peter is suggesting that certain Christians—then or now—are chosen from within the larger community to gain entrance into the kingdom while others are excluded.[ii]
Read the context of Romans 8:15-16 and ask yourself if Paul is speaking of two groups or three. He refers to following the flesh or following the spirit. One or the other. Do you see reference to a third group? A group that doesn’t follow the flesh, but also doesn’t receive the spirit?
Read the context of 1 John 2:20, 27 and ask yourself if John is suggesting that the knowledge of the spirit within us is the property of only some Christians.
Starting Off without a Premise
Jehovah’s Witnesses start with the belief that all have the hope of life eternal on Earth. This is the default position. We never question it. I never did. We want life on earth. We want to have beautiful bodies, to be eternally young, to have all the riches of the earth as our bounty. Who wouldn’t?
But wanting doesn’t make it so. What Jehovah wants for us as Christians should be what we want. So let’s not enter this discussion with preconceptions and personal desires. Let’s clear our minds and learn what the Bible actually teaches.
We’ll let the Governing Body make their case.
These discuss the first outpouring of Holy Spirit at Pentecost and how 3,000 more were baptized that day and immediately all received the Spirit. The Governing Body teaches that nobody gets the Holy Spirit at baptism anymore. How will they get around this apparent contradiction with what the Scriptures show?
Before making the attempt, they first reinforce the idea of two hopes with this statement:
“So whether it is our hope to make our home in heaven with Jesus or to live forever on a paradise earth, our lives are deeply affected by the events of that day!” (Par. 4)
You will notice that no proof texts are provided—because there are none. Nevertheless, they know they are preaching to the choir for the most part, so simply restating the belief is enough to reinforce it in the minds of the faithful.
The first Christians got the spirit upon baptism. That doesn’t happen anymore, says the Governing Body. Here is where they try to provide Scriptural proof for this new teaching.
Does this show that God’s way of anointing Christians has changed in our day? No, not at all. The reason for this apparent disparity had to do with something Jesus foretold.
“Also, I say to you: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my congregation, and the gates of the Grave will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens, and whatever you may bind on earth will already be bound in the heavens, and whatever you may loosen on earth will already be loosened in the heavens.” (Mt 16:18, 19)
Peter was given the “keys of the Kingdom”. It was Peter who preached at Pentecost (the first key) when the first Jewish converts got the spirit. It was Peter who went to the baptized Samaritans (distant relatives of the Jews from the 10-tribe kingdom) to open the door for the outpouring of the spirit to them (the second key). And it was Peter who was divinely summoned to the household of Cornelius (the third key).
Why did the spirit come on those Gentiles before baptism? Likely to overcome the prejudice of Jewish indoctrination that would have otherwise made it difficult for Peter and those accompanying him to baptize Gentiles.
So the Governing Body is using the special case of the “keys of the kingdom”—Peter opening of the doors for the spirit to come in to these three groups—as proof that their teaching is Scriptural. Let us not get distracted. The question isn’t about when the spirit comes upon a Christian, but that it does—and to all. In the foregoing cases, no Christians were excluded from receiving the spirit.
The process is explained in these Scriptures:
“Did you receive holy spirit when YOU became believers?” They said to him: “Why, we have never heard whether there is a holy spirit.” 3 And he said: “In what, then, were YOU baptized?” They said: “In John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said: “John baptized with the baptism [in symbol] of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the holy spirit came upon them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 All together, there were about twelve men.” (Ac 19:2-7)
“By means of him also, after YOU believed, YOU were sealed with the promised holy spirit,” (Eph 1:13)
The process therefore is: 1) You believe, 2) you get baptized in Christ, 3) you receive the spirit. There is no process such as the Governing Body describes: 1) You believe, 2) you get baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 3) you get the spirit in one out of a thousand cases, but only after years of faithful service.
“So not all are anointed in exactly the same manner. Some may have had a rather sudden realization of their calling, while others experienced a more gradual realization.”
A “gradual realization”!? Based on the Governing Body’s teaching, God calls you directly. He sends his spirit and makes you aware that you have been touched by him in a special way, with a special realization of your upward calling. God’s calls do not experience technical difficulties. If he wants you to know something, you will know it. Does not a statement like this indicate that they are just making this up as they go along, trying to explain away situations that are the result of an unscriptural teaching? Where is there any Scriptural support for a gradual realization that God is communicating to you?
