Earthly Subjects of the Kingdom of God
1, 2. (a) What was the world population estimated to be in 1914 C.E., and into what was it fragmented? (b) What kind of sight did those nations and empires make on the world stage, but how did they look to the Creator?
IN THE marked year of 1914 C.E. the world population was estimated as well over one thousand million persons.* The growth was on its way to reaching 1,859,892,000 inhabitants by the year 1920, in spite of the many millions who were cut down by World War I and the Spanish influenza. This world population was fragmented into many nations and empires, the greatest empire in 1914 being the British Empire, which embraced one fourth of the earth’s surface and one fourth of the world’s population. But there were other empires at the time, such as the Turkish Empire, the Chinese Empire, the Dutch Empire, the French Empire, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Portuguese Empire. These nations and empires made a very impressive sight on the world stage, but how did they look to the earth’s Owner, the Great Creator, the Most High God? Can he make a survey of them all with just one sweep of his eyes? In exaltation of the Creator’s superhuman ability the prophet Isaiah says:
2 “Who has taken the proportions of the spirit of Jehovah, and who as his man of counsel can make him know anything? With whom did he consult together that one might make him understand, or who teaches him in the path of justice, or teaches him knowledge, or makes him know the very way of real understanding? Look! The nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted. . . . There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers.”—Isaiah 40:13-15, 22.
3, 4. (a) Is the gathering of all nations before him a hard thing for God’s Deputy Judge, Jesus Christ, and in what parable is such a thing foretold? (b) This parable shows what is required of people with what prospect?
3 Logically, then, it is very simple for the Creator God to gather all the nations before him and to judge them and execute sentence upon them. Likewise, it is an easy thing for this to be done by the mighty Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom Jehovah has appointed to act as his Deputy Judge. (Acts 17:31) That he would do this very thing at the due time, the Son of God himself foretold in his parable of the sheep and the goats. With this parable the apostle Matthew brings to a close the prophecy that the Lord Jesus Christ uttered on the Mount of Olives concerning the “sign” of his presence (parousia) and the “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) In the parable just preceding this, namely, the parable of the “talents,” the Lord Jesus illustrated that the faithful disciples who would reign with him in his heavenly kingdom must work while here on earth for an increase in his “belongings.” Quite appropriately, then, in the next succeeding parable he illustrates what is required of those today living who will become subjects of his heavenly kingdom. He opens the parable, saying:
4 “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.”—Matthew 25:31-33.
5, 6. (a) In his prophecy, how had Jesus been designating himself? (b) Why does this remind us of Daniel’s prophecy, Da chapter seven?
5 Prior to this parable, Jesus had already referred to himself seven times as “the Son of man.” (Matthew 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; 25:13, AV) Since this designation was used in connection with the Messianic kingdom, its use here was most fitting. Its use here was a reminder of the prophecy of Daniel 7:9, 10, 13, 14, where we read:
6 “There were thrones placed and the Ancient of Days sat down. . . . There were a thousand thousands that kept ministering to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand that kept standing right before him. The Court took its seat, and there were books that were opened. I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”
7. When did Jesus Christ come accompanied by angels and sit down “on his glorious throne,” and thereby there was a restoration of what?
7 Although it occurred invisibly to our human eyes in the heavens, yet it was in the year 1914, at the close of the “times of the Gentiles” (or, “the appointed times of the nations”), that the “son of man” gained access to the Ancient of Days, Jehovah God, and there were given to the “son of man” all that “rulership and dignity and kingdom.” So it was then, at the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, that the Lord Jesus as the Son of man came accompanied by all the angels and sat down “on his glorious throne.” Thus the Messianic kingdom of God was born in the heavens. (Revelation 12:5, 10) It was a restoration of the kingdom of David, which had formerly held sway at Jerusalem but which had been overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon in 607 B.C.E. So what took place in the year 1914 C.E. was the reverse of what took place in 607 B.C.E. Now, once again, a descendant of David reigned.
8. In view of what took place in 607 B.C.E., why was it the fitting thing for all the Gentile nations to be gathered before the enthroned Son of man in 1914 C.E.?
8 At that time the “presence” or parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ began. Hence, what is described in the parable of the sheep and the goats happens during his parousia. This includes the gathering of all the nations before him as the King who is present on his throne. This was quite the right thing to happen. Why? Because the ‘appointed times of the Gentile nations’ had ended. (Luke 21:24) For seven prophetic “times” those Gentile nations had held domination of all the earth without interruption from any Messianic kingdom of God. Biblically, a prophetic time means 360 days or, symbolically, years. Now there were to be seven of such prophetic “times.” That meant a total of 2,520 years (7 × 360 years). For that long the Gentile nations held earth-wide domination. During all that time they had trampled on the right of God’s Messianic kingdom to exercise world rulership. Counting back 2,520 years from 1914 C.E. gives us the year 607 B.C.E. That was when Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar became world ruler by overthrowing King David’s reigning family in Jerusalem.—Ezekiel 21:27.
9. (a) Since Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of “seven times” occurred more than a year after he got world power, does this mean that the Gentile Times could not begin until after the dream was typically fulfilled? (b) Where would the “seven times” end if counted from Babylon’s fall to the Medes and Persians, and what would be the logical thing to take place then?
