[A Review of the September 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 12]
“We must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations.”—Acts 14:22
“DOES it shock you that you can expect to face “many tribulations” before you gain the prize of everlasting life?” – par. 1, boldface added
The theme text speaks not of gaining everlasting life, but of entering into the “Kingdom of God”. Why do we change its application from “Kingdom of God” to “everlasting life”? Are these concepts synonymous?
Paragraph 6 says “For anointed Christians, that reward is immortal life in heaven as corulers with Jesus. For the “other sheep,” it is everlasting life on earth where “righteousness is to dwell.” (John 10:16; 2 Pet. 3:13)” [A]
According to JW doctrine, there are two rewards being put before Christians. A little flock of 144,000 will rule in heaven with Jesus. The rest, now numbering around 8 million, will live on earth. The 144,000 get immortality upon their resurrection. The rest will either be resurrected as part of the resurrection of the righteous or will survive Armageddon, having never died at all. This group is called the “other sheep’ and they will not be perfect (i.e., sinless) upon entry into the new world. Like the unrighteous who are also resurrected, they will have to work toward perfection which will only be achieved at the end of the thousand years, after which they will be tested before being granted the right to everlasting life already given to the anointed before Armageddon.[B] (Acts 24:15; John 10:16)
From w85 12/15 p. 30 Do You Remember?
Those chosen by God for heavenly life must, even now, be declared righteous; perfect human life is imputed to them. (Romans 8:1) This is not necessary now for those who may live forever on earth. But such ones can now be declared righteous as friends of God, as was faithful Abraham. (James 2:21-23; Romans 4:1-4) After such ones achieve actual human perfection at the end of the Millennium and then pass the final test, they will be in position to be declared righteous for everlasting human life.—12/1, pages 10, 11, 17, 18.
It is completely understandable and wholly Scriptural that those who will join Christ in heaven as kings and priests should undergo tribulation as he did. If Jesus “learned obedience” and was “made perfect” by “the things he suffered”, should his brothers, the sons of God, expect a free pass? If the sinless son of God had to be tested by the fires of persecution and tribulation, it follows that we sinners much also be made perfect that way. How else can God grant us immortality upon our resurrection?
But why do the “other sheep” of JW doctrine need to go through tribulation? To what end?
Consider the cases of Harold King and Stanley Jones, now both deceased. They went to China together where they were imprisoned in solitary confinement. King was of the anointed and served a five-year term. Jones was a member of the other sheep. His term ran for seven years. So King endured five years of a tribulation few of us can imagine and now resides in immortality in heaven—according to our doctrine. Jones, on the other hand endured two additional years of tribulation, and yet will still be imperfect (sinful) upon his resurrection and will have to work toward achieving perfection at the end of the thousand years, only then to be tested one final time before he can be granted everlasting life. However, his Chinese prison guards, having also died, will—again, according to our doctrine—be resurrected as part of the resurrection of the unrighteous and side by side with brother Jones work toward perfection; having never endured any qualifying tribulation as Jones did to get there. The only advantage Jones has over them—again, according to our doctrine—will be that he’ll have a sort of “head start” being a little closer to perfection whatever that means.
Does this make sense? More important, is it even remotely Biblical?
The Other Problem We Are Facing
Paragraph two makes the point that we are being and will be persecuted.
“Keep in mind the word I said to you: A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have observed my word, they will also observe yours.” (Joh 15:20)
We are taught that we are special—the one truth faith. Therefore, we must be undergoing persecution. The trouble is that for the past half century, we have not. Having been a witness all my life, I can attest to the fact that we are all taught that there will come a day when we will be persecuted. My parents lived with this belief and died without ever seeing it fulfilled. We need to believe we are being persecuted for us to continue believing we are Jehovah’s chosen people. After all, if there is another group being persecuted for their faith in Christ, what would that make us?
I remember having to stand outside the classroom while the other kids sang the anthem, but I wouldn’t call that persecution. I don’t remember every being bullied over it. In any case, it pretty much ended when I hit 14. Times have changed and human rights have released us from problems involving conscription in most of the civilized world. Even in countries were some of our brothers are imprisoned, they allow us an exemption of alternate military service. However, because we would still be working for the military in some way, we do not allow our brothers that out.
We have a strange double standard in this, for we do not apply those same rules to the brothers working in the hotels in Vegas. If a brother is in the hotel union, he can work for the hotel/casino complex. He can be a waiter in one of the casino restaurants or a janitor that cleans the casino bathrooms, as long as he is not a member of the Gambling Union. Yet the people paying his salary are the same people paying the salary of the card dealers.
So it would seem that we may be creating an artificial situation of persecution.
Of course, Christians are being persecuted to this day. In Syria, ISIS has crucified a number of people for refusing to convert from Christianity to Islam? Are some of them Jehovah’s Witnesses? I haven’t heard. I don’t even know if there are Jehovah’s Witnesses in Syria. Whatever the case, for the millions of us who live in Europe and the Americas, we really haven’t known persecution in our lifetime.
How to get around this?
The article attempts to find other types of tribulation. It focuses on discouragement. Discouragement can be a challenging problem. It is often linked to depression and both are things suffered by people in every walk of life. However, it is not a problem unique to Christians. Be that as it may, is it tribulation?
Open your Watchtower library program and do a search on the word “tribulation” which occurs around 40 times in the Christian Scriptures. Using the Plus key, scan every occurrence. One thing will become apparent. Tribulation comes from without. The word in Greek is thlipsis and means properly “pressure or compression or a pressing together”. Discouragement is internal. It may and often does result from outside pressure (tribulation) but as such is the symptom, not the cause.
Rather than focus on the symptom, why don’t we seek out the true cause of the discouragement many feel? What tribulation is causing many of our brothers and sisters to feel discouraged? Are the many demands put upon us by the organization too great a load? Are we made to feel guilty because we are not doing enough to gain everlasting life? Is the constant pressure to compare ourselves with others only to come up short because unlike them we are not able to pioneer, the tribulation (pressure) that is causing us discouragement?
In short, is the tribulation we are experiencing and in which we take such pride as proof of our approved status before God something we ourselves have created?
Let us dwell on that as we prepare for this week’s Watchtower.
[A] For purposes of this study, we’ll ignore the fact that there is nothing in scripture to link “the other sheep” of John 10:16 with a class of Christian with an earthly hope. In fact, there is nothing in the Greek Scriptures that promotes the idea that the majority of Christians have an earthly hope.
[B] To the best of my knowledge, this doctrine is unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses.