The Millennial Hope Triumphs
1. What questions were raised by the coming of the Messiah?
WHEN the long-awaited Messiah came to the Jews, did he confirm their original belief in a future life through resurrection, or did he come out in favor of their newly found pagan concept of inherent immortality of the soul? In bringing to light a heavenly hope, did Jesus Christ mean that all those saved would go to heaven? Or do both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures hold out to millions the hope of everlasting life on earth?
FUTURE LIFE BY RESURRECTION
2. What did Jesus teach about the hope for future life?
2 Far from teaching the pagan concept of inherent immortality of the human soul, Jesus showed that any hope for future life depends on the resurrection. He stated: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is. Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—John 5:26-29.
3. What are some of Christendom’s theologians now admitting with regard to the soul?
3 Interestingly, some modern-day theologians of Christendom are coming around to the idea that inherent immortality is unsupported by either the Hebrew or the Christian Greek Scriptures. For example, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Vol. 3, 1978) emphasizes “how unfamiliar the OT [Old Testament] is with the concept of a soul separate from the body, or a soul which becomes separate from the body at death.” And again: “Matt. 10:28 teaches not the potential immortality of the soul but the irreversibility of divine judgment of the unrepentant. . . . The NT [New Testament] sees man essentially as a unity and promises the transformation of the whole person, and not just the survival of a part. . . . there can be no immortality without prior resurrection.”
A HEAVENLY AND AN EARTHLY HOPE
4. What do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept, but what do they deny, and why?
4 Jehovah’s Witnesses do not deny that the Christian Greek Scriptures teach that some Christians receive “the heavenly calling.” (Heb. 3:1) What they do deny is that such “heavenly calling” does away with God’s original purpose to have the earth cultivated into a paradise and filled with a righteous race of men and women. They cannot accept the idea that all the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures foretelling the restoration of paradise on earth have become dead letters. They are all the more convinced of this because the promise of “a new earth” in which “righteousness is to dwell” is confirmed in the Christian Greek Scriptures.—2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4.
5, 6. How does the Bible make plain the twofold Scriptural hope: (a) the heavenly? (b) the earthly?
5 Serious Bible study has led Jehovah’s Witnesses to believe that the Christian Scriptural hope is twofold: The gift of immortality in heaven for a limited few, and everlasting life on earth for the greater number. The heavenly hope to “rule as kings” with Christ is offered as an exceptional “grace” (AV) or “undeserved kindness” to 144,000 “elect” (AV) or “chosen ones,” starting with the apostles and early disciples of Christ. (Luke 12:32; Rom. 5:17; 8:33; Rev. 5:9, 10; 7:1-4; 14:1-4) Of these, only a few “remaining ones” of those who have ‘survived to the presence of the Lord’ are at present alive on earth.—1 Thess. 4:14-17; Rev. 12:17.
6 The earthly hope is the original hope to which Adam and Eve could have attained, if they had stayed under Jehovah God’s sovereignty and not sought moral independence. (See the first three chapters of Genesis 1-3.) Man “is earthly by nature.” (1 Cor. 15:47, The Jerusalem Bible) His natural aspirations and yearnings are earthly. “To Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.” (Ps. 115:16) And the Bible states plainly that Jehovah ‘did not create the earth for nothing, but formed it to be inhabited.’ (Isa. 45:18) Therefore the hope of everlasting life on earth in paradisaic conditions is both natural and Scriptural. It is nothing of which to be ashamed.
THE MILLENNIAL HOPE FOR TWO GROUPS
7. What hope do the Abrahamic promise and the prophecy of Daniel hold out for the peoples on earth?
7 Since the 144,000 spiritual Israelites are the “seed” or “true descendants of Abraham” and the “true heirs of his promise” (Gal. 3:26-29, Phillips), then it is well to remember that the promise given to Abraham also stated: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Gen. 22:16-18) The prophet Daniel also spoke of “peoples, national groups and languages” over whom the “son of man,” Jesus Christ, will exercise from “the heavens” the “kingdom and the rulership.” This he does together with the “chosen ones,” spoken of as “the holy ones of the Most High.”—Dan. 7:13, 14, 27, footnote; 2 Tim. 2:10.
8. What shows that Paul and John realized that salvation is not limited to the “chosen ones”?
8 The early Christians were not unfamiliar with these prophecies that speak of two groups: the “seed” and the “nations,” the “holy ones” and the “national groups.” Confirming this, after having spoken of those who will be “joint heirs with Christ” and who will be “glorified together” with him in heaven, the apostle Paul speaks of human “creation” whose “eager expectation” is to be “set free from enslavement to corruption,” or sin, and to “have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:15-21) Writing to Christians who, like himself, shared the heavenly hope, the apostle John spoke of Christ as “a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins [those of the “chosen ones”], yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.”—1 John 2:2; 3:1-3.
