Questions From Readers
● Is God still selecting individuals to be associated with his Son in the heavenly kingdom? Or is it the hope of earthly life that all who dedicate themselves to Jehovah have in this day?—U.S.A.
The selecting of Kingdom heirs to be associates with Jesus Christ began on the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., with the pouring out of God’s spirit upon about 120 of Jesus’ disciples. (Acts 2:1-21) Some sixty years later Jesus Christ revealed to the apostle John that the total number of Kingdom heirs would be 144,000.—Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-3.
Since Pentecost of 33 C.E., Jehovah God has been selecting those who are to be joint heirs with his Son. It is impossible to say how many down through the centuries were added to the initial thousands mentioned in the book of Acts. (Acts 2:41; 4:4) Even in modern times, until about 1935, the call continued to go forth to bring in the remaining ones of the 144,000, or the “remnant.” Since then, however, the emphasis has been primarily on gathering the “great crowd” of “other sheep,” who have earthly hopes. The “bride” has extended the invitation to these persons to drink life’s water. (Rev. 22:17) Their numbers have been greatly increasing, while the number of those professing to be of the heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1) has been decreasing. These many coming in have, by and large, been looking to the blessings of everlasting life on a paradise earth. Such ones now number several times more than 144,000.—Luke 23:43; John 10:16; Rev. 7:9-15.
Does this mean that, since about 1935, those already resurrected to heaven together with the spirit-begotten remnant yet on earth have made full the number of 144,000? Yes, that is the conclusion to which the evidence points. The general call for such ones has ceased to go out. But this side of the “great tribulation” it is possible for some of these remaining ones on earth to prove unfaithful. (Matt. 24:21, 22) God purposes to have, when his work with them is complete, the full number of 144,000 as faithful ones, with permanent places in the Kingdom. Accordingly, should one of these yet on earth prove unfaithful, his position would have to be filled by a replacement. (1 Cor. 9:27; Rev. 3:11) By whom? It could be by a newly baptized person, or it could be by one of the “great crowd” who has been proving himself a keeper of integrity under test up to that point of time. We cannot limit Jehovah God or Christ Jesus in such selection. But Bible examples and principles would certainly favor the selecting of the time-tested person over the novice, especially in view of the shortness of the remaining time. (Compare Luke 22:28, 29; 1 Timothy 3:6.) God certainly has a large supply of reserves among such faithful “other sheep” to draw upon if he so chooses.
Closely related to this matter of choosing replacements is the ‘sealing’ spoken of at Revelation 7:1-3. The apostle Paul tells us what the sealing is, at Ephesians 1:13, 14: “By means of [Christ] also, after you believed, you were sealed with the promised holy spirit, which is a token in advance of our inheritance.” This “token” gives the assurance that they are chosen ones. It is a pledge of the heavenly life to which they are called, and designates them as God’s spirit-begotten ones, with hope of achieving the final reward of heavenly life if they prove faithful.—2 Cor. 5:5.
Since Pentecost of 33 C.E., then, those who have been called, including Christians in modern times called to the heavenly calling, have received the seal of the holy spirit. One selected as a replacement would likewise receive this seal. What, then, is the sealing of the 144,000 that is completed during the time that the “four winds” of heaven are being held back? The Revelation vision reveals that, finally, 144,000 all retain this seal as permanent. The seal that they received at the time of their calling by God is kept by them, not lost through unfaithfulness. The seal remains in their “foreheads” through test, denoting God’s approval of them as his proved, faithful slaves in the sight of all. They will have their places assured to them as “called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14) As pointed out in the book “Then Is Finished the Mystery of God,” page 83, this sealing refers to the “final, irremovable sealing of the full number of dedicated, baptized, anointed Christians, ‘the slaves of our God,’ . . . those who kept the ‘seal of the living God’ upon their foreheads until their final and decisive test, till a martyr’s death, if necessary.”
The apostle Paul, near the end of his earthly ministry, expressed the conviction that he had kept the seal by faithfulness, for he wrote: “The due time for my releasing is imminent. I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day.”—2 Tim. 4:6-8.
Recently in various parts of the earth there have appeared some who profess now to be of the remaining ones who have hope of being Kingdom heirs, although having only recently dedicated themselves to Jehovah God. Whether they are in truth and in fact of these prospective Kingdom associates or “remnant” is not for others to judge. It is a matter between the individual and Jehovah God, and time will tell. All who make this claim, however, would do well to ask themselves if their conviction is a holdover from the Babylonish teaching that all good persons go to heaven; or whether it could be due to a misconception, emotionalism, or even a misguided seeking for prominence. (See The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, pages 78-80.) Those who truly have been begotten by God’s spirit and called to the heavenly hope are certain of it, even as the apostle Paul declares: “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. 8:16, 17.
In the past, one may have sincerely partaken of the emblems at the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal but later realized that he was never of the “remnant,” but is of the “great crowd.” Does this make him guilty of partaking of the emblems “unworthily,” within the meaning of Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 11:27-34? No, not if he was not intentionally showing disrespect for the meaning of these emblems.
The context shows that, in speaking of the judgment one would incur by partaking of the emblems unworthily, Paul had discussed persons who treated the meal as just part of their regular evening meal, some even getting intoxicated at the time. They showed disrespect and hence they belittled the value of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 11:20-22, 33, 34) Certainly those who mistakenly partook under a misimpression, but with all due respect, were not trying to do that. Remember that Paul was writing to “sanctified” ones, “called to be holy ones,” therefore Christians who were under obligation to keep the Lord’s evening meal in remembrance of him, partaking of its emblems. (1 Cor. 1:2) It logically follows also, that any individual knowingly pretending to be of the “remnant” and partaking insincerely, hypocritically, would incur God’s disfavor. So one should certainly first search his heart, along with giving serious consideration to the Scriptures, before partaking. He should be very careful, and be fully convinced before partaking.