As proof of this sudden or gradual realization, they quote Eph. 1:13-14 which we just read above as proof that all get the spirit immediately after baptism. They would have us believe that encompassed in the word “after” is all the fullness of their teaching. Therefore, “after” means years or decades after and even then only in very rare cases.
Next, the Governing Body’s teaches: “Before receiving this personal witness from God’s spirit, these Christians cherished an earthly hope.” (Par. 13)
That certainly wasn’t the case in the first century. There is no evidence whatsoever of first century Christians entertaining the hope of life on earth. So why would we think that suddenly in 1934 all that changed?
“Does the Christian who receives this token have a guaranteed future in heaven?”
If you have not engaged your thinking ability, you may fall prey to this technique of asking a question based on an unproven premise. By answering the question, you are tacitly accepting its premise.
The article has not proven that only certain Christians receive this token. Their so-called proof texts (already cited) actually show that all Christians get this token. Hoping we haven’t noticed that, they would have us adopt the mindset that we are here only talking about a small group within the Christian congregation.
Paragraph 8 & 9
“The vast majority of God’s servants today may find this anointing process difficult to comprehend, and rightly so.” (Par. 8)
Do you find the Trinity doctrine difficult to comprehend? I do, and rightly so. Why? Because it originates from men, and therefore does not make sense scripturally. Actually, once one is freed from the indoctrination of decades, it becomes very easy to understand the anointing process. I am speaking from personal experience. Once I realized there was no mystical calling, but rather just the simple awareness of God’s purpose revealed clearly in Scripture, all the pieces fell into place. From e-mails I’ve received, this is a common occurrence.
After quoting Romans 8:15-16, the article next states:
“Simply put, by means of his holy spirit, God makes it clear to that person that he is invited to become a future heir in the Kingdom arrangement.” (Par. 9)
Before accepting this assertion blindly, please read all of chapter 8 of Romans. You will see that Paul’s purpose is to contrast two possible courses of action for Christians.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, on the things of the spirit.” (Ro 8:5)
How does that make sense if there are Christians that do not have the anointing of the spirit? What do they set their minds on? Paul gives us no third option.
“For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace” (Ro 8:6)
Either we focus on the spirit or we focus on the flesh. Either we live in the spirit, or we die in the flesh. There is no provision for a class of Christian in whom the spirit does not dwell, and yet who is saved from the death that is owed to a minding of the flesh.
“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 person does not belong to him.” (Ro 8:9)
We can only be in harmony with the spirit if it dwells in us. Without it, we cannot belong to Christ. So what then of this so-called non-anointed class of Christian? Are we to believe they have the spirit, but are just not anointed with it? Where in the Bible is such a strange concept to be found?
“For all who are led by God’s spirit are indeed God’s sons.” (Ro 8:14)
We do not follow the flesh, do we? We follow the spirit. It leads us. Then according to this verse—just one verse before the so-called JW proof text—we learn that we are God’s children. How then can the next two verses be excluding us from this inheritance of sons?
It makes no sense.
The Governing Body, following Rutherford’s lead, would have us accept their interpretation of some mystical calling, some innate awareness that God plants only in the hearts of some. If you haven’t heard it, then you haven’t received it. By default then, you have an earthly hope.
“The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Ro 8:16)
How then does the spirit bear witness. Why not let the Bible tell us.
“When the helper arrives that I will send YOU from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me; 27 and YOU, in turn, are to bear witness, because YOU have been with me from when I began.” (Joh 15:26, 27)
“However, when that one comes, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own initiative, but what he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things to come.” (Joh 16:13)
“Moreover, the holy spirit also bears witness to us, for after it has said: 16 “‘This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days,’ says Jehovah. ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them,’” 17 [it says afterwards:] “And I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore.”” (Heb 10:15-17)
From these verses, we can see that God uses his spirit to open up our minds and hearts so that we can understand the truth already there in his word. It brings us into union with him. It shows us the mind of Christ. (1Co 2:14-16) This bearing witness is not a one time event, a “special invitation”, nor is it a conviction. The spirit affects everything we do and think.
If the Holy Spirit’s bearing witness is restricted to a tiny group within the Christian community, then only those ones are guided into all the truth. Only those have God’s law written on their minds and hearts. Only those can understand the Christ. That puts them in a position of Lordship over the rest, which was apparently Rutherford’s intention.
