“Who really is the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics?”—MATT. 24:45.
CAN YOU FIND THE ANSWERS?
Who is the faithful and discreet slave?
Who are the domestics, and when did Jesus appoint the faithful slave over them?
When will Christ appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings, and what will they include?
“BROTHERS, I cannot begin to count the times you have put into my hands articles that contained just what I needed when I needed it most.” That is how one sister expressed her appreciation in a letter to the brothers who work at our world headquarters. Can you identify with her? Many of us can. Should that surprise us? Not really.
2 The timely spiritual food we receive is proof that Jesus, the Head of the congregation, is keeping his promise to feed us. Through whom is he doing so? When giving the sign of his presence, Jesus said that he would use “the faithful and discreet slave” to give “food at the proper time” to his domestics.* (Read Matthew 24:45-47.) That faithful slave is the channel through which Jesus is feeding his true followers in this time of the end. It is vital that we recognize the faithful slave. Our spiritual health and our relationship with God depend on this channel.—Matt. 4:4; John 17:3.
3 How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ illustration about the faithful slave? In the past, our publications have said the following: At Pentecost 33 C.E., Jesus appointed the faithful slave over his domestics. The slave represents all anointed Christians on earth as a group at any one time since then. The domestics refer to the same anointed ones as individuals. In 1919, Jesus appointed the faithful slave “over all his belongings”—all his earthly Kingdom interests. However, further careful study and prayerful meditation indicate that our understanding of Jesus’ words about the faithful and discreet slave needs to be clarified. (Prov. 4:18) Let us examine the illustration and how it involves us, whether we have the heavenly or the earthly hope.
WHEN IS THE ILLUSTRATION FULFILLED?
4 The context of the illustration of the faithful and discreet slave shows that it began to be fulfilled, not at Pentecost 33 C.E., but in this time of the end. Let us see how the Scriptures lead us to this conclusion.
5 The illustration of the faithful slave is part of Jesus’ prophecy about “the sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) The first portion of the prophecy, recorded at Matthew 24:4-22, has two fulfillments—first, in the years from 33 C.E. through 70 C.E., and second, in a more far-reaching way in our day. Does this mean that Jesus’ words about the faithful slave would also have two fulfillments? No.
6 Starting with the words recorded at Matthew 24:29, Jesus focused primarily on events that would happen in our day. (Read Matthew 24:30, 42, 44.) Speaking about what will happen during the great tribulation, he said that people “will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then, in words meant for those living during the last days, he urged vigilance, saying: “You do not know on what day your Lord is coming” and, “At an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”* In this context—when speaking about events that would take place in the last days—Jesus related the illustration of the faithful slave. Therefore, we may conclude that his words about that faithful slave began to be fulfilled only after the last days began in 1914. Such a conclusion makes sense. Why is that?
7 Think, for a moment, about the question: “Who really is the faithful and discreet slave?” In the first century, there was hardly a reason to ask such a question. As we saw in the preceding article, the apostles could perform miracles and even transmit miraculous gifts as proof of divine backing. (Acts 5:12) So why would anyone need to ask who really was appointed by Christ to take the lead? In 1914, however, the situation was much different. The harvest season began in that year. The time had finally arrived to separate the weeds from the wheat. (Matt. 13:36-43) As the harvest season began, a vital question thus arose: With many imitation Christians claiming to be Jesus’ true followers, how could the wheat—anointed Christians—be identified? The illustration of the faithful slave provided an answer. Christ’s anointed followers would be the ones who were well-fed spiritually.
WHO IS THE FAITHFUL AND DISCREET SLAVE?
8 The faithful slave must be made up of anointed Christians on earth. Such ones are called “a royal priesthood” and have been commissioned to “ ‘declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2:9) It is only fitting that members of that “royal priesthood” have a direct share in teaching fellow believers the truth.—Mal. 2:7; Rev. 12:17.
9 Do all anointed ones on earth make up the faithful slave? No. The reality is that not all anointed ones have a role in dispensing spiritual food to fellow believers worldwide. Among the wheat are anointed brothers who may serve as ministerial servants or elders in their local congregation. They teach from house to house and in their congregation, and they loyally support the direction from headquarters. But they do not have a part in dispensing spiritual food to the worldwide brotherhood. Also among the anointed are humble sisters, who would never try to assume the role of teachers in the congregation.—1 Cor. 11:3; 14:34.
10 Who, then, is the faithful and discreet slave? In keeping with Jesus’ pattern of feeding many through the hands of a few, that slave is made up of a small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Throughout the last days, the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave have served together at headquarters. In recent decades, that slave has been closely identified with the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Note, however, that the word “slave” in Jesus’ illustration is singular, indicating that this is a composite slave. The decisions of the Governing Body are thus made collectively.
