Questions From Readers
● According to the article “Hated for His Name” in the September 1, 1951, Watchtower, hundreds of thousands of Christians died in the “ten persecutions” starting in Nero’s time, 144,000 dying in Egypt alone during one of the persecutions. How can this be harmonized with the Scriptural limitation of 144,000 placed on the number being in Christ’s body, and which position was the only one open to Christians during those centuries?—J.A., Dominican Republic.
The article did not class with any finality the individuals that died during these persecutions, but spoke of the results in a general way. Note that a key qualification was made in the case referred to in the question: “In the province of Egypt alone, 144,000 such professed Christians died by violence in the course of this persecution, in addition to another 700,000 who died as a result of fatigues encountered in banishment or under enforced public works.” The victims are identified as “professed Christians”, not Christians in fact. Many of those persons might have been caught in the wave of persecution, but may never have actually preached the truth or followed in Jesus’ footsteps, being only professed Christians. They knew the world they lived in was rotten and they were listening to the message of the Christians and willing to die for it even though not in line for the high calling in Christ Jesus. Many professed Christians today might be willing to die for their faith, but still not be Jesus’ footstep followers and meeting the Scriptural requirements for such.
● Since John the Baptist had seen the spirit coming down as a dove out of heaven and remaining upon Christ Jesus, in accord with the sign Jehovah had told him to look for in identifying the Messiah (John 1:32-34), why did he later send his disciples to inquire of Jesus whether He was the Coming One?—E. P., Bolivia.
Matthew 11:2-6 (NW) states: “John, having heard in jail about the works of the Christ, sent by means of his own disciples and said to him: ‘Are you the Coming One or are we to expect a different one?’ In reply Jesus said to them: ‘Go your way and report to John what you are hearing and seeing: The blind are seeing again, and the lame are walking about, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, and the dead are being raised up, and the poor are having the good news declared to them; and happy is he that finds no cause for stumbling in me.’”
John sent for this report, not because he doubted that Jesus was the Messiah, but because he wanted verification. He knew that the prophecies had foretold certain works that the Messiah would perform, and for him to get such a report of these things taking place, and a firsthand report at that, would be very strengthening for him as he languished in prison. Jesus did not consider John’s inquiry an evidence of lack of belief and send John a rebuke, but he sent an encouraging report of what was happening, showing that such prophecies as Isaiah 35:3-6 were undergoing a fulfillment in both a physical and a spiritual sense. So it was a proper request for a confirmation of the announcement John had previously made of Jesus as Messiah, and to hear a wonderful report on how Jesus was measuring up to the requirements of Messiah was comforting to this imprisoned one who was soon to be beheaded.
● How can one determine whether he is of the anointed class, and hence should partake of the Memorial emblems?—E. B., California.
After Pentecost in the first century any who had the spirit of God, as evidenced by his having one or more gifts of the spirit, would have no difficulty deciding whether he was of the anointed class, for that was a time set aside exclusively for begetting heavenly heirs. On this firm foundation he would entertain heavenly hopes. Today the circumstances are altered. One may have dedicated himself to doing God’s will, symbolized that dedication, and demonstrated that he has the spirit of God by doing Jehovah’s will, doing it in the love of God and trying to imitate him and his dear Son; but how would he know that his having the spirit of God was assurance that he was going to heaven? The spirit of God is also on the “other sheep”, and not just on the anointed remnant. So how can we determine the matter today?
It seems from the Scriptures that God was specially taking out the spiritual class up until 1931, in a general way, and this does have some bearing on the matter. However, it is not conclusive. Since 1931 there are those who have entered the service and who give evidence of being begotten by the spirit and who have their hopes set upon being of the heavenly heirs. So there is evidence of some coming into the heavenly class since 1931; though not on a general scale, but only individuals here and there who are taken in to fill up the places of some who may turn unfaithful.
You would have to examine yourself on this basis: “Have I dedicated my life to God through Jesus Christ to do his will forevermore? Do I have the spirit of God? Is God dealing with me? Yes, I have the evidence that God is dealing with me; he is using me in his service. He is providing for me. He is giving me a place in connection with his organization, and I am realizing many blessings, and am growing in the understanding of his Word. I have all of these indications that I have his spirit, and I am trying to act as a real Christian and follower of Christ Jesus would in displaying the spirit of the Lord in that way.” This examination with the above-outlined results would indicate one had the spirit of the Lord, whether of the anointed class or of the “other sheep”.
Then, what is the thing that draws the line of demarcation between the two classes and puts you either on the side of the “great crowd” or on the side of the anointed remnant? As you examine yourself you have to determine what your hope is, because God is dealing with you and is cultivating in you some sort of a hope. In Romans chapter 8 Paul discusses how “the spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children” called to be joint heirs with Christ in the heavenly kingdom, and adds: “For we were saved in this hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it?”—Rom. 8:16, 24, NW.
So, you see that you have to be saved in a certain hope. Now God deals with you and he must by his dealings with you and his revelations of truth to you cultivate in you some hope. If he cultivates in you the hope of going to heaven, that becomes a firm confidence of yours, and you are just swallowed up in that hope, so that you are talking as one who has the hope of going to heaven, you are counting on that, you are thinking that, you offer prayers to God in expression of that hope. You are setting that as your goal. It permeates your whole being. You cannot get it out of your system. It is the hope that engrosses you. Then it must be that God has aroused that hope and caused it to come to life in you, for it is not a natural hope for earthly man to entertain.
If you are one of the Jonadabs or one of the “great crowd” of good-will persons you will not be consumed by this heavenly hope. Some of the Jonadabs are very prominent in the Lord’s work and have an important part in it, but they do not have that hope when you talk to them. Their desires and hopes gravitate to the earthly things. They talk about the beautiful forests, how they would love to be a forester at the present time and have that as their continual surroundings, and they like to mingle with the animals and have dominion over them, and also the birds of the air and fish of the sea and everything that creeps over the face of the earth. That is what they love, and they are looking forward to enjoying those things. Oh, they understand their Bible. They have a very advanced comprehension of the doctrines and truths of the Bible. But when you talk to them, that is the way they express themselves. They have no desire for the heavenly things at all. They do not want to be like an angel, or even see God face to face, beholding him in his supernal glory. That would be wonderful, they admit, more so than any possible earthly blessings; but they just do not have such desires or hopes in them.
So, it seems that after you have inspected the matter of time, the possession of God’s spirit, his dealings with you, then you have to take into consideration, “What are my real, sincere, heartfelt hopes in this matter?” Then you decide your position; no one else can decide for you. Decide whether you have the consuming spiritual aspirations. If so, then follow through with those. That is in your system and you cannot get it out, so act accordingly. Participate in the Memorial emblems. Whereas, if you do not have that hope, if you are divided and uncertain, then it appears that you are of the earthly class, and hence should not partake of the emblems at Memorial time.