[A Review of the October 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 13]
“You will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” – Heb. 11:1
The Law Covenant
PAR. 1-6: These paragraphs discuss the original Law Covenant that Jehovah made with his chosen people, the Israelites. If they had kept that covenant, they would have become a kingdom of priests.
The New Covenant
PAR. 7-9: Since Israel broke the covenant God made with them, even to the point of killing His Son, they were rejected as a nation and a new covenant was put into effect, one foretold centuries before by the prophet Jeremiah. (Je 31:31-33)
Paragraph 9 ends up by stating: “How vital the new covenant is! It enables Jesus’ disciples to become the secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.” This is not entirely accurate, for the Jewish Christians became the first part of Abraham’s offspring, while the gentile Christians became the secondary part. (See Romans 1:16)
PAR. 11: Here we seamlessly slide into “speculation as fact” by stating categorically that “the total number of those in the new covenant would be 144,000.” If the number is literal, then the twelve numbers used to make up this total must also be literal. The Bible lists 12 groups of 12,000 each making up the 144,000. It is nonsensical to think the 12,000 are symbolic numbers while using their number to total up a literal sum, is it not? Following the logic forced on us by this assumption, any one of the literal 12,000 must come from a literal place or group. After all, how can 12,000 literal people come from a symbolic group? The Bible lists 12 tribes from which the literal number of 12,000 is drawn. However, there was no tribe of Joseph. So this tribe must be representative. Additionally, the majority of those who become part of the “Israel of God” are from gentile nations, so they could never be counted as part of the literal tribes of Israel. If the tribes are therefore symbolic, must not the 12,000 from each be symbolic? And if each of the 12 groups of 12,000 is symbolic, must not the total be symbolic as well?
If Jehovah proposed to limit the number of ones going to heaven to serve as a kingdom of priests to just 144,000, why is no mention of that made in the Bible? If there is a cut-off point—an offer that is good while supplies last—why does he not explain that those who miss out will have an alternate hope to strive for? No mention is made of a secondary hope for Christians to set as their goal.
Par. 13: We love to speak of privileges in the Organization. (We speak of the privilege of being an elder, or a pioneer or a Bethelite. In the December TV broadcast on jw.org, Mark Noumair said, “What a privilege it was to hear Brother Lett, a member of the Governing Body, at morning worship.”) We use the word a lot, yet it is rarely found in the Bible, less than a dozen times in fact. Moreover, it is always connected with an undeserved opportunity of being of service to another. It never indicates a special status or position—a place of privilege, as it is commonly used today.
What Jesus did after concluding the last supper was to make an assignment or appointment. The apostles with whom he spoke were not to consider themselves as a privileged few, but as humble servants who had been granted an undeserved kindness by being given an assignment of service. We should keep that mental picture in mind as we read the opening words of paragraph 13:
“The new covenant relates to the Kingdom in that it produces a holy nation that has the privilege of becoming kings and priests in that heavenly kingdom. That nation constitutes the secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.”
In JW parlance, a tiny group among us is exalted over all the rest to the privileged status of ruling class. This is false. All Christians have the opportunity to reach out for the undeserved kindness of this hope. Moreover, this hope is extended to all mankind should they wish to reach out for it. No one is precluded from becoming a Christian. This is what Peter realized when the first Gentile was added to the fold of the Good Shepherd. (John 10:16)
“At this Peter began to speak, and he said: “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, 35 but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Ac 10:34, 35)
Simply put, there is no privileged or elite class in the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16)
Is There a Kingdom Covenant?
Par. 15: “After instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus made a covenant with his faithful disciples, often referred to as the Kingdom covenant. (Read Luke 22:28-30)”
If you enter Luke 22:29 into the search engine on www.biblehub.com and select Parallel, you’ll see that no other translation renders this as ‘making a covenant’. Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word here used (diatithémi) as “I appoint, make (of a covenant), (b) I make (a will).” So the idea of covenant can perhaps be justified, but one wonders why so many Bible scholars chose not to render it that way. Perhaps it is because covenant is between two parties and requires a mediator. Paragraph 12 of this study acknowledges that element by showing how the old Law Covenant was mediated by Moses and the New Covenant is mediated by Christ. Since by The Watchtower’s own definition, a covenant needs a mediator, who mediates this new covenant between Jesus and his disciples?
The absence of a named mediator would seem to indicate that covenant is a bad translation. This helps us see why most translators favor words indicating a unilateral appointment to a position when rendering Jesus’ words. A bilateral covenant just doesn’t fit.
Have Unshakeable Faith in God’s Kingdom
Par. 18: “With complete confidence, we can firmly proclaim that God’s Kingdom is the only permanent solution to all man’s problems. May we zealously share that truth with others?—Matt. 24:14”
Who of us would not agree with this statement? The problem is the subtext. An unbiased Bible student would know that the Kingdom we proclaim has not yet arrived, which is why we still ask for it to come in the Model Prayer—also known as “the Lord’s Prayer” (Mt 6:9,10)
However, any Jehovah’s Witness studying this article will know that what we are really expected to preach is that God’s kingdom has already arrived and has been in power for the past 100 years since October of 1914. To be more precise, the Organization is asking us to put unshakeable faith in their interpretation that 1914 marks the start of the rule of the Messianic Kingdom and that it also marks the start of the last days. Ultimately, they are asking us to put faith that their time calculation based on their interpretation of “this generation” means that Armageddon is just a few short years away. That belief will keep us in the Organization and submissively subject to their direction and teaching, because our salvation—they would have us believe—depends on that.
To put it another way—a Scriptural way—we will obey them because we’re afraid that maybe, just maybe, they’re right and our life depends on sticking with them. So we are being asked to put faith in men. This is not without Scriptural precedent. King Jehoshaphat told his people to put faith in God’s prophets, specifically Jahaziel who had spoken under inspiration and foretold the path they had to follow to be delivered alive from the enemy. (2 Ch 20:20, 14)
The difference between that situation and ours is that a) Jahaziel spoke under inspiration and b) his prophecy came true.
Would Jehoshaphat have asked for his people to put faith in a man who had a record of failed prophetic pronouncements? Would they have been following the inspired command of Jehovah spoken through Moses had they done so?
“However, you may say in your heart: “How will we know that Jehovah has not spoken the word?” 22 When the prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and the word is not fulfilled or does not come true, then Jehovah did not speak that word. The prophet spoke it presumptuously. You should not fear him.’” (De 18:21, 22)
So we must ask ourselves, given the track record of those claiming to be the faithful and discreet slave since 1919, which kingdom should we put unshakeable faith in? The one we are told was established in 1914, or the one we know is yet to come?
To put it another way: Whom are we afraid of disobeying? Men? Or Jehovah?