9 Thus the “seven times” of Gentile domination began in 607 B.C.E., and yet it was more than a year afterward that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon got his dream about those “seven times.” (Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, 32) Another thing: this dream had a typical fulfillment upon Nebuchadnezzar when he became mad for seven literal “times” (years) and chewed grass like a bull in the field. Does this mean that the “seven times” of Gentile domination could not have begun in 607 B.C.E., before the prophetic dream? Did those Gentile Times first have to begin when the king was recovered from those seven years of madness? No! So, the year of his recovery not being known, this does not require that the “seven times” of Gentile domination of the world must begin first at the fall of Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty in the year 539 B.C.E. If we count the prophetic “seven times” (2,520 years) from Babylon’s fall to the Medes and Persians in 539 B.C.E., then those “seven times” would end in the fall of the year 1982 C.E., still in the future. On that basis, what would be the logical thing to expect in that coming year? The opposite of what took place in 539 B.C.E., namely, the restoration of the dynastic throne of King Nebuchadnezzar, the restoration of the Babylonian Empire with a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar on the throne!
10. (a) What does the Bible say about the restoration of ancient Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty and the Babylonian Empire? (b) When, therefore, did the “seven times” begin, and what is it that is to be restored?
10 However, that is absolutely contrary to what the inspired Word of God foretells. Ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River has perished forever! The dynasty of King Nebuchadnezzar has been overthrown forever. The Babylonian Empire has ceased eternally as the third world power. But what is it that Jehovah God, whose representative throne was at Jerusalem, promised to restore? It is the Messianic kingdom in the hands of a descendant of David that the God of the heavens has promised to restore. (Ezekiel 21:27; Luke 1:30-33) The desolating of Jerusalem and the land of Judah by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. marked the overthrow of the Messianic kingdom of David, and hence this is what marked the beginning of the “seven times” of the Gentile domination of the world of mankind. Unalterably, then, the 2,520 years of the Gentile Times began then, and, because of beginning there, they ended in early autumn of the year 1914 C.E.
11. Nebuchadnezzar’s having seven years of madness after overturning David’s throne showed what regarding the Gentile Times?
11 So, the fact that King Nebuchadnezzar had his seven years of madness after he overthrew David’s throne at Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. served to show how long those Gentile Times, already begun, were to last. World events indicated that they lasted till 1914 C.E.
12. When the “seven times” ended in 1914, it was the time for Jesus Christ to act upon what divine invitation?
12 When, in that year, the “seven times” of uninterrupted Gentile domination of the world ended and then the “son of man” was brought before the Ancient of Days, it was the due time for the heavenly Son of man to act upon the prophetic invitation given in Psalm Two, Ps 2 verses seven to nine: “Let me refer to the decree of Jehovah; he has said to me: ‘You are my son; I, today, I have become your father. Ask of me, that I may give nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your own possession. You will break them with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel you will dash them to pieces.’”—See also Revelation 12:5.
“AS A SHEPHERD SEPARATES THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS”
13. The separating of the people of the nations begins when with reference to the “great tribulation,” and so what does it not include?
13 It is not after the reigning “Son of man” dashes the nations to pieces in the great “time of distress” that he separates the people of the nations like “sheep” and “goats.” He does not occupy his entire Millennial reign with thus separating the inhabitants of the earth, the vast majority of whom will be resurrected from their earthly graves. (Daniel 12:1) The separating work is an activity that precedes the outbreak of the “great tribulation,” in the grand climax of which the nations are dashed to pieces at Har–Magedon. (Matthew 24:21, 22; Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:15) So the gathering of all the nations before the Son of man for him to begin the separating work does not include the resurrection of the earthly dead.
14. Are the nations gathered to one assembly place on earth for the dividing work, or how does the heavenly Son of man deal with them?
14 The gathering of the nations does not mean the bringing of them all together to one assembly place on earth, an impractical thing. Rather, the gathering is accomplished when the Creator of heaven and earth delivers over to the Son of man all the nations as his inheritance and all the earth to its very extremities as his possession. From God’s hand he accepts authority over all those nations, and he directs his attention to them all and uses “all the angels with him” in dealing with those nations. Thus the “people” of all the nations become his flock, figuratively speaking, only it is like a flock with a mixture of sheep and goats. Such mixed flocks are a common thing over in the Middle East.
15. (a) Is the picturing of the dividing work as being between sheep and goats meant to discredit goats? (b) During what time period does the separating take place?
15 The separating of the goats from the sheep is not done with any discredit to the goat kind of animal. In Jesus’ day on earth a young male goat could be used just as well as a lamb in the celebration of the annual Passover meal. (Exodus 12:1-5) Also, on the annual Day of Atonement it was the blood of Jehovah’s goat that was taken within the curtain into the Most Holy of the temple in order to “make atonement . . . in behalf of the entire congregation of Israel.” (Leviticus 16:7-9, 15-17) So, in the parable, the goats are merely used to picture one class of people, whereas the sheep are used to picture another class; and as the time comes for a shepherd to separate the two kinds of animals, so during the parousia of the Son of man and before the “great tribulation” the time comes to separate the two classes of people.
16. The separating work in the fulfillment of the parable calls for pa·rou·siʹa to mean what?
16 Of course, the separating of the sheep and goats of a literal flock could be accomplished in a portion of a day, but the separating of people with free moral agency as sheep and goats would take a much longer time earth wide. This fact, in itself, requires that the Greek word pa·rou·siʹa means “presence” rather than “coming” or “arrival.”
17. (a) The separating of sheep and goats is made upon what point of difference? (b) Why would the separating of people with free moral agency take longer than that of literal animals?
