I’ve always understood that the “little flock” referred to in Luke 12:32 represents the 144,000 kingdom heirs. Likewise, I’ve never before questioned that the “other sheep” mentioned in John 10:16 represent Christians with an earthly hope. I’ve used the term “great crowd of other sheep” without realizing that it doesn’t occur anywhere in the Bible. I’ve even debated what the difference between the “great crowd” and the “other sheep” is. Answer: The other sheep are all Christians with an earthly hope, while the great crowd are those of the other sheep who go through Armageddon alive.
Recently, I was asked to prove this belief from scripture. That turned out to be quite a challenge. Try it yourself. Assume you’re talking to someone you meet in the territory and using the NWT, try to prove these beliefs.
Exactly! Quite a surprise, isn’t it?
Now I’m not saying we’re wrong about this yet. But taking an unbiased look at things, I cannot find a solid basis for these teachings.
If one goes to the Watchtower Index – 1930 to 1985, one finds only one WT reference in all that time for a discussion on “little flock”. (w80 7/15 17-22, 24-26) “Other sheep” provides only two discussion references for the same time period. (w84 2/15 15-20; w80 7/15 22-28) What I find unusual about this dearth of information is that the doctrine originated with Judge Rutherford back in an article titled “His Kindness” (w34 8/15 p. 244) which falls within the scope of this index. So why isn’t that reference to be found?
The revelation that not all Christians go to heaven and that the other sheep correspond to an earthly class was a major turning point for us as a people. Rutherford based this belief on some supposed parallel between the Christian congregation of our day and the Israelite arrangement of the cities of refuge, comparing the high priest to a high priestly class comprised of the anointed. We abandoned this speculative relationship many decades ago, but have kept the conclusion derived from it. It seems very odd that the current belief is based on a foundation long since abandoned, leaving the doctrine in place like some empty, unsupported shell.
We are talking about our salvation here, our hope, the thing we envision to keep us strong, the thing we strive toward and reach out for. This is no minor doctrine. One would conclude therefore that it would be clearly stated in Scripture, right?
We are not saying at this point that the little flock does not refer to the anointed, the 144,000. Nor are we saying that the other sheep does not refer to a class of Christian with an earthly hope. What we are saying is that we can find no way to support either understanding using the Bible.
The little flock is only referred to once in scripture at Luke 12:32. There is nothing in the context to indicate he was referring to a class of Christians numbering 144,000 who would rule in heaven. Was he talking to his immediate disciples of the time, who were indeed a little flock? The context supports that. Was he talking to all true Christians? The parable of the sheep and the goats treats the world as his flock comprised of two types of animals. True Christians are a little flock when compared with the world. You see, it can be understood in more than one way, but can we prove scripturally that one interpretation is better than another?
Similarly, the other sheep are only referenced once in the Bible, at John 10:16. The context doesn’t point to two different hopes, two destinations. If we wish to view the fold he is referring to as the existing Jewish Christians of the time and the other sheep yet to appear as gentile Christians, we can. There is nothing in the context stopping us from that conclusion.
Again, we can draw whatever inference we wish from these two isolated verses, but we cannot prove any particular interpretation from scripture. We are left only with speculation.
If any readers have further insights into this quandary, please comment