[From ws17/11 p. 25 – January 22-28]
“Let no man deprive you of the prize.” – Col 2:18.
Consider this picture. On the left we have two old people looking forward to the hope of being with Christ in the Kingdom of the Heavens. On the right we have young people looking forward to the hope of living in a paradise earth.
In reference to Christians—to repeat, in reference to Christians—does the Bible speak of two hopes? The last paragraph of this study concludes: “The prize before us—whether immortal life in heaven or everlasting life on a paradise earth—is marvelous to contemplate.” Is this teaching based on Scripture?
Granted, the Bible speaks of two resurrections.
“And I have hope toward God, which hope these men also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Ac 24:15)
When Paul refers to “these men”, he is referring to the Jewish leaders who were standing before him in a judicial hearing seeking his death. Even these opposers believed in two resurrections, as did Paul. Nevertheless, Paul’s personal hope was to achieve the resurrection of the righteous.
“I am pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:14)
So why would Paul say that he had “hope toward God…that there is going to be a resurrection of…the unrighteous” if he wasn’t hoping for that end himself?
The love of Christ was in Paul as it should be in all his followers. Just as God does not wish any to be destroyed, Paul, secure in his own hope, also hoped for a resurrection of unrighteous ones. This was not a guarantee of salvation, but it was an opportunity for such.
Jesus said: “But if anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Joh 12:47) Judgment day is yet future, so those who have died—even those who have heard Jesus sayings, but not kept them—are not judged unworthy of the opportunity of life. There is a hope for such unrighteous ones. Many of these will be those who call themselves Christian; who hear Jesus’ sayings, yet do not keep them.
However, that is not the message that Jehovah’s Witnesses are imparting via the opening illustration of this article. For Witnesses, there are actually three resurrections. One of the unrighteous to earth, and two of the righteous: one to heaven and the other to earth. Righteous non-spirit-anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses are known as the other sheep of John 10:16. These are declared righteous as God’s friends to live everlastingly on the earth. They get resurrected at the start of the 1,000 reign of Christ to prepare the way for the resurrection of the unrighteous which follows. The righteous Jehovah’s Witnesses will teach and instruct the unrighteous hordes that will return progressively. Other sheep elders among Jehovah’s Witnesses will serve as rulers or princes on the earth for the anointed kings ruling far away in heaven with Christ. (This is how Witnesses misapply Isaiah 32:1, 2 which clearly applies to the anointed brothers of Christ who rule with him in the kingdom of the heavens. – Re 20:4-6)
Here’s the problem: The Bible doesn’t teach this earthly resurrection of righteous other sheep.
With that in mind, let’s look at all the evidence provided in this article to support the idea that the other sheep of John 10:16 are not part of the anointed followers of Jesus, the children of God.
To be clear, we’re dealing with finding proof that everyone depicted on the right side of the opening illustration is envisioning a legitimate hope as they picture their prize.
The other sheep have a different hope. They look forward to gaining the prize of everlasting life on earth—and what a happy prospect that is!—2 Pet. 3:13.
2 Peter 3:13 says:
“But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pe 3:13)
Peter is writing to the “chosen ones”, the children of God. So when he refers to the “new earth”, he is referring to the domain of the Kingdom. (The “dom” of Kingdom refers to the domain of the ruler.) There is nothing in his words to suggest he is speaking of a hope for the other sheep. That is simply going way beyond what is written.
Let us review the three scriptural references in this paragraph used supposedly to support the idea of two prizes.
“Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things on the earth.” (Col 3:2)
The Bible is for all Christians. If there are two classes with two different hopes, and if the second class outnumbers the first by about 100 to 1, then why would Jehovah inspire Paul to tell these ones to focus on heavenly things, not earthly things?
“…since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones 5 because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens. You previously heard about this hope through the message of truth of the good news.” (Col 1:4, 5)
The holy ones are the anointed children of God. So these words are directed to those whose “hope…is reserved…in the heavens.” They “heard about this hope through the message of truth of the good news.” So what part of the good news speaks about an earthly hope? Why does Paul only talk to the tiny flock of righteous ones who inherit the kingdom and ignore the much vaster flock of righteous, but earthbound, kingdom subjects—unless no such distinction exists?
“Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.” (1 Co 9:24)
Shouldn’t Paul be talking about the prizes? Plural? Why does he only refer to one prize if there are two?
“Therefore, do not let anyone judge you about what you eat and drink or about the observance of a festival or of the new moon or of a sabbath. 17 Those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ. 18 Let no man deprive you of the prize who takes delight in a false humility and a form of worship of the angels, “taking his stand on” the things he has seen. He is actually puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind,” (Col 2:16-18)
Again, only one prize is mentioned.
“Finally, all of you have unity of mind, fellow feeling, brotherly affection, tender compassion, and humility. 9 Do not pay back injury for injury or insult for insult. Instead, repay with a blessing, for you were called to this course, so that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pe 3:8, 9)
The Bible speaks of children inheriting. Friends don’t inherit life. So Peter couldn’t be talking to the other sheep if we considered them to be only friends of God. It is far more likely that Peter considered the other sheep to be holy anointed Christians who came from a gentile background.
“Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience. 13 Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same. 14 But besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Col 3:12-14)
Even in Watchtower publications, the “chosen ones” are recognized to be the children of God with the heavenly hope. So these verses don’t prove there is a secondary group with an earthly hope.