17 In the parable, the separation is made on the basis that the animals are of two distinct kinds, and a shepherd would not want goat’s milk mixed with sheep’s milk for household uses. The hair of the one class of animals differs also from that of the other class, and these were not to be blended. (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:11; Exodus 36:14; Proverbs 27:27) In the fulfillment of the parable, the separating of the people is based on the difference of personalities and courses of action. A personality takes time to be fully developed, and a course of action is built up from a series of acts that become the regular thing for a person to do. It therefore takes a longer period of time before a judgment can be made as to the fixed personality and the unvarying habitual conduct of a person. This calls for time to be allowed before a just, irreversible sentence can be pronounced and executed upon a person. It is not a matter of a day of twenty-four hours.
18. (a) In view of what the right hand and the left hand are shown to be, what is the question upon which each one must make a decision? (b) Does the invisibility of the parousia of the Son of man allow for anyone to excuse himself, and why or why not?
18 In the parable the shepherdlike Son of man puts the sheeplike ones on his right hand and the goatlike ones on his left hand. The right-hand side turns out to be the side of a favorable sentence, and the left-hand side that of an unfavorable sentence. This outcome makes the situation for the people of all the nations of today a serious one. The question upon which each individual must make his decision is, Am I gaining the favor or the disfavor of the Son of man now seated upon his glorious heavenly throne, attended by all the angels? Each individual will inescapably be called to account. The fact that the reigning Son of man is invisible during his parousia does not excuse anyone, allowing for him to plead, “I did not know.” The invisible parousia of the Son of man has been proclaimed world wide, and this obliges each one to consider with deep concern whether what he is or is not doing finds favor or disfavor with the King and Judge.
19. Where did the speech by President Rutherford at the I.B.S.A. convention at Los Angeles in 1923 locate the fulfillment of the parable of the sheep and goats?
19 Who, though, are the symbolic sheep and who are the symbolic goats? On Saturday, August 25, 1923, a startling explanation of who these respectively were was given to Christian students of the Holy Bible. This was the eighth day of a nine-day regional convention held by the International Bible Students Association in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. That day the Association’s president, J. F. Rutherford, addressed an audience of 2,500 on the subject “Parable of Sheep and Goats.” This Biblical presentation did not locate the fulfillment of the parable of Matthew 25:31-46 after the “time of distress” with which this present system of things ends and during the thousand-year reign of Christ. It located the parable’s fulfillment now, since 1919 C.E., during the invisible parousia or “presence” of the reigning Son of man and down to the destruction of this system of things. The material of this convention speech was published on pages 307-314 of the October 15, 1923, issue of The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.—See paragraphs 17-21 of said article under the heading “The Time.”
20. Why, therefore, did it become advisable for each individual to consider what kind of personality he was developing?
20 In this manner the readers of The Watch Tower and members of the International Bible Students Association were alerted to the fact that the parable was already undergoing fulfillment and the present generation of mankind was vitally involved. This made it advisable for each one to study what kind of personality he was developing and on which side of the reigning Son of man his course of conduct put him.
21. What efforts were made to help Jews to become symbolic “sheep,” and till when did this special interest in Jews continue?
21 Over a period of years a special effort was made to help the natural, circumcised Jews of the world to become symbolic “sheep” on the right side of the reigning Messiah. This effort was made by public lectures on the subject “Jews Returning to Palestine,” such as delivered to large audiences by the I.B.S.A. president, J. F. Rutherford, during the year 1925, also by the public address on the subject “Palestine for the Jews—Why?” delivered by him on Monday night, May 31, 1926, in the famous Royal Albert Hall of London, England, which seats 10,000 and which was well filled by a Jewish audience. Besides such public lectures there was published the book Comfort for the Jews, under the publication date of October, 1925, and, later, the 360-page book entitled “Life,” which was released for public distribution on Sunday, August 25, 1929, after a nationwide radio chain broadcast from Station WBBR, Staten Island, New York, on the subject “Health and Life for the People.” This special interest in the natural circumcised Jews continued until the release of the book Vindication, Volume 2, in 1932, which volume showed that Ezekiel’s prophecies concerning Israel applied to spiritual Israel today.
22. How was interest in the sheeplike ones on a wider scale stirred by the information given out at the Columbus convention in 1931?
22 However, interest in the “sheep” class on a wider scale was stirred up in the year 1931. On July 30, at the international convention of the International Bible Students Association in Columbus, Ohio, the Association’s president delivered the talk on “The Man with the Writer’s Inkhorn,” after which Robert J. Martin announced the release of the new book entitled “Vindication,” Volume 1. This book gave a detailed, verse for verse discussion of chapter nine of Ezekiel’s prophecy, which presents the vision of this linen-clad man with the writer’s inkhorn. Both the speech and the book called attention to the fact that a marking work had to be done by the anointed remnant of Christ’s disciples in behalf of sheeplike people of the earth, not merely of natural Israelites but also of people of all the nations. This was a lifesaving work, inasmuch as the Holy Scriptures show that only the marked ones will be spared alive with the anointed remnant through the coming “great tribulation.” They become earthly subjects of the Kingdom.
23. For years, what interest had existed regarding the “great multitude” of Revelation, chapter seven, and how did the release of the book Jehovah in 1934 fail to clarify matters?
23 For decades of time there had been keen interest in what is called “a great multitude” in Revelation 7:9, King James Authorized Version Bible. Just who were the ones that made up this great crowd? On November 19, 1934, at Brooklyn, New York, there was released to God’s devoted people the book entitled “Jehovah.” This 384-page book spoke both of that “great multitude” and of the parable of the sheep and the goats. (See page 159 under “Great Multitude”; also pages 354, and 359 regarding “sheep.”) However, this then latest publication did not identify the “sheep” of the parable as being the same as that “great multitude” nor as being those who are marked in their foreheads by the symbolic man clothed in linen with the writer’s inkhorn at his side. Nor did it disabuse the minds of the Bible students of the long-held idea that the “great multitude” was a body of spirit-begotten Christian martyrs who are bound for heavenly life even though they were no part of the 144,000 joint heirs of Jesus Christ the King. Those of the “great multitude” were thought to be yet “prisoners” of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion.