9. (a) What visions had John probably seen when he wrote his first letter? (b) How do they confirm the existence of two groups of saved ones?
9 When John wrote those words, most likely he had already received the Revelation in which, after having seen the 144,000 “sealed” spiritual Israelites, he saw “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” These survive the “great tribulation” and are guided by the “Lamb,” Christ Jesus, “to fountains of waters of life.” (Rev. 7:4-17) And, of course, it was in that same Revelation that John also had a vision of the millennial reign of Christ, which again mentions two groups: those “having part in the first resurrection,” who “will rule as kings,” and “mankind,” who will be blessed by God and who “will be his peoples.”—Rev. 20:1–21:8.
10. Today, what two groups share the millennial hope, and how do their numbers compare?
10 Today, the millennial hope triumphs in the hearts of those of the “little flock” called to “sit on thrones” with Christ in heaven to reign for a millennium. (Luke 12:32; 22:28-30) That hope of the millennium has been embraced also by those of the “great crowd” who have joined the remaining anointed Christians in proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom . . . for a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) These two groups were represented at the celebration of the Lord’s Evening Meal held on March 31, 1980. Those partaking of the emblems of the bread and the wine were only 9,564 worldwide, indeed just a few “remaining ones” of the 144,000 who are to rule with Jesus in his millennial kingdom. But along with these, 5,717,092 others attended as observers, thus showing appreciation of Jehovah’s grand arrangement made possible through the sacrifice of his Son. These rejoice in the prospect of everlasting life on a paradise earth.
THE MILLENNIAL HOPE STILL LIVES!
11. When and how will the millennial hope become a reality?
11 Yes, the millennial hope remains very much alive today. It will become a reality following the “great tribulation,” as Christ and the 144,000 “chosen ones” commence their reign in heaven for 1,000 years, and the “great crowd” of sheeplike ones, together with billions of resurrected ones on earth, enter into untold blessings in the earthly realm of that Messianic kingdom.—Matt. 25:34; Rev. 20:12, 13.
12. How has the millennium been defined in an encyclopedia?
12 Mankind is in dire need of such a hope today. Worldly-wise men are not unfamiliar with this hope. Thus, the 1977 Britannica Macropædia defines the millennium as follows: “This 1,000-year period, known as the millennium, is viewed as a time during which man’s yearnings for peace, freedom from evil, and the rule of righteousness upon earth are finally realized through the power of God. . . . millennialism is concerned with the earthly prospects of the human community. . . . millennialism attempts to answer in vivid imagery such questions as: What will be the final end of this world? Will mankind ever fulfill the agelong dream of dwelling in an earthly paradise or will all men be destroyed in a cataclysm of fire brought on by their own folly or God’s judgment?”—Italics ours.
13. (a) Do you believe the earth will be destroyed in a “cataclysm of fire”? What is the reason for your answer? (b) What was God’s original purpose for the earth?
13 For certain encyclopedia writers and faithless religious leaders, those questions may be merely of academic interest. But for many honest-hearted people in all lands they are very realistic present-day problems of burning interest. Jehovah’s Witnesses have found the answer to these questions in the Bible. For them, the hope of living forever “in an earthly paradise” is not an “agelong dream.” That hope has sure foundations, being based on sound Bible scholarship. Both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures show that God will not allow wicked men to destroy the earth “in a cataclysm of fire.” (Rev. 11:18; Isa. 45:18) Neither is he going to destroy the earth himself. (Ps. 104:5) After creating man and placing him in a localized paradise, God revealed to him His purpose, namely, for man to “subdue” the earth by extending paradise conditions worldwide, and to “fill [not overfill] the earth” with a righteous race of men and women ‘made in the likeness of God.’—Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15.
14. How does the millennial hope fit into God’s “eternal purpose”?
14 Such is still God’s “will,” which, through his Messianic kingdom, will be done “on earth as in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10, JB) The whole tenor of the Bible shows beyond doubt that God has not abandoned this original purpose. (Isa. 46:9, 10) The millennium, or 1,000-year reign of Christ, fits into God’s “eternal purpose,” part of which is “to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Eph. 3:11; 1:8-10) In other words, the millennium is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end, the carrying out of God’s original purpose for the earth.
NOT A “MATERIALISTIC DREAM”
15, 16. How has one Catholic priest defined the millennial hope, but what has he apparently forgotten?
