Gathering Things in Heaven and Things on Earth
“It is according to his good pleasure . . . to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”—EPHESIANS 1:9, 10.
UNIVERSAL PEACE! Such is the glorious purpose of Jehovah, “the God of peace.” (Hebrews 13:20) He inspired the apostle Paul to write that His “good pleasure” is “to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10) Just what is implied by the verb translated ‘gather together again’ in this verse? Bible scholar J. B. Lightfoot notes: “The expression implies the entire harmony of the universe, which shall no longer contain alien and discordant elements, but of which all the parts shall find their centre and bond of union in Christ. Sin and death, sorrow and failure and suffering, shall cease.”
“Things in the Heavens”
2 The apostle Peter summed up the wonderful hope of true Christians when he wrote: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) The “new heavens” here promised refer to the new governing authority, the Messianic Kingdom. “The things in the heavens” mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians are to be gathered “in the Christ.” They are the limited number of humans chosen to rule with Christ in the heavens. (1 Peter 1:3, 4) These 144,000 anointed Christians are “bought from the earth,” “bought from among mankind,” to be joint heirs with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:3, 4; 2 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:11; 3:6.
3 Anointed Christians are brought forth, or born again, by the holy spirit to become Jehovah’s spiritual sons. (John 1:12, 13; 3:5-7) Being adopted by Jehovah as “sons,” they become Jesus’ brothers. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5) As such, even while on earth, they are said to be ‘raised up and seated together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus.’ (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) They occupy this elevated spiritual position because they have been “sealed with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of [their] inheritance” reserved for them in the heavens. (Ephesians 1:13, 14; Colossians 1:5) These, then, are “the things in the heavens,” of whom the total number foreordained by Jehovah needed to be gathered.
The Gathering Begins
4 In line with Jehovah’s “administration,” or way of managing things, the gathering of “the things in the heavens” was to begin “at the full limit of the appointed times.” (Ephesians 1:10) That due time arrived at Pentecost 33 C.E. That day, holy spirit was poured out on the apostles and a group of disciples, men and women. (Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-4) This gave evidence that the new covenant had come into operation, marking the birth of the Christian congregation and of the new nation of spiritual Israel, “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16; Hebrews 9:15; 12:23, 24.
5 The Law covenant made with fleshly Israel did not produce “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” that would serve forever in heaven. (Exodus 19:5, 6) Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) That nation, spiritual Israel, is composed of anointed Christians taken into the new covenant. To these, the apostle Peter wrote: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” (1 Peter 2:9, 10) Fleshly Israel were no longer Jehovah’s covenant people. (Hebrews 8:7-13) As Jesus had foretold, the privilege of being a part of the Messianic Kingdom was taken from them and given to the 144,000 members of spiritual Israel.—Revelation 7:4-8.
Taken Into the Kingdom Covenant
6 On the night that Jesus instituted the Memorial of his death, he told his faithful apostles: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30) Jesus here referred to a special covenant that he made with his 144,000 spirit-begotten brothers, who would remain “faithful even to death” and prove themselves ‘conquerors.’—Revelation 2:10; 3:21.
7 Those of this limited group forgo all hopes of living forever on earth as humans of flesh and blood. They will reign with Christ in heaven, sitting on thrones to judge humankind. (Revelation 20:4, 6) Let us now examine other scriptures that apply only to these anointed ones and that show why the “other sheep” do not partake of the Memorial emblems.—John 10:16.
8 The anointed share in Christ’s sufferings and are willing to submit to a death like his. As one of that group, Paul stated that he was prepared to make any sacrifice so that he might “gain Christ . . . so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and a sharing in his sufferings.” Yes, Paul was willing to submit himself “to a death like his.” (Philippians 3:8, 10) Many anointed Christians have endured in their fleshly bodies “the death-dealing treatment given to Jesus.”—2 Corinthians 4:10.
9 When instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus said: “This means my body.” (Mark 14:22) He was referring to his literal body, soon to be beaten and bloodied. Bread without leaven was a fitting symbol of that body. Why? Because in the Bible, leaven can denote sin or wickedness. (Matthew 16:4, 11, 12; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8) Jesus was perfect, and his human body was without sin. He would offer that perfect body as a propitiatory sacrifice. (Hebrews 7:26; 1 John 2:2) His doing so would benefit all faithful Christians, whether they hoped for life in heaven or everlasting life on a paradise earth.—John 6:51.
10 Concerning the wine that anointed Christians partake of at the Memorial, Paul wrote: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of the Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16) In what way do those partaking of the wine ‘share in the blood of the Christ’? They certainly do not share in providing the ransom sacrifice, since they themselves need redemption. Through their faith in the redeeming power of Christ’s blood, their sins are forgiven and they are declared righteous for life in heaven. (Romans 5:8, 9; Titus 3:4-7) It is by means of Christ’s shed blood that the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ are “sanctified,” set apart, cleansed from sin to be “holy ones.” (Hebrews 10:29; Daniel 7:18, 27; Ephesians 2:19) Yes, it is with his shed blood that Christ “bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and . . . made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10.
11 When Jesus inaugurated the Memorial of his death, he handed the cup of wine to his faithful apostles and said: “Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27, 28) Just as the blood of bulls and goats validated the Law covenant between God and the nation of Israel, Jesus’ blood made valid the new covenant that Jehovah would make with spiritual Israel, beginning at Pentecost 33 C.E. (Exodus 24:5-8; Luke 22:20; Hebrews 9:14, 15) By drinking the wine that symbolizes the “blood of the covenant,” the anointed indicate that they have been taken into the new covenant and are receiving the benefits of it.