“Also, let the peace of the Christ rule in your hearts, for you were called to that peace in one body. And show yourselves thankful.” (Col 3:15)
He’s speaking of those called who make up the one body, the body of Christ. This only refers to the anointed, even by JW doctrine; so again, no proof here.
Here, lines are blurred to try to fit a scripture intended for anointed Christians into the JW concept of other sheep as friends of God.
To prevent jealousy from taking root in our heart, we must strive to see things from God’s standpoint, viewing our brothers and sisters as members of the same Christian body. This will help us to show fellow feeling, in harmony with the inspired counsel: “If a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:16-18, 26)
The “same Christian body” will be understood to be the Organization; but that is not Paul’s message. Verse 27 of that chapter says: “Now you are Christ’s body…”
The JW other sheep know they are not part of Christ’s body. JW theology says the body of Christ is the congregation of anointed ones. So the writer of the article, in an attempt to apply the message from 1 Corinthians, ignores verse 27 and speaks of the other sheep as being “members of the same Christian body.”
The Deeper Things of God
As you can see, there is not a single scripture in this study to support the teaching depicted by the right side of the article’s opening illustration. Believe it if you will, but know that you are putting your faith in men for your salvation. (Ps 146:3)
In this case, the theme text may have special meaning for you. Let us read it with some of its context to see how it might apply to us as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you with speculation about what he has seen. Such a man is puffed up without basis by his unspiritual mind, 19and he loses connection to the head, from whom the whole body, supported and knit together by its joints and ligaments, grows as God causes it to grow.
20If you have died with Christ to the spiritual forces of the world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its regulations: 21“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”? 22These will all perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
1Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
(Col 2:18-3:4 BSB)
This is the last article in the November Watchtower. I am writing this on August 16, 2017. With this review, I end a months-long task of writing study article reviews from the May to November issues. (I wanted to get ahead—to get these reviews out of the way—so that I could have the freedom for tranquil Bible study on more positive and upbuilding topics.) I say this only to show that I’ve been intensely scrutinizing the study articles for months and seen that the so-called “food at the proper time” consists largely of rules and regulations—“Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (Col 2:20, 21)
As Paul says, “such restrictions indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-prescribed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body; but they are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Col 2:23) Sin is pleasurable. Self-denial is not the way to conquer it. Rather, something of greater pleasure must be kept before us. (He 11:25, 26) So Paul says that we “should strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on earthly things…When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
By telling Christians to focus on earthly things as depicted in the opening illustration, the Organization is undermining this divine direction. But it is worse than that.
“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you with speculation about what he has seen. Such a man is puffed up without basis by his unspiritual mind, 19and he loses connection to the head…” (Col 2:18, 19)
A truly humble person does not delight in his humility. He does not proclaim it or make a showy display of it. But by pretending to be humble, the deceiver can more effectively fool others with his speculations. This ‘delighting in humility’ is tied closely to “the worship of angels”. It is unlikely that at the time of this writing, Christians were engaged in angel worship. What is more likely is that Paul is referring to mock humble ones who were pretending to worship as angels worship. Barnes Commentary says:
The reference is rather to the profound reverence; the spirit of lowly piety which the angels evinced, and to the fact that the teachers referred to would assume the same spirit, and were, therefore, the more dangerous. They would come professing profound regard for the great mysteries of religion, and for the incomprehensible perfections of the divinity, and would approach the subject professedly with the awful veneration which the angels have when they “look into these things;” 1 Peter 1:12.
Are we aware of such teachers today? Ones who become puffed up with their own understanding of Scripture, dismissing all others? Ones who claim to be those to whom God reveals his truth? Ones who have engaged in speculation over and over, only to have it fall flat in failure? Ones who have lost connection with their head, the Christ, and instead have replaced him as the voice that Christians must listen to and obey in order to be blessed?
These are the ones who attempt to “disqualify you”, or as the NWT puts it, who would “deprive you of the prize.” The term Paul uses here is katabrabeuó. It was used “of the umpire in a contest: decide against, take part against, condemn (perhaps with the idea of assumption, officialism).” (Strong’s Concordance)
What prize is this mock humble man trying to disqualify you from attaining? Paul says it is the prize of appearing with Christ in glory.
Again, who is telling you that you don’t belong to the Christ? That you have no access to the “upward calling”? Who tells you not to look at the things above, but to keep your eyes earthbound on an “earthly paradise”?
You can surely answer that for yourself.
Paragraphs 12 – 15
While not in line with the theme we’ve developed, these paragraphs are worthy of note due to the hypocrisy they represent within the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Here, Bible counsel is directed at spouses with unbelieving mates. This is all fine direction because it comes from God’s Word. Essentially, a Christian should not abandon his or her mate simply because they are unbelieving. In Bible times, that could mean the mate might be a rabid Pharisaical control freak, or a licentious pagan reveler, or anything in between, moderate to extreme. In any case, the believer should remain because if nothing else, their children would be sanctified and who knows but that one might win over the mate.
It was the unbeliever who was more likely to abandon his or her mate.
For the most part, this counsel is followed among Jehovah’s Witnesses except when the “unbeliever” is considered an unbeliever because of leaving the Organization. In these cases, the one who has awakened is actually more of a believer in Christ than the Witness, but the Organization doesn’t view it that way. Instead, the loyal JW is allowed, sometimes even encouraged, to disregard all the Bible direction on the matter of spousal submission and loyalty, and walk out on the marriage.