[A Review of the November 15, 2014 Watchtower article on page 23]

“You were once not a people, but now you are God’s people.”— 1 Pet. 1:10

From our past year’s analysis of Watchtower study articles, it has become apparent that there is often an agenda behind the most innocent and Scriptural of topics. This week’s concluding study into the people that Jehovah has called out for his name is an excellent example.

As you review the following excepts from the first half of the article, an obvious and Scriptural conclusion emerges; but there are subtle hints as to the underlying message.

The opening paragraphs show how God formed a new nation from Pentecost onward.

“On that day, by means of his spirit, Jehovah brought forth a new nation—spiritual Israel, “The Israel of God.” – Par. 1

“The first members of God’s new nation were the apostles and over a hundred other disciples of Christ…These received the outpouring of the holy spirit, which made them spirit-begotten sons of God. This gave proof that the new covenant had gone into operation, mediated by Christ….” – Par. 2

“The governing body {A} in Jerusalem sent the apostles Peter and John to these Samaritan converts…Hense, these Samaritans also became spirit-anointed members of spiritual Israel.” – Par. 4

“Peter…preached to the Roman centurion Cornelius…Thus, membership in the new nation of spiritual Israel was now extended to believers who were uncircumcised Gentiles.” – Par. 5

It is clear from the foregoing that the new nation was a nation formed under the New Covenant, a nation of spirit-anointed Christians all of whom were children of God.

“At a meeting of the governing body {B} of first-century Christians held in 49 C.E., the disciple James stated: “Symeon [Peter] has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” – Par. 6

“Peter outlined their mission by stating: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession….” – Par. 6

“They were to be courageous witnesses for Jehovah, the Universal Sovereign.” {C} – Par. 6

An apostasy was to set in. The nation or people would continue to grow, but they would not be a holy nation, a people for his name, a royal priesthood, nor sons of God.

“After the death of the apostles, that apostasy blossomed and produced the churches of Christendom…They have adopted pagan rituals and have dishonored God by their unscriptural dogmas, their “holy wars,” and their immoral conduct…Thus, for centuries, Jehovah had…no organized {D} “people for his name.”” – Par. 9

So by the halfway point we have established that from 33 C.E. onward God has been drawing out of the nations a people for his name to become a holy nation of spirit-begotten children of God, a royal priesthood. We’ve also established that to be a people for his name means avoiding God dishonoring unscriptural dogmas.

If this were all the article was about, the writer would have done his job by this point. However, he faces a much more daunting task before him, one for which he has laid the groundwork by subtly introducing ideas to take us down a different path. For instance, {A} and {B} both introduce the idea of a first century “governing body” into the equation. This term is not found in scripture; nor is the concept, as we’ve proven elsewhere.  So why introduce it here?

The next reference {C} really sets the stage for what follows. The article is trying to turn Peter’s words into a call-to-arms with this holy nation serving as Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaiming God’s sovereignty. Yet Peter says otherwise. Twice in his book he mentions bearing witness, but not for God’s sovereignty.

“. . .Therefore, to the older men among YOU I give this exhortation, for I too am an older man with [them] and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ. . .” (1Pe 5:1)

“. . .Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for YOU. 11 They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of [season] the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. 12 It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to YOU, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to YOU through those who have declared the good news to YOU with holy spirit sent forth from heaven. Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.” (1Pe 1:10-12)

Bearing witness means giving testimony, as in a court case. The Christian Scriptures repeatedly urge us to bear witness about the Christ, but not once are we told to bear witness to Jehovah’s sovereignty. Of course, the exercise of his sovereignty is vital to universal peace, but that is to be handled by Jesus at God’s appointed time.  It is in his hands, not ours. We should mind our own business—that is, the business assigned to us by God, which is preaching the good news of salvation.

In all the verses where a people for God’s name is mentioned, there is no mention of any issue of sovereignty. So why the focus on that here? The next reference {D} answers that question.  There the writer inserts the adjective “organized” when referring to “a people for his name.”  Why? More telling is the way the Simplified Edition renders this:

“For hundreds of years after the apostasy began, there were only a few faithful worshippers of Jehovah on the earth and no organized group who were “a people for his name.”” – Par. 9, Simplified Edition

The boldface is right from the magazine article itself.  The Simplified Edition is for children, foreign language readers, and those with limited reading skills.   The writer wants these ones to make no mistake about the point being made. Only an “organized group” can be “a people for his name.”  However, we are not talking about merely being organized.  What we really mean is we must be part of an organization under God’s sovereignty. And how does God exercise his sovereignty over this Organization? Who really governs this “people for his name”?

The Writer’s Task

One does not envy the writer of this article his task.   First he must demonstrate how all 8 million of Jehovah’s Witnesses today make up this holy nation. Yet the Bible clearly shows that the holy nation is made up of anointed sons of God, a royal priesthood. Our JW theology pins the population of this holy nation at 144,000. So how can he include a number over 50 times larger without making these new ones also anointed sons of God and a royal priesthood?

His task does not end there. It is not enough to convince 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses that they are God’s people. They must also come to believe that like any other nation on earth, they need a government.   This government requires an earthly seat of power in the hands of a Governing Body. You may recall from last week that the opening paragraph of this two-part study raised a challenging point:

“MANY thinking people today readily admit that mainstream religions, inside and outside Christendom, do little to benefit mankind. Some agree that such religious systems misrepresent God by their teachings and by their conduct and therefore cannot have God’s approval. They believe, however, that there are sincere people in all religions and that God sees them and accepts them as his worshippers on earth. They see no need for such ones to quit engaging in false religion in order to worship as a separate people. But does this thinking represent God’s?” – w14 11/15 p.18 par. 1

For the Governing Body, the idea that individuals can have a relationship with God outside of the boundaries of their organizational authority is anathema. This really is the point of these two articles. We are teaching that salvation comes only by remaining inside the Organization. Outside is death.

Let’s put on our critical thinking caps for a moment.

Is any mention made in Scripture of another group, a group which is not a chosen people, not a holy nation, not spirit-anointed sons of God, and not a royal priesthood? If God’s nation was expected to grow 50-fold by the addition of a secondary group, would it not be both loving and logical for Jehovah to have made some mention of this future development? Something clear and unambiguous? After all, he’s very clear—abundantly clear—about who comprise the “people for his name” that both James and Peter refer to. So something, anything, to help us believe that there is another very large component to this “people for his name” on the horizon?

Rebirth of God’s People

The subtitle gets us off on the wrong foot. It implies that God’s people ceased to exist and then was reborn. Nothing in Scripture suggests the “people for his name” ceased to exist and then was reborn. Even in our study we admit that there have always been “a sprinkling of faithful worshippers on the earth.”  (par. 9)  Our premise is that there was a first century Organization and now a modern day one.

Is this scriptural?  Paragraph 10 attempts to prove it is by using the parable of the wheat and weeds. However, the parable is talking about individuals who are indistinguishable from one another until the harvest. This supports the very point the article is trying to disprove: That people—individual stalks of wheat—can have God’s favor while existing in a field of weeds. The writer of the article wants to turn this parable into a separation, not of individuals—sons of the kingdom—but of organizations; something it was never intended to do.

This application of the parable to the separation of organizations rather than individuals complicates matters, because the harvest is “the conclusion of the system of things”. Those harvested are alive during the harvest. Yet paragraph 11 would have us believe that the conclusion of the system of things began 100 years ago. The means that billions have been born, lived and died during this harvest, thus missing out on the harvest. A century long “end of the age” seems nonsensical.  (See sunteleia for the meaning of the Greek word rendered “conclusion” in our Bible) Of course, there is no evidence that the endof the system of things began in 1914.

Paragraph 11 continues with its series of unsubstantiated declarations by saying that the “sons of the Kingdom” were in captivity to Babylon the Great, but were freed in 1919. We are expected to just accept that in and before 1918 these ones were indistinguishable from Babylon the Great—false religion—but in 1919, “the difference between these true Christians and false Christians became very clear.” Really? How? What historical evidence is there that such a difference became “very clear”?  Did they stop displaying the cross in 1919?  Did they stop celebrating birthdays and Christmas in 1919?  Did they give up their fondness for pagan symbolism such as the sign of Horus on the cover of Studies in the Scriptures?  Did they abandon their belief that pagan Egyptian pyramidology could be used to determine the significance of Bible prophesy including the date of 1914?  Seriously, what changed in 1919?

