IS YOUR HOPE BIBLE-BASED?
Written by: Brown, David L. Posted on: 04/24/2003
Category: Cults / Sects / Non Christian Religions and Topics
IS YOUR HOPE BIBLE-BASED?
Questions and reflections for Jehovah's Witnesses
FOR THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS READER
The apostle Peter told the Christians in his day:
"But sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to
make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the
hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep
respect." (1 Peter 3:15)
The reason this brochure has been written is to humbly challenge
you to consider whether your hope is really based on the
Bible. The defense you give of the "reason for the hope in you" -
is it really Scriptural? We ask you to follow this advice
of the best-selling Watchtower publication, The Truth That
Leads to Eternal Life (page 13):
"We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but
also what is taught by any religious organization with which
we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with
God's Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If
we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from
such an examination. It should be the sincere desire of
every one of us to learn what God's will is for us, and then
to do it.-John 8:32."-(1981 revised edition; emphasis ours)
FOR THE NON-WITNESS READER
Those who are unfamiliar with the teachings of Jehovah's
Witnesses regarding their hope of salvation may need a little
explanation about what they believe. The Witnesses believe only
144,000 will receive the call to be with Christ in heaven. The rest
of faithful mankind have a different hope, everlasting life here on
earth. Only those who claim to be of the 144,000 (now estimated
to be under 9,000 of the over 3,395,000 Witnesses world-wide)
believe they are born-again or are now God's sons. Over 99% of
the Witnesses believe they will live on a Paradise earth. They
never hope to be with Christ or go to heaven. Verses that speak of
a "great crowd" or "other sheep" are applied by them to this group
with an earthly hope (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16). Since the year
1935, almost all those becoming Jehovah's Witnesses profess this
earthly hope. Jehovah's Witnesses also believe that all of God's
people who died before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at
Pentecost have only the earthly hope. This means that all those
who served God in Old Testament times will live on earth and never
go to heaven.
The Witnesses believe that those with the heavenly hope are
now justified and made God's children. They also believe that those
with the earthly hope only receive a partial justification for now
and will only become God's sons after the Millennium. Those with
the earthly hope will never be born-again. They also are not
entitled to partake of the bread and wine at the Witnesses' annual
Memorial (Communion). The 1987 Memorial attendance was 8,965,000.
Only 8,808 partook of the bread and wine. Most congregations of
Jehovah's Witnesses had no partakers.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture citations are from the
1984 edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures,
published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
ONE HOPE OR TWO?
Ephesians 4:4-6: "One body there is, and one spirit, even as you
were called in the one hope to which you were called; one Lord, one
faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all persons, who is over
all and through all and in all."
What Bible verse specifically states there are 2 hopes for
1 John 5:1: "Everyone believing that Jesus is the Christ has been
born from God."
Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ)?
DO YOU WANT TO ENTER GOD'S KINGDOM?
John 3:5,7: "Jesus answered: `Most truly I say to you, Unless
anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God. Do not marvel because I told you, You people must be
DO YOU HAVE FAITH IN CHRIST?
Galatians 3:26: "You are all, in fact, sons of God through your
faith in Christ Jesus."
Have you been born again as one of God's children?
ARE YOU IN HARMONY WITH THE FLESH OR THE SPIRIT?
Romans 8:5-8: "For those who are in accord with the flesh set
their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with
the spirit on the things of the spirit. For the minding of the flesh
means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace;
because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is
not under subjection to the law of God, nor, in fact, can it be.
So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God." Read
Romans 8:12,13: "So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not
to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh; for if you live in
accord with the flesh you are sure to die; but if you put the
practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live." Read
ARE YOU A SON OR A SLAVE?
Romans 8:14-17: "For all who are led by God's spirit, these are
God's sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear
again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which
spirit we cry out: `Abba, Father!' The spirit itself bears witness
with our spirit that we are God's children. If, then, we are
children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs
with Christ provided we suffer together that we may also be
Are you in harmony with the Spirit? Are you led by God's Spirit?
If so, are you one of God's sons? Or, are you still a slave to
sin? If a son, then you are also a joint heir with Christ! Compare:
Galatians 4:6,7: "Now because you are sons, God has sent forth
the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: `Abba,
Father!' So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a
son, also an heir through God."