15 Religious adversaries deride Jehovah’s Witnesses for preaching the millennial hope. Yet these scoffers are perfectly happy to send all the good to heaven and all the wicked to everlasting torment in hell, thus leaving the earth completely out of God’s “eternal purpose.” For example, French Dominican priest H. C. Chéry, who has made a speciality of criticizing Jehovah’s Witnesses, calls the hope of paradise restored on earth “a materialistic dream.”
16 First, this Catholic priest should be reminded that the millennial hope has never been formally condemned by the Catholic Church or defined as heretical. This is not surprising, since it is based on the Bible and was considered to be “one of the essential dogmas of the Christian faith” by most of the earliest and best-reputed of the “Church Fathers.” Were Polycarp, Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Tertullian also ‘materialistic dreamers’?
17. Why may nobody rightly accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of being ‘materialistic dreamers’?
17 True, some of these, and others in later times, discredited the millennial hope, by giving the foretold millennial blessings a carnal application or even a sociopolitical twist. But nobody can in good faith accuse Jehovah’s Witnesses of doing this today. Even now, in a pleasure-oriented world, these Christians are putting up a hard fight against materialism and pleasure-seeking in their own lives and within their congregations. They put the accent on spiritual values. They fully realize that if any fall victim to materialism in this “time of the end,” they may never see the millennium. (Luke 21:34-36; Dan. 12:4) Furthermore, they have no hopes of bringing in the millennium through human programs of social reform. They rely entirely on God’s intervention through his Messianic king. At the head of heavenly combat forces, this “King of kings” will fight to put an end to all wickedness on the earth.—Rev. 19:11–20:3.
PARADISE—SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL
18. How may we expect the spiritual paradise to develop further during the millennium?
18 Jehovah’s Witnesses are already living in a spiritual paradise. Moreover, they look forward with confidence to their becoming more spiritual throughout the 1,000-year reign of Christ, when symbolic “scrolls” revealing God’s requirements will be “opened.”—Rev. 20:12.
19. Why will the millennium call for much self-sacrifice and hard work?
19 From a careful reading of scriptures that speak of the millennial reign of Christ (for example, Revelation 20:11–21:8), Jehovah’s Witnesses know also that the millennium will call for much self-sacrifice on the part of those who share the earthly hope. There will be much work to do in cultivating and beautifying the earth, but they will not selfishly cultivate paradise conditions just for themselves and their families. Christ’s 1,000-year reign is in fact a “day” of judgmenta for those who survive the fast-approaching “war of the great day of God the Almighty” (Acts 17:30, 31; Rev. 16:14, 16); it is also the judgment day for the millions of the dead who will be resurrected and judged according to the works they will practice in paradise on earth. (John 5:28, 29; Luke 23:42, 43) These innumerable resurrected ones will need to be unselfishly taught the ways of righteousness by those who are already living under the millennial rule of the Messiah. (Compare Isaiah 11:1-9.) No “materialistic dream” that! It will mean much hard work, also, on a spiritual level.
20. What will occur when the 1,000 years have ended, with what prospect for the faithful ones?
20 What is more, the millennium will be just a beginning. After a final test, when the 1,000 years have ended, those men and women who remain faithful to God’s universal sovereignty will be ushered into an eternity of life on a paradise earth.b—1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:7-10.
A HOPE THAT CAN BECOME YOURS
21, 22. (a) What are Jehovah’s Witnesses always happy to do? (b) What is their hope for the near future?
21 Such is the hope now cherished by over 2,000,000 Christian witnesses of Jehovah in over 200 lands. It is very much alive in their minds and hearts, so much so that they are always happy to give others the ‘reason for the hope that is in them.’—1 Pet. 3:15.
22 Since 1914, world events in fulfillment of Bible prophecy show that we are now living in the “time of the end,” and that the unprecedented “time of distress” is near. (Dan. 12:1-4; Matt. 24:3-21) The remnant of the “chosen ones” and the “great crowd” of their companions have been promised survival through that “great tribulation.” (Matt. 24:22; Rev. 7:9, 10, 14) Thereafter, their respective millennial hopes will be fulfilled. Do you believe that? “May the God who gives hope fill you with all joy and peace by your believing, that you may abound in hope.”—Rom. 15:13.
a See chapter 7, “What to Expect of Judges for a Thousand Years,” in the book God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached, published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
b For further details, please read chapters 12 to 16 of the book Life Does Have a Purpose, published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
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Under the Messiah’s millennial rule, those resurrected will be taught the ways of righteousness