The article attempts to use Isaiah 66:8 as prophetic support for this conclusion, but there is no evidence from the context of the 66th chapter of Isaiah that his words had a 20th century fulfillment.  The nation which verse 8 refers to was born in 33 C.E.  From that point on, it has never ceased to exist.

Paragraph 12 cites Isaiah 43:1, 10, 11 as proof that “just like the early Christians, the anointed “sons of the Kingdom” were to be witnesses of Jehovah.” Why not cite Scriptural proof of this from the Christian Scriptures? Because there is none. However, there is ample proof that the early Christians were commissioned by Jehovah to be witnesses of his Son.  Emphasizing that truth, however, would undermine the article’s real message.

We Want to Go with You

“The previous article showed that in ancient Israel, Jehovah accepted the worship of non-Israelites when they worshipped with his people. (1 Kings 8:41-43) Today, those who are not anointed must worship Jehovah with his anointed Witnesses.” – Par. 13

This argument is based on the unproven assumption that there are non-spiritual Israelite Christians. This is yet another typical-antitypical relationship not found in Scripture. We’ve just disavowed such things (See “Questions from Readers”, March 15, 2015 The Watchtower) yet here we are again employing man-made types and antitypes to support human interpretation not supported in Scripture.

The article attempts to establish this antitype by saying that Isaiah 2:2,3 and Zechariah 8:20-23 both foreshadow the creation of this secondary class of Christian.  For this to be the case, these prophesies would have to harmonize with events in Scripture, not with historical concoctions of the present day.   What happened in the scriptural history of the Christian congregation that demonstrates a fulfillment of these prophecies?

God made a covenant with Abraham.  Abraham’s descendents failed to live up to the covenant God made with them based on his promise to Abraham.  So a new covenant was prophesied to replace the old one.   This would allow the inclusion of gentiles, people of the nations. (Jer. 31:31; Luke 22:20) These are the other sheep Jesus referred to;  Zechariah’s 10 men from the nations that would hold on to the skirt of a Jew.   Paul refers to such ones as being branches “grafted in” to the tree that is Israel. (Romans 11:17-24) Everything points to gentiles being included in this holy nation, this royal priesthood, which is made up exclusively of spirit-anointed sons of God.  Nothing in Scripture supports the idea of secondary and inferior class of Christian being included in a “people for God’s name”.

Find Protection with Jehovah’s People

The Bible warns us against giving way to fear by believing the sayings of a false prophet and obeying him for fear of the consequences should he be right.

“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 18:22)

Remember that prophet means more than simply a foreteller of events. In the Bible the word refers to one who speaks inspired utterances. When a group of men interpret Scripture, they act as prophets. If they bring a legacy of failed interpretations to the table, we should have no fear that any new ones will be true.

It never works out well for us when we disobey Jehovah, so let’s not do that.

There is an illustration linked to paragraph 16 depicting Jehovah’s Witnesses huddled in a basement receiving life-saving instructions from the Governing Body. The paragraph tells us that all false religion will be destroyed by this point but the one true organization will survive as an organization and that only by staying in it will we be saved. Hence Jehovah does not save us as individuals but by our membership in the organization. Any instructions needed to survive through this time of distress will come via the Governing Body. This is based on our interpretation of Isaiah 26:20.

The article concludes with the warning:

“If, therefore, we wish to benefit from Jehovah’s protection during the great tribulation, we must recognize that Jehovah has a people on earth, organized into congregations. We must continue to take our stand with them and remain closely associated with our local congregation.” – Par. 18

In Conclusion

Jehovah does indeed have a people for his name today. As the article so rightly points out, this people is comprised of spirit-begotten sons of God. However, there is nothing in the Bible to indicate a secondary group of Christians who are not God’s sons, but only his friends. As paragraph 9 states, such a teaching makes us apostates because we “have dishonored God by [our] unscriptural dogmas”.

The call to ‘take our stand with Jehovah’s Witnesses and remain closely associated with our local congregation’ is based on the fear that only by doing that will we be saved. If the Governing Body had a legacy of truthful interpretations, if it honored God and Christ instead of drawing constant attention to itself, if it humbly corrected mistakes instead of punishing those who would speak up, it would have some basis for our confidence. However, in the absence of all this, we should obey God and realize that it is with presumptuousness that the prophet speaks and we should not fear him. (Deut. 18:22)