HAVE YOU RECEIVED CHRIST?
John 1:12,13: "However, as many as did receive him, to them he
gave authority to become God's children, because they were
exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or
from a fleshly will or from man's will, but from God."
Have you exercised faith in Christ's name? Have you received
Him? Have you been born from God and become one of His children?
Physical life begins with birth. Spiritual life also begins with a
ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB IN THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM?
Matthew 8:11,12: "But I tell you that many from eastern
Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; whereas the sons of
the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside."
Jesus is clearly speaking of something in the future. ("Many ...
will come.") Should we view this as merely figurative? The March
15, 1962 Watchtower, pages 191 and 192, argues that Abraham stands
for Jehovah God, Isaac stands for Jesus Christ, and Jacob stands
for the 144,000 (see also page 28 of the September 1, 1978
Watchtower). They say this is all that will be in the heavenly
kingdom. However, such a view is inconsistent with Jesus' words.
For "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" are not the only ones in the heavenly
kingdom! "With" them will be "many from eastern parts and western
parts"! That would be many more than just Jehovah, Jesus and
144,000 resurrected humans. The December 1, 1986 Watchtower, page
9, relates some of the context of Jesus' words:
"`The sons of the kingdom . . .thrown into the darkness
outside' are natural Jews who do not accept the opportunity
offered first to them of being rulers with Christ. Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob represent God's Kingdom arrangement. Thus
Jesus is relating how Gentiles will be welcomed to recline at
the heavenly table, as it were, `in the kingdom of the
heavens.'" (Emphasis ours; ellipsis in text)
The context of Matthew 8:11,12 (when a Gentile army officer
manifested his faith) makes it clear Jesus is referring to the
fact that many Gentiles would come into the Kingdom. Considering
that many Gentiles `from the East and from the West' would recline
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob' in the heavenly Kingdom makes
the Watchtower Society's interpretation improbable. Besides,
Jesus uses similar words in another sermon as recorded at Luke
13:28,29. There He speaks of "Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and
all the prophets" with people from the East, West, North and South
also reclining at the table in the Kingdom. If Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob are figurative, who do "all the prophets" symbolize? Really,
can't we just accept Jesus' words at face value?
Hebrews 11:16 (speaking of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob): "But
now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging
to heaven. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as
their God, for he has made a city ready for them." (Compare Hebrews
12,000 & 144,000-LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC?
Revelation 7:4-8 speaks of 144,000 sealed from the 12 tribes of
Israel. 12,000 are to be sealed from each tribe. On pages 12
and 13 of Commentary on the Letter of James (published in 1979 by
the Watchtower Society) we are told:
"Since natural Israel consisted of 12 tribes, it logically
follows that spiritual Israel would be spoken of as having 12
tribes to show that it was a complete spiritual nation, with
no part or tribe missing. There is no numerical imbalance
within spiritual Israel, for the Bible book of Revelation
symbolically reveals that an equal number-12,000-is sealed
from every tribe. (Rev. 7:4-8)" (Emphasis ours)
If the number 12,000 from each tribe is symbolic, wouldn't the total
be symbolic also? If the number 144,000 is literal, shouldn't there
be 12 literal groups of 12,000 comprising the 144,000? To say the
12,000 is symbolic and the total 144,000 is literal is
inconsistent. (Interestingly, most Jehovah's Witnesses would
interpret the numbers 12,000 and 144 elsewhere in the book of
Revelation to be symbolic, as at Revelation 21:16,17.) Bible
commentators differ whether the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 should be
understood literally or symbolically, but it is obvious the
numbers should be considered both literal or both symbolic.
WHERE DO THE GREAT CROWD SERVE GOD?
Revelation 7:9,10,15: "After these things I saw, and look! a
great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations
and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and
before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm
branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud
voice, saying: `Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the
throne, and to the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of
God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in
his temple [Greek: naos]; and the One seated on the throne will
spread his tent over them." Compare this with:
Revelation 7:11: "And all the angels were standing around the
throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell
upon their faces before the throne and worshiped God." In the same
vision the angels, elders, and 4 living creatures are also said to
be before the throne. Where are they? In heaven or on the earth?