24. At what convention did the satisfying, factual explanation of the “great multitude” come, and who especially were invited to attend that convention?
24 At what time, then, did there come to those who were so eager to know, an explanation of the vision of the “great multitude” that proved satisfying and that agrees with the developing facts? In the year 1935, six months after the release of the book Jehovah. This was on the occasion of the Washington (D.C.) convention of Jehovah’s witnesses, May 30 to June 3, 1935. The full-page announcement on this on page 127 of the April 15, 1935, issue of The Watchtower expressly said: “All persons who are on the side of Jehovah and his kingdom are welcome.” It also went on to say: “This is a service convention, and it is expected that all the remnant and the Jonadabs will participate in the service. . . . Arrangements will be made for all who desire to symbolize their consecration by water immersion.” Later announcements of the convention said: “Heretofore not many Jonadabs have had the privilege of attending a convention, and the convention at Washington may be a real comfort and benefit to them.”
25. (a) When did the so-called Jonadabs realize the special reason why they had been invited to the Washington convention? (b) Whom did the speaker on “The Great Multitude” identify these as being?
25 It was on Friday afternoon, May 31, that those interested persons who saw a resemblance between themselves and ancient Jonadab the son of Rechab came to realize why they had specially been invited to attend this Washington convention. Why so? Because it was then that the principal convention speaker, J. F. Rutherford, addressed his visible audience there at the Washington Auditorium and a countless invisible audience simultaneously over radio stations WBBR and WHPH (Petersburg, Virginia) on the subject “The Great Multitude.” This explanation of Revelation 7:9-15 set forth that the “great multitude” (AV) is not a multitude of worshipers who are destined to have a spiritual resurrection and go to heaven. Rather, it is an earthly class of Jehovah’s worshipers to whom is held out in God’s Word the hope of everlasting life on a Paradise earth under the heavenly kingdom of Jesus Christ and his glorified church or congregation. At that time such worshipers with earthly hopes were likened to Jonadab the son of Rechab and were designated as “Jonadabs.” As The Watchtower later said:
These are otherwise called “the Jonadabs.” These are being baptized in symbol, thus testifying that they have consecrated themselves to do the will of God and have taken their stand on the side of Jehovah and serve him and his King; thus they have cleaned up and are now “arrayed in white robes.” Thus the great multitude is definitely identified, not as a spirit-begotten class whose hopes are for a place in heaven, but . . . they “come out of the great tribulation,” . . .—The Watchtower as of August 15, 1935, page 248, paragraph 21.
26. (a) How was the speech publicized still more, and how many were baptized after the speech? (b) Did the baptismal candidates put themselves in any class, and how would they come to know to which class they belonged?
26 The material of this remarkable address was published in the two-part article entitled “The Great Multitude” in the issues of August 1 and 15, 1935, of The Watchtower, for the information of Jehovah’s worshipers all around the globe. On the day following the address there were 840 who presented themselves for immersion in water, to symbolize their becoming disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.* (Matthew 28:19, 20) These 840 baptismal candidates were not Scripturally authorized to put themselves into either the heavenly class of joint heirs of Christ or the earthly class represented by the “great multitude.” It was not their will that was to be done, but was Jehovah’s will. He was the One to express his sovereign will in placing them in either class according to his good pleasure. If, after their baptism, he begot anyone of these with his holy spirit to become a spiritual son of God, he thereby brought such one into the spiritual class with a heavenly inheritance. If He did not beget anyone as a spiritual son and deal with him as He does with spiritual sons, then the one not spirit-begotten was reserved for the earthly great multitude.
27. What did this newer information on the “great multitude” provide with respect to the parable of the sheep and the goats?
27 The Washington (D.C.) speech on the “great multitude” and the material thereafter published on that subject provided a new backdrop against which to view the parable of the sheep and the goats. It made stand out more clearly and fully what are the requirements for membership in the “sheep” class than the requirements that were set out in the speech on the parable of the sheep and the goats twelve years previously in 1923 at Los Angeles, California.
28. How were the requirements for the “sheep” class shown to be greater than those set forth in 1923?
28 For example, those of the “sheep” class must be more than merely kindly disposed, righteously disposed persons who were humanitarian and did some kindness to the anointed remnant of Christ’s disciples. They themselves must be Christ’s disciples, baptized in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,” and also be acting as Christian witnesses of Jehovah. The “great multitude” of Revelation 7:9-17 (Authorized Version) were identical with the “sheep” class of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:31-46.*
“COME, YOU WHO HAVE BEEN BLESSED BY MY FATHER”
29. In what words are the vital requirements for getting onto the King’s right side set out in what he says to the “sheep”?
29 The vital requirements that are looked for in those who make up the “sheep” class are indicated by what the Shepherd King gives as the reason for assigning the symbolic “sheep” to a blessed future. The parable pictures the “sheep” class at the right hand of the royal Son of man as he speaks to them. “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I became hungry and you gave me something to eat; I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.’”—Matthew 25:34-36.
