Anointing to a Heavenly Hope—How Is It Manifest?
WRITING to the congregation of anointed Christians in Corinth, the apostle Paul said that God has “put his seal upon us and has given us the token of what is to come, that is, the spirit, in our hearts.”—2 Cor. 1:21, 22.
How do those who have been anointed by God to be his heavenly sons and who receive the sealing of the spirit manifest this? Is it possible for someone to think that he or she is thus anointed and yet be mistaken?
There is an evident need for Scriptural understanding of these points. For example, in a few congregations in one large country of Africa, certain persons attending the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal partook for the first time and were seen to shake visibly or to make other unusual movements while partaking. Is this in harmony with the Scriptures as to the way God’s spirit acts toward those anointed? Is it evidence of his spirit in the hearts of such ones, giving them a “token” or foretaste of the heavenly sonship to which they are called?
The answer to these questions must be No. Such strange conduct is instead characteristic of certain religious sects that encourage giving way to unrestrained actions, or of ritual dances of certain tribes that encourage emotional excitement.
The Bible nowhere indicates that—either at the time of God’s anointing of someone as called to the heavenly kingdom or after such anointing—the action of God’s spirit produces conduct of an abnormal, showy or undignified nature. On the day of Pentecost it is true that Jehovah God caused miraculous things to occur, such as the “noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze” that filled the house where the disciples were, and the “tongues as if of fire” that sat upon those anointed by holy spirit. These miraculous features provided by God himself served to draw many people there so that a mighty witness could be given and also to give powerful evidence that God’s favor had passed from fleshly Israel under the Law covenant to spiritual Israel under the new covenant. The disciples were able to speak in the different languages of those drawn there, a gift also miraculously given. But there is nothing to indicate that the disciples acted in a highly emotional way or with any undignified behavior. The accusation made by some of the observers that the disciples were drunk was not because of any shaking action by the disciples but, as the account shows, it was because such observers heard these Jewish disciples speaking in foreign languages. The address there given by the apostle Peter was a very sober, sensible, logical presentation, not one of emotionalism.—Acts 2:1-36.
After this initial outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost, the Bible does not indicate that the ‘noise like a rushing breeze’ or the “tongues as if of fire” were ever repeated in the cases of others thereafter anointed. Even the gifts of the spirit, such as the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages, were due to end and did end with the death of the apostles and of those to whom they had imparted such gifts.—Acts 8:14-18; 19:2-6; 1 Cor. 13:8-12.
RECEIVING A TRUE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP
How, then, does God’s holy spirit operate toward those whom he anoints? Romans 8:15-17 tells us, saying: “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.”
Similarly, at Galatians 4:6, 7, we read: “Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”
Therefore the principal evidence one anointed to the heavenly calling has is this spirit or dominant sense of sonship, that is, of having been begotten by God to spiritual sonship as one of the 144,000 heirs of the heavenly kingdom. One genuinely begotten can testify in all good conscience that the heavenly hopes produced in him are not born of his own desires or imaginations but are from Jehovah God, the result of His spirit’s action toward such a one. (1 Pet. 1:3, 4; Rev. 14:1-3) This is at once an awesome privilege and a grave responsibility—becoming the spiritual son of the Universal Sovereign whose ‘name is majestic’ and of whom it is written, “Dignity and splendor are before him.” (Ps. 8:1; 96:6) Certainly for those honored with such call to be his sons, conduct should be expected that would be fittingly representative of this dignified Father, upholding his reputation. They should surely manifest the fruitage of God’s spirit, which includes “self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23; 1 Cor. 14:33) Those anointed have as their model God’s Chief Son, Christ Jesus, and should also reflect his spirit or dominant expression of himself. To give in to practices that smack of fleshly tribal customs or of religious sects that encourage uncontrolled emotionalism would not give evidence of genuine spiritual sonship. As the inspired apostle states:
“However, you are in harmony, not with the flesh, but with the spirit, if God’s spirit truly dwells in you. But if anyone does not have Christ’s spirit, this one does not belong to him.”—Rom. 8:9.
At the annual celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death, then, the conduct of one who is truly of the anointed joint heirs of Christ should be above reproach or question. The apostle Paul had to reprove certain ones in the Corinthian congregation because their conduct at the Lord’s Evening Meal was ‘unworthy’ of the occasion. Some were treating the Memorial emblems as mere food and drink for satisfying hunger and thirst, or, before the occasion they might have used wine to the point of intoxication. Such unworthy conduct showed failure to discern what was represented by the emblems—namely, the blood and body of Christ Jesus that had been offered as a ransom sacrifice. Such disrespectful conduct could bring a judgment upon those engaging in it. It could bring disciplining action from Jehovah.—1 Cor. 11:20-32.
So, no true Christian would want to take lightly the occasion of the Lord’s Evening Meal, either in the ways described by the apostle or in other ways, such as by making a display of himself. The minds of all present should be focused on the vital meaning and significance of the occasion, not on the strange actions of certain individuals. Actions serving to draw attention to the individual would cast a shadow of uncertainty on such a one’s claim to be of God’s anointed. It would be an indication that he did “not have Christ’s spirit.”