OUTER COURTYARDS NOT PART OF "NAOS"
What does it mean when it says the "great crowd" worship God "in
his temple"? Doesn't that indicate they will be in heaven? The
Watchtower Society says the "great crowd" worship God in a particular
location in God's temple. According to the August 15, 1980
Watchtower, page 15, the "great crowd" worship in the outer
courtyards of God's temple - the Court of the Gentiles (the nations)
- which they say represents earthly worshipers, not heavenly
worshipers. Consider, please, how the rest of the book of
Revelation shows us how the Greek word naos ("temple") is used:
Revelation 11:1,2: "And a reed like a rod was given me as he
said: `Get up and measure the temple sanctuary [Greek: naos] of God
and the altar and those worshiping in it. But as for the courtyard
that is outside the temple sanctuary [Greek: naos], cast it clear
out and do not measure it, because it has been given to the
nations, and they will trample the holy city underfoot for forty-two
In the New World Translation the same Greek word naos is translated
as "temple" in Revelation 7 and as "temple [sanctuary]" in Revelation
11. (The Watchtower Society's Kingdom Interlinear Translation
translates it both times as "divine habitation.") Why the
difference? Evidently the Society does not want to admit that the
"great crowd" worship in the heavenly sanctuary. Instead, they
try to divide God's temple into 2 areas. The Society says the
inner temple area (closest to the sanctuary) represents heaven.
They say the outer courtyards represent earthly worshipers. That
is why the Society teaches that the great crowd worship in the
outer courtyards of the temple - the Court of the Gentiles, as in
King Herod's temple. However, Revelation 11:1,2 argues persuasively
against the idea that the outer courtyards would be included in
the naos. It says the the courtyard given to the Gentiles (the
nations) is "outside the naos," outside the temple. In fact, the
Greek word naos always refers to God's heavenly temple in every
other place it appears in the book of Revelation! (Naos occurs in
the Greek text at Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:1,2,19*; 14:15,17;
15:5,6,8*; 16:1,17; 21:22*.)
( * "Naos" occurs twice in these verses. The NWT translates some of
these simply as "sanctuary.")
THE GREAT CROWD IN HEAVEN?
Revelation 19:1: "After these things I heard what was as a loud
voice of a great crowd in heaven. They said: `Praise Jah, you
people! The salvation and the glory and the power belong to our
God.'" Compare Revelation 7:9,10. Notice the similarity in wording
between Revelation 19:1 and Revelation 7:9,10 (quoted on page 4).
Some say the "great crowd" here are angels. However, why would
angels ascribe salvation to God? The angels that sinned will not be
saved (2 Peter 2:4). The faithful angels do not need salvation.
SOME OBJECTIONS CONSIDERED:
"WHAT ABOUT THE NEW EARTH?"
Revelation 21:1,2: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for
the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea
is no more. I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her
Traditional Christianity affirms there will be both a new heaven and
a new earth. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 seem to indicate there
will be some sort of uniting of heaven and earth, when the New
Jerusalem descends from heaven. (We are not told exactly how this
uniting of heaven and earth will take place. Nor do we know what
sort of physical changes may be required.) This is what some call
"the final state." George Eldon Ladd writes:
"The final state of the Kingdom of God is a new heaven and a
new earth ([Revelation] 21:1ff.) This expresses a theology
of creation that runs throughout the Bible.The Old
Testament prophets picture the Kingdom of God in terms of a
redeemed earth (Isa. 11:6-9; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13-15). This
is described in terms of a new heaven and new earth even in
the Old Testament (Isa. 65:17;66:22). . . However, a
fundamental theology underlies these expectations, even
though they must be clarified by progressive revelation: that
man's ultimate destiny is an earthly one. . . The New
Testament does not outstrip this theology, although it
reveals more than the Old Testament does by showing that the
newness of the eternal order is much more radical than God
had disclosed to the prophets.Jesus spoke of the
regeneration of the world (Mt. 19:28), and Paul spoke of the
redemption of the created order (Rom. 8:20-21)." A Theology
of the New Testament, by George Eldon Ladd. Published by Wm.