30. Why could it be only indirectly that those “sheep” did to Jesus the things that he mentions?
30 It was only indirectly that these sheeplike people of “all the nations” did these things to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let it not slip from our memory that, when on earth, Jesus confined his three years and some months of teaching and preaching to the nation of Israel and the Samaritans over there in the Middle East. (Matthew 15:24; 10:6; John 1:11; 4:3-43; Luke 17:15-18) So these sheeplike people are like those Christians in the first century, in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor, to whom the apostle Peter wrote: “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him at present, yet you exercise faith in him.” (1 Peter 1:8) Although never having been able to see him on earth, the sheeplike people who are separated to Jesus’ right hand did want to do something in his behalf and made an effort to do so, indirectly.
31. Will the conversation between King and “sheep,” as described in the parable, be direct, and what bearing does 1 Timothy 6:14-16 have on the matter?
31 When this part of the prophetic parable is fulfilled, these sheeplike people will not see the Son of man seated on his glorious heavenly throne, neither will he appear visible to their naked eyes and speak to them audibly to their natural ears and say his words of appreciation. During his presence or parousia in the spirit, they see him on his throne only by the eye of faith, and at the time of his handing down his favorable decision to them his words of favor will be transmitted to them through whatever is his chosen channel. The fulfillment of the conversation in the parable between the enthroned Son of man and the “sheep” has to take into account what is stated in 1 Timothy 6:14-16: “Until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. This manifestation the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times, he the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one alone [out of all those whom men serve as kings] having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.” So the conversation between this King of kings and the “sheep” will not be direct.
32, 33. (a) What must be said as to whether the King’s invitation to the “sheep” to “come” is an invitation to heaven? (b) Why did Jesus speak of these as “other sheep”?
32 On inviting these sheeplike people at his right hand to “come,” he is not inviting them to come to heaven and sit with him on his throne. These symbolic “sheep” are not members of the 144,000 spirit-begotten joint heirs of Jesus Christ who experience the “first resurrection” and reign with him for a thousand years over mankind. (Revelation 14:1-3; 20:4-6) Being people of “all the nations” who are gathered during his presence or parousia in the spirit, they come to number many more than 144,000, in fact, many times as many individuals. They compose the “great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9, 10) Those of this “great crowd” are likened to “sheep” when it is further said of them: “The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life.” (Revelation 7:17) In fact, they are part of those “other sheep,” whom Jesus differentiated from the “little flock” of 144,000 joint heirs, by saying:
34. When does the enthroned Son of man bid the “great crowd” of “other sheep” to “come,” and how are they those who “have been blessed” by his heavenly Father?
34 The “great crowd” of such “other sheep” the enthroned Son of man tells to “come” to him, that is, to approach him at the time of his giving them their reward. He calls them “you who have been blessed by my Father.” (Matthew 25:34) True, while they were trying to do something good and helpful to the Lord Jesus Christ during this time of his presence or parousia, his heavenly Father blessed them for this. However, they “have been blessed” by his heavenly Father particularly in that He has reserved such a blessed reward for them. The heavenly Father foresaw this sheeplike class of this time of his Son’s presence or parousia, and he accordingly reserved a blessed reward for them. The blessings they have already received do not compare with the blessing they are yet to enjoy. What is that particular blessing reserved for them?
35. (a) What does Jesus indicate is the special blessing reserved for the “great crowd” of “other sheep”? (b) What, specifically, is the “kingdom” that they inherit, and where do they do so?
35 It is indicated in Jesus’ words to them: “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.” (Matthew 25:34) The “great crowd” of the “other sheep” were not in these words being invited by Jesus Christ to a seat with him on his heavenly throne, for they are not of the 144,000 joint heirs. How, then, are the words of invitation to be understood? Under the original Greek word for “kingdom” (Ba·si·leiʹa), page 309 of Volume I of Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon states that the Greek word has also a passive meaning, namely, one’s “being ruled by a king,” and also may mean “reign.” So it is indeed: the “great crowd” of such “other sheep” inherit a state of “being ruled by a king,” namely, the Messianic King Jesus, and they inherit a thousand years of a “reign” by the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Where will they enjoy this millennium of being ruled over by the glorified Son of man? Not in heaven, which they as creatures of “flesh and blood” cannot enter (1 Corinthians 15:50); but down here on earth, which is the earthly realm of Christ’s kingdom.—Psalm 2:8; Daniel 2:35-45.
36. From the founding of what “world” was this “kingdom” prepared for the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” and how?
36 This earth will be a grand place in which to live under such a king as the Lord Jesus Christ, along with his glorified 144,000 coregents. How, though, was the “kingdom” in this sense “prepared” for that sheeplike “great crowd” all the way “from the founding of the world”? In that the heavenly Father, the Creator, had it in mind for them “from the founding of the world.” This does not mean the founding of our earthly planet. It means the world of mankind. This was after the creating of Adam and Eve in their perfection in the Garden of Eden. Adam was not made a king, and Eve was not made his queen. Adam was not made a king over all the animal creation of land animals, amphibious animals, fish and birds. In Job 41:34 Jehovah calls Leviathan the “king over all majestic wild beasts.” No more so was Adam to be a king over all his human descendants. Kings came into existence upon the earth first after the flood of Noah’s day and beginning with Nimrod the bold hunter who founded Babel or Babylon in the Mesopotamian Valley. (Genesis 10:8-10) Adam’s descendants were not born into a kingdom of Adam. Adam and Eve themselves did not constitute a “world.”
37. (a) When and how was that world founded? (b) How was it that from that founding the “kingdom” was prepared?