REASONS FOR WRONG ASSUMPTIONS BY SOME
What might cause some to assume mistakenly that they are of the anointed ones who should partake of the Memorial emblems? The apostle John said to his fellow anointed Christians: “You have an anointing from the holy one; all of you have knowledge.” (1 John 2:20) Lack of knowledge could be responsible for someone’s assuming wrongly that he or she was thus anointed. One may fail to realize that, as with other favors of God, receiving such anointing “depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God.” (Rom. 9:8, 16; Jas. 1:18) So it is not because an individual decides that he or she would like to be of those who will serve as heavenly kings and priests, being taken into the new covenant validated by Christ’s shed blood, which blood is symbolized by the wine used at the Memorial. It is God’s choice, not the individual’s that counts.—Matt. 26:27, 28.
There is no room for presumption, any more than there was when Jehovah God selected those who would serve as priests for him in ancient Israel under the Law covenant. (Compare 2 Chronicles 26:18; Hebrews 5:4, 5.) Korah presumptuously sought the priesthood that Jehovah God had placed in the family of Aaron, and for his rebellious course Korah was executed by God. (Ex. 28:1; Num. 16:4-11) Somewhat similarly, it would certainly be displeasing to God if someone presented himself as called to form part of the heavenly “kingdom of priests” if God had not actually given him such a call. We cannot trifle with Jehovah’s arrangements and still expect to receive his approval. In due time he makes known his judgment.—1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Tim. 5:24, 25.
A possible cause of a person’s mistakenly assuming that he or she had such heavenly calling might be strong emotional pressure owing to severe problems in life—marital problems, perhaps even divorce or the death of a mate, or some other tragedy or great disappointment. These things can cause one to lose interest in life as it is now lived on earth, in effect causing one to become “sour” on such life. If this happens, the person might be moved to feel that life in heaven is what he or she wants. But this is not God’s way of calling persons and giving them the ‘spirit of sonship.’ Such ones should realize that Jehovah God will soon transform life on this earth under his Son’s kingdom and will see to it that “the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” So, even though “all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now,” this will not go on forever. It would show a lack of appreciation for God’s purpose regarding the earth to view life on it as no longer desirable and—on that basis—entertain hopes of life in heaven.—Rom. 8:20-22.
EXAMINING VALIDITY OF ONE’S HOPES
We can therefore examine ourselves in the light of these points. Has one perhaps been influenced by others to entertain the idea of such heavenly calling? This would not be proper, for God has not assigned persons to “recruit” others through suggestive influence, thus trying to instill in others a hope that God himself has not placed there. Has one, as is the case with many young persons today, had experience with drugs before learning the truth of God’s Word? An introverted tendency toward fantasy or dreaminess or abstract thinking is no sign of anointing by God, nor even of true spirituality. Nor does God employ methods that cause persons to think they hear voices, at times accompanied by music, or similar messages, to convey his anointing of Christian heirs to the Kingdom, though some in recent years have allowed such things to cause them to think they had received a heavenly call.
Finally, one may ask oneself in all honesty, Do I have a tendency toward desiring attention or prominence? Am I anxious for a position of authority, or ambitious to be one of the “kings and priests” associated with Christ Jesus? It is good to remember that in the first century when a general invitation was going out to seek entrance into the heavenly kingdom, not all the anointed Christians held positions of responsibility, not all were elders or ministerial servants of congregations. Nor does such anointing of itself bring exceptional understanding of God’s Word, as can be seen by the way the apostle Paul found it necessary to write certain anointed Christians in his day. (1 Cor. 3:1-3; Heb. 5:11-14) It is noteworthy also of persons today who have long years of service as anointed Christians that they do not view themselves as distinctive or make it a habit to draw attention to their being anointed. They manifest the humility that is to be expected of those who “have Christ’s spirit.” They recognize that the vast majority of requirements that God has set for those gaining life in heaven and those gaining eternal life on earth are the same.
As discussed in the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, pages 147 to 151, evidence indicates that by 1934 God’s attention turned to developing the “great crowd” of persons who will survive the coming “great tribulation” to enter into an earthly New Order and that by that time the number of those called to the heavenly kingdom had reached its full number of 144,000. (Rev. 7:9-14; 14:1-3) Hence, it would be expected that thenceforth only as a result of an anointed one’s proving unfaithful would there be occasion for another person to be called as a replacement. (Compare Revelation 3:11.) And, as shown in the November 15, 1974, issue of The Watchtower, pages 698 to 700, Jesus’ statement that “there are many invited, but few chosen” does not indicate that the majority of those who are anointed would prove unfaithful and have to be replaced. The “many” Jesus referred to were the millions of persons forming the Jewish nation to whom God’s “invitation” first went and from among whom only a few, comparatively speaking, were chosen as joint heirs with Christ.—Matt. 22:14.
All of us, then, whether having an earthly or a heavenly hope, should be on guard against any presumptuousness on our part and should seek in all ways and at all times to reflect with dignity the ways and qualities of our heavenly Father. We will realize that, as regards being anointed to the heavenly calling, the important thing is not the simple act of partaking of emblems of bread and wine by an individual, but, instead, the important thing is God’s action and decision. So, too, it is not an individual’s claim that is most important but his having “Christ’s spirit” as an anointed son and, in the face of tests, finally conquering so as to become a spirit son of God.—Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:11, 21; 21:7.