12 The anointed are also reminded of something else. Jesus told his faithful disciples: “The cup I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am being baptized you will be baptized.” (Mark 10:38, 39) The apostle Paul later spoke of Christians’ being “baptized into [Christ’s] death.” (Romans 6:3) The anointed live a life of sacrifice. Their death is sacrificial in that they renounce any hope of everlasting life on earth. The baptism of these anointed Christians into Christ’s death is completed when after dying faithful they are resurrected as spirit creatures to “rule together as kings” with Christ in heaven.—2 Timothy 2:10-12; Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 50.
Partaking of the Emblems
13 Since sharing in the bread and wine passed during the Memorial involves all of this, it would obviously be inappropriate for those having an earthly hope to partake. Those with an earthly hope discern that they themselves are not anointed members of the body of Christ, nor are they in the new covenant that Jehovah made with those who will rule with Jesus Christ. Since “the cup” represents the new covenant, only those in the new covenant partake of the emblems. Those looking forward to everlasting life in human perfection on earth under the Kingdom are neither baptized into Jesus’ death nor called to rule with him in heaven. Were they to partake of the emblems, it would signify something that is not true with respect to them. Thus, they do not partake, though they do attend the Memorial as respectful observers. They are thankful for all that Jehovah has done for them by means of his Son, including the extending of forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s shed blood.
14 The final sealing of the relatively small number of Christians called to reign with Christ in heaven is nearing completion. Until the end of their life of sacrifice on earth, the anointed are spiritually strengthened by partaking of the Memorial emblems. They feel a bond of unity with their brothers and sisters as members of Christ’s body. Their partaking of the emblematic bread and wine reminds them of their responsibility to remain faithful until death.—2 Peter 1:10, 11.
Gathering of “Things on the Earth”
15 Since the mid-1930’s, a growing number of “other sheep,” who are not of the “little flock” and whose hope is everlasting life on earth, have rallied to the side of the anointed. (John 10:16; Luke 12:32; Zechariah 8:23) They have become the loyal companions of Christ’s brothers, giving valuable assistance in preaching “this good news of the kingdom” for a witness to all the nations. (Matthew 24:14; 25:40) In so doing, they have put themselves in line to be judged by Christ as his “sheep,” placed on his “right hand” of favor when he comes to judge the nations. (Matthew 25:33-36, 46) Through faith in Christ’s blood, they will make up the “great crowd,” who will survive “the great tribulation.”—Revelation 7:9-14.
16 The final sealing of the 144,000 will clear the way for the unleashing of the “winds” of destruction against Satan’s wicked system of things on earth. (Revelation 7:1-4) During the Thousand Year Reign of Christ and his associate king-priests, the great crowd will be joined by untold numbers of resurrected ones. (Revelation 20:12, 13) These will have the opportunity to become permanent earthly subjects of the Messianic King, Christ Jesus. At the end of the Millennial Reign, all these “things on the earth” will be subjected to a final test. Those proving faithful will be adopted as earthly “children of God.”—Ephesians 1:10; Romans 8:21; Revelation 20:7, 8.
17 Thus, by means of his infinitely wise “administration,” or way of managing things, Jehovah will have fulfilled his purpose “to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” All intelligent creatures in heaven and on earth will have been gathered together in universal peace, joyfully submitting to the righteous sovereignty of the Great Purposer, Jehovah.
18 How faith-strengthening it will be for the small number of anointed ones and their millions of other sheep companions to gather on April 12, 2006! They will observe the Memorial of Christ’s death, even as Jesus commanded: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) All attending should remember what Jehovah has done for them through his dear Son, Christ Jesus.
By Way of Review
• What is Jehovah’s purpose for things in heaven and things on earth?
• Who are “the things in the heavens,” and how have they been gathered?
• Who are “the things on the earth,” and what hope is involved?
1. What is Jehovah’s “good pleasure” for heaven and earth?
2. Who are “the things in the heavens” that need to be gathered?
3. How can it be said that anointed ones are ‘seated in the heavenly places’ even while on earth?
4. When and how did the gathering of “the things in the heavens” begin?
5. Why did Jehovah create a new “nation” to replace fleshly Israel?
6, 7. What special covenant did Jesus make with his spirit-begotten brothers, and what does this mean for them?
8. What do the anointed indicate by partaking of the bread? (See box on page 23.)
9. What body is represented by the Memorial bread?
10. In what way do those who partake of the Memorial wine ‘share in the blood of the Christ’?
11. What do the anointed indicate by drinking the Memorial wine?
12. How are the anointed baptized into Christ’s death?
13. Why do those with an earthly hope not partake of the Memorial emblems, but why do they attend the Memorial?
14. How are the anointed strengthened spiritually by partaking of the bread and the wine?
15. Who have been gathered to the side of anointed Christians?
16. Whom will “the things on the earth” include, and how will all of these have the opportunity to become “children of God”?
17. How will Jehovah’s purpose be fulfilled?
18. How will both the anointed and their companions benefit from attending the Memorial?
[Box on page 23]
“The Body of the Christ”
At 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17, Paul, in discussing the particular import of the bread for spirit-anointed brothers of Christ, mentioned “body” in a special sense. He said: “The loaf which we break, is it not a sharing in the body of the Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, although many, are one body, for we are all partaking of that one loaf.” When anointed Christians partake of the Memorial bread, they declare their unity within the congregation of anointed ones, which is like a body with Christ as the Head.—Matthew 23:10; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 18.
[Pictures on page 23]
Why do only the anointed partake of the bread and the wine?
[Picture on page 25]
Through Jehovah’s administration, all creatures in heaven and on earth will be united