37 However, when Adam and Eve, outside the Garden of Eden from which they had been expelled under sentence of destruction, began to have children, then a “world,” that is, a world of mankind, was founded. These children, though born in sin and imperfection and under condemnation of death, came under the opportunity that was expressed in Jehovah’s words to the serpent in Eden after the inducing of Adam and Eve to sin: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He [the woman’s seed] will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:14, 15) As time went on, Jehovah God gave further information concerning this mysterious Seed that would gain the victory over the symbolic Serpent, Satan the Devil. The victorious Seed was to become a King over all mankind. Hence, when children began to be born who had the opportunity of coming under the established kingdom of the Seed, Jehovah’s promise took effect toward the world of mankind that had just been founded. Thus the “kingdom” was held in reserve, “prepared” for earth’s inhabitants “from the founding of the world.”—Compare Luke 11:50, 51.
DONE TO “ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BROTHERS”
38. How is the surprise of the sheeplike “great crowd” at the king’s invitation explained by the words of the king?
38 In the prophetic parable, when the King invited the “sheep” to “inherit the kingdom prepared” for them from the founding of the world, they gave way to surprise. Jesus tells us: “Then the righteous ones will answer him with the words, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty, and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and receive you hospitably, or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?’ And in reply the king will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”—Matthew 25:37-40.
39. Is it on the basis of their considerate deeds done to the King that they are called “righteous,” or what?
39 It is noteworthy that Jesus speaks of these sheeplike persons as “the righteous ones.” Their righteous appearance before him is not due solely to the fact that they did all the considerate things to him that he mentions. These sheeplike ones are not justified or declared righteous on the basis of their own works any more than the 144,000 joint heirs of Christ are. The prime thing that counted was the thing that was evidenced by their trying to do what they could in behalf of Christ just as the situation afforded, namely, their faith in him as the Messiah or Christ of God. They recognized that they had no righteousness wholly pleasing to God in themselves. In harmony with this they availed themselves of the propitiatory blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. (John 1:29, 36) To gain a righteous appearance before Jehovah God, they did a washing, as it were, of their symbolic robes. This is called to our attention in John’s vision of the “great crowd.”
40. How do those of the “great crowd” of “other sheep” clean up their bad appearance before God, and where and how do they render sacred service?
40 To bring out the fact that those of this sheeplike “great crowd” are disciples of the Lamb Jesus Christ and are worshipers at the spiritual temple of Jehovah God, the apostle John reports this conversation that arose over the vision of the “great crowd”: “And in response one of the elders said to me: ‘These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?’ So right away I said to him: ‘My lord, you are the one that knows.’ And he said to me: ‘These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.’” (Revelation 7:13-15) So it is essential that they wash their bad appearance before God in the shed blood of Christ by their exercise of faith, besides which they render sacred service to God at his spiritual temple by doing what the opportunity offers them in behalf of the Lamb Jesus Christ. Properly, then, Jesus could speak of them as “righteous ones.”
41. (a) What do these righteous “sheep” indicate about the parousia by repeatedly asking, “When did we see you?” (b) In this regard, why did the parousia have to be an extended period of time?
41 By their repeatedly saying, “When did we see you?” when they inquired about the things the King Jesus Christ said they had done to him, the righteous sheeplike ones make it manifest that they did not see him in the flesh. Rightly so, forasmuch as his royal presence or parousia is invisible to human eyes, he being now one “whom not one of men has seen or can see.” His parousia had to be an extended invisible presence for them to do to him all the things that he enumerates, in an indirect manner. How, then, was it to him that they did all such loving things? Jesus explains:
42. The king tells the “sheep” that they did such things to him indirectly in what way?
42 “And in reply the king will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”—Matthew 25:40.
43. During his parousia the King Jesus Christ has a remnant of whom on the earth, and how did he speak about them on the day of his prophecy and on resurrection day?
43 During the time of his invisible parousia or presence as enthroned King, Jesus Christ the Son of man has a remnant of his spiritual brothers visibly in the flesh on the earth. Previously, on the same day on which he gave the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus referred to these “brothers,” when he said: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:8-10) Five days after telling the parable the risen Lord Jesus appeared to a number of women on his resurrection day and said to them: “Have no fear! Go, report to my brothers, that they may go off into Galilee; and there they will see me.”—Matthew 28:9, 10.
44. (a) How did Jesus speak about these brothers to another woman on resurrection day? (b) What does Hebrews 2:10-12 say regarding Jesus’ attitude toward these brothers?
44 On his resurrection day he also appeared to Mary Magdalene and spoke of his spiritual brothers, saying to her: “Be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) There will finally be 144,000 of these spiritual brothers who will share the heavenly glory with Jesus Christ, their oldest spiritual Brother. The fact that there are these spiritual brothers of Christ is dwelt upon by the inspired writer, in Hebrews 2:10-12, in these words: “It was fitting for the one for whose sake all things are and through whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he who is sanctifying and those who are being sanctified all stem from one [Father], and for this cause he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers,’ as he says: ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I will praise you with song.’” These “brothers” are members of the “seed” of Abraham the Hebrew; and in order to help them to heavenly glory, the heavenly Son of God became a man like them. Accordingly, it is written:
45. Jesus was made like his spiritual brothers for what purpose?
45 “He is really not assisting angels at all, but he is assisting Abraham’s seed. Consequently he was obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people.”—Hebrews 2:16, 17.