“Be it noted that the obligation is laid upon the priestly class to do the leading or reading of the law of instruction to the people. Therefore, where there is a company of Jehovah’s witnesses…the leader of a study should be selected from amongst the anointed, and likewise those of the service committee should be taken from the anointed….Jonadab was there as one to learn, and not one who was to teach….The official organization of Jehovah on earth consists of his anointed remnant, and the Jonadabs [other sheep] who walk with the anointed are to be taught, but not to be leaders. This appearing to be God’s arrangement, all should gladly abide thereby.” (w34 8/15 p. 250 par. 32)
This priestly class was further restricted in 2012 to just the Governing Body, they being the sole channel God uses to communicate today with his servants.
“Those who have received this special invitation from God do not need another witness from any other source. They do not need someone else to verify what has happened to them. Jehovah leaves no doubt whatsoever in their minds and hearts. The apostle John tells such anointed Christians: “You have an anointing from the holy one, and all of you have knowledge.” He further states: “As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but the anointing from him is teaching you about all things and is true and is no lie. Just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.” (1 John 2:20, 27)
So all those anointed by the spirit have knowledge. This is in line with Paul’s words about the spiritual man examining all things. Additionally, the spirit teaches us about all things, and we don’t need anyone to be teaching us.
Oops! This doesn’t fit with the JW paradigm that the spirit comes down through the Governing Body to us. As the JW saying goes: “They instruct us. We don’t instruct them.” According to John’s words, “the anointing from him is teaching you about all things”. This means that anyone who is anointed doesn’t need instruction from the Governing Body or any other religious authority. That will never do. Therefore, they try to defuse the teaching of John by saying:
“These ones need spiritual instruction just like everyone else. But they do not need anyone to validate their anointing. The most powerful force in the universe has given them this conviction!” (Par. 10)
To claim that the knowledge John speaks of is only the conviction that these ones are anointed is just plain silly, because all were anointed. It’s like saying that they needed the spirit to tell them they were Christians. Witnesses who do not think of that will be content with this explanation because it seems to work in our modern situation. Obviously, to support the notion that only 1 in a 1,000 is going to be chosen by God, we need some mechanism to explain away the incongruity. But John wasn’t writing to Jehovah’s Witnesses. His audience were all anointed Christians. In the context of 1 John 2, he was speaking about antichrists that were trying to deceive the chosen ones. These were men who came into the congregation telling the brothers that they needed “spiritual instruction” from others. That is why John says:
“20 And you have an anointing from the holy one, and all of you have knowledge…26 I write you these things about those who are trying to mislead you. 27 And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but the anointing from him is teaching you about all things and is true and is no lie. Just as it has taught you, remain in union with him. 28 So now, little children, remain in union with him, so that when he is made manifest we may have freeness of speech and not shrink away from him in shame at his presence.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses who will read John’s words as if we were writing directly to the members of the Organization will benefit greatly.
A Pause for Thought
To this point, has the Governing Body made its case? Can you honestly say you’ve read a single Scripture that proves that only some Christians are spirit anointed? Have you seen a single Scripture that supports the idea of an earthly hope for Christians?
Remember, we’re not saying that the Bible teaches that everyone goes to heaven. After all, Christians are going to judge the world. (1Co 6:2) There has to be somebody to judge. What we are saying is that to believe in a special hope for Christians that involved life on earth apart from the billions of unrighteous ones who will be resurrected on earth requires some Scriptural evidence. Where is it? Certainly, it is not to be found in this week’s Study article.
Paragraph 11 – 14
“Clearly, it is impossible to explain fully this personal calling to those who have not experienced it.” (Par. 11)
“Those who have been invited in such a manner may wonder…” (Par. 12)
“Before receiving this personal witness from God’s spirit, these Christians cherished an earthly hope.” (Par. 13)
The writer obviously assumes he has made his point and we have all accepted it. Without giving us a single proof text, he is attempting to get us to buy into the teaching that a tiny but select group of Jehovah’s Witnesses get some kind of “personal calling” or “special invitation”.
Paragraph 11 would have us believe that only these ones are born again. Again, no proof is given to show that only some Christians are born again.
What about the proof from paragraph 13, you might ask?
