Earthly Subjects of the Kingdom of God
MOST of the people in the lands known as “Christian” have prayed what is commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” This prayer in modern English, recorded at Matthew 6:9-13, petitions God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”
As all persons familiar with the Bible know, heaven is the dwelling place of God himself. When his will is done on earth as it is done in heaven, this earth will have peace and tranquility and its inhabitants will enjoy health, life and happiness under God’s kingdom.
The Kingdom must “come” against the kingdoms of this world just as the stone seen by King Nebuchadnezzar in his dream, as recorded in the Bible, ‘came’ against the terrible image that he beheld, and it must crush those kingdoms to powder, just as the stone did the image. (Rev. 11:15; Dan. 2:32-35, 44) This will clear the earth of all things that oppose the sovereignty of Jehovah God, paving the way for God’s will to be thoroughly and completely done on earth. Will any survive that ‘crushing’? And, if anyone, who? What qualifies them to survive?
THE “SHEEP” AND THE “GOATS”
One of the most illuminating answers to these questions is provided by Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats. The parable was one of several given in answer to the apostles’ question, “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) The parable’s fulfillment is one of the features of that “sign.” The time of its fulfillment is shown in its opening words: “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.”—Matt. 25:31-33.
Jesus makes it clear that the sheep and the goats represent, in the fulfillment, two classes of people. When a person reasons on this, it becomes evident that Christ’s ‘arrival’ in Kingdom power and glory must occur some time before he brings the Kingdom against this system of things to destroy it and before he begins his thousand-year reign of peace. (Isa. 9:6, 7; Rev. 20:4-6) Otherwise, how could the separating work be done, judging who qualify to continue living on earth and who merit destruction?
The separation is done, not on racial, national or tribal grounds. No, it is a judgment of personalities. 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 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. ‘But,’ someone may ask, ‘cannot Jesus Christ judge hearts without seeing the person commit this act or that?’ Yes, he can, but he allows them to demonstrate fully before all persons what judgment they merit.
‘INHERITING THE KINGDOM’
The “sheep” come to be placed at the right hand of favor. The parable continues: “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.’”—Matt. 25:34.
The unspecified number of “sheep” are not told they will go to heaven, to be the joint heirs with Jesus Christ, experiencing the “first resurrection” and reigning with him. These latter ones are limited in number to 144,000. (Rev. 14:1-3; 20:4-6) The “sheep” of the parable come to number many times more. They are identical with the “great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Rev. 7:9, 10) They are part of those “other sheep,” whom Jesus differentiated from the “little flock” of 144,000 joint heirs by saying:
These sheeplike ones have been blessed by the Father, particularly in that he foresaw the sheep class of this time of Christ’s presence, and reserved a reward for them. ‘Inheriting the kingdom’ would not mean to inherit places on thrones in heaven. Under the original Greek word for “kingdom” (Ba·si·leiʹa), 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 the “great crowd” of “other sheep” inherit a thousand years of peace right down here on earth, in the earthly realm of the Kingdom.—Ps. 2:8; Dan. 2:35-45.
What, then, is “the founding of the world” referred to in the parable? It does not mean the beginning of this planet, nor the time of Adam and Eve’s creation, for God did not make a kingdom then, with Adam as king. It was after Adam had sinned that God expressed his purpose to have a Seed that would gain victory over the symbolic serpent, Satan the Devil. (Gen. 3:15; Rev. 12:9) This Seed would become a King over all mankind. Adam and Eve had become deliberate sinners against God, deserving nothing but death. But when children began to be born to them, these children inherited sin. Therefore, there was an opportunity for them to be delivered from sin and to come under the established kingdom of the Seed. So the “founding of the world” refers to the time when Adam and Eve produced children that could benefit from these provisions.—Luke 11:50, 51.
HOW THE “SHEEP” QUALIFY FOR SURVIVAL
What is the basis on which the “sheep” receive the Father’s blessing? What qualifies them? Jesus explains: “‘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.’ 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.’”—Matt. 25:35-40.