WHO ARE THE DOMESTICS?
11 It is noteworthy that in Jesus’ illustration, the faithful and discreet slave receives two distinct appointments. The first is over the domestics; the second is over all the master’s belongings. Since the illustration is fulfilled only in this time of the end, both appointments would have to come after Jesus’ presence in kingly power began in 1914.
12 When did Jesus appoint the faithful slave over his domestics? To answer that, we need to go back to 1914—the beginning of the harvest season. As we learned earlier, at that time many groups claimed to be Christian. From which group would Jesus select and appoint the faithful slave? That question was answered after he and his Father came and inspected the temple, or spiritual arrangement for worship, from 1914 to the early part of 1919.* (Mal. 3:1) They were pleased with a small band of loyal Bible Students who showed that their heart was with Jehovah and his Word. Of course, they needed some cleansing, but they humbly responded during a brief period of testing and refining. (Mal. 3:2-4) Those faithful Bible Students were true Christian wheat. In 1919, a time of spiritual revival, Jesus selected capable anointed brothers from among them to be the faithful and discreet slave and appointed them over his domestics.
13 Who, then, are the domestics? Put simply, they are those who are fed. Early in the last days, the domestics were all anointed ones. Later, the domestics came to include the great crowd of other sheep. The other sheep now make up the vast majority of the “one flock” under Christ’s leadership. (John 10:16) Both groups benefit from the same timely spiritual food that is dispensed by the faithful slave. What about the Governing Body members who today make up the faithful and discreet slave? Those brothers also need to be fed spiritually. Hence, they humbly recognize that as individuals they are domestics just like all the rest of Jesus’ genuine followers.
14 Jesus placed a weighty responsibility on the faithful and discreet slave. In Bible times, a trusted slave, or steward, was a house manager. (Luke 12:42) The faithful and discreet slave is thus charged with the responsibility to manage the household of faith. That responsibility includes overseeing material assets, the preaching activity, assembly and convention programs, and the production of Bible literature for use in the field ministry and in personal and congregation study. The domestics depend on all the spiritual provisions dispensed by the composite slave.
APPOINTED OVER ALL THE MASTER’S BELONGINGS—WHEN?
15 When does Jesus make the second appointment—“over all his belongings”? Jesus said: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving [literally, “having come,” ftn.] finds him doing so. Truly I say to you, He will appoint him over all his belongings.” (Matt. 24:46, 47) Note that Jesus makes the second appointment after he arrives and finds that the slave has been “doing so,” that is, faithfully dispensing spiritual food. So there would be an interval between the two appointments. To understand how and when Jesus appoints the slave over all his belongings, we need to know two things: when he arrives and what his belongings include.
16 When does Jesus arrive? The answer is found in the context. Remember that when the preceding verses speak of Jesus as “coming,” the word refers to the time when he comes to pronounce and execute judgment at the end of this system.* (Matt. 24:30, 42, 44) Hence, Jesus’ “arriving,” or “coming,” mentioned in the illustration of the faithful slave takes place during the great tribulation.
17 What do “all [Jesus’] belongings” include? Jesus did not qualify the word “all,” as if to limit his belongings to earthly things. In fact, Jesus has vast heavenly authority. “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth,” he said. (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23) His belongings now include the Messianic Kingdom, which has belonged to him since 1914 and which he will share with his anointed followers.—Rev. 11:15.
18 In view of the foregoing, what can we conclude? When Jesus comes for judgment during the great tribulation, he will find that the faithful slave has been loyally dispensing timely spiritual food to the domestics. Jesus will then delight in making the second appointment—over all his belongings. Those who make up the faithful slave will get this appointment when they receive their heavenly reward, becoming corulers with Christ.
19 Does the faithful slave receive a greater reward in heaven than the rest of the anointed? No. A reward promised to a small group in one setting may ultimately be shared by others. For example, consider what Jesus said to his 11 faithful apostles the night before he died. (Read Luke 22:28-30.) Jesus promised that small group of men that a fine reward awaited them for their faithfulness. They would share his throne of kingly authority. But years later, he indicated that all of the 144,000 will sit on thrones and share his rulership. (Rev. 1:1; 3:21) Similarly, as stated at Matthew 24:47, he promised that a small group of men—the anointed brothers who make up the faithful slave—will be appointed over all his belongings. In reality, all of the 144,000 will share his vast heavenly authority.—Rev. 20:4, 6.