46. The King Jesus Christ appreciates those who are the assisters of whom specifically, and why?
46 Just as the King Jesus Christ himself, when on earth as a perfect man, tried to assist his spiritual brothers, so he appreciates all those who put forth some efforts to assist his spiritual brothers who become his heavenly joint heirs. What such kindly assisters do to his “brothers” he counts as being done to him personally. Those offering such assistance he likens to sheep. They are not commended for just being philanthropic or humanitarian in a general sense, doing good to anybody and everybody regardless of who such anybody is, indiscriminately. Often persons who are philanthropic and humanitarian like that are afraid to do good specifically to Christ’s spiritual brothers amid the sufferings of these on earth. Any sign of sympathy with Christ’s “brothers” brings the frown of disapproval and criticism on the part of those who are against Christ’s “brothers” and who cause these “brothers” of Christ much of their suffering, even to imprisonment.
47. As stated by Jesus, why do the acts of assistance on the part of the righteous “sheep” have special merit?
47 Rather, those whom the parable-teller Jesus designates as “sheep” and calls “righteous” do discriminate fearlessly. They intelligently and deliberately do good to Christ’s “brothers” because they recognize these to be such. They believe these “brothers” are imitating Jesus Christ and are doing the work that he commanded them to do. It is for this reason that their acts of assistance to Christ’s brothers have a special merit in his sight, for acts of that kind have a real Christian motivation. Such view of matters Jesus made clear to his apostles, when he said: “He that is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink on the ground that you belong to Christ, I truly tell you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:40, 41) “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, I tell you truly, he will by no means lose his reward.”—Matthew 10:42.
TAKING THEIR STAND WITH THE KING’S “BROTHERS”
48. (a) Before and after 1935 C.E., did Christ’s spiritual brothers on earth go through such experiences as he describes? (b) The “sheep” who rendered assistance did so with what knowledge and appreciation?
48 The historical records reveal that during their work of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and making disciples of people of all the nations down to the year 1935 C.E., and thereafter, Christ’s spiritual “brothers” have literally hungered and thirsted, they have needed clothing, they have been strangers and homeless, they have got sick and even been put in prison unjustly. Not just their own spiritual “brothers” have come to their assistance, but also others who are not begotten of God’s spirit as Christ’s “brothers” have done so. These latter ones did not act thus in ignorance of just who these suffering, needy Christians were and of the unpopularity of these persecuted ones. To the contrary, they recognized that these were the “ambassadors” of God’s Messianic kingdom, and they wanted to give concrete evidence that they were taking their stand on the side of God’s kingdom.
49, 50. (a) How do these “sheep” who are not spiritual Israelites respond to the Kingdom-preaching, and to whom do they join themselves? (b) Accordingly, in whose name do these get baptized, thereby attaching themselves to whom?
49 Thereby these sheeplike ones demonstrated their faith in Jesus Christ as the reigning King. They rejoiced at the preaching of the good news of God’s now established kingdom, and they desired to give their full support to it. They responded to the disciple-making work of the Kingdom “ambassadors” and got baptized in water as also disciples of Christ, obeying his teachings. (2 Corinthians 5:20; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) In that course thus being taken, even until now, by these sheeplike people who are not spiritual Israelites, the prophecy of Zechariah 2:11 is being fulfilled at this time: “Many nations will certainly become joined [or, join themselves] to Jehovah in that day, and they will actually become my people; and I will reside in the midst of you.”—New World Translation; American Standard Version.
50 These sheeplike people from “many nations,” 208 countries and islands according to reports thus far, get baptized not only in the name of the Son and of the holy spirit but also in the name of the Father, the Son’s Father, who is Jehovah. They do not believe merely in the Son and ignore the Father. Not only do they “believe on the Lord Jesus” to get saved, but they necessarily also recognize that “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Acts 16:31; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13) So they do call upon Jehovah’s name and get baptized in the name of Him. They “join themselves,” they dedicate themselves, to Jehovah in order to become His people. They abandon the false gods to whom they were formerly dedicated. (Hosea 9:10) They become irrevocably attached to Jehovah God the Father through Jesus Christ.
51, 52. (a) In being thus baptized, to whom are these “sheep” likened in Zechariah 8:20-23? (b) Who is the “Jew” upon whose skirt they take hold?
51 In their dedication of themselves to Jehovah through Christ these sheeplike ones are further pictured in Zechariah’s prophecy, in these words: “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘It will yet be that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come; and the inhabitants of one city will certainly go to those of another, saying: “Let us earnestly go to soften the face of Jehovah and to seek Jehovah of armies. I myself will go also.” And many peoples and mighty nations will actually come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to soften the face of Jehovah.’ This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘It will be in those days that ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will actually take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew, saying: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.”’”—Zechariah 8:20-23.
52 In the fulfillment of this prophecy, the man whose skirt is taken hold of by these men of “all the languages of the nations” is a spiritual Jew, namely, one of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites who are spoken of in Revelation 7:4-8, just before the apostle John’s vision of the numberless “great crowd,” the members of which come “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”
53. (a) Particularly since what year have these “ten men” speaking the languages of many nations taken hold of the skirts of spiritual Jews? (b) By that year these spiritual Jews bore what distinguishing designation?
53 During the presence or parousia of the King Jesus Christ since the year 1914 C.E., there has been just a remnant of such spiritual Jews in the flesh on earth. It was particularly from the year 1935 onward, after the identification of who made up the “great crowd” of praisers of God and his Lamb, that “ten men” speaking the tongues of many nations began to humble themselves as if taking hold of the skirt of a person and volunteering to go up with the spiritual Jew to the center of worship of Jehovah of armies. By that year of 1935 these spiritual Jews had been bearing the Bible designation “Jehovah’s witnesses” for four years, so that there was no mistaking of what kind of Christians they were.
