‘I Make a Covenant With You for a Kingdom’
1. On the night before Jesus’ death what prospect did he set before his apostles?
IT WAS on the night before Jesus was put to death that he told his faithful apostles: ‘In the house of my Father there are many abodes. I am going my way to prepare a place for you, that where I am you also may be.’ He further said to them: “I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (John 14:2, 3; Luke 22:29) What a marvelous prospect he set before them!
2. How many will share with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom?
2 However, Jesus did not mean that only those apostles would rule with him in his heavenly Kingdom. Later it was made known that 144,000 redeemed from the earth would have that grand privilege. (Rev. 5:9, 10; 14:1, 4) Are some today reaching out to lay hold of it?
Gathering the Kingdom Heirs
3. In his public ministry, to what opportunity did Jesus draw attention?
3 After John the Baptizer was imprisoned by Herod Antipas, Jesus undertook an intense campaign of public preaching in which he focused attention on “the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matt. 4:12, 17) He made people aware that there would be opportunity for them to enter that Kingdom, and his disciples earnestly reached out for that prize.—Matt. 5:3, 10, 20; 7:21; 11:12.
4. (a) When were the first of Jesus’ disciples anointed with holy spirit? (b) What shows that attention was being directed from then on to the gathering of the Kingdom heirs?
4 At Pentecost of 33 C.E. the first of them were anointed with holy spirit. (Acts 2:1-4; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22) God’s provision for salvation leading to immortal heavenly life was made known. Peter used “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens” to open up this knowledge—first to the Jews, next to the Samaritans, and then to people of the Gentile nations. (Matt. 16:19) Special attention was being given to making up the government that would rule mankind for 1,000 years, and nearly all the inspired letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures are primarily directed to this group of Kingdom heirs—“the holy ones,” “partakers of the heavenly calling.”*
5. Was their being called to heavenly life because they were better servants of God than those who had lived before?
5 Their being called to heavenly life was not because they were somehow better than all the servants of God who had died before Pentecost of 33 C.E. (Matt. 11:11) Rather, Jehovah now had begun to select those who would be associate rulers with Jesus Christ. For some 19 centuries after this there was only one calling, the heavenly one. It was an undeserved kindness that God bestowed on a limited number in furtherance of his own wise and loving purposes.—Eph. 2:8-10.
6. (a) Why must the time come when the heavenly calling would close? (b) Who would direct matters so that the prophecy regarding the “great crowd” would also be fulfilled, and what has actually happened?
6 In time the prescribed but limited number of 144,000 would be filled. The final sealing of these spiritual Israelites as approved would be near. (Rev. 7:1-8) Then Jehovah, by means of his spirit and the understanding of his Word that he made possible for his visible organization, would direct matters so as to fulfill another part of his purpose, as described in Revelation 7:9-17. A “great crowd” out of all nations would be gathered, with the thrilling prospect of surviving the great tribulation and living forever in perfection amid an earthly Paradise. When we consider what has actually occurred, it seems evident that the heavenly calling in general was completed by about the year 1935 C.E., when the earthly hope of the “great crowd” was clearly discerned. Since then there have been brought into association with the comparatively few thousand remaining ones of the heavenly class millions of worshipers of Jehovah who are earnestly hoping to live forever right here on earth.
7. Is it possible that some even today might receive the heavenly calling, and why do you so answer?
7 Does this mean that none are now being called by God for heavenly life? Until the final sealing is done, it is possible that some few who have that hope may prove unfaithful, and others will have to be chosen to take their place. But it seems reasonable that this would be a rare occurrence.
Spiritual Sons—How Do They Know?
8. What explanation does Paul give showing how those begotten by holy spirit are aware of that fact?
8 God’s spirit gives positive assurance of adoption as spiritual sons to baptized Christians who have received the heavenly calling. The apostle Paul showed this when he wrote to the “holy ones” in Rome, describing what was at that time the situation of all true Christians. He said: “All who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: ‘Abba, Father!’ The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”—Rom. 1:7; 8:14-17.
9. How does ‘the spirit itself bear witness’ with the spirit of those who truly are sons of God?
9 Two uses of the word “spirit” are here brought to our attention: “the spirit itself” and “our spirit.” The first is God’s invisible active force. It inspires in his spiritual children a conviction of having been adopted as God’s free children. That spirit also bears witness through God’s inspired Word, the Bible, which is like a personal letter to his spiritual children. (1 Pet. 1:10-12) When those who have been begotten by holy spirit read what the Scriptures say to those who are spiritual sons of God, they properly respond: ‘That applies to me.’ Thus God’s own active force in various ways bears witness with their spirit, the motivating force of their own mind and heart, that they are God’s children. In accord with what God’s spirit thus indicates, their minds and hearts become set on the prospect of being joint heirs with Christ, and they accept the responsibilities of God’s spiritual children.—Phil. 3:13, 14.
