In our last video, we saw overwhelming scriptural evidence proving that loyal, god-fearing men and women who lived before Christ have gained the reward of entry into the Kingdom of God by means of their faith. We also saw how the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses either ignores this evidence or creates silly workarounds to try to explain it away. If you haven’t seen that video, here’s a link to it and I’ll also include another link at the end of this video.
What “evidence” does the Governing Body put forward to support their doctrine that all those pre-Christian faithful ones do not inherit the Kingdom, but only get a provisional salvation on earth, still laboring under the weight of sin for a thousand years after all they have endured in faith?
Matthew 11:11. “And what other evidence to they provide?” you ask. No, that’s it! Just the one scripture. It reads:
“Truly I say to you, among those born of women, there has not been raised up anyone greater than John the Baptist, but a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matthew 11:11 NWT)
To many Witnesses, that seems to be conclusive proof of the Organization’s position. But they are missing something. I have already dealt with this topic extensively in my book, Shutting the Door to the Kingdom of God: How Watch Tower Stole Salvation from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and am happy to share that research here.
You will notice that the Organization’s reasoning is based on a single verse taken out of context. That is a red flag for those of us on the lookout for cherry-picked verses. But this goes beyond simply cherry-picking a verse as we’ll see soon.
Before we move forward, a word about Matthew’s unique use of the phrase “the Kingdom of the Heavens.” This wording only occurs in Matthew’s gospel. Other writers of the Christian Scriptures use the phrase, “the Kingdom of God.” No one knows why Matthew is different, but one theory is that he was writing for an audience that was sensitive to making any reference to God, so he used a euphemism to avoid putting his audience off. For us today, we must not think that he is referring to a place. He is not saying “the Kingdom in Heaven,” but “of the Heavens,” thus referring not to the location of that Kingdom, but the source of its authority. This is important because due to religious indoctrination, many Christians get hung up on location, which is not the issue.
Now let’s read the context of Matthew 11:11 in the New World Translation.
“While these were on their way, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed being tossed by the wind? 8 What, then, did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft garments? Why, those wearing soft garments are in the houses of kings. 9 Really, then, why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way ahead of you!’ 11 Truly I say to you, among those born of women, there has not been raised up anyone greater than John the Baptist, but a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it. 13 For all, the Prophets and the Law, prophesied until John; 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is ‘E·liʹjah who is to come.’ 15 Let the one who has ears listen.” (Matthew 11:7-15 NWT)
In what way is a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens greater than John the Baptist? The Organization would have you believe it is speaking about the salvation hope that each has. The least in the Kingdom of the heavens will inherit the Kingdom whereas John the Baptist being less than that will not inherit the Kingdom. But that ignores the context. The context isn’t speaking about the salvation hope of each one but rather of the role that each one plays. But we’ll come back to that in a moment. I believe that the lengths to which the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses has gone to support their point of view undermines their entire argument causing them to lose all credibility for this particular teaching. To explain what I mean, I’m going to read verse 12 again from the 1950 New World Translation.
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.” (Matthew 11:12 NWT 1950)
As you can see, there has been no change in their wording of this verse in the last 70 years. When you read this, you are given to understand that people have been pressing toward or striving to get into the Kingdom of God from the time of John the Baptist onward. This leads the reader to conclude that the way into that Kingdom was not open to those who died before John the Baptist. How nicely this supports the doctrine promoted by the Organization. Now I want you to read what verse 12 really says. We’ll start with a short selection of translations taken from Biblehub.com, but if you care to check, you’ll find that these renderings are consistent with all the dozens of other versions available there.
From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matthew 11:12 New International Version)
…the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violent attacks, and violent men try to seize it. (Good News Translation)
…the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (English Standard Version)
…the kingdom of heaven has been subject to violence, and the violent lay claim to it. (Berean Standard Bible)
This is very much the opposite of what the NWT would have you believe. Jesus is talking about men attacking the Kingdom of God and seizing it. You might think such a thing to be impossible. How can a mere human seize God’s Kingdom? Yet, we cannot deny Jesus’ words. The answer lies in the time frame that Jesus lays down: From the days of John the Baptist until now! That is, until the moment when Jesus uttered his words. What was he referring to?
He tells us by means of one of his prophetic parables. Reading from Matthew 21:33-43 in the NIV:
“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.”
The owner of the vineyard is Jehovah God. Here, Jesus is referring to the way the prophets of old were treated by the Jewish leaders.
Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Obviously, the Son refers to Jesus himself. What is his inheritance? Is it not the Kingdom of God? The wicked men think that by killing Jesus, they can get the inheritance for themselves. Foolish men.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:33-43 NIV)
Now we can see how Matthew 11:12 makes sense. From the time of John onward, the Jewish religious leaders had acted violently toward the Kingdom, opposing it at every turn and finally trying to seize it violently by killing the son of God. The salvation hope that the Kingdom of God represents had not come to its fulfillment at that point. Indeed, we are still waiting for that salvation. However, as Jesus himself said, the Kingdom of God was in their midst.
“Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is in your midst.”” (Luke 17:20, 21 NIV)
To summarize, the Kingdom of God was in the midst of the Jewish people, because Jesus was there among them. From the time John made his entrance to announce the Messiah, until that moment when Jesus spoke those prophetic words, the Kingdom of God (represented by Jesus) had suffered violent attacks and violent men were still trying to seize it.
