The “Saving Humanity” articles and the recent ones about the resurrection hope have covered a part of a continuing discussion: will Christians who have endured be going to heaven, or be connected with the earth as we know it now. I did this research when I realised how much some of my (at the time) fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses appear to be loving the idea of giving directions. I hope that this will help Christians to gain further perspective of the hope that we have, and the hope there is for mankind as a whole in a future not far away. All texts/references have been taken from the New World Translation, unless noted otherwise.
They Will Rule As Kings: What Is A King?
“They will rule as kings with him for the 1000 years” (Rev. 20:6)
What is a king? A strange question, you might think. Clearly, a king is someone who sets out the law and tells people what to do. Many countries have or used to have kings and queens, who represent the state and the nation internationally. But this is not the sort of king that John was writing about. To understand the intended role of a king, we will have to go back to the time of ancient Israel.
When Jehovah led the Israelites out of Egypt, he assigned Moses and Aaron as his representatives. This arrangement would continue through Aaron’s family line (Ex. 3:10; Ex. 40:13-15; Num. 17:8). In addition to Aaron’s priesthood, the Levites were assigned to minister under his direction for a variety of tasks such as teaching, as Jehovah’s personal possession (Num. 3:5-13). Moses was judging at that time, and had delegated part of this role to others at the advice of his father-in-law (Ex. 18:14-26). When the Mosaic Law was given, it did not come with any directions or regulations for adding or removing parts of it. In fact, Jesus made clear that not the tiniest part would be removed from it before being fulfilled (Mat. 5:17-20). So it appears that there was no human government, as Jehovah himself was the King and Lawgiver (James 4:12a).
After Moses’ death, the high priest and Levites became responsible for judging the nation during their residence in the promised land (Deut. 17:8-12). Samuel was one of the most famous judges and evidently a descendant of Aaron, as he fulfilled duties only priests were authorised to do (1 Sam. 7:6-9,15-17). Because Samuel’s sons turned out to be corrupt, the Israelites demanded a king to keep them united and take care of their legal matters. Jehovah had already made an arrangement under the Mosaic Law to grant such a request, although this arrangement seems not his original intention (Deut. 17:14-20; 1 Sam. 8:18-22).
We may conclude that judging on legal matters was the primary role of the king under the Mosaic Law. Absalom started his revolt against his father, king David, by trying to replace him as a judge (2 Sam. 15:2-6). King Solomon received wisdom from Jehovah to be able to judge the nation and became famous for it (1 Ki. 3:8-9,28). The kings were acting like a Supreme Court in their days.
When Judea was captured and the people taken to Babylon, the line of kings ended and justice was seen to by authorities of the nations. This continued after their return, as the occupying kings still had the final say in the way matters were arranged (Ezequiel 5:14-16, 7:25-26; Haggai. 1:1). The Israelites enjoyed a measure of autonomy until the days of Jesus and beyond, even though they were still under secular rule. We can see that fact at the time of Jesus’ execution. According to the Mosaic Law, certain wrongs were to be punished by stoning. However, due to the Roman Law they were subject to, the Israelites could not order or apply such executions themselves. For that reason, the Jews could not avoid asking approval from governor Pilate when they sought to have Jesus executed. This execution was also not performed by the Jews, but by the Romans as having the authority to do this (John 18:28-31; 19:10-11).
The arrangement did not change when the Mosaic Law was replaced with the Law of the Christ. This new law does not include any reference to rendering judgement over anyone else (Matthew 5:44-45; John 13:34; Galatians 6:2; 1 John 4:21), and so we arrive at the instructions of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. He instructs us to subject ourselves to the superior authorities as “God’s minister” to reward good and punish evil (Romans 13:1-4). However, he gave this explanation to support another instruction: we need to do this in order to obey the command to “not return evil for evil” but to be “peaceable with all men” and even to seek to fill the needs of our enemies (Romans 12:17-21). We help ourselves doing these things by leaving vengeance in the hands of Jehovah, who has “delegated” this to the legal systems of the secular authorities right until this very day.
This arrangement will continue until Jesus returns. He will call the secular authorities to account for their shortcomings and the perversion of justice that many have come to know about personally, followed by a new arrangement. Paul noted that the Law has a shadow of the things to come, but is not the substance (or: image) of those things (Hebrews 10:1). We find similar wording in Colossians 2:16,17. It may mean that under this new arrangement, Christians will receive a share in setting things straight among many nations and peoples (Micah 4:3). Thus they are appointed over “all his belongings”: the whole of mankind, which he has bought with his own blood (Matthew 24:45-47; Romans 5:17; Revelation 20:4-6). To which extent this includes angels as well, we may have to wait to find out (1 Cor 6:2-3). Jesus gave a relevant detail in the parable of the Minas in Luke 19:11-27. Note that the reward for faithfulness over relatively small matters is “authority over…cities“. In Revelation 20:6, we find those having part in the first resurrection to be priests and ruling, but what is a priest without people to be represented? Or what is a king without a people to rule? Further speaking of the holy city Jerusalem, Revelation 21:23 and onward into chapter 22 says that the nations will benefit from these new arrangements.
Who are the ones qualified for such rulership? Those are the ones who were “purchased” from among mankind as “firstfruits” and “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Revelation 14:1-5). The judgement over certain matters may be delegated to them, just as Moses delegated minor matters to various chiefs, as we saw in Exodus 18:25-26. There is likewise similarity with the appointment of the Levites in Numbers 3: this tribe represented Jehovah’s taking of the all firstborn (living human firstfruits) of the House of Jacob (Numbers 3:11-13; Malachi 3:1-4,17). Having been bought as sons, faithful Christians become a new creation just like Jesus. They will be fully equipped for their own share in the healing of the nations and the teaching of the new Law, so that all the precious ones of the nations might also attain to a righteous standing with the true God in due time (2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Galatians 4:4-7).