“They longed for the time when Jehovah would cleanse this earth, and they wanted to be part of that blessed future. Perhaps they even pictured themselves welcoming back their loved ones from the grave. They looked forward to living in the homes that they built and eating the fruitage of trees that they planted. (Isa. 65:21-23)”
Again, there is nothing in the Bible that teaches us that Christians start out with an earthly hope, and then—only for some—change to a heavenly one. The Christians that Paul, Peter and John wrote to all knew of the prophecy of Isaiah 65. So why is no mention made of it in relation to the Christian hope?
This prophecy shares similarities with prophecies in Revelation. It speaks of the fulfillment of God’s purpose to reconcile all humankind to himself. However—and here’s the rub—if this prophecy were depicting the hope held out to Christians specifically and not the world of humankind in general, then wouldn’t it be included in the message of the Christian hope, the Good News which Jesus preached? Wouldn’t the Bible writers be speaking about Christians building homes and planting fig trees? It’s hard to pick up a publication of the Organization without finding some reference to eternal life on earth, a paradise home for mankind together with pictures showing the material benefits of living under God’s kingdom. Yet, such thoughts and images are altogether absent from the message of the Good News imparted by Jesus and the Christian writers. Why?
Simply put, because the images from Isaiah 65 applied to the Jewish restoration, and if we can allow for a secondary application because of the parallel with Revelation, we find that we are still talking about the restoration of humankind to the family of God. This is accomplished only because the Christian hope of being with Christ as kings and priests is introduced first. Without the Christian hope, there can be no restored paradise.
Paragraph 15 – 18
Now we come to what the article is really about.
The number of partakers of the emblems at the JW Memorial has been rising steadily. In 2005, there were 8,524 partakers. The number should have declined over the past decade as these old ones died off, but something disturbing from the perspective of the Governing Body has been happening since that year. The numbers have been steadily increasing. This past year the number has risen to 15,177. This is troubling because it means more and more are quietly rejecting the dogma of an “other sheep” class of secondary Christians. The hold which the Governing Body has over the flock appears to be slipping.
“This means that the majority of the 144,000 chosen ones have already died faithfully.” (Par. 17)
We can’t have 15,000 new anointed ones this late in the game—with that number continuing to rise—and still have the JW-fixed number of 144,000 work. Something has to give.
Rutherford was faced with a similar dilemma back in the 30s. He taught a literal number (144,000) of anointed. With the growing number of Witnesses back then, most of whom were partakers, he had two choices. Abandon his personal interpretation or come up with a new one to support it. Of course, the humble thing would have been to admit he got it wrong and that 144,000 was a symbolic number. Instead, as this article shows, he chose the latter. What he came up with was an entirely new interpretation of who the other sheep of John 10:16 were. He based this entirely on typical/antitypical prophetic dramas. These were fabricated. They are not found in Scripture. Of interest is the fact that just last year, such man-made typical/antitypical applications have been disavowed by the Governing Body as going beyond what is written. However, it seems that pre-existing ones, like the Other Sheep doctrine, have been grandfathered into JW theology.
The article ends with a lead-in to next week’s study:
“So, then, how should those with an earthly hope view anyone who claims to have the heavenly hope? If someone in your congregation starts to partake of the emblems at the Lord’s Evening Meal, how should you react? Should you be concerned with any increase in the number of those who claim to have the heavenly calling? These questions will be answered in the next article.” (Par. 18)
Given the total lack of evidence that the Good News Jesus preached contained an earthly hope for his disciples, and given that the JW Other Sheep doctrine is based entirely on types and antitypes that are not applied in Scripture, and given that we have formally disavowed the use of such antitypes, and finally, given that the entire basis for this doctrine is the unprovable supposition that the 144,000 is a literal number, it is hard for someone who loves truth to understand why the Governing Body is sticking to its guns.
The Governing Body loves to point to Pr 4:18 to explain its frequent reinterpretations of Scripture, but I would suggest that what we are seeing these days can best be explained by the next verse.
[i] For a full Scriptural analysis of Rutherford’s reasoning, see “Going Beyond What Is Written”.
[ii] It is true that Christians are referred to as the chosen ones, but as the Bible shows, it is a choosing from out of the world into the Christian Congregation. There are simply no Scriptures which speak of another choosing from out of the larger Christian community into a smaller, elite class. (John 15:19; 1 Corinthians 1:27; Ephesians 1:4; James 2:5)
[iii] It appears the “gifts of the spirit”, such as miraculous healings and speaking in tongues, only occurred at the hands of the apostles, but our subject isn’t about miraculous gifts; it is about the Holy Spirit which God imparts to all Christians.