We note that it was loving-kindness extended by the “sheep” to Christ through their treatment of his “brothers.” Here again we see that the “sheep” of the parable are not Christ’s spiritual, anointed joint heirs, to be in the heavens with him. These latter ones are called “brothers,” this distinguishing them from the sheeplike ones who extend these “brothers” help. The “sheep” ask, “When did we see you?” indicating that Christ is invisible during his presence, judging them, not by what they do for him personally, for certainly as heavenly King he has no need for their earthly help. But they can see Christ’s “brothers,” and these brothers of Christ yet on earth often come into need.
On what basis do the sheeplike ones extend help? Is it out of a purely humanitarian, philanthropic attitude? There are many humanitarian-minded people in the world, who will help anyone in need. This is a good, admirable trait. But when it comes to helping or standing by Christ’s “brothers,” who are “ambassadors” of Christ, it is another thing. (2 Cor. 5:20) When these ambassadors make announcement of God’s coming judgments on this world, they are generally not popular. Often they are persecuted. Under such circumstances many humanitarian-minded persons become fearful, sometimes even opposed, and refuse to give assistance.
On the other hand, those whom Jesus designates as “sheep” are glad to help whomever they can, but, in particular, they devote their energies to helping the “brothers” of Christ by every means at their disposal. They do it intelligently and deliberately because they recognize and acknowledge these as servants of God. This is what gives them special merit in Christ’s sight, in harmony with the principle he himself stated: “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 9:41) “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.”—Matt. 10:42.
The “sheep” give, not only physical, material assistance to the spiritual brothers of Jesus Christ. These sheeplike ones see the work that these few remaining “brothers” of Christ on earth are doing, and they take up this work alongside them, even sharing the persecution they suffer. In fact, they now do the bulk of the preaching work because of their greater numbers. In other words, they go ‘all the way’ alongside Christ’s “ambassadors,” associating with them in their congregations, many being given positions of responsibility, because advanced age or ailing health limit many of the “brothers” of Christ.
YOU CAN BE ONE OF THE “SHEEP”
At the present time these sheeplike ones are coming in from “many nations,” 208 countries and island groups, in numbers many times 144,000, which is the total number of those who will reign in the heavens with Christ. They make a dedication of themselves and are baptized not only in the name of the Son, but also in the name of the Father, the Son’s Father, who is Jehovah.—Matt. 28:18-20.
It is not only in this parable that we find the actions of this sheeplike class of people described. Long ago, the prophet Zechariah foretold their appearance, in these words: “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.’ . . . 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.’”—Zech. 8:20-23.
In the fulfillment of this prophecy, the man whose skirt is taken hold of is a spiritual Jew, one of Christ’s 144,000 spiritual brothers. (Rom. 2:28, 29) The men “out of all the languages of the nations” going with such a one are described in Revelation 7:9-17, just after the gathering of the 144,000 is described.
Again, the prophet Isaiah foretold: “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.’”—Isa. 2:2, 3.
Biblical evidence and physical facts show that we are in the “last days” of this system of things. Through his enthroned King, Jehovah is having his name and sovereignty made known. It is heavenly Jerusalem from which the law goes forth, and to which the people out of all nations gather. (Gal. 4:26) Just as the temple of Jehovah was located on a high eminence in the city of Jerusalem, so pure worship is now being lifted up by the worldwide proclamation of the Kingdom message. Many people are hearing and are willingly saying, ‘I will go also.’
Thus the true worship of God is expanding on earth, among those who appreciate life and want to live forever. Nowhere else can you find that hope expressed. Nevertheless, it is a well-founded hope, a true hope, based on the Word of the Eternal God. The sheeplike persons foretold in the parable, along with the remaining ones of Christ’s “brothers” on earth, are the only ones on earth who have the hope of surviving the destruction of this system of things.
Have you come in contact with the King’s “brothers,” or at least with their associates, the sheeplike ones who are doing the same work of proclaiming and teaching the good message of the Kingdom? If you recognize these as being disciples of Christ you will be blessed by associating with them in their Kingdom Halls, learning the Bible truths they present, and assisting them in their work.