If indeed there is a two-tier system in the Christian congregation by which some are rewarded with heavenly life and others with eternal life in the flesh, how can we determine which group we are in? It would be one thing if we all serve and upon our resurrection or the revealing of Jesus at Armageddon, we then learn of our reward. Certainly that is in keeping with all the parables of Jesus involving slaves who are assigned to watch over the Master’s belongings while he is away. Each gets his reward upon the master’s return. Additionally, these parables often speak of the rewards varying according to the work of each one.
However, that is not what we teach. We teach that the reward each gets is foreknown and the only variable is whether or not one will get it. The anointed know they go to heaven because it is revealed to them miraculously by the spirit causing them to instinctively have that hope. The other sheep know they stay on earth, not because it is likewise revealed to them, but more by default; by virtue of not being told anything about their reward.
Here are two representative samplings of our teaching on this subject:
Under the holy spirit’s influence, the spirit, or dominant attitude, of anointed ones impels them to apply to themselves what the Scriptures say about Jehovah’s spiritual children. (w03 2/15 p. 21 par. 18 What Does the Lord’s Evening Meal Mean to You?)
This testimony, or realization, reorients their thinking and hope. They are still humans, enjoying the good things of Jehovah’s earthly creation, yet the major direction of their life and concerns is on being joint heirs with Christ. They have not come to this outlook through emotionalism. They are normal individuals, balanced in their views and conduct. Being sanctified by God’s spirit, though, they are convinced of their calling, not having persisting doubts over it. They realize that their salvation will be to heaven if they prove faithful. (w90 2/15 p. 20 par. 21 ‘Discerning What We Are’—At Memorial Time)
All of this is based on the understanding we have of one Bible text, Romans 8:16, which reads: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
That is the sum total of our “proof”. To accept this, we must first accept that the only Christians who are God’s children are the anointed. We must therefore believe that the greater part of the Christian congregation is made up of God’s friends, not his sons. (w12 7/15 p. 28, par. 7) Now, there is no mention of this in the Christian Scriptures. Consider the importance of that statement. The sacred secret of the sons of God is revealed in the Christian Scriptures, but no mention is made of a secondary class of Friends of God. Yet, this is what we teach. We must, in honesty, view this as human interpretation, or to use a more accurate term, speculation.
Now based on this speculative premise—that only some Christians are God’s sons—we then use Romans 8:16 to show us how they know. And how do they know? Because God’s spirit tells them. How? This is not explained in Scripture other than to say that the holy spirit reveals it. Here’s the problem. We all get his holy spirit, do we not? Do not the publications exhort us to pray for God’s spirit? And does not the Bible say that “YOU are all, in fact, sons of God through YOUR faith in Christ Jesus”? (Gal. 3:26) Doesn’t this contradict our speculative interpretation of Romans 8:16? We are imposing something on the text that is not there. We are saying that while all Christians get the holy spirit, the spirit given to the anointed is special in some way and it reveals, again in some unexplained miraculous way, that they are special and set apart from their brothers. We are saying that their faith alone makes them sons of God, while the faith of the rest is merely cause for God to call them friends. And the only scripture we have to support this fanciful interpretation is a text that can easily be applied—without speculation—to show that all Christians who put faith in Jesus and receive the spirit he sends forth are God’s sons, not merely his friends.
Truly, read it for what it says not what we would like to infer so as to support a theology that originated with Judge Rutherford.
“But I don’t feel like I’m being called to heaven”, you may say. I completely understand. Our current teaching made sense to me all my life. Since I was a little boy, I had been taught that my hope was earthly. My mind had therefore been trained to think of the things of the earth and discount the possibility of life in heaven. Heaven was the hope for a select few, but never something I gave a moment’s thought to. But is this the result of the leading of the spirit or the indoctrination of men?
Let’s have another look at Romans, but the whole chapter and not just a cherry-picked verse.
(Romans 8:5) . . .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.
Is this speaking of the two hopes? Apparently not.
(Romans 8:6-8) For the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; 7 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. 8 So those who are in harmony with the flesh cannot please God.
So if a Christian has the spirit, he has life. If he minds the flesh, he has death in view. There is no two-tier reward being spoken of here.
(Romans 8:9-11) . . .However, YOU are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in YOU. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in union with YOU, the body indeed is dead on account of sin, but the spirit is life on account of righteousness. 11 If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in YOU, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make YOUR mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in YOU.
Those on the outside, those without the spirit, do not belong to Christ. Are the other sheep without God’s spirit, or do they too belong to Christ? If they don’t belong to Christ, they have no hope. Only two states of being are referenced here, not three. Either you have the spirit for life, or you don’t and you die.
(Romans 8:12-16) . . .So, then, brothers, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live in accord with the flesh; 13 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. 14 For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. 15 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!” 16 The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Are not the other sheep “under obligation…to put the practices of the body to death by the spirit”? Are the other sheep not “led by God’s spirit”? If so, are they not therefore “God’s sons”? Have the other sheep received a “spirit of slavery causing fear again” or a “spirit of adoptions as sons”? Do we not pray to the Father? Do we not say, “Our Father in the heavens”? Or do we just pray to a good friend?
“Ah”, you say, “but what about the next verse?”
(Romans 8:17) 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 glorified together.
After reading this, do you find yourself thinking, If we are glorified together with Jesus, then we all go to heaven and that can’t be? Is it that you have been so conditioned to believe that you are not worthy of the heavenly reward that you can conceive of no possibility that this is being held out to you?
Do all Christians go to heaven? I don’t know. The parable of the faithful and discreet steward in Luke 12:41-48 speaks of an evil slave that is cast out, a faithful one that is appointed over all the master’s belongings and two others that apparently survive, but are punished. The parable of the minas, the talents, and others indicate more than one reward. So to be honest, I don’t think we can state categorically that all Christians go to heaven. However, it does appear that the opportunity is being held out to all Christians. Even in pre-Christian times the idea of being able to reach out for a “better resurrection” was there. (Heb. 11:35)
This hope, this wonderful opportunity, has been taken from millions by virtue of this misinterpretation of a single text. The idea that Jehovah pre-selects those who go to heaven before they have proven themselves is completely unscriptural. Romans 8:16 is not speaking about some miraculous revealing in the hearts of a select few that they are the chosen of God. Rather it speaks of the fact that as we receive God’s spirit, as we walk by spirit not by sight, as we mind the spirit which means life and peace, our mental disposition brings us to the realization that we are now God’s children.
At least it does, if we have not been pre-conditioned by the teachings of men to reject that wonderful reward held out to the faithful.