[From ws7/16 p. 21 for September 12-18]
“We all received . . . undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness.”—John 1:16
This particular Watchtower study resulted in a bit of a revelation for me—not something I’m accustomed to when reading The Watchtower. It begins with the parable of the 11th hour workers taken from Matthew 20:1-15. In this parable, all the workers get the same wage, whether they’ve worked all day, or just the last hour of the day. The parable closes with the words:
“In this way, the last ones will be first, and the first ones last.” (Mt 20:16)
Jesus doesn’t say what the wage is, and neither does the article, though it implies it is God’s undeserved kindness. The point of the parable is that it is the Master who decides what the wage is, and he pays the same wage to all regardless of how much work each has done. In fact, the last get paid first, so those who worked the least get an advantage over those who worked the longest.
Here’s the point: how can we justify a dual-hope system of salvation if all the workers get the same wage? If the wage is the reward, then there is no basis for two rewards?
“Ah”, you say, “but what if the Watchtower is right and the wage is undeserved kindness? Then don’t both the anointed and the other sheep get the same reward?”
NO! Undeserved kindness results in the Christian being declared righteous. According to the Organization, “Jehovah has declared his anointed ones righteous as sons and the other sheep righteous as friends.” (See w12 7/15 p. 28 par. 7)
So one group becomes sons and one group becomes friends. Not the same wage.
But some will counter, “The underserved kindness results in the same outcome for both groups: everlasting life! So they do both get the same wage.”
Again, NO! Even if we allow for this application of the wage, it still doesn’t track, because the anointed get life upon their resurrection. God’s undeserved kindness results in them being declared righteous for life. The Bible says of them that “they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for 1,000 years.” (Re 20:4) So they immediately receive life upon their resurrection.
Not so the other sheep according to Watchtower doctrine. The other sheep return to life on earth still in their sinful state. Since they are still under sin, they are still subject to death. So they are not declared righteous, because being declared righteous means a resurrection to life, not to sin with death as a possibility. According to JW theology, the other sheep will only be declared righteous at the end of the thousand years, if—if—they remain faithful.
So if undeserved kindness is the wage, then the other sheep don’t get the same wage.
“Sure they do,” some may still argue. They just get it a thousand years after the anointed. Ah, but then we’re forgetting that last verse of the parable. The first are last and the last, first. According to JW theology, the anointed were the first to be gathered. The other sheep only came on the scene since the mid-1930s. The other sheep are last. So they should be first to get the wage, but no so. They have to wait an additional thousand years.
This parable of Jesus—like the rest of his kingdom parables—makes no provision for a secondary class of Christian receiving a secondary reward.
At this point and in light of the article’s main theme, we should also bear in mind that nowhere does the Bible speak of Christians being declared righteous as God’s friends.
If we are to learn from the parable, we have to accept that all Christians get the same wage and even if that wage is undeserved kindness that grants life, it must be the same life. Otherwise, it’s not the same wage.
The Bible speaks of one faith, one baptism, one hope, one reward. In short, one wage.
“. . .Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. 25 But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 YOU are all, in fact, sons of God through YOUR faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of YOU who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for YOU are all one [person] in union with Christ Jesus. 29 Moreover, if YOU belong to Christ, YOU are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” (Ga 3:24-29)
According to official Watchtower doctrine, there is no difference between the other sheep who survive Armageddon, the other sheep who die before Armageddon and are resurrected, and the unrighteous who will be resurrected along side them in the new world.
“Under Jesus’ loving attention, the entire human family—Armageddon survivors, their offspring, and the thousands of millions of resurrected dead who obey him—will grow toward human perfection.” (w91 6/1 p. 8 Jesus Finishes All God Asks)
They all go into the same big melting pot. Therefore, upon their resurrection, or following their survival through Armageddon, the other sheep will continue to be sinners right alongside the “thousands of millions of resurrected” unrighteous ones.
Obviously, this is not the same reward that the anointed receive by any stretch of the imagination!
Undeserved Kindness “Expressed in Various Ways”
We will bear this in mind as we examine the various ways the article claims that God’s undeserved kindness is expressed to the other sheep.
“Being forgiven of our sins.” – par. 9
According to 1 John 1:8-9, Christians are cleansed of all unrighteousness. How can that be if, upon their resurrection to life on earth, God restores them to their former sinful state?
“Having a peaceful relationship with God…Paul links this privilege to Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, stating: “Now that we [Christ’s anointed brothers] have been declared righteous as a result of faith, let us enjoy peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained access by faith into this undeserved kindness in which we now stand.” (Rom. 5:1, 2) What a blessing this is! – par. 10
Fine, but this applies to Christ’s anointed brothers as the article clearly states. There is no provision for a secondary class of friends to be at peace with God. How can they be, if they are not declared righteous for life?
Paragraph 11 claims that Daniel 12:3 foretells that anointed Christians will, in our day, bring many non-anointed Christians to righteousness. No proof of this is provided for the simple reason that there is no proof to be had. This isn’t interpretation, but baseless speculation intended to try to leverage a Bible text in support of man-made doctrine. What is far more likely, given the context of Daniel, is that this foretells the formation of the Christian congregation when the Jews with insight (Jewish Christians) brought the many—people of the nations—to righteousness as spirit-anointed Christians. Of course, I can’t prove that, but whatever the application, we can say with assurance that the article’s writer has it wrong, because his interpretation depends on the existence of a secondary class of Christian, and the Bible teaches no such thing.
“Having the prospect of everlasting life.” – par. 15.
Search as I might, I could not find anywhere in the Bible where it speaks of the prospect of everlasting life. Even the proof texts cited in this paragraph do not support the idea. Are we playing with words? Isn’t the prospect of everlasting life just another way of saying ‘the hope of everlasting life’. Not in Watchtower parlance.
“But Jehovah provides us with a wonderful hope. Jesus promised his followers: “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who recognizes the Son and exercises faith in him should have [not have the prospect, but simply have] everlasting life.” (John 6:40) Yes, the hope of eternal life is a gift, a wonderful expression of God’s undeserved kindness. Paul, who certainly appreciated that fact, said: “The undeserved kindness of God has been manifested, bringing salvation [not the prospect of salvation] to all sorts of people.”—Titus 2:11” – par 15
When an anointed Christian is declared righteous by faith, he has everlasting life. If he dies that moment, then in the next moment in time (from his point of view) he is restored to life—perfect, immortal, everlasting life. (Forgive the tautology, but I’m trying to make a point.) The idea of a prospect of life has to be sold to Witnesses who believe they are a secondary class of Christian, because they are taught that all they get after surviving Armageddon, or being resurrected, is the prospect or possibility of everlasting life some thousand years in the future.
This is like telling someone that if they pay for a house now, you will deliver it to them in ten centuries, if they continue to behave. God doesn’t work on the layaway plan. If you put faith in him and His son now, he declares you righteous now!
The article concludes by preparing us for next week’s push to do even more in the door-to-door preaching work.
As grateful recipients of God’s generous love, we should be moved to do our utmost “to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 20:24) This responsibility will be examined in detail in the following article.
The witness Paul bore was that of undeserved kindness resulting in being declared righteous for life. This is not the message that Jehovah’s Witnesses preach. So the whole message of next week’s study will, as we’ll then see, be tainted by a false premise.