54. How was the fact that these “sheep” join themselves to Jehovah and seek to worship him foretold in Isaiah 2:2-4?
54 The fact that in these last days many persons who are not a part of the remnant of spiritual Jews or Israelites should join themselves in dedication to Jehovah as God and seek to worship him at his spiritual temple was also foretold in these beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah: “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:2-4.
55. (a) In the light of the foregoing prophecies, what is it that makes a person a “sheep” with a “righteous” standing before God and Christ? (b) How high do they elevate Jehovah’s worship?
55 When we take all these Bible prophecies that apply at the present time, the time of Christ’s presence or parousia, into consideration, along with Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats, what can we see? This: that it is not a case of unknowingly and by chance doing good to one of Christ’s spiritual brothers that makes a person a “sheep” with a “righteous” standing before God and his Messianic King. Those of the “sheep” class know what they are doing, even though they do not see the reigning King, the Son of man, with their literal naked eyes. They give due recognition to his spiritual “brothers,” even “to one of the least of these [his] brothers,” and for that special reason they endeavor to help them, not only in a material, physical way, but also in a spiritual way by joining with them in preaching “this good news of the kingdom” and in the Bible teaching work that results in making disciples of Christ. They know that Christ’s “brothers” are exalting Jehovah’s worship above everything else, and with these they go up to Jehovah’s spiritual temple to worship, meeting the high requirements for this.
56. (a) What is the position of these “sheep” regarding fighting with Christ’s “brothers” on various divisive grounds? (b) Whose friends do they choose to be, and how do they keep their “robes”?
56 Because the sheeplike ones desire to help and do good to the spiritual “brothers” of Christ, they do not fight with them on any grounds, national, racial, tribal, political, skin color, cultural, linguistic. With Christ’s “brothers” they take their stand for absolute neutrality toward the violent, destructive, sanguinary conflicts and controversies of this heavily armed world. They would rather be friends with Christ’s “brothers,” who are “no part of the world,” than enjoy the “friendship with the world.” (John 17:14, 16; James 4:4) So they choose to suffer with Christ’s brothers at the hands of this hostile world, so as to maintain their Christian integrity toward God and to prove themselves also to be real disciples of Christ. They keep clean their “robes” washed in Christ’s blood.
57. (a) Zechariah 8:23 put the ratio of Jew to non-Jewish worshipers at what figure? (b) Back in 1935 C.E., what was the estimate for the world’s religious population, to compare with how many witnesses of Jehovah?
57 The fact that Zechariah 8:23 prophesied that “ten men out of all the languages of the nations” would take hold on the skirt of a spiritual Jew or spiritual Israelite indicates that such self-humbling men of all nations would outnumber the remnant of spiritual Jews or Israelites. The ratio would be like ten to one. This has really come about since the year 1935 C.E. In that epochal year the worldwide population for religious bodies, Christian and non-Christian, was estimated as 1,849,185,359. (The World Almanac and Book of Facts, for 1936, by the New York World-Telegram, page 419) In that same year the number of Jehovah’s witnesses who were reporting activity in the field ministry world wide numbered less than 60,000. What has been the growth of the world population since then?
58. Since 1935, to what extent has the world’s religious population increased, and also the world population in general?
58 According to The 1973 World Almanac and Book of Facts, page 343, the religious population of the world was published as being 2,661,120,100. This means that between 1935 and 1973 the religious population of the world had not doubled. Now, as for the world population in general, in the year 1935 it was an estimate that was published with no change from that given for the year 1927, namely, 1,960,000,000. According to The 1973 World Almanac and Book of Facts, page 206, the estimate of the world’s population was 3,631,797,000. Thus, between 1935 and 1973, the world population had not quite doubled.
59. In the ministerial service year of 1971/1972, to what extent had the number of Jehovah’s witnesses increased?
59 What, though, about the growth in numbers of Jehovah’s witnesses? Their ministerial service year begins on September 1 of a calendar year. So, during the 1971/1972 service year, the number associated with Jehovah’s witnesses who were regularly active in the field ministry was reported to be 1,596,442, on the average, although during that service year a peak of 1,658,990 Kingdom proclaimers was attained. What an increase this represents in the number of Jehovah’s witnesses in comparison with the number of them back there in 1935!
60. (a) In what way was it determined how many of those were spiritual Jews? (b) From all this, what do we note as respects the going of people up to Jehovah’s spiritual temple to worship? (c) Hence, in what vital time must we be living?
60 But how many among these Christian witnesses of Jehovah are spiritual Jews? Only 10,350. These identified themselves as spiritual Israelites by partaking of the emblematic bread and wine at the annual celebration of the Lord’s Supper, on March 29, 1972, at which celebration there was a total attendance, world wide, of 3,662,407. In the 208 lands and islands of the sea in which Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are active there were 28,407 congregations functioning. From all this, what do we note? This: that during Christ’s invisible parousia (presence) a “great crowd” of sheeplike persons out of all nations, tribes, peoples and languages has been gathered to the King’s right hand and has joined the small remnant of spiritual Israelites in going up to Jehovah’s spiritual temple to worship Him as God. This is a noteworthy feature of the “sign” proving that the unseen “presence” or parousia of the Lord Jesus is in progress and that we are living in the “conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 24:3.
On page 494, The World Almanac for 1915 listed 64 distinct countries under the heading “Statistics of the Countries of the World” and gave their total population as being 1,691,741,383.
See The Golden Age, as of July 17, 1935, page 660, column 2.
In awareness of this, The Watchtower under date of May 1, 1936, identified the “sheep” class with the “great multitude” in its article entitled “Armageddon Survivors,” page 140, paragraphs 47, 48.