10. (a) What factors do not by themselves identify one as an anointed Christian? (b) What view do the “other sheep” take regarding their place in God’s purpose?
10 Is that true of you? If so, you have a wonderful privilege. However, it would be a mistake for any to conclude that because a person has keen appreciation for deeper spiritual things or is zealous in the field ministry or has intense love for his brothers he must therefore be a spirit-anointed Christian. Those very things characterize many of the “other sheep.” Their hearts, too, are moved by what they read in the Scriptures regarding Christ’s joint heirs, but they do not presume to claim for themselves something that God has not reserved for them. (Compare Numbers 16:1-40.) They recognize God’s original purpose for the earth and work appreciatively toward sharing in that.
11. Who attend the annual commemoration of Jesus’ death, and why?
11 Each year, on Nisan 14, after sundown, the anointed followers of Jesus Christ in all parts of the earth commemorate his death, in harmony with the instructions that he gave to his apostles. (Luke 22:19, 20) The “other sheep” also attend, not as partakers of the bread and the wine, but as respectful observers.
12. How were some early Christians in Corinth failing to show proper appreciation for the Lord’s Evening Meal?
12 This is no empty religious ritual but is filled with powerful meaning. To first-century Christians in Corinth, Greece, some of whom failed to show proper appreciation for the occasion, the apostle Paul wrote serious counsel, saying: “Whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord.” What made them ‘unworthy’ partakers? They were not properly preparing themselves in heart and mind. There were divisions in the congregation. Also some overindulged in food and drink before the meeting. They treated the Lord’s Evening Meal with indifference. They were not in condition to discern the serious significance of the bread and the wine.—1 Cor. 11:17-34.
13. What is the significance of the bread and the wine served at the Memorial?
13 What is that significance? It does not lie in any supposed miraculous transformation of the bread and the wine. Christ is not in any sense sacrificed again at each Memorial. The Scriptures state that “Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many.” (Heb. 9:28; 10:10; Rom. 6:9) The loaf of unleavened bread and the red wine are merely emblems to represent the literal body Jesus sacrificed and the literal blood he shed. But how precious these realities are! Jesus’ sinless human body was given so that the world of mankind could have the opportunity to live forever. (John 6:51) And his shed blood serves a twofold purpose—cleansing from sin those humans who exercise faith in it, also making operative the new covenant between God and the congregation of spiritual Israel, which is composed of spirit-anointed Christians. (1 John 1:7; 1 Cor. 11:25; Gal. 6:14-16) It is these precious provisions that make it possible for the members of the “little flock” to be declared righteous by God, actually having human perfection credited to them. (Luke 12:32) This is done so that they can be begotten by holy spirit as God’s sons, with a view to their sharing with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. As they partake of the Memorial emblems each year, thus bearing witness to their heavenly hope, their appreciation of being in the “new covenant” mediated by Christ is renewed and deepened.—Heb. 8:6-12.
“We Will Go With You People”
14. (a) Why do the “other sheep” not partake of the Memorial emblems, but what do they eagerly anticipate? (b) How do they view their association with the remnant of Kingdom heirs?
14 The “other sheep” discern how Jehovah has been dealing with his anointed ones, and they have joined with them, saying: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.” (Zech. 8:20-23) Not only do they meet together but they share together in making known the good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth. However, the “other sheep” are not taken into the “new covenant” with spiritual Israel nor are they included in the “covenant . . . for a kingdom” made by Jesus with those chosen to share heavenly life with him, and hence, properly, they do not partake of the Memorial emblems. (Luke 22:20, 29) But as the “new covenant” achieves its purpose, gathering the final members of the “little flock” to the heavenly Kingdom, the “other sheep” realize that this indicates that the blessings they will receive on earth by means of that Kingdom are drawing near. They count it a privilege, during the “last days,” to serve unitedly with the loyal remnant of Kingdom heirs.
See the opening verses of Romans 1:1;, 1 Co 1:1; and 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, Titus 1:1;, 1 Pe 1:1; and 2 Peter 1:1; also Galatians 3:26-29,; 1 Thessalonians 2:12,; 2 Thessalonians 2:14,; 2 Timothy 4:8, Hebrews 3:1, James 1:18,; 1 John 3:1, 2 and Jude 1.
● Why does so much of the Christian Greek Scriptures direct attention to the heavenly hope?
● How do those who have been begotten as God’s sons know that? What is the meaning of the Memorial emblems of which they partake?
● How do the “other sheep” demonstrate that they truly are united with the “little flock”?