B. Eerdmans, 1974. Page 631. (Emphasis ours)
Revelation 5:10: "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests
to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (New
International Version) The New World Translation has "reign
over" which is a possible translation, but not the most literal
translation. However, the Kingdom Interlinear shows the basic
meaning of the Greek word here is "upon." Initially, Christians
will worship God in His temple in heaven (Revelation 7:9,15; 19:1).
After that, in the final state, the saints (holy ones) will reign
upon the earth, when the New Jerusalem descends from heaven. That
is described in detail in chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation.
"WHO WILL THE HOLY ONES RULE OVER?"
-To which we respond with this question-
WILL YOU BE OUTSIDE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM?
Revelation 5:10 (quoted in the section above) says the holy
ones (saints) will reign. Some claim this means the holy ones
must have subjects. However, take time to read the description
of the final state in Revelation chapters 21 and 22 and it becomes
obvious that the New Jerusalem is the home of the redeemed. What
of those outside the city? Carefully consider this passage:
Revelation 22:14,15: "`Happy are those who wash their robes
[compare Rev. 7:14], that the authority to go to the trees of life
may be theirs and that they may gain entrance into the city by its
gates. Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and
the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone
liking and carrying on a lie.'" What is your hope? Do you hope
`to gain entrance into the city,' or will you be outside with those
judged by God?
Does the fact the holy ones (saints) reign mean they must
have subjects? Compare this passage:
1 Peter 2:9,10: "But you are `a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should
declare abroad the excellencies' of the one that called you out of
darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people,
but are now God's people; you were those who had not been shown
mercy, but are now those who have been shown mercy."
The early Christians that Peter wrote to were already a
"royal priesthood" at that time. Since they were called royalty,
did that mean they ruled over others? Or, is the emphasis on
the glories Christians share in because of their position in union
with Christ? (Compare Ephesians 2:4-7 where Paul says that
Christians in Ephesus had been `raised up and seated together in
the heavenly places in union with Christ.') Christians already
share royal blessings. However, this doesn't indicate that
they rule over others. Nor is that indicated at Revelation
Anthony Hoekema gives a possible additional meaning for the reign
of the holy ones:
"One might wonder over whom these glorified saints will
reign, since all human beings on the new earth will
participate in this reigning. Perhaps the best answer to
this question is that this will be a reigning over the new
creation. Man will now be able to fulfill in a perfect way
the mandate to have dominion over the earth which he could
only fulfill imperfectly on the present earth. In the life
to come, in other words, man will for the first time since
the fall rule the earth properly." The Bible and the Future,
by Anthony A. Hoekema. Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979.
Page 283. (Emphasis ours)
So it is not a question of who the holy ones rule over, but of
what they rule over. In discussing the description of the New
Jerusalem given in Revelation chapter 21, Hoekema adds these
interesting points (on page 285 of the above-mentioned book):
"The fact that the names of the twelve tribes are inscribed
on the twelve gates (v. 12) and that the names of the twelve
apostles are written on the twelve foundations (v. 14)
suggests that the people of God on the new earth will include
believers from both the Old Testament covenant community and
from the church of the New Testament era."
"JOHN THE BAPTIST WON'T BE IN HEAVEN!"
Some interpret Jesus' words at Matthew 11:11 to mean John the
Baptist will not be in the heavenly kingdom. Is this so?
Matthew 11:11: "Truly I say to you people, Among those born of
women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist;
but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is
greater than he is."
Some say this means that one who will be `least' in the
heavenly kingdom will be greater than John the Baptist. However,
Jesus uses the present tense here: "is," not `will be.' Jesus was
not speaking of future destinies in this verse. He was
speaking about current blessings. While at times the Kingdom is
spoken of as future, it is also spoken of as present. (Compare
Colossians 1:13 where it says God has "transferred" [past tense]
Christians into the Kingdom. See also Matthew 12:28; Mark 10:15;
Luke 17:20,21.) Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom. John the
Baptist had no part in that, except to introduce Jesus. So those
who would be following Jesus (and thus be in the Kingdom) would be
greater (more privileged) than John, who did not get involved with
Jesus' ministry. This verse says nothing about John's final
"JESUS HAS `OTHER SHEEP,' EARTHLY SHEEP!"
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