This wicked subversion of Matthew 11:12 began with Fred Franz and Nathan Knorr who were charged with supporting the ridiculous doctrines of J.F. Rutherford. Fred Franz was the principal translator of the New World Translation and from its beginning, in 1950, he changed the meaning of this verse to support the false teaching of the Governing Body that no pre-Christian servant of God had the Kingdom hope.
Since the beginning of time, men and women of faith have been striving toward the Kingdom of God, not just since the time of John the Baptist as Fred Franz would have us believe by his bad translation. For instance,
“By faith Abraham…lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10 BSB)
That city would be the New Jerusalem, the capital of the Kingdom of God. (Revelation 21:2)
Speaking of other men and women of faith, the writer of Hebrews adds:
“…they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16 BSB)
That symbolic “heavenly country” is the Kingdom of God with New Jerusalem as its capital.
“[Moses] valued disgrace for Christ above the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26 BSB)
So, if Jesus isn’t referring to the salvation hope held out to John and those dying before him in faith, then what is he referring to? Let’s look at the context.
Jesus ends his counsel regarding John by exhorting his audience to listen, to pay attention, and to discern the significance of what he has said, because it affects them. He opens in the first three verses by asking them what they went out into the wilderness to find. They saw John as a prophet, but now Jesus tells them he is much more than a prophet. He is God’s messenger. So it is within that context that his next words must be taken. When he says that “there has not been raised up another greater than John the Baptist,” he is putting John above all other prophets, including the greatest of them, Moses! That must have been a stunning declaration for his Jewish listeners to hear.
How could John be greater than Moses who was used to lead the people to freedom out of Egypt by bringing forth the ten plagues and splitting the Red Sea by the power of God working through him? The answer is because something greater than Moses and all the prophets had arrived! The Son of God had come, and John was the messenger of the covenant preparing the way for him. (Malachi 3:1) John introduced the King of the Kingdom of God.
So it is within that context that we must view Jesus’ words that “a lesser person in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than” John. Nothing in the context speaks to John’s salvation hope, but rather his role as both the prophet and the messenger of the covenant announcing the Messianic King.
John himself refers to his role not his salvation hope! The next day he beheld Jesus coming toward him, and John said: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! This is the one about whom I said, Behind me there comes a man who has advanced in front of me, because he existed before me. Even I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing in water was that he might be made manifest to Israel.” (John 1:29-31)
How is it then that this great prophet, John the Baptist, is less than the least one of those in the Kingdom of the heavens? Consider his own words for our answer:
“Whoever has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, when he stands and hears him, has a great deal of joy on account of the voice of the bridegroom. So my joy has been made complete. That one must keep on increasing, but I must keep on decreasing.” (John 3:29, 30)
Remember, within the context of Jesus’ words at Matthew 11:7-15, we are not speaking of salvation, but of the work each one does. John prophesied, which in Greek means to speak forth God’s words. But he did not preach the Kingdom. Jesus preached the Kingdom, and his followers after him. John preached the King. He introduced the King and then he decreased while Jesus increased.
Jesus did greater works than John.
“But I have the witness greater than that of John, for the very works that my Father assigned me to accomplish, the works themselves that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father dispatched me.” (John 5:36)
But Jesus’ followers would do greater works even than Jesus. Yes, as astonishing as that sounds, we cannot doubt it, because it comes right from the mouth of our Lord:
“Most truly I say to YOU, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father.” (John 14:12)
Before we can complete our analysis, we need to do a tiny bit of deprogramming. You see, in our culture, a prophet foretells the future, but in Greek, that wasn’t the essential meaning of “prophet.” The word for prophet in Greek is prophétés which has a much broader meaning than it does in English.
According to HELPS Word-studies
A prophet (4396 /prophḗtēs) declares the mind (message) of God, which sometimes predicts the future (foretelling) – and more commonly, speaks forth His message for a particular situation.
Thus, when Christians speak forth the word of God, they are acting as prophets in the biblical sense.
So, the chain of logic is evident:
John the Baptist was greater than the prophets before him because his role as a prophet and the messenger of the covenant surpassed theirs. He announced the King of God’s Kingdom. They didn’t.
But that King, Jesus, did works greater than John because he preached the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ disciples also preached the Kingdom of God and surpassed Jesus, according to his own words. Therefore, the lesser one in the Kingdom of the heavens is greater than John because we act as “prophets” greater than he was because we preach the good news of the Kingdom.
As we showed in the previous video, the insane and wholly unscriptural theology of the Governing Body that denies faithful pre-Christian men and women their just reward came about as a means to support the doctrine of the other sheep. To this end, Fred Franz, as the principal translator of the 1950 edition of the New World Translation, wilfully mistranslated Matthew 11:12 (among many other verses).
What does Jehovah have to say about those who change the meaning of his word?
I testify to everyone who hears the words of prophecy in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18, 19 BSB)
While those words are specifically written with regard to the Revelation given to John, I don’t think it would be safe to say that God doesn’t feel the same about all his inspired words, would you?
Personally, when I learned how the New World Translation had been altered from its inception, almost from the year of my birth, I was deeply offended and incensed at the wickedness that would move men to do such a thing and intentionally deceive so many. To me, this is proof that the spirit of Satan has been at work for a long time laboring behind the scenes as an angel of light to subvert the faith of millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses and keep many from reaching out to the real prize of the Kingdom of God. After all, if men like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and John the Baptist, aren’t good enough to make the kingdom according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, what hope does the average Jehovah’s Witnesses have?
Thank you for your attention. I appreciate the support you give me and the team that helps me produce these videos.