20 By means of the faithful and discreet slave, Jesus is following the pattern he set in the first century—feeding many through the hands of a few. Jesus appointed that faithful slave to ensure that his genuine followers—whether of the anointed or of the other sheep—would have a steady supply of timely spiritual food throughout the last days. Let us be determined to show our appreciation by giving our loyal support to the anointed brothers who make up that faithful and discreet slave.—Heb. 13:7, 17.
ENDNOTES: (To be read as footnotes with the corresponding paragraphs.)
Paragraph 2: On an earlier occasion, Jesus related a similar illustration in which he referred to the “slave” as a “steward” and to the “domestics” as “his body of attendants.”—Luke 12:42-44.
Paragraph 6: Christ’s “coming” (Greek, erʹkho·mai) is different from his “presence” (pa·rou·siʹa). His invisible presence begins before his coming to execute judgment.
Paragraph 12: See the article “Look! I Am With You All the Days,” in this issue, pages 10-12, paragraphs 5-8.
Paragraph 16: See the article “Tell Us, When Will These Things Be?” in this issue, pages 7-8, paragraphs 14-18.
1, 2. Through what channel is Jesus feeding us today, and why is it vital that we recognize that channel?
3. What have our publications stated about the illustration of the faithful slave?
4-6. Why may we conclude that Jesus’ illustration of the faithful slave began to be fulfilled only after 1914?
7. What vital question arose as the harvest season began, and why?
8. Why is it fitting that the faithful slave be made up of anointed Christians?
9. Do all anointed Christians make up the faithful slave? Explain.
10. Who is the faithful and discreet slave?
11, 12. (a) What two appointments does the faithful and discreet slave receive? (b) When did Jesus appoint the faithful slave over his domestics, and whom did he select?
13. Who are included in the domestics, and why?
14. (a) The faithful slave is charged with what responsibility, and what does this include? (b) What warning did Jesus give to the faithful and discreet slave? (See the box “If Ever That Evil Slave . . .”)
15, 16. When does Jesus appoint the faithful slave over all his belongings?
17. What do Jesus’ belongings include?
18. Why will Jesus delight in making the appointment over all his belongings?
19. Does the faithful slave receive a greater reward in heaven than the rest of the anointed? Explain.
20. Why did Jesus appoint the faithful slave, and what is your determination?
[Picture on page 20]
[Box on page 22]
DID YOU GET THE POINT?
“The faithful and discreet slave”: A small group of anointed brothers who are directly involved in preparing and dispensing spiritual food during Christ’s presence. Today, these anointed brothers make up the Governing Body
“His domestics”: All who are fed, whether they are of the anointed or of the other sheep
“Appointed over his domestics”: In 1919, Jesus selected capable anointed brothers to be his faithful and discreet slave
“He will appoint him over all his belongings”: Those who make up the composite slave will get this appointment when they receive their heavenly reward. Along with the rest of the 144,000, they will share Christ’s vast heavenly authority
[Picture on pages 22, 23]
Whether our hope is heavenly or earthly, we are all domestics and need the same timely spiritual food
[Box on page 24]
“IF EVER THAT EVIL SLAVE . . .”
Jesus has placed the weightiest of responsibilities on the faithful and discreet slave—namely, overseeing the domestics and giving out spiritual food at the proper time. Jesus knew that those with greater responsibility have greater accountability. (Luke 12:48) Hence, he concluded his illustration about the faithful and discreet slave with a powerful warning.
Jesus warned about an evil slave who concludes in his heart that the master is delaying and who starts to beat his fellow slaves. When the master arrives, said Jesus, he will punish that evil slave “with the greatest severity.”—Read Matthew 24:48-51.
Was Jesus foretelling that there would be an evil slave class in the last days? No. Granted, some individuals have manifested a spirit similar to that of the evil slave described by Jesus. We would call them apostates, whether they were of the anointed or of the “great crowd.” (Rev. 7:9) But such ones do not make up an evil slave class. Jesus did not say that he would appoint an evil slave. His words here are actually a warning directed to the faithful and discreet slave.
Notice that Jesus introduces the warning with the words “if ever.” One scholar says that in the Greek text, this passage “for all practical purposes is a hypothetical condition.” In effect, Jesus was saying: ‘If the faithful and discreet slave were ever to mistreat his fellow slaves in these ways, this is what the master will do when he arrives.’ (See also Luke 12:45.) However, the composite faithful and discreet slave has continued to keep on the watch and to provide nourishing spiritual food.
The anointed brothers who together serve as the faithful slave recognize that they are accountable to the Master for the way they care for his domestics. The heartfelt desire of these anointed brothers is to fulfill their responsibility loyally so that they might hear a “well done” from the Master when he finally arrives.
[Picture on page 25]
All of the 144,000 will share Jesus’ vast heavenly authority (See paragraph 19)